Sip in Style

Dining critic Joseph Hayes selects eight wines-four reds and four whites-that are 'in' this season. All labels are available at local wine retailers.

Courtesy of Casa Viva Wines


Casa Viva Pinot Noir
Less than $10
This deep red varietal has everything you’ve come to love in a Pinot, with flavors of purple grapes and ripe cherries, but there’s also a hint of what I can only describe as smoked plums. If you like a rich wine that fills your mouth, at a very good price, this could be your next favorite. Drink with pork or Italian shrimp dishes.

Kestrel “Lady in Red”
Less than $13
According to Tim Varan of Tim’s Wine Market, the vintners at Kestrel have been making “Lady in Red” since 2002, and it gets better every year. This Washington bottling fights the Southern Hemisphere invasion with a rich blend of several grapes. Tastes of tangy fruits (currants and elderberries) wrap around what can be described as blueberry and cherry flavors. “Lady” would be great as a sipping wine or accompanying pizza or fatty meats like lamb.

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon
Less than $16
Chile is so big and varied that just about any grape can thrive there, and its cool valleys are perfect for growing Cabernet.
Intense is the word for this wine: a deep velvet color, a soft flavor of red and purple berries, and rich, long-lasting flavor layers that will make you savor a glass slowly. A slight edge of sweetness would make this wine go well with rich meats or chocolate.

Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner”
Less than $35
“The Prisoner” is a secret treasure, with a following that’s almost fanatical. A blend of six rather diverse grapes, this Napa Valley red combines dark berry, spice and fruit flavors without that mouth-drying tannic feel that we’ve somehow been led to believe is the sign of a good wine. Drink it with grilled meats or to celebrate a very special occasion.


Alice White Lexia
Less than $8
I was heartbroken when vintners started making dry Rieslings. If you, too, look for a sweeter white wine, Lexia (a variety of Muscat grape) is bright and fruity with flavors of mango and honey. It’s a good complement to spicy Indian or Thai food. The fact that this Australian treasure is available at supermarkets only adds to my delight.

Indaba Chenin Blanc
Less than $9
Glen Mederos, manager of Wine Warehouse in Winter Park, says South African wines such as those from Indaba are becoming more popular than many from Down Under. This Chenin Blanc is a great value at the price, a light, easy-drinking wine with a beautiful fruit aroma that belies its crisp citrus taste and an interesting finishing flavor of spices. Perfect with sushi or dishes made with cheese. 

Hey Mambo “Swanky White”
Less than $12
Europeans are very familiar with the concept of a table wine: Something to drink with friends while having dinner, and afterwards. “Swanky White” is the California version, a crisp blend that combines tart apple, sweet berry and round, peach-like flavors in the glass. Try it with Mexican food or turkey.

Ramey Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Less than $35
There’s such a glut of oaked, unoaked, still and sparking Chardonnays that I’ve seen people stare at a mile-wide shelf of them and walk away confused. The choice is simple: buy a really good one. David Ramey combines French winemaking with California techniques. Lemony and full-bodied, this elegant and aromatic wine tastes as rich as a Key lime pie feels on the tongue, and will change how you think of Chardonnay. Goes well with seafood, and worth the price.

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