I love Autumn (Fall colors & Football!), but I hate at least three things whose approaches are heralded by the falling leaves:
- Raking those falling leaves
- Thanksgiving / Holiday food & wine pairings
- The Dallas Cowboys
Since I find numbers one and three above so unpalatable, let’s talk about number two.
Holiday wine pairings are one of those things that prove immensely divisive among wine geeks. On the one hand, when you enjoy a subject passionately you want to help people when they ask you about it. On the other hand, the topic is not only a culinary landmine (see “bottom lines” below), but it’s treatment is boringly repetitive year-after-year (though some year-on-year takes are done well); the attempts to make it interesting can backfire so badly that the authors attempts at making the subject creative end up looking more like obligatory acts of desperation.
The bottom lines with holiday wine pairings are a) your preference trumps any recommendations and so-called rules, and b) no one wine, variety, or style will match up perfectly with all of the tasty but crazy epicurean sh*t that will appear on your tables during the holiday season, because there’s simple too much variety.
Still, many folks just want picks to minimize their food-pairing risk during these adventures culinary months, an approach which I can respect. So I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret for maximizing your chances of holiday wine-and-food pairing success…
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Four badges to hand out from the latest in the flow of near-never-ending samples coming to my door, so let’s get to it!
[ By the way, the reference to the never-ending sample stream is, quite honestly, not meant as a vehicle of self-aggrandizement in any way, but is in fact more a lament of both how woefully (and unprofessionally) behind I am in my tastings, and in the volume of technically-correct-but-fairly-uninspiring wines of which that stream is comprised! ]
2009 Paso a Paso Tempranillo (La Mancha): Plumy, floral & spicy proof that La Mancha is getting its fine wine shiz together. A bargain. $11 B
It’s such a pleasure to enjoy a bold, uncomplicated and fun wine like this, one that seems tailor-made for a plateful of hearty paella or chorizo. Spain’s La Mancha region is mostly known for two famously insipid characters: 1) Don Quixote, and 2) the innocuous wines made from the Airén grape variety (though to be fair, not all of them suck). La Mancha’s reputation for cheap Airén can mean big bargains for the better wines made in the region, and Paso a Paso is a great example.
2004 Azul Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec (Mendoza): A tad heavy-handed but U might like that from someone this complex, dark & sexy. $32 B+
During an on-line / twitter tasting hosted by Vines of Mendoza, the word “sexy” appeared in description of this wine about ten million times (give or take a few million). At least, it seemed that way to me. Heed these words: when enough women say that a wine is sexy, then the only logical conclusion is that it is, in fact, sexy.
2009 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): NZ passion fruit comes to Napa, with a French twist of lemon & herbs. In a word: Fantastic. $20 B+
Last year, Opus One winemaker Mike Silacci dared me to try Toquade after I went on a tirade about how too much Napa Sauv Blanc tastes like Chardonnay on a diet. I’m grateful to Mike for that introduction, and I’m happy to report that Toquade winemaker Christine Barbe is still on top of her game – in fact, the 2009 might be better than her `08 and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the insane 2010 vintage.
2006 Hesperian Harry’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Go west young man, & find tannin chains long as the Alaskan pipeline. $60 A-
Christine sent along some of Hesperian’s wines to me, and I suppose I’m now also grateful to her for this introduction. It’s not that smoothness is the only thing going for Hesperian’s Coombsville Cab – far from it; it’s packed with currants and aromatic, woody spiciness. It’s just that the smoothness is the thing that will stick with you the most, the silkiness of it – it’s simply drinking beautifully right now.
Speaking of CA wines, if you feel that CA is getting a lot of positive coverage here, it’s probably not your imagination…
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