Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wineaux: The Reds score lots of touchdowns


From page A7 | August 07, 2014 |

As a passionate football non-fan, I’ve been puzzled for years at the intransigence of the Redskins in the matter of changing their name to something less offensive.

What’s the big deal? Can’t they happily be the Red Hawks or the Red Wolves (since Red Wings and just plain Reds have, I hear, already been taken)? Or even just the Red Ones?

“Red” in itself is an evocative name. Warm, powerful, happy, alive, auspicious, celebratory. Blood. And what could be bloodier than a football game? How about the Red Balls? (Red Bull, too, already claimed, though not by a sports team).

I’ve been reminded of all these red associations not only by a recent New York Times article about the Redskins controversy but also by three excellent wines I’ve consumed recently — 2013 Red Hawk Pinot Gris and Red Tail Ridge Dry Riesling and Chardonnay Sans Oak.

The first was a gift some friends brought back from a Portland trip. They found it the best way possible when you don’t know the territory — by asking for a recommendation at a neighborhood wine shop. I served it well-chilled on a warm summer evening (are there any other kind these months?) accompanied by a plate of penne tossed with basil and fresh roasted tomatoes and eggplant — the long, thin sort called Japanese or Italian — that Lloyd (Farmers Market) grows incredibly sweet and tasty. (Lloyd also supplied the basil and tomatoes.)

Since I was feeling celebratory (that intriguing bottle reason enough to celebrate), I splurged on some fresh mozzarella that I cut into small cubes and tossed with the vegetables (in case you want to make this dish, add — in addition to plentiful salt and pepper — a couple tablespoons of grated Parmesan Reggiano, a quarter-cup of your best extra virgin olive oil and a fat clove of garlic, pressed).

John and Betty Pataccoli produced only 360 cases of this elegant and distinctive wine, which is made with dry-farmed grapes from the Eola-Amity hills. Tart apple and apricot are tempered with melon — the initial fruit moves quietly into mineral and then to a dry, crisp finish. I don’t know if you’ll have much success finding this locally since Redhawk Winery makes in total only 5,000 cases (the other wines being pinot noir, riesling and dolcetto — all of which I’d love to try). You can always order directly from the winery — $15.

The 2012 Red Tail Ridge Dry Riesling, though it hails from much farther, the Finger Lakes district in upstate New York, is available here both at the Co-op ($18) and at Corti Brothers. Red Tail Ridge was the first LEED gold certified in New York State, by the way, so you can rationalize your choice of a non-local wine by invoking its environmental creds.

This wine regularly appears on “best of” lists and received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast: “Lusciously ripe peach and nectarine on the nose … belie a palate that’s remarkably herbal, elegant and dry. It’s concentrated, with flavors of apple skin and citrus, and finishes long, with refreshing tea-leaf astringency.” Add to that a little peach and you’re all set for a serious summer treat. I usually avoid serving riesling with pasta dishes, but I thought this might work with gemelli in a beet-lemon-butter sauce — and it did. Oh, it did.

I wrote last year about another Red Tail Ridge wine, the unoaked chardonnay, which I found at Valley Wine Company. I loved it. The bottles, alas, didn’t last long on the shelves, but John just acquired some of the new release, which is just as good as the earlier vintage.

Unoaked chard has become a bit of a trend in California, but so many of the unaoked chards produced here are too high in alcohol for me. So I was delighted to discover this Finger Lakes beauty, only 12 percent. In both weight and flavor, it’s more akin to a Chablis (which are by law 100 percent chardonnay) than a California chard. But, at just $12, much less expensive than Chablis. The initial explosion of pear, peach and apricot surprised me and made me worry that the fruitiness would dominate. But then a whole minerally middle appeared followed by crisp citrus-y finish. It paired beautifully with the array of cool summer supper treats on our table — sourdough bread, smoked salmon, melon and baby lettuce salad, onion and fresh herb frittata.

The source of these two beauties is a family affair. Red Tail Ridge Winery is owned and operated by husband and wife Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan. They and their team are getting lots of good press for their interesting offerings, including a nice write-up about their pinot noir in the New York Times. (I haven’t tasted this pinot, but one of the wine guys at Corti Brothers recommended it highly. It’s on my to-drink list.) If you’re familiar with the Finger Lakes area, you might like to know that Mike and Nancy’s 35-acre vineyard is on the western shore of Seneca Lake. They named their winery “after the two nesting pair of hawks who live in the woods surrounding the vineyard. They are our constant companions when we are working on the vines.”

Mike and Nancy love to experiment and they produce small lots — sometimes fewer than 50 cases — of interesting varietals like blaufrankisch, teroldego and dornfelder, all reds that, amazingly, come in at only 12 percent alcohol. I haven’t seen any of these in wine shops, but you can order directly from the winery’s website—a whole new world of red to explore. I just might have to become a fan of this team. Go, Red Tails!
— Reach Susan Leonardi at Comment on this column at



Susan Leonardi



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