I heard Eric Asimov speak last year at the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. Something he said stuck with me. In essence he said wine reviewers are going about it all wrong. He believes that tasting wine is only a small part of the total wine experience. Without people to share the wine with and food to pair with it, you’re at a big disadvantage. Linda Kissam has found a solution. Last year she created both the women’s and the men’s wine councils. These groups of six meet approximately once a month, we sample five or six wines and bring a dish to pair with each. Voila – all the bases are covered. Good conversation, food and wine.
We met last December, Ken Barnes, Roger Paige, Scott Vinton, Corie Maue, Linda Kissam and I met at our designated secret location and after settling in, we started tasting. The 2010 Honker Blanc Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Cerruti Cellars was excellent. Grapefruit, green apples and tropical fruits come to mind when you put the glass to your nose. It’s bright on the palate with good balance and acidity. We all thought it was a great value at around $14. It paired nicely with Roger’s roasted squash soup and Scott’s artichoke dip.
Wine number two was Dunning Vineyards 2009 Paso Robles Chardonnay. We all tried to come up with something nice to say about this wine, but failed. It was okay, nothing more. We may have gotten a bad bottle. I have enjoyed Dunning wines before and they are usually stunning. It sells for about $24.
We moved on to the reds, starting with the ’09 Tractor Shed Red from the Tudal Family Winery in Napa. It’s a very budget friendly blend of Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Merlot. Garlic mushrooms and my Mexican Shepherd’s Pie both paired nicely with it. You should be able to find it for about $13 and it’s a good value at that price.
My assignment was to bring a dish that would pair with the 2009 Ridge Top Zinfandel from Dunning Vineyards. I found a recipe for Mexican Sheperd’s Pie and I can assure you I’ll be making it again. It paired beautifully with the Zin. At $28, I felt it was a bit overpriced, but it was a solid wine and for the most part the panel enjoyed it.
The Terra D’Oro Zinfandel Port rounded out the evening’s tasting. I’ve had high alcohol dessert wines before that didn’t smell or taste hot. This one did. 19% is not terribly high for a fortified wine, but this one from Amador County had an alcohol burn to it. It paired well with chocolate and all in all for about $12, it’s pretty decent.
I look forward to our next gathering. It’s always a good time sharing stories, food and wine with this group. Cheers!