30 Second Wine Advisor: Food-friendly and affordable

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The California Wine Club: Sizzling Summer Sale Going on Now
The California Wine Club is clearing out their cellar, and that means sizzling savings for you.
Sizzling Summer Sale

Food-friendly and affordable

What makes a wine "food-friendly"? In an age when blockbuster wines, soft and fat with fruit and oak and high-octane alcohol earn critical praise, I'm almost tempted to assert that the wines best suited for the dinner table are those that receive scores well under 90 from the Usual Suspects.

When I'm enjoying wine with food, give me a wine that introduces itself with the velvet glove, not the iron fist: Moderate in its alcohol, elegant in its fruit; shaped by the natural fresh-fruit acidity that cleanses, the subtle flavors that join what's on my plate in a delicious synergy that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

And when don't I enjoy wine with food? A pleasurable part of human existence for the last 8,000 years or so, wine has evolved as a natural companion to food, a partner in a close, slow-music dance.

It's only in recent times - perhaps since the rise of the name-brand wine critic - that the notion of wine-as-cocktail, consumed on its own without reference to food, has become socially acceptable.

I'm sticking with wine and food as inseparable partners, though, and that's why you'll rarely see a tasting report here that doesn't mention the food I chose to match, often along with more general recommendations.

Today's tastings feature a quick look at two wines that easily passed the "food-friendly" test, and better yet, both are available at relatively modest prices in the $10 range. You'll find my reports below.

Today's Sponsor

California Wine Club

The California Wine Club: Sizzling Summer Sale Going on Now

Sizzling Summer Sale

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Today's Tasting Report

Crios de Susanna Balbo 2008 Torrontes I.P. Salta ($12.99)


This crisp, food-friendly Argentine white is a very pale straw color with glints of gold. Citrus scents offer an appetizing blend of juicy white grapefruit, white pepper and grapefruit rind. Tart white grapefruit carries over in the flavor, medium-bodied and nicely shaped by snappy acidity, carrying into a long, clean finish. A sturdy modern screwcap ensures fresh, clean wine in the bottle. U.S. importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, Calif. (April 30, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: Excellent with shrimp and not bad with deviled eggs on an Easter buffet. For more traditional table service, consider lighter-style chicken or pork dishes or freshwater fish.

VALUE: Competitive with higher-end Sauvignon Blanc, which it somewhat resembles, it's entirely fair at this bottom-of-the-teens price. Shop around, however, as it turns up for as little as $10 in many markets.

Torrontes = "Tor-RON-tays" with a double-trilled Spanish "rr" if you dare.

WEB LINK: The winery Website offers your choice of English or Spanish. Click the name of your preferred language on the entry page. You'll find the importer's page about Crios here.

Find vendors and compare prices for Crios Torrontes on Wine-Searcher.com.

Mark West 2008 California Pinot Noir ($9.99)

Mark West

Ruby in color, dark but clear. Plummy fruit aromas are inviting, simple but fresh. Fruit-forward but not obnoxiously so on the palate, fresh red plums and cherries, medium-bodied and dry, structured with fresh-fruit acidity. Tasty if a bit on the simple side; it may be unreasonable to expect complexity in a $10 Pinot, but it's fine at the table, and the 13.8% alcohol, an almost moderate level by today's standards, doesn't interfere with dining pleasure. (April 30, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: As any balanced Pinot Noir should be, it's versatile at the dinner table, an easy match with a range of fare from beef to wild salmon. At a casual Easter brunch, it served well with grilled chicken and was outstanding with rare Kentucky bison burgers.

VALUE: Pinot Noir grapes are in such demand that I'm wary of low-end price tags and don't expect much at the $10 price point. This one, however, exceeds expectations. Good value, and in many markets it's available for a buck or two less.

WEB LINK: The winery Website is high-tech and slick, more for advertising than education, but it's an enjoyable online show.

Check prices and find vendors for Mark West California Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher.com.

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To contact me by E-mail, write wine@wineloverspage.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

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