“Secret” wines: I found one that called itself that, and another that copies it

Judy brought home a couple of wines that are a “first” for me.

I’ve worked with her on the peculiar skills of reading peculiar wine labels, and she’s really good at it. She knows how to find a wine at a ridiculously low price that promises to deliver surprisingly good quality. Here are two.

ROBINSON LAKE VINEYARDS GLAMAZON 2009 SAUVIGNON BLANC/SEMILLON, Lake County, California, as low as $3 at specialty outlet stores. This is a winner where the contest judges rate technical quality . . . and it just plain tastes good to folks who are proud to broadcast that they only know the difference between whites and reds.

The blend is pure Bordeaux. If it had been bottled in France, it would have been in the range of $20 or above. It’s a perfect wine for many, if not most, meals that do not feature heavy spice. Clean, bright, even sprightly, it shows why Lake County, California is beginning to benefit from a strong advance in climate change, making Lake County essentially similar to cooler areas of Bordeaux,France. For many knowledgeable wine lovers there’s nothing more blissful–especially with food–than a Bordeaux white.

I’ve broken a Fearless Taster rule, which is not to bother writing about a wine that few people can ever find; but this is a surprise. So I guess it’s a word to the wise: Read labels and give a bottle a try if the label identifies the source of the grapes and that source is appropriate (in climate for the varietal) and especially if the blend is identified (in this case, 63 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 37 percent Semillon).

CLEAVAGE CREEK 2007 TRACY HILLS “SECRET” RED WINE, $4 when Judy found it: “Raspberry, cherry and hints of vanilla cream and milk chocolate” made this sound appealing. Judy knows if the source of the grapes is identified and the winery has a web site, it’s a good gamble to go ahead and buy it. In this case, the website (www.cleavagecreek.com) doesn’t provide much information. But the wine is exactly as described on the label–very friendly either as aperitif or accompaniment to anything from seafood to pork and chicken, or even roast beef.

Again, this note is published as encouragement to go ahead and try wines that you don’t know but which tell you a good deal about potential quality on the label.

A couple of very nice bootleg wines from Italy

Bootleg? Well, sort of.

I mean, wines you can only get in America if your niece carefully carries them out of Tuscany and deposits them in her uncle’s arms cuz she knows he loves Tuscany and its wine and food.

REGALE 2009 TOSCANA ROSSO, ESTATE BOTTLED. Sherry (that’s my niece, not a wine) told Judy and me, as she and Ron fed us a delicious lunch and very delightful wild-caught salmon dinner just after Christmas, that she and her parents had stumbled upon just what they’d been looking for. They noticed a winery sign, asked a lady how to get there, and followed her — an owner — right into her typical Tuscan segment of Oenophile Heaven.

This wine is a blend based, I think, on Sangiovese but with several compatible varieties to round it out. The nose is a bit shy but in appearance it’s almost mysteriously dark. Forbidding? Not at all. Nicely round and full, its friendly flavors are led by dark cherry and black currant. It’s not heavy. We found it easily made friends with wild salmon (we found it on sale while we were still savoring the memory of Sherry’s meal), mixed carrots, bell peppers and whole-kernel corn, and olive-oiled whole grain rice.

GIOBATTA 2009 CHIANTI COLLI SENESI, ESTATE BOTTLED: With this wine I made a layered casserole — bread crumb base under Velveeta (yes!) slices; fresh-cooked whole-wheat gnocchi; an Italian-herbed melange of bacon, ham and fried pork cutlet, all julienned; some more bread crumbs brushed with oil; and a generous sprinkling of chopped cocktail hot-peppered peanuts.

Chianti these days can be made without any white wine, but this traditional bottling is mostly Sangiovese with several complementary red varieties and a traditional dose of white wine.

These wines plus a wonderful Pinot Grigio which Sherry and Ron offered at their house, from the same Italian adventure (but about which I forgot to take notes) are from the Azienda Vitivinicola “Il Chicco” di Andreucci and the neck foil sports the proud message, “By Flavio Andreuccei.” Thanks, Sherry!