In launching a business, one gives up certain things. A salary. Family time. Sleep. This latter sacrifice caught up with me recenty. I’d had one of those “up at 5:30, drive 350 miles, attend meetings” sort of days. And by late afternoon, perusing a wine publication at the local coffee shop seemed just the thing.
But staying awake was a struggle. I read a frustrating article in silent disagreement with the curmudgeonly writer. He seemed threatened by our evolving industry – “Why buy Syrah when you can get Cabernet for the same price?” he queried, followed by inflexible statements such as “Napa is the only source for great Cabernet” and “Those who shun Chardonnay forget it’s simply the greatest white wine on earth!” His hubris grew irksome. I closed my eyes in frustration. They were closed just for a moment, and then… BANG!
My head bounced on the table.
This tends to wake me up. And while I don’t recommend it as a regular form of inspiration, this whack on my head did bring a certain clarity to my silent debate…
You see, Cabernet and Chardonnay were my favorites when I first discovered wine 25 years ago. During that same time, Hitchcock has been my favorite movie director. But if I only watch Hitchcock I never discover Tarantino, Coppola, Mamet or Soderberg… or Alexander Payne!
Our industry is strengthened by the expanding interest in alternative grape varietals and growing regions. Variety makes wine fun – a never-ending maze with rewards at every turn. In the vernacular, “Strange is good.”
Still, every once in a while there is nothing like the comfort of an old favorite. Like stepping into an old pair of shoes. Tonight we have dinner with some good friends, and I think we’ll take one of these featured wines and break out our well-worn copy of Rear Window.
Chardonnays: Three very different styles – no oak, a little oak, or a lot – try all three and find your own style:
Kalyra, 2003 Barrel Select Reserve Chardonnay – Crisp and un-oaked in the Chablis style. Long sought for their wines by pilgrims on the Santa Ynez wine trail, Kalyra grew even more popular after their appearance in the movie Sideways – theirs was the tasting room where Jack and Miles met Stephanie. $22.00
Fess Parker, 2003 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay – Stony and crisp with just a light touch of oak. Long known as a pioneer who sought his own path, Parker eschewed heavily oaked Chardonnay before it was popular. Here he provides a most pleasurable food wine at a most reasonable price – $18.00
Chateau Burbank, 2002 Chardonnay – Twenty years ago, when critics decided the current style of Chardonnay didn’t pair well with food, they began to favor lighter-bodied wines. Winemaker Tom Shudic bemoaned the loss of big & brawny & buttery Chards, and began producing a wine in his favored style. Like a time machine back to the 70’s! $22.50
Cabernets – A range of climates, from the cool-ish Central Coast to that other wine valley up north (yes, Napa)
Benjamin Silver, 2001 Casa Blanca Vineyard – Benjamin has been identified as one of the Central Coast winemakers to watch. A comer, who produces a nice Cab dominated by dark fruits, hints of tar, pie spices and wisps of licorice. Was $30, on sale for $27.00
Astralee Terra’s 2001 "Arcturus" – Bordeaux Blend – although technically a blend, this wine is Cabernet-dominant. And delicious. From a producer with high-altitude fruit from the famed Stags Leap district, where grapes benefit from long hang time without reaching excessive ripeness (read "sugars"). As a result, this wine exhibits a blend of boldness and elegance, and is an ideal cellar wine. $39.00
Buttonwood Farms Winery, 2000 Estate Vineyard Cabernet Just what one looks for in a cab – dark stone fruits, pepper, soft tannins and toasty oak. The gourmets at Buttonwood suggest you try their Cab with a New York roast rubbed with crushed coffee beans, freshly ground pepper, salt, and a bit of cinnamon. $24.00
Remind me now, does Grace Kelly go better with Chardonnay or Cabernet?
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Quote of the Day: “Home is where my wine is”