What's in My Glass
Curious what I am drinking at the moment? Below is a seasonal list of 10 wines, some of which will graduate over time to a list of my perennial favorites. Though many of these wines are from the various appellations of the southwest of France, my favorite stomping ground, you'll also find choices from all over the world. Vintage years are much less important on the seasonal list with a caveat or two: rosés shouldn't be older than two or three years, and, for unoaked dry whites in this price range, five years is often pushing it. While my taste guides the choices here, I do try to pick wines generally available throughout the US, and wines that suit a reasonable purse. As you will gather quite quickly, I prefer wines a bit off the map, sometimes of unusual grapes unique to a particular region, and always wines that are made to accompany food. I prefer such wines for both esthetic and cultural reasons; they often represent appellations under siege and whose wines are therefore in need of our support if they are to continue to be made. As for the tasting notes, I must admit that I'm just not that fond of reams of prose that attempt to sum it what is, after all, more an experience for the eye, nose, and mouth. My notes are thus brief, and will almost always include as much on what to eat with the wine. I'd prefer you come to your own conclusions.
Las Rocas de San Alejandro, 2003
From the Aragon region of northeastern Spain, this garnacha (Grenache) is full-bodied, intense, and quite thick with dark fruit and earthier flavors. Wild boar, venison, duck and other game birds and heartier fall fare would go well with it. At 14% alcohol, it should warm the blood at the same time. $12.
Chateau Flaugergues, 2003
An unfiltered Grenache/syrah/ mourvedre blend from Languedoc, this is a hot country wine with that touch of licorice and spice so characteristic of this part of France. Pork medallions in a fall fruit sauce, any red meat cooked with apples and onions, anything with truffles white or black, this is a good match. $14.
Clos de Gamot, 1995
This 100% malbec from Cahors is, at ten years of age, just coming into its own. Surprisingly delicate and fine, with echoes of black raspberry and currants, this is a good wine for more delicately sauced meats, such as veal, sweetbreads, or lamb. Available in the northeast and Midwest, $18-$24.
Castello Montaúto, 2002
Made from the Italian white wine grape Vernaccia near the Tuscan village of San Gimignano, this wine, with lots of bright fruit and a nose of sweetness not reflected on the palate, lends itself to either end of the meal but probably not the middle. Oysters, poached salmon or trout (but no cream sauce!) come to mind. That or to accompany a fruit tart, galette de noix, pastis, or an apricot/peach clafouti for dessert. $13.
Trimbach Pinot Blanc, 2003
Pinot blanc is one of the traditional grapes of Alsace in northwestern France, and one sip of this wine will tell you why. This is a delicate flower of a wine, light but with what the French call "gras", or fat. Unlike a sere Chablis, pinot blanc has a richness, a complexity that emerges in the long duration of the flavors on your palate. Trimbach is a good house, respectable, making good wine year on year, but still within the reach of most pockets. Try their pinot noir for a completely different experience of that grape. $17.
Would you like to liven up a book group, party, indeed, any gathering of friends, family, or business colleagues? You bring the group, weâ€™ll bring the wine, the glasses, and, above all, the knowledge. With long-time aficionado, wineseller, and barman Jeff Rowe, formerly of The Clown in Portland and Provisions in Brunswick, I will come to your private setting anywhere in the midcoast Maine area, from Portland to Damariscotta.
Jeff and I are offering a number of tasting presentations in which we cover both the basics of winetasting and the specific characteristics of some of the wine worldâ€™s most interesting regions. For example, we offer an evening tasting some of the wines I write about in my books, and my travels and research enable us to turn our focus to other French regions, as well. As Jeffâ€™s particular expertise runs to Italian and Spanish wines, we also offer presentations that allow a glimpse into the remarkable range of wines that are found in the heart of the Mediterranean. Finally, we both have an interest in West Coast wines, which, given the tradition of single varietal wines in American winemaking, enables us to offer presentations that focus on the wines made from a single grape, such as chardonnay or pinot noir or Zinfandel.
How does it work? Drop us an e-mail, and weâ€™ll begin by establishing your interests and your budget. Minimum group size is ten people with a maximum of thirty. Our fees vary slightly with the length of the event and the number of wines, but are based on $25/person for a two-hour event involving five wines. The wine, provided by our suppliers, is additional, its cost determined by your selections. (To give you an example on the moderate end, the wine cost for a recent evening with 28 guests tasting one sparkling wine, one white, two reds, and a dessert wine, all from southern France, was less than $17/person, glassware and wine linens included.)
If youâ€™re interested in serving food we can advise on menus that would work well with the wines and suggest area caterers, as well.
Michael Sanders, email@example.com
Jeff Rowe, firstname.lastname@example.org
â€śIn like a lion, out like a lamb.â€ť
With weather as changeable as weâ€™ve had here in Maine, itâ€™s hard to know what youâ€™ll want to eat or drink one day to the next. We may be grilling that lamb under a hot sun one day and huddling around the fire inside the next with an Irish stew on the stove. This list provides for both extremes, with a bias towards warm weather wines. When the sun does come out, chances are youâ€™ll likely be thinking more on the lighter side, and not just roses and whites but even reds lighter in body, color, and alcohol. This is also a time of year to throw orthodoxy to the winds and to discover not only new wines, but new ways of drinking them.
A few notes: on chardonnays: these days, one finds in general three styles of this much-abused white grape on the marketâ€”the sweetish, oaky Californians, the bone dry, mineraly Chablis and white Bordeaux, and then those from New Zealand and Australia which can remind you of a tropical fruit drink rather than a wine. The Californians have gone so far that now the counterrevolution is here, seen in those bottles proudly proclaiming â€śUnoakedâ€ť right on the front label. Do try them, particularly alongside their French cousins, to get a taste of what this wine might have tasted like in your grandfatherâ€™s time.
On rosĂ©s: because these are usually delicate creatures, always buy them young, not more than two years old at most. You can tell when a rose has been either poorly made or poorly stored (or is just too old) because it will have a slight orange tinge to it, signaling that it has become oxidized and is already falling apart. Also, roses should not be heavy in alcohol, 13Â° a rarity, and usually from very hot regions like the Rhone.
2004 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay
13Â° alc. A good introduction to the more austere, drier French style, from a reliable producer at a reasonable price. $11.
2004 Lalande Chardonnnay, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne
12Â° alc. This unoaked southwestern French chard runs a middle ground between two extremes, lots of fruit but with a dry finish and a complexity lending itself to many simpler summer fish and chicken dishes. $11.
2005 Casal Garcia Vinho Verde â€śBrancoâ€ť
9.5Â°-10.5Â° alc. Vinho Verde is slightly effervescent, very light on the tongue and palate, a Portuguese sipping wine to which you can add a slice of lemon or lime, dilute with fruit juice, even drink very cold over ice. Itâ€™s a good aperitif, but too light to stand up to most food except, perhaps, fruit soups or desserts. $5-$6.