Wine Filter: Episode 1

Fess Parker Pinot Noir

This eases you into the magical, supple, seductive world of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. Once entered, never left. It’s not just the fruit – all cherries and cranberries – it’s the mace spice and earthy forest floor complexity. And then the texture. I suspect that’s what really hooks people. Velveteen but firm. Perfect with duck and beef and Asian spice and… well, it’s versatile.

Fess Parker Pinot Noir Rose

Drier, herbal, almost serious. This is aromatic and delicate with a lovely texture. Bigger and fruitier than Provencal rose, and perhaps less wild and garrigue-scented. But a great wine for spiced dishes and sashimi or seared tuna salad. Bone dry on the palate, but ripe and sweet on the nose. Put this sort of thing in a line up and show people the variety of rose. Although you may have to go to the winery to find it.

Debra Rose Zinfandel

Go… go to Santa Barbara and do what we did. We just walked into this funky looking tasting room and discovered a gem. You’ll not find the wines anywhere else, but you will walk away with a smile on your face. This was a joyful reinterpretation of Rose Zinfandel and a strawberry-ish delight. Municipal Wine won the prize for the best tasting room of series 2. And series 1. Probably series 3 too.

The Valley Project Santa Ynez Grenache Blanc

The Valley Project’s tasting room in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” was the brainchild of renowned winemaker Seth Kunin. Tragically we heard he died in his sleep a few months after we visited. He was an inspiration behind the sense of adventure and exploration with varieties like this Grenache Blanc. Finding the perfect sites for this fleshy, dill-scented, attractive wine.

The Halcyon Riesling

Some of us like something sweeter. Softer. Richer. But it’s so hard to find. So, when you come across wines like this with its lightly-sweet style and sweet peach and lightly-honeyed style, hold them dear. Sweeter wines make wonderful companions to spicier dishes. But also this is gorgeous to sip through the evening. It’s aromatic, fragrant with a beautiful balance of lifted citrus freshness.

Humanitas Merlot Truchard Merlot

Why are people sniffy about Merlot? Is it because we can’t believe something delicious, easy, plush, inviting, supple… can also be serious? This is unashamedly juicy and rich, with a velveteen texture and a light peppery grip. Anthony Truchard is an Anglo and Europhile so gives his wines a freshness you don’t always see in the Napa Valley. That makes it a glorious Beef Wellington wine.

La Ferme de Lices

Close your eyes and you’re not drinking rose at all. This is a peach and citrus white with an expressive grapefruit freshness. But on the palate, you feel it. The garrigue. The grain of earthy red grapes. All telling you it’s time for ratatouille and some seafood pasta or a hearty soup. Or, if we’re honest, a quiet sit down on the beach in St Tropez.

Fess Parker Chardonnay

The curious geography of California’s Central Coast lets winemakers experiment. To make the most of little valleys to bring out different styles. It’s the extremes of warm days that flesh out the pear fruit. And cold nights that keep tangy, crisp apple that make this distinctive. It’s oaky with baked pastry and made for roasted chicken, turkey, corn and pies.

Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir

The wine that caused the rumpus. When Miles raves about Pinot Noir in Sideways it’s the complex, weighty style of Santa Barbara and Santa Maria that’s so hypnotic. Black cherry and plum, dense but still silky. These are wines for posh burgers, roasted duck and Asian spiced rare beef salads. It’s also one to keep in the cupboard for a few months and crack open at Christmas.

Mirabeau Classic Provence Rose

This is the fruity, fleshy brother (or sister) to the more delicate, restrained, elegant Mirabeau Pure. Summer parties are made of this. Expressively fruity, candy-floss soft and delicious. The first duty of rosé is to still be delicious at 5pm when you started pouring it at 12.00 when everyone arrived. This performs its timeless duty with aplomb.

Mirabeau Pure Provence Rose

Few wines have changed fortunes, and made fortunes, as quickly as Provencal Rose. It’s gone from shabby to chic in a decade or so. Thanks to families like the Cronks. Incomers only satisfied with the purest strawberry and raspberry aromas. Wines touched by the texture and tang of rhubarb. Match with anything to be honest. Although a Provencal crudité selection and onion tart is perfect.

D’Arenberg Laughing Magpie 2010

Try this once and you’ll be hooked. It’s a vivid take on the North Rhone blend of peppery Shiraz (Syrah) and exotic Viognier. The 2010 was a great Shiraz vintage in McLaren Vale and it shows in this exuberant, ripsnorting wine perfect with tasty barbecued meats.

Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano 2014

Rosso di Montepulciano is a lighter, more accessible sibling to Vino Nobile. That makes it easier to drink younger and with less oak aging, it can be more fruity and juicy. It’s also fabulous value with much of finesse and elegance of its bigger, bolder sibling but more approachable fruit. This is a real joy with lighter meat dishes.

Buitenverwatching Muscat “1769” Vintage 2013

No, it’s not actually from the 1796 vintage. But like the Vin de Constance (these guys are next door) this is a wine that echoes the much-prized, apricot and apple sweet wines of the Georgian era.

Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011

The Boscarellis used to buy Dora Forsoni’s grapes. But they make a cherry and currant-scented wine. It has more of the leather and herb richness of Vino Nobile. It’s still a big wine, but even now great with richer meats. Expect this to last for another decade in the cellar.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Sanguineto I e II 2011

Dora Forsoni’s captivating personality shines through her wine. It’s named after the soil that was stained by blood after an ancient battle. Today she does everything to let the character of that soil shine through the summer fruit and cool, fresh lift in this traditional, elegant wine.

Some Young Punks Monsters Monsters Attack! Riesling 2014

Thai Curry or pan-Asian spices come alive with this beautifully fresh and limey gem. Don’t be afraid of the phrase ‘off-dry’ – it’s light sweetness that gives the wine’s fresh tang its balance. It’s vibrant, eager, generous and leaves a lovely prickle on your tongue.

Some Young Punks Passion Has Red Lips Shiraz Cabernet 2014

The SYP team mix up the generous, fleshy blend of Shiraz and Cabernet with the funkier, edgier end of fermenting with wild-yeast and a splash of Old World restraint. It’s still an exuberant wine, but more rewarding that any Shiraz-Cab you’ll have tried in a long while. Perfect posh-burger wine.

Nuits St Georges Les St Georges Premier Cru Jadot 2013

‘Les St Georges’ would be a Grand Cru site if there was justice in the world. This delicious wine has a robust raspberry fruit. But there’s also characteristic earthiness and a dry chocolate-mocha aroma. Full, powerful and ready for venison.

Brio de Cantenac Brown Rouge 2009

One of the greatest vintages ever, ready to drink now, from a neighbour of Château Margaux. Currant and cedar aromas, with rich, decadent fruit. Have this one with a flavoursome rib-eye or rump steak.