I tried to start documenting the dinners that Christa and I do every weekend, but after each of them, I’m full of food and wine, and for some reason, assembling a blog post at that time strikes me as a very silly undertaking. They may have to become a Monday-morning thing. But in any event, lacking the proper posts to explain these things in, I thought I’d take a moment to run down the wines we’ve gone through recently, and speak briefly about them. I’ll say this; none of them were actually bad wines. One of the advantages of shopping at Brennan’s Market, I suppose.
I’ll start where I started my comment to Josh: with the ’05 Grant Burge Cabernet Sauvignon.
I believe this is the second-most expensive bottle on this list at $20. It’s not like most of the Cabernets I’ve had previously. It had a bit more oak, and it was spicier with an interesting, lasting finish. Played incredibly well with some New York Strip steaks and mashed potatoes (and, I assume, the haricot verts; Christa seemed to have no complaints). For Josh, this is probably a touch on the adventurous side, but the underlying basics of the Cabernet likely keep it within your comfortable range. Also, this is for the ’05, which was an excellent year, I’m told, and other years may not be quite so…interesting.
Up next, we have a 2008 Villard Pinot Noir.
From here out, I’ve even been taking my own pictures. Feel free to comment on my photography; but keep in mind, I’m still fairly new at it. This Villard was a very reasonably priced $10 bottle, and well worth it. It was very much in line with what I’ve come to expect from a Pinot Noir, and did it right. It was leaning dry, but still had a nice fruitiness to it. This one is something I’d consider borderline for Josh; it’s really quite good, and coming off things such as Cabernet, I think you could really get into this, but it might be a step too far for you—at least, at first.
Let’s see…then we’ve got a 2007 Soljans Estate Pinotage.
This is an appropriate follow-up to the aforementioned Pinot Noir because, as the name suggests, this is a wine produced from a relative of the Pinot Noir grape; it is, however, a much different flavor than the name implies. This Pinotage is a bit heavier and fuller-bodied than the Pinot Noir, and has very smoky, earthy tones, a bit like coffee in its features, though obviously not in flavor. It also contains a bit of fruit and particularly a sense of vanilla on the finish. Its earthier profile makes it an excellent pairing with gamier meats, such as bison or lamb (or, I might suggest, rabbit or venison, though I have no personal experience on that front). It also nicely complemented both sweet and hot italian sausages paired with pasta in a spicy arrabiata sauce. Costs $15 per bottle. Josh, this one’s a bit of a stretch from what I know you to like so far in wines, but I think a number of the underlying flavors of it might appeal to you, with your love of dark beers.
From there, moving to another interesting wine, the 2004 Mount Prior Durif.
This 2004 Durif was actually something I’d never heard of before (not even the grape it’s produced from, but picked it up on a suggestion from—of all people—the beer guy at Brennan’s (it was the wine guy’s day off, I guess). The Durif was actually a really interesting wine (and $12 a bottle when I got it, though it’s since become $15, I believe); a little earthy, dark red fruits (lots of fruit), and under it all a spicy, intriguing oakiness that was never overpowering. This was specifically recommended as a pairing for lamb, and I will say that it served its purpose there quite well. I’d suggest this for most of the same things that the Pinotage went for, though I don’t know if I’d pair it with the sausages and red sauce. This one, quite honestly, I wouldn’t suggest for you straight away. It might actually be great, but it’s possibly the biggest gamble on this list.
After that, there’s the 2006 Powers Syrah.
Between this and the last one, I’m seeing I really should have wiped them down for fingerprints before photography. But that’s something to forget for next time, I suppose. In any event, this is the most expensive bottle on this list, priced at $20 or $25; but it’s Christa’s favorite wine of all time, I believe, and thus is worth it. This Syrah is a very full-bodied, powerful wine. It’s dry, with dark red fruit notes, and a finish that lingers forever. It’s bold unlike anything else I’ve really had, and just grabs hold of you and demands your attention; and that attention is very much needed to appreciate the depth and complexity here. It’s got the deeper, earthier, spicier (actually kind of peppery) tones, and I’d venture to include even leather in there. This syrah has an incredible density of flavors and experience that every sip reveals flavors you’d not found before—particularly once you pair it with food. It’s an incredible pairing with something as simple as a nice grilled steak and baked potatoes, or with lamb, bison, and I’d guess works well with pork or even certain sausages. Basically, it’s more than strong enough to simply stand on its own, without needing a particular type of food to lean on (though for maximum effect, I really do recommend something relatively simple, just to act as a backdrop for the play of this wine). Josh, this is one excellent bottle, and I don’t know if you’re up for it. I think you could be—there’s stuff in there for you to like—but it might be a bit much all at once right now; especially at the higher price point. Still, if you get a little deeper into wines, you may want to look this one up.
