Last year I wrote about my family’s Christmas ritual,
which we call “Wine Camp” – a Stump the Chumps bacchanalia of blind
tasting wines from all over the world, especially inexpensive stunners
and outré offerings from unusual areas. I always look forward to
spending time with Dave Johnson, my sister’s husband’s sister’s husband,
who always has some good wines to share.
This year’s bargain from Dave was Fauna 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $8,
a crisp beauty that avoided going over the top with the ol’
grassy-herbals. Not complex by any means, but a great value at the price
and good for parties or even as a house white.
My ringer this year was Tiger Mountain Vineyards Tannat 2002, from Georgia. No, not “former Soviet” Georgia, our
Georgia. Nobody pinpointed the grape or the region, but everyone was
impressed by its light, fruity taste and food-friendly body – after
enjoying it, we put the rest aside to finish with the Christmas ham!
The Tiger Mountain actually was part of an accidental theme this year,
as we had more East Coast wines than usual. We enjoyed a Wölffer Pinot Gris 2005 from
Long Island ($24), though it was crisp and fruity enough to suggest
Italian Pinot Grigio than an Alsatian version. We also had a Pindar 2001 Merlot
from Long Island’s North Fork, which was a bit heavy with black pepper
aromas and flavor, but featured good color, body and just enough fruit
to carry it off.
Everyone was wowed with the Barboursville Octagon 2004
from Virginia ($40), a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc
blend. After an unsettling whiff of barnyard blew off (we were not
decanting or airing these wines as we should have to do them justice),
this developed beautifully and showed what I thought were Bordeaux
characteristics. Everyone else stayed in the New World, guessing
California or Washington.
Both of those states were represented though – with Chateau Ste. Michelle Estate Reserve 1989, from the Columbia Valley, another Cab-Merlot blend that was probably better five years ago but was still showing well; and the Pax Syrah Cuvée Catherine
from Sonoma County. This huge, inky blockbuster cemented my conclusion
from 2006 (which actually began with last year’s Wine Camp and my first
taste of Pax, courtesy of Dave Johnson) that Sonoma County is heaven for
Syrah. More on that theme in 2007!
Cheers, and Happy New Year!
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