The Pour: Wines That Resound in Memory -

The Pour: Wines That Resound in Memory

Credit: nytimes.com

  • Dec 07 2017 18:00About: 9 days ago
  • 7 views

For wine, “best” has little meaning.

Ideally, every bottle opened will be the right one for that particular occasion, whether it is a $20 Oregon gamay or a $100 Champagne splurge. I’ve had a lot of best bottles this year, though not every one was memorable.

Memorable wines strike notes beyond the glass. They stir emotions that forever link the wine and the occasion. They ought to be delicious, though not necessarily profound or brilliant.

I have been lucky enough to have had some truly wonderful wines in 2017. Here are 10 of the most memorable, in no particular order.

1. After I returned from covering the fires in California wine country in October, I opened a bottle at home in New York, a 2013 Napa Valley charbono from Calder Wine Company, to drink as an expression of solidarity.

The charbono grape has a proud history in California, most notably in some excellent midcentury bottles from Inglenook, the historic Napa Valley winery that has been restored by Francis Ford Coppola. A mere 70 acres or so of charbono are left in California, much of it in the Calistoga area.

Calder’s Rory Williams makes wine with his father, John Williams, at Frog’s Leap, and with his mother, Julie Johnson, at Tres Sabores. His own label is dedicated to exploring what he calls Napa’s “cultural terroir,” in an effort to better understand the region’s winemaking heritage, of which grapes like charbono, riesling and chenin blanc are certainly part.

This wine was vibrant and pure, deliciously fruity with an underlying bitterness that refreshed and invited the next sip. It seemed to capture past and future, sadness and sweet hope. It is a much better memory than the wildfire smoke that will forever be imprinted in my memory.

2. Lambrusco, at its best, is a humble farmhouse wine, and I say that with sincere esteem. The 2015 Rosso Viola from Luciano Saetti is a great example.

It is made of the salamino grape, one of several used for Lambrusco. In the hands of Mr. Saetti, who farms organically, the wine is dry, earthy and meaty — not complex — and extraordinarily delicious. I’ve had it maybe a half-dozen times in 2017, and always I am shocked by how much I love it.

This wine, by the way, is made without any sulfur dioxide, the common stabilizer shunned by many natural wine producers. I have never had a flawed bottle. The salamino grape takes its name from its elongated shape, which resembles a small salami, another thing about the wine that makes me happy.

3. Domaine Roulot is one of the world’s great producers of white wines, renowned for its Meursaults and other Burgundies. But the wine I could not forget was Roulot’s 2007 aligoté, Burgundy’s often forgotten other white grape.

I was in the Roulot cellar with Jean-Marc Roulot tasting aligotés when he pulled out the ’07. By reputation, aligoté is thin, acidic and simple, with little capacity to age or display the nuances of place. Many heralded Burgundy producers like Mr. Roulot continue to make aligoté because it is part of a revered heritage.

His aligotés are exceptional, but even he does not expect too much of them. They are meant to be unpretentious. “There’s no shame in that,” Mr. Roulot told me. The 2007, at 10 years old, was rich, deep and still fresh, with savory, salty flavors. “It’s less recognizable as aligoté,” Mr. Roulot said.

When a wine no longer tastes like a grape and tastes like a place instead, that is memorable.

4. Of all the wine regions I have visited, Colares on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, the westernmost wine region in continental Europe, is the most unusual. To protect against the incessant salty wind, the vines are trained low over what is essentially beach sand.

The red ramisco and the white malvasia de Colares grapes are superbly adapted to this singular environment; they thrive nowhere else. Not surprisingly, this tiny region produces utterly distinctive wines.

The reds are powerfully tannic, high in acid and low in alcohol, just about 12.5 percent. They must mellow for years before they can be sold. The current vintage on the market is 2008. I drank a bottle from the local cooperative, the Adega Regional de Colares, with the winemaker, Francisco Figueiredo. It was savory and spicy, with an almost balsamic character, structured yet graceful. There is no other wine like it.

5. For reasons of history, politics and economics, some historic wine regions can be virtually forgotten. One is Pécharmant in the Bergerac region of southwestern France, which I visited while reporting on the writer Martin Walker, whose Bruno mysteries are set in the small, fictional town of St.-Denis in the Périgord.

