Our Traveling Gourment has assembled a list of great wines you can order from the comfort of your home, stocking your wine cellar without having to travel!
As your Traveling Gourmet, I’ve visited a lot of wineries, big and small, famous and not-so, in regions renowned for wine production and some that come as a bit of a surprise. Sometimes, though, you just want to stay home and enjoy the (pardon the pun) fruits of your labor. So I’ve assembled a list of wines you can order from the comfort of your living room or office, stocking your wine cellar without having to get on a plane (or even in a car). I’ve tried to find some wineries you might not be familiar with, and while the places I mention certainly produce some well-known varietals, I’ve tried to pinpoint some wines you might not know, or at least that I didn’t know ’til I gave them a try. There’s nothing like rounding out your wine cellar with some surprises, and I think you’ll be pleased when you uncork and sip these choices. I’ve also tried to find wineries that offer selections under $25 because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s almost no correlation between price and quality. Here are my favorites.
CLINE FAMILY CELLARS
Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma produces some of my very favorite wines. Opened in 1982 and expanding to Sonoma County in 1989, this winery is my go-to place for local wines (but of course you can order them even if you don’t live nearby). Among whites, I love their Viognier, full-bodied, deep, and complex for a white (in fact, when I describe the wine to my friend Elizabeth, she comments, “It sounds like you’re describing a red wine”). Their Pinot Gris is another winner, crisp and fruity, aged without oak to bring out the fruit flavors (it was sold out when I last checked their website, but keep looking.). Try their Syrah also, with all the richness you expect from this varietal, with a peppery overtone, made from grapes grown on the Sonoma coast. My favorite, however, is the Mourvèdre, a varietal you don’t see all that often, and one of my favorite red wines, a dark and lush wine that only gets more multifaceted as you sip. This was the first winery my neighbors Jackie and Ilona visited when they moved to Sonoma County, and while they are pretty dedicated white wine drinkers, I offered them some Mourvèdre, and they later proclaimed it their new favorite wine! When you come to Sonoma County, you must visit, but meanwhile experience their luscious wines with just a few clicks. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did it. This is about as good as it gets. www.clinecellars.com
NEW HAVEN, MISSOURI
Not everyone knows that Missouri has a very well-established wine industry, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century and once the largest of any state in the country. Much of it is centered in and around the town of Hermann, along the Missouri River, and wonderful Röbller Vineyard, in the nearby town of New Haven, is my favorite in the area. Winemaker Jerry Mueller, son of the founders, crafts an extraordinary series of wines, often from less-celebrated grapes such as Chambourcin, a French grape by origin that produces a red wine that’s fruity and dry. You’ll find it in the unoaked version or in their beautiful 2017 Chambourcin Reserve that’s aged in barrels crafted from Missouri Chinkapin Oak. You’ll also find the unique Norton, a native American grape that few outside the Missouri wineries are actually using, which I love for its spicy strength (I don’t know how else to describe it), but it’s unlike any red you know. Also of note: Land Grant Red, the 2021 commemoration of the original deed of the Röbller property (and Missouri’s bicentennial). Five varieties of grapes go into making this red blend super-drinkable and delicious. Röbller, which celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2021, is making wines that can stand with the best of them, from the aforementioned reds to such unique whites as Seyval and Vignoles. It might just be the best winery you’ve never heard of (well, ’til now!) www.robllerwines.com
BERGEVIN LANE WINERY
WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON
This world-class winery in Walla Walla, Washington (and lesbian-owned to boot) is one of my favorite in the area. Bergevin Lane Vineyards, was founded and is still run by Annette Bergevin, a fifth-generation Walla Walla native and local oenological dynamo. I love Bergevin’s Dreamweaver Malbec, deep, dark, and spicy: order soon because they only made five barrels of it. As a real passion product, it’s one of their standouts, and it reinforces my belief that the small-production wines are often among the best. While Dreamweaver remains my favorite, another winning choice is the Petit Verdot called “Amare Aeterna,” a single varietal product. I’d call it a medium-bodied wine with a slight minerality if I wanted to get all wine talk-y, and while not a heavy wine, it holds its own nicely with such powerhouses as beef or bleu cheese. Smooth and versatile, it’s likely to become a regular for you. Among whites, I’d go for their Love- Struck Estate Viognier, which has a touch of oak and a pleasant, almost tropical feel to it. Bergevin, whom you might find out in the fields with her wife Kristy and their daughter Jaden, has created a winner here in eastern Washington, and if you can’t visit their new tasting room, you’ll just have to set up your own Bergevin Lane tastings at home. www.bergevinlane.com
COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZONA
Wineries? In Arizona? I was a little dubious too, I must admit, but then I visited the Scottsdale tasting room of LDV Winery and I was sold. Located in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, this impressive winery is putting out some wonderful products, and I strongly suggest (make that, insist) you give it a try. In a still-developing local wine industry, this pioneer is producing a product that’s good enough to convince you Arizona might just become a major player. I love their Petite Syrah. This is one of my favorite reds anyway, and LDV’s Signature version is rich and full of flavor. They call it “Liquid Midnight,” and I actually can’t think of a better phrase to describe this deep, dark, and delicious wine. They do a nice Grenache also (“the desert pinot noir,” they joke), and for a real treat, try their Rosé of Grenache, which might just make you a rosé lover. Check out, too, their nice viognier that has all the deep and rich flavors of this amazing white wine. To end your selection: The Epilogue, a fortified dessert wine made from Petite Syrah that manages to be sweet without being cloying (no doubt the bold tannins help here). It’s the perfect end to a meal, even if your “meal” consists only of the wines you’ve ordered from LDV. www.ldvwinery.com
FESS PARKER WINERY
LOS OLIVOS, CALIFORNIA
Tucked into the winning Santa Ynez winery region is the lovely Fess Parker Winery, founded by the beloved actor over thirty years ago and still maintained by his family. Parker, they tell me, was a big fan of Syrah, so it’s no surprise to see it predominating among the selections, including the lovely Rodney’s Syrah from the estate vineyard that was named for Parker’s late son-in-law and planted in 1989 with primarily Rhone varietals. I also love their Ashley’s Chardonnay, named for Parker’s daughter and released in 2019 to celebrate the winery’s thirtieth anniversary. I’m not usually a big fan of Chardonnay, but theirs is light, crisp, and appealing, aged in French new oak from grapes grown just twelve miles from the Pacific. Their Fesstivity Brut Rosé, made from Pinot Noir, is similarly appealing, pure fruit in a bubbly bottle. Marcella’s White Wine, named for the actor’s late wife, is a fresh and easy on the palate blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussane, Viognier, and Marsanne. If you’ve never heard of half of those grapes, don’t worry, just trust me the result is something that will be your go-to white. Well, I might also vote for their Dry Riesling, aged in steel and pleasantly dry and super-drinkable. (Riesling was, in fact, the first grape they planted back in 1989.) Whichever you choose, you’ll feel like you’ve joined the Parker family, and when the family is so devoted to great wines, you can’t really go wrong by being an honorary member. www.fessparker.com