As you may have gathered by the length and intensity there, that Syrah’s a rather good wine by my tastes. To wrap up the Reds section, I’d like to note one that—while I’ve sampled it—I’ve not yet had the opportunity to examine in full: a 2007 South Pirie Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noirs are actually one of my favorite wines of all time. They tend to be a lighter red, a bit oaky, and just generally fairly smooth and drinkable. For $15, this one is not your usual Pinot Noir. There is no oak in it that I could find, and while it’s still light in your mouth, rather than being smooth and gentle, it’s instead a bright, vibrant red, filled to the brim with fruit. I’m really looking forward to checking it out properly soon.
With that, we’re on to…
Alright, you may notice coming up that I have only about half as many entries for white as reds; that’s because I prefer reds. Well, and reds pair with a wider variety of what I eat. Anyway, I’m working on getting more into whites, and all of the following were actually excellent.
First we have the other one that I mentioned in my comment to Josh—the 2009 Viu Manent Reserva Chardonnay.
I’ll just put this out there up front: I’ve never been a big fan of Chardonnay. It’s usually a touch too dry for what I’d like, and far, far too oaky; overwhelmingly oaked. Now to clarify: I loved this Chardonnay. It was brightly flavored, with citrus and peach being the most easily noticed, though there was certainly something almost tropical under it. The oak was there, but it was much more subdued than I normally find in a Chard—that is to say, it didn’t taste like I was trying to drink a tree. Overall, it was just an incredibly well-rounded wine, and well worth the $12 price tag. To Josh, I don’t recall whether Chardonnay make your list of things you actually enjoyed, but this might be worth a shot.
Following this, we step into a blend: a 2008 Parri Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Viognier.
As you may note from the back label there, this is a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon, and 30% Viogniet. It’s the sort of wine that as recently as a year ago I’d probably have not enjoyed much at all. But a bit more experience in the whites has really opened up my palate in this area. The Parri (to save myself typing that all out) is a bright, crisp wine, very clean and refreshing, with strong tropical tones, but leaning heavily toward pear and pineapple (at least from what I could pick out). It’s got a nice sweetness to it, and it made for an excellent accompaniment to a fairly spicy pasta dish we did that night. In fact, the heat was borderline overwhelming, ’cause the heat level of any given serrano chili can be a bit variable, and the wine was the only thing that kept me from giving myself chemical burns…and it did it while being cool, crisp and sweet. Josh, this one might work for you. It really works well with hotter southwestern or asian dishes, and I don’t know how often you wind up with things of that sort, but it’s something to keep in mind. Oh, and $15.
And finally, I’ll close up with a 2008 Hyatt Riesling.
In the lovely blue bottle, this Hyatt Riesling is a lovely, sweet Riesling in the traditional German rather than Australian style. It’s nothing particularly special; it’s simply a good, sweet white wine, perfect for pairing with something on the spicy side (southwest, cajun, etc.) or something sour (or, in Josh’s case, sauer); it’s just great for bringing balance to things of that nature. It’s lighter, crisper, a little less sweet, but with more of an acid bite than the Gewurztraminer, which makes it a bit ideal for leaving you feeling a little refreshed after taking a sip. Josh, if you want a straight-up recommendation, this Riesling (or a comparable one) at $10 is it. It’s the next step in from a Gewurztraminer.
And that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll start getting these posted a bit more regularly, rather than waiting for a giant stack such as this. I think I just spent 4 hours assembling this. Well, I suppose I took an hour for dinner…not the point. Josh, hopefully some of this is helpful for you. If you’re looking for further suggestions, let me know, and we’ll see where we can go. Phil, I assume you’re reading this as well, so if you have any good wines that don’t break the bank, we’d love to hear about them.