As discussed in last Monday's Wine Advisor, the occurrence of Easter and Passover amid the joyous burst of spring finds many of us celebrating the season with friends and family, enjoying good food and wine.
Let's go directly to the tasting notes today as I report on four wines we've enjoyed in recent days: Two modest, approachable items selected to please a crowd while going well with a variety of dishes on an Easter buffet table; an exceptionally attractive French country wine (with a distinctly American cork), and an unusual but appealing kosher-for-Passover California red wine with a name that's part Hebrew and part French.
Gan Eden 1996 California Cuvee "Les Trois Canards" ($18)
Wine maker Craig Winchell dropped this one off for me to try while he was visiting family in Louisville last winter. Originally priced at $40, it's now offered for $18 on the winery Website (link below). Winchell's Sonoma-based winery, Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden" in Hebrew) produces only kosher wine; this unusual blend of Zinfandel (60%), Grenache (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) - "Les Trois Canards" (The Three Ducks) - is the winery's first mevushal wine, made by a required-by-ritual purification technique that involves flash pasteurizing it at 185F. Clear reddish-purple in color, it shows distinct cherry-berry and stewed plum aromas, so jammy that it almost smells sweet. The aromas carry over intact on the palate, ripe and full. Zippy acidity imparts a structure more firm and muscular than the nose suggests: An unusual but enjoyable wine. Probably best with red meat, although Winchell says it goes well with curry; I went off in a different direction, trying it with a light dinner of creamy scrambled eggs scented with white truffle oil and topped with a bite of alder-smoked salmon, with a fresh spring asparagus toasted-orzo pilaf alongside. (April 18, 2003)
Eric Texier 2001 "St. Gervais" Cotes du Rhone Villages ($13.99)
Although European producers lag well behind New World wineries in embracing alternatives to natural cork, Texier's wines come cleanly stoppered with synthetic closures from California's Neocork Technologies. This unfiltered red is inky dark reddish-purple, almost black in color, and offers fine Rhone scents of fragrant black pepper and ripe, plummy fruit, with just a distant hint of pleasantly earthy "barnyard." Its well-balanced flavor is ripe and clean, peppery and full, almost "chewy" in the mouth. A fine red, it stood up nicely to a simple Easter Eve dinner of lamb shanks and white beans. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio, and other regional importers. (April 19, 2003)
Penfolds 2002 "Rawson's Retreat" South Eastern Australia Merlot ($7.49)
The low-end price tag suggests a crowd-pleasing wine, and this one proved popular with a group of friends whose interest in wine varied from slim to enthusiastic. Clear ruby in color, not overly dark, its aroma is focused on spicy, perfumed red fruit. Its fresh, appropriately tart cherry flavor may be just imperceptibly off-dry, enhancing its juicy, soft fruit. Easy to sip and fine with buffet fare from ham to turkey to deviled eggs. (Rawson's Retreat, by the way, is the old family cottage of Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfolds, who established the company's first vineyard and winery in 1844.) U.S. importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Napa, Calif. (April 20, 2003)
Anselmi 2001 "San Vicenzo" Veneto Bianco ($11.49)
Anselmi has dropped the Soave designation for this wine, which is made predominantly from the regional Garganega grape with less Trebbiano than Italian wine law requires for Soave; the wine maker feels it's better this way. Clear straw color, with gentle white fruit aromas and a crisp, citric flavor that comes across as slightly sweet, with light acidity to balance and hints of minerality and pleasant peach-pit bitterness in the finish. Made a particularly good match with ham on an Easter buffet. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; Leonardo Locascio Selections. (April 20, 2003)
IMPORTER'S FACT SHEET:
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Smoking in restaurants: What do you think?
We depart slightly from our usual wine-related topics this week to ask your opinion about smoking in restaurants, a currently controversial subject that's of considerable interest to many of us who enjoy good food and wine.
Even in Kentucky, where I live, a state where tobacco is grown and cigarettes are produced and laws against smoking are about as unlikely as laws against motherhood and apple pie, a few restaurants ban smoking by policy and many more offer to separate smokers and non-smokers. A recently concluded Voting Booth survey in our LouisvilleHotBytes.com restaurant news and reviews Website found considerable local support for complete or partial bans. Now we'd like to find what the rest of the world thinks, as we ask what you think about smoking in restaurants.
You'll find your ballot, and the results, at
Penfolds Brings Red Wine Recorking Clinics to the United States
Penfolds, Australia's most famous wine, brings the ultimate in after-sales service to the United States with its Penfolds Red Wine Recorking Clinics. In October 2003, Penfolds will hold two Red Wine Recorking Clinics – in New York City on Oct. 24 and Chicago on Oct. 28. Penfolds has been conducting these clinics in Australia and the U.K. since 1991. In the last 12 years, Penfolds has opened more than 50,000 bottles of wine for over 7,500 consumers and trade. The clinics are popular with personal collectors and those that trade on the secondary market.
At the clinics, Penfolds winemakers will open and test any bottle of Penfolds red wine 15 years or older. After tasting, the Penfolds winemaking team will top, recork, re-capsule and certify that the wine is good, if the condition is found to be sound. Penfolds provides this service at no cost to the customer. To register for the clinic email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-255-9966. To find out more about the clinics visit
Australia's most famous wine, Penfolds Grange, today holds iconic status around the world, and has been described by esteemed wine writer, Robert Parker, as a leading candidate for the richest, most concentrated, dry red table wine on planet earth. To stay in the know about events like the recorking clinics, sign up for the Penfolds quarterly newsletter – Work in Progress. This educational publication is full of tasting notes on new releases, including the much-anticipated 1998 Grange, information on the winery's history and heritage and events in your area where Penfolds is participating. To sign up, email email@example.com or call 1-800-255-9966.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Stamp honors Cesar Chavez (April 18, 2003)
Hamming it up with Beaujolais (April 16, 2003)
Welcoming Spring (April 14, 2003)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Lamb two ways (April 17, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, April 21, 2003