Wednesday, April 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

In search of yummy low-alcohol wines

SusanLeonardiWineauxW

By
August 10, 2011 | Leave Comment

Sylvie, almost 4, a Berkeley resident, likes to pretend she has broken a limb. I’m the doctor. Treatment consists of a round of imaginary herbs, some faux acupuncture and a bandage (or two or three).

As soon as she recovers (this usually takes about 30 seconds), she becomes the doctor, and I feign a dislocated shoulder, headache or bleeding wound.

One day while I was “resting” (“Keep your eyes closed, Nonna”), I felt little fingers working my scalp. “Are you massaging my head, Sylvie?” I asked.

“No,” she said cheerily, “just checking for lice.”

Sylvie, the Very Young Urban Sophisticate.

Her cousin Sasha, the same age, lives a rural life, as yet untroubled by preschool and its attendant critters. But the organic farm offers its own sophistications (as well as critters, of course), including a vocabulary of fruits and vegetables that, anywhere else in the country, probably would elicit eye-rolling and the really annoying “only in California” comment.

Which is not to say that he’s willing to consume them all; he’s a highly discriminating (that is “picky”) eater and drinker. Last time I visited, the chaos level even higher than usual, he was on my lap, seemingly absorbed — as was I — in the spirited adult conversation.

I absently reached for my glass at one point, which was empty. He looked up at me with a sly grin, “I finished your wine, Nonna.” A nice Vinho Verde. Oh well, at least the alcohol was only 10 percent.

Yet another argument for restrained wine-making: You just never know who might pick up your glass.

I suspect some of my readers think I’m a bit obsessed with alcohol content, and perhaps they’re right — especially since that number is approximate (fungible?) at best and can even change after bottling.

But when I picked up an award-winning California “Rhône” blend last week and saw 16.2 percent, I wondered what self-respecting (French) Rhône wine-maker would let his or her grapes get that ripe or what self-respecting chef would want such a beast overwhelming his or her food.

At least I know I’m not alone in this “obsession.” Last April, the San Francisco Chronicle Food and Wine section decided to list the alcohol level of every wine reviewed to help consumers make informed choices. Wine merchant Kermit Lynch — who has, for three years now, offered a much-sought-after low-alcohol sampler — even overheard a client claim that lower levels of alcohol in wine have become trendy. About time.

That 16.2 percent did, though, inspire me — not to drink it but to go in search of some nice low-alcohol bottles that are delicious, food-friendly and affordable. The first one I picked up at Whole Foods — Opala Vinho Verde. I’ve written before about this wonderful — especially in summer — varietal, and I’ve liked nearly every one I’ve tasted, but the Opala seemed to me even more wonderful than usual.

The fruit is more intense than other VVs, for one thing. But it maintains the characteristic VV crispness and slight bubbliness. My three companions all loved it, too — and this particular group (which included the mother of above- mentioned small imbiber) seldom agrees on a white wine. Alas, the bottle disappeared all too quickly — and Sasha didn’t even get a sample.

Alcohol content of this Portuguese beauty: 9 percent! Price: $8.99.

Some people really dislike the strong grapefruit and gooseberry flavors of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but I’m not one of them. To me, that intensity, coupled with good minerality, makes a really refreshing drink that pairs surprisingly well with food of all sorts.

I recently found an incredibly good (though short-lived) deal on Brancott SB at Nugget — only $5 a bottle. It usually sells for $10. At either price, it’s a bargain — a delightful example of this varietal in the Marlborough style. I wish I had snagged a case or two. Alcohol: 12.5 percent.

Also on the Nugget shelves is a simple Italian red that I’ve been drinking all summer with my pastas and pizzas. Called just Vino Della Casa, it’s a little fruity, quite dry, pretty soft, a bit spicy and eminently drinkable. Nugget’s selling it for $5 to $6 a bottle.

The Davis Food Co-op has a Portuguese Tinto (Bons Ventos) for $6.99 and an Italian Sangiovese (Brumaio — organic grapes) for $8.99. All three of these wines: 12.5 percent.

