2023 Wine Cellar in a Box Details

Congratulations! You are the proud owner of a vast collection of awesome wines from around the world!

My idea behind the Wine Cellar in a Box is the theory that twelve wines of specific styles and flavor profiles we can cover almost the entire range of the wine experience. The idea behind a wine is a simple formula: to be able to serve ANY type of wine, to go with ANY type of food, to ANY guest, at ANY time. Variety is the key, and that’s what you have here.

As you pop bottles from the collection, take note of the category they are from and replace as you go. Find a good local independent wine shop, bring in this list, and show them what you opened so they can replace it with a similar (but different) product. You’ll never run out of wine, and your options will always be open.

Enjoy, and reach out with any questions!

Affordable and awesome sparkling
49M Cremant de Loire NV, Loire Valley, France

100% Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France, produced in the exact same method as real-deal Champagne (second fermentation in the bottle). This wine is produced directly for the importer, who is the legendary Annette Peters of Bourget Imports and Domaines and Appellations. The name 49M refers to the estimated number of bubbles in a bottle: 49 million!

Light-bodied and high-acid white
Domaine Laballe Les Terres Bassess

Cote de Gascogne, France 2021

This is one of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc substitutes, produced with the native grapes of far southwestern France: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Gros Manseng. Citric and bright on the palate, this wine zooms with energy and is fantastic with light fish dishes, salads, or anything involving goat cheese.

Aromatic White
Arena Torrontes, Argentina 2022

The category of “Aromatic Whites” includes well known grapes like Muscat, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. But lesser known is the mysterious Torrontes, which is the pride and joy of Argentina (along with, of course, Malbec). Sassy aromas of lemon drop and green apple play with a busy buzz of acidity and brightness. I love Torrontes with any fish preparation when you’d squeeze a lemon over the dish.

Fuller-bodied white, non-Chardonnay
Vinum Cellars “CNW Cuvee” Chenin Blanc 2021

The historical home of Chenin Blanc is the Loire Valley in France, but certain pockets of both Washington and California have proven perfect for this Somm-favorite grape. Chenin can be tricky to make and produces a wide range of styles, but this one falls directly into the category we’re filling: fuller-bodied but not Chardonnay. It’s a bit higher in acid than Chardonnay tends to be, and is an incredibly versatile food wine. Think roast chicken, or pasta with an Alfredo sauce. Of all the wines in the box, this one may be the most versatile of all.

Chardonnay
Michael Pozzan Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California 2021

Chardonnay is truly one of the great grapes of the world, but it’s the winemaker that decides the ultimate style that lands in your glass. I wanted to put what I consider a perfect textbook California Chardonnay in the box, and Michael Pozzan is it. Richer and textured, with a dollop of oak (the smell of lanolin or apple pie spice? That’s the oak), and ripe fruit (think red apples), but with acidity to balance it all out. This is a wine for enjoying in front of a fireplace, or for one of the prime wine and food pairings you can find, enjoy this with a bowl of good popcorn (and a liberal dose of butter and salt).

Orange Wine
Gulp/Hablo La Mancha Orange 1L 2022, La Mancha, Spain

Orange wine is white wine made in a red wine style, meaning skin contact in the tank. This is also a ‘natural wine’ with minimal intervention including filtering, so be sure to rock it back and forth a bit before serving. Orange wine (or some would call it “Amber wine”) is great fun and surprising to many, for it’s a white wine with tannin. As a result, it has huge application in food-and-wine-pairing but one of my favorites with this particular wine are sautéed scallops served over cheesy grits, with a sprinkle of fresh herbs on top. 

Light-bodied red, non-Pinot Noir
Francois Chidane Touraine Rouge, Loire Valley, France 2021

This gem is a combo of three grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cot, and Pinot d’Aunis. The first you’ve heard of. The second, Cot, is the local name for Malbec. And the third? Pinot d’Aunis is a historic grape in the Loire known for gentle peppery spiciness, but it’s a pain to grow so it’s rarely found nowadays. Being from the cool Loire Valley, this is a lighter-bodied red that can serve the same purpose on the table as Pinot Noir, but brings you a fun variety of different grapes and flavors.

Pinot Noir
Land of Saints Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California 2022

This is one of my favorite wines of the moment. It’s made by winemaking superstar Angela Osborne, who has transformed how many people think about Central Coast California wines, along with Santa Barbara. Her deft touch with Pinot Noir makes for a spectacular wine, one that I pour when I need to teach people what Pinot is all about and just how good it can be. Enjoy this! Excellent with lamb, or any dish involving mushrooms.

European old-school red
Copertino Riserva, Apulia, Italy 2015

My go-to old school European red, and when you smell it you’ll understand. It’s made from a grape called Negroamaro, which is one of the great indigenous grapes of the heel of Italy. Aromas of forest floor, herbs, dried tobacco, and loam soil. This is classic old-school wine, with a certain amount of funk that some people love and some people don’t. This is the most polarizing wine in the box. Enjoy with some stinky cheese and summer sausage.

Under the Radar red
Domaine de Pujo Madiran, Southwest France, 2016

Madiran is a region that specializes in a grape called Tannat, which is the basis of the world tannin. You can see where this is going. Tannat can be a beast of a wine especially when it’s young, but here we found a great example that has a bit of age to it, which has taken the sharp edges off the tannins. For pairing with food, think of hearth cooking and slow cooking: pot roast, braised meats, etc. Rustic food, served with a crunchy baguette to soak up the juices.

New World red
Jeff Runquist 1448 Red Blend, Sierra Foothills, California

This is a kitchen sink of a wine. A rotating blend of multiple varieties and multiple vintages, with the goal of making a wine that is round, rich, juicy, and drinky. You can almost smell the California sunshine in this glass, which is packed with ripe purple and black fruits galore, along with good spice and rich mouthfeel. It’s as friendly as a Golden Retriever, and just as reliable. I’ve been enjoying this wine for years and it has never let me down. Of all the red wines on this list, this is the best of the ‘fireplace’ style, meaning you don’t need food with it. Just curl up on a winter’s night and enjoy.

Dessert Wine
Airfield Estates Late Harvest Riesling 375ml
Yakima Valley, Washington

Dessert wine, in general, is the most overlooked category around when it comes to wine. It’s also one of the most fun. What could be better than a dinner with friends followed by popping a bottle of golden sweet nectar? This is late harvest Riesling, and it’s perfect. Loads of sugar, moderate alcohol, tons of acidity, and great balance. If you’re serving dessert with this wine you have to follow the golden rule: the liquid has to be sweeter than the dessert. So avoid the sugar-bomb desserts here and instead lean into good cheeses, cheesecake, or an array of fresh fruits.

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