Exceptionally Crafted Wines—and a Cider—From Sicily to California

A weekly roundup of wines worth sharing.


2009 Donnafugata Rosso “Tancredi” Sicilia IGP 
13.5% abv | $45 (sample)
Muscular tannins, tight acidity, and ruby-red fruits characterize this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Tannat, and sundry other blending grapes. Notes of red plum, mountain cranberry, juniper, and wintergreen complement the wine’s assertive, earthy leather and steeped black tea texture. This wine needs air and time, and will likely evolve further over the next several years.

2008 Donnafugata Rosso “Mille e Una Notte” Contessa Entillina Rosso DOP
13% abv | $89 (sample)
Nero d’Avola and other varieties give this wine a bright ruby color and the scent of red licorice, eucalyptus, and brushy herbs. Lean and tightly wound on the palate, with a body of raw cranberries and crushed anise seed and ample drying tannins. Exquisite with veal-eggplant Parmigiana, which married beautifully with the wine’s taut acidity and anisette bitterness. Excellent now but likely outstanding in 3 to 5 years.

2013 Donnafugata Donnafugata “Lighea” Zibibbo Terre Siciliane IGP 
12.5% abv | $23 (sample)
A floral perfume of jasmine, paperwhites, and stone fruits wreaths a body ripe with apricot, peach skin, and Mediterranean herbs. The wine is opulent but not unserious, and has a touch of salt air and sea breeze that keeps it fresh. Made from 100% Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) in a rare dry form. Peachy but also refreshing; serve it with salty cheeses, shellfish, grilled sardines, or pasta with cream and capers.

2011 Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel North Coast AVA
14.5% abv | $35 (sample)
Peppery berry aromas and a whiff of fresh fennel pose a demure opener to the wine’s spicy palate punch of pomegranate, cranberry, and cracked black pepper. Firm tannins and ample acidity give the impression of nervy youth; a few years years of bottle age will give this wine the education it deserves. 

2010 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot Napa Valley AVA
14.8% abv | $42 (sample)
Plummy and light-textured with a pleasing smoked-meat earthiness ornamented by bitter chocolate, nutmeg, and clove. The fruit is present but not forward or overripe, and the net effect is one of spice and acid and savoriness rather than sweet fruit. Good now, but a couple of years in the cellar will soften its edges and develop complexity.

2011 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley AVA
14.2% abv | $60 (sample)
Red currant, cedar, and tobacco mingle with smoky, tea-soaked tannins and glittery acidity. There’s ample fruit here, but the wine reads as a seamless whole. Still too young but exceptionally well schooled; hold it if you can.

2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard ¿Querry? Pear Apple Quince Cider 
6.9% abv | $14
Disclosure: I worked for the winery during this cider’s inaugural release, and designed its first label.

This cider is redolent of pineapple, bruised apple, ripe pear, and the malic-musky scent peculiar to an orchard in autumn. Faintly effervescent and just off-dry, there’s modest acidity and a clear finish. Pair with charcuterie and cheeses.

2010 Lange Twins Zinfandel “Centennial” Lodi AVA 
15.7% abv | $60 (sample) 
A dark and muscular Zinfandel infused with essence of black plums, bramble fruits, mocha, and tight cranberry. Twenty-four months in new American oak have given this wine a polish of pliant tannins and baking spices, and while overall it’s somewhat boozy, the finishing hit of black coffee and bitter chocolate firms up the finish. This is a Zinfandel-lover’s Zinfandel: ample, lavish, self-assured.


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