Start the holiday drinking with Halloween
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
It must be that time of year — the holidays. How did I know? I got my Kendall-Jackson calendar!
They send out this great calendar every year with these superb photographs by their P.R. person, George Rose. I love and treasure the calendar, even though last year’s had the full moon dates wrong. This year it was the first thing I checked, and they got it right. There’s a little Druid in me that really wants to know when that full moon’s scheduled, and now, thanks to Kendall-Jackson, it’s beautifully ensconced at my fingertips under a harmonious and eye-pleasing photo of vineyards and hills.
The calendar got me thinking about Kendall-Jackson wines. They seem to be the Toyota Corollas of wines. But there’s more to them. Yes, Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay ($10.99) is the best-selling wine in the state for the umpteenth month in row, but they have quite a few more exotic models.
The next level up is the Grand Reserve and the price difference is not that much. We’re talking in the $20 range. Their top of the line Stature Meritage Red Wine ($69.99), which I’ve had once and found delicious, would be a wonderful celebration wine. It’s rare — 244 cases or 2,928 bottles produced for the 2002 release, versus more than 100,000 for the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay. What I’d like to try, but can’t find are the Highland Estates single vineyard series. These wines, which range from $25 to $60, come in chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah and are indicative of the terroir (dirt and weather) of the vineyards the grapes come from. Maybe for Christmas. Kendall-Jackson’s big on holidays and they start early. They host a tomato festival in September that sells out. I’d hoped it was a little like the old Kennebunkport Dump Festival, with tomato parades and tomato floats, fried dough and the crowning of the Tomato Queen and Mr. Beefsteak, but it’s more like a Williams-Sonoma commercial with verjus demi-glace substituting for the fried dough.
All this holiday talk started when I got an e-mail request for some suggestions on stocking up for the holidays. Julie wants me to help her select a few bottles. Some would be inexpensive; some would be in the $20 range. She wants to have 12 to 16 bottles on hand before the holidays, so she can concentrate on getting her cards out and wrapping gifts. I suggested she eliminate the cards, stock up on booze and invite her friends over for a drink. Even if they don’t come you can down a bottle of Il Bastardo Sangiovese ($6.99), get on the phone and drunk dial your peeps to wish them a happy holiday.
I use Halloween to get a jump on my holiday drinking. Here are some suggestions:
• French wine from Cahors. Often called “the Black Wine” because it’s dark and thick and often fierce like Edward The Black Prince. It was thought in the Middle Ages that Cahors wine cured stomach ills and it was favored by the French Court. But the dirty secret is it’s Malbec! Just a little different from the Argentinean version, more rustic, more everyday. Big plus is Cahors is usually cheap.
• Rousanne — the other white grape. With a touch of sweetness and a firm lemony structure this wine’s been cropping up in California in wonderfully crafted, much less expensive versions of its Northern Rhone Valley cousin. Also produed in Washington state.
• Carmenere — I used to watch birds and the hooded phalarope was a “life bird” I drove miles to see. Carmenere is a French grape, used for mixing, that’s excelled in Chile. Concho Y Toro does a good carmenere and the State stores have a good selection, but like the phalarope it’s rare. The treat is this wine tastes like a shiraz/merlot hybrid with firm but not bossy tannins and subdued fruit. Nobody will ever complain that carmenere’s a fruit bomb.
This week’s wines:
• Here’s a scary one for Halloween — 2004 Torreon de Paredes Cabernet Sauvignon ($6.99). From Argentina. My son bought this one and it intrigued me. Until I tasted it. Flea Dip!! I got him to explain the purchasing rationale and he said: “Good price, nice label, cabernet…” If only those things translated into the crush.
• 2005 Vampire Romanian Chardonnay ($7.99) I never buy European wine with the varietal name on the label because I think I know everything and I even know that Barolo is nebbiolo and Chianti is sangiovese. But this stuff was good! Sweet and peachy, creamy with a grassy herbal finish and a lavender aftertaste.
• 2003 Hommage Vin de pays des Cevennes ($12.99). Means wine from the country of Cevennes. A tannicy, finicky syrah from the foothills of the Cevennes Mountains, just west of the Southern Rhone Valley. Not bad, wouldn’t drink again unless I was trapped in a house with Michael Myers!
• 2005 Jospeh Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune ($26.49). Another cranky Burgundy that reminds me of a maiden aunt who wears Youth Dew Body powder to disguise her truffle-like smell. Maybe it will improve with age, but like you’re prison inmate uncle, nobody wants to wait around for him..