extremely private in the sense that the only people at the party were me and
my refrigerator. This came about because Alison — my daughter, the chef –
is catering a party and the hostess prefers to serve only white wine – perhaps
two different whites so that her guests have a choice. Alison called Michael
Goldstein, her wine guru at Park Avenue Liquors, and asked him to
recommend a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc. He replied that he’d send
her three very different chards and three very different not-chards – all
priced at fifteen dollars or under — and that she should taste them and make
the decision herself. All of which was great except that she doesn’t drink.
“Fortunately,” she told him, “I have a father who does.”
The six bottles arrived at my apartment and I had the better part of a
week to make my evaluation. I started with the chardonnays, about which I
already had some strong prejudices. I generally steer clear of American
chards because of the excessive amount of oak – excessive to my taste,
anyway. Aging in oak barrels gives the wine a taste of what the experts call
vanilla and I call butterscotch – a cloying residue that makes me feel like I
just ate an ice-cream sundae. I prefer my wine to taste like wine. French
chardonnays, on the other hand, I generally like just fine.
The three chards that Michael sent over ran the gamut, indeed. The
first bottle was a Clos du Bois–2008, which was exactly what I had been
expecting – lots of oaky sweetness that left me with a heavy feeling in my
mouth. I had half a glass and put it aside.
Then I cracked the 2008 Estancia from Monterey County. This was more to my liking – still oaky without a doubt, but more balanced. I read up on it and the critic said they age it half in oak and half in stainless steel and that worked better for me. I re-corked the two bottles and put them back in the fridge because my taste buds were already overwhelmed.
I waited until the next night to try the third bottle, which was a Cartlidge and Browne chardonnay – 2009. This was my favorite of the three. It tasted like a French chardonnay – a little fruity with minerals. It tasted like wine. I took the other two bottles out of the fridge and – responsibly, if I say so myself – tasted all three again – cleansing my palate with a bite of bread in between – and then I made my momentous decision.
If I had been choosing for my own wine rack, I would have taken the Cartlidge and Browne, but figuring that the chardonnay lovers at the party would want at least a bit of that oaky thing, I recommended to Alison that she pick the Estancia, which is a very nice wine.
On to the non-chards, about which I also have my prejudices –
especially those lemony-limey, grapefruity-tootie, tingly-tarty sauvignon
blancs. I can’t drink them, but that’s just me.
Okay. Two of these wines surprised me – in the good sense of the
word. The third was a pinot grigio – from Italy — which was fine, absolutely
fine – but I’m tired of seeing that grape so all-pervasive in the States. There
are so many better Italian white wines to be had – and for a better price.
You know that famous pinot grigio – the one that they’re getting twenty-five
bucks for in the wine stores? And much, much more in the restaurants? In
Italy, it’s eight bucks. But I digress.
My first surprise was a pinot gris from France – from Alsace, actually – so it was in one of those tall, green bottles that Alsatian wines come in, similar to German wine. It’s called Willm. Yes, I said Willm, and it’s quite nice. First of all, there’s the color – a tinge of pink – but just a tinge. It’s definitely a white wine; you would never say it’s a rose; just a inking of pink. I liked it, actually — a little strong in the fruit, as you would expect in a wine that comes in a tall green bottle like that. But I liked it in my mouth.
A nice surprise.
The second surprise was a wine called Kiwi Cuvee. It’s a French sauvignon blanc. Yes, it has citrus; yes, it has a grapefruit or two; but it
doesn’t hit you over the head with it like some do. Since I have a prejudice against citrusy wines, I took it to a dinner party where there were a number of A-List winos — all eager to give me their opinion – and I had them taste it. They were quite impressed with it – for that price, especially. Their enthusiasm was evident. They were loaded,
of course, but you always have to take that into consideration at a wine tasting. It goes with the territory. So those were my two choices for Alison’s party – the Estancia and the Kiwi Cuvee. I think they’ll work just fine.