Beaulieu Vineyard is a Napa Valley legend. (Courtesy Beaulieu Vineyard)
The 2017 Knudsen Vineyard Brut from Argyle will please. (Courtesy Argyle Winery)
The Paring, made by Matt Dees, offers great value at $25 a bottle. (Courtesy The Paring)
The 2019 Acumen PEAK Sauvignon Blanc (Courtesy Acumen Wines)
Looking for some wines for weekend dinners, or Valentine’s Day, perhaps? My tasting schedule was interrupted recently while I was out of the country — though I did sample some good Mexican wines (more on that later) — but I’m back in the swing of things and have a few bottles for your consideration.
We’ll begin with a white wine, the 2019 Acumen PEAK sauvignon blanc ($75). I was looking forward to tasting this bottle because the 2016 vintage impressed me greatly when I sampled it two years ago. The 2019 did not disappoint and will not disappoint you. Whether you open a bottle now, or buy a case and cellar most of it for five years or so. Both are capital ideas.
The Attelas Vineyard is the source for this wine, and the fruit came from only two blocks in the vineyard. The site lies 1,300 feet above sea level. In California, 97 percent of all grapes come from vineyards situated at elevations lower than 1,000 feet above sea level. . . this fruit is special.
Phillip Titus, Acumen’s winemaker, aged this vintage in new French oak, neutral oak and stainless steel (approximately 33 percent each), and this is no run-of-the-mill sauvignon blanc. Its minerality and structure impress. Citrus and a subtle herbaceous note (basil?) lift the aroma, and citrus and spice greet the palate. Pair this wine with sea bass steamed in parchment paper with lemongrass, or a roast chicken — if a herb-based sauce is on the plate you’ll be even happier.
If a vintage sparkling wine is more your style, I propose you choose domestic and try the 2017 Knudsen Vineyard Brut from Argyle Winery, an Oregon pioneer. It retails for $55, and is produced from vines planted in 1974. It is fermented and aged in neutral wood barrels, which adds complexity and depth. I have paired this wine with escargots, oysters and butter-poached shrimp, all excellent.
The Argyle Brut is 100 percent pinot noir; 1,300 cases were produced. Its sensual mouthfeel enhances any meal. If Valentine’s Day is on your calendar, this bottle is a winner.
If you buy wine on a regular basis — and I hope you do — canned juice is probably not unfamiliar to you. Perhaps you’ve even tried a can or two. There are some good examples out there, and if convenience is a priority (travel, dining al fresco in the park, etc.) don’t overlook this segment.
Super Bowl Wine
A few days ago I tasted the canned version of the official Super Bowl LVI wine dubbed The Paring, and loved all three — a chardonnay, a rosé and a pinot noir. (Legends, SoFi Stadium‘s culinary operator, has put together a great wine program at the space-age stadium, a roster that focuses on Santa Barbara County.)
The size format of these wines make them ideal for sharing a can with a friend. And I challenge any regular drinker of wine to find anything wrong with these offerings. Quality winemaking, excellent fruit, freshness and vivacity.
The Paring is made by Matt Dees, whom I’ve featured in Wine Talk, and the fruit he uses comes primarily from the AVAs of Santa Barbara County, including Ballard Canyon and Sta. Rita Hills. The best way to get your hands on some canned The Paring is to be at the Super Bowl this week, but you can find the bottled versions at your favorite wine merchant nationwide. They retail for $25.
A Napa Wonder
On to a storied Napa estate and a red blend made by Trevor Durling. It’s the 2018 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve (78 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8 percent Merlot, 8 percent petit verdot, 5 percent malbec, 1 percent cabernet franc), which I sampled this week ($65).
Note to the wise: The winery is offering a selection of wines for as much as 50 percent off for Valentine’s Day. Click here for all the details.
Durling is only the fifth winemaker in Beaulieu’s epic history. He joined the estate in 2017 after posts at Provenance Vineyards and Moon Mountain Vineyard, among others — and he’s stepped into some giant shoes with aplomb. The 2018 Tapestry is a stellar wine, and I look forward to opening another bottle of it come 2030. The tannins are approachable and this wine pairs splendidly with rack of lamb, ribeye steak and merguez, the latter of which I enjoyed with this bottle.
The cabernet sauvignon grapes Durling used for this vintage come from the Rutherford, Calistoga, Coombsville and Oakville AVAs, the merlot hails from Carneros and the Rutherford Bench, and the petit verdot and malbec are sourced from BV estate vineyards in Rutherford. Though it’s only one percent of the blend, the Howell Mountain cab franc lends an astounding expression to this wine. Leather, cassis, a bit of forest floor and graphite. . . all in all, a wonderful bottle.
As I always urge, drink well and intelligently, with those you love.
For more stories from James Brock, check out Mise en Place.