Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meiomi Pinot Noir

Belle Glos Wines
Pinot Noir (Meiomi)

Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara Counties
Rutherford, California, USA
$18.00 -- Costco, Austin, TX

Color: Medium purpley red
Nose: Cherry, cranberry, bread pudding
Body: Medium to light
Front: Cherry
Middle: Baking spices, cranberry
Back: Strawberry, caramel
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Screwcap

Until this had been open for half an hour, it was hot, acidic, and acetoney. So beware: it's a "cheap" pinot, but it's also not. It's been open now for six hours, and it's rich, layered, and fascinating. The mouthfeel is silky; it lunges into you like a Gerard Manley Hopkins stanza.

Most importantly, perhaps, it's good with food. I made a chicken and chorizo dish, with artichoke hearts, red onions, garlic, and red peppers. I knew I'd need something red, and a with little spice to go with it, but I wasn't sure what to pair with it and didn't feel like a syrah. So I tried a new edition of an old favorite, the 2007 Caravan (about which more in a moment) and this pinot.

At first, it was an even split. The Caravan brought out the tomato and the artichoke, which was delightful, and asserted its personality, too. But eventually, the Meiomi emerged triumphant; after it had opened up, chocolatey, bready, and cinnamony notes sang in combination with the paprika, chorizo, and caramelized elements of the dish. The management of the oak on this wine will please many, and the fruit is vibrant without getting bubble-gummy or lick-the-envelopey. Try it with pickles.

Back to the Caravan. This is one of my favorite wines. But I can't help but note a minor, yet important change to the back label. They used to credit the quotation there this way: "Adapted from Rumi"; now, it's more definitive: "The Rubiayat by Omar Khayyam." Both of these may be true, sort of.

Why sort of? Because Rumi came after Khayyam, and thus may have borrowed from him, or transformed him, or indeed, may not have, and the original attribution might have been pure fantasy. And yet, only sort of, because, fantasy or no, in this attempt to correct the "record"--an attempt which I would argue is out of touch with the Sufic mode of this ghazal--the labelists spelled "Rubaiyat" wrong. In the abstract, a wrong spelling means little. In the attempt to purify, it reminds us of the importance of imbalance over perfection: of passion and meaningfulness, over integrity. Look at the Meiomi: grapes from three different counties! But passion makes them sing harmoniously. Why credit and quote, Caravan, when you could sing it yourself?

That said, I hope that the Wappo tribe, from whose language "Meiomi" is taken, is getting some kickbacks on the profits from this wine, which I suspect to be the broad-market bottle from Belle Glos.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

V. Sattui Pinot Noir

V. Sattui Winery
Los Carneros
Pinot Noir

Napa Valley
St. Helena, California, USA
$28.00 -- Sattui Winery, St. Helena, CA

Color: Medium garnet
Nose: Cherry, cranberry, mesquite smoke
Body: Medium
Front: Cherry
Middle: Orange, roasted fig
Back: Black cherry, soft tannins, a little heat
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

Another delightful bottle from Sattui. This is an assertive wine, with the distinctive profile of a Carneros Pinot; there is a balance between fruit and smoke (sometimes earth, in other Carneros Pinots) that I enjoy. It's smooth, but not silky; with another year or two in the bottle, I think, it has a chance to match up its structure with its mouthfeel. Great with salad--so that is a plus!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Domaine Chante Cigale Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Domaine Chante Cigale
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France
$29.95 -- Central Market, Austin, Texas

Color: Dark red, purple edges
Nose: Cherries, genoa salami, cigar wrapper, plums
Body: Full
Front: Stewed cherries
Middle: Roasted fig, venison
Back: Tobacco, licorice, basil
Burns clean?: Quite so
Cap: Cork

My love of 2007 southern Rhone wines continues. The flavor profile above is deeply contingent on when you engage the wine. Early, the nose was closed and the palate starkly acidic and earthy. After a half hour open, fruits and a little stewedness came in. Now, at two-plus hours open, it's acquiring the profile I describe above. This is the sort of wine that convinces me that putting bottles in the cellar and trying to forget they're there is worth it. The texture of it is delightful--superfine tannins, dangerously drinkable (especially at, I suspect, closer to 15% than the 14% listed on the bottle).

Chalone Sauvignon Blanc

Chalone Vineyard
Sauvignon Blanc

Monterey County
Soledad, California, USA

$8.99 -- Whole Foods, Austin, TX

Color: Pale straw with a tinge of green
Nose: Bread pudding
Body: Medium
Front: Butter
Middle: Orange peel, bread
Back: Apricot, cardboard
Burns clean?: Yes
Cap: Cork

After a long hiatus, the Emptyer is back! I was out making money, faithful reader, and it has to last.

This is an interesting wine. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it's awesome, but it's very good with food, and it has a few distinct layers that will be interesting to many people. It's certainly American, with a butteriness (despite a kind of chalky mouthfeel, actually) and a bigness that overbalance the acidity, a bit. But I'm drinking it with Spanish chorizo and it's a good combination, refracting the flavors of the wine in ways different from when you drink it alone.

I think the price is right, and for many people it will be a bargain.