Over the course of the 14 seasons of Check, Please, I’ve had the privilege of sharing a number of incredible wines and spirits with my viewers and readers. This season, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites for easier reading for YOU!
Season 14 – Episodes 1 and 2
NV Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France $60Champagne is one of the world’s finest pleasures. I find I’m a much happier person with bubbles in hand. This Chardonnay-based sparkling is elegant and full of finesse. Citrus-scented with underlying aromas of freshly-baked bread, the stylish Champagne is supported by a ping of palate-pleasing minerality. It’s a wine to drink now or will benefit from a few years of aging.
If you haven’t heard of this Champagne producer, it’s one to seek out when splurging on sparkling. Palmer & Co has more than 415 hectares of sustainably-grown vineyards with nearly half of those classified as Grands and Premiers Cru from the Montagne de Reims area of Champagne, France. A true classic.
2012 Domaine Carneros ‘Jardin D’Hiver’ Ultra Brut Cuvée, Carneros, California $60
When Domaine Carneros (the California outpost of France’s Champagne house Taittinger) added its stunning glass conservatory dubbed the Jardin d’Hiver, one of wine country’s most beautiful properties became even more beautiful. In this Gustave Eiffel-inspired sunroom guests can take in sweeping vineyard views and enjoy a signature ‘Asian bites with bubbles’ pairing. This limited-edition bubbly is an ode to the winery’s prized addition. Made in a bracingly-dry style (called Ultra Brut), it’s crisp, crave-worthy, and classy.
2017 Kim Crawford ‘Signature Reserve’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $25
Popular with Sauv-Savvie Americans, Kim Crawford is a recognized and much-loved brand. (It was actually started by a winemaker named Kim and his wife Erica Crawford, though no longer owned by them.) This bottling, however, is more powerful than its familiar Kim Crawford brethren. It takes Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc to the next level. Intensely fruit-driven with layers of tangy lemon/lime freshness, it also sports full-bodied flair and a mouthwatering finish.
Serve with shellfish and salads, of course, but don’t forget it has enough stuffing to take on roast chicken with mustard sauce or even grilled pork chops with
mango salsa. Highly recommended with a serious “wow” factor.
When talking about iconic American wine families, the Ponzi family is on my short list. As pioneers of the Oregon wine industry, they have established themselves as leaders in quality and innovation. Though their roster ranges from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, this wine is a personal favorite of mine. The white grape variety, Pinot Blanc, is known in the Alsace region of France where it gains a nutty richness. But, the Ponzi Pinot Blanc is dripping with succulent fruit notes layered with a ping of alluring minerality. A wine to stock up on for spring and summer sipping.
2017 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $20
When Kim and Erica Crawford sold their eponymous brand more than a decade ago, they followed their values to create a new wine brand highlighting the best of New Zealand. That’s when the Loveblock Farm captured their hearts. Sure, they still craft Sauvignon Blanc – the variety that made Kim famous – but the Loveblock expression is full-bodied and full of flavor. Forget the green, grassy Savvie of well-known producers, this elegant white is fermented with natural yeasts and a portion aged in neutral oak barrels to add complexity and texture. It’s a wine I love.
2016 Early Mountain Foothills, Virginia $27I have been impressed by the quality of the wines coming from Virginia for the past few years. After visiting the region to explore its history and plethora of
stunning properties, I believe Virginia ranks among the best places in the country to taste wine. And it’s not just me. The Early Mountain winery—located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains—was even voted the best winery tasting room nationwide in 2016, according to a USA Today Reader’s Choice poll.
This supple blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a smattering of other grapes, is succulently juicy with dark berry notes. It’s easy to indulge in with all that forward fruit, but the red blend is supported by bright acidity and a lush mouthfeel. A wine to unscrew and enjoy while unwinding after a long day’s work.
2014 Cecchi ‘Riserva di Famiglia’ Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Italy $75 magnum ($38 standard bottle size)
The Cecchi family’s winemaking history dates to 1893. Located in the bucolic area of Chianti in Tuscany, they are known for producing reds of intensity and structure. Their Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia is a special bottling produced only in years where quality is high. This is a beauty. A medium-full bodied red from Sangiovese that teases with dark berry fruit aromas peppered with earthy notes, it’s supple on the palate, finishing with brightness and balanced tannins. Though it drinks well now with grilled steaks and toothy pasta dishes, it’s an age-worthy red to impress.
Roku Japanese Craft Gin, Japan $40I’m going out on a limb here, but this is my favorite gin. Period. I buy multiple bottles of it at a time because I drink it so quickly…it’s just that delicious. Hailing from Japan (watch out Japanese whiskey!), it is the most subtle yet flavorful smooth gin I’ve ever sipped. With botanicals of sencha green tea, Yuzu peel, Sakura flower and more, the aromas and flavors are delicate and unique.
Pour a taste by itself to get a sense of the gin’s dry finish and silky texture. Splash Roku with top-notch tonic and a peel of yuzu or tangerine for the perfect G & T. See if it doesn’t land on your favorite list, too.
Dingle Single Malt Irish Whiskey Batch NO.3, Ireland $85
Whiskey lovers unite behind Dingle. A classic brown spirit, it packs a power punch wrapped in sultry smoothness. The Batch No. 3 is a blend of individually-aged casks, which have previously held both Bourbon and Port. This unique combination kicks up the dark spice and citrus aromas and then follows them with sweet, brown-sugary richness. Each sip is like decadent dessert in a glass. Only a limited number of bottles where produced, so if you can’t find this one, try one of the other Dingle bottlings and prepare for pleasure.
Stay tuned for more!