Friday, June 02, 2006
Friday Wines - Volume Three
No doubt by now you've all had a long week, so you deserve a little weekend TLC. Let's skip past all the usual bluster and get the relaxation started sooner rather than later. Here are my Friday wines for this week:
White under $20
2005 Z-Land Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($16.99)
Just so we're clear on this - FABULOUS.
Passion fruit and tangerine zest crackle out of the glass in this wine. You know that big spark generator you see in the movie Frankenstein? That's how electric this wine is. Let's put it this way - I've tasted a LOT of whites in the last 5 years. I'd put this in top 10. Run.
(Note the economy of phrase. I don't like this wine at all, do I?)
Red under $20
2004 Rosenblum Zinfandel San Francisco Bay ($19.99)
Rosenblum makes some 80 wines; 38 of them are Zinfandels. They know Zin. The San Francisco Bay shows just how well.
Elegant nose of black raspberry and strawberry, with notions of chocolate and black pepper. When you taste it, you know this isn't one of those lighter Zinfandels - you know, the kind of wine that's juicy and energetic and zings around in your mouth like a pingpong ball batted around on a parquet floor by a kitten.
No sirree, the SF Bay is lumbering and ponderous. It's heavy and rich and deep. At the front, the red fruits assert themselves - strawberry and red currants. It's not long before that red door is painted black with plum, black raspberry and blackberry. It's all coated in cocoa dust earthiness and glazed with shiny but sizeable tannins. Think Cabernet and Merlot are big? Bah! Petites.
White over $20
1997 Ladoucette Baron de L Pouilly Fume AOC ($69.99)
No, you're not hallucinating. The vintage on this white wine is 1997 and yes, the price is 7o bucks. Baron de L is arguably one of the best whites made in France and one of the best wines made from Sauvignon Blanc.
The aromas are subtle - peach, lime and grapefruit. Then, the buried treasures show up. You'll get a grassy note or two and a hint of pineapple. You might catch a little caramel in the breeze as you lift the glass to your mouth.
As a good white wine ages, it will take on both richness and weight in the mouth, and this one is no exception. The fruit will be muted, with green apple, grapefruit and lemon taking the lead. Then comes the wall of secondary flavors - hazelnut, caramel, chalk, sea salt and almost red currant. All along you'll feel the slight sting of acidity - that's what'll keep this wine fresh for at least another five years. Take my advice and splurge. This one's worth it.
Red over $20
2003 Row 11 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($25.99)
I'll be blunt about Pinot Noir. First, Pinot Noir is nothing short of capricious. Miles, in the movie Sideways, talked about the grape as though it were shy, retiring and afraid to show itself except under ideal conditions. Ridiculous! There's just one way to describe Pinot Noir - in good years, it's nectar. In bad ones, you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy!
Second, I prefer Oregon to California. Napa and Sonoma Pinot Noir are jammed with fruit and tannin and I have to age them so they settle down. It's all sun in Cali.
Oregon is all about balance. They have more sunlight hours than California during growing season but it's drier and cooler. This means the wines are as ripe as the Pinots found to the south, but acidity balances the fruit. They aren't always as full bodied as Napa and Sonoma, but they are elegant and balanced.
Now before you get huffy and defensive, there's always an exception that proves the rule. If you want balance in a glass of California Pinot, look no further than Santa Barbara County. Enter Row 11 Pinot Noir.
Raise the glass and find the aromatic strawberry goodness - you won't have to look (or sniff) hard. The ripeness is everywhere. There's also French oak spiciness and a pinch of smoke. Quick, sneak a taste.
The strawberry fruit remains, but here's where the acid is critical. The fruit won't taste dull or overblown - it'll be bright, fresh and snappy. Rich sour cherry flavors make a brief cameo before the dried leaves and mushroom earthiness grace the stage. The finale comes from substantial but integrated tannin. Voila! California Pinot Noir at its balanced best.
I hope you enjoy the wines! Now I'm off to finish my next blog post. The last three posts have all been wine recommendations only, so I'm sure you're tired of those. The next post will be a new recurring feature. Hope to have that one tomorrow!