Lucia Vineyards LUCY, Santa Lucia Highlands
Lucia Vineyards' LUCY ($18) is a a beauty of a rosé boasting zippy acidity pairs well with a wide range of dishes — another Santa Lucia treasure.
Tatomer Riesling Vandenberg, Santa Barbara
2008 Tatomer Riesling Vandenberg ($24.99), named for the neighboring air force base, is easily one of the best wines in the Santa Barbara region. Maintaining an Old World ethos, dry, crisp, it still boasts a New World uniqueness. Incredibly balanced, pear and apple skins shine with minerality that's gorgeous with food.
Amapola Creek's 2009 Cuvee Alis, Sonoma Valley
Glen Ellen's Amapola Creek, from Richard Arrowood (who founded Arrowood Winery), is a small, boutique winery. Cuvee Alis ($48) is named after Richard's wife, a hand-harvested, unfined and unfiltered blend of 55 percent Syrah, 45 percent Grenache, organically grown on a slope of the Mayacamas Mountains on the Arrowood's 100-acre ranch. The wine gives of a nose of cherry pie, gentle pepper, smoke, tasting of dark berries, spicy meat, with silky tannins and acidic balance.
Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva Rosado, Rioja, Spain One of the best rosés I've ever had, 2000 Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva ($30) is not for novices. At 12 years of age, this blend of 60 percent Garnacha, 30 percent Tempranillo, 10 percent Viura exhibits a velvety, rosy hue, unfolding with damp, funky, mushroom notes dancing alongside bright blood orange, berries, hazelnuts, rhubarb. It's so unusual, it pairs beautifully with spicy foods from a range of cuisines. Thanks to sommelier Ted Glennon of Restaurant 1833 in Monterey for introducing me to this stunner, available through K&L Wines. Every time I have it, it's a pleasure.
Vidal-Fleury Saint Joseph & Muscat, Rhone Valley, France
Vidal-Fleury is produced by winemaker and managing director Guy Sarton du Jonchay, who understands the balance between New and Old World having made wine in France, Chile, Argentina and Australia. "Old world is terroir... New World is winemakers", he says, as he pursues a balance of both. Stand-outs are a 2007 Vidal-Fleury Saint Joseph Syrah ($28.99), full, bright, earthy, with dark berry, black tea, pepper, and meaty notes (he only releases best vintages so there will not be a 2008 — 2009 releases next); and 2009 Vidal-Fleury Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise ($18.99), tasting of elderflower, dried apricot, lychee, nuts, with a balanced sweetness and minerality.