Kathy Boultbee, Manitoba Liquor Control Commission product consultant. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN)
To say I’m blessed with wonderful friends would be the understatement of the year. Maybe even the decade.
And while I appreciate them for so many more reasons than I can possibly express here, one of the great things they do for me — frequently — is introduce me to new wines.
Take, for example, a visit recently by a couple I’ve known for almost 20 years. They came for dinner, and even though I love to cook, I wimped out — I was exhausted, so we just ordered pizza. But since they knew that was the plan ahead of time, they came prepped with two bottles of red, both of which I really liked, and both of which I’d never tried before.
I asked what prompted the choices, and the reply was two-fold: one, that they looked interesting, and two, that at least one of them was on sale!
Regardless, we finished off a spectacular white I already had open that was introduced to me by yet another friend — more on that one in a moment — and cracked open the first of the bottles they had brought. We sipped it for awhile in order to really taste it, and then paired it with Caesar salad (which I DID make. Well, no. I didn’t. My husband did. And it was yummy.)
The wine was the 2008 Next of Kin Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River region of Western Australia. A lovely, full-bodied Cab, the Next of Kin was gutsy and full of blackcurrant, with flickers of chocolate, spice, oak, and even the slightest, faintest hint of mint. With the Chardonnay primer, it was — unlike many Cabs — just fine to sip on its own, and great with the pizza as well. And the price? $14.99 a bottle.
Next, we tried the 2010 Casas Patronales Reserva Carmenere from Chile. This wine, too, was full of black fruit — blackberry, black cherry, black plum — as well as black pepper and chocolate. It also had suggestions of tobacco, leather and toasted oak. There wasn’t much of the green pepper aroma and taste Carmenere is known for, and I didn’t really miss it. And this one was a very pleasant surprise, especially for $11.95.
And finally (sigh) the wonderfully lovely 2009 Valdivieso Wild Fermented Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Chile. This particular wine was poured for me by MLCC product ambassador Kathy Boultbee when we conducted a recent interview for the Sun about her promotion to a new job that, unfortunately for the oenophiles in this community, will see her spend the majority of her time in Winnipeg.
Anyway, while our relationship began, many years ago, as acquaintances, I now consider her a friend. And why wouldn’t I, when she knows what I like, is excited about introducing me to something new, and goes out of her way to ensure I have a chance to taste it? If that’s not a friend, I don’t know what it is!
And as usual, she was right on the money. While I can’t possibly aspire to her level of expertise, our palates do seem to match frequently, and this time was no exception.
As she poured me a glass, she admonished me gently.
"Now this is not as cold as you like it," she warned. "You drink your Chardonnays too cold."
"I know I do," I said, hanging my head guiltily.
Despite the fact that the temperature at which I consume my white wines masks many of the inherent subtleties and layers, I still like whites really icy. And she knows that. But this was her house, she’s the expert, and I was going to try her wine her way. Which, of course, made perfect sense. And naturally, it was delicious!
What a wine! Delicate yet intense, it was just ... different. That may have had something to do with the temperature at which Boultbee served it. But it also might be connected to the fact that this Chard is wild fermented, which means the process of converting sugar to alcohol begins in the vineyard, where wild yeast strains start fermenting.
According to an online article entitled "Going Wild: Wild Yeast in Winemaking," written by Jordan P. Ross for Enology International, using a more ‘green’ approach to creating wines certainly has an appeal.
"I see a trend toward a more natural way of making wine which starts in the vineyard with organic grape-growing and extends to minimal handling of the wine," Ross quotes Alan Tenscher, Senior Winemaker at Franciscan Vineyards, as saying. "But there is a group of winemakers out there who are looking for any technique that will help them improve wine quality. The use of wild yeast is a tool to create complexity."
And in the case of the Valdivieso Chard, it certainly has. Layer upon layer of flavour cascades from this beautiful beverage — it’s got rich fruit, some nuttiness and minerality. It’s full-bodied, which I love, and because it’s so — I’ll say it again — different, it’s now my new favourite Chardonnay. At $21.48 a bottle, it’ll be one I’m able to afford infrequently, but I’m going to try and revisit it as often as I can.
Because like good friends, this wine is worth the time, the effort, and the investment. And I’m delighted to be in its company.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 31, 2012