I have been drinking wine for a very long time now. For the last seven of those years, I have approached wine not merely as something to drink, but something to think about, something that could elicit sheer joy or wonderment, calm or even fear.* I come across as pedantic or stuffy sometimes, I guess, but for me it’s far more satisfying to really delve into what each and every wine has to offer.**
A few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner with Jillian and David at Chez Kate et Rahul. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s been hard for me to quench my thirst for interesting wines lately. So, in addition to being pleased to be able to see my good friends Kate ‘n’ Rahul and Jillian ‘n’ David, I was pleased to have an excuse to bring a bottle of Chenin Blanc recommended to me by Phil over at MacArthur Beverages (at left):
The Saumur appellation is located in the Loire Valley of France. The Loire Valley–especially the region of Vouvray and to a lesser extent Montlouis-sur-Loire–is known for its Chenin Blanc. I think Chenin Blanc is one of the underrated great grapes of the world.*** The best examples of Chenin Blanc have great acidity and taste of honey, almonds, and flowers. Like Riesling and Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc can be aged to great effect. I’ve had Chenin Blanc from 1983 and 1989, and when aged these wines take on low, nutty, waxy notes that are just incredible. Best of all, just like old Rioja blanco, aged Chenin Blanc can be relatively affordable.
The Amtrak is not so bad. Actually, it’s very nice except when it’s delayed, which is a matter for Part Three. At the time, however, I knew nothing about flooded tracks and two-hour delays; I only knew how nice it was to be riding a train up the coast as the rain fell around me.
My destination was Santa Barbara, where my former roommate (and current Princeton grad student) Alex would pick me up. That first day and evening, including a wonderful dinner at Bouchon, will be the subject of Part Two of this series.
I’d like to talk about Stolpman Vineyards, a winery located in the Ballard Canyon area of the Santa Ynez Valley. If you might recall, my friend Billy had brought a bottle of Stolpman, the excellent 2007 L’Avion, to a tasting at Mission Wines we attended two weeks ago. Alex had planned a late morning of tasting, so we went to Los Olivos to look around. You might recall, if you were in Southern California, that the weekend of December 18 was rainy as heck. This made driving a bit precarious but also had the unexpected benefit of clearing Los Olivos of nearly every other tourist and taster. Alex and I basically had the town to ourselves.
We started with a light repast at Corner House Coffee, where freshly-brewed Peet’s awaited us and we could play a few rounds of Hive while we dried off.
We walked around Los Olivos, which was absolutely beautiful:
Another year, another few scores of bottles of wine. I’m not sure if the start of a new year necessarily engenders hope and thankfulness–usually, I feel more of a mix of relief and a creeping feeling that maybe my life is slipping past me–but 2009 in Washington, DC, has found me in a very thankful mood.
For one, I’m living in a nice, comfortable apartment with great food. I have a wonderful family that I appreciate more as I get older; great friends. I am going to a good law school with outstanding professors and classes. I have nothing to complain about, and I am going to try to be more appreciative of the incredible opportunities I’ve been given.
To kick off the new year, my roommate and I hosted a champagne and sparkling wine tasting, the details of which will be coming out in the upcoming Nota Bene (GW Law student newspaper); I will write up my blog observations on that evening a bit later. Suffice it to say that the big winner in the tasting were a beautiful sparkler from France, the Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc Reserve Brut ($12.99)–was, as I described it, “the group’s favorite, with a nose of hazelnut and toast, a light, almost ethereal mouthfeel, and notes of apple and pear.”
Finally some free time in which to write about the remaining five wines from last Saturday’s Mission Wines tasting!
7 | 2004 Arzuaga Navarro Crianza | Ribera del Duero, Spain | $29.99
This was the seventh wine of the series, second round of overtime. Dave from Mission Wines was kind enough to pour the party a tasting of this really excellent tinto fino (as tempranillo is known in this region) from the dry river of Duero. Being a crianza, it was aged for thirteen months in oak. I was expecting it to be huge and powerful, expecting some forceful tannins (I’ve found tempranillo from Ribera del Duero is “stronger” or more assertive than those from Rioja), but this wine was surprisingly smooth. Plummy, a little hint of leather. I think this wine probably benefited from my having tried the tannic firebombs of the Barrel 27 and the Tejada beforehand. I would love to compare this one to the Tinto Pesquera, which is another wonderful tinto fino from Ribera del Duero.
(95% tinto fino, 3% merlot, 2% cabernet sauvignon)
8 | Sean H. Thackrey “Pleiades XVI” | Bolinas, California | $23.99
This is a crazy wine. Dave poured this for the party and told us to try and guess what it was. I sniffed and got menthol. A lot of menthol, as in eucalyptus. I also detected a bit of anise as well as other herbs.
This picture is from an older vintage, but you get the picture.
The taste was amazing and yet, very polarizing. No one else in my group liked it at all. Erica compared it to drinking rubbing alcohol. Someone else said it was like Listerine. I can understand: the menthol did impart a bit of a fiery element to the wine, and it did have a fair level of acid. However, it was complex and unlike any other wine I’ve ever had. Tar and citrus, earth and fruit. I don’t know quite how to describe it other than it’s probably the most interesting wine I’ve had in a while and one that every “serious” wine drinker should pick up.