BY DUNCAN CHAISANGUANTHUM
Here is a great piece of wine advice for novices: Join a wine club. Both of the wines this week came from my membership in wine.com’s “Wines of the World” club, which delivers two bottles of wine from a different region monthly. I recommend this club for several reasons. First, it is cheap (only $40 per month). Second, you get to sample decent wines from a variety of regions. And third, wine clubs provide a tasting cheat-sheet for each wine which contains invaluable information about the region, winery and wine attributes. A broad range of such clubs ship to Massachusetts.
A quick diversion. We had a marvelous tasting session this week, in the august company of our fellow columnist and AWP (again, Accomplished Wine Person) Josh Solomon; the food and wine editor, Justin Osofsky; and Noam Chomsky fan and progressive guy, Cliff Ginn (who saw no irony in commenting upon someone else’s “revisionist history” — we all got a chuckle).
Now for the wines, both from Sonoma County, California. One was a zinfandel, the other a chardonnay. A quick warning to wine novices: Zinfandel is NOT the same thing as white zinfandel. White zinfandel is an abomination. Real zinfandel is a beautiful thing: robust, peppery and sassy, much like Selma Hayek (a nod to Mike).
Rancho Zabaco 1999 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel — We love Rancho Zabaco. In the under $20 range, they are nearly impossible to beat. While I recommend and prefer their 1999 Heritage Vine Zinfandel (also of Sonoma), this too is a nice zin. It is plenty peppery and full-bodied, with nice tannins but medium astringency. Though it has a little more oak than I like in a zin, the blackberry and boysenberry make up for it.
Kunde 2000 Chardonnay — Ugh. Josh noted a chemical taste as the wine first hit the palette, followed by a bitterness that lingered. I found it had a metallic taste — aluminum, I think. It also had some pleasant apricot and light oak, but on the whole, a chardonnay to avoid.
Here’s another great piece of advice: Take notes when tasting wines for a wine column. Whenever you settle into yuppiedom and take your trips to wineries in Napa and Sonoma, they will provide buckets or spittoons because you are NOT supposed to become drunk during a wine tasting. Unless of course, you meant “for karaoke night” when you invited your friends over “for drinks.”
Since I don’t remember how the wine tasted, let’s talk about a pet peeve of mine: the “quarter of” expression to tell time. A purely hypothetical example of this expression is when a summer associate with a last name no one can pronounce at a large New York law firm finishes a research assignment on bankruptcy law, walks up to the partner’s office on the 29th floor to convey his work, and the busy partner asks the summer associate to return at “a quarter of noon.” Why do people use this expression!? When I, err … the summer associate, showed up at the partner’s office at 12:15 instead of 11:45, the partner was gone for the day and I had to explain how amazingly, I have gone through twenty-three years of existence without ever encountering this expression.
Think this through. Am I wrong in suggesting that the natural understanding of the expression is the “quarter” of the hour being mentioned!? And, if you have to denote time by the relation to an hour, what is wrong with “quarter to” instead?
Rancho Zabaco 1999 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel — I can actually comment on Rancho Zabaco meaningfully as I have enjoyed it on several different occasions. Borrow a page from the Coates groupies (you know who you are) who are taking three classes with the same professor. Rancho Zabaco does zin very well and puts out three different ones – all worthwhile.
Kunde 2000 Chardonnay — At this point, all I remember is agreeing to marry my friend if we were still single at a certain age. I offered 24. She counteroffered 45. I accepted. Hopefully, Leigh Steinberg can also renegotiate this one.