- Melanie Wong
Im charmed whenever I hear the Italian wine term, Vino da Meditazione or meditation wine. It describes wines meant to be savored alone unaccompanied by food, such as Marsala, other dessert wines and after-dinner fortified wines in general. Meditation wines invite concentration and examination. Images of staring into the depths of a glass of wine to answer age-old existential questions come to mind.
This afternoon though, we relied on the light within to inspire our meditations on compassion. After nurturing our spirits, we headed outdoors for ocean air and some nice wines and nibbles to feed our stomachs.
First, a round of toasts to Neelam and Richards anniversary with Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut remaining from the wedding celebration. This continues to be my recommendation for best value in sparkling wine at under $20. Plenty of toasty richness, depth and breed with zingy acid balance. Better than many French Champagnes that sell for twice the money. And, as wine often does, it reminded us of how much fun we had the last occasion we drank it together.
Then an unplanned taste-off between two California Côte du Rhône-style wines from vineyards in Sonoma County. Kim C. and I must have connected on some sort of oeno-psychic channel that caused both of us to grab similar variety wines to share. Produced by Preston Vineyards and Joseph Swan Vineyards, the sites for these wines are less than 15 miles from each other inviting comparison.
The 1997 PRESTON Faux Dry Creek Valley red table wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah and Grenache made in a bright, quaffable style. Very fruity nose of red berries and spice, the first sip was a bit harsh and disjointed, taking an hour or so of airing in the glass to smooth out. Then it burst through with crushed raspberries and juicy fruits in a light-bodied frame, ending with a clean finish. Pleasant and fruity, and goes down easy.
The 1995 JOSEPH SWAN Côtes du Rosa Russian River Valley red table wine is nearly all Carignan from vines planted in 1920. While generally a wine meant for drinking in its youth, this vintage was more robust with a healthy dose of tannic firmness so I set aside my bottles for a couple years in the cellar. On first sight, the deep blackish purple color like Welchs grape jelly garnered the first Wow! of many to come. Initially a leathery/earthy nose plumping up with aeration to reveal dense black fruits and anise, this wine offered much more to chew on ---thick and rich in the mouth with jammy blackberry and plum fruit laced with smoke, firm underpinnings of acid and smooth tannins carry a long finish. This is a much more intensely flavored and concentrated mouthful. Not bad at all for a $9 investment.