Wine ó Slipping a little Sideways

Slipping a little Sideways

By Tim Protzman

Pinots from California, Oregon, New Zealand and France

In the movie Sideways two middle-aged men head off on a final road trip to Santa Barbara wine country before one gets married. Thatís all I know. I havenít seen the movie. I will, but not in the theater. Thereís too much work to do.

When itís out on DVD Iíll sit down with pen, paper and remote watching and jotting down the names of the wines they mention. This is how one learns about wine, trial and error and word of mouth. And I have to confess, Iím afraid Iíll see too many similarities between Miles the annoying wine lover, whoís a bit of a snob, and myself. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially in the hands of a slightly condescending, moderately obnoxious personality, like me. And even though the Academy Awards didnít give top honors to Sideways, the filmís impact on sales of pinot noir has been measurable.

Pinots grow in California, New Zealand, Oregon and of course France, where theyíre known by the geographical name Burgundy. The Californians are full of fruit, with cherry and grape flavors and a thin elegant backbone of earth and spice. The Kiwi wines are coming on, but in my opinion the everyday ones need a few more vintages to uncork their glory. The wines from Oregon are the most Burgundian, but like France, Oregonís weather can be variable which can make for both stellar and lousy harvests. California has the consistency and craftsmanship together.

My three all-time most-memorable pinot noirs are:

Truchard Pinot Noir from the Carneros Region, which straddles the lower end of Napa and Sonoma. The cool night air from the San Francisco Bay helps ripening. This wine runs around $32.99 and is quite a bargain. Each vintage is consistently good. Heard about this from a couple who had it on the Wine Train in Napa.

Archery Summit from the Willamette Valley just north of Salem, Oregon. Had this one with lamb and foie gras in a Boston restaurant. $63 in 1999.

Clos-Vougeot 1995.  The town in Burgundy where the grapes are grown.

Louis Jadot. The maker, but not necessarily the grower.

CŰte de Nuits. The region in Burgundy.

Grand Cru. The vineyard is one of the finest.

Yikes!! This was pricey - $79.99, but what a bottle. The vintage was not bad, but what made it great was the ageing. Great aroma, nice fruit flavors ó including Strawberry Twizzlers and those wonderfully relaxed tannins that develop over time. Perfect with Duck LíOrange. Bought it and opened it the same day.

The trouble with Pinot is that you can only drink it for so long and then you need a break. Merlotís really a nice switch. (Sorry, Miles.)

Usually I try to sample different wines all the time. But recently Iíve gone back to a few over and over again:

2003 Chateau Peyfol ($18.99),from Bordeauxís Cotes de Castillon region next to Saint-Emilion. This was the first wine from the heralded 2003 vintage Iíve tried. These grapes withstood that massive heat wave and the result is delicious. But itís also young and tannic. It did open up with air, but in a few years itíll be great. Not a wine for novices. A merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc blend.

2002 Pavilion from Napa ($10.99) Cabernet Sauvignon. Good wine, young and immediately approachable. It was interesting to sample side by side with the Peyfol and really taste the differences. Pavilionís made for more immediate consumption and tastes more fruity and grapey.

2002 Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ($8.99). Wow! First, I didnít expect to like this wine at all. But not only did I like it,  I loved it so much I wanted to marry it and raise Blanc-lets. It was light and fresh, full of zest and life. On first sip it showed a light prick of sweetness that evolved into minerals, verbena and mineral water. The finish was Continental. Immediately became my favorite Sauv blanc from the Kiwi vineyards. So lively, so delicate, so inexpensive.

Find your wine

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission can help you find your wine with a click or two. Just go to type the name of your wine into the product locator and click ďgo.Ē The siteís search engine will come up with a list of stores that carry the bottle you seek.

óTim Protzman

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