Bacchic Reflections

"We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle.  But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes.  Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!” 

                                                                             Benjamin Franklin*

*with thanks to Fred Shapiro of
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Great Reds for Winter Feasts....
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Wine Gifts for Wine Lovers
Don't fret over giving wine to someone who loves wine and even knows something about it. A good bottle is always welcome--just pick something that will provide pleasure and perhaps a surprising discovery--like some of the these:

Chateau Musar. Various wines, unique and excellent, worth a search. On some 370 acres in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, the Hochar family produces unusual blends such as Chateau Musar Red, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cinsaut and carignan, from mature vines that yield a lot of character. The Jeune Rouge and Jeune Blanc are charmers, the Musar Cuvée Rosé is lively, fresh and delightful. Prices range from $17 to $48 (and up for older vintages). 

Trefethen 2010 Dragon's Tooth, Napa Valley $60-70  That cool red dragon adorns this very toothsome red--a blend of darks: berry-ripe malbec (60%), petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon (20% each). Lush, juicy, balanced. Great for winter grilling or roast meats.

Markham Cellar 1879 Red Blend 2012,  Napa Valley $25  A very drinkable blend of several red grapes, with flavors of ripe berries, toast, vanilla. Fine for roast loin of pork.
Carmen Carmenère Gran Reserva 2012, Maipo Valley, Chile, $18-23. Another dark and bold red from the carmenère grape, once thought to be merlot but identified as a Bordeaux variety and now something of a star in Chile. Lush and supple in texture, with flavors of black cherries and tobacco accents; it is good to see this variety emerge as a worthy red--a bit one-dimensional, perhaps 15-20% cabernet sauvignon would add a layer or two of flavor.
Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Franc 2012, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma) $27.  Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is making some outstanding wines, some sourced from grapes grown in California. This is an excellent Cab Franc, with ripe red currant flavors, excellent balance. A tasty red now, but with the structure to improve with a few years on it.Good match for roast turkey or heavier meats. I highly recommend it.
J Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $40.  Seductive Russian River fruit envelops this Pinot--flavors of black raspberry and cherry in a compact frame of ripe tannins, good acidity; good length.

Sandeman 20 Year Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are a great gift for the winelover. Silky texture and rich flavors of dried fig with hints of nuttiness shine from 20 Year Tawny Ports which are excellent for after-dinner fireside sipping--especially with Stilton, not overipened but just at the creamy, slightly grainy stage. A fine finish for a winter feast.

Seasonal Reds -- Pinot Noir   
With gamebirds and other fowl in season, as well as roast pork and other lighter meats, Pinot Noir is a super choice--especially the lighter ones, which tend to be less tannic and more fruit dominant. Flavors of berries, cherries and a bit of spice complement the meats nicely.
Olema Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma ***  $19.99  I was especially delighted with this fresh, lively tasty Pinot--quality at a very good price. Made from 80% Russian River fruit, which largely accounts for its juicy cherry and black raspberry flavors.
Others to look for:  Gloria Ferrer Carneros 2012, $22-25**+, lots of good, rich black cherry fruit; King Estate Acrobat 2012, Oregon, $18** lighter style, very appealing; Rodney Strong 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian Rive Valley, $19-25**+  Elegant, aromatic, probably better with a little time on it; good now with baby back ribs; Anton Bauer 2012 Pinot Noir, $20, is also very good with nice Pinot intensity.

La Casaccia 2013 Grignolino, Piemonte $16-18*** Cherry color, cherry flavors in this juicy little red, made from organically grown grapes in the central Piedmont region of northern Italy.  Fresh and bright--great for pork, salami and other smoked meats, sausages. Find it at Caves Taureau in Durham or Wine Authorities in Raleigh.
Anton Bauer Cuvée 2012, Wagram  Austria   $16-17**+   A juicy blended red that is great for grilling; an excellent match for the lighter meats (veal, pork, chicken) but an appealing richness suits beef as well as savory cheese dishes. 
Tomero Malbec 2012, Argentina  $13**  A smooth, juicy, full-bodied (but not heavy) Malbec; hand-picked grapes from highland vineyards above Mendoza. A very quaffable red--and great value. Tomero also makes a Cabernet Sauvignon, but it's somewhat angular at the moment and needs a few years in bottle; good value for the future drinking.


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                                                                                                                                             ©Barbara Ensrud