If I Could Buy Only One – January 7 VINTAGES Release

We asked our writers, “If you could buy only one wine from this release, which one would it be and why?”

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2020

($19.95, FWM Canada)
John Szabo – There’s a bit of nostalgia and a lot of enjoyment wrapped up in my “only one” this week, Boony Doon’s Le Cigar Volant 2020 red from the Central Coast in California. I remember when this wine sold for more than twice this current price and caused a stir of excitement for Rhône varieties from California with its launch in 1983 by the irreverent philosopher-winemaker Randall Grahm. It was one of the most intriguing California reds I had tasted at that point, and the story behind the wine’s name is utterly memorable, a wink to an ordinance passed by the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1954 prohibiting the landing of UFOs, or “flying cigars” in the region’s vineyards. “The ordinance has worked well, as there have been no such landings since the adoption of this far-sighted legislation”, reads the back label, fully tongue-in-cheek. Production has increased significantly since Bonny Doon was purchased by a large corporate concern, hence the reduced price, and the style has also lightened up, but it’s still a highly attractive, fully dry, succulent and savoury, spicy, earthy-herbal, also fruity wine, satisfying and complex. Drink or hold it short term – the fun is all upfront. 

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2020

($19.95, FWM Canada)
Sara d’Amato – I’ve long been a fan of the innovative work Randall Grahm and the Rhône Rangers have accomplished in advocating for Rhône style blends in California as the varieties are ideally suited to the region’s Mediterranean climate yet produce idosyncratic expressions. Grahm many have sold Bonny Doon a few years ago but his legacy lives on through these engaging and cleverly marketed wines such as this aromatic Le Cigar Volant 2020 blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah, petite syrah, and counoise. For those of you who enjoy a bit of space humor, take a close look at the label, as that flying saucer is a nod to Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s archaic law preventing the landing of UFOs in vineyards.

Gunderloch Fritz's Riesling 2021

($15.95, Mark Anthony Wines)
David Lawrason – If I could buy only one from this release, I would probably buy six or twelve bottles of Gunderloch Fritz’s Riesling 2021.  With due respect to Niagara riesling, there is not one that compares at this price. I was actually shocked at the price and wondered what commercial manipulations rendered it so. But there is also some sentimentality in my pick. Gunderloch shot to stardom in the 1990s with some near perfect scores from American publications for its late harvest styles – and as this was also my era I got to know the wines and the gregarious Fritz Hasselbach quite well.  He visited often and loved Canada. He has since passed away and the mantle has fallen to his son Johannes, who professes a different direction for the wines based in the Nierstein vineyard of Rothenberg. I am not sure what that new direction really is, because this continues to show a peachy purity that I remember, with honeysuckle and mandarin/lemon citrus – nicely clean aromas. It is light bodied, sleek, off-dry yet racy with fine acidity. The quality at $16 is off the charts. The length is excellent. Riesling fans shouldn’t miss it.

Cortonese La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2019

($27.95, Profile Wine Group)
Megha Jandhyala – At under $30, there is no other wine in the most recent Vintages release for which I would eschew Tommaso Cortonesi’s La Mannella Rosso 2019. Sourced from vines planted in 2011, this is a delightfully aromatic and engaging wine, a bounty of succulent, perfectly ripe red cherries and red currants, joined by delicate spice notes. Supple, refined, and poised, this rosso is not just Brunello-lite but rather a lucent and appealing expression of sangiovese from Montalcino in its own right. I would buy a couple of bottles of this, as it is drinking well now and will continue to resolve and bloom over the next few years.

Gattavecchi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018

($24.95, Winehouse Imports LLC)
Michael Godel – Hard not to recognize the sangiovese speciality and particular Montepulciano stance with thanks to a territorial vintage that works as well as any in the region. To say that 2018 suits these wines is a spot on comment because more and more cases of confidence meets expressiveness show up in glass after glass. Gattavecchi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2018 is just that, a Nobile of surety and generosity, void of astringency and structure with the finest of its Annata ilk. Meets expectation and pleases, aka a really good combo.



Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


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