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Exploring California Pinot Noir
With my palate honed by a love of Burgundy, I approach New World Pinot Noir skeptically. But budget constraints inspire me to keep on trying, and the occasional treasure from California, Oregon, New Zealand and elsewhere hints at the possibility of gold at the end of the rainbow. In tomorrow's Wine Advisor Premium Edition, I'll discuss two recent tastings from a promising California Pinot region that offer good value at the affordable end of the upscale range. As always, our subscription-only premium E-letter seeks to make it easy for you to shop with confidence when you're considering a more pricey bottle for a special occasion. A $24 annual subscription brings you 26 biweekly E-mail editions, and your contribution helps support WineLoversPage.com.
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Wine books for Santa's list
It's that time of year again, and the man in red (no, not former Indiana University Coach Bobby Knight) is making his list and checking it twice.
As I usually do around this time of year, I'm thinking of wine books as one obvious gift category for the wine geeks on my shopping list. In a stack of recently received review copies of frankly variable quality, a few stand out. Before we get down to those last few frenzied Christmas-shopping days at the end of December, let's single out a handful for early and favorable notice. Later in the month, I'll pass along a few more reviews for last-minute shoppers.
I've always liked The Wall Street Journal's weekly wine column, "Tastings," not least because it usually irritates me much less than the editorial page. Columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, an amiable couple who clearly love good things to eat and drink, stay closer to down-home Main Street than blue-chip Wall Street as they bring a sensible consumer perspective to the world of wine.
Full of warm personal stories and appetizing wine-tasting notes, their new book, Wine for Every Day and Every Occasion, subtitled "Red, White, and Bubbly to Celebrate the Joy of Living," takes us through a year of wine for holidays and special occasions that range from Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July to weddings, the birth of a baby, and even the Oscar (or Emmy) awards. The final chapter, "101 Things Worth Knowing All in 20 Words or Less," offers a quick glossary of wine terms from Acid to Zinfandel, a whole wine-tasting course in just over six digestible pages ... and a reference to our WineLoversPage.com Lexicon as a great place to learn wine words. Thanks for the plug, guys!
To read more about Wine for every day and every occasion on Amazon.com, click
With none of Brown's goofiness but with substantially more intense scholarship, McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen has become a cult classic for "foodies" who can't get enough information about what really goes on in the oven - and in our stomachs - when we cook and eat. A massive volume - its 894 pages in hardcover tip my kitchen scale at 3 pounds, 1 1/4 ounces - its 15 densely packed chapters cover foods from milk and dairy products and eggs to sauces, sugars, chocolate and confectionery, not to mention "The Four Basic Food Molecules." (All right, they're water, fats, carbohydrates and proteins.)
While much of this may be of more interest to "foodies" than "winoes," the 67-page Chapter 13 ("Wines, Beers and Spirits") is worth the price of admission alone for those who are more interested in grapes, grain and malt than salads, meats, cakes and cookies. This chapter covers an amazing variety of drinks-related science, from the physiology of hangovers to the ancient Sumerian hymn to Ninkasi, the goddess who presided over early beer brewing. One table, more comprehensive than anything of its like I've seen, lists the specific chemical molecules associated with more than 30 different aromas in wine. If it intrigues you to know that the "kerosene" scent in some Rieslings actually comes from trimethyldihydronaphthalene, then this book is definitely for you. And if not ... maybe it's not.
Here's the info and buy-it link at Amazon.com for On Food and Cooking:
You may have to wait until after the holidays if you want the new paperback edition of The Botanist and the Vintner: How Wine Was Saved for the World, by the British journalist Christopher "Christy" Campbell, from Algonquin Books. As it turns out, though, the hardcover edition, with the slightly more obscure title Phylloxera: How Wine Was Saved for the World, published by HarperCollins Publishers, has been around all year.
In either form, it's an excellent book, a thorough retelling of the story of phylloxera, the plant louse that spread from a single shipment of American grapevines to France in 1862 and that all but wiped out Europe's vineyards within less than a generation. Campbell does an excellent job of spinning a historical truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale that's intelligent and literate, yet neither stuffy nor dry. I recommend reading it with a glass of post-phylloxera Bordeaux at hand.
Here's the Amazon.com link for Phylloxera:
TALK ABOUT WINE ONLINE
If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.
NO 2003 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)
This is a California rendition of what the French would call a "negociant" wine, made by a corporate entity that assembles and bottles wine from various sources and labels them under its own brand name: "NO." The back label explains ... "NO oak aging. NO cork. NO malolactic fermentation. NO attitude. NO kidding." The wine keeps all these promises. It's a simple but pure presentation of Sauvignon Blanc fruit in a very pale straw-color wine with citric, limey aromas touched with just a hint of musky ripe cantaloupe. Crisp, dry flavors follow the nose, tart lemon-lime and musky melon flavors, surprisingly mouth-filling, fresh and clean in a long finish. (Nov. 16, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: A fine match with a dish made to match, a "green" risotto loaded with celery, green peppers, shredded cabbage, onions and garlic and Parmigiano.
VALUE: A fine value at the $10 price point.
WHEN TO DRINK: It won't die in a year but is best drunk up young and fresh.
WEB LINKS AND FINDING THIS WINE ONLINE:
California Wine Club:
Spice Up Your Holiday Celebrations!
Just in time for the holidays, The California Wine Club is delighted to offer Bargetto Winery's Chaucer, the most popular Mead in America! The distinct taste of this elegant after-dinner wine has been made in the tradition of honey wine enjoyed by kings in the Middle Ages. With less than 1,000 cases produced and a history of 90+ ratings this is an excellent "after dinner wine" worth stocking up on for the holiday season.
Bargetto Winery's Chaucer Mead normally retails for $13, but Wine Advisor Subscribers may purchase a half, full or mixed case for just $10/bottle. Each bottle also includes an individual Spice Bag and Hot Spiced Mead Recipe ... delicious! Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit The California Wine Club's Wine Store at
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Bucko's Wine Reports: Washington's Great Vineyards
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Does your cellar reflect what you drink?
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:
Cellar-less aging (Nov. 26, 2004)
Pooyee Foosey (Nov. 24, 2004)
Wacky wine labels (Nov. 22, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Happy Thanksgiving! (Nov. 25, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, Nov. 29, 2004