Thursday, March 23, 2017

World Cup of Wine

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Posted by Burke Morton On June - 11 - 2010

What to drink during the World Cup.... Does soccer immediately suggest beer the way that baseball does (or football, or hockey for that matter)? Not really, though now that I think about it, I have noticed that in England there is much imbibing of beer during soccer matches. I suppose this is what usually leads to the tragic stampedes at stadia around the U.K. that we hear about every so often. Let's hope no one gets trampled, but I guess you can--to quote one of my rugby-loving friends--"give 'em a beer afterwards and they'll shake it off." Clearly beer and soccer do have a history, but what about all the cross promotion with wine that has been going on in South Africa? I've never seen anything like it. I don't remember it being such an important facet of the marketing blitz when it the World Cup was in Germany four years ago, and I was just as rabid a consumer of soccer then as now.

Clearly I'm going to be guided by a glass of wine as I negotiate the games of the World Cup (when work doesn't interfere, of course), so I already plan to have some fun. A plan for wine consumption occurred to me as I was drinking the marvelously delicious Ridge 2007 Zinfandel Carmichael (which BTW, makes an excellent pairing for Oreos with the green mint creme): each of the Groups, save one, have at least one major wine-producing country, so you could, were you so inclined, drink wines associated with each group. People often ask me how should they go about learning about wines from other countries, so here is a great way to get to know the wines of the world, and at a minimum, it would be lots of fun. So when you watch a game in Group play, you might drink a wine from one of the sources in that group. Here's the breakdown:

Group A
France
South Africa
Uruguay (a younger, usually forgotten sibling of its South American neighbors, Chile and Argentina)
Mexico (produces a fair amount of wine that makes it to the States, and even England)

Group B
Argentina
Greece (Skip the Retsina...there are many other excellent Greek wines in the market--have fun with these)

Group C
United States of America

Group D
Australia
Germany

Group E
SAKÉ!!!! Japan's rice wine (I know, it's brewed like a beer, but has more in common with wine) that is not just for sushi, and it shouldn't be served hot. Or you could skip saké and get a beer--The Netherlands puts out plenty of it, as does Japan.

Group F
Italy
New Zealand

Group G
Portugal (There are plenty of table wines that you can drink besides the more famous Port, or you could open a bottle of port and call up your inner-Robin Leach and break out the cigars, Stilton cheese, and walnuts and pretend you're living someone else's dream)

Group H
Chile
Spain
Switzerland (Swiss wines are hard to find, but Chasselas is a great white alternative, if you can locate one)

I hope that you watch the World Cup, whether you drink any wine or not. I'll probably be drinking an obscene amount of rosé (stretched out over many days, not all at once...I hate being drunk), and that'll be as fun as the soccer.

Is it me, or does Wayne Rooney play like someone used his head for a soccer ball? One minute he's an incredible player, another he's doing things that'll get him arrested. I'd just as soon he wait until AFTER the match with the USA to get arrested, because I would prefer the U.S. to beat England WITH him, then I could really pour some high-acid Riesling in my Brit friends wounds....

Popularity: 8% [?]

A Syrah from Dry Creek & a Bowl of Chili

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 16 - 2010

Ridge Vineyards shipped the 2004 Lytton Estate Syrah as last month's ATP wine. I sat on it for a few weeks before popping one open. The wines from Ridge are the archetypes for food friendly California wine, reminding us that a wine from the Golden State need not be a shameless hussy to be delicious. In fact, non-slutty wine is actually useful for something other than horrendously expensive pancake syrup or an overly sweet and tarry glass of "wine" (which is about the limit of utility for any overtly self-conscious wine). To wit: we were having beef brisket chili with butternut squash (a variation on the one in Bon Appetit a while ago) that I had made last week, before it got warm, intending to have it the following day, but of course it was 65 degrees the next day, so we waited. We had it Saturday night, as the temperature outside dropped. This meeting of flavors in the mouth provided me with an good illustration of the vagaries of wine pairing.

