Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Syrah, California, 2012
Rocco, meanwhile, points to winemaker Pax Mahle -- a former somm himself -- as a current favorite. The 2012 vintage, she says, offers "everything you love about Syrah without the heavy-handedness you can get from California. It’s got those black peppery, spicy, animalistic qualities and lots of dark berry fruit, but it isn’t overly rich. It goes really well with braised meats... and barbecued brisket? Oh my God, it would be perfect." Great, now all you have to do is set aside the decade it’ll take to become a pitmaster as well as a legit enophile.
Peay, Les Titans Estate Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California, 2013
The Northern Rhône may be the standard bearer for Syrah, but the Sonoma Coast approaches that standard without holding you ransom in the process. So it's no wonder both Lowe and Rocco give it their blessing. For Lowe, Peay’s the producer of choice, offering "blackberry, plum, smoke, leather, and black pepper notes that pair nicely with duck, lamb, and even certain steak cuts."
Ettore Germano Langhe Riesling Hérzu, Piedmont, Italy 2012
You may have heard of riesling, a world-class German grape, or Piedmont, a world-class region of Italy. But you probably have never heard of riesling from Piedmont. That’s because, according to Lowe, "Only a small handful of producers there grow it, and Germano is one of the standouts." Novelty factor aside, it’s "a gorgeous riesling," she says, "bone-dry and lime blossom-y, with wonderful minerality, strikingly high acidity, and aromas of peach and nectarine, plus a hint of petrol." (Admittedly, not everyone in the wine world favors the whole gasoline-fume thing, but they probably should’ve listened to more Primus back in the day.)
Rebholz Im Sonnenschein Grosses Gewächs Riesling, Pfalz, Germany, 2014
To earn maximum points at a dinner party, bring this wine and repeat these words when you hand the bottle to the host: "Hansjörg Rebholz makes some of the most compelling wines in Germany right now."
When a guest you’ve got your eye on scrutinizes the label, explain that Im Sonnenschein is a vineyard whose name "literally translates to ‘in the sunshine.’ German can be quite emotive." Then add that wines designated "Grosses Gewächs" "are super intense due to the fact that they’re generally harvested a little late and then fermented to dryness," a process that gives them "lots of stuffing" especially in the Pfalz region, where the continental climate further ensures "tremendous concentration."
Finally, as you offer to pour for the table, say with a shrug: "The 2014 is still a baby -- but it's already thick with just-ripe peach, Meyer lemon, lemongrass, lime blossom, and tightly wound minerality." No one has to know you’ve just memorized what Kelly Wooldridge has to say about it.
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Ruth Tobias is all glug, glug, glug right about now, so see what she's drinking: @Denveater.