Slowly, we raised the glasses to our lips, which were already parted in anticipation. As the brick-red liquid danced over our taste buds and slipped down our eager throats, our eyes met over the dinner table. Wantonly, we gazed at each other, sharing the moment, just we two. This slice of time was ours, and ours alone.
As the wonder of this ethereal experience slowly dissipated, our minds caught up to our senses and our eyes widened, almost in disbelief. Locked in a stare that seemed to last an eternity, we finally lowered our glasses, and almost as one, said, "Ahhhhh."
Like our relationship, this wine was something very, very special.
OK, perhaps that was a little overly dramatic. But there’s no exaggeration about the fabulousness of the wine.
I should make it clear that this was the last bottle of a lengthy evening’s worth of fine wines for my husband and I and our two guests — number four of four if anybody really wants to know. And while our palates may have been a little compromised, we’d had plenty of food in between, and some palate cleansers, so I feel reasonably confident that the forthcoming assessment is a legitimate one.
Anyway, I got an email from my friend the next day, saying how much he and his wife had enjoyed our get-together. And at the end, he asked to be reminded of the name of the wine we’d had at the end of the evening. Earlier we’d really enjoyed the two wines they’d brought — first, the nifty, new Lucky Penny White from Australia. This is a great blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Viognier, and the contents are not at all what the label would lead you to believe. I mean, there ARE aromas and flavours of honey, pear and apricot, but the wine isn’t sweet. It’s not tremendously dry, either — in fact, it almost defies description, which is what makes it so interesting. And I found this multi-layered, really yummy wine took a tiny turn toward white pepper on the finish, which just added to its wonderfully mysterious qualities. It sells for $17.99 and I can almost guarantee it would please anyone who likes white wine. It’s a little gem and certainly worth a try.
Next, we enjoyed the fabulous 2010 Heartland Dolcetto & Lagrein, also an Aussie product. This red wine, a blend of the dolcetto and lagrein grapes, is stellar — I loved it the first time I had it courtesy of the same couple, and I loved it just as much the second time. It’s a hearty, meaty wine, rife with aromas of blackberry and herbs, and the flavour blends those with black pepper, cedar and cherry. If you like big, savoury wines, this one’s for you. The Dolcetto & Lagrein sells for $22.75.
Since the main course for the evening was Venison Parmesan, I’d picked up a lovely Chianti I’d had before and liked very much. However, it didn’t stand up to the meal the way I’d hoped — it kind of got lost with the richness of the cheese (mostly, I think, because there was LOTS of cheese) — the Heartland probably would have been better with the food. But since it’s such a great wine, I was MORE than happy to drink it on its own. The Chianti was a disappointment, but it was the only one of the evening.
Anyway, post meal, I asked my friend, who drinks red (his wife is strictly a white wine person), if he’d care for another glass or two of something. I gave him some choices — a California cabernet, an Aussie shiraz or a dry Spanish wine.
He chose the latter, which was the Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2007 — it sells for $20.97. I’d been keen to try this one for quite a while, so I was pleased with his selection. And that’s what led to the (admittedly exaggerated) exchange detailed in the opening paragraphs of this column.
I’d previously had the slightly less expensive incarnation — the Montecillo Rioja Crianza ($16.95), and had enjoyed it very much, so I was truly eager to sample the one that was supposed to be a step up.
And was it ever. A step up, that is. While the Crianza (which, for red wine, means it’s been aged for two years with at least six months in oak) was truly delicious, the Reserva (which has been aged for three years with at least one year in oak) was amazing. Full-bodied and fruity, just like the label promised, it tasted of red berries and, not surprisingly, oak. While it had the usual earthiness of an Old World wine, this was somewhat tempered, and the whole thing was a robust yet rounded and beautifully integrated wine. I loved it. And my friend did, too.
A few days later, I managed to snag three bottles of the 2006 vintage of the Montecillo Rioja Reserva. My hope is that they might be even better than the 2007, although that seems impossible to me. But we’ll see. And I’ll keep you posted!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 14, 2013