Wine Reviews: Winter Whites, Rosés and Bubbles

Happy December! The holidays are coming, the days are nearing their shortest, and the air is getting colder. By the time this is posted, I’ll hopefully be halfway through a long hike in the mountains to enjoy the cold solitude. And, I’ll likely be sipping some red wine and eating a burger upon my return.

That said, I love stocking up on lighter wines for winter. I have a tradition – which dates back about a decade at this point – of opening a nice bottle of rosé on the day of the first proper snowstorm. Maybe it’s a way of both embracing the cold and the discomfort that sometimes comes along with it, but also raising a glass that brings those summery, fresh vibes to the day. I highly recommend it. So, if you’re looking for some lighter wines for the holidays, I’ve got a good range of selections today.

For summery pinks, Provence is always on my mind. I received a few samples from Wines of Provence, a region that sent the U.S. 34% in volume of its exports last year. We love this stuff, and it’s easy to see why. (If I had a dollar for every winemaker from a different region who told me they make a “Provence-style” rosé, well I’d have money for a few of these bottles.)

Napa’s Castello di Amorosa provides a wide array of white grapes and wine styles, from drier, zestier Pinot Bianco to Gewurz in an off-dry styles. These show good value and crowd-friendly appeal for holiday gatherings. And, on the richer side of things, I have a wonderful white Rhone from Chateau La Nerthe, that would be great with all sorts of warm winter dishes.

I’m a big fan of the red wines from Napa’s Frank Family, but their sparkling wine program has been impressive to watch. Their Brut rosé and Blanc de Blancs offer a lot of complexity, vibrancy, and age-worthiness that makes their price points so reasonable. Worth checking out for sure if you’re a fan of California sparkling wines.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2021 Château La Nerthe Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Cassagnes de la Nerthe Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages
SRP: $24
Deep yellow color. The nose exudes pineapple, white peach and honeyed pears, and while those deeper tones are great, I get a lot of brighter, wildflower and herb nuances, too. Creamy and deeply textured on the palate but the moderate acidity keeps it lively – the mouthfeel is great. Papaya, pineapple and lemon curd fruit, which is backed up by these cool ginger, dried apricot, floral and waxy elements. What seals the deal is this mineral, stony finish. Complex and delicious, this could also do with a few years in the cellar. A blend of 30% Grenache Blanc, 30% Viognier, 30% Roussanne and 10% Marsanne. The quality and value in this blend are really something. (91 points IJB)

2021 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Bianco USA, California, Sonoma County
SRP: $30
Medium straw color. The nose shows a whole bunch of fruity goodness (white peach, yellow apple, pears) along with orange blossom and daisies. The palate has a creamy texture with spritely acidity and a clean, floral-infused feel. Honeyed tones, too, with some light herbal flavors and stony, chalky notes on the finish seal the deal. All Pinot Bianco, all stainless steel. (87 points IJB)

2021 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Grigio USA, California, North Coast
SRP: $27
Light yellow color. A floral and potpourri-themed aromatic display, with some kiwi, green apple and pineapple. Crisp acidity on the palate, a juicy texture, with pineapple, green apple and lime fruit. Has a pleasant creaminess, with some floral perfume, sugar cane and spring meadow vibes. Fun, fresh stuff. (86 points)

2021 Castello di Amorosa Vermentino USA, California, South Coast, Temecula Valley
SRP: $34
Light yellow color. A popping nose of white peaches and limes, daisies, clover, some honey and breezy flower garden tones. Sports a fuller body, creamy texture, but balanced with vibrant acidity, and flavors of kiwi, yellow apples, limes, backed up with honey, some crushed sweet tarts, and plenty of tropical flowers and flavors to enjoy. I’ve never tried this grape from this region before, and it’s a fun ride. (88 points IJB)

2020 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $32
Ripe yellow color. Bursting aromas of peaches on the nose, with cantaloupe and limes, along with lemon verbena, orange blossoms. Richly textured on the palate, deep, honeyed elements, but there’s moderating acidity throughout. Yellow apples, guava and white peach fruit blend well with tropical flowers and nuanced spice and herbal tones. This would be so versatile with so many foods. (89 points IJB)

2021 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer “Dolcino” USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $32
Rich yellow color. Sweet aromas of rich peach nectar and apricots, drizzled with honey, topped in white flowers and some green tea. Richly textured, sweet but the sugar is buttressed by vibrant acidity. Peaches, pineapple and limes, with a lot of floral and perfumed tones. I love the spicy accents, and along with subtle mineral tones, it makes this wine really pop. Fun for spicy foods or holiday parties. If you’re looking for some fun semi-sweet style. 13.5% alcohol, 35 g/l residual sugar. (88 points IJB)


2017 Frank Family Vineyards Blanc de Blancs USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
SRP: $55
Medium yellow color. A complex nose of biscuits, bread dough, chalk and sea salt, with yellow apples, lemon crème, some floral tones – lovely. Rich texture and vibrant acidity on this wine, has a pristine feel with these mineral and talc tones throughout. And the green apple and lemon fruit blends really well with the richer tones of biscuits, honey and almond. Lovely versatility and complexity in this wine, and I’d love to see it in a few years. Almost five years on the lees, this Blanc de Blancs has a lot to offer. (92 points IJB)

2017 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
SRP: $55
Deep copper color. Beautiful nose of raspberries and red apples, lots of roses, cut flower stems, chalky, slight biscuity tones. The palate has a crunchy and flinty feel, but the fine bubbles and creaminess make for a lovely balance. White cherry, raspberry and red apple fruit mix with tons of minerals and crushed shells, subtle spice, dried flowers and biscuits. Delicious but complex Pinot Noir bubbles aged four years on the lees. (91 points IJB)


2021 Domaine de Cantarelle Côteaux Varois Riviera Bistro Rosé France, Provence, Côteaux Varois
SRP: $20
Pale copper color. Super floral on the nose, with lots of herbal tones, too (oregano, mint, white pepper), over raspberry and red apple fruit. Punchy and vibrant on the palate, a juicy texture but racy acidity. Raspberry, white cherry and crunchy red apple fruit blends well with chalky, minty, spicy-herbal tones. Medium-bodied, fresh and fun – lots to like here. (88 points IJB)

2021 Domaine d’Eole Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence France, Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence
SRP: $20
Medium copper color. Aromas pop with raspberry, watermelon, McIntosh apple, and tones of basil, dandelion, and crushed shells. The palate has pleasant creaminess and crisp acidity, and a fruit salad of raspberries, watermelon and lemon slices. There are these honeyed, white tea, and floral complexities that are quite impressive, with notes of saline, talc and a hint of rosemary. Fun, juicy but complex and balanced. Value alert! (90 points IJB)

2021 Famille Sumeire Château Coussin Sainte Victoire Côtes de Provence France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $17
Bright salmon color. A light and zesty appeal on the nose, tart and crunchy red berry fruit backed up by green herbs, sea salt and floral perfume. Brisk and taut on the palate with tangy raspberry and tart white cherry fruit. Lots of spicy-herb complexities (dandelion, nettle, white pepper), and this maintains a mineral, rocky, saline-infused vibe throughout. Refreshing, mouth-watering finish. A lot going on here. (89 points IJB)

By: Isaac Baker
Title: Wine Reviews: Winter Whites, Rosés and Bubbles
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Published Date: Sun, 04 Dec 2022 16:00:33 +0000



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