Syrah, 2019 Tensley, Santa Barbara County 

Texture: Smooth, creamy, silky with a hedonistic finish

Joey Tensley has been making blockbuster wines from Santa Barbara for the past 20 years. He owns some of the top vineyards and sources some of the best fruit in the county, which gives him the ability to craft dynamic wines. Tensley crafts some of the best Syrahs coming out of the United States. This is Tensley’s entry-level wine, and it smokes!. Think of it as the Jack Nicholson of wines: powerful, artistic, crafty, and unapologetically decadent.

What you’ll taste: Spicy blackberries, mulled blueberries, black pepper, candied violets, and bacon fat.

Food pairing: Go to your local butcher and grab the best New York Strip you can find and prepare it Au Poivre with roasted fall vegetables.

Price: $30.00

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Red Blend, Altano, 2017, Douro, Portugal

Texture: Medium-bodied and smooth, with an easy-drinking freshness.

Texture: Portugal, hands down, has some of the greatest wine values on the planet. This red blend from the Douro Valley, where the great grapes of the famous Port wine grow, is an everyday killer. If you’ve never ventured into the Portugal section of your wine store, now you know which gem to look for. As a wine-growing region, Douro is in my worldwide top ten. This red blend is like getting in on a hot IPO—low cost, high return, and the value keeps on giving. 

What you’ll taste: Sliced plums, juicy raspberries, violets, and a touch of crushed stones.

Food pairing: This comforting wine goes great with comfort food like your favorite burger or pizza. 

Price: $9.99

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Rosé, “Patelin de Tablas”, Tablas Creek  2019, Paso Robles

Texture: Medium-plus weight styled rosè that can stand up to rich autumnal foods

Tablas Creek has been a pioneer in Paso Robles for the past three decades. Steeped in the Rhône Valley tradition, the family that owns produces these fabulous wines from California. These vineyards are farmed biodynamically with sheep, alpacas, and donkeys roaming the landscape, creating an amazing holistic environment for the grapes. It’s the free-spirited wine you would drink while sitting on someone’s shoulders at Coachella.

This blend of mostly Grenache (red fruits, spices), with parts of Mourvèdre (black fruits, power), and Counoise (elegance, fun) has spicy aromatics, mandarin orange, nectarine, salty air, citrus blossom, and crushed rock. 

Food pairing: Pan-seared salmon with sautéed farmers market vegetables.

Price: $19.99

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Dry Riesling, “Classique,” Forge, 2018, Finger Lakes, NY 

Texture: Medium-plus weight, unctuous with lively acidity, and freshness.

You read that right: Dry Riesling. Most folks know Riesling as a sweet grape variety, but this Riesling is more Burgundy than Germany. Led by one of the great winemakers from the Rhône, this partnership of three visionary winemakers from the Finger Lakes has changed Rieslings how the Jimi Hendrix Experience changed rock n’ roll. Meet the new school Riesling, where the sugar has been fermented into booze, creating a dry style. 

What you’ll taste: This rich and round Riesling has flavors of exotic citrus, mandarin orange, apricot, chamomile, and touches of anise.

Food pairing: Bratwurst with beer-braised onions.

Price: $18.00

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Cap Classique, “Brut Methode”, Graham Beck, NV, South Africa

Texture: Medium-plus body, creamy with lively effervescence.

It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. Every day is a good day for sparkling wines. Graham Beck is the gold standard for South African sparkling wines, and this one drinks like champagne at half the price. This was the wine served at Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inauguration and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory party. It’s tough to find a higher pedigree than that! Get fizzy with it!

What you’ll taste: Classic champagne flavors of baked apple, lemon curd, brioche with an energetic and persistent finish.

Food pairing: Popeye’s Fried Chicken

Price: $19.99

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Parvata (Red Blend), Force Majeure, 2017, Red Mountain, Washington

Texture: Rich, full-bodied decadent red wine with muscular tannin and a long finish.

This is a Rhône inspired red blend consisting of 43% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 4% Cinsault, and 5% Counoise. Force Majeure is crafting incredible wines from top vineyards in Washington state being made by the former winemaker Todd Alexander of Bryant Family in Napa Valley.

There are only 450 cases of this collectible wine produced each year. Polished, dark, sophisticated, decadent, and bound to be a timeless classic – it’s the Metallica Black Album of red wines.

What youll taste: Silky, sexy, dense with flavors of spiced blackberry, blueberry, licorice, cocoa, and notes of exotic Asian spices.

Food Pairing: Go to your local butcher and picked the best-marbled cut of meat you can find. Pan sear it on cast iron with fresh herbs and don’t be afraid of the butter. 

Price: $70

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Rioja Reserva, Bodegas Muga, 2016, Spain

Texture: Medium-plus bodied wine with powerful, sexy tannins.

Rioja is Spain’s premier red wine-growing region, making wines from the Tempranillo grape variety and friends like Garnacha. This Reserva wine has been aged three years, which has given it amazing complexity. Bodegas Muga is one of the top wine estates globally, making wines at all price points. For a Reserva, it is a steal at this price. Comforting, smoky, classic—this is the official wine of playing pool in a lounge while listening to Night Moves by Bob Seger.

What youll taste: Rich and complex flavors of dark berries, dried cherries, tobacco, smoked meat, sweet leather, and a touch of dried herbs. 

Food Pairing: Perfect for a night of smoked brisket with all the fixings.

Price: $27.99

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Grüner Veltliner, “Langenlois”, Schloss Gobelsburg, 2018, Kamptal, Austria

Texture: Medium-to-full bodied white that’s lush, elegant, and balanced. 

Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s premier white grape variety. If you don’t know it, Gruner Veltliner comes through every time when you’re in need to pair a wine with certain vegetables. It’s the Marvel superhero of white wines that will always save the day.

What youll taste: Ripe peaches, exotic citrus, crisp sugar snap peas, and noticeable notes of white pepper.

Food pairing: Try a roasted pork loin with braised root vegetables and you can’t go wrong.

Price: $29.99

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Sparkling Wine, Jansz, “Premium Cuvèe”, Non-Vintage, Tasmania 

Texture: Medium body sparkly with a steely acidity and a bright finish. 

Tasmania is now making some of the world’s best sparkling wines. Jansz is arguably the valedictorian of Tasmanian sparkling wines class. This wine spent 18 months on its lees (gives a brioche flavor), which helps to give this wine its complexity. Break the glow sticks and spin your favorite EDM, the Jansz will make you dance.

What youll taste: Meyer lemon, baked apple, and a touch of honey-buttered toast

Food pairing: Join it together with beer-battered fish and chips, or some fried calamari.

Price: $29.99

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Tuscan Blend, “Zingari,” Petra, 2017, Italy

Texture: Medium-plus bodied juicy red wine with soft tannins.

This wine totally blew me away. I had it for the first time on a whim, and I was totally blown away by how rocking this wine was. In a super Tuscan style, this wine is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. This Tuscan blend has a dark, brooding taste that will hit your palate like an Adele breakup song.

What youll taste: Concentrated with dark cherry, blackberry, Mediterranean herbs, and juicy tannins. 

Food pairing: Match it up with a pasta Bolognese. (Or spaghetti and meatballs. I won’t tell.)

Price: $17.99

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