An Eternal Quest To Taste ‘Great’ Wines

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - September 17, 2008
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A stunner

Sometimes I feel like a wine snob. There, I said it. I know as a writer and sommelier I am completely open to wines from anywhere and made from any grape, and some not even from grapes. But for my own consumption, I am often truly unsatisfied until I have some of my favorite wines.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I am blessed and frankly spoiled to be able to taste the greatest wines in the world. I definitely don’t take it for granted. But sometimes my subjectivity gets in the way of my enjoyment.

For instance, just this past weekend I invited my brother and his family over for dinner. I grilled up some steaks, steamed some crab legs and roasted some veggies, among other things.

I decided to serve a very highly rated Italian wine made from 100 percent Aglianico. I know he likes rich and heavy reds, so I knew this would be just right for him and the steaks. Despite being 8 years old, the wine was still very rich, loaded with blackberry and a thick amount of tannins both from oak as well as the grape. It went just fine with the grilled smoke and the protein and fat of the meat. But at the same time, for some reason, it really just didn’t satisfy my taste. I have to ask myself, am I the only one like this?

Today I stopped by my local wine bar to enjoy a couple of taste portions from the Cruvinet. I was in the mood for whites and I didn’t want anything heavy. First stop was a glass of Sicilian white made from Inzolia and Cataratto, two fun and indigenous grape varieties. It was very aromatic, flowery and grapey with a hint of mineral. Light and refreshing, it was quite lively without being sweet.

A gulper

I then rolled into a glass of QbA Riesling from the Rheinpfalz. It was even more aromatic with peaches and nectarines, and quite a bit of sweetness. Again, it was light and refreshing, cleansing even, but it just didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. I felt like I still wanted more, something that really made me sit down and say, “Yeah, baby.”

I can’t be alone in this. Maybe I should have more reasonable expectations. I realize that not every wine I drink will be earth-shatteringly good. (Mind you, not even all the so called “great” wines are mind-blowing.) So what should I do? Should I go home and pop the cork on something great? Should I call my friends and arrange a dinner so we can drink the “greats”? There’s always next time. What do you do?

I know. I should appreciate the times when the wines are mind-bending. When those wines do hit all my palate sweet spots, I should remember them more; even revisit them if I can. And perhaps the goal is not the answer here. Perhaps the chase and the search for the great ones are what I should enjoy more. Focus on the half-full glass instead of the half-empty one.

After all, I wouldn’t want to be called a wine snob.

A stunner: 2004 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 ($175) this is one of California’s great, classic Cabernets and, wow, what a winner. It is lusciously fruited with a sublime texture and intensity that is a wonder to drink or keep for another dozen years.

A gulper: 2006 Betts & Scholl Grenache ($22) Jammy fruit with a spice rack of aromas, it hits the deep bass notes with richness and high notes with its balance and gulp-ability. This is one that gets sucked up quickly.


Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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