When I wrote about my tasting party with Oz Clarke, the gregarious and hilarious British wine writer, several readers chastised me for not revealing Oz's reactions to the individual wines. So he was kind enough to send me some tasting notes of his favorites. Keep in mind that we tasted probably 30 or so wines that evening ranging up and down the East Coast of the US, but centered on the Mid-Atlantic region. Here are the ones that stuck in Oz's mind:
NASSAU VALLEY VINEYARDS (DELAWARE) CHARDONNAY 2006 AND CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007
These Delaware wines were new to me. I really liked the lean, stoney fruit, even a little leafy in the red, and the restrained alcohol. I’d countenance a very light hand with the oak, but this is a promising newcomer.
BLACK ANKLE VINEYARDS VIOGNIER 2009 AND LEAF-STONE SYRAH 2008 (MARYLAND)
With a name like that, you just know I’m going to love the wines, though my fantasy about the exact turn of the black ankle may not be entirely based on fact. These are restrained, reserved styles from Frederick County in Maryland and good examples of Maryland’s late but youthful charge on the Eastern wine scene. Or should I say, re-charge; I have fond memories of Byrd Chardonnays from the 1980s.
MICHAEL SHAPS PETIT VERDOT 2005 (VIRGINIA)
Virginia just loves to play hard ball. Most wine regions steer well clear of Petit Verdot – too tricky to ripen, too tannic, can’t pronounce the name, blah, blah. But good ’ole Virginia thinks – hey. Warmish climate, humid, rain in the fall – Petit Verdot, thick skin to avoid rot, needs the heat. We can do that – and they do. Lovely dark fruit, pleasant tannic grip, a smudge of oak. Welcome to your New World home, P-V.
HORTON VINEYARDS RKATSITELI RESERVE 2008 (VIRGINIA)
Now. Is that R silent? Some people call it Rekatsiteli, the Finger Lakes boys call it Arkatsiteli – but that R, – that P in Russian – isn’t it silent before a consonant? I learnt a bit of Russian – admittedly from a book published in the 1930s when presumably most decent Russian linguists had been incarcerated – so that I could sing Mussorgsky better. I then realised that Mussorgsky isn’t one of those guys you can sing better unless you’re born in deepest Siberia with a throat as wide as a 100-year-old pine tree trunk, so I sort of lost interest. But I still think the R/P question is silent before a consonant. I’m going to pronounce it Katsiteli. And Horton, God bless the fact that they’ve probably planted a row or two of every vine variety known to man – produce a really classic, full, apple puree example only matched in the East by Frank’s Finger Lakes classic that I tasted a few days later.
SHINDIG 2009 (FINGER LAKES, NEW YORK)
For those toffee-noses who don’t believe the hybrids can do dick shit (sorry, ed - Note from Dave: That's OK, this is the Internet!) this mean, lean, chewy, apple skin and shimmering green flesh tongue scourer is 80% Vidal with a dash of Riesling to pull it towards the legit. side of the blanket.
BOXWOOD WINERY “BOXWOOD” 2007, (VIRGINIA)
Well, some Virginian had to take on the twin Shibboleths of St-Emilion garagiste and Napa Titan. It’s pretty good if that’s your thing – and Virginia is sort of equidistant, so it should be good. (Note from Dave: Boxwood does two red blends: Topiary, which is modeled after St. Emilion - half merlot, half cabernet franc - and Boxwood, which follows a Left Bank recipe based on cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot. We tasted the Boxwood, because that’s the one I had on hand, but Oz can be forgiven for mixing them up slightly given the sheer number of wines we tasted that night. Besides, we probably talked about the Topiary and how that is the most popular of the two.)
BILTMORE RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2008, (NORTH CAROLINA)
I’ve been looking at photos of that damned railroad pile for so long, and at last I taste the wine. Intair-es-ting. Here come de Judge. (Note from Dave: I don’t understand this. But the wine was pretty good!)