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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I picked up Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition. My problem is that I know just enough about wine to be dangerous. I have a lot of depth in certain varietals and regions but lack breadth otherwise. Zraly’s book goes through 8 chapters of regions and associated tastings, meant to give a broad exposure and vocabulary for drinking wine. I don’t know if I’ll make it through the entire book before all of the recommendations become outdated, but the basic formula should work, more or less. As is, I’ve had to make best guesses with vintage substitutions, trying to take into account annual variations that are nontrivial.

So, this starts a series of blog posts that might take a few years to resolve, in which I’ll attempt to self-administer Zraly’s wine course at home. Here goes.

One Wine Alone: Trimbach Riesling 2008

The first wine in the book is an Alsacian unoaked Riesling tasted by itself. I’ve not been a huge fan of Rieslings in the past, though most that I’ve tried have been too sweet for my tastes. The Rieslings of Alsace are as dry as they come (according to the book), and the whole point of this is to give things a shot, so here we are.

The wine was a watery green yellow with low aroma. If pressed, I’d say there was a bit of a mineral, musty, and citrus nose, but this is a bit of a stretch. It doesn’t smell like much, especially when cool to cold.

The wine was indeed dry with light-medium body and tart acidity. Flavor intensity was low, starting with granny smith, briefly touching on pear notes, and then finishing with a blast of lemon; this all happens in about 10 seconds, after which there’s a complete void. The finish is pretty much nonexistent.

Overall, balance in the wine is good, seems like a good tart wine to pair with food that requires an unassertive and acidic pairing.

Two Wines Together: Sauvion du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007 & Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé 2008

The Sauvion is an unracked Melon de Bourgogne, purportedly a favorite in bistros that is “easy, light in style, and has balanced fruit and acid.” It was straw yellow with medium color depth. Aroma was low with hints of grapefruit, stone fruit and granite.

The wine was slightly off-dry with medium body and lively acidity. Flavor started with red delicious apples, became more tart over time, with a buttery finish and what could be best described as the texture and flavor of talc. Finish was medium. It has a nice burst of acid up front that balances quickly. It’s an interesting wine that
stands by itself, but it could easily be paired with many things.

The de Ladoucette is Sauvignon Blanc, ostensibly “medium-bodied with more depth, complexity, and fruit concentration than the Muscadet.” It has a characteristic pungency which the book describes as “cat pee” but I would say it’s more in the direction of the way human pee smells first thing in the morning when it’s a little rich.

Color was pale yellow; aroma was definitely strong. It smelled like a dusty house, urine (human, not cat), orange citrus, yeasty … maybe a bit of tomato.

On the tongue it’s a bit off-dry with a medium to full body. Acid is well balanced and while present isn’t noticeable as a feature in and of itself. Lots of floral flavors, not much fruit, some hints of pastries, fermented cider, and dirty dishwater.

Overall, the balance of the wine is surprisingly good, but it’s not my thing. It’s a funky thing, I feel like one must either love it or hate it. Not sure what to pair with it. Maybe asparagus? Don’t think I’ll revisit this genre.

In Other News

With the wines, the first course was Petit Billy, appropriately enough a fresh (and contemporary) Loire Valley goat cheese.

Second course was an herb salad with blueberries and wild blueberry vinaigrette.

The final course was a goat cheese & vanilla custard served with strawberries and a sauce made from pinot noir, black pepper and vanilla pods (hey, nothing better to do with them after the custards were made). This had the added fun of giving me yet another excuse to use my roaster as a water bath, which always makes me laugh a little bit. So I’ll leave you with that.