Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Sip in Time

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday asked us to go back to a wine we drank back in the day. So, I’m thinking early 1990s, on a trip to visit my dear friend Bernadette out in San José. I saw her a few times when she lived there, and we always fit in a trip to Napa or Sonoma. Living in California, she got into wine before I did, and I was impressed when she and her husband would talk about the Chardonnay they were pouring with dinner in their little house with the lime trees in the back.
Gallo was still one of the biggest names in wine, and our excursions often included visiting their tasting room, which was large, impressive, and ready to welcome busloads of tourists. In those early days, learning about wine was new and exciting, and to my young mind, it reeked of a sophistication I was yearning to have.
So for this month, I picked up a Gallo Chardonnay. This one was the 2005 Sonoma Reserve. The front of the bottle includes four little gold medal seals, and the back label talks about the fact that Gallo has won Winery of the Year multiple times.
Gallo is a name I avoid in wine stores, not because I don’t think they can’t make decent wines now, but because of bad associations with the large jug of Hearty Burgundy that I often saw poured at my Italian family dinners. The jug packaging, the false use of a French appellation, it all adds up to bad memories of American wine making.
But I keep an open mind as I pour this wine, which has a pleasing light gold color. I get full-on fruit at the nose, mostly yellow apples and over-ripe cantaloupe. The taste continues with lots of fruit, but there’s a fair share of oak—although not nearly as heavy- handed as I was expecting. The oak somewhat flattens the fruit flavors without really enhancing them. The bottom line was this was a very fruity chard, 13.9% alcohol (what did they do to get it below 14, I wonder?), which, according to the label, was aged partially in French and American oak. I prefer a dry Chard—give me a Chablis or Macon--or, if oak is involved, yes, I’ll take a Burgundy style, thank you very much. So, the style was not my preference. It is a pleasing wine, though, nothing really offensive (except perhaps the over-ripe quality), and, when all is said and done, I’m sure that many people would like it very much. So, thanks to Lenn for suggesting a trip back in time. The wine was o.k., but the memories were much better.

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