By Jim Clarke
March 2007

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.

Sparkling: Harushika Tokimeki Sparkling Sake, Nara, Japan

This refreshing sake not only has bubbles; it’s a nigori as well. That means it’s unfiltered, with tiny rice particles giving it a milky color. It’s actually reminiscent of a Moscato d’Asti: mildly sweet, with similar peach and pear aromas but also some light yeastiness. The bubbles lighten the texture, making it a suitable aperitif despite the sweetness.

Serve with: Fresh fruit

White: Livio Felluga Tocai Friulano 2005 Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy

I’ve always like the Tocai Friulano grape, even though lighter styles of the varietal tend to be somewhat innocuous, in the manner of many Italian whites. However, a riper Tocai Friulano like this one can have a lot going on, making for a relatively full-bodied white that doesn’t need oak-aging. The Livio Felluga shows the grape’s characteristic bitter almond aroma along with floral notes and touches of peach and quince. The long finish unwinds into some light white pepper and pear notes.

Serve with: Prosciutto and figs

Red: Te Awa Zone 10 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

The folks at Te Awa say that Zone 10 has always produced Cabernet Sauvignon that stood out from other plots in the vineyard for its aromatics and structure, so when the vintage permits, they bottle it as a single-varietal wine instead of blending it. 2002 was one of those years: the wine shows no green or underripe notes, and instead rewards you with cassis, blackberry, and earthy aromas touched by a hint of anise. At the same time, the cooling winds off the bay mean there’s nothing overdone here; it’s well-structured and focused, and will probably open up over the next few years.

Serve with: Lamb

Dessert: D’Oliveira Reserva Boal 1968 Madeira, Portugal

Madeira, like Sherry, seems to remain off the radar of many winedrinkers, meaning old wines like this one are still out there – and still affordable – for those who appreciate it. This Boal makes a great end to a meal; not as sweet or rich as a Malmsey, it has similar caramel and walnut aromas as well as touches of apricot, quince paste, and nutmeg.

Serve with: A nut meringue

Beer: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA Delaware, Maryland

The brewery’s flagship beer, this is one I like to have ready in the fridge whatever the time of year. In the hot weather it can be refreshing, but it’s got enough muscle to stand up to the winter as well. As a proper India Pale Ale, it eschews sweetness and instead shows off the slightly bitter, floral aromas of hops, rounded out by touches of cedar, pine, and grapefruit.

Serve with: Salmon

Spirit: Glenmorangie Madeira Wood Finish 12 Years Old, Speyside, Scotland

Glenmorangie has been offering their “Wood Finish” series for about ten years, which takes their classic Scotch and gives it a twist by wrapping up the aging process in different casks. The Madeira Finish is the one that excites me the most; you still get the honey and floral aromas of the classic Glenmorangie, but there’s also a nuanced depth and richness in the form of fruitcake, walnut, and vanilla touches. It’s winey in its complexity, and the concentration of flavor stands up well to the finish, controlling the heat and keeping things smooth and dry.

Serve with: Smoked almonds


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