The must-drink list
Wherein Tim Protzman cuts to the taste
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes — well, most of the time — when I read others’ wine columns, I skip the prose and go right for the lists.
Even my friend who writes a food and restaurant column says she skips the descriptive crap and goes for the meat. I mean how many ways can you praise crab cakes? “Pungent, silky symphonies of buttery soft meat intertwined with crisp celeriac slices in a golden mound of bread crumbs made from Panko — they’re décolletages swathed in a topaz-colored remoulade.”
So, cut to the chase: here’s a list of 20 Wines You Must Have.
They aren’t the most expensive. Some are not extraordinary, but they are indicative of their region or varietal. Some are pricey but worth it. Some are inexpensive but nice.
• Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay ($17.99) A bit oaky but nice lemon hints.
• Far Niente Chardonnay Napa Valley ($54.99) Take this one to France and drink it in a cellar in Burgundy and see the envy on their faces.
• Wild Horse Chardonnay Central Coast ($11.99) Nice. The first serious wine I ever tasted.
• Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc ($21.49) It’s sauvignon blanc, but one of Robert Mondavi’s grandchildren couldn’t say sauvignon (saw vig non) so the came up with fume (fu may)
• Elk Cove Oregon Pinot Gris ($18.99) Rich and a little sweet, but such an interesting under-appreciated grape.
• Dr Frank Johannisberg Riesling ($17.99) Ignore the Johannisberg, it’s just Riesling. From upstate New York
• Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($21.99). California. Equal to the Cakebread or Duckhorn Sauv Blanc’s.
• Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine ($17.99) Nice, a bit heavy, but equal to anything from Epernay.
• Merriam Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Jones Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($41.99) A mouthful of a name, a mouthful of flavor. Cabernet Franc is growing in popularity. See why.
• Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages- $54.99. Once was “The Wine of the Year,” now just plain nice. Plus the stuff is going for over $75 on the Web.
• Chateau St. Michelle Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells Vineyard. ($13.99) I’ve tasted crud that cost $139.99 that isn’t as dense and profound as this wine.
• Beaulieu Merlot Napa ($14.99) From the days when Paul Masson and André Tchelistcheff made wine.
• Domain Drouhin Pinot Noir Oregon ($42.99) My favorite Western Hemisphere pinot.
• Elk Cove Pinot Noir Oregon ($23.99) Why Oregon is Oregon.
• Bouchaine Pinot Noir Carneros ($24.99) Nice, but I’d take the Elk Cove if I could only take one to a deserted island.
• Edna Valley Pinot Noir Paragon Vineyard ($19.99) Remember when your 13-year-old nephew reached 6’ 2”? Not a man, but not a boy. Not an everyday wine (the price), not a showboat, a little of both.
• Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel ($12.99) What good zin used to be.
• Truchard Pinot Noir Carneros ($27.99) A newlywed couple had this on the Napa Dinner Train. I drink it whenever I can find it. Wine like this is why they made Sideways.
• Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Prelude Margaret River ($30.99) Taste Australia’s West Coast Wine.
• Casa Lapostolle Merlot Cuvee Alexander ($13.99) From Chile.
Here’s what I drank recently:
• Rus Bogorodskaya Vodka ($11.99) (1 liter) This I believe is the second label of Jewel of Russia. It is very smooth with flavors of glacial spring water, black pepper and a smidge of Grappa, the fiery Italian brandy made from distilled grape skins left over from winemaking. Mixes well and does nicely in a shot. Try it with a dash of Tabasco sauce and a healthy shake of black or red pepper.
• Qupe Syrah ($15.99) From California’s Central Coast. This wine is a real standard-bearer. Like the old DC 3 propeller-driven aircraft that’s about 70 years old but still is in service, this wine is no Concorde, but consistently delivers quality and flavor. The wine is 94 percent syrah, 5 percent grenache and 1 percent Counoise, a Rhone Valley blending grape that came from Spain.
• Vatistas Asyrtiko ($17.99) From the tip of the Peloponnesian Peninsula (say that three times fast) comes a dry, acidic but fruit-filled white wine from the Asyrtiko grape. You can also spell it with a double “S,” which is fun, especially if you pause before the “Y.” It has lemon, lime and sour green cherry fruit with an almost bubbly finish. It’s a sunny wine that reminds me of a bright white day with a clothesline full of crisp white linen flapping in the breeze. Produced by the legendary Yiannis Vatistas in Lakonia, Greece, original home of the Spartans. The perfect wine for Motorcycle Week.