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Filtering by Category: Wine review
You never know when a terrific underdog wine will arise. Say you’re playing tennis with your buddies. After a year or so of weekly matches, you know each other pretty well. Everyone happens to love wine and possesses a competitive streak, along with more than one expensive bottle squirreled away in his basement. (I say his, because these are my husband’s tennis friends. I do yoga.)
Let’s get together for a bottle of wine! the buddies say, after one game. By the next week, this simple idea has morphed into, well, a wine competition. Calendars are consulted; a date is chosen. Each player arrives at our house with his favorite red wine. Each bottle is carefully wrapped in aluminum foil. Each guest has an array of empty glasses before him or her. (I say her because the spouses have joined for this game.) It’s time for some serious serving.
Serious serving, in this case, calls for a blind tasting. That’s fair play in wine competitions. Because I don’t know about you, but if I were to spy, say, Pétrus on the label (and trust me, at over $2,000 a bottle, I’m still waiting!) I might favor it over another wine I’m judging, despite my very best effort to remain calm and objective. Thus the aluminum foil bottle wrapping.
After much swirling, sniffing and sipping, here’s how the game played out:
Player #1: Château Magdelaine, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 1999, ~ $80. One of my favorite Bordeaux “mostly Merlots” in the world: elegant red fruit, silky on the tongue, soft tannins. Dreamy.
Player #2: Dominus Estate, Napa Valley, 2010, ~ $200. In a fortuitous coincidence, this “mostly Cabernet” wine happens to have the same owner as Château Magdelaine (above). So we were able to taste the California expression of this famous French vineyard owner’s respectful approach to bringing out a grape’s personality. With a cherry-cedar scent, sweet-full flavor and smooth finish, this delicious wine is, well, power in velvet.
Player #3: Château Pesquié Quintessence, Southern Rhone Valley, Côtes du Ventoux, France, 2010, ~ $22. This “mostly Syrah” looked like rubies, smelled like raspberries and cherries, had a light faintly spicy touch on the tongue followed by rugged warmth that lingered in the mouth. According to one player: this smells like California but tastes like France!
After the final serve we unwrapped bottles, compared notes. The players agreed: each anonymous wine was the best competitor in its class. But what a surprise when we learned the winner’s price.
Game, set, match: Château Pesquié Quintessence 2010. At around $23 a bottle, I’d call that an upset, just in time for the French Open this weekend.
Château Pesquié Quintessence 2011
I’ll throw it down right away: the beautiful, well-balanced 2010 vintage (see above) is sold out. But many Syrah lovers will like the 2011 vintage, although it’s too strong for my taste. Dark purple-red. Ripe berry nose with heavy flowers, like lily-of-the-valley. Spice and sweet fruit jam in the mouth. Dry, green tannins with a long floral finish. At 15.5% alcohol content, you may need a nap after this one. Made in France but tastes like California. Sunshine in a bottle.
My friend Katie has a tradition. Every Sunday evening she battens down the hatches, "shutting out the night," she says, and uncorks a bottle of crisp, fruity sauvignon blanc. Then she starts dinner, pouring a glass of her favorite wine for her husband and for herself. With four kids, community work and a traveling spouse, Sunday evening is often the only time she can gather her family around the table. I think of Katie most every Sunday winter evening around 5 pm as I pull the shades against Chicago's snow and bluster.
This is my first weekly blog post, and I'm dedicating it to Katie and to all those who find fellowship and community around a glass of wine. Men and women who consciously simmer down and slow the velocity of their lives when they hear the soft pop of a cork.
But also, mes amis, I promise to give you all a real Weekly Drink at the end of each post – my weekly wine pick, that I buy and try for your imbibing pleasure. Because the purpose of wine, I truly believe, is pleasure. Chosen carefully and consumed thoughtfully, wine offers a taste of place. A touch of adventure. A balm for the soul.
Now that's worth gathering for.
Each Weekly Drink pick will be easy on your wallet, mostly around $10 a bottle, well balanced, well-made and worry free. I've done the research so you can raise your glass.
Over the past three decades, I've raised my glass often. Wine has been a pleasurable window onto other worlds and a sometimes not-so-pleasurable window into myself. It seems strange, this love of wine, because my Iowa parents never drank. Except for when mom accidentally ordered Sangria on a Chicago weekend trip. ("This is good fruit juice!")
For me, it all began in Paris, where I met my husband during my junior year of college.
“You’ll have a glass of wine, won’t you?” he asked on our first date, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. We were having lunch at the Bar de la Croix Rouge, shoehorned behind a corner table at the tiny Left Bank café.
“Bien sûr,” I said. Of course I would have wine. This was France, after all, and it was high time I graduate from unshaven legs and poetry to high heels and wine.
He ordered a quarter carafe of rouge. I can’t remember what kind but it must’ve been cheap, given our student budgets. I do recall, though, how easily my French boyfriend chose this over that from the wine list. In a casual way, the way boys back home would have chosen PBR over Miller Lite.
There was more. Like how generously he filled my glass before serving himself. The way he absent-mindedly sniffed and nodded before taking the first sip of wine. And how he didn’t touch his glass again until our open-faced pâté and pickle sandwiches arrived.
So in addition to evidence of my boyfriend’s unselfish nature, I also experienced wine’s natural role in French mealtime – kind of like liquid bread, and certainly not an “alcoholic beverage” subject to harsh regulation or a strictly enforced drinking age.
Since then, a love of wine has bound us together, as they say, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, through diapers and college applications. Thirty years later, I thought of Katie as we uncorked our Weekly Drink last Sunday. It's not a sauvignon blanc. But I think Katie will like this wine anyway, because summer is finally here. And this is the perfect warm weather white.
Cline Viognier North Coast 2012
Purchased at Whole Foods
- $9.99 on special
- $12.99 regular price
A fresh, citrusy white wine made of a grape called Viognier ("Vee-Oh-Knee-Ay"). From California's Sonoma Valley. Serve lightly chilled.
This wine's pale watery hue reminds me of transparent topaz. When you smell it, you get a mash up of peach and honeysuckle. That's the characteristic scent of Viognier grapes in California wine. But then you take a sip and surprise, surprise. In your mouth it's not sweet. Instead, it's clean and zingy, kind of like pink grapefruit. A happy summer wine.
Find other wines by Cline Cellars here