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Back to basics

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  • Mac & Billy Cellars, “M” Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California. PHOTO BY CHRIS RAMELB
  • Segura Viudas, “Made With Organic Grapes,” Brut Cava, Spain. PHOTO BY CHRIS RAMELB

Have you ever introduced someone to a song or artist that piqued your interest only to be pelted with comments like, “I liked them before they sold out,” or “Did you know they got nominated for a Gram-my?”

Maybe I’m more sensitive to those comments because it calls self-awareness to the fact I am phasing out of my hip/ young phase (if I ever had one to begin with) but I am generally confused by the dissonance. Isn’t the intent of most promising artists, from the moment they pick up a paintbrush or pluck a guitar string, to “make it big,” or “sell out”?

The same thing happens in the wine world. Superstar producers command a price that far exceeds the norm for the category. The problem is they can only make a limited amount, lest quality suffer, and that amount usually isn’t enough to satisfy demand.

This drives up price even more, as everyone clamors for the same limited stock.

Look at most highly touted wine lists and you’ll see there is a homogenization that occurs at the top levels, a minor remix of the same limited producers. These establishments often price the bottle much higher than the standard markup and some do not intend to sell it at all — using it as a showpiece instead.

How many people will that one rare bottle touch? I think far too much time is spent on this practice of procuring allocated selections, and far too little time is spent focusing on what will be consumed on an everyday basis. Here are two new by-the-glass options for popular categories.

Mac & Billy Cellars, “M” Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California

Cabernet sauvignon is the most grown wine grape in the world. Aside from its appeal for producing bold wines of heft and depth, it is relatively easy to grow, and even easier to order (most people can say “Cab”), which makes selecting the right one amidst a plethora of choices even more challenging. Enter “M” Cabernet Sauvignon, a new project from experienced winemaker Mac Myers, who has more than 20 years in the emerging region of Paso Robles. His vineyard is as stunning and complex as the wine itself; the grape vines sit in water-retaining clay soils (important in the desert-like climate) and are located a long drive up in elevation from the sea level. The juice is sophisticated with the polish you’d see in revered blends from Napa, but with considerable grit and soul.

Classic Cab flavors of chocolate-covered dark berries are intertwined with a savory dark olive, sweet herbs and spice — a nod to Mac’s years of mastering Grenache and syrah in the region.

Cost: $24/bottle.

Segura Viudas, “Made With Organic Grapes,” Brut Cava, Spain

Segura Viudas is a winery just outside Barcelona that can be traced to the 11th century. This Champagne-style wine is made with organic and indigenous grapes of Spain and is bright and fresh with integrated bubbles formed over a year of resting in the cellar.

It’s a serious sparkler that can be enjoyed by itself, as a pau hana with tofu and sea asparagus poke, and at brunch with smoked salmon and cream cheese — and no one will be upset if you use it as a base for your mimosa.

Cost: $14/bottle.

Chris Ramelb is an award-winning master sommelier, and director of education and restaurant sales manager of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Hawaii. Watch him on the “Wine & …” podcast, and follow him on Instagram (@masterisksomm).

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