I really like it when people, especially people I know, recommend wines to me.
I mean, a person can only look at so many bottles on the shelves before his or her eyes start to blur. What distinguishes one from the other? What makes people try a particular wine, when there are thousands more available to them?
A couple of young friends of mine, Erin and Ben, were on a kick for awhile, during which they bought only new-to-them wines that had birds on the labels.
Yup. You read it right. If it didn’t have a bird, their interest wasn’t stirred.
Now I’m not convinced that’s a completely sensible process for selecting one’s beverages, but it sure sounds like fun! I’m not certain how long these two kept up this routine, but they’d been into it for several weeks, if not months, when they told me about it.
And really, if one is being adventurous, it’s as good a way as any to use when one is overwhelmed — and it’s almost impossible not to be — by the vast number of choices available. Erin told me they actually found a few wines they enjoyed (and consequently bought more than once) using their bird-in-the-hand approach.
Because I like quirkiness, I found their methodology quite intriguing. I’ve never attempted to do anything remotely like that myself, but on a lark (ha!), I might give something similar a try. Wine drinking, and wine selecting, should be an enjoyable process, and what better approach than to add an element of bizarre unpredictability into the mix.
However, being a little more regimented myself, I usually prefer the tried and true method of ‘referral.’ That is, somebody I know says, "Have you tried this?" And I say, "No, I haven’t," and they say, "Well, we think it’s really good," and I say, "Oh, well, then — I guess I’ll have to give it a go."
Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, depending on who they are, what it is they’re recommending and my (admittedly often erroneous) preconceived notions about whatever beverage they happen to be suggesting.
But when things line up — when it’s someone whose taste in wine I respect, and when it’s something I know that I at least don’t loathe, I’ll usually take the recommendation and run with it.
Which is exactly what happened awhile back, when my friends Lynda and Don sent an email expressing their condolences about my bout with colitis, and recommending the 2010 Forrest Pinot Gris from New Zealand.
I’ve known Lynda for many years (in fact, she was my Home-Ec teacher from 1972-74 — she was just a child herself back then!), so that gives you some indication of the length of our connection. And since we sat at the same table at the February Brandon Wine Society tasting and had an absolute blast together, and since their son is my editor, I couldn’t NOT give the Forrest a try.
(A brief aside here. Folks are often confused about the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. I was, too. But here’s what I’ve been able to discern, in the simplest terms possible: Essentially they’re the same grape, although I believe Gris originated in France, and Grigio in Italy. Producers of that varietal in other countries decide whether to call their product Gris or Grigio depending on their wines’ characteristics. Pinot Gris usually boasts richer, rounder, stone-fruit flavours, while Pinto Grigio is more light-bodied and has more acidic citrus notes.)
Anyway, the folks were right on the money about the Forrest Pinot Gris. It has really nice viscosity, with just the gentlest hint of orange. I got primarily green apple and some pear. After I checked the label, I could discern the honeysuckle the winemaker suggested was there, but I certainly didn’t find it, either aromatically or flavour-wise, without the prompt.
But even at $18.19 a bottle, this wine could make me a Pinot Gris fan. Ditto for the Sandhill Pinot Gris from the Okanagan. I wrote about how enamoured I was with the Sandhill products, particularly the Chardonnay and the Merlot, in a column a few weeks back, and other good friends ensured I got around to trying the Pinot Gris.
It was as promised — medium-bodied, with hints of melon, green apple, pineapple, and orange. There was a splash of spice in there, too, which made for a zesty finish. I think it’s delightful — no surprise, since I think all the Sandhill products are — and it sells for $16.99.
So here’s to innovative wine-selection methods, to good friends and to great recommendations. These Pinots are delicious. I hope you a-Gris!
Aaarrrggghhh! It’s happened before and now, it’s happened again!
I found some wines I liked, wrote about them, and just as column hits the paper, I find out the wine is either unavailable or has been discontinued.
That’s precisely what transpired last weekend, when I was informed the Essenze Sauvignon Blanc, which I adore, was in short supply in Manitoba and could remain that way for some time, AND that the 2008 Aldegheri Il Groto, an Italian red with which I was quite smitten, had been discontinued by the MLCC. The good news is, the Essenze will be restocked as soon as the supplier can provide more. But the bad news is, the Il Groto is gone for good.
So if you can find either of these wines in your travels to other jurisdictions, by all means, pick some up. They’re both fabulous. I look forward to the return of the Essenze Sauv Blanc. And I’m on the hunt for more of the Il Groto. Field trip, anyone?
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 16, 2012