Notes From the Wine Cellar

Five Great December Wine Values from the Utah State Store

Each month the Utah Wine and Liquor Stores run their sales that last the entire month.    I think they begin around the 2nd or the 3rd of the month.  Here are five values picked out for December:
Gruet Vineyards
Brut American Sparkling Wine
Reg $17.99
Sale $14.99
It’s not too early to start preparing to cheer out this year.  Haha. And a bottle or two of Gruet will be doing it in style.  Gruet is made in the traditional Methode Champenoise style so it’s got those ultra-fine bubbles.  I think of it as the working American’s version of Veuve Clicquot. In fact, I prefer it.  It’s got more flavor and is just as complex with a nice toasty finish.  At this price, it’s wonderful value—less than I used to pay in California.
King Estate Vineyards
2018 Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley
Reg $19.96
Sale $16.95
A brother brought this Pinot Gris over one summer afternoon this past July.  I fell for it immediately.  Ripe apricot with a gentle bite to the back of the throat, soft white pepper.  The bouquet takes you out to sea, so a bit of salinity, minerality.  Did I say I love this wine?  Pinot Gris is friendly and easy to like.  This is a step up.  If all Pinot Gris were Roman citizens, this one would be a Senator.  I’ve been waiting for it to go on sale—because who pays 20 bucks for a Gris?!
Louis Latour Vineyards
2018 Chardonnay
Grand Andreche
Reg $18.99
Sale $15.99
Normally I wouldn’t list this standard Louis Latour French Chardonnay.  Everyone knows it.   But hold on.  There is the Andreche and the Grand Andreche.  This is the Grand.  The Louis Latour is one of the most consistent of the French Chardonnays.  And that is saying something.    The French Chardonnay is always a bit more on the citrusy and tropical side than our California styles.  This wine does have some smoky vanilla oak.  In fact, it is creamy with layers of fruit always balanced by the freshness typical of the French Chard.   In Autumn, I like the California buttery Chardonnays with the creamy soups, but come Winter and Spring, I’m ready to go back to the crisp French versions. This is good.  But what’s really good is that $3 off.  Thanks, Utah!  
Did you know that the profits from the DABC (Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) went to school lunches?  Tricky, eh?  State control is still wrong.  I thought this state was made up of those in favor of individual liberties.
El Chaparral Vineyards
2017 Old Vine Garnacha
No, it’s not on sale.  But I had a bottle of this wine a few days ago, and I couldn’t help but list it.  I’ve been drinking this wine for several years now, and keep coming back for more.  This is grenache as clear and smooth as a warm (or is it cold?) sunny Southern Utah December day.  Wow is it smooth.  I could get into the blackberry and raspberry—and plum—with the hint of licorice, coffee, and even anise.  But I think that would be a disservice.  This is simply one of the most drinkable wines in the store—what the French call a quaffer.  At this price, don’t even worry about a sale.  In fact, don't even worry about anything.
La Posta Vineyards
2017 Malbec
Reg $16.95
Sale 13.95
In my last wine column, I suggested that maybe 2020 is the year for Malbec.  Well, maybe I got carried away.  But just in case you agree, here’s something to try.  Rated a whopping 93 points by James Suckling, I had to pick this baby up for $14.  The winemaker says, "A beautiful red and purple color with aromas of black cherries, dark fruits, dark chocolate, and baker’s spice. On the palate, the wine shows dense, dark berry and plum flavors along with hints of sandalwood and spice, and even a hint of violets in the finish. This is a full-bodied and well-structured wine that is incredibly full of life and born to be enjoyed with food and friends."
I'm in this with you.  Haven't had it before.   But Malbecs are full of great surprises.  Every year brings something new, and we have to roll with the punches.  When I look back, there were certain wines for certain times.  No?