These are all wines (or
beers or spirits) that I have recently enjoyed and which
somehow-or-another stood out from the pack. Some were
new to me, some were new vintages of wines I was previously
familiar with, and others are quaffs that I have revisited
and possibly even developed a new appreciation for.
Larmandier-Bernier “Terre de Vertus” NV
this bubbly works the lighter side of Champagne, with
chalk, mineral and light biscuity notes along with lemon
peel and floral elements. It’s racy, smooth, and
dry (it’s bottled with no dosage whatsoever, so
it couldn’t be drier). It makes a perfect aperitif
Champagne, and smoothly transitions into the first course.
Serve with: Oysters
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Marlborough,
struck me as the best vintage for Marlborough’s
Sauvignon Blancs; a lot of the wines I sampled at a
recent tasting were too green and underripe, and lacked
that characteristic grapefruit/passionfruit exuberance.
However, as with any vintage generalization, there are
always exceptions. The Wairau Reserve was a definite
standout, with a good mix of grass, mineral, and fruit
aromas that made for complexity and respectable length;
this wine would have caught my attention even if its
peers had been up to snuff.
Serve with: Chilean sea bass
Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2004, Walker Bay, South
When I tasted this
back in Spring I enjoyed it, but I didn’t go wild.
Now, several months later, it’s opened up and
is firing on all cylinders: medium-bodied, with lots
of raspberry and plum, spice, forest floor, and mushroom
notes. It’s got gentle tannins, and well-balanced
acidity. Previously the 2005 made a stronger impression
on me; I’ll be curious to see if it, too, opens
up into something even greater.
Serve with: Mushrooms
Bedell Cellars Late Harvest Riesling 2005
The label doesn’t
tell the whole story here: it’s not just late
harvest (The grapes are frozen, creating an “artificial”
icewine.) and it’s not just Riesling (There’s
20% Gewurztraminer in the blend.). Both factors help
explain the wine’s intensity and aromatic character;
there’s a mix of tropical and stone fruit aromas
such as mango, pineapple, peach, and tangerine, plus
some honey and floral touches. It’s sweet, but
not overly rich, and finishes cleanly.
Serve with: Biscotti
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
Ever since I first
tasted it back in college, Imperial Stout has been one
of the beers that I most look forward to each winter.
Originally developed for the Russian Imperial court,
it’s a richer, sweeter beer than the more-familiar
Irish stouts. Brooklyn Brewery’s rendition is
classic, with chocolate, smoke, and espresso flavors
created through the careful blending of roasted malts.
It’s also over 10% alcohol, and while it’s
beautifully balanced, it does pack a punch – another
contrast with Irish stouts, which are, despite their
reputation to the contrary, fairly low in alcohol.
Serve with: Uh, chocolate
Marolo Grappa di Barolo NV
Actually, while I’m
excited about their non-vintage Barolo Grappa, Marolo
has also released a gift pack of four unusual, aged
Barolo Grappas for the holidays. The non-vintage is
rich and smooth, well-removed from the firewater grappa
you might get at the end of the meal in some anonymous
Italian trattoria. Aromas include lavender, black cherry,
and vanilla. The aged Grappas embellish this theme,
each in their own way, with notes of spice, smoke, almond,
and even white chocolate. And while they’re smooth,
they’re still Grappa, so they’re sure to
warm you up inside even during the dead of winter.
Serve with: Espresso