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. [note: tasting extremely well in early
Sauvignon 2012 Napa Valley Amici,
founded in 1991, makes several
Cabernets, this being the basic one, but it is outstanding, with
intriguing black fruit flavors that will surely grow more complex and
aromatic with aging. Definitely one to cellar and enjoy from 2020-2025,
though some will love its youthful vigor and grip now.
Dry Creek Vyd
"The Mariner" 2012 Dry Creek Valley
A classic Bordeaux blend, well - balanced but rich and lively, with
blackberry, black currant and spicy oak flavors; consistently excellent
and can only improve but drinks
well now with roast or grilled lamb or beef.
Elizabeth Spencer 2012
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, though it's a bit chewy.
Tip: a nice gift for North Carolina wine lovers, since it is a
namesake for our esteemed Chapel Hill
author, Elizabeth Spencer.
Dragon's Tooth, Napa Valley
$60-70 That cool red dragon adorns this very toothsome red--a
blend of darks:
berry-ripe malbec (66%), petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon (20%
each). Lush, very succulent malbec, big but balanced. Great for grilled
or roast meats.
Franc 2013, 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 another excellent Cab
Franc, with ripe red currant flavors, excellent balance. Tasty 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!).
Syrah and Rhône
Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant
2011 Central Coast This
Rhône blend (37% mourvedre, 34% grenache, 20% syrah from
venerable vineyards along California's Central Coast is among the
winery's best, rich and deep, the earthy wild-berry flavors braced with
tannins that allow aging a good decade or beyond. Rather in the
style of such Catch it in the near
term, but definitely lay down a pair or so of bottles for 2020-2025.
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 more recent vintages 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 2012 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!
NOTE: If you're out in
the Russian River Valley, put Merry Edwards Winery on your list to
visit. Tastings are complimentary, and the winery is one of the
handsomest in Sonoma--not to mention the wines! Don't miss the
Sauvignon Blanc--possibly the best in America.
M.E.'s current 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot ($39), the winery's lightest , is rich
and luscious for drinking now, and I highly recommend it.
Outstanding Pinot Noirs:
Trione 2012 Pinot
Noir RRV Rich and dark with plush
contours that make it exciting to drink now but with the depth and
balance to develop complexity with 3 to 5 years in
bottle, and should go a decade or more.
Amici 2013 Pinot
Noir Russian River Valley $35 Nice
concentration of black cherry plus hints of raspberry make this Pinot
quite enticing now--but a few years in bottle should broaden and deepen
the complexity; very well-balanced, excellent length.
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 2013 Pinot Noir,
Russian River Valley ($28-30).
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.
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.
Hill 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, $40, an excellent buy. Rich dark
cherry and ripe berry fruit, deep and well-balanced. Drinking well now
but can only improve in complexity of aroma and flavor.
Russian Hill Tara
2012. This is my favorite Pinot from Russian
Hill--consistently intriguing for its spicy fruit and excellent
balance. I loved the 2010, quite beautiful, deeper and more structured
the other wines of the vintage. Expect the 2012 to exhibit similarly
intense dark cherry and ripe berry fruit with a nice
grip of tannin and oak. Try it now with roast duck or
grilled duck breast.