Steve Taron is a Wine Specialist in our Glendale, California store.
It’s time for the Holiday Edition of our Top Ten Wines! In case you’re not familiar with the Whole Foods Market Top Ten wine event, a few times a year our national wine buyers select their favorite wines for exceptionally good values. Stylistically, the wines tend to be a fairly eclectic bunch, ranging from rustic to more refined. And, as is usually the case, there are more then 10 of them (12 this time ‘round). Why be limited by a number when you have a lot of good wines to choose from? Here is a short review of three of the Top Ten Holiday Wines that I believe deserve a little personal attention. First up to bat is a wine from Parducci called Sustainable White. The name alone begs explanation. Parducci Wine Cellars is the nation's first carbon-neutral winery, having converted to a 100% green power platform that includes solar and wind power. The Sustainable moniker refers to the fact the grapes used in the wine (Muscat, Tokai, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier) are not as yet certified organic, but are produced using environmentally-friendly methods. In the previous Top Ten run, the Sustainable Red (a juicy, ripe blend of numerous red varietals with a little kick of Viognier) was featured and was one of the surprise hits of the program. The Sustainable White is equally appealing. Bright citrus, melon, peach and pineapple notes abound on the nose and palate. The acidity is just crisp enough without being over the top, allowing the finish to be clean. Vietnamese or Thai fare, particularly those dishes with quantities of lime, lemongrass or coconut milk, would be terrific matches. The abundance of ripe fruit character would also make it more than a match for handling the sometimes unwieldy and disparate food and wine pairings populating the average Thanksgiving table. The next wine under delicate scrutiny, a red, also promises to be a friendly element in frequent orbit around turkey or ham this season. Beaujolais, you say? Good guess, great match, but wrong. The wine I speak of is the Block 45 Pinot Noir. Cherries, hints of other lighter red berries and luscious vanilla tones lace the bouquet of this wine and slide across the palate with a silky, essentially tannin-less finish. Lamb, grilled or barbequed salmon (cedar plank time!) would be other stellar pairings. With the growing popularity of Pinot Noir has come an unfortunate growth in its average price as well. To find a Pinot Noir which “walks and talks” like a Pinot, let alone having the character of this wine usually requires a considerably greater investment. In the face of this, the Block 45 is truly a remarkable value. Last up is definitely the heaviest bodied wine out of the current Top Ten group. The Vinum Cellars Reserve Petite Sirah is what I would qualify as really great entry-level Petite Sirah. Why? Petite Sirah is a grape varietal with a potential for creating big to huge bodied, very tannic and powerfully flavored wines that, I’ll confess, I absolutely love. In the past it seems like big, chewy, budget Petite Sirahs that you could almost cut with a knife were the norm, rather than the light, cocktail style often found in Petites under 20 bucks these days. At times these wines could be somewhat like the incredible hulk in bottled form, though decidedly not so green. Big wine, little price, what’s not to love? Well, for many folks the idea of having a symbiotic relationship with a large swarm of tannic acid molecules is not what they have in mind when you say the word “wine.” Enter at this point the Vinum Reserve Petite Sirah, a wine with a body and tannic structure just big enough for some of us with a preference for the bigger reds, yet soft enough to be approachable for others looking for a new wine experience. Exuberant, ripe, almost jammy pomegranate and blueberry fruit are the primary players here with a juicy finish liberally dusted by mildly chewy tannins. Because of its big body and lush fruit, the list of foods that this wine could readily handle would be pretty huge. Pizza, beef stew, garlic roast potatoes, southern Indian food, most Mexican dishes, even burgers with ketchup or barbeque sauce. In addition, Vinum Cellars donates a portion of the profits from this wine to the San Francisco SPCA, the Society for Cruelty to Animals. Big and bold wine, yet warm and fuzzy. Gotta love it.