Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to enjoy wine and chocolate

February 4, 2019

Regulars are aware I am a longtime fan of Rhone Rangers. Fortunately, Gabrielle, one of my informers, dispatched a range of wonderful small-production, Paso Robles-environs lovelies for me to check out. These will take some work on the part of your friendly wine shop pal unless SCOTUS comes to our rescue and you can order directly. We truly enjoyed a bottle of Barr Estate Winery Albarino 2015 with oysters a few weeks ago. I am a fan of apricot-scented white wine. This filled the bill. A lovely, cool-fermented, dry white wine with apricot, peach and hints of citrus, it finishes long and clean, 89 McD points under $17. Small production, 117 cases. For those who enjoy Chenin Blanc, check out Lone Madrone’s 2017, 92 points under $30. Straw-colored, citrus and flower (honeysuckle?) bouquet. On the acid-bright but smooth palate, you should detect oranges, honeysuckle and roast nuts. Clean, long, lovely finish with slight paraffin note, 92 McD. A bit pricey at $30. Well-made, dry, domestic Chenin is becoming very tough to find. Their Bailey Ranch Zin 2015 is worth buying if you can locate some. Recently the winery did a Zin Chocolate tasting. From all reports it was killer. Those who haven’t enjoyed certain Zins with chocolate are missing a great treat. The adventurous who have a smuggling hookup should get their hands on Sonoma Portworks, either Deco Zin with chocolate liquor or Duet, a sherry with hazelnuts, or both, then pair with a 70 percent dark or bittersweet chocolate. As a matter of interest, go here to figure it out: You can pass the info along and perhaps your local pal will order some.
Trust me, chocolate does go well with many red wines aside from Port and certain Sherries. You just need to find them. If I get enough emails, I’ll do a column. By the way, Hidden Legend, a Montana winery, makes an elderberry wine that is great with chocolate.

Another from the Paso region, Summerwood Marsanne 2016, is a full-bodied dry white. It is deep golden, 15 percent ABV but not alcoholic, with a pleasing bouquet of lemon and orange notes.

Creamy on the palate with more citrus and honeyed barrel spice. Clean, slightly mineral finish. This is an excellent choice for garlicky butter shrimp; use the wine in place of lemon juice. Plenty of acidity to cut the butter viscosity, 89 McD around $35.

Let’s travel up to Suisun Valley, just south of Napa, for a unique varietal wine from Caymus named Suisun Grand Durif. Most of you are alert to Caymus’ Special Select Cabs.

If you bought any of the 2010s when I recommended them in 2014, at 95 points, you’ll be happy to know the price has increased from $150 to $300-plus and they are stunning now, with 10 or more years. At that time, I also advised winos to eschew the Special Select and buy into the generic Napa, 92 points, which were on the market at $55.

These are now selling around $125 and drinking beautifully. If you have any, drink them soon. Back to Grand Durif: Durif is another name for Petite Sirah. Don’t err here. This has little to do with Syrah or Shiraz. It is an entirely different grape from Syrah/Shiraz, named for its discoverer Dr. Francois Durif. The confusion arises because it is pronounced the same as Syrah. Elsewhere in the world, with the exception of USA, most of South America and Israel, this grape is called Durif. It was introduced to USA by Charles McIver in the 1880s. Petite Sirah wines are big and inky, with tons of dark fruit flavors. Caymus Suisun Grand Durif came on in 2014 and consistently scored 90 points by most reviewers.

The 2016 is a very dark-purple wine with a blueberry, blackberry, oak-driven leathery nose. On the palate, polished tannins, dark chocolate, herbs and barrel spice. Needs cellar time, $60, 90 points.

Careful shoppers can find some 2014 around also selling around $60. That’s the way to go. Will cellar through 2025. Don’t forget to “chill” at the Polar Bear Plunge, Sunday, Feb. 3. Always a blast!
Email John McDonald at chjonmc

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