I got to go to a trade show this week, courtesy of Empire Distributing here in Atlanta. I tried a few wines that kicked butt. So here I pass on some suggestions for weekend imbibing...
Wine 1: Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2007
Where the hell is Central Otago? Located in the bottom/middle of the South Island of New Zealand, Central Otago (bottom of the map, right) is an unbelievable wine region. It's close to the end of the world and is near the outer limits of where grapes can grow, at 45 degrees latitude. It's New Zealand's hottest, coldest, driest, and most inland region and the grape harvest here takes place about 6 weeks after the wineries up north harvest grapes. With great soils, a continental climate (think Chicago but without humidity so grapes can grow sans mold), and awesome winemakers, Central Otago churns out amazing Pinot Noir. 70% of the land is planted to this grape and the product is usually breathtaking. It's a little harder to find Pinot from Central Otago (you'll find much more from Marlborough, which also makes great Pinot), but it's well worth the search.
Price: $31.99 (these days you have to pay to get good Pinot!)
Color: The wine was a richer maroon color than I'd expect from Pinot (which tends to be light in color). I was hoping for a punch of flavor too.
Smell: I loved this wine the minute I smelled it. It was a great balance of dark flowers (like violets), damp ground (dirt!), and raspberry notes. I just loved the earthy notes in it -- the wine had a great sense of place. It was unique. I felt like you could smell Central Otago right in the glass -- which to me is highly positive. I like dirt (isn't that a Chili Pepper song?).
Taste: GREAT wine. I highly recommend it. The forest floor, herbal and dark raspberry/black cherry notes combined so beautifully. The wine had depth. I can imagine drinking it on a cold night in front of a giant fireplace in an old, dark, wooden-paneled room in New Zealand or England. It had a hint of warmth and mystery to it that I liked a lot. Interesting, but still kind of creamy and satiny.
Drink or Down the Sink? Drink. Great wine. Worth the price, although you may want to try out a cheaper New Zealand Pinot from Marlborough to make sure you like what the country has to offer before you splurge. This ain't Cali Pinot (although there are some comparisons with Oregon...)
Wine 2: Perrin & Fils, Vinsobres Les Cornuds 2007
What is it? Vinsobres is an area of the Southern Rhône Valley. This is going to seem like a word problem from the SATs, but I think you can figure it out... by law the red has to be a minimum of 50% Grenache, a minimum of 20% of either Mourvedre or Syrah, and a maximum of 20% of other local grapes. Got it? All you need to know is that it's mainly Grenache with Syrah or Mourvedre playing supporting roles. This particular wine is 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah.
Vinsobres is a pretty great little region and the Perrin family is the top producer in the Southern Rhône, so you can't go wrong with them. According to the Perrin & Fils blog Vinsobres:
Color: This was a gemstone wine -- it looked like a big, fat, polished ruby. It was intense with a bit of a watery rim. A dark, enticing color!
Smell: Holy aromatics! Licorice, black pepper, and black plums...and more licorice. It was like ripe fruit and sauteed herbs. Couldn't WAIT to taste this.
Taste: Um, can you say unbelievable? It's hard sometimes to get excited about a wine made from the Southern Rhône (apart from a few key places like Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueryas, and Gigondas) but this was really striking. The wine had rich raspberry and dark cherry flavors with licorice and a bacon-like note on the finish. I loved it. It had such a powerful texture -- bold but also silky. I wish I could have had it with food, even though it was outstanding alone.
Drink or Down the Sink? Drink. I love this wine. Watch for vintage though. I tried the 2007, which was one of the best vintages the Rhône has seen in modern history-- Mother Nature cooperated and the grapes turned out really well. I can't speak for the '08 vintage...which was a good vintage, but not '07. I'm sure it's great given that the Perrin family made it, but caveat emptor!
Wine 3: Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet 2007
Chass-WHAT?: Since it's from Burgundy, Chassagne-Montrachet is name of the place the wine is from, not of the grape, which is Chardonnay. Chassagne-Montrachet (shah-SAHN-yuh mon-RAH-shay) is one of the best places for growing Chardonnay in the world. The King of all Chardonnays "La Montrachet" is partially located in this double named commune, along with some other wines that would transform the most vehement Chardonnay hater.
Color: This is a sexy blonde! A rich yellow color that was so reflective and brilliant. Foxy, to say the least.
Smell: For a baseline, intro white Burgundy, this wine is a knockout. There are three components that make this Chardonnay sing -- a strong mineral aroma (like chalk or rocks), green apple, pear-like fruit, and gentle and elegant vanilla and caramel from the oak (no chateau 2x4 here -- this wine does not smell like wood shavings).
Taste: The minerals and acid are so strong and lovely against the fruit and oak. The wine would be austere, but it's creamy from a secondary fermentation (malolactic fermentation) that just softens it up and allows it to be a study in contrast -- minerals first, then fruit, then oak, then soft texture = awesome wine. Like the Peregrine, I feel like I know where this wine came from. It tastes like that place even though I've never been there (...theoretical, I know, but I think you know what I'm talking about -- some things are just typical of the "where").
Drink or Down the Sink? Drink. I've had this wine before and it's not always this great. Get the 2007 vintage if you can. It will give you a hint as to what other, more expensive Burgundy can taste like. If you're trying to convert an ABC drinker (anything but Chardonnay) look no further!
That's the lineup. Write and let me know what you're having this weekend!