Sparkling: Bisol Prosecco Cartizze NV, Veneto, Italy
The Bisol estate is the largest of a handful of producers
with vines in the ‘Superiore di Cartizze’
vineyards – a 262 acre group of small hills in
the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene appellation that are recognized
as producing the area’s finest and most complex
wines. Bisol harvests their grapes here a bit later than
elsewhere, creating a fuller Prosecco with
touches of pear, peach, and flowers. It’s dry,
but softer and smoother than the overtly crisp style
of many Proseccos.
Serve with: Grilled
White: Royal Tokaji Furmint 2005, Tokaj, Hungary
Dry Hungarian Furmint doesn't have a clear indentity; like Grüner Veltliner, it's neighbor in Austria, it can range from light and crisp to weighty and complex. The Royal Tokaji 2005 is of the latter sort. It's full, with an almost oily texture that makes me think of Alsace Pinot Gris (in a good way). Aromas are many: peach, apricot, cashew, and white pepper dominate, but I also found touches of smoke, honey, and cardamom as the wine warmed in the glass. The fruity aromas prevail in the finish, which is clean and fairly long.
Serve with: Rich chicken dishes
Red: Joseph Drouhin "Vero" Bourgogne Rouge 2005, Burgundy, France
Not content with handling the winemaking at Domaine Drouhin Oregon, the "Vero" wines are Veronique Drouhin's project back in France - a more affordable, larger-production project. The Pinot is medium-bodied with a smooth mix of plum, cherry, and lightly spicy aromas. It shows surprising length, and should be very versatile at the table.
Serve with: All sorts of mid-weight dishes, but especially salmon and chicken
Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2004, Martinborough,
The Martinborough area is known for its Pinot Noirs;
however, it also does Riesling well, and even has the
conditions to make botrytis-influenced dessert wines
in the right vintages. The Martinborough Vineyards 2004
puts those botrytized notes of orange zest and honey
right up-front, counterpointed by aromas of lemon curd
and lime. It’s neither as full nor sweet as one
might expect, favoring grace instead of voluptuousness,
and closes with a pleasingly lengthy finish.
Serve with: Panna cotta with nuts and honey
Beer: Red Hook
ESB, Seattle, Washington
Long the flagship ale of Seattle’s Red Hook,
and one that suggests its terroir: it’s perfectly
suited to the drizzly weather, with enough body to be
warming but clean and not overly rich, as the bitterness
of the hops cuts the sweeter, caramelly malt tones.
So it also makes it a perfect beer for the rest of the
country in springtime, when we get our dose of Seattle
weather; conveniently, it’s one of a handful of
Pacific Northwest craft beers with national distribution,
so the rest of the country actually gets a chance to
Serve with: Grilled meats and a light rain
Potrero Single Malt “18th Century Style”
Straight Rye Whiskey, San Francisco, California
Not content with making beer, San Francisco’s
Anchor Steam moved into distilling in the early 90s.
Their first project was to revive older American whiskey-making
practices; the 18th Century is made with 100% rye, and
turns back the clock on the barrel-aging process to
the day’s when charring the inside of the barrel
was avoided. This means the 18th Century Style Whiskey
is lighter in color, less rich in texture, and has fewer
aromas of vanilla, butterscotch, or smoke from the wood.
The emphasis instead is on the rye itself, which comes
through well abetted by touches of spice. It’s
not smooth stuff, especially since they sell it at cask
strength (most whiskeys are diluted slightly for bottling).
If you’re drinking it straight, an ice cube or
a drop of spring water will help cut the alcohol on
the nose and open up the whiskey’s aromas.
Serve with: Vermouth and bitters, with a cherry on top