A fan of this column approached me over the weekend and asked, "Jim, what are you drinking now?'"
I replied without hesitation. It's not what I am drinking now, it's what I am buying for later.
Like saving for your retirement, there's something to be said for buying wines that will enrich your drinking and dining pleasure weeks, months and years from now. Sometimes it means getting a good deal on a valuable, ageworthy wine for the cellar. Or it could be for socking away a nice bottle for a special occasion, like a 30th wedding anniversary that I will celebrate with the Wine Goddess next year. Or it could be stocking up on a respectable, inexpensive, everyday wine from an outstanding winemaker.
So, I will answer my friend's first inquiry first.
Here's what I have enjoyed over the past two weeks on the dinner table.
Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, $89: Drew Bledsoe's top-of-the-line wine is still one of Walla Walla's best, but I should have been more patient and let this sit for a year or two in the cellar. I couldn't resist, however. We drank it on our 29th wedding anniversary. It's got all the Washington State power, black fruit flavors and smooth texture that we've come to expect from Doubleback. And it will only get better with age. If you can wait that long.
Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella 2010, $40: Italians drink this sumptuous, plummy, dry red wine during quiet conversation or when there is a need for silent meditazione (meditation).
Goldschmidt Singing Tree Chardonnay 2016, $13.99: I've finally found a Chardonnay that I can drink all year-round. It's from California's Russian River Valley, and winemaker Nick Goldschmidt lets the grapes do the talking. It's creamy yet not buttery. Persistent apple and lemon flavors are fresh and persistent. Get it at The Wine ConneXtion.
Trivento Reserve Malbec 2016, $11, and Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2015, $21: As the nights get cooler, I turn to spicy, warm red wines with good structure and enduring tastes. Argentina's Mendoza Malbecs provide the right recipe for late-season grilling on the patio. These are easy-drinking red wines, full of dark cherry, cinnamon and pepper flavors. Trivento's $11 Malbec is an impressive starter. It's been selected as a "best buy" by Wine Enthusiast magazine. I liked it so much, I had to sample the Golden Reserve, which is aged longer, shows much more plum-cherry intensity, and is velvety smooth.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano La Lastra 2016, $14.99: This dry, floral, white from Tuscany brings back beautiful memories of the timeless, medieval town that bears its name. We had lunch in San Gimignano and we drank this wine, not knowing that it would become an all-time favorite. That was 10 years ago. Vernaccia is a native grape that is basically confined to this small area of the world. It's kind, caring and delicious. The wine gets stainless-steel treatment all the way through fermentation, so the aromas and tastes -- citrus, tropical and tangy -- are pure and expressive.
So what am I buying to savor later (hopefully)? Here's a short list.
14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend, $8.99: I mean, this Washington State red wine is such an indecent deal, I don't know how the winery stays in business. The wine is consistently good and I buy it by the case. That's right. Wine Enthusiast gives the 2016 vintage 88 points. The red fruit is fresh and bright. If you see the 14 Hands Kentucky Derby Red ($9.99) still on the shelves in New Hampshire, buy some of that, too. These wines are worth stocking up on for everyday drinking.
Campgiovanni San Felice Brunello di Montalcino 2013, $49.50: This vintage is being called outstanding, maybe a notch below the classic 2010, but I'm banking on 2013 to exceed early expectations. The retail price is $66, but Vino Italiano in Waltham had a special deal for early birds on this new release. (Brunello is aged up to five years, by law, before its release to the public.) Ian D'Agata, an Italian wine expert for Vinous, said this about the wine: "Nicely sweet and smooth on the palate, offering supple, ripe berry flavors complicated by mocha and coffee." He says this will drink best from 2022 to 2031. I'll pray for patience, but God forgive me if I pop this five years from now.
Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo 2013, $38.40: Its suggested retail price is $57.80 a bottle, and the listed price is what I paid for it upon release at Vino Italiano. Winemaker Giuseppe Caviola is putting Damilano on the map with 100 percent Nebbiolo bottlings. He selects fruit from five different vineyards and blends the best. According to Wine Advocate, "Lecinquevigne is fragrant and intense with a mounting sense of aromatic importance and persistence. ... In terms of a Barolo that is not from a single vineyard, this wine is at the head of the class. On the quality-versus-price ratio, it offers great value." Here's another for the cellar, but four years at the most.