Hope everybody had too much to eat and drink and that nobody got hurt during any arguments about sports or politics at the dinner table. That said, it’s winter now and that means red wine more often than not, so read on and warm up.
France’s Rhone Valley contains some of the oldest vineyards in Europe; the Romans first brought organized wine production to the region over 2,000 years ago. The most prolific name in the valley today, though, is pretty new-founded in 1946 by Etienne Guigal. He started as a fruit picker, saved and sacrificed to buy his first piece of land and never looked back. Today, Maison Guigal, in its third generation, produces a portfolio of wines that are nothing short of extraordinary, both in depth and quality. Their 2014 Guigal Crozes Hermitage, ($18.99), is a great wine to have with a holiday roast, rack of lamb or slow-cooked beef stew. This 100% Syrah offers intense aromas of blackberry, black olive and spice. It’s full-bodied with penetrating intensity of flavor and has good length on the finish.
In the States, we have a region that’s similar to the Rhone Valley in a lot of respects, but it’s Zinfandel, not Syrah, that’s the predominant grape in the region. I’m talking Lodi in California and the Zins are big here, many from vines that are 50 years old and more. Ironstone Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel 2017, Lodi, ($21.99), is rich and well-structured, lingering dark fruit finish. The dark fruits and sweetness of the Reserve Zinfandel will pair perfectly with a creamy and herbaceous fettuccine pork Bolognese or a rich braised beef dish with lots of hearty vegetables. There’s also a little bow to the Rhone Valley, though, as this one has 8% Syrah in the blend.
It doesn’t really get very cold in any part of Australia, yet they provide some of the heartiest reds on the planet and a great example of that is Australian Shiraz. The range of body and style of this wine is really broad, but one of the best representations has got to be Penfolds, Bin 128, Coonawarra Shiraz, 2016, ($39.99). Notes of sage and bay leaf, along with Indian spices combine with dark-berried fruits, all infused from 12 months in French oak. Have this one with Beef Wellington, New York strips or Filet Mignon with bernaise and roasted vegetables.
KWV Classic Collection Cape Tawny, ($26.99), is a great tasting way to end a great meal. This beauty is reddish brown, almost a caramel color, with notes of sweet dates and apricots apricot notes, as well as light orange peel, milk chocolate and almond notes with an unusually long finish. Don’t be in a hurry with this one; the 17.5% ABV makes it one of the strongest dessert wines in the world. It’s a natural for strong cheeses with fresh fruit or Creme Brulee.
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