Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

I have always thought that one of the many joys of wine drinking is finding special wine that tastes much more expensive than the price suggests. For those of you who read my last posting about the Guardian Peak SMG, there is an amazing story. A friend brought it for us to have over dinner all the way from the winery, where he paid about $20.00 for it. But we discovered it here for only $9.99! (We had it special ordered from Paul's in Wisconsin Avenue in DC.) I have always known that it can be a bit expensive to buy at the winery, but this seems extraordinary!

While on the subject of price, a lot of people suggest I am missing the point in my proposed scoring system for airline wine service that I described on http://louisandlouisa.com. The suggestion is that I know the "price of everything and the value of nothing" as Oscar Wilde would put it. But actually I want to discover the bargains, and however good the wine is, I don't want an airline to go bargain hunting on my behalf when I am sitting in an airline seat.

I absolutely love Tesco Champagne, but if I am in Seat 2A on Singapore Airlines, I want to have the choice between my Krug and Dom Perignon. When I am back on terra firma, then I want to be the one discover the Tesco Champagne and tell how I got my six-pack for only GBP 78.03!

The opportunity to taste these very expensive and sometimes overpriced wines in the air is also a good benchmarking opportunity. It is nice to compare your steals with the expensive stuff that you cannot usually afford.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Guardian Peak SMG, 2004

Long boycotted during the apartheid era, South African wines are something of a mystery to me although I am beginning to be very interested in them for two main reasons. First, they seem to represent excellent value for money. Second, they seem to do very well with a grape I like very much, Chenin Blanc, which is usually called Steen in South Africa.

Last night we had something completely different while we were waiting for dinner. One of my friends brought Guardian Peak SMG 2004, which we drank before dinner with cheese (Manchego, Cheshire, and Irish Cheddar). As you might have already guessed, SMG stands for Syrah (54%), Mourvedre (36%), and Grenache (10%). With an alcohol level of 14.5%, this is certainly not a wimpy wine, and it is a little bit "in your face" with deep and rich plummy stewed fruit flavors with sweet cherry notes. This wine does not lack subtlety though, and the blend gives it a degree of spicy vanilla cedary complexity. I wondered how it would taste after a few years in the cellar.

This is a wonderful wine, and I strongly recommend it. My friends brought it back from South Africa, but I saw it on Wine Searcher for just $9.99. If this wine can really be had for that price (or anything less than $15.00 for that matter), I would dash out and buy all I could afford!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hanna, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1988

Hanna, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1988

This wine was in my cellar for one only reason. The youngest in our family is called Hannah, and 1988 was the year of her birth. The Hanna winery also holds a special place in our hearts since we had a lovely visit there when we staying in Calistoga a few years back. Last night, Hannah was back home visiting from college so we decided to celebrate with a bottle of Hanna.

But I did not really expect much from Hanna. First 1988 was really not a particularly good vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon in Northern California. Second, everyone tells you these days that most wines are intended to conumed upon release, and a wine is far more likely to show badly if it is drunk too late than if you drink it too soon. Finally, I had a problem with the cork, which broke while I was trying to open it. I finally managed to remove it fairly cleanly, and although the top part of the cork was broken, it looked as though the bottom part of it had maintained a good seal. There was a considerable amount of sediment so I poured it through a filter into a decanter.

As I was pouring, it became clear that we were in for something of a treat. A delicious aroma of blackcurrant came up from the wine as I poured. The color was a deep crimson with perhaps some degree of lightening but certainly no browning. The taste was concentrated deep fruit with some cedar with sweet vanilla overtones from the oak. A delicious wine that really seemed to have derived benefit from eighteen years in my cellar.