To be honest, it’s not all that hard to find low-alcohol wines from Europe. California? The “trend” hasn’t quite hit.

One good thing that may come out of this atypical weather we’ve had the past couple of springs and summers is that our grapes may not ripen quite so much, which will result in lower-alcohol wines. For some wine-makers, this situation disappoints and alarms. Others, though, welcome the prospect of crafting a more traditional style wine.

Sparklers offer one opportunity to sample local lower-alcohol treats (and I’ve only recently discovered their wonderful compatibility with all manner of food, especially cheese of every sort). Try the delicious Capay Valley Sparkling Viognier at 11 percent — and on sale at the Co-op for $11.99.

Other excellent, reliable and reasonable local whites include the Noceto Pinot Grigio (13 percent), the Dry Creek Dry Chenin Blanc (12.5 percent)and the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier (13 percent) — all available at Nugget or the Co-op for under $13.

The Co-op also carries the Simas Family Marsanne (13 percent), a terrific example of a white Rhone blend, from our own Capay Valley.

But whites tend to be slightly lower in alcohol anyway. It’s more surprising to find a really good local red that hasn’t climbed above 13.5 percent. I like the Simas Family Capay Red, a Rhone blend similar in grape profile to that 16.2 percent monster — at 13.1 percent.

Like many European wines, this one won’t knock your socks off when you taste it (one reason that lower-alcohol wines often don’t score well in competitions), but when you savor it with a nice mushroom pasta or a rosemary lamb chop, it will start to unfold. Like the Marsanne, you can buy a glass at Monticello Seasonal Cuisine or a bottle at the Co-op.

Sasha’s little sister, Alea, is teething. Like generations of nonnas before me, I rubbed a fingerful of my wine — the Opala — on her gums. She licked her lips and grinned. I imagine it won’t take long for the two of them to start arguing about whether that’s apple or pear on the nose, lemon or lime mid-palate.

— Reach Susan Leonardi at vinosusana@gmail.com. Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com

Susan Leonardi

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

UC Davis biodigester hungers for food scraps, belches out electricity

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
New mosaic mural reflects Peña family history

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Davis businesswoman presides over conference

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Bible fun featured at Parents’ Night Out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Fire damages Woodland home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

 
Davis Arts Center: See ceramics, join the Big Day of Giving

By Erie Vitiello | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Register to vote by May 19

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Birch Lane sells garden plants, veggies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Team Blend hosts fundraiser for Nicaragua project

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

 
Sign up for enviro organizations during Earth Week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Fundraiser benefits Oakley campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Odd Fellows host culinary benefit for nonprofit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

UCD to host premiere of autism documentary

By Cory Golden | From Page: A4

 
400 bikes go up for bids at UCD auction

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Fire crews gather for joint training

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
UFC hears from two local historians

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Church hosts discussion of mental health needs, services

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Sunder hosts campaign event for kids

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
UC Davis conference showcases undergraduate research

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Train to become a weather spotter

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Fly Fishers talk to focus on healthy streams, rivers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Learn survival skills at Cache Creek Preserve

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Veterans, internees may receive overdue diplomas

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

UCD professor to talk about new book

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Slow Food tour showcases area’s young farmers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

.

Forum

Will anyone notice?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
My votes reflect city values

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

I support Sunder for board

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
A plea on the Bard’s birthday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Sharing fire services has been a success

By Our View | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

DHS thunders back to win an epic DVC volleyball match

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Seniors send Blue Devil girls past Broncos in a lacrosse rout

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis gets to Grant ace and rolls in DVC crucial

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Walchli is under par in another Devil victory

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

DHS/Franklin I goes to the Blue Devil softballers

By Chris Saur | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
Sharks go up 3-0 with OT win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Rangers rally to beat A’s in the ninth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

Field to fork: El Macero’s chef offers spring tastes

By Dan Kennedy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
.

Arts

 
Music, wine flow at Fourth Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Biscuits ‘n Honey will play at winery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
 
Five Three Oh! featured at April Performers’ Circle

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Celebrate spring at I-House on Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Catharine ‘Kay’ Lathrop

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6