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Monday, July 13, 2009

The House Wine Evolution

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I was recently asked, "SoWine Guywhat wines do you usually have just sitting around to drink at home?"

Aside from the sheepish little grin I still get when someone calls me "Wine Guy," the question got me thinking. Honestly, there hasn't been much of anything resembling a "house wine" around the Vineyard for quite awhile. One of the upsides to this wine thing is that there's usually something new around to try. One of the few downsides? It's possible to lose sight of a "favorite" everyday wine.

(If you remember, the general answer to "What's your favorite wine?" is "Whatever's open.")

Digging back through the foggy mists of memory, there was a time not too long ago when there were standard, inexpensive wines purchased pretty consistently 'round here...before the daze of regular wine tastings and regular worship of Most Things Sonoma.

One move and two jobs ago, I usually kept a bottle of Rosemount Estates Shiraz-Cabernet around. When I started courting the Sweet Partner in Crime, I started buying the 1.5 liter bottles instead of the standard size. I revisited Rosemount's 2006 vintage this week for old time's sake. Rosemount's wines usually fall into the "pop tart wine" category, as many of their offerings are pretty indistinguishable from other inexpensive Aussie wines. Unlike most cheap Aussie Shiraz, this wine has a little more depth and character. The nose is very fruity, as you'd expect -- as is the body -- full of blackberries and cherries, but there's a nice smoky undertone. The finish is fruity. It's very nice to drink just sitting around, and the smokiness makes it a better than average choice for barbecues and the like. Burgers and chocolate each go hand in hand here. Look to pay $6-9 for a 750ml, but you can usually splurge at around $12 for a big bottle.

Drinking wine with the SPinC opened my eyes to, among other things, three important observations. First, she introduced me to a set of oversized wine glasses she'd break out at the slightest provocation. Learning about proper-sized drinking implements is key to proper tasting. Second, I learned never to leave a full wine glass on a low table if Jessie, the big, lovable chocolate lab, was nearby. Third, I learned that it's socially acceptable to drink white wine. I almost exclusively drank reds before we started dating. She almost always had a bottle of Meridian Chardonnay on hand when I would stop by. The vintage in the store right now is the 2007. It's still a pretty decent quaff. The nose is melony with some oaky scent. I remember Meridian being much oakier in the past, but they've dialed that flavor back a good deal, leaving a much better balance between the oak and fruit. It's certainly on the oaky side of the "oak vs. butter" competition. It's quite pleasant on the finish, too -- nice fruit and a lingering smoky flavor. At $5-7, it's a great deal.

The closest thing to a "house wine" we currently have is the nearly-everpresent 1.5 liter bottle of Redcliffe 2007 Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge. One of my favorite finds of the last year or so, this is a good solid everyday wineIt's from New Zealand (where they make my many of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs). The nose is full of grapefruits and peaches. The body is crisp with lots of grapefruit flavor and the finish is nice and crisp, making it both a great sipping wine and a "what do we have that will go with this?" food pairing wine. A 1.5 liter bottle can be had for around $12.

"But wait, Wine Guy," you're saying, "You told us not to drink wine straight out of the fridge! You can't taste the flavors!" Very true...but I learned a neat little trick. Pour a glass of wine chilled to fridge temperature. Put the glass in a microwave for 10 seconds -- no more. Ten seconds in a microwave takes the chill off the wine, leaving it at practically the perfect temperature without harming the flavors.

So, what wines do you keep around on a regular basis for everyday drinking? Inquiring vines want to know.