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Wineaux: Celebrating flight survival

By From page A9 | October 04, 2012

In the last “Wineaux,” I planned a holiday-in-Davis, culminating, of course, in a leisurely dinner with a good bottle of wine. I had great fun writing that column and it was quite therapeutic as well, because all the while I was drafting it, I was also making arrangements (ugh!) and packing for a trip to New Mexico.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that going (or even thinking about going) to an airport induces in me as much anxiety as a trip to the dentist. And now that Sacramento and other airports have installed those awful (and probably unsafe) whole-body X-ray machines, I dread air travel even more. I opt for the pat-down, which takes even more time and is bad enough in itself without the security folks doing a lot of sighing and eye rolling at me because they think I’m a health nut and a crank. Guilty as charged.

But the eventual beauty of the New Mexican landscape and the company of friends soon dispelled my airport gloom. And you won’t be surprised to learn that I drank a lot of good wine (none of it from New Mexico, alas) while I looked out on those beautiful, stark mountains.

The first bottle — the bottle Gordon and Bruce chose to welcome us — was an Italian Prosecco made from organic grapes. Mionetto has been making Prosecco since 1887 and definitely has perfected the art if this bright apple-y sparkler is typical. Mionetto also uses recycled material for the bottles and labels of its organic line, so naturally I felt enormously virtuous drinking it.

We moved on to a red that our hosts, much more adventuresome travelers than I, had brought back from a recent trip to the Czech Republic. Bottled in a cute little jug, it tasted very much like the sort of wonderful red you’d drink by the glass or carafe in its local setting. I wouldn’t ordinarily write about a wine that readers won’t be able to try (without extensive travel), but its intriguing earthiness was matched by an equally intriguing name, Ludmila — in honor of a woman who was born in Melnik (the source of the grape) and was the grandmother of (Good) King Wenceslas.

Sometime in the 9th century, the story goes, Ludmila planted the first vineyards in that area. Her grandson went even further in the arts of cultivating grapes and making wine and became known as “Supremus Magister Vinearum.” At just about this time of year, Melnik celebrates the feast of St. Wenceslas with a wine festival.

The following night I provided the wines — though I wasn’t able to come up with anything so well-storied. At the Santa Fe Whole Foods, I roamed the shelves looking for “interesting” and picked up a bottle of French Cabernet franc from the Loire called Trinch! (the sound of glasses pinging).

Suddenly, a voice behind me (with a lovely Italian accent) said, “That’s my favorite wine in the whole store.” Not only did this wine have the imprimatur of the wine buyer, but it turned out to be made from biodynamic grapes and imported by Kermit Lynch (you’ve heard my Kermit Lynch raves many times). This beautiful forest-y, earthy, medium-bodied wine is made by acclaimed vintners Catherine and Pierre Breton; coincidentally, cab franc is known in the area as “breton.” Not quite so good as the Ludmila story but close.

I balked a little at the $27 ($23 at the KL store in Berkeley) price tag, but I had to celebrate surviving the flight, didn’t I?

I also found another Kermit selection (“oh yes,” said the voice, “I love that one, too”), Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Rouge, one of Kermit’s own red Rhône blends, this one about $10 less — and just as delicious and food-friendly as I had hoped. Many “ahhs” from my table mates for both bottles.

When I went to look for these wines in Berkeley, I asked for another recommendation — $15 or less — and was enthusiastically steered to a 2011 red wine from the town of Corse Calvi in Corsica. Called Clos Reginu, it’s made from grapes grown in a former olive grove. I brought it home and opened it immediately to accompany a dinner of pasta with a hearty, spicy red sauce. (No, that sauce didn’t quite match the 90-degree day, but it is fall, time for all-day simmered sugo in spite of the temperature.)

I think I might have liked this KL wine even more than the first two. Earthy and rustic, it has good tannins, a whole range of dark fruit flavors (maybe even a touch of olive or am I just imagining it?), lots of pepper, and a lovely intensity that seems barely possible in a wine with only 12.5  percent alcohol. This, too, is a blend — of grapes both Rhône-ish and native to Corsica — neillucciu (a close relative of sangiovese), grenache, sciaccarellu, syrah, mourvedre and carignan. The taste is as exotic as the grapes. My partner and I finished the bottle and longed for just one more splash. Fortunately, I’m going to be able to provide that and more, since Valley Wine Company just ordered some (and the other two as well!).

Finally, I want to follow up on the Valley Wine Company recommendation in the last column of the Domaine du Salvard “Unique” sauvignon blanc. Yes, it’s just as good as promised — and we did drink it with the fresh sardine appetizer and wild coho I hoped would be on the Monticello menu that night.

The crisp, zesty, citrus-y wine paired perfectly with both and went equally well with the fresh albacore-topped, lemon-caper whole wheat penne. Since we finished the bottle before dessert arrived, I can’t promise it would complement Italian chocolate cake with kumquat (possibly the best cake I’ve ever had in a restaurant). But then, I wouldn’t expect it to.

Lest I seem disloyal to our local wines with all these Italian and French offerings, I’m happy to announce our very own Putah Creek’s semi-annual tasting on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the winery, 9518 Drummond St. Not only will there be live music, local art and good things to eat but also a release party for their ’09 Cab, their first Late Harvest Viognier and their ’10 Reserve Chardonnay. For $15, you can taste all of these and several other current releases — and enjoy an afternoon of great fun.

And while you’re putting this on your calendar, don’t forget the Davis High School Madrigals fundraiser/wine-tasting on Sunday, Oct. 14, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Osteria Fasulo Restaurant, 2657 Portage Bay Ave. — $25 in advance/$30 at door. A lovely event starring, of course, the Madrigals themselves, who will not be drinking wine but will be singing.

— Reach Susan Leonardi at [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com

Susan Leonardi

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