The scene: a midweek, extended family dinner in the suburbs of Manhattan.
I uncork and pour a wine for my brother-in law, and casually mention that this is a new selection by a winemaker I have followed for years, but have yet to try.
We let the wine breathe until dinner service starts. He tries a taste, and then another as his eyes widen.
He is having a “whoa” moment.
He swallows, takes a breath, then asks a barrage of questions: Who is the winemaker? Where is he from? Where can he buy this bottle? How much does it cost? Are all this winemaker’s wines so good?
Almost immediately, he has become a fan.
My response to his “whoa” moment? “No real surprise there.”
Locations Wines CA4 California Blend by Dave Phinney. 15.5% ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.
A blend of petite syrah, barbera, tempranillo, syrah, and grenache grapes from California’s Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Sierra Foothills wine regions. Before visiting Lodi, I might have wondered at the varied grape selection, but not now. Thanks to my 2016 trip to Lodi and Napa, I now know that California has the myriad climates, soil, and geology to grow almost any grape to perfection. But I digress, how about my tasting notes?
Deep purple in color. Nose of black plum, cassis, rose bush, and young tobacco leaf. On the palate, tremendous red fruit: raspberry, red plum, sour cherry. Secondary notes of green vegetation, forest floor, pepper and spice. The acidity and tannin are good matches for the powerful flavors, and the heat spreads late across the top palate, leaving behind hints of cedar, granite, limestone, clay, sand and sodium. On the finish, the distinct flavor of mixed berry pie remains on the top palate as my mouth begs for the next sip.
This California blend pairs beautifully with the red meat, potatoes and green salad we’ve prepared, but is also delightful to taste solo, or with raspberry-infused dark chocolate, or with goat cheese on fig and olive crisps. Best after a touch of air, the wine held up beautifully for four days until I could no longer control myself and finished the remainders.
Back to my brother-in-law at dinner! Mid-meal, I am explaining Phinney’s work and his Locations, making wines in a region to represent that region well, at an affordable price. In a sense, these blends are obscure when compared to iconic wines from the same AVAs, but these present classic, beautiful, and delicious representations of their regions at a fraction of the price. His eye drifts across the room to a row of carefully ordered, yet-unopened bottles: my short-term tasting queue. Spying a similar label, he asks if we might open another bottle. “That one from France, if it’s by the same winemaker?”
It makes me wonder if Dave Phinney like to fish. Because it’s one more winelover: hook, line, and sinker!
Locations Wines F4 French Red Wine Blend by Dave Phinney. 15% ABV, $18/bottle MSRP.
Ruby red in color with a gentle nose of green vegetation, red fruit, and a hint of lavender. On the palate, bright red fruit, nice acidity. Dried cranberry, strawberry, fresh raspberries, with the tannins as a soft underbelly. Southern France shines here, memories of Roussillon and Rhone flood back when the wine hits my tongue.
Because these wines are complex blends, it can be difficult to describe them well. But I’ll give it my best shot: Undeniably French, this wine demonstrates a sense of classic history, utilizing grapes both refined, yet comfortably rustic, much like a ’59 Renault Caravelle Cabriolet, whose soft lines and plush design is perfect for cruising in the Mediterranean sun. Compared to the bronzed and showy Californian CA4 which offers sleek, sculpted perfection: think Steve McQueen as Bullitt in his ’68 GT Fastback.
Even tasting the wines back to back, I could not choose a favorite. Both were excellent pairing choices for the meal; both were excellent ambassadors to their home terroir. And both are utterly delicious.
My brother-in-law came to a simple conclusion. “A lot of the wines you serve are hard to find. But these… well, the wine blends might be obscure or hard to describe, but their labels are straightforward, simple, and easy to describe. So, I’ll just look for the label design, and buy them all.”
“No real surprise there.”
à votre santé!
Locations Wine Samples Provided by Balzac Communications.