Arguably, there is something for everyone to love in the new tax law. If you don’t make tons of money the increase in the personal exemption is welcome news. If you make a lot of money the reduced marginal rates is a very nice deal. If you own a pass-through business you have a great new spiff in the 20% exclusion. The one big disappointment is the cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000. This affects people who do pretty well and live in states with high income taxes, like New York and California, or high property taxes, like Illinois. If you own both a home and an office building in Illinois wine is a big fortifier this time of year.
Tax Day this year is Tuesday April 17. What happened? The 15th is a Sunday, which pushes the filing deadline to the next business day. The next business day—Monday the 16th—is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. (DC seems to be on constant holiday.) That pushes the deadline out one more day. Anyway, on tax day April 17 you’ll likely be happy or sad with your personal tax situation—two perfect emotions for wine! What to choose?
Two ideas for you to consider—a Zinfandel and a Chardonnay. As a native Californian I’m a big fan of Zinfandel, practically synonymous with that state. Although its provenance goes back to Croatia or Italy, it has become justly famous here and is broadly planted in California. It has the character of California—bold, assertive and pronounced, and it leans left and is nutty. (Just kidding about those last two.) While good zins are found in Oregon and Washington, the major players are down the coast. Some of the best wines you can only purchase at the winery—like Zichichi in Sonoma Valley and Lamborn Family in Napa Valley. When you have a wine country trip be sure to find some wineries that sell their zins only from their home locations.
Of the wines you can buy locally, Ridge is in most wine stores and is an excellent choice. Ridge makes a variety of single vineyard wines from vineyards all over California. Their zins are exquisite and their taste profiles as varied as the vineyards—from Paso Robles to Santa Cruz to Sonoma. They also blend in other varietals into most of their zins, which can contribute to their beautiful finishes, the softness and the pepper notes that makes zins so loved.
We drank a Ridge 2013 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel, from Sonoma County. It was 83% zin, 16% Alicante Bouschet and 1% Petite Syrah. You will most likely see similar percentages of blend in subsequent vintages. Alcohol, at 14.8%, was not at all evident. This wine was very soft (the Alicante Bouschet contributed to this) and fruit forward with very softened tannins. The nose was light with a raspberry aroma. We noticed an acidic zing all around the mouth with pleasant spice and pepper. My tasting companion, Grant Mackey, found a trace of ginger that I couldn’t identify but there was definitely a mix of spice, pepper and fruit. At about $35 this is a great, great zin to bemoan your taxes.
Also at about $35 is a common, wildly popular Chardonnay from the Carneros region—Rombauer. Koerner Rombauer has a long wine history in California and offers approachable to highly sophisticated choices. His aunt was Irma Rombauer who wrote The Joy of Cooking—the seminal cookbook for generations of family and professional chefs. That book inspires Rombauer to stamp The Joy of Wine on every cork in every bottle of Rombauer wine. Koerner was also a career pilot for Braniff International and you’ll see some of his memorabilia at the winery in St. Helena.
Rombauer Chardonnay is the #2 ordered Chardonnay by the bottle in America. It seems to be the favorite of every woman I know, but men who like manipulated, over-oaked California-style Chardonnay love it as well. I’m a little cynical as you can see. The California chards have departed significantly from their French counterparts in manipulating the wine with secondary malolactic fermentation. That reduces the acidic nature of the wine and with oak aging adds the creamy, buttery, oaky taste and mouth feel that is California Chardonnay. Rombauer Chardonnay is the poster child for oaky, buttery California-style chards and that, honestly, is why most people adore it. The 2016 vintage is the current, and Rombauer is highly consistent year after year. It sells for about $35 retail and can run to $75 or more on restaurant wine lists.
Rombauer also makes a basic zin, but it’s a fruit bomb that I cannot recommend. A visit to their winery and tasting room, though, is a must if you get to Napa. It’s on a hilltop setting just off the Silverado Trail in St. Helena. The tasting is fun, and their high-end reserve reds are stunning. It is a very popular destination and spectacularly beautiful. I bought one of my favorite tee shirts there.
So, happy or sad, over-taxed or under, Ridge and Rombauer are a combination from heaven. Enjoy. Next up: Memorial Day wine.