Wine Reviews: International Values

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-21-2023

I’m looking forward to exploring more diverse wines and regions in 2023, so I’m starting off this week with a few such selections. In the coming weeks, I’ll be diving deeper into a bunch of South American wines, but this week I’ve got a nice round-up from all over. And they’re all in the $15-$35 range.

Winemaker power couple Bob Lindquist and Louisa Sawyer Lindquist have a really cool project called Vara. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they source grapes from spots in Spain and California. Louisa’s experience with Spanish varieties brings them grapes from selected estates in regions like Ribera del Duero and Montsant, while Bob’s California experience brings in the good stuff from Central Coast vineyards like Santa Maria Valley and Paso Robles. It’s a bit different, of course, tasting a wine sourced from different regions and countries, but I think these experiments work out really well. The wines are delicious and different, and worth seeking out if you’re looking to try new things in 2023.

When it comes to vibrant, inexpensive Sauvignon Blancs, South Africa and Chile are my go-to countries. And this week I have some Chilean options from Leyda Valley, a region that sits just a handful of miles from the Pacific coast. Here, Viña Leyda’s winemaker Viviana Navarrette focuses on producing coastal-influenced, taut, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc from mostly granitic soils. They offer up crunchy, spicy, sea salty deliciousness with a lot of value and serve as a great introduction to this region’s Sauvignon Blanc goodness.

I’m a big fan of everything Portugal, and the amount of consistent and quality wines I find. And the value is always appreciated. This week’s selections from Douro’s Casa Ferreirinha deliver just what I look for.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2022 Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Chile, San Antonio Valley, Leyda Valley
SRP: $15

Pale straw color. The nose pops with lemons and limes, white peach, guava, topped in hay, sea salt, lots of floral tones and some white pepper as well. The palate is racy but creamy, light and fresh but nice depth of texture and flavors. The lemons, kiwi and crunchy green apple fruit are delicious, and they mix well with white flowers, sea salt, dandelions, along with some spicy green herbs and sliced jalapeno. Lively, spritely, and solid complexity for the price. (88 points IJB) 

2021 Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Vineyards Garuma Chile, San Antonio Valley, Leyda Valley
SRP: $20

Light yellow color. So fresh and bright on the nose with gooseberry, ruby red grapefruit and kiwi, dusted in white pepper, chalk dust, white flowers and some sliced green onion and mint. Crisp and racy on the palate with lively acidity and a nice fruit salad composed of white peach slices, pineapple chunks, drizzled with ruby red grapefruit juice. I love the herbal tones (like ramp leaves and sliced bell pepper) along with white flowers, chalk dust and a distinct saline and mineral infusion that lingers long on the finish. A lot of personality and class, especially for the price. (90 points IJB)

2019 Casa Ferreirinha Douro Branco Papa Figos Portugal, Douro
SRP: $17

Light yellow color. A lemony nose with papaya and green apples, white flowers, hay, mint, some sea salt and pleasant new tennis ball. Lovely depth and a creamy feel mix with crisp acidity and a chalky sense, too. Racy and vibrant with some minerals and talc tones to accent the creamier vibes, and there’s a nice blend of white and yellow flowers. Precise, clean, seafood-friendly stuff and an excellent value and a delightful Douro Branco. (89 points IJB)

2018 Casa Ferreirinha Douro Tinto Vinha Grande Portugal, Douro
SRP: $22

Light purple color. The nose pops with deep plums, dark currants and jammy black cherries, along with a lovely smoky earthy vibe, gravelly, dusty tones, with violets and clove accents. The palate shows vibrant acidity and moderate tannins, nice grip but fresh and balanced throughout. The currant and plum fruit is deep and tangy, and backed up with delightful earth, graphite, gravel and tar elements. And some violets, mushroom and menthol tones are already coming out, so this will do nicely over the next few years. Serious value! A blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. (89 points IJB)

2020 Vara Tempranillo Vino Tinto Español Spain
SRP: $30

Medium ruby color. Aromas of jammy raspberry and black cherries, along with spicy red pepper, tobacco, sweet coffee and warm clay – really interesting. Ripe tannins, medium acidity, a fresh and chewy feel but plenty of depth and freshness, too. The raspberry and cherry fruit is ripe but tangy, and the non-fruit complexities are great: anise, violets, spicy herbs, earthy tones, gingerbread and coffee – a lot to enjoy, and it’s balanced and blended together well. A mix of Tempranillo and Garnacha with some Mencía, Cariñena, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. From Spain, 45% of the fruit comes from Campo de Borja and 30% from Monstant, while the remaining 25% of the fruit is sourced from the Central Valley of California. (90 points IJB)

2020 Vara Garnacha Vino Tinto Español Spain
SRP: $28

Bright ruby color. The nose gushes with red and black cherries, ripe but nicely chilled, with rose petals, cola, pepper, dusty earth and tobacco leaf. The palate has a ripe and accessible feel, but buttressed by lively and surprising acidity. Cherries, red plums and raspberries, the fruit is juicy and bright and mixed with notes of pepper, dried rose petals, pine and tobacco. Delightful mouthfeel, fun and invigorating. This is an interesting mix of Garnacha with some Cariñena, Monastrell, Mencía, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. 77% of the blend comes from Monstant in Spain and the remainder is from California’s Central Coast. A kitchen sink of goodness. (90 points IJB)

2021 Vara Albariño USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
SRP: $32
Light yellow color. The aromas show a fresh mix of green and yellow pears, white peach, lime, with all sorts of wildflowers, honeysuckle, breezy meadow and mint – delightful. The palate has such a pleasant creaminess, which balances well with this bright acidity and flinty, mineral-laden component. Yellow apples, kiwi and lime fruit plays well with these white tea and honeyed tones. There are chalky and mineral vibes that linger long on the finish. Lovely depth of flavor and texture for this grape as well. All Albariño from the Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley. Delightful stuff from Louisa, an Albariño evangelist and specialist. (92 points IJB)

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