If you stick your nose into the glass, the wine has a heavenly and complex scent dominated by aromas of oranges and blackberries. Ridge's Syrah is comprised of co-fermented lots of Syrah and Viognier, with an addition of Grenache to add some complexity as well as corpulence. As for the chili, its spice is driven by dried ancho chiles with an underlying flavor from puréed oven-roasted tomatoes. The chunks of brisket stand up well with a mighty beefiness. I included accompaniments of diced red onion, cilantro, and chihuahua cheese to finish it at the table.

A taste of the wine after a mouthful of the chili provided a beautiful confluence of flavors--the smokier notions of the wine emerged, the fruitiness lying in the background of the ancho chiles came forward, and the feeling of the two together was very smooth. Yum.

My next bite happened to have no red onion in it, and when I tasted the wine, it had a strong flavor of black pepper, no presence of fruit, with the result of a rather searing quality. Yikes.

I made sure to have red onions in every bite after this.

I've said this a few times in other articles, and many times in other venues: one change can make all the difference in a successful wine pairing. BUT!--if you know your chef (or your own cooking), and you know your wines (i.e., the wines you happen to have on hand), then choosing wine for your meal should be a matter of imagining the flavors in your food (or just taste what you're cooking) and recalling the flavors in your wines and imagine the way they might fit together. This takes some trial and error, but is not an insurmountable problem (this is more about feel than science, so it's accessible to everyone). Besides, as you experiment, you get to drink a boatload of wine (be responsible), so where's the problem?

Popularity: 5% [?]

A 2009 View of 1993

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Posted by Burke Morton On January - 12 - 2010

Ridge VineyardsWe consumed a ridiculous amount of wine over the holidays. There were many, many people around to drink with us, so the wine covered lots of ground and it stayed pretty peaceful. I toyed with the idea of writing about each "wine day," but I thought better of it when I realized it would lack the requisite cast of characters who get more entertaining by the glass. The wines that we had were great, and I'd like to write about them all (well, not really, but the idea sounded good for a while), but there is one that I can't keep to myself--the Ridge Vineyards 1993 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet.

My Dad bought the wine in late 1999, and it spent the ensuing decade in a temperature-controlled cellar. It's hard to count on longevity if you don't have a good place to store your wine, but conventional wisdom has it that this particular wine would be lucky to live so long even under the best circumstances. This wine did have something extra going for it in that the '93 growing season produced grapes with higher acids than average, and this no doubt contributed to this wine's long-term prospects.

A Bit of Background
The Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, the estate's flagship wine, is one of the icons of California wine. It waves the freak-flag of the vintage, as the wine is intended to be an unadulterated expression of the unique qualities of the growing season. It is long-lived and extraordinary wine, and at upwards of $140 a bottle, it had better be! The Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet is the Monte Bello's significantly more affordable companion wine. It is made from unused ("declassified" might be more accurate) Monte Bello fruit along with fruit from another nearby vineyard, and is crafted to be more fruit-forward, which generally involves some significant intrusion from the winemakers. I'd contend that it is a shining example of outstanding winery practices, though, because--interventionist or not--after sixteen years this wine is glorious.

I praise the winery work because there are many wines (from across California...and around the world really, but that's another discussion!) that are made to be fruit-forward (including some $100 Napa Valley wines), which also hold a promise of long-term maturation--according to the winemakers. Such wines, in my experience, rarely follow through. This gem from Ridge does! You'll find the standard drinking suggestion on the label of the Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet (which says it can be drunk immediately but will last for 10-12 years), but the wine way out-performs the prognostication: here we had an old bottle of it that was very exciting, and not even starting to decline. Now I'm going to have to lay my hands on a bottle of '93 Monte Bello! That won't be easy....

I clearly need to buy some more Ridge--probably a single-vineyard Zinfandel this time. Let me know if you have favorites, too.

So here's the low-down on the wine
It started off with some bottle sickness, but this blew-off after about five minutes, revealing fabulous black fruit aromas with both freshness and moodiness. No sign of being "old"--its age shows only in qualities that run much deeper than before...like your high school ex whom you see again after 20 years...their eyes are kinder now...oh, and they look good. Maybe you wouldn't mind getting back into some of that.... Its sensuous, robust aroma is backed-up by a voluptuous mouthfeel and excellent black fruits again, accompanied by a slightly smoky tone that leaves a bit of meaty flavor to the otherwise florally-motivated finish.

Popularity: 6% [?]

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You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 64% [?]

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