A true American Red Wine!
What is the best American red wine? Is it the noble Cabernet Sauvignon or its sometimes more prestigious cousin, "the red Meritage?" Could be the wild and crazy Zinfandel with its unrelenting power? Some even think that Syrah could be America's savior? In a recent trip to the promise land (Napa Valley), I caught up with winemaker David Swift Phinney, maker of "The Prisoner." Made from a blend of 46% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono and 1% Grenache, this is a red wine like no other.
Long on berried fruit but not garish or over-the-top, this wine held my palate hostage as it exploded with a tremendous rush of fruit before settling into a peaceful place somewhere in my palate. David beamed with pride as I took notes and tried to reach for descriptors. Was it the cab? Or could it have been the Petite Sirah? How about that 2% Charbono? Which component varietal could have made such a difference as to reward me with such pleasure for the senses?
Well, needless to say, I really enjoyed the '08 Orin Swift Cellars "The Prisoner," and even though my palate was held captive, the experience freed me to not be so provencal with my wine thoughts. Phinney knows no boundaries and creates wines in his winemaking soul before they have actually become reality. The best thing about this blend from the cellar is that it is already in our stores ready for you to bring it home. You've got to get a hold this "stuff" it may change your impressions of the varietals he employed. In this case the time honored phrase, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" is totally appropriate.
A tasty cab for today!
On Friday (in two days from writing this week's BevMo! blog), I am putting on the most intense, awesome tasting I have ever done. I have gathered over 100 of California's most famed and heroic Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux blends and matched them with 19 other tasters to taste blind over for 4+ hours. Many of the wines will be tannic and hard to negotiate, yet my team of experienced tasters from a wide range of the wine industry, including writers, wine judges, bloggers, retailer buyers, sommeliers have agreed to tough it up and work through the wines as diligently as they can. "Why am I doing this? I am glad you asked. Not just because the holiday season will soon come upon us, but because I have to know how good these wines are. Granted, many of these wines rank amongst America's highest prized Cabernets and that I am pitting the best against the best, my real motive was to see how great my gang was. Who would last, the wines or the tasters? Most folks would be overwhelmed by the enormity of flights after flights of deep, dark, purple, black juice.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the royalty of red wine, while some imbibers fall prey to the spell of Pinot Noir (I have succumbed myself from time to time, just give a me a thimble full of Romanee-Conti anytime and I am putty in your hands), the varietal that stars in Bordeaux makes one of America's most popular wines. From California to Washington State, Cabernet Sauvignon still commands center stage. After completing this undertaking, I will have completed my most arduous chore of the year.
This past spring, I had tasted around 400 barrel samples from the 2009 Bordeaux harvest and after Friday, I will have finally put to bed most of my global, Cabernet notes. However, we cannot always taste for the future, because most of the wines will be years away from maturity. While the information is important and useful in building cellars and impressing bosses, most consumers would rather simply drink their wine now.
The '08 Challis Lane Cabernet Sauvignon is ready, now. Developed and produced by the BevMo! wine team, under the Vineyard Partners program, this wine as proven to be one of the company's most popular and successful wines. Perfect for the dinner table for most poultry or meat dishes, one of my favorite pairings of this wine is pate like the one in my photo from France. Give this wine a try, all you need is a corkscrew and people who enjoy wine without the need to talk about it. Our tasting will be arduous, your enjoyment will be easy!
Don't Forget the Blancs!
In recent years, movement towards white wine varietals such as Falanghina (from southern Italy), Albariño (known mostly from Galicia in Spain) and Grüner Veltliner (from Austria and a fav of sommeliers all over the wine world) has been relentless. In the hey-days of the short-lived Bacar Restaurant in San Francisco (once the home of my famous chef-brother, Arnold and my former assistant, now wine diva, Debbie Zachareas), it was common to slip downstairs in the wine bar/lounge area and enjoy a tasty glass of one of these white wines. Yet for all of the energy that has been spent in search of the perfect varietal that no one has heard of, Sauvignon Blanc still commands attention not to mention sales. Still firmly in place, far behind Chardonnay, in second place, this wine is nonetheless, a white wine of great importance. Just think of Haut-Brion, Pavilion Blanc and others that are simply magnificent wines- white or red that can send the palate into another dimension.
Now that I have your attention, one of the very finest white wines that I have enjoyed in recent months was the scintillating and pure '09 Hall Sauvignon Blanc. At a lunch with my sweet wife Alice and her pals in the St. Helena, Napa Valley, we enjoyed the wine's lush melon flavors, accented with hints of dried citrus and herbs. I knew our lunch at Farmstead would be good, but the wine made just that much better.
While Chardonnay will always drive the semi, Sauvignon Blanc deserves our attention as a superior, internationally gifted wine. While nifty, unheard of white wine varietals continue to be uncovered, I highly recommend that you return to a place that was already well established. Super premium Sauvignon Blancs has served us well since they made first real appearance in the mid to late 1970's, let us never forget this fine, old friend in the world of food and wine.