By Bruce Cochran
One week from now marks the 200th issue of E Wine of the Week, so if you’re in Little Rock on April 4, we’re planning a special eWine Sampling at Cajun’s Wharf. What makes it even more special is the wine list. Did I mention the winemaker is coming, too? How about this for a power resume: Head of Beringer’s Napa Valley vineyards, assistant winemaker at Chateau Souverain, founder and head of Kendall-Jackson’s syrah program, head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s red wines, and has now received 92 points in both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for his own wines! These wines will be at Oak Street Bistro in Conway the next evening, Thursday, April 5.
If, like a lot of people, you’re looking for Rosa di Rosa, it’s on the ocean, headed this way. Rosa should be back in stock around the end of the month. Did I mention that the “White Rosa” is on the same ship? That’s what they recommend in Italy for panna cotta.
This week it’s back to red wine, from one of my favorite—and one of the most distinctive—California regions.
Taste something good this week!
One wine trend in recent years is how California wines are labeled. Today, many wines tell us where in California the grapes were grown, and that’s important for two reasons. First, some places are better than other places (example: Napa Valley vs. Central Valley). Second, some places are better suited for particular grape varieties than for other varieties.
The label might list a region, like North Coast (includes the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino) or Central Coast (includes Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey counties). Or, it might list an individual county. Or, it might even list a valley within a county (Sonoma Valley is in Sonoma County). It can even list a single vineyard or a distinct parcel within a vineyard.
“Sideways Country” (Santa Maria Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Edna Valley) is now famous for pinot noir. Paso Robles is becoming famous for its red zinfandel and Napa Valley has long bee famous for cabernet sauvignon.
One of the best places to look to for a distinctive style of cabernet sauvignon is Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma Valley. Alexander Valley lies along the Russian River upstream from the town of Healdsburg. Downstream to the Pacific Ocean is called Russian River Valley, better known for pinot noir due to the cool ocean breezes.
Alexander Valley cabernets often tend more toward elegance than power. This is not to imply light color or lack of character, but at their best these wines offer depth, complexity and smooth drinkability, unhampered by aggressive puckery tannins on the finish.
They’re sometimes called Bordeaux-like, after the French region where cabernet sauvignon grapes came from originally. Still, they’re very much California, not having the earthiness associated with Bordeaux. The best known, and most expensive, is Jordan. One of the best bargains is Alexander Valley Vineyards, which sells for around $20 per bottle.
For questions, comments, or to subscribe to the electronic version of E Wine of the Week, email Bruce at: email@example.com