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Wine Review: Everyone has their favorite wines – here are the ones I love

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It is strictly forbidden – that’s “verboten” in German – for a wine columnist to have a favorite wine. I used the German word as, to me, it emphasizes the word forbidden. There is a problem, however: Wine journalists are human, and humans have favorites whether they want to or not. I, too, have favorite wines and would like to let the reader know the wines and producers that, despite all my trying to be impartial, I love. Here they go ...

Sebastiani Barbera ($42)
If I were offered my choice of any red wine in the world, regardless of the price, a Sebastiani Barbera would be my pick. Although the Sebastiani family sold the winery to Foley Family Wines in 2008, with great intelligence, the new owners did not change anything in the making or style of the wines that carried the Sebastiani label. The Sebastiani Barbera presents a wine with an ever-changing display of black and red summer fruits and a finish that will be remembered for years.

Dry Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc ($16)
During the latter part of the 20th century, the favorite white wine variety in this country was chardonnay. Unfortunately, there were so many miserable examples of the variety that appeared on the market that by the 21st century, its popularity had waned, and the public began to search for an alternate white wine. In South Africa, there is a white wine called steen that is made from the chenin blanc grape and is that nation’s favorite white wine. In the United States, the chenin blanc grape was all too often used as an ingredient in many of the “inexpensive” white wines. These wines were often a mishmash of white grapes, occasionally including the ubiquitous Thompson seedless table grape. Of all the producers, Dry Creek Vineyards was one of the very few to make a chenin blanc wine as part of their line of fine wines. It took a good bit of chutzpah on the part of Dry Creek Vineyards to invest in and produce a fine, quality chenin blanc wine; they’ve done just that.

Having spent 18 months in Germany, courtesy of the U.S. Army, and being fluent in German, I used some of my free time visiting the German wine districts. While dry wines are currently “in,” the often-sweet German riesling wines have fallen into a wine limbo. Many of the German wineries are now producing a dry version of the variety in line with the current dry wine preferences. The sweetness of riesling wines is their hallmark, but I must admit that in some cases, they have gone a bit too far. To the non-German-speaking public, I would like to illustrate how to tell what is inside that often blue riesling bottle. The word kabinet on the label indicates a dry wine, while spatlese (late picked) indicates a very sweet wine. Anything else on the label, such as auslese (selected late picked), indicates a very sweet wine. Beerenauslese is a very, very sweet wine and trockenbeerenauslese is teeth-rattling sweet. To make it simpler, the longer the word, the sweeter the wine.

Gallo Hearty Burgundy ($9)
This wine is that “old friend” of my youth that I can never forget and that still brings a smile to my face when I remember it. It is the wine that first got me interested in wine, as it was very affordable and the pre-Chianti preference of college students. There is nothing exceptional about this red wine; it is just very enjoyable and can well accompany a range of foods from filet mignon to pizza. Gallo Hearty Burgundy, which was first released in 1964, has nothing in common with a French Burgundy wine except for the name. The wine is still available today and has been among Gallo’s top sellers for years. As a confession, it was Gallo Hearty Burgundy that resulted in the changing of my college curriculum from pre-dentistry to chemical engineering, as New York University did not have an oenology department at that time.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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