Our wines of the week consist of three delightful dinner companion wines, all under $20: a juicy 2006 red blend from Chile (Veramente) named Primus; an old world French red, the 2007 Henry Brouilly Cuvee Georges Fessy and a wonderful 2006 Chardonnay from the Bodega del Desierto in La Pampa (Argentina) called 25/5.
We’ll start with the Primus, a very good value at $17.99 that exhibits all the tell tale full-bodied attributes of a more expensive cabernet, merlot or malbec, but at reasonable price. One thing we’ve noticed in recent years is how the South American wine makers have taken the best of the old and new world philosophies to create some incredible red and white wines, all at prices that would make the French cry, “sacre bleu!” We tried the Primus several years ago and instantly fell in love with its complex flavor profile, which consists of a quad of familiar grapes: cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec and carmenere. This is a good stand-alone wine, but works well with meaty dishes, including beef, lamb or even the rich and spicy barbecue pork we enjoyed.
Though some old world wines can seem earthy or chalky, even, the Henry Brouilly Cuvee Georges Fessy was a pleasant surprise when paired with our mushroom ravioli and vodka sauce. Rule of thumb with many French and Italian reds: give them a little time to open up and stretch their legs, as it were. Don’t let the dubious “cow pasture” scent fool you…many of these wines (this one included) develop slowly and need to be aerated (an hour, if possible), so be patient and give them a chance before enjoying.
The Bodega del Desierto 25/5 is one of the best-tasting chardonnays we’ve come across in some time. This Argentinean’s best attribute is its drinkability. Though many California chards can seem overly oaked to the point of tasting like butterscotch pudding in a glass, the 25/5 strikes the perfect balance between oakiness and crispness, without being cloyingly sweet or overpowering. It paired remarkably well with the shrimp Creole and buttered biscuits we enjoyed for dinner.
Saturday night dinner date with our friends and fellow Wanderlushes. Our friend prepared a delicious barbecue pulled pork with biscuits, macaroni and cheese, along with a delightful spinach and mushroom salad with a mandarin dressing. We stopped by Seventh Street Wine Company in Fort Lauderdale earlier in the evening to find a wine that would pair well with this rich and hearty meal. Chris, the manager at Seventh Street, suggested a Steele Zinfandel. We also discovered that pale ale beer pairs well with barbecue. So, we decided a wine vs. beer challenge was in order and bought both to bring to dinner. We uncorked the Zin and opened a couple of bottles of Stone ales (San Diego, CA) to pair with the meal. I must say, after eating and tasting with a keen palette we all decided that the Zinfandel won the pairing challenge. The fruitiness of the Zin seemed in tune with the rich and zesty pork, but didn’t overpower it. The pale ale, while complex in its own right, seemed to hold up well with the meal, but didn’t offer that robust and complimentary flavor profiling that the Zin delivered. Not a bad way to spend an evening in Fort Lauderdale. More Wanderlushing to come…
Wine Notes from Steele Wines: Catfish Vineyard is truly an old-timer, planted in 1901. The vineyard is located on the Bell Hill bench of Lake County just south of Kelseyville. The vines are head pruned and stand on their own roots. Steele Wines purchased the vineyard in 2000 and we have been working to rehabilitate the old vines since that time. Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel is actually a field blend of a number of varieties, including small amounts of Carignan, Alicante Bouche, Cabernet, and several other varieties – even some white grapes. The grapes from Catfish are not separated; the wine is vinified just as it grows. The vineyard was planted during the influx of Mediterranean immigrants into Northern California at the turn of the 20th Century.
Fort Lauderdale, I love you. Well, maybe not love…but I sure do like you a hell of a lot. But I think I’m beginning to lose some respect for you. Once you were the exciting, everything goes kind of town…like the happy-go-lucky kind of place everybody wanted to party in, be it spring breakers to sun-worshipping touristas, all with loads of cash and eager to tuck into your bikini bottom while you danced and pranced, all the while swaying and swinging your fun-loving little tush to and fro in the face of your uptight neighbors Miami, to the south, and Palm Beach, to the north. Then, years later, it all kind of went down hill. It wasn’t a seismic disaster of a change…no, it was more of a subtle change, a gradual downturn that most people didn’t see coming.
Fort Lauderdale: what happened to you?
You stripped off your façade and got a facelift. You built more and more condos and created a vast wasteland of over-priced buildings to attract more and more of the wrong type of people; you turned your back on your partying ways and suddenly decided to go chic and sophisticated on us. Nice try. Fort Lauderdale, for all your beauty, you’ve turned into a bloated, decrepit excuse for a sun-baked town. The party is over, for the most part. Sure, you enjoy fun in the sun and cocktails, but only in moderation. You tell everyone to keep the noise down at night; you build posh hotels to attract God-knows who to your shores and then complain when you can’t get a table at your favorite restaurant. You’re the tacky Hawaiian shirt, the black socks with white loafers, the early bird special lining up at the cheap diner with the rest of your survivors. I hope you see yourself for what you really are and do something to make a change…any change, for the better. But still, Fort Lauderdale, warts and all, I’m still a big fan…though not as much as I used to be.