By Jim Clarke
April 2007

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 vegetables

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

Dessert: Martinborough Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2004, Martinborough, New Zealand

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 enjoy it.

Serve with: Grilled meats and a light rain

Spirit: Old 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


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