Wine on RECENTLY TASTED vol 16


By Jim Clarke
March 2008

Sparkling: Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2000 Rosé, Champagne, France ($50)

This is a new creation. Moët & Chandon has made a few different vintage wines before, but the grand-daddy of them all, Dom Perignon, has tended to overshadow them. I don’t know if the same fate awaits the Grand Vintage wines (they’ve made a non-rosé as well), but the wine itself is solid and, for that matter, well-priced. It’s fairly full-bodied and firm, with almond, raspberry, and rose petal aromas and good length. While it will profit from some aging, it doesn’t need it as much as its older brother Dom might.

Serve with:  Chicken Herman Lai’s Braised Chicken with Sesame Oil
More Champagne: Rosés

White: Graffigna “Centenario” Pinot Grigio 2007, San Juan, Argentina ($14)

Seems like everyone would like to get in on the Pinot Grigio gravy train, no matter whether they’re Italian, Californian, or, in this case, Argentine. So many of these wines – including the original Italians – are innocuous mediocrities, so it’s refreshing to find one that’s got the goods. Fruit aromas of lemon, fig, and apricot dominate on the nose, with a touch more minerality in the palate. Unlike a typical, under-performing Pinot Grigio, it’s full-bodied, but still has a crisp finish. Graffigna’s founder, Don Santiago Graffigna, discovered the San Juan region’s winegrowing potential back in 1870 after emigrating from Italy; perhaps he brought the formula for good Pinot Grigio with him.

Serve with: white fish Matt Murphy’s Mushroom Herb-Crusted Snapper
More Pinot Grigio: Italian Whites

Red: Black Sears Zinfandel 2004, Howell Mountain, California ($40)

Having decided that it was time to make their own wine instead of just selling their grapes to outside wineries, vineyard owners Joyce Black Sears and Jerre Sears brought in Littorai winemaker Ted Lemon in 1997; he has since converted the estate to biodynamic farming. While the wine has the intense aromas you might expect from mountain vineyards, its tannins are well moderated and smooth, so the wine drinks well upon release. It’s showing dark fruit aromas of boysenberry and dates, as well as notes of earth, tar, and black pepper. The lengthy finish is remarkable.

Serve with: braised meats Jody Adams’ Provençal-Braised Beef with Orange and Black Olives
More Zinfandel: Ravenswood

Dessert: Hunt Country Vidal Blanc Icewine 2005, Finger Lakes, New York ($45; 375ml)

Vidal Blanc has made a name for itself as an icewine across the border in Canada, but the Finger Lakes certainly get chilly enough to take the grape down the same road. Hunt Country’s success with this style has brought their wines to the White House and the U.N., but it still remains cheaper than its more famous, Canadian competitors. The 2005 has a huge mix of fruit aromas, ranging from apricot to kumquat to candied pineapple. There’s also a note of honey in there, and while it is quite sweet, it finishes cleanly and long. A 2006 barrel sample showed similar promise, leaning toward more apple, pear and floral touches.

Serve with: tropical fruits Marcel Biró and Shannon Kring Biró’s Pineappel-Coconut Arborio Rice Pudding
More from New York: Finger Lakes Reds

Beer: Thomas Hardy’s Ale 2005, O’Hanlon’s Brewing Co., Devon, United Kingdom ($5; 8.5 oz.)

The Thomas Hardy’s Ale was almost lost to the world in 1999, when the eponymous brewery decided to call it quits. Fortunately their American importer, Phoenix Imports, couldn’t bear to see the beer die. He bought the brand, and contracted with O’Hanlon’s Brewing to take over production. The beer itself is far removed from the mass-market brands, and even has a singular voice among today’s craft beers, whether imported and domestic. It’s quite full and sweet, with little to no head and a mahogany color. Initial aromas include caramel, toffee, fudge, and Brazil nut. After it’s been in the glass a while more fruit notes, especially fig, appear, and a licorice touch shows up on its lengthy, drying finish. While the production doesn’t necessarily vary each vintage, it’s labeled as such because it will age very well, easily evolving in the bottle for a dozen years or more.

Serve with: milk chocolate Tara Lane’s Vanilla Waffles with Milk Chocolate, Hazelnuts, and Marshmallow Fluff
More Strong Beer: Scaldis



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