Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Challenge

Before we moved to California, Thomas and I had a fairly nice wine cellar of just about 100 bottles ranging from nice drinkables for the random Tuesday night to the holy-crap-I-was-just-nominated-for-a-Pulitzer bottle. (Needless to say, that bottle is still waiting to be opened.) So moving the entire collection with us seemed a no-brainer until we got the shipping estimate. Then it seemed a better idea to make every one of our last days in Virginia an occassion worthy of the wine. With friends, we went through a respectible amount of it and then gave a few bottles away to friends and family. There were a couple of cases that we wanted to bring west, though, so they went in the car with Thomas and Argus. When each day's driving was done, Thomas would lug the cases and Argus up to the hotel room for the night.

In Virginia, we had a full-sized basement that was always the perfect temperature, so the space under the stairs became the wine cellar. But in California, basements are not as easy to come by, so we converted a coat closet into our new wine "cellar" and quickly filled it with wines from the nearby Santa Cruz mountains.

Over the years, we've tried many of the more expensive labels--a few are still in our closet--but Thomas and I recently decided to start looking for great wines under $15. It's become The Challenge, a challenge that Thomas is winning (I think he has an advantage in that he plays sommelier for the monthly wine tastings at his office). My choices have not turned out so well. Two nights ago, I opened a California Pinot Noir that I had selected and ended up spitting it down the drain. And as anyone who knows me can attest, that can only mean that this was a truely bad wine. The only way I could describe the taste to Thomas was: "Think of a local wine festival. You've been there all day. It's hot. People are getting a bit . . . tipsy. They're hot--and not in a sexy way. The booths with fried foods and fajitas and chocolate dipped ice cream are almost out of food. Now take all of those smells and swirl them together in a glass with a bit of fresh grape juice. Inhale. Sip. Spit. Do NOT roll it around in your mouth and do NOT repeat." I can't imagine why, but Thomas refused to try the wine!

But back to The Challenge: For flavor, complexity and, yes, price, we've been happiest with wines from Chile. Our introduction to Chilean wines was on a trip to Café Atlantico in DC. Amazing dinner plus guacamole made table-side and great mojitos. The wine was a 1998 Veramonte Primus, a lovely carmenére cabernet sauvignon from Chile's Casablanca Valley. We liked it so much that the next day we started buying up every bottle we could find on the east coast. Then we tried the '99. Very good, but not the same. There is still one bottle of the '98 Primus in the wine closet. I can close my eyes and still smell it--the aroma is so earthy and smokey and peppery that burying your nose in the glass is almost as satisfying as tasting the wine itself.

I think I'm going to have to open a wine import business just to be able to write off the tasting trips to Chile. But do you actually have to sell any of it? I might need a bigger closet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ah, I can't wait to drink wine again!!! Keep the recommendations coming