In my weekly virtual wine tastings with wine industry friends from around the country, we try to come up with different themes each week that will inspire interesting and funny conversations. As we cannot travel, we decided this past week to focus on our favorite wine regions.
Picking a favorite wine region is not easy or any wine lover. We all know picking a favorite wine region, or a favorite wine variety, is like picking your favorite child. There is no single answer. We are all fans of a variety of wine regions because of the people involved, the wineries, the grape varieties, the history and just the beauty of the landscape. But each of us managed to pick one region that holds a special place in our heart.
For me, the region that holds the most special place in my heart is Piedmont, Italy. It is where I first fell in love with wine while living there after college. From the slightly sweet, slightly effervescent red Brachetto that I would enjoy every day during aperitivi to the beautiful reds such as Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo that would be on the dinner table every night, Piemonte is one of many regions that I love but also one of my most favorite.
Healdsburg resident Mary Beth Vierra, of MB Vierra Wine Education and Consulting, also had a hard time picking a particular region. A lover of Italian wines, she debated between white wines from Alto Adige and Campagna but ended up with a Piemontese wine, the Verduno Pelaverga DOC, 2018, Fratelli Alessandria, Verduno Italia. What she loves most about Piemonte is the variety of indigenous grapes that produce light reds with floral aromatics that she gets to “geek out” over.
While I am drawn to Piemonte, Italy where I had my first wine experiences, Upstate New York resident Mykha’el Wilson’s first wine experiences were in the Russian River Valley. He recalled tasting his first Pinot Noir from there while living in Healdsburg and fell in love. In honor of this, he opened a 2016 Cartograph 100% 777 Clone, Russian River Valley. Of a similar mind, Washington, D.C.-based Megan Kenney also opened a Cartograph Wine, the 2018 Cartograph Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, as her favorite region is also the Russian River Valley, and Sonoma in General, where they make complex and delicious Pinot Noir. When she and her husband got married, they honeymooned in Sonoma and it is the only other wine region that they have been to more than any other, except for Virginia, where they live.
Healdsburg resident Barbara Jean Barrielle also picked the Russian River Valley as her favorite region. She loves the accessibility of the area and feels lucky to live there. Her wine of choice was the 2017 Ketcham Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, in honor of Mark Ketcham who recently passed away.
Another Healdsburg resident, Patrick Llerena Cruz selected Rioja, Spain as his favorite region. He finds the wines to be simultaneously diverse and extraordinarily predictable as he enjoyed a Milenrama Rioja Joven 2018, a wine he finds to be easy drinking with lots of layers.
The Anderson Valley, north of the Russian River Valley, is the region of choice for Sonoma resident Thea Dwelle. Due to the different microclimates, she loves the diversity of the region, as well as the proximity to her home and opened a bottle of Smith Story Helluva Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Sonoma-based journalist Sarah Stierch picked Amador County as her favorite region. Originally from the mid-west, she said that Amador County, located southeast of Sacramento, reminds her of Indiana. It is a gorgeous and unpretentious place and she opened two wines to represent the region—the 2018 Bella Grace Vineyards Estate Grenache Blanc Amador County and the 2018 Leoni Farms Amador County Barbera.
Working for Wine.com, Kelly Cohen is exposed to wines from around the world. While she has a lot of favorite regions, she chose the Santa Cruz Mountains in honor of her recent move there from San Francisco and opened a 2016 La Honda Salinian Block Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Virginia-based owner of CorkEnvy, Jason Stubblefield selected Paso Robles with the 2010 Aron Hill Vineyards Estate Grown Primitivo from the West Side of Paso Robles. He loves the approachability and down-to-earth nature of Paso Robles, as well as the diversity of the plantings that produce quality wines in different styles.
And, after enjoying wines made from Bordeaux to Rhone varieties, it has piqued his interest to travel to the Rhone Valley and Bordeaux when travel is possible again.
Bay Area-based Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications felt like he was picking his favorite child. Ultimately, he selected the 2018 David Paige Wines Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir to represent the Willamette Valley. He says that with regard to domestic Pinot Noirs, Willamette Valley overdelivers for the value. The Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs differentiate between AVAs and he loves the balance of fruit and earth on the wines.
Wine Antics founder Jenn Nelson lives in Florida but is originally from Maryland. She first started studying wine while living in Maryland and opened a bottle of Old Westminster NV Tapestry, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah from a small family-owned sustainable winery in New Windsor, Maryland, in honor of where her love of wine started.
Bay Area-based wine educator and writer Fred Swan decided that there are too many wonderful regions in America, and he could not choose just one. Instead he went overseas to one of his favorite places, a place he visited last year, Southern Australia. To represent the versatility of the McLaren Vale region, he opened a 2013 Yangarra Estate “Old Vine” Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia.
Texas-based wine blogger Jeff Kralik opened a bottle of Champagne, which was no surprise to the rest of us as we know he is a big fan.
Why? He used to lead bike tours in France and when he was first learning about wine, a friend told him to pick one region and learn it well and then go from there. Champagne was the region he delved into.
New York-based sound engineer and wine blogger Jim VanBergen also selected a French region. He explained that Bordeaux and Burgundy cannot get all the attention and he loves the tiny region of Jura where the wines are made using 700-year-old techniques and are delicious. He enjoyed the 2015 Frédéric Puffeney Trousseau from Jura, France.
Our Canadian wine journalist friend Christine Campbell represented her own country, picking the 2017 Township Cabernet Sauvignon from the southern towns of Oliver and Osoyoos in the Okanagan. She is proud of British Columbia wines, with different regions emerging showcasing different terroirs and producing wines with great acidity.
Bay Area-based freelance writer Doug Levy also picked British Columbia, and with a love for the intense fruit Syrah they produce, opened a 2017 Orofino Wild Ferment Syrah from the Simikilameen Valley in B.C.
If there a wine region that holds a special place in your heart? While you are not able to travel there right now, open up a bottle from the region and celebrate it and relive the memories of why the place is so special to you.
Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a marketing and event-planning agency. A freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her way around the world. Allison is also the host of the wine podcast Wine Soundtrack USA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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