By Jim Clarke
February 2007

Sparkling: Soutiran Grand Cru Brut NV Champagne, France

Soutiran is not one of the old houses of Champagne; until the 70s they sold their grapes to the local cooperative. Nonetheless, the Brut has all the virtues of classic bubbly: smooth, medium-to-full-bodied, and a nose of croissant, honey, quince, and ginger.

Serve with: Sushi

White: Cold Heaven “Vogelzang Vineyard” Viognier 2005, Santa Ynez Valley, California West

Coast winemakers specializing in Rhône varietals have garnered a lot of attention for their Syrahs and other reds, but only a few have focused on the white winegrapes of the Rhône. Viognier is the mainstay of Cold Heaven’s production, and winemaker Morgan Clendenen makes wines from several different vineyards. The Vogelzang Vineyard 2005 has lots of floral aromas overlaying rich tropical fruits. It’s fairly full, with a silky mouthfeel, and the acidity is well-balanced – a notable achievement for a Viognier.

Serve with: Butternut squash

Red: Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er Cru “Mitans” 2003, Burgundy, France

It’s common knowledge that the heat of 2003 was difficult for winemakers. However, the best came through with wines that drink well young and still preserve much of their typicity. This Volnay has the cherry aroma you expect, along with notes of spice and dark raspberry. It’s pretty big, but still round and silky.

Serve with: Wild salmon

Dessert: Beaumont Goutte d’Or 2001, Walker Bay, South Africa

This blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc shows a great balance of weight, sweetness, and acidity. There’s good fruit there – lots of dried apricot, quince paste, and orange zest – but what really makes it stand out are the touches of spice, especially cinnamon and ginger.

Serve with: A soft blue cheese

Beer: Westmalle Dubbel, Belgium

This was a favorite of mine when I lived in Holland, made at the Westmalle Abbey, one of only seven Trappist monasteries with a brewery. The dubbel is their darkest brew. The nose is on the fruitier side, with touches of banana and fig, but on the palate it turns on the malt and notes of caramel, anise, and espresso emerge. The dark color suggests sweetness and weight, but it’s actually fairly dry and aims for balance.

Serve with: Roast beef

Spirit: Vermont Spirits Gold Vodka, Vermont

Ideally, whether it’s made from grains, potatoes, or even grapes, vodka is supposed to be neutral, without much flavor. The nose on this smooth vodka, however, shows a clear touch of…maple syrup? Is that wrong? Well, it reflects its origins – 100% maple sap, what else would you expect from Vermont – and makes for a very enjoyable sipping vodka. Unlike many vodkas, it’s not a blank slate for fruity cocktails; instead serve it on the rocks or up, with a simple garnish at best, and enjoy the vodka itself without help from fruit juice, triple sec, or other mixers.

Serve with: Pancakes?


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