Every once in a while, the Wine Curmudgeon is lucky enough to meet someone like Pio Boffa, whose family has owned Italy’s Pio Cesare in the Piedmont for 130 years. The only thing more interesting than the conversation was the wine.
Every wine we had (even the Oltre, which is made for U.S. palates), was worth writing about. And I’ll probably get to several of them over the next couple of months. My favorite, though, was the Barbaresco ($65, sample). It’s not enough to say that this is classic Barbaresco that will only get better with age and in 30 years should be a gorgeous wine. That’s what all great Barbaresco should do.
Rather, what struck me about this wine is that it was greater than the sum of its parts. All of the things a great Barbaresco requires were there — the cherry fruit (almost sweet, believe it or not); the black pepper spice and Italian acidity; and the mineral finish that you can still taste a couple of swallows later. But they weren’t what made it what it was. There was something else going on that was difficult to pin down. If that seems too vague to make sense, then accept it as part of the mystery of a great wine.
Frankly, given how much ordinary wine costs $65, this is a bargain. And, as Boffo reminded me several times during lunch, though this wine will improve with age, it’s accessible and ready to drink now. Think rib eye and a Father’s Day dinner. Highly recommended, and one of the best ones I have ever had.
What, you don ?t think wine and Father ?s Day are a good fit? Then you don ?t know all of the dads that I know, since they find wine a fine gift at any time. Whatever you do, though, keep our wine gift-giving guidelines in mind — “Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.”
These suggestions should get you started:
? Hey Mambo Sultry Red ($12, sample): Red California table wine that deserves better than its hokey back label. Simple, basic, and fulfilling, with enough black fruit to be noticeable, but not so much that it tastes like a juice box. Pair with grilled sausages, and don ?t be afraid to chill it a little.
? Bodega Amalaya Tinto ($17, sample): Much better than than I thought it would be, with sweet cherry fruit that was more bright than stewed (which can be a problem with Argentine malbecs). It was still soft, but pleasantly so. A terrific barbecue wine.
? Lucien Albrecht Cremant d ?Alsace Brut Rose NV ($17, sample): The decline in the euro means this sparkling wine may return to more affordable territory, which is worth waiting for. Crisp and bubbly and refreshing, with subtle cranberry and cherry fruit and just the thing for a hot summer Sunday.
A few thoughts for the wine-loving Dad in your life, and remember the wine gift-giving guidelines. The most important? Buy wine that Dad likes, not wine that you think he should like:
? d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab 2009 ($14, sample): Today's metaphysical wine question: Why does Australia bother with so much of the "wine" that it makes when it can do white Rhone blends like this? Crisp, clean and refreshing, with a bit of lime and peach. May be able to find this for as little as $12.
? Project Paso Red 2009 ($14, sample): Decent value for what it is, with lots of red fruit (though not much to differentiate it from other wines in its class). A good choice if it shows up on a restaurant wine list. And let's not forget the zork closure.
? J Pinot Noir Nicole's Vineyard 2007 ($50, sample): Pricey yes, but top-notch California pinot noir with some earthiness in front, quality black fruit throughout (and not too much of it), and a long, terroir-driven finish. Just a lovely wine.