Finding good value in wine and spirits while sheltering

I have struggled lately with trying to find the relevance of writing about wine and spirits during these difficult times.

Many online sites are featuring good deals for obscure California wines, creating a ripe environment for exploration and discovery during the pandemic. One such wine is the D’Alfonso-Curran Loureiro 2018 ($24) from the winemaking team of Bruno D’Alfonso and Kris Curran in Santa Barbara County. (Courtesy photo)

I have struggled lately with trying to find the relevance of writing about wine and spirits during these difficult times. Then, I experienced my first shelter in place happy hour with old friends via Zoom. We spent a virtual hour enjoying a libation, talking current events, sharing health updates, laughing at jokes and maintaining significant social contact.

Life goes on, but we are all going to be doing things differently for a while. After a period of quiet adjustment, many in the food, wine and spirit industries have been creative in developing new courses of action to encourage customer contact, many aimed at convenience and value.

Direct to consumer sales through local wineries and online sites have increased exponentially over the past decade. Today, I am seeing discounts up to 65 percent from sites like Wine Access, wine.com, Wine Express and K&L Wines. Many are featuring good value deals for obscure California wines, creating a ripe environment for exploration and discovery.

One such wine is the D’Alfonso-Curran Loureiro 2018 ($24)from the winemaking team of Bruno D’Alfonso and Kris Curran in Santa Barbara County. I am only familiar with loureiro as a white grape grown almost exclusively on the Iberian Peninsula in Spain and Portugal and know that this release has earned good reviews from critics. Its offer at a 30 percent discount spurred me to take a chance on a wine that Wilfred Wong described as “active, dry, fresh and crisp with aromas and flavors of savory spices, chalk, earth and mineral,” characteristics that appeal to my senses.

Cameron Hughes Wine has been a source for high quality, value- priced wines for years. The success of his unique direct to consumer platform as a “négociant” rather than producer, requires that he seek the highest quality wine to offer under his own label at value prices.

One of his current releases is the Cameron Hughes Lot 715 2018 Anderson Valley ($13), a distinctive white blend of gewürztraminer (67 percent) and Muscat (33 percent). I have a preference for gewürztraminer and thinking of the added texture and flavor from

the muscat grape, along with the low price, is enough to peak my interest.

I am also finding good discounts on bottles and cases from various California and Pacific Northwest wineries. Of note, Oregon’s Bergström Wines and Fort Ross Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, both notable producers of pinot noir and chardonnay, are offering sets and cases of new releases at savings more than $100.

While tasting rooms are closed, wineries are not only offering tremendous discounts, but novel virtual tastings opportunities. Locally, Hall Wines, Frog’s Leap, St. Supery in the Napa Valley and Gary Farrell Vineyard and Winery, Halleck Vineyards and Inman Family Wines in the Russian River Valley have put together a series of interactive virtual tasting options, complete with sommeliers.

Gary Farrell is offering virtual tastings that feature their wines from the Russian River Valley and another that includes top vineyards outside the appellation like Gap’s Crown and Durell. Each package includes up to six bottles, sent to your homes prior to a tasting led by sommeliers Tiffany Kuhn and Kevin Patterson via Zoom. Details on all options are available on the wineries individual websites.

Sourced Craft Cocktails, a company best known for providing quality spirits for large events and special tastings, has developed an interim program during this period of social distancing and mandatory home sheltering designed to put bartenders and mixologists back to work with bottled cocktail delivery. Through their website, Bay Area customers can order from a menu of bottled cocktails that will delivered directly to their homes. Each selected package, yielding up to twelve drinks, includes a 750ml bottle of the selected spirit, a sealed bottle of mixers made from fresh fruit and juices, a jigger and cups.

Among the eight different cocktail options available, Whoa, Black Betty (Grey Goose Vodka, fresh squeezed lemon juice, homemade blackberry syrup, shaken and topped with sparkling water), Irish Goodbye (Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey, Chameleon Cold Brew, homemade maple simple syrup, and oat milk) and Black Cherry Old Fashioned (Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, homemade cherry syrup, and burlesque bitters) are just a few. Each order received by 3PM will be delivered the same day by a local bartender.

In addition to delivering high quality spirits during a time of need, Sourced Craft Cocktails donates a portion of the proceeds to the USBG Bartender Relief Fund.

Let’s all stay safe, but continue to live our lives the best we can.

Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email sfewine@gmail.com

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