Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Three well kept secrets

Russ Winton

Secret No. 1:

I was surprised the other day to receive an e-mail inviting me to a wine tasting in Merced. "In Merced?" I asked. Not being one to pass up a tasting of any kind, I decided to check it out. I'm glad I did. On the first and third Wednesdays of each month, Fernando's Bistro holds a wine tasting from 5 to 8 p.m., featuring domestic and foreign wines. The pours are quite liberal, five wines are tasted, complimentary appetizers are provided -- all for just $10.

The wines poured on May 6 were a 2007 Luna Vineyards pinot grigio from Napa Valley; an Italian rosso toscano, which is a blend of sangiovese and merlot; a Brophy Clark 2006 grenache from Arroyo Grande; a 2006 St. Hallet Australian shiraz from the Barossa Valley; and a bertani secco ripasso from the Veneto region of Italy.

All the wines were outstanding and paired well with the complimentary bruschetta. The Brophy Clark grenache was my favorite of the evening. This wine is made from a grenache noir clone which produces raspberry aromas much like a pinot noir. Flavors of raspberry and boysenberry with a round lingering finish make it an excellent value for $13.

Wine Line appears on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and so do the wine tastings at Fernando's. So as you are reading this column, think of wine tasting tonight and drop in or phone to reserve a table for you and your wine-loving friends. Take advantage of this opportunity to taste and learn more about wine in a relaxing atmosphere and discover what has to be one of Merced's best kept secrets! You'll have a great time. Cheers!

Secret No. 2

One of the most enjoyable wine events I try to attend every year is the Spring Open House for the River Road Wineries in Monterey County. This event is usually held on the first weekend in May. This was the 15th year of the event, and the number of wineries has grown to 12. Wineries offer new releases, barrel samples, an interesting array of foods to pair with the wine and live music. Crowds have never been much of a problem, but I suggest that you start your tasting at Scheid Winery in the south and head north. The best part of this River Road experience and why it's secret No. 2 is because the event is free. Yes, I said FREE! Mark your calendar for next year or go to Cheers!

Secret No. 3

Several readers have clued me in to the Grocery Outlet for some good wine values. Every now and then, I swing by and see what's new. As spring heads into summer and temperatures rise, I start thinking about chilled roses. The 2008 vintage is now being released, but there is nothing wrong with the 2007 vintage. OK, they're not as fresh as a new release, but a well-chilled 2007 would be the ideal match for a nicoise salad on a warm spring evening.

The 2007 Domaine De Gournier Rose made in southern France near Avignon is my pick for "What's on our table," and is secret No. 3. This rose is bone dry with strawberry flavors, a nice streak of acidity and a touch of chalky minerality on the finish, a great pick for just $2.99. Yes, right here in Merced, a French rose for just $2.99 at Grocery Outlet. A votre sante!

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