It seems everyone I know received a gift from their co-workers this week. Or from their kids – perhaps very appropriate given this Mother’s Day weekend. Sadly, this generosity is of the viral nature, and I don’t mean the sharing of amusing online ads. I mean the springtime cold – a miserable half-dead existence marked by an endless trail of tissues, loss of sleep, red noses, body aches and thinking at half speed.
Modern medicine provides little relief and no cure. Over the years I’ve formed the opinion that the shortest path to recovery is a few good bowls of ‘Bubby-cillin" – home-made chicken soup.
What does this have to do with wine? In my book, all paths lead to wine. You see, whenever I think of colds, I’m reminded of a Jewish friend I had in the sixth grade. He was the source of tremendous fascination to this goyum, and taught me some truly fun Yiddish phrases that sixth-grade boys found milk-through-the-nose amusing.
Whenever he had a cold, his Grandma would send him to school with a thermos of Bubby-cillin – something he loved, and which always tempted the rest of our table with its smell. Up until then all I’d known of chicken soup was a can of Campbell’s, and while it’s a fine dish for colds, it simply doesn’t have the curative powers imbued in Bubby-cillin. (Note to self, scratch Campbell’s off your list of potential sponsors)
I once asked my friend to bring the recipe from home so my mom could make it. As he did with all of my naive but sincere questions about his family, he patiently explained that his Bubby used no recipes for anything she cooked, "she just tastes her cooking after each step and knows what it needs next." As if I’d just been informed that Santa didn’t exist, this was an unbelievable revelation for a kid from a recipe-only household. It still is.
Jump ahead to March, 2006, inside the brand new tasting room for Costa De Oro Vineyards in Santa Maria. In this attractive new building, surrounded by the Burk family’s strawberry fields outside and bushels of fresh produce inside, I was evaluating wines for our wine club panel. Gary Burk is the winemaker, and he hosted the tasting. I asked my usual battery of questions about the finished wine – it’s pH, TA, maceration time, etc. – and after a series of "I’m not sure" answers, Gary (one of the most polite individuals in the wine world) said "You know, there are some very good winemakers who make wine by the numbers, but I’m just not one of them. I remember tasting wines once with the late great Mike Bonaccorsi, when he discovered one he absolutley loved – he couldn’t rest until he’d gotten the lab reports, he even wrote them down in a book so he could run some trials with his own wine. I’m just not like that, I simply know the sort of wine I’m after, and don’t interfere much with the process." And there you have it – Pinot-cillin.
This from a man who insists on harvesting his vines in eight separate passes, each taking only the most perfect of fruit. But then, that WOULD be the approach taken by an owner who came to the wine world via agriculture, and who konws the value of stewardship of the land.
Costa De Oro – 2003 Pinot Noir, Gold Coast Vineyard, $27.25 – this unfiltered wine (always a plus in our book!) shows bright fruit flavors that are its most memorable feature. They bring to mind an adult version of the sour cherry candies of our youth. This wine is more complex and satisfying than our sugary memories but still features those same bright flavors. And since these flavors predominate, you’ll find none of the stewed fruit nuance found in some Pinot.
Costa De Oro – 2002 Pinot Noir, "Oro Rojo", $40 – First, a note about the label on this reserve wine. I believe the only reason there is any left is that the label, in all of it pinkritude, simply doesn’t say “this is a super-premium, award-winning, $40 pinot!!” Gary must have agreed, as he changed the label in 2003 (below), which is also a great discovery. In fact, we tasted the freshly-labeled 2003 next to this wine, and initial impressions favored the 2003. At first, it seemed friendlier, rounder, more come-hither.
But as our tasting ended and dinner began – grilled turkey thighs, potatoes, and fresh green beans – the 2002 was gone first, a fool-proof consensus. There is something alluring about this wine, give it an hour in the glass and a great meal and watch the layers develop. I asked Gary about this feature and loved his response, “Yeah, this wine is like Isabella Rossellini at a party with beautiful people – at first you’re attracted to the flawlessly sculpted beauties, but as the night wears on you are increasingly drawn to her soft-spoken intelligence, alluring accent and comfortable sensuality.” Only 150 cases produced.
Costa De Oro – 2003 Pinot Noir, "Oro Rojo", $40 – This wine shows a richer nose than the 2002 – look for slightly more toasty oak, black pepper, and bright cherry. On first taste, we preferred this wine to the 2002. Mouth-watering acidity, bright berry and cherry fruit, and subtle but pleasant oak spice. Also unfiltered, as is our preference. When pairing with food, lean towards the classic pinot foods – Game birds, roast chicken or turkey, Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au vin, mushroom anything. Only 150 cases produced!