CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Written by admin on . Posted in Eat & Drink, The Penniless Epicure.


The Napa Valley Vintners, celebrating its 65th year as a trade association, were in town with many of their most important producers to show off their legendary goods to the East Coast wine crowd.

It needs to be said that when tasting wines from Napa Valley, you must immediately adjust your price index up a notch or two. Think of Napa as the Nike of wine. They charge a lot for their product because they can. Everyone knows who they are. True, some of the stuff from the region is worth the money, but you must sift a bit.

Like the Diamond Creek “Gravelly Meadow” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 ($175 at Sherry-Lehman, 505 Park Ave., betw. 59th & 60th Sts., 212-838-7500). I knew the second I tasted it this was going to be the best wine at the tasting. And the most expensive. It was full of smoky and candied cherry aromas, and in my mouth it exploded with a blast of dark, ripe blackberry with just enough tannin to balance out the ripe fruit flavors. Unfortunately, the price tag makes it not so much a special-occasion wine, but more of a “when you sell your first screenplay” wine.

There were other, less expensive wines at the tasting that warranted their price tags, but none of them were cabernet sauvignons. My favorite chardonnay was the Signorello Chardonnay, 2007 ($31.89 at DrinktheGrapes.com).

While still in the “buy this when you have the boss over for dinner” range, it gives you everything you could possibly want from a full-bodied chardonnay. The problem with many California or “California style” chardonnays has typically been that they taste like oak and little else. This chardonnay was perfectly balanced between its mild, creamy oak flavors and an orange-citrus and mineral backbone.

My favorite white wine at the event, however, wasn’t a chardonnay, but a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes; a combo made famous by the Bordeaux region of France. These blends can be notoriously boring  when they’re from Bordeaux, but the St. Supery “Virtu,” 2006 ($34.99 at Elite Wine, 558 Third Ave., at E. 37th St., 212-679-4455) is anything but. The scent of fresh- picked grapefruit continues in the mouth as lemon curd and fresh herbal flavors race around the palate. This is a crisp but complex blend that is much more interesting than your run-of-the-mill California sauvignon blanc.

Honorable mention must go to the Schramsberg Brut Rosé, 2005 sparkling wine ($37.20 at Cabrini Wines, 831 W. 181st St., betw. Pinehurst Ave. & Cabrini Blvd., 212-568-3290). While not exactly a bargain, this pink sparkler is as good, if not better, than most rosé Champagnes I’ve had for the same price.

Now, momma Perilo always told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all, but I cannot contain my disappointment in some of the “important” Napa producers that didn’t deliver.

Big time Napa houses like Cakebread, Clos du Val, Stag’s Leap and Silver Oak all brought wines that were overpriced and underwhelming. They faded into the background of the tannic, cherry-vanilla din.

Right now, when paychecks are stretched to the breaking point to cover rent and groceries, it’s pretty hard to justify a $50 bottle of wine. Especially when it’s a wine that’s nothing to write home about.

For my money, unless my editor is coming over for dinner or my column is syndicated nationally, I’m getting my cabernet from Argentina and my chardonnay from Upstate New York.

josh@pennilessepicure.com

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