A business group asked me to recommend four wines for a “Spring Fling!” open house, and here (briefly) is what I came up with to match the theme:

>Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco. This is one of my favorite proseccos. It’s a lightly yet persistently sparkling wine that’s delicate and elegant, but a little earthy, bursting with almond blossom and citrus notes, and lemon-pear flavors resting on a vigorous bed of limestone. Very charming. Very Good+. About $20. Imported by VinDivino, Chicago.

>Verget du Sud Rosé de Syrah 2007. As delightful as this rosé was, I would rather drink the 2008 version, which should be released soon, for the sake of freshness and immediacy. Still, this offered tasty strawberry, melon and cherry/berry scents and flavors with hints of dried Provencal herbs and a powerful mineral element. Drink through the end of summer 2009. Very Good. About $16. North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Cal.

>Fritz Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Russian River Valley. What a lovely sauvignon blanc! Thirty percent is given a little oak, so the wine offers a bit more texture and substance than many sauvignon blancs while retaining amazing freshness, crispness and juicy, grassy citrus flavors. Drink through the end of 2009. Excellent. About $17, Good Value.

>Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2007. If what you expect from a well-made Beaujolais-Villages is fresh, ripe, grapey black currant and black plum flavors with a backing of spice, leather and dried flowers, well, here’s your model. Try with lighter grilled foods — pork chops, veal — or as a picnic wine with ham or fried chicken. Very Good+ and a Bargain at $13 to $15. Imported by Kobrand Corp, Purchase, N.Y.

The rest of the wines mentioned in this post were tasted, consumed, drunk with food prepared by LL or me, and frankly, this is my favorite way to try wine. It’s not always possible of course to sip wine for an hour or so under the best “dinner conditions.” There are enough bottles resting in my wine rack or sitting on the sideboard, gazing coolly at me even now, or standing on the floor, that sometimes I just have to line them up on the counter and spend a morning or afternoon going through the drill. And there are the zoo-like trade tasting or luncheons, the tastings organized by stores and so on; these are all necessary to the life of the wine writer or blogger. The best for me, however, is a quiet dinner with great food and a bottle — or sometimes two for comparison — right here in our own house or, now that the weather permits, out on the screened porch. Just call me Mr. Domesticity.
Last week I prepared dinner from a recipe in the March issue of Gourmet magazine, the “Provencal Chicken and Tomato Roast.” It’s a terrific dish, complete in itself, since it contains chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, celery and black olives. I don’t do recipes on BTYH*, but here’s a link to epicurious.com, which also carried the recipe.

For wine, I chose a bottle of the Black Kite Cellars Kite’s Rest Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Anderson Valley, an absolutely beautiful, pure and intense pinot noir that called forth terms like “Wow!” from my pen. The bouquet is a classic wreathing of smoky black cherry, cola, cloves and plums, with, in a few moments, whiffs of violets and dried rose petals. The wine delivers great presence, tone and texture, sliding across the tongue like warm satin but without being heavy or obvious; it draws you in like banked embers on a chilly night. Flavors of black cherry and plum with a hint of cranberry become a little tea-like, and after some time, say an hour, the wine takes on a note of austerity, and the oak and tannin come up, foresty and mossy. A complete success, elegant and exciting. 726 cases. Excellent. About $42.

*Recipe Alert! A few weeks ago, Eric Asimov, on his blog The Pour, suggested that I provide the recipe for the pizzas I write about frequently. So: this Saturday (May 2), LL is going to document photographically the pizza-making process, and on Sunday (May 3) I will post to BTYH an illustrated, step-by-step explanation of how I make pizza.


LL works late on Tuesday for part of the year, like this part, and I try to have dinner going for when she gets home, which may not be until 8:45 or 9, and sometimes, truly, we don’t sit down until 9:30 or a quarter of 10. So, last Tuesday I made a roasted radicchio and endive salad, with red leaf lettuce and Gorgonzola cheese (see image above), and another dish from the same issue of Gourmet mentioned previously. Here’s a link to the recipe: click.

