Thu 10 Dec 2009
As many readers know, Saturday is Pizza-and-Movie Night in our house, and it has been for many years. If we suffer under the burden of a social or cultural obligation on Saturday, we can switch Pizza-and-Movie Night to Sunday, but it feels weird. Occasionally, LL and I joke about how many pizzas I have made, and the closest approximation we can calculate is somewhere between 500 and 600, which is pretty damned approximate. Trying to ascertain, from that number of pizzas, which is the best would seem fruitless folly.
Of course some pizzas are better than others. Once we situate ourselves to watch the movie and the wine is poured and the first bites of pizza taken, LL will usually say something like “Great pizza” or “Wonderful” or, occasionally, “Brilliant.” And sometimes a silence ensues, and I, suddenly worried, will sort of clear my throat and hem and haw a bit, and she will say, “Not one of your best efforts.” Well, come on, we can’t be perfect all the time.
In late Summer and early Fall this year, I went through a Golden Age of pizza-making, where it seemed as if I could do no wrong. Then I went into a bit of a slump. Usually the flaw with a pizza is not in the toppings, though sometimes there can be a Clash of Ingredients; no, the flaw — or the perfection — of a pizza is in the crust. Having created as many pizzas as I have, the making of the dough long ago became routine, yet there must be minute variations of which I am unaware that affect the outcome, an ounce more water one week, a smidgeon less olive oil another week, an extra minute spent kneading the dough while I’m distracted by other matters. Who knows?
Last Saturday, though, by whatever conjunction of physical, philosophical and spiritual elements aligned in utter harmony, the crust on the pizza was perfect. I mean, it was perfect. Thin but not too thin. Toothsome and almost flaky, but not “short,” as a pie crust would be. Around the edges, it was light and puffy, making little air pockets that crunched gracefully in the mouth. The toppings were a handful of shiitaki mushrooms, sliced thin; little red and green peppers, sliced thin; chopped yellow onion; diced salami, medium hot; one sliced Roma tomato; mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses; a scattering of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Scrumptious.
I opened a bottle of the Murphy-Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel 2007, Sonoma County, a wine that I have not tasted in five or six years. The winery was founded in 1985 by veteran vineyard developers and managers Tim Murphy and Dale Goode and their friend David Ready; in 2006, the estate was acquired by Kendall-Jackson. Murphy-Goode perpetually displayed a marked fondness for assertively ripe and fruity red wines; a predilection for sumptuous, voluptuous textures in red and white wines; and, in chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, an addiction to new oak so severe that a 12-step intervention — “Hi, I’m Bob, and I’m an oakaholic” — would have improved things greatly. I blew hot and cold about Murphy-Goode wines throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, generally cottoning to the reds better than to the over-manipulated, syrupy whites, so it was with some interest that I recently received a trio of reds (samples for review) from the winery, or, I should say, from Jackson Family Wines.
True to form, the Murphy-Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel 2007, Sonoma County, is rich and ripe, sleek and exotic. At 15.4 percent alcohol, it packs a heady hit as well as the sweetness that a high alcohol level often conveys. Black currant and blueberry flavors, with a hint of fleshy boysenberry, are threaded with briers and brambles, polished tannins and dusty granite, and sweet, spiced plums. The wine slides through your mouth like plush velvet woven with iron filings. This is a blend, with three percent each carignane and petite sirah grapes. Winemaker David Ready Jr. calls the “Liar’s Dice” ’07 “our most passionate wine.” It could use less emotion and more thoughtfulness, though, I’ll admit, its unabashed nature managed nicely with the hearty, earthy, slightly spicy pizza. Drink now through 2011 or ’12 with cumin-and-chili-rubbed pork roast, barbecue brisket and the like. Very Good+. About $21.
Curious about my reaction to previous vintages of the “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel, I checked the archives of the newspaper for which I wrote a weekly print column for 20 years, and found a few references:
<>Exquisitely ripe and flavorful, the Murphy-Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel 2000, Alexander Valley, is a crowd-pleaser of sensual appeal that manages to be almost sophisticated. Very Good+. About $19.50.
<> Like mainlining blackberry jam and brandied plums – that’s about all you need to say about the extraordinarily vivid and vibrant Murphy-Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 1999, Sonoma County. Fortunately, this wild thing has a full complement of minerals, oak and plush tannins to rein it in (sort of). Excellent. About $19.
<> … the Murphy-Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel 1998, Sonoma County, [is] a bit lighter than the previous vintage but delicious for its bright, ripe currant-cherry-plum flavors and touches of smoke, minerals and spice. Very good+. About $17.
In other words, the owner may be different, but the philosophy is the same.