10 Wine Picks on Menus Now: Rarities to Value Pours

Almost daily, I’m tasting a wide range of spirits, wines and beers, whether at restaurants, bars, distilleries, wineries, breweries or as samples crossing my desk. This Summer, here are 10 memorable wines I tasted on menus around the Bay Area, best for different purposes from value to uniqueness.

2013 Terlan Quarz Sauvignon Blanc at Michael Mina

More wine treasures at Michael Mina: a rare pinot noir from NY's Finger Lakes, most known for its white wines
More wine treasures at Michael Mina: a rare pinot noir from NY’s Finger Lakes, most known for its white wines

The wine list at Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant — which just (thankfully) reignited Mina’s legendary trio dishes — offers one wine treasure after another from its extensive, international list. At a recent dinner, wine standouts were many, thoughtfully paired with each course. But one of the most unique is 2013 Terlan Quarz Sauvignon Blanc ($109 per bottle at Mina – or $120 to purchase the 2012 bottle at K&L) from Italy’s glorious Alto Adige region, one my favorite wine regions in the world, marrying the lushness of Italy with crisp weather restraint of nearby Germany and Austria.

The joy of this wine starts with the fact that it tastes nothing like any other Sauv Blanc you’ve ever had. Slow fermentation and whole cluster press (allowing more earthiness and natural flavors) — as well as the balanced mix of wood barrel and stainless steel aging — all factor into its unique profile from a region not really known for this varietal.
Best For: Something Different

2014 Envinate Taganan Bianco at Salsipuedes

At Oakland’s delightful Salsipuedes, natural, unfiltered wines are one of the key draws to the new neighborhood restaurant. There are many standouts on the unique menu but I was most taken with the blessedly funky and bright 2014 Envinate Taganan Bianco from the Canary Islands, Spain ($15 glass/$58 bottle).
Best For: Something Different

2014 Domaine de Fontsainte Rosé at Petit Crenn

Petit Crenn Corbieres and Minervois dinner
Petit Crenn Corbieres and Minervois dinner

During a special dinner celebration at the elegant, new Petit Crenn, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the designation of the regions of Corbieres and Minervois as AOPs (the highest category in the French wine classification system) in France’s Languedoc region. Sipping a range of whites, roses and reds from the region, all an incredible value under $20 a bottle, the quality to taste ratio is high. Making it even easier for every night drinking, you can find the delicate yet complex 2014 Domaine de Fontsainte — a Corbieres Rosé “Gris de Gris” blend of 70% Grenache Gris and Noir, 30% Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault grapes – at Whole Foods and Kermit Lynch in Berkeley for about $14.99 a bottle.
Best For: Value; Food Pairing

2013 Envinate Garnacha Tintorera at Aaxte

Alongside excellent tapas, sherry, ciders and beer, Aaxte also pours quality wines — recently, I loved another wine from the aforementioned Envinate winery on the Canary Islands in Spain: 2013 Envinate Garnacha Tintorera ($12) is complex with earthy berry but balanced and food-friendly with acidity.
Best For: Food Pairing

2013 Tokaj Nobilis Susogo at Lord Stanley

I’ve long been a Hungarian wine fan and lover of the country’s Tokaj region. Lord Stanely‘s thoughtful wine list includes a crisp, herbal 2013 Tokaj Nobilis Susogo, showcasing the Furmint grape ($9/43), a fine pairing with many a dish.
Best For: Food Pairing

2013 Vallin White Rhone at Fine & Rare

With a small but savvy wine list available in generous 8, 12 and 25 oz. pours (the smallest pour essentially being 2 glasses of wine), sandwich and salad newcomer — serving exceptional seafood — Fine & Rare, pours quality, small production California wines. I appreciated the lovely mineral notes of a 2013 Vallin White Rhone ($14.26/$19.31/$37.25), a small Santa Barbara wine project from master sommelier Brian McClintic and Ned Creed.
Best For: Value; Going Local

2012 Luc Massy La Crosse Chasselas at Foreign Cinema

In three visits to Switzerland over the years, I drank plenty of the Chasselas grape, the most common white varietal in Switzerland, which there is more often called Fendant. Being rarely exported outside of Switzerland, it’s rather hard to come by. Foreign Cinema — better than ever on the food front — also pours from a great wine list, currently including the floral 2012 Luc Massy La Crosse Chasselas from Epesses, Switzerland ($14 a glass or $37 for 500ml carafe).
Best For: Something Different

2014 Belden Barns Pinot Noir Rosé at Firefly


Thanks to Noe Valley’s ever-delightful Firefly for turning me on to local Sonoma Mountain rosé 2014 Belden Barns Pinot Noir Rosé ($11/44 — currently sold out at the winery). Though rosy and fruity, it’s also balanced, crisp and dry.
Best For: Going Local

2013 Keeper Rhone Blend at Bluestem Brasserie

Bluestem Brasserie recently gained chef Jeff Banker (of the now sadly closed Baker & Banker) and while checking out some of his new menu there recently, I enjoyed Bluestem’s always welcome offering of California wines on draft, most recently the balanced (some acidity), medium-bodied, berry-rich 2013 Keeper Rhone Blend ($10/27/51) from Adelaida winery in Paso Robles, CA.
Best For: Going Local

2013 Fubbiano BIanco at 1601 Bar & Kitchen

At the better-than-ever 1601 Bar & Kitchen, which I’ve loved from day one for its unique Sri Lankan-influenced dishes, a 2013 Fubbiano BIanco ($10 a glass — a blend of Vermentino, Malvasia, Trebbiano grapes) from the enchanting town of Lucca in Tuscany (a town I stayed outside of on my honeymoon in Italy) — is crisp, floral, bright, pairing well with the complex spices of 1601’s food.
Best For: Value

2013 Lazy Creek Pinot Noir at barbacco

With new chef de cuisine  Miguel Peffer just on board at barbacco, Lazy Creek Pinot is an approachable pairing with Italian food. Though I prefer the Estate Pinot, the “Lazy Day” Pinot offers great value (at $29.99 a bottle), exhibiting notes of cherry and licorice.
Best For: Value