Premier Group Sales Associates are experts when it comes to helping customers navigate our huge selection. Making recommendations that satisfy a wide range of consumer tastes, budgets and preferences takes years of dedicated study and a thorough understanding of our complete inventory. But how do they apply that knowledge when choosing something for themselves?
In this first look into the personal selections of our staff, Kevin McFadden provides insight into the wines he’s enjoying and how he arrived at making those selections. Get to know Kevin’s personal preferences in this post.
It was about 15 years ago that I made my first trips to the Finger Lakes, which was the start of my ever-evolving fascination with wine. It’s grown from a passing interest to a full-on obsession which sees me spending most of my spare cash on wines from around the globe and amassing a cellar that’s currently approaching the 200-bottle mark. I still try to make it out to the Finger Lakes once or twice a year, and up to Ontario wineries even more frequently, which you’ll see reflected in two of my picks being from the Niagara Escarpment (both sides of the border). My main obsessions these days tend to be European, though, from Barolo to Chianti to Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Rather than highlighting those rare, expensive bottles that are aging in my cellar, I’ve decided to showcase some of the under-$15 wines that I drink regularly. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
2018 Arrowhead Spring Vineyards Rose, Niagara Escarpment
I’ve long been an advocate of the red wines from Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, considering them among the finest produced in New York. Winemaker Duncan Ross has always been able to coax admirable ripeness and concentration from Bordeaux varieties grown in this area that many still (incorrectly) think is too cool for reds. What really blew me away this year, however, was their Rosé. 100% Cabernet Franc, this features telltale savory, herbal aromatics of bay leaf and red bell pepper. And while bone dry, that aforementioned ripeness imparts extremely vibrant strawberry and watermelon fruit. Though different in flavor profile, I’d put this up qualitatively against anything under $25 from Provence. With all the wines I taste from around the world, it’s remarkable that my favorite Rosé of the year came from just down the road!
2011 Chateau de Pennautier Cabardès
This is the kind of rustic value-priced red that I can’t get enough of—quite literally, I’ve lost track of how many bottles I’ve bought. A blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, and Grenache, this Languedoc wine has me drawing comparisons to traditional wines from places as far-flung as Cahors, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Pomerol, or even Rioja. You’ll find plenty of cassis and plum fruit, but it’s the funkier aromatics that keep me coming back: elements of leather, cigar box, peppery spice, smoked meat, and, most pivotally, the scent of an old library book. This is a must-try for those seeking something off the beaten path.
2016 Casa do Valle Vinho Verde
If you imagine all Vinho Verde as being excessively light, simple, slightly carbonated quaffers, this is a wine that might change your perspective. The Casa do Valle is a wine of chalky minerality which has me drawing comparisons more to Sancerre, Muscadet, or Chablis. While there is no effervescence to this wine, the bracing acidity might make you believe for a moment that there is. Look for lemony citrus pith, salty sea-breeze, and plenty of chalky, stony cut—a terrific wine for shellfish or any ocean fare. And while your average Vinho Verde is meant to be drunk as soon as possible from the vintage date, this shows no signs of tiring at 3 years. The fact that it’s marked down now makes it an insane value. Buy up now, before I drink it all.
2015 Malacari Marche Rosso
Montepulciano has long been my go-to pizza wine and the Malacari (100% Montepulciano, though the label makes no indication of this) is my current favorite in the category. At its best, Montepulciano marries sappy fruit intensity with a savory edge and a structure that can be full-bodied without excess heaviness. The Malacari accomplishes this admirably with a firm core of dark cherry and accents of thyme, leather, and subtle campfire. Enjoy with your favorite pizza, whether home-made or take-out.
2011 Henry of Pelham Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula
Here’s a wine I took a random stab at, unsure what to expect, given its age. But I was inspired by recent visits to Henry of Pelham—their Baco Noir might be their most well-known wine, but I think they do a fabulous job with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their vineyards in the Short Hills Bench of Ontario. We carry their entry level Chardonnay which bears the broader Niagara Peninsula appellation, and it is doing surprisingly well at age eight. It’s unoaked, but well-past its young fruit-driven stage of life. Now you’re more likely to find hints of hazelnut, seaweed, and a shrimp shell brininess. There’s still plenty of acid spine and freshness in the structure. I may have guessed this as mature Chablis, had I been blind tasting. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it absolutely delicious. And if you’re planning any trips to Ontario wine country, I’m always happy to point customers to some of my favorite destinations. Just ask!