Here's a sampling of what we've been drinking this week...
Dave Seel: Pellegrini Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay
I'm a big fan of finding good wine at decent prices. I'll literally spend almost an hour in a wine shop, scouring the regions and vintages trying to find that perfect balance of cost vs. quality. Of course, my definition of "a decent price" may be different from some. Of course, it's changed over the years. There was a time when finding an awesome wine for dinner at $16 was considered a good deal in my book. Don't get me wrong, I love a good $15-$20 dollar bottle, but as life has taken over, diapers and dog food have worn away at the old nightly wine budget. Now, I'm psyched if I can find something worth drinking for under or around $10 bucks. It's not an easy task and I've had to stomach some pretty unimpressive wines, but every once in a while I find a steal and the search is totally worth it.
Last week, I was on the search in a small neighborhood wine shop known for its quality of selection. Initially I was intrigued by a row of Portuguese wines, good for both their European flavors and price point. But then my eyes drew me elsewhere, just beyond a row of Merlot, was a perfect value gem. The 2007 Pellegrini Chardonnay on clearance...for only $6.99. I'd recently tried this Long Island chardonnay at the Winebar at The Portly Grape and new both the wife and I dug it.
It's a great wine to pair with seafood, chicken, or even a pork dish. We were having chicken soup that particular night and the chardonnay's tart apple, slight vanilla and nutty flavors paired nicely with my herb-tastic version of the soup. Even if you can't find it on clearance, it's a great example of a good Long Island white and is perfect on it's own or with food. I'm not giving away my secret stash, but if you scout out Long Island's North Shore wine shops, you may just find this gem, waiting patiently for you to take it home and prove to you that cheap doesn't always mean bad.
Mark Grimaldi: Billsboro Winery 2010 Syrah
I was off popping into some Seneca Lake wineries last weekend while we were up visiting family. One of my stops was Billsboro. Having been really impressed with their Riesling in the past I was excited to taste the current release. What I wasn't prepared for was to taste their Syrah.
It wasn't blown because the wine was good, because I know Vinny Aliperti can make good wine, it was blown because I guess I was not expecting to taste that much fruit, with that much varietal correctness from a Finger Lakes Syrah. It's just never been a region I've associated with this variety. But if there was a year to ripen Syrah, I guess it was 2010.
It's color was deep, but bright, and screamed of freshness, and when I looked at it all I could think was that this feeling would follow through onto the palate as well. On the nose, red berries jump at you, with just a slight hint of that white pepper I usually pick up in the Northern Rhone. It smelled great.
The palate was lively, and fun, almost bouncy with a real savory quality to it. The fruit and tannins came together elegantly, and perfectly ripe for my tastes. Nicely balanced acid and a finish that made me want another sip before it even ended. It's not complex, and you don't have to try hard to understand it. It was just a really juicy, delicious, balanced red that I would have no problem having in heavy rotation on the table.
The only problem is that they only make something like 150 cases. I believe the fruit comes from "Sawmill Creek Vineyard", which the more and more I taste from this vineyard, has me thinking that if the Finger Lakes could have a grand or 1er Cru vineyard site one day, this would be one of them.
Evan Dawson: Chateau Lascombes 2002
Nice to be reminded that even wine with a pedigree -- second-growth Bordeaux! -- can be fat, boring, utterly lacking distinction or a sense of place. Not a legendary vintage, but my quarrel has nothing to do with the vintage.
This wine was almost silly. Extracted and black, it felt like a wine that was trying too hard from the get-go.
Often we hear vignerons claim, "The fruit can stand up to the oak." In this case, no, it can not. The oak overwhelms the nose, with brown sugar and Starbucks caramel macchiato offering the clearest sense of aromatics, followed by vaguely dark fruits.
The structure is fine; nothing to complain about, and the fine-grained tannins work nicely at this stage. But even after several hours open, the wine had not improved beyond a rather one-dimensional, awkward effort.
Hard to say I'd have gone with Bordeaux had I tasted it blind.
Lenn Thompson: Aarrowhead Spring Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir
Lots of people talk about a lack of quality pinot noir in the under-$20 category. Well, here's one $18 pinot from the Niagara Escarpment that is more than, "decent for the money."
It's downright good and might be my favorite New York pinot that I put in my mouth this year.
Fresh, bouncy and all about crunchy cherry-cranberry flavors up front, the finish turns soft and silky with light spice and beautiful dried fall leaves earthiness on the finish.
It remains to be seen whether Niagara USA will become pinot country or cabernet franc country -- but this wine sure makes the case for pinot.
You won't see any "perfect Thanksgiving wine" commentary on this website, but I could see this on my table in a few weeks.
Best of all, I will soon have ready access to this wine on Long Island -- more on that tomorrow though.