Articles in Chicago Wine Journal
Mulling Wine: There’s something about wine and its enjoyment that elicits a good deal of nonsense, silly notions and wacky practices. The idea that dish soap should never touch a wine glass ranks high on that list. The only way I know to make a glass glisten is to wash it, by hand and with the same liquid detergent I use on my prized kitchen cutlery and fragile table ware.
Tasting Report: The Chardonnay produced in the principal appellations of Burgundy has long laid legitimate claim to being, collectively, the finest white wine in the world. But as those celebrated whites have become expensive, now would be a perfect time to consider the white wines from Burgundy’s deep south – from the appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé. The 2013 vintage from Louis Jadot typifies one of the world’s best wine values.
Tasting Report: At any tasting of the great wines of Bordeaux, the stars don’t merely come out – they shower. So it was at a recent sipping of a small but widely representative sampler that produced one heady delight after another. The megastar of this assortment was the seductively opulent Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009 from St.-Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right (or east) Bank.
Mulling Wine: To decant or not to decant? To my mind, that isn’t even a question. Any wine, new or very old, gains from time in a decanter. Long experience has taught me that wines that have rested years or even decades in my cellar invariably blossom after the aeration that comes with decanting.
Tasting Report: The Southern Rhône Valley village of Rasteau, which was officially promoted to its own appellation in 2010, doubtless lags in name recognition behind regional fixtures like Gigondas and Vacqueyras. Its merit, however, could hardly be spelled out more clearly than in Domaine Les Aphillanthes’ 2012 Rasteau “1921.”
Tasting Report: It wasn’t so long ago that Malbec was known – to the extent that it was in the consciousness of wine enthusiasts at all – for its modest supporting role in Bordeaux blends. Then Argentina roared into vinous ascendancy, and Malbec became an overnight star. Witness the two wines at hand: Susana Balbo’s unblended Signature Malbec 2012 and what might be called an upside-down Bordeaux blend: Clos de los Siete 2011.
Mulling Wine: Reviews in Chicago Wine Journal do not come with numbers. I see only two purposes in reducing a review to a double-digit Post-It note, and neither of them has anything to do with enlightening the reader, the consumer. Numerical inscriptions lend the inscriber a certain pontifical authority: “I declare this a 90-point wine. Go forth, and purchase it with confidence.” The other talking point for scoring wine is exactly that: a point-of-sale flag that essentially does the salesman’s job for him. “This one got 90 points!” It’s no longer even necessary to name the scorer.
Tasting Report: There’s a charming paradox in the exuberant freshness of Ruinart’s Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne. It comes from the oldest house of Champagne, a continuous producer since 1729. This lovely sparkler, alluringly presented in an 18th-century-style clear, bulbous bottle, offers an exhilarating flavor blend of steely citrus and brioche, with a mousse so generous and constant that it seems to be fed by some unseen source.
Tasting Report: A wine bargain is a relative concept. While it’s hard to apply the word “bargain” to an expensive bottle, no matter how exalted the juice, in the real world I have a few longstanding faves – notable among them Ruffino’s Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale and E. Guigal’s red Côtes du Rhone. Vintage after vintage, both perform way beyond their modest price.
Mulling Wine: Wine should be, first of all, refreshing. And refreshment begins with temperature. The ancient notion that red wines should be served at room temperature is exactly that – ancient, and therein lies the problem. Time was, before central heating, when homes (and dining establishments) were not the toasty places we know and require today.
Tasting Report: It wasn’t the many alluring examples of Pinot Noir that made the biggest impression when some 70 wineries set out their wares at the recent Sonoma in the City showcase at the Drake Hotel. What caught my eye, and palate, was the range of Sonoma wines – the varietals, the blends and the bargains.
Tasting Report: If the name Darioush isn’t on your wine radar, it’s probably because the bottled splendors from this Napa producer are available mainly at selected restaurants around the U.S. and at the winery located on the famous Silverado Trail. Darioush Khaledi, a native of Iran who first learned wine-making from his father, founded his Napa venture in 1997 with the goal of creating great reds on the Bordeaux model. As the latest blended Cabernet Sauvignon from Darioush attests, he has succeeded impressively.