Bruno is the chief of police in this world where much of life centers on food and wine. Just as in the culinary realm, the conflicts in St.-Denis often stem from the collisions between local traditions and globalization. Indeed, while the characters in the Bruno novels have access to all the great wines of the world, they often choose to drink their local bottles, like one of Bruno’s favorites, Château de Tiregand in Pécharmant, which also happens to be one of Mr. Walker’s favorites.

Together, we visited Tiregand, where we had lunch with the proprietor, François-Xavier de Saint-Exupéry (a distant cousin of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry), and drank several older bottles. I was most struck by the 2005 Pécharmant. These reds are made from the same grapes as Bordeaux, the powerful neighbor on the coast, grown in similarly gravelly soils. It was earthy and lovely, intense and refreshing. At 12 years of age, the youthful fruitiness was just beginning to give way to complex minerality.

“We like to hunt, we like mushrooms, we like a glass of wine,” Mr. Saint-Exupéry said, speaking to traditions that have sustained Pécharmant for centuries.

6. In Portugal this June, my wife and I sealed some new friendships over a simple and extraordinarily delicious lunch at Solar dos Pintor, a restaurant and wine bar outside Lisbon. Before the dessert we all drank a glass of Madeira, Blandy’s malmsey, 1992.

In Madeira years, this was a baby. It will live for decades, if not centuries. It was already thrilling, striking a delicate equilibrium of sweetness and acidity, complexity and sheer refreshment. Wines like this are inspiring, giving birth to ideas and relationships. Unforgettable.

7. While in Burgundy in May, I had dinner at a simple wine bar in Beaune. Along with wild asparagus (gathered that morning by the chef’s father) and charcuterie, we drank a bottle of Beaune Premier Cru Les Theurons 2008, from a producer I had never seen in the United States, Régis Rossignol-Changarnier.

The wines of Beaune are often among the most overlooked of Burgundies, and therefore can be relatively good values. This one was honest, old-fashioned, a bit rustic and delicious, a reminder of the days before billionaires started to buy grand cru vineyards, when the top wines were still affordable.

I am not saying this Burgundy was better, nor did it diminish my reverence for the great wines. Still, it was refreshing in every sense and offered a useful moment of clarity.

8. Another Burgundy, consumed at a dinner in Chappaqua, N.Y., where the centerpiece was spit-roasted lamb. My friend Bill brought a 1999 Clos de la Roche from Domaine Dujac.

A bottle of grand cru Burgundy like this one is always a privilege to drink, especially one from a great producer at a peak moment. It was beautifully focused and precise, still young, with aromas and flavors that flowed in a linear, lasting progression. It smelled of exotic red fruits. On the palate the fruit gave way to a stony minerality that is often characteristic of the vineyard — “pure rock,” I wrote at the time.

That wasn’t the only time in 2017 I swooned over a Clos de la Roche. I remember tasting Domaine Arlaud’s superb 2014 Clos de la Roche with the producer earlier in the year. The lamb dinner was a chance to drink it, which made all the difference.

9. One last Burgundy, which I tasted in February at La Paulée de New York, a Burgundy celebration held once every two years. I was poured a glass of one of the more coveted wines in the world, a grand cru Musigny 2002 from Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier.

I cannot remember a wine that so captured the magical Burgundian formula of weightless intensity. This wine was ethereal — very much in keeping with the elegant style of Mugnier — yet powerfully deep, resonating long after swallowing. I still feel the echo today.

10. Back in January I went to a lunch organized by Levi Dalton, host of the I’ll Drink to That podcasts, which focused on the nebbiolo rosé grape, once thought to be a clone of nebbiolo, and now known to be genetically different though closely related.

It used to be widely planted in the vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco. Today, it is mostly gone, though patches remain here and there. It made a pale-colored wine that, though gorgeously perfumed, was out of fashion in an era in which powerful, dark wines were prized.

Of the fascinating wines we drank, one stuck in my memory: the 1970 Barbaresco Podere del Pajorè from Giovannini Moresco. Gorgeous, with a color of pale brick red, the wine had aromas of truffles and spices, and flavors of tobacco and herbs with citrus highlights.

