Sat 6 Feb 2010
Every January, food magazines and newspaper food sections come out with stories about “new,” healthier, sustainable, non-grease-bomb snacks for nibbling while watching two Super Bowl football teams destroy each other in mud, blood and gore on large-screen televisions. But come on, guys, we all know what you’re going to be scarfing down: fiery-hot fried chicken wings with vats of blue cheese dressing; nachos dripping with melted cheese and sour cream studded with ground beef, refried beans and sliced jalapeno peppers; slabs of barbecue ribs slathered with spicy sauce; tortilla chips dipped into mouth-searing salsas; pigs-in-blankets, fer gawd’s sake!
In keeping with the kick-ass tradition of Super Bowl snack food, I offer a roster of kick-ass red wines that will nestle in there amongst your manliness and man the barricades of Guydom Snack Food.
Let’s start with the Penley Estate Hyland Shiraz 2006, Coonawarra, a smoking depth-charge of a wine that smells and tastes like roasted meat, bacon fat, wet dog, black pepper and intensely rich and ripe black and red currants and plums. To give you some idea of this wine’s bragging rights, we drank it last night with flank steak tacos; I slathered the meat with chili powder, chipotle powder, ground cumin, adobo seasoning (onion, garlic, pepper, Mexican oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper) and mapuche spice from Chile, a mixture of cacho de cabra chilies and coriander seeds, let it meditate on its worthiness for four hours and then seared it in a cast-iron skillet. Woo-hoo! The alcohol level is 15 percent, but you can handle it. Excellent. About $19 to $21.
Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Cal.
Or to stay in the Antipodes, try the Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz Grenache 2007, South Australia, a Platonic model of gravel-like minerality, smoke, gritty tannins and pumped-up black and red currants with a rooty, feral tang. Don’t let that touch of rose petals in the bouquet bother you. The blend is 67 percent shiraz, 33 percent grenache. Excellent. About $19 to $21.
Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa Cal.
Also from the Southern Hemisphere, but from the opposite side of the wide Pacific, comes the Trapiche Broquel Bonarda 2006, made from 100 percent bonarda grapes grown in Argentina’s Mendoza region. This intriguing wine, which ages a year in new French and American oak, is dark, dry, spicy and a little exotic, a little black leathery; its compelling black and red cherry and black currant flavors wrap cozily around a core of sassafras and orange rind, smoked ancho chilies and bittersweet mocha with a poignant fillip of fresh cracked pepper. Zowie! Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
Shifting briefly to Europe, we have the Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2007, from Sicily. Boy, this is one smoky, spicy, tarry, exotic and robust red wine for drinking with full-flavored, hearty food. Flavors of ripe red and black currants and plums are bolstered by cloves and bitter chocolate, by some rooty, earthy tea-like element, by notes of wild berry and slightly shaggy tannins. The wine is so engaging and lively that it practically vibrates in the glass. Very Good+, and a Great Bargain at $13 to $15.
Imported by Vin Divino, Chicago.
The rest of these, to set your patriotic minds at rest, were made in the U.S.A., that is, if you consider California part of the country.
“Robust” scarcely begins to describe the rustic, bumptious Seven Artisans Petite Sirah 2007, from California’s Suisun Valley. This is a dusty, dusky wine whose grainy tannic nature is matched blow by blow with ripe, juicy black fruit flavors and resonant acidity. Smoke and ash circulate in the depths, along with hints of lead pencil of granite-like intensity, dried porcini, crushed ancho chilies and a touch of dried cranberries. Potent and sort of charming in its muscularity. Very Good+ About $18.
No, bullshit, readers, the Turnbull “Old Bull” 2006, Oakville, Napa Valley, is as solid as a lineman’s biceps and as
supple as a quarterback’s thighs. It took a buffet of grapes to get the job done here — merlot (44%), tempranillo (18%), sangiovese (16%), cabernet sauvignon (9%), barbera (6%), cabernet franc (5%) and syrah (2%). The wine is packed with dusty tannins, dusty spice, dusty macerated black fruit and dusty minerals; yep, it’s a dusty wine, all right, which is a reflection of its profound earthy character and fathomless structure. The fruit holds up, though, and in addition to the wine’s emphasis on structure, it’s downright lip-smackin’ delicious. Very Good+. I paid $24 for this wine, but the suggested price is $20.
We drank the X Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, with pork chops smacked with chili powder and cumin, seared in olive oil with garlic, and then baked for about 10 minutes, so you understand its potential for standing up to a tray of chicken wings. Boy, this is one dense and chewy cabernet — with 10 percent merlot and 2 percent petit verdot — that flaunts intense and concentrated black currant and black cherry flavors permeated by smoky potpourri, cedar and tobacco, a woodsy, autumnal dried moss element and immense reserves of dusty tannins and gravel-like minerals. Lots of character for the price. 672 cases. Excellent. About $25.
The Real Bargain of these eight wines is the St. Francis Red 2006, Sonoma County, a blend of merlot (48%), cabernet sauvignon (28%), syrah (10%), zinfandel (3%) and the mysterious category of “mixed blacks” for 6%. There are truckloads of personality in this hearty, dark, boldly spiced and flavorful wine that partakes of fleshy roasted elements, macerated black currants, black cherries and plums and enough dusty, earthy tannins for whole pallets of wine. Nothing complicated here, but an engaging, slightly rock-ribbed quaff to buy by the case. Very Good+. About $10.
Except for the Turnbull “Old Bull” 2006, these were sample wines submitted for review.