The dish is “Linguine with Brussels Sprouts Barigoule,” a sort of brothy pasta with Brussels sprouts (natch), Savoy cabbage and leeks; lemon, white wine, thyme and garlic make the broth pungent and flavorful. It’s quite good and virtuous and obviously pretty healthy; we’ll make it again.

I had been wanting to try the Fritsch Reserve Riesling 2003, from Austria’s Wagram region, and this dish seemed as if it would provide the perfect foil, and, lordy, it did. Lovely aromas of pear and lychee, lime and damp limestone and rubber eraser led to flavors of roasted apricot and honeyed peach wrapped around a core of baking spice and crystallized ginger. The wine is bone-dry, but enticingly juicy, so crisp with acidity that it’s almost startling and profoundly rooted in mineral elements; still, it manages easily to be delicious and charming. The finish brings up a hint of grapefruit bitterness, a touch of dried herbs and intriguing coffee-like earthiness. Yes, this is great, for drinking through 2012 or ’14, well-stored. Excellent. About $25, a Bargain.

The next riesling we tried with a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing, red onions and seared scallops, a quick dish LL did for a Sunday supper out on the back porch. The wine was the Reichsrat von Buhl Forster Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese 2006, from Germany’s Pfalz region. I thought that the sweetness of the Spätlese would go well with the innate sweetness or impression of sweetness that scallops evince, as well as act as a foil to the earthy, sprightly vinegar and bacon dressing. This is an ethereal wine, pure and intense, the embodiment of the Platonic ripeness of peaches, pears and apricots deeply permeated by electrifying acidity and scintillating minerals, fleshed out by the slightly astringent note of lychee and the requisite petrol or rubber eraser character unique to the riesling grape. The wine is indeed sweet at the entry but quickly turns dry by mid-palate; the finish is all stones and spice. This should develop beautifully through 2012 to ’15 or ’16. Excellent. About $45.
A Rudi Wiest selection for Cellars International, San Marino, Cal.

LL doused two thick swordfish fillets with a lime and ginger marinade and let them sit for an hour and contemplate the higher calling of feeding us, and then she seared them in a cast-iron skillet. I opened a bottle of the Clos du Val Chardonnay 2007, Carneros, just released this month. If you read the entry about California chardonnay that I posted last week and if you know anything about Clos du Val, you will anticipate that I really liked this wine. It is a chardonnay of notable balance and integration, elegant, pure and intense. The color is medium straw-gold; aromas of roasted lemon, pineapple and mango are knit with hints of spicy wood and minerals. In the mouth, this wine is supple and silky, vibrant with clean acidity and an amalgam of delicious citrus-pineapple flavors infused with liquid limestone. The wine is barrel-fermented and ages 10 months in French oak, of which 20 percent of the barrels are new. A beautiful chardonnay that was perfect with the simply-prepared swordfish. Excellent. About $24.
For lunch, I prepared some little open-face sandwiches — black olive tapenade, fresh basil, slivers of leftover roasted chicken and olive oil-marinated dried tomatoes, with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan on top, zip!, run them under the broiler for about three minutes. Ta-dah! Then I opened a bottle of La Braccesca Sabazio 2006, Rosso di Montepulciano, a blend of 85 percent prugnolo gentile (a local name for sangiovese), 10 percent merlot and 5 percent canaiolo. The grapes derive from vineyards owned by the Antinori firm in southeast Tuscany, just north of Umbria. Sabazio 2006 is robust and hearty, bursting with notes of dusty plums and currants, leather and potpourri; the wine is deep, intense and concentrated, characterized by a persistence of black fruit flavors shot through with touches of plums and prunes, a hint of fruit cake and grasping undertones of grainy tannins. Try this with grilled red meat, from burgers to steaks, and full-flavored pasta dishes. Very Good, and Good Value at about $12 to $15.
Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd., Woodinville, Wash.

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