1st Bottle Red: A&G Fantino, Rosso dei Dardi, Italy

For the wine snob: Two brothers, Alessandro and Gian Natale Fantino, run this family estate in Monforte d’Alba. Alessandro managed the vineyards and served as the enologist at Cantina Bartolo Mascarello for 20 years, from 1978 to 1997. Since 1998, he has dedicated himself to running his family estate alongside his brother full-time. The brothers farm eight hectares in the heart of the historic Bussia cru north of Monforte, one of Barolo’s most famous areas for producing wines of great longevity and finesse. The Fantino holdings are concentrated exclusively in the “Dardi” section of Bussia, a hillside with perfect southern and southeastern exposure in the geographic center of Bussia. This gives them their “Cascina Dardi” brand name on the label of their Barbera and Baroli (for those already familiar with these wines, they were formerly labeled as Vigna dei Dardi, before the brothers registered the Cascina Dardi trademark).

For the rest of us: 100% Nebbiolo. Brothers Alessandro and Gian Natale must spend a lot of quality time in their quiet cantina in Monforte. They’re men of few words, soft-spoken and reserved, and their wines show a similar restraint. Never showy, but full of charm, their Rosso dei Dardi delivers all the classic black fruit you’d expect from Piedmont, including that fragrant, perfumed note of peony so quintessential to Italian reds.

1st Bottle White: d’Arenburg ‘The Hermit Crab’, South Australia

For the wine snob: Many of McLaren Vale’s vineyards are on free-draining soils underlain with limestone, formed by the calcareous remains of the local marine fauna including the Hermit Crab, a reclusive little creature that inhabits the cast-off shells of others. Thus the Osborn family thought the name appropriate for this blend, as it is best enjoyed with shellfish and seafood dishes. Small batches of grapes were crushed and transferred to stainless steel basket presses. Fermentation was long and moderately cool to retain fresh fruit characters. 4% underwent wild fermentation for extra complexity. 14% of the Viognier was fermented in seasoned French oak to add mouth feel and support the subtle Viognier tannins. Both components received similar treatment, but were not blended until the final stages of the winemaking process.

For  the rest of us: 61% Viognier, 39% Marsanne. Very aromatic! Pineapple leaps straight away from the glass. It’s a medium-bodied white wine, with green papaya, melon, white nectarine, stone fruits, followed by a little hint of ginger on the finish.

2nd Bottle Red: Château Laffitte Laujac, Médoc, France

For the wine snob: Located in the heart of the Medoc area, the estate of Chateau Laffitte Laujac spreads over 140 acres. The vineyard consists of silty clay loam and is located near the village of Bégadan. The proximity of the Gironde estuary and of the Atlantic ocean creates a very favorable microclimate for the vineyard and the maturing of the grapes.

For the rest of us: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. 50% Merlot. The bouquet of Château Laffitte Laujac opens with notes of mint and spices which move over to allow expression of black fruit berry aromas. The first impression in the mouth is lively and fine. The tannins are powerful yet delicate and there is a flavour of red fruit berries with a light jam-like nuance. This wine is powerful and balanced.

2nd Bottle White: Hopler, Pannonica White Blend, Austria

For the wine snob: The refreshing hero for a balmy summer’s eve. A little vacation in every bottle, for the pure joy of life! ‘Pannonica’ is a reference to our heritage: Pannonia – once a province of the Roman Empire, bounded North and East by the river Danube. This is a wine that represents the diversity of our region. A beautiful blend of Grüner Velltiner, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.

For the rest of us: 40% Gruner Veltliner, 35% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Blanc. Very slight hints of fresh pear peel on nose and palate are joined by fresh lemon concentration on the palate. Chardonnay in the blend provides midpalate texture and with a bit of air there also are notions of riper, juicier yellow pear.

1st Reserve Bottle Red: La Solitude, Rouge Gigondas Bellecoste, France

For the wine snob: The vineyard is cultivated with the greatest respect for nature and people. The grapes come from terroirs located on the southern slope of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Those terroirs, among the highest of the appellation, are located between 400 and 500 meters above sea level. A magnificent hillside whose soil is made of red clay and limestone glow. Such soils naturally give small yields. For vintage 2019, 30 hectoliters/hectare.

For the rest of us: Grenache 70%, Syrah 20%, Cinsault 10%. The aromas of black fruits along with red fruits join the flavors of garrigue and black olives. Powerful tannins blend into a long finish.

1st Reserve Bottle White: Domaine de la Solitude, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, France

For the wine snob: Located in the heart of the appellation, in the La Solitude lieu-dit, just on the western edge of the La Crau plateau, Domaine de la Solitude has been in the Lançon family for generations (the estate was created in the 17th century). Today, the winemaking reins are in the hands of the young, yet incredibly talented Florent Lançon, who has a green thumb when comes to growing just about anything (ask to see his greenhouse if you visit!)

For the rest of us: 40% Roussanne, 35% Clairette, 20% Grenache blanc, 5% Bourboulenc. Complex nose of tropical fruit and brioche. Mouth combining vivacity and smoothness with notes of citrus, tropical fruit and flowers with a very mineral finish.

2nd Reserve Bottle Red: Caterwaul, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

For the wine snob: Starting with an abundance of Winter rain, which continued into May, the 2019 growing season was generous without being overly so. Once the initial crop load began sizing up on the vine, it was evident that the overwhelming crop load of 2018 would not be repeated. 2019 offered a return to a more centerline crop load. Through the perfectly dry summer months, temperatures remained warm, without excessive heat spikes. This consistency continued into the Fall where the fruit was allowed to hang as long as needed to gain full phenological maturity. The end result are wines that possess incredible fruit density, complexity and power.

For the rest of us: A dark, exotic Cabernet Sauvignon nearly splitting at the seams with fruit and spice notes. The wine exhibits a completely opaque dark purple hue in the glass with a violet halo. Layered aromas suggest black currant, pine bough, pencil shavings and fresh leather. The dense, concentrated palate is marked by macerated blackberry, plum reduction, baking spices, loam, cocoa nib and crushed river rock. This big, complex wine will show it’s true colors after being decanted or with a few years in the cellar.

2nd Reserve Bottle White: Sandhi, Chardonnay Sanford & Benedict Sta. Rita Hills

For the wine snob: Sandhi is a small production California winery focusing on select vineyards from the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County. Sandhi was founded in 2010 by Rajat Parr, the wine director for Michael Mina Restaurants, and winemaker, Sashi Moorman. Sandhi represents a union essential to the production of wine: the collaboration between man, earth, and vine. The willing participation of all three elements is necessary to make great wine, and the winegrower must make this collaboration rich and nourishing for all involved. An understanding of these joint efforts informs Sandhi’s exploration of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines throughout the Santa Barbara County terroir. The individual vineyards from which these grapes originate–some legendary, some new–have been exhaustively vetted for character, personality, and balance. Employing the wisdom and talents of people who know the vineyards, Sandhi is dedicated to making wines of finesse, minerality, acidity, structure and balance. Wine achieves power and beauty through the seamless integration of these qualities, and this is the inspiration for Sandhi. Wines exhibiting extreme ripeness, alcohol, oak, and other discordant exaggerations cannot truly express a specific vineyards terroir

For the Rest of us: Crisp aromas of chalk, jicama and white flower make for an extremely stony introduction to this bottling from the region’s most historic vineyard. The palate is tightly woven, with bright flavors of citrus juice, lemon pith and chalk combining for a grippy sip.