Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ferrari-Carano Cabernet

Ferrari-Carano Mountain Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexander Valley
Geyserville, California, USA
$30.00 -- Spec's Liquors, Austin, TX

Color: Opaque ruby
Nose: Ripe plums, a hint of creamed corn
Body: Full
Front: Cherry
Middle: Licorice, young mint
Back: Espresso, oak
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

A great wine with food, this Cabernet seems to be appearing on more and more restaurant lists. I'm pairing it with a little perhaps-over-the-hill salami, and it's catalytic. It failed, however, against the balsamic vinaigrette on my iceberg salad (it's ten thousand degrees outside, a cold dinner vibe)--but then, not many wines succeed with vinegar.

I've never had one of these that was super-tannic, so I'm not sure about the aging potential of the wine, or if people who love Napa cabs will be fond of it. Still, it's got a number of interesting flavors in a simple, but to me delightful, structure. I'd definitely pull it out if you're having folks over for some great food, but don't know what their palates are like.

Note: 1 Dec 2009, I tried the 2006; still lush and layered, plum and herb-dominated.  There's a bit of an earthy stank to this vintage, which is really luscious. I think I might like this more than the 2005.  Average prices for it are going up, but on sale and at bargain joints it can be had in the $29-$30 range still.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nebraska Wines

NOW, IF THAT headline doesn't get your attention, you must live in Nebraska.

The format of this entry is going to be a little looser than usual, so my Google-sent visitors will have to click away. Or, alternatively, bear with me. No, just click away. Go! Get ye to another website, with the information you want right there at the top of the page in tabular format, or better yet in an embedded YouTube video!

I was in Nebraska recently, on a business trip. One of my favorite fellow geeks, Terry, was at the same meeting. We've all had that moment, saying to ourselves, "Thank god so-and-so is here; this meeting is going to be survivable, now." Terry can geek out about our work, but as I discovered a few years ago, what makes him particularly awesome is that he and I can geek out about wine.

He's an appreciator, rather than a palate-policeman. A drinker, really, who loves great beer and good food, even if he can't always describe what things taste like. And as a long-time New Yorker, he loves a good bargain. When in Nebraska, we drink at an Indian restaurant called The Oven, which has one of the best (and most reasonably priced) wine lists I've ever seen. The food is great, and there are some delightful, hard-to-anticipate pairings to be encountered there.

So I was surprised when Terry invited me to go tasting Nebraska wines after our last full day of meetings. I was contemplating a lovely Willamette Pinot on The Oven's outdoor patio. Instead, we headed to a Nebraska-centric gift shop to taste six Nebraska wines each.

This was an education: I had never had wine made from a single one of the varietals on the tasting list. Frontenac; DeChaunac; Chambourcin; Marechal Foch; LaCrosse; Vignoles; and many more. They're sweet, unsurprisingly, given Nebraska's average temperatures and palatal preferences, and they're young. But some of these wines had interesting layers, and folks who like sweet wines should find Nebraska wines offer an astonishing variety for those who have been stuck with White Zinfandel and Gewurtz for all these years.

My favorites (as confessedly a fan of drier wines): Among the whites, I enjoyed the James Arthur Nebraska White. James Arthur bottles an astonishing number of varietals, but this white blend, of Dry Vignoles, LaCrosse, and Seyval, was fruity-sweet, rather than candy-sweet, and had some haunting notes of mineral and earth. It was also comparatively inexpensive, between $10-20. Among the reds, I enjoyed the Cuthills Chancellor, which had a bit of a Pinot Noir-like structure, and a delightful balance of fruit and earth. It was shockingly $32 a bottle, but for special occasions, or Nebraska state business dinners, it's more than worth it.

For Nebraska residents, I highly recommend the Nebraska Wine Tour, which you can find more about at A hint: be sure you get up to Pierce, off the beaten track though it may be, because there's some good wine terroir a-borning up there.

As always, my thanks to Terry for enlightenment. I'm looking forward to my next Nebraska wine adventure.

Martin Syrah

Martin Family Vineyards
Dry Creek Valley
Healdsburg, California, USA2004
$16.00 -- Chapel Hill, NC

Color: Opaque purple
Nose: Sour blackberries, with a delightful stank on 'em
Body: Full
Front: Tangy blackberry
Middle: Plum
Back: Roasted coffee beans, cinderblock tannins
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

This is a delightful wine and an incredible deal. I can't help but think that it's on the edge of its useful life, so drink it now! But the nose is simply enchanting, and the rest of it packs a punch across the dark fruity range.

I'm breaking the rules tonight, by not having any food to take this wine with, but it's been a hell of a week, so I cut myself loose. I'm listening to Jace Everett's record RED REVELATIONS, and this briary, out-of-control wine goes particularly well with his track "One of Them."