Hello, old friends
Remember that wine called chardonnay?
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
Every wine I tried this week I’ve tried before.
My motto “try to drink as many different wines as possible” went out the window. But there is something to be said about the comfort of old friends. And the wines were friendly and comfortable. I only wish some of my old friends were as fun to revisit as these wines were.
• Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne ($44.99) It took this exceptional champagne, which I’ve tasted and purchased many times over the years, to make me re-appreciate the wonders of chardonnay. Rich and deep with a clean finish that’s free of any weird chemical tastes. Even though they use 33 percent pinot noir, 33 percent petit meunier and 34 percent chardonnay grapes, the chardonnay shines through.
After drinking a glass I started to remember the great Burgundies and Napas I’ve tasted. Pahlmeyer, Batard-Montrachet and the simple Chamard were friends once, but we hadn’t connected in a while. Why, I thought, wasn’t I drinking more chardonnay?
I stopped drinking chardonnay when everyone else started drinking it. I stopped when it become fake tasting with artificial oak and butter flavors. I stopped when a good American chardonnay got as expensive as a Bordeaux. And I stopped because I went to a strip club where the very limber pole dancer used “Chardonnay” as her stage name.
The Pol Roger made me nostalgic for chardonnay. Chardonnay and lobster on a deck on Martha’s Vineyard. Chardonnay on a picnic with an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich. Chardonnay with a cart of European cheeses of all nations in an expensive restaurant.
• 2005 Grgich Hills Chardonnay ($37.99) Was my next attempt to re-connect with my Chardonnay past. This had a strange finish. It seemed artificial, but it was just rambunctious tannins. It settled down on the third day it was open, and the flavor was nice, but it still had that unmistakable California counterfeit taste. That taste is hard to describe, but it’s a combination of rancid butter and metal. So I’m still looking for a wine that presents that profound yet fresh flavor.
• 2005 Domaine Pere Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($36.49) The grapes were Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre, and seven others at 1& 2 percent increments. I didn’t hate the wine but it wasn’t like the spicy, peppery Rhones I remembered. Was it thin and elegant because the market wants that style? Or was it just not as deep as other Chateauneuf-du-Papes? This one reminded me of an old friend who used to be funny and quick witted but has become dull and predictable over the years.
• 2005 Beringer Merlot ($18.49). I heard this one got good marks in another wine column and I wanted to re-taste it. It was mellow and smooth, but lacked that grassy/floral/Band-aid smell of fine wine. It was a nice merlot, but just that. No excitement, no transfer of knowledge and a dull finish.
But I wasn’t that disappointed. It was not really expensive.
• Ponzi Pinot Noir ($34.99) This was a real treat, second-best wine I drank next to the Champagne. I loved the approachable tannins. I loved the violet and plum flavor notes. I loved the brisk finish that just ended and didn’t linger around waiting to get paid. Ponzi is a small but prominent family-owned vineyard 35 minutes and 44 miles outside of Portland, Ore. It’s made from grapes harvested in the Willamette Valley. It says so on the label. The valley runs for 100 miles north and south. The Oregon Coast Range is on the east and the Cascades are on the west. This leaves a sunny, protected strip of grape heaven in the middle. They have their own vineyards and they buy grapes for a few small high-quality vineyards in the valley.