As the New Year dawns, and as my weary palate rests for a few days, I want to share with you some of my favorite wines (in no particular order) of the past year. Most of these little lovelies are still available in state wine shops or on the Internet. As is my practice, I’ll also recommend a menu item to go with these special wines.So here’s wishing you a happy, prosperous and wine-stained New Year!
2005 Melville Estate Pinot Noir ($30): Melville is a small producer in the Santa Rita Hills area in the cool Pacific Ocean-influenced Santa Ynez Valley. You may recall this area from the movie “Sideways” or from your own personal experience with the delicious Pinot Noirs produced here. The bright red color of the ’05 Melville may mislead those expecting a lighter-styled version of Pinot Noir. However, once you put the Pinot Noir in your mouth, you realize this is a much more complex wine that features layers of flavor. The nose is a combination of cinnamon spice with nuances of caramel and the flavors are of black cherries, spice and just a hint of earth. This wine begs for roasted pork tenderloin in a slightly sweet sauce made from dried cherries or cranberries.
2005 Tomassi Pinot Grigio Le Rosse ($14): From Northeastern Italy, this straw-colored beauty may surprise you with its supple and round flavors of ripe pear and melon. The Le Rosse single vineyard wine is produced in the normally red wine area of Valpolicella -- which may account for why its flavors are so much more intense. Unlike the majority of Pinot Grigio produced in northern Italy, this wine is a spicier, rounder version with more depth of flavor and yet still well balanced. This would be a wonderful accompaniment to linguine and mussels in a garlic and white wine sauce (use about 2 ounces of the Le Rosse).
2004 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir ($50): What a delicious mouthful of wine! This Pinot Noir is a symphony of flavors and aromas with a nose of dark fruit, spice, vanilla and tobacco, and tastes of black cherries, blueberries, cinnamon and earth. If you wish to consume the wine now, you should definitely decant it into a carafe for at least one hour prior to drinking to allow the flavors to open up. And while the wine is approachable now, you will be rewarded if you wait a few more years before drinking it. Drink this wine with roasted filet of salmon that has been dusted with Kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, brown sugar and cayenne pepper.
2005 Altos de Luzon ($15): Until the last few years, the only Spanish wines any of us knew about were the Tempranilo-based reds of Rioja , the Cava’s (Sparkling wines) from the Penedes region and, of course, the fortified wine known as Sherry. More recently, some very good wines from previously unknown wine appellations have been making their way to our shores. The 2005 Luzon is produced in a region of southeastern Spain called Jumilla and is a blend of 50 % Monastrell (Mourvedre) and 25% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranilo. This full-bodied and rich wine has dark fruit flavors with just a hint of black pepper spice. Round and ripe, the wine also has excellent balance and would be a great match to barbecue dishes like baby back pork ribs dry-rubbed with black pepper, garlic, cumin and kosher salt.