Every day over the past couple of weeks, my inbox has been filled with notifications on winery tasting-room closures and offers of free shipping and curbside pickup for those of us who still need our daily wine fix.
The wine industry is hurting, along with the rest of the U.S. economy, as businesses struggle to cope with operating restrictions made necessary by the spread of COVID-19. The greatest impact will no doubt be visited upon boutique producers that cater to the on-premise market, meaning restaurants, which are largely shuttered throughout the nation.
But tasting-room closures are a big deal, too. For many wineries, they are an important profit center because wines can be sold at retail without any middlemen. And they provide daily cash flow.
Of equal concern are the hardships inflicted on tasting-room employees who've been laid off during the crisis.
"These are hourly employees, and most of them live paycheck to paycheck," Napa Valley winemaker Joel Aiken told me in a recent conversation.
On the bright side, in my almost daily trips to the grocery store in search of basic necessities, I see shopping carts loaded to the brim with wine and all manner of other adult beverages. It gives me a sense of relief. If anything, wine consumption might be up. The wine industry is going to be all right.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Bianchi 2019 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.99) — Malbec is still Argentina's greatest contribution to the world of wine, and the Bianchi family does malbec extremely well. The 2019 is most impressive at this price point. It delivers a bold red that is rich and layered on the palate, showing ripe, juicy black fruits and a subtle hint of wood that provides additional structure and an inviting spice note. Rating: 90.
Georges Duboeuf 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, France ($9.99) — The 2019 nouveau from Duboeuf, the so-called first wine of the harvest, is everything nouveau was meant to be: grapey, easy, simple and straightforward. A soft, supple fruit bomb won't tax either the palate or the wallet. Nouveau tends toward the floral, and this one does just that. It's an awesome spring and summer picnic wine, especially when served slightly chilled on a warm day. Rating: 87.
Tongue Dancer 2017 'Pinot de Ville' Pinot Noir, Putnam Vineyard, Sonoma Coast ($65) — The Tongue Dancer wines should come with a warning label that says simply, "Genius at work." That would be winemaker James MacPhail, who launched Tongue Dancer with his wife, Kerry MacPhail, after selling the MacPhail label a few years ago. His genius is multifaceted. First of all, he sources grapes from the finest vineyards and growers in Sonoma County. Second, he gives those exceptional grapes plenty of TLC and proceeds to knock it out of the park. Every time. This vintage from the Putnam Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast is artfully crafted, with impressive fruit purity (think raspberry and cherry compote), exceptional balance and a finish that seems to be without end. The use of oak is delicate, imparting a subtle note of fall spice, and the tannins are perfect. Rating: 97.
Dutton Goldfield 2017 Pinot Noir, Redwood Ridge, Sonoma Coast ($62) — This vintage of the Redwood Ridge pinot noir is another stunner from winemaker Dan Goldfield that offers exceptional depth, a floral top note and complex aromas of raspberry, strawberry and wood spice. Showing backbone, this is a pinot likely to improve as it matures. Drink now and over the next 10 years. Rating: 94.
Archery Summit 2017 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills ($65) — This vintage from Archery Summit expresses itself in tones of raspberry and dark cherry with exquisite balance and beautiful structure that will ensure it ages well. The wine finishes a bit short, but the finish will lengthen as the tannins soften. There is a hint of wood spice that seems just about right. Rating: 93.
Bortolomiol 2018 Prior Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Valdobbiadene, Italy ($23) — The beauty of vintage Prosecco is the price. It simply doesn't cost that much more than nonvintage, but the experience tends to be noticeably more rewarding. The 2018 Prior from Bortolomiol is elegant and precise, with a beautiful bead, subtle notes of citrus and green apple, and a long, crisp finish. Rating: 91.
Merry Edwards 2017 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($48) — If you're looking to tap into the excellence of a Merry Edwards pinot noir but you find the tab for one of the winery's single-vineyard wines beyond your reach, take a look at the appellation-specific pinots that hit a lower price point. The 2017 Sonoma Coast shows a nose of strawberries, raspberries and wood spice, and the palate follows through on that promise. There is a bit of tannin bite on the back end, but that will mellow with additional age. Rating: 90.
Vietti 2018 Roero Arneis DOCG, Piemonte, Italy ($24) — This vintage of Roero Arneis from Vietti is distinctly floral with an attractive note of white flowers and honeysuckle on the nose. On the palate, it expresses itself in layered tones of citrus, melon and stone fruit with mellow acidity and a soft, round finish. Rating: 90.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]
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