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5 Wines I've Unexpectedly Fell in Love With in 2020

If you ask me what my favorite wine is I will usually say, "it depends on my mood." I'll then follow up with, "Champagne, Rhône, Provence, Loire, Left Bank Bordeaux, Burgundy...anything from there." It's been French wine all the time. You can't really blame me as I'm studying for my French Wine Scholar, but as we've all had much more time at home, I've had a lot more opportunities to explore outside my own (wine) box. Today I'm giving you 5 wines that I've fallen for completely unexpectedly.

I didn't realize how much I could love Montepulciano d'Abruzzo until I tasted the nectar of this wine. Gianni Masciarelli dedicated this wine to his wife, Marina Cvetic, who happens to be from Serbia. ISKRA is the Serbian word for "spark" which makes total sense because this wine sparks a lot of pleasure in anyone tasting it. This wine is full of cozy dark plums, black cherry, spices like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon, minerality (stony energy), and smoke. There is enough structure here to cellar the wine if you wanted, but you can enjoy it now with beef tenderloin, lamb bolognese and aged cheeses.

All hail the Finger Lakes! Every time I make a trip, I discover a new wine to fall in love with. This past trip was all about Chardonnay for me. Nathan Kendall is one of the most exciting, humble winemakers in the game. He is all about minimal intervention winemaking producing wines that are fresh, pure and reflective of where they come from. His 2019 Chardonnay is sourced from 2 old-vine vineyards on Seneca Lake - one with silt loam soils and the other with shale stone. This wine sees neutral French oak barrels and is aged on its lees for a year! The finished product is rich and complex yet lifted by that intense acidity famous in this cool-climate region

Ok, ok I know...French wine. BUT this isn't part of my usual repertoire. Hailing from the hot, aired climate of Roussillon, this Rivesaltes is a fortified sweet wine, or, vins doux naturels. Alcohol is added during fermentation in order to kill the yeast and boost alcohol levels. This VDN in particular is Ambré meaning it spent time in barrels that were not topped up (so it was exposed to oxygen). This accelerates aging and creates notes like honey, figs, walnut, toffee, orange marmalade, and butterscotch. This is the perfect dessert wine for pecan pie, biscottis, or just about anything with almonds!

2020 has been a year of discovering Chile! It all started when I did a live interview with winemaker, Cristián Vallejo of Vik Wine. Cachapoal is making incredible red blends - this one in particular being 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Carmenere, and 14% Syrah. The bottle is insanely gorgeous and was created as an homage to art. Art not just in the physical form, but in the form of winemaking as well. But I'm not here today to preach about a fancy label. No, this wine means business. What I love most about this wine is the freshness of the fruit. Although the alcohol is high, this wine is far from "hot." I also love how the oak is integrated and more of an "added layer" than it is a main characteristic.

Move over Douro because Bairrada is in the house! WOW, this wine is an absolute stunner. Bairrada lies between Dão and the Atlantic with Baga being the dominate black grape variety. This Doravante 2016 is close to an equal blend of Baga and Touriga Nacional, and was aged in 3,000-liter oak vats for 12 months. Expect to find crushed red cherry, black plum, pepper, smoke, violet, balsamic, and herbal notes. I enjoyed this wine with a charcuterie plate chock-full of chorizo and presunto. Stairway to heaven.

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