Hippo Manchester
November 3, 2005

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Wine: Thinking ahead to the holidays

You will gorge soon, have some salad 

By Tim Protzman   tprotzman@hotmail.com

The drive from Portsmouth to Rockingham is never long enough.

The Great Bay teems with wildlife. I often pull over to gaze at the Great Blue Herons. To see one in flight is to witness the past. Their super-wide wingspans, their tucked-under necks bring a vision of prehistoric pterodactyls to modern times. Last December on the same stretch of road, I saw a solitary heron wading in the frigid water. A phone call to a helpful lady at the Audubon Society of New Hampshire confirmed my sighting.

“Some herons stick around all year, especially during the milder winters.” She said. “Sometimes migrating only after the ice sets in, or you could have seen one that spent its summer in far Northern Canada, and was running late.”

Which got me thinking about this week’s wines. They sit quietly on store shelves all year, waiting for you to come fetch them.

Winter says holidays. Holidays say excess. And excess says salad. So the wines we pick must be salad-friendly, with a touch of acidity to counterbalance the tangy crispness of lettuce, peppers, scallions and onions. These wines must also contend with the James Dean of grapes — vinegar, which is wine gone bad.

2000 De Loach Sonoma County Fume Blanc, California, $11.99. A slightly green taste with no oak. Fruity and silky presenting apricot, vanilla and pineapple tones. Pleasant, easy-drinking wine. Goes with corn on the cob, salads, grilled fish and mild sausages.

2001 Bodegas Muga Rosado, Spain, $7.99. Call it blush or rose. This blend of Grenache, Viura and Tempanillo is acidicly charming, like licking a lemon. It went well with store bought seafood salad on Ritz crackers.

1999 Helderberg Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa, $8.99. This wine presents dryness with a touch of fruit that’s more subtle and citrus in nature than the sweeter New Zealand sauvignon blancs. I’d serve this with chicken — grilled, barbecued, jerk, cajun or roasted — and any vegetable accompaniment.

1999 Avia Riesling, Primorski Region of Croatia, $4.49. Hopefully, a taste of good things to come from the former Yugoslavia. Low sweetness and no tannins make this a great aperitif wine that paired well with chili and nachos. The bargain price is nice too!

1999 Domaine Servin Chablis, France, $10.99. Made from chardonnay grapes, this chablis was very much, and probably designed to be, like an American chardonnay. I was expecting a more mineral taste, but the vintage (good year) and the price won me over. Open it with assorted domestic cheeses and hamburgers with tomato and onion.

2001Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, California, $22.69. A bit early for this wonderful vintage, but it still presents great depth and pineapple-pear notes with a grassy, lemony nose. Serve with a grilled teriyaki swordfish and grilled zucchini, Portabella mushrooms and onions.

1999 Peachy Canyon Paso Robles Zinfandel, California, $14.99. This blood-red wine tastes like a gentle cabernet, with a touch of cinnamon sweetness. Pair this with any hearty grilled meat, ratatouille or tomato-based sauces. (Note: Paso Robles is the town where James Dean died in a car crash.)

2000 E. Guigal Cote du Rhone Blanc, France, $8.99. This has great structure, but is sweeter than most would want. Use it as a light dessert wine. Made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne grapes, it has a ripe pear flavor. Food pairings; brownies ala mode, s’mores, fruit salad or strawberry shortcake.