There once was a lady from Brandon
Who chose wine with wildest abandon
One WAS recommended
Her palate upended!
Her tastes were most truly expandin’!
I love limericks. Why I decided to begin this column with one is beyond me. It’s never occurred to me to do so before. But for some reason, it seemed appropriate this time around.
But what I said in that little verse is true. I take recommendations from almost anyone, although I’m particularly excited when I get a suggestion from people whose palates I admire. And one of those, the estimable Cindy Rousseau, product consultant at the Corral Centre Liquor Mart, found me in early January browsing the shelves — well, actually, she caught up to me at the till — and, with bottle in hand, asked if I’d tried the 2011 Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir from California’s much-hailed Sonoma County. I hadn’t, and since I trust her implicitly (she and her partners-in-crime Kevin Kotyk, who’s product consultant at Liquor Mart South, and Kathy DeRoo, who's PC at Tenth and Vic) have recommended some fabulous wines to me in recent months — it’s just hard to find space for all of them in this column), I took the bottle from her hand. If she thought that highly of it, I was going to try it — hang the expense.
And expensive it was, which is a trait that seems to be plaguing Vine Lines lately. I’ve come across some mighty fine wines, but with their ‘spectacularity’ often comes a hefty price tag. But when I find something that’s splendid, it just seems logical to share that discovery with readers. (I know most folks would like to find great wine for under $15, and there are some out there, to be sure, but there aren’t many. However, I do have some less expensive offerings coming up in subsequent columns — please hang in there.)
Anyway, I hadn’t planned to use it so soon after I bought it, but it turned out my husband suggested having pork schnitzel for supper one night, and whether it’s wiener (veal) schnitzel or pork, I like pinot noir with the dish.
So we prepared supper — I had a glass of white, which has become usual for me when I read the Brandon Sun after work — and then, so I could taste it before it was influenced by the food, I had a small chunk of plain white bread to cleanse my palate a bit, and tried the Rodney Strong.
OMG! It was amazing! It’s primarily cherry aroma had just a hint — a pinch, a smidgeon — of earthiness, but in a good way. I know lots of folks, those who prefer New World wines, balk at the Old World ones because of that mustiness that’s so much a hallmark of old country products. But this was GOOD earthiness — just the right amount. I love that touch of it — I didn’t used to — but the smell somehow harks back to basics, to where we’ve all come from — it’s relatable, if you will. Anyway, I thought it was great. Velvety smooth, which I find lots of folks like (and, I suppose, lots don’t) and delicate, with a very mild viscosity (maybe attributable to the 14.5 per cent alcohol content), this was indeed a wine to be reckoned with.
My husband tried it, and while he, too, really enjoyed it, he said he didn’t like it as a sipper. But I did. I liked everything about it.
To my taste, it was great on its own and simply splendid with the meal. I’m keen, now, to try the Rodney Strong Pinot with salmon, as that pairing has been a winner in the past — I was introduced to the combination in more than one sensational restaurant during a press junket to Australia in 2000. And it just never seems to fail.
The Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir sells for around $25 a bottle, as does the Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir, also from California, and which I also adore. The Meiomi is a little earthier, but has almost the same delicacy as — if a little more barnyard pungency than — the Rodney Strong. But while the Meiomi is definitely earthy, like the Rodney Strong, it’s gently so. It’s also fairly soft, as is the Nicky Hahn Pinot, yet another California product. Fruity, light and nicely elegant, the Hahn sells for $21.99, which I think is a bargain.
So if you’re into pinot noir, these three are all worth trying. I’ve sampled cheaper pinots in the past, but I’ve found that to get the quality of aroma and flavour that I appreciate, I have to go a little higher on the price point than I’m comfortable with. But as my friend Brenda says, ‘Bad pinot is just brown water.’ And since I couldn’t agree more, I’ll keep shelling out for the good stuff. But at the same time, I’ll remain on the lookout for one that’s decent and doesn’t break the bank.