This weekend while picking up some shifts at l’etoile, I participated in some staff wine tasting. One of the things I enjoy about keeping a toe dipped in that world is staying up on current fine food & wine trends. It had been a while since I had rolled out my wine knowledge and I think I surprised some of my co-workers with how deftly I was able to describe the wines we were tasting. There was a French Sauvignon Blanc made in the New Zealand style – by far my preferred style of the variety, one I drink by the gallon during warm weather months. I call it the adult lemonade of summer. There was a Beaujolais that had a strong vegetable note – the first thing that sprung to mind when I tasted it was that I wanted a cheese plate to accompany it. Lastly was a Bordeaux, a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, light on the palate with heavy tannins and fruity finish.
I always seem to surprise people with how much I know about wine. I don’t come across as someone who can navigate my way through a wine list. When “In the Kitchen” folded publication last year, it was suggested I continue to write about wine here and I meant to do that, but just haven’t. To be completely honest, I have long been on a quest to find the best wine for under $10 that I can. Because while I love wine and am not opposed to springing for a more expensive bottle now and again, I am inherently cheap. I can and will try that $3 bottle and unless it’s horribly undrinkable, I will drink it because dammit, I paid for that.
This of course led to another fantastic idea which is that I make a regular feature on here of wines I drink – good and bad, cheap and not so cheap. I have at least one friend who almost always takes a shot of the label I am serving her so that she remembers to grab it next time she’s looking for something good to drink. I’ve run into friends in the wine aisle of the grocery store who have asked me to please point out what it was they had last time they were at my house. I have had long talks with the owner of a local wine shop who agrees with me that you can find some very nice wines for not a lot of money. So, after promising last year to write more here about wine, I’m going to do so. Beginning now.
This was a glass of Trump Viognier I enjoyed after my Saturday evening shift. I noticed that at a certain angle, there was a rainbow in the glass. Which by no means is an apt description of the wine. Viognier is a grape that Virginia does well (so well it’s the official state grape), but I don’t think this is most stellar example of it. Trump’s Viognier is floral and slightly sweet, not as well balanced as other versions out there. I had been wanting to try some of the Trump wines just out of curiosity, but I can’t find anyone who wants to go to the winery with me. It seems no one I know wants to part with their money in order to give Donald Trump yet more money. At $19 a bottle, it’s not entirely out of the price range for what I would splurge on for a bottle of wine, but I didn’t find it splurge worthy.
I’ve been on a bit of whites kick here lately. I think it’s part of my fondly moving time forward, like switching the Calendar to March when there are still 5 days of February left. I realize I did the same thing the end of winter last year as well. This is a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc made in the New Zealand style. I got this particular bottle at Whole Foods, but Reids carries it as well. I think it runs about $7.99/bottle. It’s the perfect combination of dry, citrusy crisp, fruity that I adore in New Zealand style Sav Blancs. And the price is right. Oh, and I can run to Reid’s to grab a bottle. What’s not to like about it?
I’m not entirely drinking whites however. I find I like a glass of white and then switch it up to a red. I’ll admit I bought Estratos, a Spanish red because I thought it was a Syrah and it was in the cheap section at Whole Foods. I ran in there the other day for a few things (the essentials – milk, toilet paper & peanut butter, at least two of those being things that WholePaycheck has the best prices on) and grabbed a few bottles of wine while I was at it. I was sure I’d had it somewhere and liked it. Turns out, it’s not a syrah, it’s a blend, with 80% being Monastrell, a varietal from the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Monastrell is a varietal I wasn’t familiar with, which proceeded to send me on a mission to learn more about it in order to tell you about it. What I’ve learned? It’s a grape that is mostly blended. It’s described as ‘meaty’ and ‘herbal’, high in tannins as well as alcohol. With the case of this particular wine, I tasted the alcohol content, which is an indicator of a a poorly balanced wine. In fact, that was the overwhelming note of the wine – the alcohol. It had a slightly fruity finish, but the that first note held on for quite some time. I tried it with a few different foods and nothing seemed to temper it. I’ve read that this is a varietal that ages well – this particular bottle is a 2009 and while I could see where it could use a few more years to mellow, I’m not convinced this particular wine is worth giving up space in my ‘cellar’ to see if it goes age well. I’d rather move on.