Days are getting shorter and the crisp morning air is just a hint at the encroaching shift of season. My northern tundra has been experiencing fairly mild weather so far, and the warm days beckon for something (wine) cold (wine) to drink. And that’s chilled white wine for me. Here are three of my recent favorites:
2011 Mer Soleil “Silver” Unoaked Chardonnay From the Wagner family who has been making the wines of the Caymus label in the Napa Valley since 1972, the endeavor of Mer Soleil meant finding & planting vineyards in other California regions, and discovering the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County had the best land for chardonnay. Cool, cool mornings, fog and great sea-air breezes add additional alchemical elements to wonderful chardonnay fruit. Add a grove of lemon trees that surround the vineyards, and the crisp citrus flavors balance out the refreshing minerality. I think of ocean-wet sand that mingles with white stones. The other elements I love about this is the bright salinity that pops with an unexpected effervescence and acidity, but that’s not all: I admit chardonnay is one of my least favorite white wines, I think because the varietal was overdone for so long, especially in California. Have you heard a chardonnay called a “butter bomb” due to overoaking? It happens sometimes that oak becomes more important than the actual fruit, which I find extremely unfortunate. This chardonnay ferments in cement vats and ages briefly in stainless steel tanks. It never spends any time in oak. And it turns out to be absolutely beautiful. How fitting that Mer Soleil means “sea sun,” two of my favorite things. Another remarkable thing about this wine is the distinctive bottle: gray ceramic instead of glass really sets this wine apart. Get to the raw bar and order this!
With a name like Kung Fu Girl watch out! This is a bottle of ninja complexity with just enough residual sugar to refresh and liven up any palate. This was the crowd pleaser at Detroit Lakes where we found it on clearance sale. (We went back the next day and my hosts bought the last remaining case.) Perfect at lunch with it’s low alcohol (10.5%), everybody could have their own bottle, if they wanted. It’s a great wine that appeals to “sweet” wine drinkers, but also for just easy sipping as the sun goes down over the water. Ample complexity of fruit (mandarin, Meyer lemon, mango) shines with that spectacular mineral character of Walla Walla’s volcanic soils. Order chinese take-out, something Thai spicy, your favorite sushi, sweet ribs, even hearty herb-roasted chicken would make good friends with Kung Fu Girl. If you are into points, this scored 90 points, and was a “Best Value” wine from Wine Spectator. http://www.charlessmithwines.com/qr/kung-fu-girl/
And, finally: as a house-warming gift, Cody’s dad and step-mom bought us a very generous bottle of 2004 “La Grande Dame” Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin. We toasted our arrival in the Twin Cities with this beauty.
I taste French Champagne and yeasty aromas like fresh bread and marzipan and dough arise from the cordon of bubbles. Domestic sparklers have more apparent fruit and nutty flavors. I love the rich austerity of the French releases. This Grande Dame has great chalky, mineral-driven components that balance pure flavors of spicy ginger, citrus peel and almonds. Generous and surprisingly round in the mouth, the steely profile gave way to creamy luxury. They say “the smaller the bubble, the better the Champagne” and these bubbles were as fine to call them “nano.” We have one more bottle to drink, to savor, to raise our glasses to, and I can’t wait. This is one of the best Champagnes I’ve ever tried. http://www.veuve-clicquot.com/