This producer no longer exists. The Podere del Pajorè vineyard is now owned by Angelo Gaja, who — in Ian D’Agata’s book “Native Wine Grapes of Italy” — dismisses the notion that the vineyard ever contained nebbiolo rosé. So we do not know for sure whether this wine was nebbiolo rosé. But it certainly was good.

Follow NYT Food on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Get regular updates from NYT Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.



Follow Us on Twitter

These necessarily best bottles 2017 they most memorable.

Related stories with The Pour: Wines That Resound in Memory

Watch ‘Game Of Thrones’ star Gwendoline Christie stan Madonna in hilarious interview -World News
Watch ‘Game Of Thrones’ star Gwendoline Christie stan Madonna in hilarious interview 9 days ago
Gwendoline Christie shared her immense Madonna fandom during a recent TV interview.
Zimbabwe proposes budget aimed at reviving bleak economy -World News
Zimbabwe proposes budget aimed at reviving bleak economy 9 days ago
Zimbabwe's new government plans to reduce diplomatic missions and ban first-class travel for everyone but the president as it tries to revive a devastated economy after longtime leader Robert Mugabe resigned last month.
Man sued for groping Taylor Swift denies singer’s claim that he hasn’t sent symbolic $1 payment -World News
Man sued for groping Taylor Swift denies singer’s claim that he hasn’t sent symbolic $1 payment 9 days ago
Ex-DJ that Taylor Swift successfully sued for sexual assault has denied the singer's claim that he hasn't paid her the symbolic $1 in damages
Investor flow into equity mutual funds at Rs 20,308 cr in November -World News
Investor flow into equity mutual funds at Rs 20,308 cr in November 9 days ago
Equity mutual funds (MFs) saw net investor inflow of Rs 20,308 crore in November, despite weakness in the stock market. This is the second time after August that equity schemes got monthly inflow in excess of Rs 20,000 crore. The average inflow for the p
Ainge: Hayward close to shedding walking boot as rehab begins -World News
Ainge: Hayward close to shedding walking boot as rehab begins 9 days ago
Celtics president Danny Ainge said Thursday that Gordon Hayward is progressing well from his fractured left ankle suffered in Boston's season opener.
New BBC radio drama to dramatise the making of David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ -World News
New BBC radio drama to dramatise the making of David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ 9 days ago
'Dead Ringers' star Jon Culshaw will portray the late artist in the forthcoming programme, which will air next month
No George for OKC vs. Nets in Mexico City -World News
No George for OKC vs. Nets in Mexico City 9 days ago
Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George will miss his first game as a member of the Thunder with a right calf bruise versus the Nets in Mexico City.
Will Browns fire Hue Jackson if they go 0-16? -World News
Will Browns fire Hue Jackson if they go 0-16? 9 days ago
Three weeks before firing coach Ben McAdoo during the season, Giants ownership said they wouldn’t be firing coach Ben McAdoo during the season. So with the Browns saying they won’t be firing coach Hue Jackson after the season, is that message
Kirk Cousins not thinking about the future, again -World News
Kirk Cousins not thinking about the future, again 9 days ago
There’s an elephant in the room in Washington. But Kirk Cousins swears if he just refuses to acknowledge the elephant, it will go away. Or at least wait a few more weeks to get all the peanuts. The Washington quarterback is on the verge of yet anoth
'Shawshank' star Tim Robbins's real-life prison revolution -World News
'Shawshank' star Tim Robbins's real-life prison revolution 9 days ago
With an acclaimed starring role in The Shawshank Redemption and an Oscar nomination for directing Dead Man Walking, Tim Robbins owes many of his career highlights to the prison system.
Lubaina Himid wins Turner Prize -World News
Lubaina Himid wins Turner Prize 9 days ago
Lubaina Himid, 63, on Tuesday became the oldest winner of the Turner Prize, Britain's most prestigious yet controversial visual art award, for her works celebrating black creativity.
Microsoft continues its 3D push with new Simplygon Cloud developer tools -World News
Microsoft continues its 3D push with new Simplygon Cloud developer tools 9 days ago
Microsoft today debuted a new way to make 3D developers’ lives easier, taking advantage of an acquisition it made earlier this year. In January, Microsoft acquired Simplygon, a Swedish company that focused on 3D game optimization. Microsoft is putt