Frankly, I'd rather not tell you about this wine. I actually don't want you—or anyone—to know about it because I am fearful that then the prices will inevitably go up and the availability will go down, and I'll be left (poor) with wicked withdrawal symptoms and resentment.
"Semillon is not a fashionable variety," announces Wine Grapes. "Nowhere outside Sauternes," the book continues, "does there seem to be a groundswell of enthusiasm for this noble variety." Time for a re-write, Wine Grapes.
Confession: I love a recipe from the Campbell's soup website. It calls for simmering chicken breasts in creamy stock, balsamic vinegar, sundried tomatoes, oregano, and kalamata olives. You sprinkle the whole thing with feta cheese and serve it up over orzo. I've eaten this dish with plenty of different wines that were all... fine. California Pinot Noir was overwhelmed; a northern Italian Barbera was bright but not bold enough; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc made it feel like everything was fighting. But last week, I found the perfect match.
When things got tricky last week, I sought comfort in three stalwarts of hope: my dog, a recipe for my Italian great grandmother's tomato sugo, and wine. The wine I pulled out was from a grape called Sagrantino, grown in an area called Montefalco in Italy's Umbria region. What struck me in reading about Sagrantino was this line in Wine Grapes: "The variety had become almost extinct in the 1960s." Yet here I was with three different bottles at my table.
I sat with a group of wine professionals, tasting a lineup of rosé wines blind, and we balked at the scarlet letter. "You've got to wonder what they were thinking when they made this," a fellow taster chided. And they hadn't even seen the label yet.
It's HOT in the Douro. So temperature control in wineries and the wine tanks themselves makes a huge difference here: cool, fresh grapes are much more capable of making cool, fresh wines.
Where I live, the asparagus has arrived. It is the best time of year. The hills sprung to life overnight, transformed from dull gold to radiant green. And the season's first rosé beckons from the shelf. I must have it.
I was sure that Pascaline Lepeltier would share a great new Chenin Blanc with me—she's obsessed with the grape, and she shares a hometown with its native stomping grounds in the Loire Valley in France. But she giggled over, eyes ablaze with a sense of mischief and excitement. A small, somewhat oddly shaped bottle appeared, and out poured the most incredible, fascinating, beautiful and bizarre wine I've had in a long while.
According to Wine Grapes, Valdigiué is a "high-yielding, rather ordinary variety from south-west France." Today, with barely 300 acres in California, Valdiguié has languished into obscurity, relegated to a reputation for mediocrity. But in the hands of Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars, the "rather ordinary" Valdiguié has grown up into something quite interesting and delicious.
Learning to give a good, accurate (if rather straightforward and unsexy) tasting note can dramatically increase your chances of getting the wine you want. Let me explain.
It was Valentine's Day. We were having "girls' night in." And we hadn't realized until that moment how clever we were to make sausage stew for dinner. The punchlines were flowing, and we hadn't even really begun drinking yet.
Do you care about saving the endangered pygmy three-toed sloth? What about protecting the long heritage of the Roxbury Russet apple? If you believe in preserving species diversity or heirloom varieties, add Abouriou to your list. Only four acres of this spicy red grape remain in California—and all of the U.S., as far as anyone can tell. In its home in Southwest France, there are barely 800 acres left, and they're quickly diminishing.
A while back, I mentioned having met my 'sexy bartender boyfriend' at my old waitressing job. Seven years later, the sexy bartender and I got married. And so with Valentine's Day looming, I thought I'd tell you about one of our most perfect recent dates and suggest to you one of the most perfect date wines.
If you happen to fall in love with wine, you should prepare to spend most of your life confused, constantly humbled, relearning over and over again what you thought you'd already grasped. I suppose, in some ways, this is similar to falling in love with a person.
Wine takes you places. New wine opens doors and makes introductions. I mean this figuratively, of course, but I also mean it very literally: I've met new best friends over shared bottles of wild, uncharted territory.
I knew I'd have no trouble making a pot pie. The problem was, I had no wine to go with pot pie. In the midst of my endeavor to try as many obscure grapes as possible, I found myself without the wine I always serve alongside this dish. Time to venture out of my comfort zone!
If you ever dared to argue that California wines are boring or can't stack up against their European peers, may I humbly suggest a small New Year's resolution: to very carefully re-evaluate your notions this year.
The end of a twelve-hour workday calls for a glass of wine, a quesadilla made in the microwave and the TV remote at the ready. Don't bother me, and please don't force me to think about anything. Every grape has its occasion, and Bianchello is perfect for exactly this.
If you ask me where I'm from, I will tell you "all over the place." My family moved five times before I was eight, when we finally settled in Minnesota. I developed a love for "hot dishes" and spoke with long, drawn-out "OHHs," dontchaknow. At 18, I bolted cross-country to Los Angeles, where I dyed my hair blonde, ate sushi daily and dropped my OHs for a tendency to end? Each sentence? With, like, a question?? Next was London, mate, for pints and chips. And in New York City I ordered pies, wore black, and hurried, everywhere. Who I am is as much owed to my DNA as to the environments where I lived, learned and developed. Which is why, approximately 30 seconds into my Wine Grapes adventure, I realized there was a problem I needed to address.
Wine geeks like to talk about their "aha moment": the wine that was so very delicious and profound that they scrapped their entire life plan and committed themselves to wine. But I don't recall my "aha" wine. Instead, what I remember is the first wine I actively DESPISED. But would I still feel that way if I cracked a bottle open today?
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