Enjoy winter rain with red wine.
Wine, books, conversation pair well with rain.
It’s been cold and wet out here in Northern California, which is quite lovely in itself but even more so when you consider the terrible fires and heat waves that are changing our landscape. The brown hills we skirt around all year are green; daffodils, crocuses, and narcissus are peeping out, adding color to verdure.
Tropical summer rain made me sing and dance as a child in my native India. In fact, the culture is geared to celebrating rain after the miserable heat of the summer, with folk, popular, and classical music. Well, California’s Mediterranean climate ensures that that never happens. Rain comes with the cold and the ’flu bug: You watch the wonder of rain through your window.
But it’s perfect to enjoy your glass of red wine – to the accompaniment of the pitter-patter of raindrops on the ceiling.
Continuing with the Pinot Noir tasting that I left you with last time, this week I tried the 2016 Sea Slopes from the Fort Ross Winery in Sonoma County. Medium bodied, medium in acidity, this wine was ruby to garnet in color with barely noticeable tannins. Like so many California Pinots, this is fruit forward, subtly so, with flavors of berry and blackcurrant. Alcohol is lower than the 14 percent so common out here in the Golden State.
Finding the lower alcohol, medium acidity very charming, I decided to try a Burgundy. A trip to the store yielded a bottle of Château Philippe-Le-Hardi. This 2015 old wine Pinot Noir is estate bottled and at about $30, a couple of notches above everyday Burgundy reds.
My first conscious Burgundy, it surprised me by its subdued aromas. Again, so used to California wines making a statement from the very first sniff, I was surprised at how the different aromas and flavors didn’t break themselves free of the bottle. These were more blended, especially for a fairly young wine. The aroma had farm and earth. Although the description at the store said cherry, spice, and truffle, try as I might, I couldn’t smell or taste those descriptors. On the third day after opening the wine, I did smell some cherry. Quite enjoyable, but as I’ve said many times, we are drawn to the profiles with which we are familiar. I’ll have to try many Pinots from Burgundy to appreciate fully the subtlety and depth for which this wine is famous.
Just happenstance that I tried two Grenache wines from the Paso Robles region. (I do hope to write about other regions, so bear with me.)
Diablo Paso 2014 Garnacha La Malinche. Aromas of wet leaves, forest floor, and berries. This dry, garnet colored, medium-bodied, medium-acid wine was a great accompaniment to a mushroom risotto. The sauce called for a half cup of wine, which I poured from the same bottle. The pairing worked very well (if I say so myself!). I’ve written about this winery here, here, and here.
The other bottle came as a wonderful surprise at dinner at a friend’s place. He served the 2014 Grenache Skins from Terry Hoage Estate Wines. Terry Hoage, a former football player who made it to the major leagues, and his wife bought a vineyard in 2002 in a major change of career. ‘Skins’ refers not only to the skin of the grapes that goes into making the wine but also to the Washington Redskins, known diminutively as the ‘Skins.’ In 1991 Hoage won the Super Bowl while playing for this team.
But I digress. The theme of our friend’s dinner was fusion Japanese vegetarian – a world away from the risotto with wine sauce – but you wouldn’t have known it from how well the wine paired with the vast array of dishes. It was smooth and delicious.
There will surely be more reds as the rain and cold continue.
Photo credit: Shutterstock: Taveesak Srisonthavil