Henri Pelle Sancerre Croix au Garde 2017 ($25)
I've always enjoyed Pelle's wines since I used to sell them 30 years ago in London. This is straight-up and good Sancerre at the right price.It is a really useful wine. I basically keep a bottle of this kind of thing open in the fridge at all times. It is the classic Sauvignon Blanc, of course; light, dry and crisp, as it should be, but so often isn't.
Francois Chidaine Montlouis Bournais 2017 ($35)
Chidaine is a master of Chenin Blanc, the Loire Valley's over-looked treasure and surely the finest white grape anywhere that is not called Chardonnay. I'd take Chidaine's wines ahead of all the other usual suspects; the ubiquitous Gaston Huet, the culty but hit or miss Nicolas Joly, or the hyped-up and trendy Guiberteau, none match the concentration and texture of Chidaine's wines. And certainly his stuff is better priced than any of them.
Chenin can be dry, off dry or sweet. Bournais is usually dry, as it is in 2017, but it provides the fullest bodied wines of all his vineyards so the oiliness can come across as a sweetness that is not actually there.
It is fabulous food wine.
Ladd Cellars, Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2017 ($39)
Eric Lundbladd, the winemaker and ownerof Ladd Cellars is an Oakland resident, though his winemaking is done in Sonoma. He's a long-time wine geek-turned professional, though I enjoy teasing him that his miniscule production puts him in the hobbyist category rather than a commercial reality. He was a bit shy about allowing just anybody taste his wines in case they may have missed the introduction and fail to understand them. He has always made all of his wines in the very crisp, high-acid style but thankfully the world has come around to his way of thinking and now you will find his wines on the lists of restaurants as rarified as Manresa or as hip as State Bird Provisions.
I've always loved his wines. I think the reds are very good and way above most anything in their class, but the whites are truly exceptional.
Eric is happy to keep his production level where it is, which is handy for the rest of us, because he is able to sell it all himself with no expensive distribution tier to add another margin. Een with an extra 50% on the price, they would hold their own in their class.
The 2017 Sonoma Coast is lean but truly fine. It tastes more like a good Burgundy, maybe Chablis, than a Sonoma Coast and really benefits from time in the decanter, and even a couple of days open in the fridge won't hurt. I wish California could produce more like it.
Castello di Verduno Pelaverga 2018 ($25)
This is about the tiniest DOC in Italy , from the village of Verduno in the north of the Barolo zone. Pelaverga is a local variety, indeed it is so local that Verduno is the only place with an appellation that recognizes Pelaverga in the world, and Verduno is so small that there are only 4 producers who make one.
The still wine made from Pelaverga is bright and fruity, perhaps resembling the Sicilian Frappato, at its best or some of the more obscure Alpine reds.
It is bright enough to stand a chill and a great match or many foods from pizza to salumi, or even on its own. If you can resist finishing it in one go, it will keep well in the fridge for a quick nip each day, as the sun passes the yard-arm.
Jean Claude Lapalu, Brouilly Croix Rameaux 2018 ($29)
High class single vineyard Beaujolais - another good summer red and really versatile food wine. Though nominally from the 'lighter' side, with the depth of fruit and poise of a good Brouilly, it can fil- in for Burgundy at any table.
Cru Beaujolais from good producers like Lapalu is very much in vogue and the regular wine of choice for many currently in the trade. Funny how fashions change, but the Beaujolais producers deserve their time in the sun. Itis probably the most dynamic wine producing area in France, though champagne gives it a run for its money.
Cavallotto Langhe Nebbiolo 2017 ($39)
I tasted this twice on my trip to Piedmont in November and was blown away both times. The first was with Alfio Cavallotto over lunch when we tasted through the entire range up to the riservas (his 2013 riservas are brilliant btw, but well over $100.)
The Langhe Nebbiolo is a Barolo by anyone else's standards, and a good one. Where most producers use the Langhe Nebb appellation to catch all their young vines and less well situated fruit, Cavallotto uses the DOC for real and serious cru Barolo that simply does not fit with their rather rigid program. For example, they own a chunk of the perfectly good Codana cru, just down the slope from Mascarello's famous Monprivato. But the holding is too small to bottle on its own,so, instead of putting it into a generic Barolo, it goes into the Langhe Nebb. Likewise if they do not make a Barolo Riserva from their holding in Vignolo, it too goes into the Nebbiolo. It is also a bit different from most other people's in that it is basically made in the same way as their Barolos, though you would be hard pressed to find the 2017 tough to drink. It is a food wine, for sure, and can use some time in the decanter, but it is really good right now,
The second occasion I drank it was at my own expense off the list at La Repubblica di Perno, how I hope they are still there when I next get the chance to visit (super place.)