Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine brands you can trust

There is no consensus about which kind of bottle closure, cork or synthetic or screw top or crown cap, is best for wine. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
There is no consensus about which kind of bottle closure, cork or synthetic or screw top or crown cap, is best for wine. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS) TNS

Every year I get a few emails from readers saying they like wine but are put off by all the “rules.” They’re intimidated by all the different varieties, labels, prices. Worst of all, there is no one around to offer advice. Navigating the wine wall in the supermarket is a challenge. Below are wine brands that should eliminate some guess work. If you’re a true novice, there is no reason to buy expensive wines to help you determine the difference between a chardonnay and a pinot grigio. You will learn the difference.

Track down these brands that are varietal-correct and under $7: Sutter Home, Barefoot, Trader Joe’s Moon Series, Fetzer and Challis Lane (Bev-Mo). Brands under $12: McManis, Columbia Crest, Seaglass, Gnarly Head, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Bogle. Brands under $16: J. Lohr, Kendall-Jackson, Francis Coppola, Hess, Robert Hall and Hahn. All are readily available in the marketplace and excellent values. I hope this helps you find a wine that you like and one you can afford. And, remember, trust your palate.

A Quick Escape to East Lodi

Feeling a bit under the weather and need a little wine to recuperate? Take Friday off, sleep in, make a picnic, read the paper. Have a late restaurant breakfast, take 99 north to Jack Tone Road, head east, count all the four-way stops. Put 12470 Locke Road, Lockford, into your GPS, arrive at 11 a.m., exit car, follow signs, walk to LVVR Sparkling Cellars. Taste four sparkling wines, all made in the French style Method Champenoise, pinch yourself you’re not at work, but instead tasting champagne, buy some bubbly. Walk 25 steps to Lone Grape Winery, try syrah rose, cool music, chocolate treats and wine smoothies. Get back in car, put 18921 N. Atkins Road, Lodi, in GPS, arrive at Bokisch Vineyards, taste excellent Spanish varietals like albarino, tempranillo, graciano. Spread blanket, have a picnic, take a snooze, wake up, buy wine, load car. GPS to 17266 Hillside Drive, Lodi, arrive at GoodMills Family Winery, exit car, walk 20 paces, enter cute tasting room, try wine and food pairings, big reds, friendly service. Remember – still not at work, buy wine, load car, turn left on Jack Tone, head west. Don’t count four-way stops, merge onto 99, arrive home feeling much better because the next day is Saturday.

What’s on our table: This week is the 2016 St. Amant Souzao from Lodi ($18). Souzao is traditionally a Portuguese grape used for port wines. As a table wine it has deep color, natural acidity and fresh ripe berry flavors. It’s a multiple gold medal winner and gold-plus in my notes. Limited production, I suggest ordering online. Cheers!

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