Side Dish: Wines (March 1, 2010)

Sometimes you just need an escape. And when you’re a Walker, escape is just a corkscrew twist away. While I have always enjoyed wine I did spend a long time intimidated by it as well: the elaborate tasting rituals, the talk of its “tannins” and “legs” and “nose.” I remember my first wine tasting vividly. As other students inhaled deeply, they described the aromas in evocative (and occasionally inedible) terms: “I smell ground white pepper” and “A very strong dark chocolate foreground with a hint of shoe leather in the back.” Meanwhile I inhaled deeply and (without thinking) said the first thing the smell invoked: “This smells like my grandfather.”

Needless to say, it was a while before I showed my face at a wine tasting again. But here’s the secret: people who love wine usually love sharing their enthusiasm for wine as well So while most of America gets their wine advice from Trader Joe (well, Charles Shaw, actually), I am lucky to have an Uncle Saul. And even though Saul is a Holden, he drinks like a Walker. That is to say, like a fish. The other night during a dinner at Nora’s house, Uncle Saul and I struck up a conversation about what he has learned from his many years enjoying the finest wines from across the globe. Obviously Walker Landing is a product Saul is passionate about, but he was just as comfortable telling me about a summer he spent working at a vineyard in Bordeaux or when he crushed grapes in a barrel at a tiny vineyard in Napa Valley. One of the first things Saul taught me is that finding a good wine doesn’t necessarily mean buying expensive wine and with that he started giving me his top wine picks from outside the US – all available for less than $20. (Not surprisingly, his top picks in the US were all from a little label called Walker Landing). I guess this week, we’re all lucky to have an Uncle Saul…

REDS
1) The Guigal Rhone is always a good choice and NEVER fails to please. The wines from the Rhone Valley are usually the Syrah grape. This can be had for under 10 bucks (whatever year is available is ok).
2) Guigal Gigondas (2005) — This is also Syrah but a much lovelier bottle of wine for around $20.
3) Chateau Cote Montpezat (2000) – A mixture of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Around $19.
4) Arnoux Gigondas (2004) – A delicious choice for approximately $14.
5) Puig Parahy George (2007)
– This wine should cost around $10 and is a mixture of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah
6) Vinos Sin Ley Gra2 (2007) – This is from Rioja Baja and costs around $14. It’s 100% Graciano grape (which is usually a grape for blending, but in this case is quite nice by itself)
7) Vigna Vecchia Raddese (2001) – This wine should be under $20 and is 100% Sangiovese.

WHITES
1) Joseph Drouhin Chablis (2007) – They always make good wines and this particularly good one can be had for under $20
2) Christian Moreau Chablis (2007) – Should be around $18.
3) Lucien Crochet Sancerre — The La Croix du Roy is my favorite and should be about $23.
4) Mollet Florian Sancerre Roc de L’abbaye (2008) — This is the least expensive wine on this list and should be around $13.
5) Bzikot Bourgogne Blanc (2007) – Should be around $20 and worth every penny.