When I invited a few girlfriends over to help me celebrate my birthday recently, I requested no gifts, but told them to feel free to bring wine. Which they did, because I have some pretty rad girlfriends. As a result, here is the birthday edition of Wines I drank.
Before we jump into the wines, I want to mention the homebrew Pumpkin Ale my friend Kath gave me.
I shared it with Pat while pumpkins were getting carved (it seemed appropriate, don’t you think?). We both liked it quite a bit. It was not overly sweet or spiced – one of our pet peeves about pumpkin ales. Rather, this one was a nice amber ale that was just right. I hestitate to say it was slightly caramelly (is that even a word?) because I don’t want to give the impression it was sweet – it was not, but it it definitely had a flavor that can best be described as caramel – like. Thank you Kath & Matt, we enjoyed it. Any chance you fill growlers?
Onto the wines. First up, Smoking Loon Chardonnay. After years of disdain for chardonnay, I have developed an appreciation for it in recent years. Smoking Loon is one of those labels that I tend to grab when I see it on sale – their chardonnay is one of those oaky, buttery chards that is lovely to sip on while cooking dinner – my preferred serving of the varietal. Diane gave me this bottle, which I stashed in the fridge and neglected to share with the group. I enjoyed it while cooking dinner a few nights the following week, making it a gift that kept giving (in the form of dinner inspiration!).
Betty walked in with this bottle of Vitiano Verdicchio Vermentino blend in hand. A 50/50 blend of two Italian varietals, this wine was clean, crisp, light on the palate and refreshing. Highly drinkable. Per Betty, “I like a wine that refreshes like water.” This is that wine.
Le Chaz came from my friends Bonnie & Ted. A French white, it is a blend of Vermentino (80%), Chardonnay (15%) and Sauvignon (5%). As part owner of Williams Corner Wine, Ted is frequently generous with his wine collection, especially around my birthday. Like the previous Vermentino blend, this wine was clean, crisp and refreshing. I shared it one afternoon with my favorite Axe-wearing, Supreme Court covering, neighborhood mom friend. Thank you Bonnie & Ted for the wine and Dahlia for the company drinking it.
While Amy was unable to make the celebration, she was thoughtful enough to swing by the next day and drop off a bottle of Quinta de Gomariz Vinho Verde. I know I’ve written about how much I adore Vinho Verde wines on hot summer days because they are light, crisp, slightly effervescent and therefore, lower in alcohol content, making them perfect for afternoon drinking. I took this bottle along with us to Oysterfest, where it turned out Saturday afternoon was unseasonably warm. This wine hit the spot perfectly that afternoon after the parade, when yet another round of fun was just starting to ramp up and I needed something light & clean to pair with oysters. Note to self – bring a bottle of Vinho Verde to Oysterfest every year.
I believe Aileen brought this bottle of Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure who brought which reds, as most of the early guests brought whites and later arriving guests brought reds. Also, it was my birthday and there was joy & merriment and no official scribe who kept track of who brought what. Hopefully no one’s feelings will be hurt.
So, Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône. Kermit Lynch is a respected wine importer (and writer & more) who gravitates towards French & Italian wines made the traditional way with emphasis on terroir. (Terroir is the special characteristics of geography, climate and geology of a place interacting with a plant’s genetics. It’s applied throughout agriculture and can be seen in other products such as Pennsylvania corn vs. Virginia corn.) I’ve heard it said, if Kermit Lynch’s name is on the label, you can’t go wrong. I wrote here last spring about Côtes du Rhône (go here if you want to read it) wines and I’m a fan of them. I always forget to grab them when I’m making wine purchases though, because standing there in the store, I start getting panicky about French wines and move on to what I think I know better. I know, I know. Maybe after this I will remember. As far as this wine is concerned, it had some berry notes as well as a nice earthiness to round it out. I do love a nice Côtes du Rhône.
(If you missed it on the last Food & Wine issue of New York Times Magazine, take some time to read this interview with Kermit Lynch.
Gen 5, Old Vine Zinfandel, is a California Zin from Lodi, an Appellation just east of San Francisco. Lodi is noted for its Mediterranean like climate and best known for its Zinfandels. Zins can be big wines – lush & jammy, with fruit and well as black pepper notes. Gen 5’s Old Vine Zinfandel is a fantastic example of a Lodi Zin – juicy and balanced.
Another grape the Lodi Appallation does well is Cabernet Sauvingnon. Like Zin’s, Cab Sauv’s are known to be what is often referred to as ‘big’ California reds. They can be heavy to drink, which is why they are often paired with meats and other dishes considered comfort food. I am one of those who has a hard time drinking a big red in hot weather – I prefer roses, cab francs or pinot noirs. But with the cold snaps we’ve been having, big reds like this are exactly what I’m looking for in a wine. This bottle of Noble Vines 337 Cab Sauv had a good balance of fruit & tannins and was much enjoyed.
Thank you to all my girlfriends who not only carved out time for me on my birthday, but shared such lovely treats with me. You rock.