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(The Bottle In Front Of Me is a series of regular, brief tasting notes from the Rogue Estate's resident wine guy, Ian.) Drink your backyard. The most important mantra any food obsessive has heard repeatedly over the last decade or so is to eat local, and drink local. In the world of wine, this mantra is largely laughable for 99% of the world's population. I count myself in the 99%, along with large swaths of Asia, Africa, anybody in inland South America, most of Eastern Europe, and all but about six U.S. states. But I'm really close to being able to drink local, and it's getting better all the time. For this, my first regular posting of tasting notes, I chose the most local wine I could find, from my neighborhood store, in its current release (2010) which was a better year than most in recent memory. 2010 Pelee Island Pinot Noir (About $13) Learn more about the winery: http://www.peleeisland.com/index.php Learn more about the bottle in front of me: https://secure1.prositehosting.net/winestore/winestore.php?id=18 SEE: Clear medium red, with a light pinkish rim, indicative of youth. SWIRL: Bright color, with weak legs on the glass. SMELL: Very bright lively aromas of cherries, with a slight fragrance of strawberry and cedar. Clearly Pinot Noir, but reserved. SIP: Very dry, tart cranberry that washes thinly over the tongue, nice acidity with a bit of initial bitterness that softens over time. Tannic, old world style, honest, and designed for food. SAVOR: Tannins last throughout the finish, with hints of graphite and leaves. Final impression: Would buy again, but there may be a few more satisfying Pinot's in this price range, mostly from larger producers in California. Pair with: fresh air, light cheeses, vegetable dishes, and mildly flavored game such as rabbit or quail. P.S. If you live anywhere near southeastern Michigan, you owe it to yourself to spend a day visiting Pelee Island. Drive to Leamington (Canada's tomato country) in the late Summer or early Fall, take the ferry, and spend a day biking and picnicking on a very relaxed, beautiful island.
I have an unhealthy relationship with wine. I find it endlessly fascinating, and sometimes infuriating, I find it good in moderation, and better in excess. It's one hell of a tasty hobby. But I'm no wine expert. I know, everyone says that in their first post to try and sound like a "regular guy", not some kind of wine Einstein. Wine can be intimidating. There's too much to know out there, ever. Even if you were the expert of experts, there's always some crafty vineyard owner working in his lab to perfect a new blend, or breed a new varietal, or bring something new to the party. That's what makes wine fun...an endless variety of sensations, and endless invention. There's always something more to learn and new curiosities along the way, like Alice's rabbit hole. I've had no wine training, and I've only been to a few informal tastings. But what I do have (on top of my fascination) is practice. Malcolm Gladwell made a popular observation that the difference between proficiency and mastery of anything we do is about 10,000 hours of practice. I'm pretty sure I've logged well over that amount with my nose shoved deep into a half-full glass... So you can understand that I was happy to be invited into the Rogue Estate's inner circle of epicurean miscreants...if just to share a little of that enthusiasm with them, and with you. For my first Rogue's dinner, I offered to pair a couple bottles to the menu, which was described to me simply thus: "1st course: Littleneck clams on the half-shell w/ cold Ramp green puree Soup course: Fresh Pea soup, Ramp white garnish Main course: Seared Salmon, Strawberry Beurre Rouge, Balsamic Roasted Asparagus, Lemon-Ramp Rice" Here's what I showed up with and a few tasting notes. http://www.atozwineworks.com/pgris.html Willamette Valley Pinot Gris are what I usually reach for when there's shellfish in front of me. Extremely light in color--think straw with a faint green/grey hue. Supple citrus flavors dominate, mostly lime, with a background of honeysuckle and honeydew. A great palate cleanser, and suited to simple mild flavors--light cheeses, vegetables and a hit with littlenecks on the half-shell. About $13. http://www.lavieilleferme.com/rose.php?langue=en Lovely color--a bright pink with just a hint of amber.. Consistently receiving a score in the upper 80s by most reviewers this wine represents a serious value. Bright strawberry notes and a watermelon freshness that's irresistible (lack of oak helps here). A hint of caramel on the moderate finish. A great foil for fresh spring vegetables and fish. Just enough acidity to stand up to Jack's beurre rouge. About $8. Picking a good wine to pair with a dish is fun, but not something I've done a lot of. I expect that there will be good nights and bad nights. I encourage you to ditch the rulebook and remember that the best wine to drink with anything is the one that tastes good to you. Now, are you interested in coming along with me to see how deep this rabbit hole goes? - Ian