Memories are made of this
What makes wine different from just about any other beverage?
I submit that the fruit of the vine offers such an intriguing blend of history, geography, science and so many other things that it catches our imagination in a way that most other drinks can't do. Wine brings an extra dimension to the table because it inspires us to flights of fancy.
Best of all, the wine doesn't need to be particularly rare, sought-after or expensive. Even the most everyday wine can brings back memories of a happy journey, a literary allusion, a familiar face or even a yet-to-be-realized dream.
Don't stop me if I've used this example before, but one wine that invariably brings back warm memories for me is a pleasant, not overly pricey Italian red - Lungarotti Rubesco from Torgiano in Umbria - that has spanned the quarter-of-a-century that I've been seriously involved in wine.
It must have been around 1980 when I first learned of Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano, a Sangiovese-Canaiolo blend, highlighting it in my well-thumbed early edition of Hugh Johnson's pocket wine encyclopedia because its three-star rating was enclosed in a box, the graphic symbol that Johnson then used to highlight wines he considered particularly good values.
I sought it out, liked it ... and then, in a happy coincidence, was later invited to visit Torgiano as a judge in a 1982 wine competition sponsored by the Lungarotti family, who own the winery, not to mention a fine hotel, a highly rated restaurant, a small but elegant wine museum and, as it turned out, most of the rest of the little village of Torgiano, which lies a few kilometers away from Perugia in Umbria's softly rolling hills.
It was my first experience in international wine judging and, in fact, my first trip to Europe undertaken entirely for wine-related purposes. It was a delightful experience in a golden autumn, with ripe Sangiovese grapes ready to be harvested ... or tasted, in judicious samplings, by a wide-eyed young wine tourist.
And to this day, I can't open a bottle of Rubesco without those memories flooding back, in full Technicolor with stereophonic sound. You just don't get that effect with a glass of Pepsi or iced tea.
My report on the recently released Lungarotti 2001 Rubesco comes with a story: In a recent edition, I mentioned in passing that a bottle of the 2000 had been disappointing and possibly damaged. Someone at the U.S. importer, Paterno, caught this brief reference and fired off a bottle of the 2001, urging me to give it another try. While I don't usually accept free samples, this personal contact seemed more sociable than commercial, so I made an exception, uncorked it and tried it. I'm pleased to report that this bottle was fine ... and so were the memories.
Today's second tasting, also an Italian-style Sangiovese, incorporates a few memories of its own: The non-vintage Mosby "Lucca" is 100 percent Sangiovese, a blend of Tuscan fruit and California personality, from a winery in Buellton, Calif., a village featured in the movie Sideways, which coincidentally won Golden Globe awards (best movie-comedy, and best screenplay) last night. It has been my pleasure to visit Mosby on a couple of occasions, and again, I can't open a bottle of this producer's wine without seeing its Central Coast setting and friendly faces in my mind's eye. And for me, this can't help but enhance the wine.
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Lungarotti 2001 "Rubesco" Rosso di Torgiano ($14.99)
This is a very dark, garnet-color wine, a blend of Sangiovese and Canailo grapes, showing full, almost grapey aromas of black plums and spice. Juicy and bright, simple but fresh black-fruit flavors and crisp acidity follow the nose in a good, old-country-style table wine, pretty much the way I remember Rubesco from a long time back. U.S. importer: Paterno Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. (Jan. 13, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Like the Chianti that it somewhat resembles, Rubesco is food-friendly and compatible with a range of fare, from stereotypical red-sauced Italian-American classics to our choice, free-range chicken fricaseed with lots of green peppers and onions.
VALUE: Appropriate at this mid-teens price, which has held steady in this market since at least the 1997 vintage.
WHEN TO DRINK: It's tart and fruity, and most enjoyable while that juicy fruit is fresh. It should hold for several years on the wine rack or in the cellar, but I'd recommend enjoying it in the next year or two before it begins to fade.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
The California Wine Club: Treat Yourself!
Why not start the new year with a gift just for you? Since 1990 The California Wine Club has been introducing wine enthusiasts to California's best "micro-wineries." In fact, The California Wine Club is America's only wine service featuring real, working, smaller, family-owned wineries. Club owners Bruce and Pam Boring hand select every wine featured and every wine is 100 percent guaranteed.
Each month includes two bottles of award-winning wine and informative 12-page magazine, Uncorked. Uncorked offers an up-close and personal look at the family behind the wines, wine luminary interviews, recipes, fun facts and much more. There are no joining fees and you can cancel anytime! Just $32.95/month plus shipping.
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Mosby non-vintage "Lucca" Vino Rosso di Santa Barbara California Red Wine ($10)
Clear, dark garnet in color, this wine offers pleasant cherry and spice and fragrant black-pepper aromas, appetizing and fresh. Full, juicy black-fruit flavors are shaped by lemon-squirt acidity, structured and food-friendly. Made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes, it's more "Chianti-like" on the palate than the nose. (Jan. 9, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a hearty Northern Italian-style beef-and-pork meatloaf from Marcella Hazan, "Polpettone di manzo e maile con i funghi."
VALUE: An impressive value at the winery price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not intended for cellaring and best drunk up fresh, but should hold for a couple of years after purchase.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
To browse Mosby's wines and find online vendors on Wine-Searcher.com, click:
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
How much do you exercise?
The new update of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans has cautiously endorsed the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. It was much less restrained in its stern admonition that Americans really need more exercise.
This is reasonable advice, doubly so for those of us who particularly enjoy good things to eat and drink. But for most of us, it's not easy to follow. Do wine enthusiasts take exercise seriously? For this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, we invite you to disclose your own regimen - whether you live in the U.S. or anywhere around the world - as we ask, "how much do you exercise?
To cast your ballot, click to the Voting Booth,
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Guide to Italian Wines: Ten Memorable Italians
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:
U.S. Dietary Guidelines and wine (Jan. 14, 2004)
Port, not Port (Jan. 12, 2004)
Wine pairing tip: Match likes with likes (Jan. 10, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Oven "fried" chicken (Jan. 13, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Jan. 17, 2005