Author mug

By The Glass


Many glasses later,
some inexpensive gems

One of the great things about being in this business is the opportunity to taste wines from everywhere. Many that we taste are from obscure corners of the world, while others are nearly household brands. The difficulty is the culling process. As with panning for a precious metal, you have to sift through a lot of sand before you get a glint of gold.

Here are a few that caught my attention recently.

It's a rarity to find a red wine that is at once fabulously concentrated, easy to drink with no hard edges and downright cheap. Solanera Red 1999 ($10.99) is just such a wine. It is dense, purple and looks like it will be overpowering and too youthful. The wine has a wonderful coating mouthfeel that tastes of deep, black fruits and just the right amount of earthiness to keep it from getting boring. This is one of those extremely rare "bargain" wines that doesn't have to be justified by its price. This wine is produced by the very respectable house of Castano and is based primarily on very old vine Mourvedre grapes. Serve this with just about any course that began with four legs.

The 1988 Domaine La Garrigue "Vacqueyras" ($13.21) has a blueberry, dark-cherry richness with a brightness that you rarely feel in these wines. Vacqueyras wines used to be blended to make "Cotes du Rhone Villages" until 1990, when the wines gained full Apellation Origine Controlee status. This allows producers to bottle wines with their own appellation. Honestly, most of the wines from this village are not worth a second look. Garrigue's is worth a second, third and fourth. With game meats, lamb and rich meat entrées, this is a flavorful and compelling wine.

La Carraia Sangiovese 2000 ($11.99) is from Umbria in Italy, a region known more for simple white wines such as Verdicchio and Orvieto than for graceful, bright cherry-fruited reds. This Sangiovese (the classic grape of Chianti) is elegantly structured so that its brightness, which comes from tightly knitted and fine acidity, seamlessly integrates the bright cranberry and cherry fruit flavors. This wine doesn't carry the earthiness you might expect, but this "cleanness" actually works well. Red-sauce pasta dishes, sausages and take-out pizza all work well with this wine.

Columbia Crest has introduced a new level of wines under a "Grand Estates" label. The 2000 Chardonnay ($10.99) has a creamy, plush richness with lots of pear, peach and nutmeg flavors. Columbia Crest is a major winery in Washington State. The richness of this particular wine is very "California," with the good acid structure you'd find from up north. This wine works well with cream sauces and lighter pasta dishes, white fish and will even stand up to grilled salmon.

From Australia comes Penfolds "Thomas Hyland" Chardonnay 2001 ($11.99). Penfolds, ultimately known for its grand red wines based on the Syrah grape, also produces this delightfully silky and supple Chardonnay. Nectarines, pear, lime and cream flavors fill your mouth with a nearly sweet flavor and yet keep enough brightness to accompany your favorite fish or seafood dishes.

While you're enjoying these, I'll be panning for more gems.

Richard Field owns R. Field Food and Wine Co. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
Write to

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin