Friday, July 17, 2009

Recent Pleasures

I've been working on four articles lately, so I've been a bit overwhelmed. I need a bit of a break, so this post will be a light one- just a few words about some wines I've enjoyed lately.

Cline Cellars in Sonoma has an unusual mix of wines available; instead of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay (what I like to call the vanilla, choolate and strawberry of the wine industry - put them in any order you wish), they feature offerings such as Pinot Gris, Viognier, Mourvedre and some wonderful old vine Zinfandels from Contra Costa County.

Two summertime wines I tried from them recently that offer great pleasure are the 2008 Marsanne/Rousanne and the 2008 Mourvedre Rosé. The Marsanne/Rousanne is a particularly delightful wine with exotic aromas of lime, orange peel, apricot and papaya (no oak- thank you!) and it's got nice acidity which gives this wine a freshness that makes it appealing on its own or with a variety of dishes from chicken salad to Oriental cuisine. There are a lot of BYOB Thai restaurants in my hometown of Chicago (and probably a few where you live as well); this would be perfect for an occasion like this!

The rosé is one of my favorites I've had from California in some time; it's medium-full, dry and has good depth of fruit. You'll find the usual cherry and strawberry fruit flavors along with a touch of watermelon. I'd love this with salmon or perhaps as a contrast to grilled chicken. Both of these offerings from Cline retail for $16 and are ideal summertime wines.

A different type of summertime wine is the 2007 Colle Massari "Melacce," a white wine made entirely from the Vermentino grape. This variety is grown primarily in Sardinia and Tuscany; this particular example is from the Montecucco area near Montalcino in south central Tuscany. It's a lovely dry white with no oak and aromas of red apple, quince and even a touch of sweet pea. 2007 was a superb vintage and this wine still has a lot of freshness. This is ideal with most seafood, especially shellfish, but would also work well with risotto. At $21, this is a wonderful value. 

Finally from South Africa comes the 2008 Sauvignon Republic Sauvignon Blanc. This wine project, headed by a few friends in northern California (including Chef John Ash and winemaker John Buechsenstein) produces three different Sauvignon Blancs each year from various sites around the world; these are from Russian River Valley in Sonoma, Marlborough from New Zealand and this one from Stellenbosch from South Africa. (They have recently added another Sauvignon Blanc from Potter Valley in Mendocino County.)

The South African bottling is my favorite of the 2008s from this producer. It's got beautiful aromas of gooseberry (classic for cool climate Sauvignon Blancs), lime and yellow pepper; it's medium-full, delicious and quite rich in the finish with excellent acidity. This is a wonderful example of a Sauvignon Blanc that combines pure varietal fruit with just the right touch of herbal characteristics. I can think of dozens of food pairings for this, from grilled shrimp to ceviché to mussels in their own broth. Best of all, this is a great value at $18!

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