25 Wines With a Couple of Special Treats
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25 Wines With a Couple of Special Treats

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Ice wine, amarone, and ripasso add a welcome variety to our drinking

The majority of the wines we drink are red, white, or rosé table wines, and the variety of those can be stunning — different grapes, different terroirs, different winemakers.

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But occasionally it’s good to drink something a little different — a tasty treat from different processes in the vineyard or in the winery. Three of those are represented in this collection of mainly red table wines.

The first is a Niagara Peninsula ice wine. Sometimes producers will freeze grapes in cold lockers to concentrate the flavors and the sweetness in the wines, and sometimes these can be quite good. But true ice wine as it is made in Canada and Germany dictates that the wine producers pick the grapes when they are frozen solid on the vine, usually in the hours just after midnight in January. Any grape can be used to produce these concentrated sweet wines, but riesling is the gold standard.

Next, in the Valpolicella region near Verona, we highlight two red wines which can be drunk as table wines — amarone and recioto. Amarone is made from grapes picked at ripeness, generally corvina and rondinella, then dried on trays to get sugar and alcohol concentration. An amarone usually has somewhat more than 15 percent alcohol.

Recioto is made by taking the pomace of leftover grape skins from the fermentation of amarone and adding it to a vat of fermenting Valpolicella for a flavor boost.

Wines for review were provided by their producers or importers at no cost to the writer.

Paul Mas “Saint Hilaire” Pays d’Oc Chardonnay 2016 ($13). Enjoyable apple and clove flavor, but the wine is a little flabby and could use more acidity.

Mulderbosch Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($17). Very weedy, green fruit with slightly unctuous and savory notes.

Qupé “Y Block” Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2016 ($22). Burgundy-like with green apple notes, good mineral flavor and moderate weight.

Inniskillin Niagara Peninsula Riesling Icewine 2017 ($80 for 375 ml.). Wines made from shriveled grapes frozen in the vineyard are at the top of the sweet wine pyramid, and this one is a classic from the famous Niagara region — delicious dried fruit flavor of apricots and peaches, a hint of honeycomb, piercing acidity to balance sweetness, and a long, creamy aftertaste.

Reginato “Celestina” Mendoza Rosé of Malbec Sparkling Wine NV ($17). Nice floral and strawberry flavor and good bubbles, but the finish is short.

Concha y Toro “Casillero del Diablo” Chile Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2017 ($10). Slightly sweet fruit, with a touch of green “stemmy” flavor.

Sant’Antonio “Nafre” Valpolicello Superiore 2016 ($14). Fresh raspberry flavor with a hint of carbon and earthiness.

Beronia Rioja Crianza 2015 ($15). Mature cherry fruit with a good balance and mouth-feel.

Coltibuono “RS” Chianti Classico 2015 ($15). A versatile everyday wine — bright cherry flavor with a raspy, lightly gamey finish.

Careme Terre Brûlée Swartland “Le Rouge” 2016 ($16). Dark blackberry fruit with a few traces of tannins and a fairly balanced finish.

Cline Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2017 ($16). A little juicy with cola notes and a crisp finish.

Beronia Rioja Reserva 2013 ($20). Very mellow fruit and woody flavors, a good match for lighter fare.

Qupé Central Coast Syrah 2016 ($20). A straightforward red wine with sharp tart cherry flavor.

Grounded “Collusion” Columbia Valley Red Wine 2016 ($20). Good red fruit, a little “hot,” with some brownish notes on the finish.

Sant’Antonio “Monti Garbi” Valpolicella Ripasso 2015 ($20). Tart and sprightly cherry flavor with an earthy, savory finish and a note of toasted barrel.

Grounded “Public Radio” Paso Robles Red Wine 2016 ($25). A polished, strawberry-cherry-cranberry-flavored wine with a good finish.

Matetic “Corralillo” San Antonio Valley Pinot Noir 2015 ($28). A rooty pinot with some cola flavor and a nice brisk finish.

Bel Colle Verduno Pelaverga 2015 ($30). Light-ish, yet pleasantly assertive, with combined savory and greenish red fruit flavors. Neither the appellation nor the grape is well known.

Meerlust “Rubicon” Stellenbosch Red Wine 2014 ($33). Lean cherry flavor and a little earthy.

Gary Farrell “Russian River Selection” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($45). A good-tasting but not delicate pinot — complex flavors of fruit, cola and lots of tannins.

Sant’Antonio “Antonio Castagnedi” Amarone della Valipolcella 2015 ($45). Lots of dark fruity stuffing with pronounced, but well-integrated, oak flavors on the finish.

Steele Canyon Cellars “50 Harvest” Napa Valley Meritage 2014 ($50). Enjoyable tart cherry and cranberry flavors — big, but still lean.

Grounded “Steady State” Napa Valley Red Wine 2015 ($66). Fruit-forward flavors of dense blackberry and cassis, yet the wine is heavy on the palate and needs better balancing acidity or savory notes.

Mi Sueño Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($71). Full-bodied with dark cherry and blackberry fruits, a good savory underlay, and a hint of balsamic on the finish.

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Ehlers Estate “Portrait” St. Helena Red Wine 2015 ($75). Very satisfying — brambly cherry and blackberry flavor with some cedar notes and a tart finish. Not that many of us need more than one, but here are 20 great reasons why you should drink a glass of wine every day.