current and future pleasure:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Block 21 Alexander
Valley, $64. This beautiful Cabernet, with the
juicy blackberry flavors typical of Alex Valley Cabs, is drinking
superbly now, silky in texture, very smooth on the palate, a fine
companion to beef or lamb.
See more good Cabs below....
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.
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.
So here I was last night, on the patio--with just
that awesome view, a touch of autumn in the air...and the light on the
vineyards below, the sky taking on a rosy glow as the sun
sinks...tasting Russian Hill's current releases from the 2010
with owners Ellen Mack and Ed Schwartz.
First, the Patio
Pink, a truly dry rosé,
available only at the winery (another reason to go!); this one, 2012,
made from syrah, a blazing coral, highly versatile with a wide
diversity of foods.
Russian Hill Viognier
2012 Russian River $28. Appealing floral and peach
aromas, clean, fresh and luscious fruit, excellent acidity--one of the
best balanced Viogniers I've tasted.
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 2010 Pinot Noir
Sunnyview Vyd Russian River $60. Sunny indeed!
Sunnyview produces fruit of great warmth and richness--pour a glass,
sit back and bask in its delectable flavors of sun-drenched berries and
cherries. Would be fabulous with roast loin of pork, or veal shank.
Russian Hill Tara
2010, $54. 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.
Russian Hill Estate 2009,
$40. Very nicely evolved, but with plenty of fleshy ripe-berry
fruit. Think boysenberries, wild plums in a sweet ripeness balanced
with refreshing acidity. Drinking beautifully now.
Russian Hill 2008 Top Block
Syrah, Estate Vineyard. Five years on, this dark beauty
is lush and round, smooth as silk and delicious to drink, with spicy
pepper accents and a long pleasing aftertaste. Grill up some lamb, or a
steak with this one.
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 Russian
River Pinot, the winery's so-called entry-level Pinot
($45). 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!
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
Valley, $50. An outstanding Cabernet-rich,
beautifully structured. I’ve admired the balance
and suppleness of Jordan
Cabernet Sauvignon since the first vintage of
Jordan ages their Cabernet, releasing it in its fourth year—it is often
harmonious it will complement a grilled steak or rack of lamb at that
age, and can do so at any age. A recent retrospective tasting at the
revealed that in several vintage, but spectacularly in the Jordan
peak at the moment and likely to hold there for several more
years. The 2009 reminds me of that 2001--better lay some away
(but try one first!).
Captûre Harmonie Red
2009, Pine Mountain (Sonoma) $130-150. This young winery on a
hilltop in northern Sonoma is producing some impressive wines,
particular the Cabernet-dominant 2009 Harmonie--dark and rich but very
aromatic, with alluring blackberry fruit and good acidity which meld
into a long satisfying finish. Drinks well now but will definitely
2010 Merlot, Napa Valley,
$50 One of the classic (and classy) Merlots, with ripe
black fruits and berries in flavor; lush texture, long in finish, it's
pretty intense for current drinking but it should evolve beautifully,
as Shafer Merlots are wont to do.
Trefethen 2010 Merlot,
Napa Valley, $38. An excellent cool-climate Merlot, redolent of dark
berries, a hint of chocolate and spicy oak; very well-balanced but a
little tauter than '09 at this stage (lay away some for 2016-18). Great
with leg of lamb.
Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de
Thalabert 2009, $45-50 Take note: this wine
at around $35 a bottle. It can be found but the price has gone up--and
no wonder. I recently tasted it when I was the northern
Rhône--it's superb: gorgeously dark and rich, teeming with ripe
black fruit flavors (blackberry, plum), with a hint of black pepper in
the aroma. Pair this with grilled steak of butterflied leg of
Crozes-Hermitage 2010 Les Jalets, succulent, nicely built,
balance and depth, well worth buying now to drink.....and to age, at
least 5 years. Recently had the 2005
with roast lamb the other night--excellent, with tannins mellowed but
still plenty of vibrant fruit. A hit at the table!