Carl Kanowsky: Selecting the right bottle for National Wine Day

From left, Brian Ilvento, BevMo store manager; Eve Bushman, wine writer; and Doug Characky, director of tasting at the local BevMo hold up bottles of wine.

On May 25, we celebrate National Wine Day. The quandary, what to drink in honor of it?

I decided that I wanted something not esoteric, not something rare and unobtainable, but something tasty that I could get at a local BevMo. But it must be not only easily available but exhibit quality at a reasonable cost.

Brian Ilvento, store manager, and Doug Characky, wine tasting manager for the BevMo on The Old Road, provided six options for my consideration.

Ilvento’s been with BevMo for six years, starting in San Diego, then moving to manage the store on Golden Valley until recently moving to The Old Road. He’s a local boy, who’s glad to be back home.

Characky knows his vino. After all, he learned from the master, DiMaggio Washington, at the wine courses offered at our own College of the Canyons. He’s been leading the weekly tastings for four years.

Joining me for this exploration of possibilities was Eve Bushman, the respected wine blogger who was just coming off her success with the WiSH Education Foundation’s Wine on the Roof event (which was actually Wine In A Store, but more on that in my next column).

We started with a Sauvignon Blanc. But, the guys threw us a little curve. It wasn’t from France’s Loire Valley or New Zealand. Rather, they went to Napa Valley and poured the 2018 Honig Sauvignon Blanc. We had three whites and three reds; this was my favorite white. Well-balanced, with crisp notes of mineral. It was delicious. I’d give it a 92, especially since it’s well-priced at $19 a bottle.

The signature white from Albariño, Spain, often disappoints. A lot of it gets drunk because it’s white and it contains alcohol. But the 2017 Burgans belies that stereotype. It’s green gold with flavors of stone fruit, particularly of white peaches and an aftertaste of mango.

As Characky said, it’s less acidic than the Sauvignon Blanc, a great outdoor wine. And at $18, one to enjoy on the patio this coming Memorial Day weekend.

Next was my favorite of the reds, the 2016 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir. SLH stands for Santa Lucia Highlands, an AVA in Monterey County, home to some prestigious vineyards like Rosella’s and Gary’s, with notable offerings from Kosta Browne and Siduri.

The Hahn is a delightful wine, offering fresh raspberries on the nose mingled with cigar. The flavors are of dark fruit along with strawberry. I prefer Pinots that have some body, not a wimpy — almost rosé — wine. The Hahn has the requisite body. In fact, this could last another five to eight years in your cellar, gathering more complexity.

But why wait? At $24, it’s better than many Pinots at twice the price.

Following that was the 2015 Il Principe from Michele Chiarlo. It’s a Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region in northern Italy. This was a hard one for me to judge. Characky mentioned finding cranberry and pomegranate notes, but the wine was too closed to be able to assess it. It sits at $22 a bottle.

The 2016 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon completed our tasting. Quilt is part of the Copper Cane family of wines, owned and vinified by Joseph Wagner, a scion of the family famous for Caymus. Wagner has been successful in his own right, creating and selling Meiomi.

Wagner sold Meiomi to Constellation in 2015 for a reported $315 million. Quilt is a blend from six different vineyards. It features an earthy aroma and dark berry tastes, with several layers. I get one note, then a different characteristic followed by a third. While tasty, I would hesitate paying $41 for it.

BevMo on The Old Road does tastings every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Visit today and sample Irony Russian River Chardonnay and Zinchronicity Zinfandel.

Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.

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