Roast Lamb or Beef:
Many reds work with beef and lamb but fine Cabernet Sauvignon is a
noble match. There are some excellent ones out there
Jordan 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander
Valley. Silky already, rich, elegant and impeccably
balanced--it's easy to see why Jordan Cabernet holds the #1 spot on
restaurant wine lists. Winemake Rob Davis knows how to select the right
lots to produce consistently flavorful, complex, ageworthy Cabernets
that are also accessible in their early years. Drink now ... or
cellar till 2022.
Dry Creek Vyd "The Mariner" 2011 Dry Creek Valley
A classic Bordeaux blend, well - balanced but rich and lively, with
blackberry, currant and spicy oak flavors; can only improve but drinks
well now with roast lamb or beef. note: The Mariner 2010
Elizabeth Spencer 2011
Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley. Classic
Napa Valley Cabernet, with plum, black berries and cedary flavor notes,
well-structured to age a decade or more but can accompany roast meats
or game now. Tip: a nice gift for the North Carolina wine lover
on your holiday list, since it is a namesake for our esteemed Chapel Hill author, Elizabeth Spencer.
2010 Dragon's Tooth, Napa Valley
$60-70 That cool red dragon adorns this very toothsome red--a
blend of darks:
berry-ripe malbec (60%), petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon (20%
each). Lush, juicy, balanced. Great for winter grilling or roast meats.
Franc 2012, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma) $27. Biltmore Estate
in Asheville, North Carolina, is making some outstanding wines, some
sourced from grapes grown in California. This is an excellent Cab
Franc, with ripe red currant flavors, excellent balance. A tasty red
now, but with the structure to improve with a few years on it. A
bit more intense is Biltmore's The
Hunt 2012, Sonoma County,$39.99. A blend of 40 percent
cabernet sauvignon, 35 cabernet franc, 25 merlot, aromas of ripe
berries, oak and vanilla, flavors of black cherry, this solid red can
handle hearty fare, such as roast meats, venison, duck confit now, but
will develop wonderful complexity and rich texture with some years of
bottle age--say, in 2020-2022 (it will be here before you know it!).
Noir. A frequent pick with many of my favorite dishes....because
its spicy, ruby-rich flavors so nicely complement roast fowl, game
(especially duck, goose, wild turkey)
love the various incarnations of Pinot Noir,
from the taut well-structured wines of France's Burgundy regions -- the
Côte de Nuits (richer, denser
appellations such as Nuits-St. Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin and
Vosne-Romanée) and the Côte
de Beaune (the lighter but elegant Volnays, Beaunes) and Côtes Chalonnaise (earthier
but simpler Givry, Mercurey), to the elegance and balance of Oregon Pinots, to the extravagant
fruit of Sonoma's Russian River Valley
and the engaging flavors of Pinots from California's central coast
(Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Santa Lucia Highlands).
New Zealand is also producing intriguing Pinots: notably Felton
Road in Otago. They age extremely well -- recently enjoyed the rich and
velvety 2009, but it has several years ahead of it, at least to
2018. Cellar the 2012 for similar enjoyment.
I think one of the things Pinot
Noir/Burgundy fanatics love about the variety is a certain sauvage character--a kind of
wildness of flavor that sometimes expresses as earthiness...or wild
rose...wild berries rather than cultivated...a certain woodsiness (not woodiness)--that is,
forest floor, woodlands after rain. When pinot noir is allowed to get
too ripe this "wild" character is obliterated and the result is a ripe
fruit bomb that could be almost any variety.
a Pinot/Burgundy fanatic, so I
love this flavor characteristic. It's showing now in the Merry Edwards 2010 Klopp Ranch, a
wine of dense, brambly, wild cherry fruit. When I get that
in RR Pinots, I'm thrilled, captivated--wish that I had more bottles
because -- though very drinkable now, with the likes of grilled duck
breast, roast loin of pork, even roast leg of lamb -- I think it will
be even better with some bottle age (I recently tasted the 2007--nigh
on to perfect!). This one is beautifully balanced, the key to aging,
and likely will be even more interesting and intriguing from, say,
At dinner with friends recently we opened their bottle of Merry Edwards 2002 Windsor Garden Vyd--wow!
It was beautiful--aromatic, silky in texture, spicy flavors, smooth and
long. Oh, the delights of aging!
M.E.'s current 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot ($39), the winery's lightest , is rich
and luscious for drinking now, and I highly recommend it.
More Outstanding Pinot Noirs:
Gary Farrell 2012, Russian River Valley, Excellent
balance, very lush and rich now but I can attest that these
Pinots improve nicelhy with 3 or 4 years on them.
J Vineyards Misterra 2012, Russian
Small amounts of Pinot Meunier and Pinotage inform this deep,
svelte limited production red -- most likely found on high-end
restaurant wine lists. More widely available is J Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir,
Russian River Valley ($40).
Seductive Russian River fruit
envelops this Pinot as well--flavors of black raspberry and cherry in a
frame of ripe tannins, good acidity; good length.
Trione 2011 Pinot
Noir RRV Rich and dark with plush
contours that make it quite enticing to drink now but
well-balanced to develop complexity with 3 to 5 years more in
Rodney Strong 2013 Pinot
Noir Sonoma Coast Very young; big and
full-bodied; appealing spicy fruit with prominent acidity. A year
or so in bottle will round that off nicely, but it worked well recently
with a rich and somewhat fatty beef brisket.
If you are out
in in Sonoma, be sure to include the
Russian River Valley on your itinerary. Just out from Santa Rosa is Russian Hill Vineyards, a
wine estate that
commands a spectacular view of the eastern portion of the valley, with
vineyards stretching in all directions--a must-visit if you find
yourself in or near Santa Rosa.
Valley, $35. The
Pinot from both estate and
purchased grapes is a congenial and deliciously sippable red. If you
want to introduce someone to the appeal of Pinot Noir, this is the
place to start --a great choice for lighter meats, grilled porcini, or
wild mushroom pastas. Russian
Hill 2011 Estate, $40, another excellent buy.
Russian Hill Tara
2010. This is my favorite Pinot from Russian
Hill--consistently intriguing for its spicy fruit and excellent
balance. The 2010 is quite beautiful, deeper and more structured than
the other wines--intense dark cherry and ripe berry fruit with a nice
grip of tannin and oak that accents but doesn't intrude. Probably even
lovelier in two to three years, but try it now with roast duck or
grilled duck breast. The 2011 Tara is out now.