Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's All In The Family

If you're bothering to read a wine blog then there's a good chance you've anointed your lips with a wine from the Wagner family at some point. Caymus Cab, Conundrum, Mer Soleil, Belle Glos, these all hale from the same gene pool. A multi-generational passion, this Napa family has walked the walk. Patriarch Chuck is making a rare journey around the country reminding us why their wines are special. His father Charlie and mother Lorna (Belle Glos) bought the original acres back in the forties. It's worth visiting the website and reading the history. This is the American melting pot at its best. Best of all, as Chuck talks about his wines and his family it's obvious how important it is to him. He even brought along bunches of grapes from his vineyards, clones 6 and 337. It was every wine nerd's dream seminar. And to close the deal he grows tomatoes worthy of making him an honorary Southerner. Thanks Chuck.

What about the wines? Caymus Cabernet and Cabernet Special Selection are high scoring, sought after, delectable, vibrant Cabernets that flaunt their Napa richness while reining it in with leather, tobacco and cedar like the Old World Cabs. Conundrum is a silky white blend that is sweet and not sweet at the same time. If you look hard enough on their website you can find out what grapes are in the mix. That's your homework. Belle Glos, named after Lorna, is dedicated to elegant Pinot Noir. And the Mer Soleil line is both buttered popcorn Chardonnay and the aptly named Mer Soleil Silver which is unoaked, in fact it's aged in concrete, and is crisply reminiscent of a fine Chablis. Every one of their wines is worthy of your time and hard-earned dollars.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Last of the Tomatoes with the Widow

Cooler nights are creeping in. But there's still time for porch sitting and a fresh, cool repast. This is when something sparkling alongside simple fare is the perfect usher into fall. Veuve Clicquot goes back a long way in this family. It was the wedding wine, the honeymoon wine in France, many years ago. It's often been a celebratory toast since. But it's seldom been for no reason. But then, can't you always come up with a reason?

This is the non-vintage orange-label Veuve so easily found. It tastes and smells of fresh biscuits and mock orange. It's clean, crisp, savory with almost a hint of sesame. And it's what was needed for this evening's farewell to the tomatoes. Tomatoes and champagne? Odd perhaps but yes.

A stack of heirloom tomatoes graciously bestowed by a colleague, three ripe avocados, jalapenos from another friend's garden, a fine dice of red onion, a side plate of Stilton, smoked trout, toasted baguette, and the Widow. This is a fine September evening in the South.

Veuve Clicquot, The Widow Clicquot was an innovator. After the death of her husband in the 18th Century she went on to globalize his Champagne business and became a stalwart of the Champagne brand and region. She is credited with inventing the riddling table, the pupitre, on which bottles were gradually turned by hand to produce clear, clean, bubbly perfection. The prestige wine from Veuve Clicquot is called La Grande Dame, after Madame. A Steel Magnolia perhaps?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Asparagus Has Met It's Match

There are some foods that are allegedly tough to pair wine with...asparagus, artichokes, spinach. And you do need to think it through. These vegetables can make wine taste bitter. They need a wine that's smooth and spicy at the same time. Recently I revisited Melville Viognier, thanks to a wine savant friend who brought it to my attention. (Thanks A)
It is even more luscious than I remembered. And it turns out to be perfect with grilled asparagus.
2008 Melville Viognier, Estate, Verna's, Santa Barbara County, CA --
The first wave under your nose brings delicate honey and cut flower aromas. It has a mouth-coating silky texture with flavors of white peach, lemon curd, and a peppery finish with hints of fresh thyme. The combined glycerin and minerality create the magic needed for a meal of Salmon burgers with grilled asparagus. Mr. Parker gave this one a 90 point nod.
There were two types of Salmon burgers (Thanks Whole Foods.) One with spinach and feta, one with lemon and herbs. The asparagus was doused in extra-virgin olive oil and finished with Academia Barilla's Sicilian Sea Salt with blood orange rind. Throw on some grilled Vidalia and slices of heirloom tomato. This lovely Viognier went beautifully with everything. And just in case you were wondering, it's pronounced "Vee-own-yay"