Not easily classified, but no less worthy

July 27, 2011

As my many wine tasting notes gather, I'll plot out an idea for a column based on a constellation of these or those (a piece on rosé wines, for instance, after a couple dozen pinkies). But in the sifting, I often come up with orphan notes — a scattering of really terrific wines that don't congregate easily into any theme.

Today, I'd like to recommend some of these. It's a shame they would go unheralded for lack of a thematic home.

It's a list by vintage that includes U.S. retail prices and food pairing ideas. Some wines are not inexpensive, but all are darn tasty and fully fit for the table.

Non-vintage Delamotte Rosé, Champagne, France ($70-100): From Champagne's longtime maker of pink sparkling; a beautiful combination of creamy, voluptuous texture (underneath the gazillion bubbles) with an edgy, citrusy vibrancy; aperitif with trout mousse.

2006 Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Reserva, Tuscany, Italy ($30-$33): Merely $6 per year for comely, aged Chianti; sangiovese's red berry fruit turned into its leathery, cedary, spicy maturity; long finish; Tuscans eat boar with this, but grilled pork'll do.

2007 Schramsberg Brut Rosé, North Coast, California ($28-$38): Schramsberg's sparklers are the best bubbly canvases for the colors, tastes and textures of the table; no bells and whistles to call attention to themselves, just to your food; grilled salmon, Thai lamb salad.

2007 Guelbenzu Vierlas Vino de la Tierra, Ribera del Queiles, Spain ($14): From a solid-state producer of reds, this one has frisky, come-hither aromas and tastes of ripe, black cherries sparked with notes of licorice, coffee and pepper; so juicy it says "cheese."

2007 Villa di Capezzana Carmignano, Tuscany, Italy ($30): A corkscrew to open and a fork with which to consume; so rich of (ripe, puffy) tannin and dense black fruit, it's more chew than sip; richly rendered, gorgeously sweeping length; red meats, of course.

2007 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve, Marlborough, New Zealand ($40-$45): Gorgeous ruby garnet, with a wide-open bouquet of black cherry and berry; notes of blood, Asian five-spice and cedar, with softly rendered tannin and acidity that cleans your mouth like a squeegee; give it grilled salmon.

2008 Box Car Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California ($14-$21): Not a Robert Parker darling syrah, but a Crozes-Hermitage "herbal" sort, with fruit and earth on equal footing; a tension between the two draws in your interest; soft tannins, minerally, lovely; lighter, red meat dishes.

2008 Chateau Tanunda Shiraz, Grand Barossa, Australia ($18): My word, I could breathe this in all day; all cassis, black raspberry and sweet charcoal; a Pavarotti, big but graceful; creamy texture, snappy finish; if you can't do emu, have with rich, red meats.

2008 Freemark Abbey Merlot, Napa Valley, California ($19-$22): Open a day before you need it to untighten it; dense fruit (black cherry and plum jam), with whispers of cedar and tobacco; well-knit tannin and a touch of earthy dust; lingers; grilled portobello with herbed butter.

2008 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407, South Australia ($30-$35): Of all things Aussie, reminiscent of Vegemite — in a good way — for its brooding berry blackness enlivened by sparks of mint, eucalyptus, cedar; wraparound tannins; definitely a red-meat red.

2008 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz, Calif. ($40): Could be called a "baby Monte Bello," as it is from that vineyard (but from more accessible fruit), yet it is its own wine and happily so; true cabernet in its elegance and high tones, with richly rendered black fruit; terrific for the price; push the envelope with tuna steaks or eggplant lasagna.

2009 Barnard Griffin Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington ($13-$19): A super value in pitch-perfect cabernet; chewy, juicy, moderately tannic, good depth; a constant winner of awards, not merely here; keep some bottles around for winter meals.

2009 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir Domaine de Vaudon, Burgundy, France ($60-$70): As if chalk and limestone were at the core of a lemon-edged custard apple; incisive, piano-wire acidity; shellfish, flatfish, any fish.

2009 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Merlot, Rapel Peumo, Chile ($22-$25): Yes, good merlot exists, right here; layers of aromas and flavors of red and black fruits, with muscles of tannin and wood; its core flexes as it rolls through the mouth; for bean and root vegetables.

2010 Babich Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($10-$12): As Kiwi sauvignon blancs go, this is humble in the in-your-face department; juicy even, with taste of baked, rather than raw, green apple, snapped to with citrusy acidity; too many salads to list, too many sandwiches.

2010 Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy ($20-$25): Please cure the world's restaurants and retail shelves of overpriced, vapid pinot grigio by proselytizing this purely delicious, flavor-packed beauty; like Greek yogurt, just enough tang undergirding creamy, richly unfolding texture; aromas and tastes of pear and yellow apple; enjoy by itself as a proper aperitif or with most light foods.