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Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Wines - The Long March Edition

Howdy gang - I'm 2 days into a 10 consecutive day stretch here. That's what we have to do to get a weekend off so I'm gonna take a deep breath and get started. Enjoy!

White wine under $20

2004 Wilhelm Bergmann Riesling Bernkaestler Kurfuerstlay Kabinett Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
That, my friends, is one gulpful of words. This wine is way beyond its $8.99 a bottle price. The only word for this wine is precocious.

Snappy aromas of nectarine, green plums and white peach pop right out of the glass here. On the palate, though, this wine is an electrifying blend of passion fruit, key lime and only a hint of the usual Riesling peach and apricot at the end. The acid is incredible in this wine, but don't you dare think tart - it balances the big fruit. Wanna see how well this works with food? Try it with spicy asian food.

Though this is a Riesling, I want it to be as clear as a brand new Riedel wine glass that it is NOT, I repeat NOT sweet. It's a Kabinett. That means fruit, but almost no sugar. This wine has far less sugar than the 1.5-3% sugar you find in the average California Chardonnay.

I can't say enough about the quality of this wine - it'd be very interesting to slip it into a blind tasting of $30.00 Rieslings. It'll easily stand that test.

Red wine under $20

2000 Clos Roque d'Aspes Faugeres ($15.99)
This French wine is a delectable blend of three grapes - 80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 10% Syrah. What I love about this wine is it shows how a wine can be full-bodied and tannic, but smooth, too.

As this is a French Mourvedre, the earthy character reveals itself first, both in the nose and the flavors. On the nose you'll get coffee, smoky oak and bittersweet chocolate aromas, followed by deep, black cherries. In your mouth, you'll revisit the chocolate first and it's so profound you think your teeth will look like you've been eating Oreos. Then comes a sliver of black cherry that slowly expands until it covers your tongue to the finish. There's tannin here, forming a great backbone for the expansive earth and fruit. You'll be tempted to spend a fortune on a ribeye or a filet mignon to go with this, but don't. Instead, try it with long smoked brisket.

White wine over $20

Non-vintage Piper Heidsieck Champagne Rose Sauvage Brut ($46.99)
Back in the days before I was civilized and didn't like wine, I still loved Champagne. Let's see why.

First of all, gentle readers, you should know that genuine rose Champagne is never sweet. It's dry, serious, complex wine. In France, roses are considered the best of Champagnes.

Blood orange, red currant and sour cherry dominate the nose, followed by soft leather earthiness and clove spice. In the mouth, the first thing you notice the creamy texture - rich, silky and billowy, but not heavy or overbearing, thanks to the crisp structure. It's loaded with fruit, specifically wild strawberries, more cherry, turning to black raspberry on the finish. The fruit and acidity are nicely contrasted by toasty, almost malty character from the barrel fermentation.

Rose Champagne is remarkably versatile. It can be served as an aperitif, with a meal or with cheese or fruit desserts. Want to expand your wine horizons? Start here.

Red wine over $20

2002 Rosenblum Cellars Syrah Fess Parker Vineyard Santa Barbara County ($22.99)
This is classic California Syrah - Less earth than Rhone and plenty of fruit, but not the fruit bombs you get with Australian Shiraz. The nose is blackberry,mostly, with licorice, tobacco, brier and a wisp of sacramental incense. It's heavy bodied, with substantial but ripe tannins and polished black fruit and topsoil flavors. It has pretty length and great depth.

Rosenblum is best known for its Zinfandels, but they make plenty of other great wines - 80 wines, all told. This bottle will soon vanish. The Fess Parker (yes, Fort Worth native and Davy Crockett) vineyard has been sold to developers and is probably condominiums now. Get this honey of a Syrah while you can.


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