You probably are interested in wine recommendations. Readers of the newspaper wine section usually are. I’m running with that assumption. Welcome. We may become friends.
My name is Dan Dawson, a Napa Valley resident of 27 years. Over these years, I’ve been a server/waiter, restaurant manager, head sommelier, wine merchant, business owner, wine educator and wine writer.
I took a wine test the third day I lived in Napa Valley to get my server job and never taken one since. I drink and understand wine so I can teach, promote and sell. My best skill is to identify good wine from mediocre or bad and know who to recommend the good wines to. I’m also very good at calling out wines that are particularly good values. In other words, over-deliver for the price. We all like a value.
Every other Friday, the Napa Valley Wine Register Wine section will bring us together as I serve up four interesting wine recommendations. Quality, value, unique: all mighty fine but, let me guess, you want easy access too, right?
My wine recommendations set themselves apart because I advise you on how to purchase the wines I suggest. I can’t make it easy to find my wines, but I can make it easier. After all, we’re talking literally a drop in the global wine bucket here. With my guidance and just a little effort, these wines can be yours. And if you need help, please ask me. Really. Drop me a line through my website, DawsonWineAdvisor.com.
Here are my four wine recommendations for you this Friday, Aug. 30.
— PRIMA MATERIA Tocai Friulano, Potter Valley, Mendocino 2017. $25 and a Dawson Wine Advisor “Hall of Fame Value.”
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All of 50 acres of Tocai Friulano are planted in California. It makes really good wine in California, but it’s a tough sell by most reports. Don’t know why, maybe it’s the confusing name. I don’t think that will stop you. It’s very aromatic and quite rich. Wildflowers and preserved lemon. Dry and not oaky. It’s a wine that suggests sweetness on the first whiff but it’s obviously dry once it lingers in the mouth. As is typical of the grape, it needs to breathe as much as a fancy Cab does to blossom. There were 48 cases made. Buy this wine at Prima-Materia.com and you’ll likely hear from Pietro Buttitta, the owner and winemaker. He lives in the East Bay, has a tasting room in Oakland and has his vineyard and winery in Lake County. So if you’re patient, he can bring the wine to you on his way to or from his winery. Or better yet, visit the Prima Materia tasting room in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland.
— FORTUNATI Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley 2017. $36 and a “Great Value.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people talking about what Chardonnay is not. I’m here to tell you what it is, brothers and sisters. It is lemony buttery. On the 1 to 10 rich scale for Chard it’s a 7. No apologies for the butter because it just tastes good. Think of a lemon butter sauce you roll your scampi style prawns in.
Ellen and Gary Luchtel of Fortunati sell all their wine Direct to Consumer (DTC in trade-talk). It’s not in restaurants, not in wine shops. Visit FortunatiVineyards.com either online or give them a call. There’s a good chance you’ll speak to Ellen — tell her Dan sent you. Fortunati’s new hospitality center is on Salvador Avenue in North Napa, so a wine pick-up should be easy. And you just might get a taste.
— KEEP Carignane “Evangelho Vineyard” Contra Costa County 2016. $35, a Great Value. Glorious wine after it’s had a chance to get some air. Taste pomegranate, black pepper and more. Like home-made chili, it’s better the next day.
If you’re really into wine, I bet you know Evangelho. Many of the vines, including the Keep Carignane vines, are 130 years old. The story of the vineyard is worth looking up, as is the Keep website, TheKeepWines.com. There you can order the wine from husband/wife owners and winemakers Jack Roberts and Johanna Jensen. Once you order, you’ll probably hear from Johanna if you choose the pick-up option. They live in Napa and are active with family and day jobs, so connecting won’t be difficult.
— MAISON L’ENVOYÉ Moulin-a-Vent (Beaujolais) 2016. $20 and an “Awesome Value.” We’re heading into September, which has the hottest average high temperatures in Napa Valley. For red wine drinkin’, Beaujolais is a winner in September. This one is particularly good, and for $20 it’s a smokin’ good buy. These are 60-year-old vines and where it’s from (ask your wine geek friend about Moulin-a-Vent) explains the dark color and loads of flavor. Black raspberries and dried orange rind. Feel it.
A couple of suggestions on how to find this. Try Raley’s Supermarket in Napa (they have a great wine selection and the prices are fantastic if you buy 6 or more bottles). Or try the importer, Old Bridge Cellars in Napa. Go to OBCWines.com to order online and choose pick-up. They’re next to Fuller Park. I also suggest you visit the new Southside Restaurant at the South Napa Century Center. Have dinner and drink a bottle of Moulin-a-Vent there. It’s $30 on the list. Best restaurant deal you’ll find anywhere for a good bottle of wine.
In future entries, this is where you’ll find my wine tip. Like, “how to choose what to drink at a wine buffet table.” Or “how do know if a wine is corked?” That’s next time. I’m out of words today. Be well, and drink more Refosco.
I’m Dan Dawson, a Napa Valley wine writer and recovering wine merchant. You can read more of my wine reviews at DawsonWineAdvisor.com. If you visit, check out my membership program. Please contact me through my website with your questions and comments.