It’s time to catch up on a couple of recent bottles of wine I’ve found to be outstanding. Two Italians and one California Cab rate highly in my book.

Ca de Rocchi Montere Ripasso – This 2009 Valpolicella Superiore is fabulous Italian wine. The wine is a blend of three varieties grown in Italy’s north-east. Corvina, and Rondinella are the trio primarily involved in the blend.

The wine is lighter than many Italian choices but the wine drinker is rewarded with big beautiful fruit and a rich smooth finish.

I went back and bought more of this beauty after trying just one bottle. This big heavy bottle of wine comes in around $20. I’m not sure the significance, but this might be the heaviest bottle I’ve ever picked up with 750ml of grape juice inside. Pinot Noir often features big heavy-bottomed bottles, but this one was even heavier than most. Talk among yourselves!

This Ripasso might be my all-time favorite for under $20.

Ca de Rocchi Montere Ripasso, $18.99, Very Highly Recommended

Attems Pinot Grigio – I’ve never been a big fan of Pinot Grigio. It never matches up to Oregon’s Pinot Gris which I like a lot. I find most Pinot Grigio (particularly the Italian version) to often be thin or uninteresting.

I’ve now tasted the exception to that stereotyped characterization. This trade sample Attems had an unusual richness that really set it apart from so many other Grigios in the market. It had apple and pear hints on the palate.

The big difference here for  me was the use of some oak. Plenty of Pinot Grigio, Gris, Blanc, etc are often stainless steel only. And generally, I don’t care for much oak in my white wine, but it really made this wine standout.

The tech sheet for this wine indicated 15 percent of the production spends time in barrels while the rest is done in stainless steel.

Attems 2011 Pinot Grigio, SRP $18, Trade Sample, Highly Recommended.

Franciscan 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon There are well-known names and a second tier of names when it comes to Napa Cabernet. And, come to think of it, there are probably three or four or six more categories.

Franciscan is name known to most wine lovers because it is widely distributed. I find their wines to be consistent and good wines at the price point.

The 2010 Cab has all of the characteristics of great Cabernet. I decanted this wine and even saved a little for the next night. It’s really good Cab but it needs some time on the wine rack. For me, the wine was just too big with some astringency. But, the more wine you drink the easier it gets to identify what the wine is going to be instead of what it is the day you open it. Did that make sense?

This is going to be a really great Cabernet in another 5-10 years. I liked the herbs, black currant, tobacco, and dark chocolate hints. It had really big tannins, but again – give it some time.

This is a blend with 85 percent Cab, 11 percent Merlot, 3 percent Syrah, and 1 percent Malbec. The wine gets 20 months in oak barrells while 25 percent of that sees new oak. So the tannin structure is huge now but there for great aging potential.

It is a mild 13.5 percent alcohol wine. Franciscan distributes a lot of this wine so you should be able to find it at a good nearby wine shop. For the price point, it’s a great wine to go buy two bottles and experiment a little. Open your first bottle and make sure it gets a good decant. Put the other bottle away and don’t open it for at least five years.

Franciscan consistently scores 90-plus points for its Cabernet. When aged or decanted properly, this is tremendous value for $28.

Franciscan 2010 Cabernet, SRP $28, Trade Sample, Recommended

Send comment or questions to: