In this week's Premium Edition:|
But ... where's it from?
The wine is outstanding: Rated in the 90s by the points crowd, yet it sells toward the lower end of the pricey realm because it comes from a less sought-after region. Ripe and full and ready to enjoy today, yet capable of a decade's cellaring, this Merlot-based red is a winner. But ... taste it blind, and you'll have no idea whether it's from Italy, France, California or Australia.
Is this a bad thing, when the wine is good? We'll take on this philosophical issue when I unveil this wine in tomorrow's Wine Advisor Premium Edition, our subscription-only E-letter that helps you shop with confidence when you're considering a more pricey bottle for a special occasion. The $24 subscription price - no more than you'd pay for a bottle of exceptionally fine wine - will bring you a full year of biweekly E-mail bulletins. Proceeds go to buy these special wines at retail, and help support WineLoversPage.com too! Click here to subscribe today:
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Wine pairing tip: Match likes with likes
The ancient wine wisdom, "Red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat" is often held up as bad advice because it has so many exceptions. Indeed, anyone who's enjoyed such rule-breaking gustatory glories as Pinot Noir with salmon or a fine old Bordeaux with roast chicken will understand this.
Frankly, I still find the simple old rule useful. As long as you bear in mind that there's no penalty for breaking it, it's handy and easy to remember that beef and lamb go well with dry red wines, just as most fish, shellfish and poultry reward pairing with whites. But when you're ready to move on to the next level, I like a slightly more sophisticated rule that rarely if ever fails: "Match likes with likes."
Simply restated, look for a wine whose flavors and aromas mirror the taste of your entree. Lobster is rich and slightly sweet; so is a big Chardonnay. The flavors of the wine and the shellfish simply fit, with extra credit if there's a whiff of butter in the wine. Red Rhone Syrahs often present distinct aromas of rare, grilled meat, making them a natural with a similar chunk of seared beef on your plate, and again, if there's a dash of black pepper in the wine, it will play nicely with the real thing on your steak. Tart with tart, sweet with sweet, herbal with herbal, sour with sour ... just about any flavor pairing that brings together similarities in food and wine will heighten your tasting experience.
I ran into this phenomenon in a couple of striking examples recently. On New Year's Day, a Italian red that I've enjoyed in past vintages (Lungarotti 2000 Rubesco di Torgiano, a cousin to Chianti from neighboring Umbria), proved so rustic that it veered almost closer to "dirty" than "earthy" in its character, a funky old-wood flavor that made me wonder at first if the wine was cork-tainted. It made a poor match indeed with a light New Year's Day meal of Welsh rabbit made with Cheddar. But in a flash of inspiration, I sawed off a chunk of sopressata salame from Volpe in St. Louis. This is an excellent, Veneto-style dry sausage with a deliciously funky character that, sure enough, picked up and somehow ameliorated the earthiness of the wine, resulting in a match that saved the wine from an unceremonious journey down the drain.
In another excellent pairing that took advantage of "likes with likes," I matched the roast garlic and lemon chicken featured in last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter with a crisp Spanish white that I expected would show a distinct lemony character, the Pazo Baion 2003 "La Fontana" Rias Baixas Albariñofrom California Wine Club's International Selections. Sure enough, the lemony chicken and citric wine proved a match made in heaven, further evidence of the validity of the rule.
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Pazo Baion 2003 "La Fontana" Rias Baixas Albariño ($24)
Pale gold and transparently clear, this luscious Spanish white breathes fresh, heady peach aromas lent complexity with elusive hints of spice and a minty note. Crisp and bright in flavor, snappy lemon-citrus flavors and fresh-fruit acidity come together in a tart, palate-cleansing wine with appealing nuances that follow the nose. An exceptionally balanced and fine Albariño, it demonstrates why this once little-known Spanish variety is gainign popularity. U.S. importer: Victoire Imports Co., San Leandro, Calif.; California Wine Club International Selections. (Jan. 4, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: The winery recommends it with fish, which is good advice, and I generally find Albariño a natural companion with shellfish. In this instance, though, I matched likes with likes and paired it to great effect with the roast garlic and lemon chicken featured in last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter.
VALUE: Available only through California Wine Club's International Selections, which offers two wines shipped per quarter in the U.S. where laws allow, with the ability to order additional bottles at favorable pricing.
WHEN TO DRINK: I like Albariño best when it's young and fresh, and would drink it up in coming months, but its good fruit and balance support the winery's opinion that it will keep under good storage conditions for another two years.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
To check out a wide range of other Albariños from Rias Baxas on Wine-Searcher.com, browse
The California Wine Club:
New Central Coast Discovery!
On a recent tour through California's Central Coast, California Wine Club owners Bruce and Pam Boring met John and Kelley Clark from Brophy Clark Cellars. Although their winery is only eight years old, the Brophys have a combined 30 years of winemaking experience and awards worth bragging about!
This month's Special Edition shipment from The California Wine Club includes Brophy Clark's 2000 "Santa Maria Valley" Pinot Noir and their 2001 "Edna Valley" Syrah. The Pinot Noir has received 1 Gold, 2 Silver medals and multiple 85+ ratings. The Syrah is a two-time Silver Medal winner exploding with plum, nutmeg and mint flavors.
This special two-bottle shipment is just $32.95 plus shipping. To order this month's Special Edition call 1-800-777-4443 or email email@example.com.
Southern California's Wine Country:
Temecula Valley Winter Barrel Tasting
Southern California's most popular wine region opens its doors for a two-day food and wine pairing event showcasing wines still in the barrel. This event gives wine lovers a peek at future wines produced by our 20 member wineries.
Just 4 short miles off of I-15, the beautiful Temecula Valley wine region is surrounded by gently rolling hills and dramatic mountain ranges. It has been a source of award-winning wines for over 30 years. The region produces a number of different wines from valley floor vineyards and hillside plantings.
The two-day barrel tasting allows visitors and locals to leisurely visit all 20 wineries (one time each over the two-day period) that make this viticultural region so special.
Join us for this once-a-year trip into the cellar to sample wines directly from the barrel. This is your opportunity to meet winemakers, purchase "futures" of limited release wines and sample foods perfectly matched to the wines being tasted.
Barrel tasting with food pairing is featured at each one of the 20 wineries. You drive to the wineries you would like to visit, or arrange for alternative transportation.
Now, to whet your appetite for Temecula, here's my report on a tart, food-friendly Italian-style red from one of the region's respected producers. Later this week we'll try more.
South Coast Winery 2001 Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards Sangiovese Thunderbolt Block ($24)
This is a clear, deep ruby-color wine, showing brilliant reddish-orange glints against the light. Ripe red-berry scents add appealing touches of warm brown spice lifted by high-toned aromatics. Ripe and fresh on the palate, snappy red fruit and spicy notes of cinnamon and cloves are laced up by mouth-watering acidity. I wouldn't call it a Chianti clone ... ripe fruit and spice speak more of California than Italy; but it matches its Tuscan cousin in food-friendliness. (Jan. 10, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Chosen to pair with a hearty Northern Italian-style beef-and-pork meatloaf from Marcella Hazan, "Polpettone di manzo e maile con i funghi."
VALUE: Priced to match the higher end of Chianti Classico, it's buyer's choice.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking well now, and probably not a long-term ager, but quality fruit and oak treatment should see it through several years of cellar time if you choose to age it under good storage conditions.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
To browse through a variety of wines from Temecula on Wine-Searcher.com, see
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Corkage etiquette
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:
Outstanding red from Faugeres (Jan. 7, 2004)
WT101: The South of France (Jan. 5, 2004)
My top wine values of 2004 (Jan. 3, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Roast garlic and lemon chicken (Jan. 6, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Jan. 10, 2005