By Bruce Cochran
This week we’re finding bargains again, especially for good reds for outdoor dining. And we didn’t have to look very far this time.
If you’re headed to Little Rock, Salut! at Prospect Place, the new bistro in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood, kicks off its dinner service with A Casual Evening of Food & Wine, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. You can meet the winemaker, enjoy a delicious menu inspired by Argentina’s famous beef, “Pampered on the Pampas” with lots of great wines in the dining room or in the garden. Plus, you can hear my scintillating introduction of the winemaker. Go to brucecochran.com to find out more.
Try a new wine this week!
Columbia Valley Cabs
Bargain for outdoor dining
If you’ve been drinking only California wines (and a lot of you have), and are ready to try something else, consider the great wines and great wine bargains coming out of Washington State. As prices for many California wines rise, the rapid vineyard expansion to their north is coming to our rescue.
Like California, Washington is on the Pacific Coast. But, sitting near the famous 45th degree of latitude, its wines have a slightly different style. It often strikes me as somewhat less powerful, less heavy, but fully as intense in flavor, maybe because its location gives it two extra hours of daylight during the growing season. I think of that as light rather than heat.
Some of my favorite wines are from Washington’s Columbia River Valley. It’s dry there, sitting in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range, so vineyards are irrigated from the Columbia and its tributaries. Water when you need it, but not when you don’t, it’s great for consistent quality. Columbia Valley wines tend to be flavorful yet food friendly, a great style for warm weather dining, especially outdoors.
If you look at a map, there’s a special part of the Columbia Valley, where a bend in the river has produced a fine vineyard site. It’s curious place, as it’s littered with many large, house-sized boulders that actually came from far upriver, as far away as Montana, many millennia ago. Nobody has yet been able to say exactly how they got there, but one of the most likely theories is a huge flood from an ice dam breaking as the Ice Age was ending. One can only imagine how much water it would have taken.
The word for a glacially misplaced boulder is “erratic” as my winemaking friend in Washington, Ron Bunnell, told me when he tasted a fine cabernet sauvignon from this special vineyard with me. Of course I ordered some for the Arkansas market. Erratic Cabernet Sauvignon (as well as the Chardonnay) retails in the $10-$15 dollar range.
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