Issue #35 February 2022
As we turn the page from January, thoughts will soon be turning to love and the many meaningful ways there are to show it.
Seizing my Cupid moment as a bachelor many years ago, I certainly didn’t ‘stop in the name of love’. I started the car and drove across the city armed with a wedge of warm blueberry pie (Mrs. Smith’s) and a hastily crafted poem, to the doorstep of my unsuspecting Valentine.
The great and sadly, late rock star Meat Loaf did it with song when he belted out the sentiment, ‘I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.’
Okay, so perhaps Meat wasn’t totally committed to love. But many of us are. And often the best way to celebrate it with our partners or partner wannabes is simply with a candle, a twinkle in the eye and a special bottle of wine.
That said, whether it’s a romantic occasion or not, we often turn to the wine we know. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing. But for this month’s get-together, I thought it might be nice to cast affectionate eyes on some bottles from regions that undeservingly don’t attract that many admirers.
So, let’s settle in around the old tasting table and point Cupid’s corkscrew at a few unsung wine regions that deserve some unconditional love.
Welcome back to the cellar.
The country of Georgia is located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia; bounded to the west by the Black Sea and to the north and east by Russia.
Georgia’s experience in winemaking goes back about 8,000 years when they began making wine using the technique of burying it underground in clay containers.
I first learned of wine made in the Kakheti region of Georgia, from the wonderful book by Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow. In this terrific story, a bottle of Mukuzani is recommended by Count Rostov to go with a hearty, Latvian stew.
Instead, the Count simply noted, “The Georgians practically grow their grapes in the hope that one day they will accompany such a stew.”
Not that I’m easily influenced but I put down the book and went straight to the LCBO.
United Stars Mukuzani Dry
750 mL bottle LCBO#: 460501
United Stars Mukuzani is made with a grape indigenous to Georgia called Saperavi. The wine has aromas of black and red berries with a pleasant earthiness.
It is robust and dry and built on a solid tannic foundation. While Count Rostov was bang on by saying it would be perfect accompanying a stew, I loved it with a grilled skirt steak and roasted root veggies.
When people think of wine from South America, more often than not Argentina and Chile get the attention. But relatively tiny Uruguay deserves some of the spotlight. Wine grapes have been grown there for more than 250 years. Although commercial wine production didn’t begin until the late 1800s.
There’s a catch-22 though. Uruguayan wine isn’t always easy to find, but maybe that’s because there isn’t enough demand for it. However, as you might have guessed, I just so happen to have a bottle here in the cellar.
Bodega Garzón Reserva Albariño 2020
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#: 646802
Bodega Garzón Reserva falls somewhere in the medium to full-bodied range. It presents aromas of peach, honeysuckle, melon and lemon. And it’s fruity, tropical and crisp. Albariño is the grape here; another one we haven’t yet encountered.
So, as we pour and sip, and pour a little more, we’ll get to know its distinctive botanical aroma and citrus undertones.
It could be the Valentine effect but I’ve got a bit of a crush on this wine.
The next wine that could use a little extra attention isn’t because it comes from an unknown region. It’s because through no fault of its own, the grape that makes it, Merlot, has been suffering from a bit of a perception problem created by the 2004 film, Sideways. While the movie drew attention to the wine of California’s Central Coast, the main character in the film played by Paul Giamatti unabashedly denigrates Merlot.
Unbelievably, a 2022 study in the Journal of Wine Economics found that Sideways actually caused a reduction in demand for Merlot and an increase in demand for Pinot noir. How crazy is that?
Perceptions aside, Merlot did not deserve to be jilted. In fact, the grape remains the foundation of many a great Bordeaux and is worthy of getting to know.
The Velvet Devil 2019
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#: 394742
The Velvet Devil Merlot comes to us from Washington state. Charles Smith Wines created it specifically to counter the negative press Merlot had been saddled with thanks to the film.
Standing before you in the glass, it is a deep garnet colour. Give it a couple of encouraging swirls and subtle aromas of raspberry, cranberry and new leather greet you. It’s rich and smooth with tannic substance supporting flavours of red berries and spice.
This well-made wine proves that while perception does tend to be reality, it isn’t always based in fact.
Well, we’ve done our part to send some positive vibes in the direction of a few wines that might otherwise remain in the shadows. Some other time we’ll talk about very good wines also being made in Moldova, Austria, Mexico and Greece.
So much wine. So little time.
At the beginning of this get-together, I mentioned the time I delivered blueberry pie and a poem to my valentine. To finish the story, thankfully she was home. Not only did she appreciate what I brought to her doorstep, I guess she saw what was in my heart. She became my bride and my partner for life.
Oh jeez, I guess too much wine makes me sappy.
Until next time, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.
Jim’s Valentine’s Day Blueberry Pie
Keep frozen until ready to enjoy. Bake before serving. For food safety and quality, cook before eating to an internal temperature of 160F.
1. Remove pie from the freezer. Place oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Remove frozen pie from the box, and remove plastic overwrap from a pie. Do not remove pie from original pan. Open center hole of pie and cut 4 to 6 slits in top crust.
3. Center frozen pie on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, and place in preheated oven.
4. Bake pie for 55 to 65 minutes until crust is golden brown.
5. Remove pie on cookie sheet from oven using oven mitts. Never handle by edge of pie pan.
6. Serve warm in 30 minutes or cooled after 2 hours. Pies are best when freshly baked.
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