Friday, March 23, 2012

Forcing Myself to Drink New Wines

I could probably grow old drinking exactly what's in my cellar now and be perfectly happy. I mean really - Burgundy, the Loire, Sherry, Champagne...what's not to love? It's important also to drink things from time to time that are outside of the comfort zone. I do not do this very often, and I need to do it more. There is no deep thinking behind this - it's just good to experience new things, to explore a bit, to practice being open-minded.

So, I am making a conscious effort to drink wines I don't know. Nothing major, just making an educated guess on wines here and there, nothing expensive. It's funny - I used to do this all the time maybe 5 years ago. Now I've gotten to a point where I feel like I understand what, for me, is the optimal way to spend every wine dollar, and maybe too much so. I never find myself saying anymore "Hmmm, that looks interesting, I'm going to give that a shot." So I'm trying to do this again.

This past month I bought two wines that are new to me and both, I must say, were excellent wines, things I would definitely buy again. I drank an Oregon Pinot Gris and I really liked it. Now, if you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I used to drink a lot of Oregon Pinot. My tastes changed, I stopped buying and drinking the wines. But one day in February I was browsing in a large Manhattan store in which I don't normally shop, and I saw bottles of 2010 Montinore Pinot Gris on sale for just under $11.

I haven't liked a lot of Oregon Pinot Gris, but I remember hearing that Montinore is a good producer, and the back label says the wine is 12.6% alcohol and the wine is made using Demeter certified biodynamic farming methods. I bought one bottle. Honestly, the wine was really good. It was clean and bright tasting, relying on a lean intensity. There is ripe fruit - spiced pear and apple, there is a definite mineral sensation, and the finish is long and pleasingly bitter. This is delicious wine, and not because it resembles an Alsace Pinot Gris - it doesn't. It's an Oregon wine, no mistaking that. And it's a really good one. It didn't hold up well overnight - probably not meant for the cellar, but it is a quality wine, and it would be nice if there were more Oregon wines like this, where the producer doesn't try to do too much in the vineyard or the cellar.

Another new one for me, this time a red wine. It was during the Super Bowl, I think, when my pal poured me a glass of something that looked like rosé. It wasn't rosé though, it was Grignolino d'Asti. Wow, so good - fresh and vibrant and eminently drinkable, red fruit and flowers, and complex too. I'm talking about the 2010 Montalbera Grignolino d'Asti Grignè. When I looked for it at the store I saw that Charlie Woods of Bonhomie Imports brings in this wine, and I wasn't surprised at all. In keeping with his other wines that I know, this is very reasonably priced ($15-18), and it feels old school, and very pure.

I've had a few bottles now and I really like the wine. I like to drink it cool - cellar temperature, as you would a Beaujolais. The floral and spicy characteristics come out best that way. It's great with charcuterie or lentil soup, or most anything really, and it does drink well on its own. I had a bottle with a spread of Middle Eastern food and it was an excellent partner for the chickpeas and spinach, and also the Merguez sausage. This is a very light colored wine, like a Poulsard, and as with good Poulsard, the wine has great structure and sneaky intensity. Supposedly this is what you drink while you wait for your Barolo and Barbaresco to mature. I can see that when I drink this wine, and although I've not had even one other example of Grignolino, I'm not sure that I need to because this one is so very good.

Forcing myself out of the comfort far so good.


ilbe said...

I guess it really depends on the size of one's comfort zone. I myself rarely drink other wines besides French, German, Italian and Austrian but then again I feel like there's so much to explore within those four that there's really no need to force myself to give the new world a try every once in a while.

jason carey said...

I find it encouraging and sad at the same time that you don't explore more. For instance you live in NY and there are so many reds and whites here that would seem to fit your Burg/Loire palate.

Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka said...

Howdy! Been curious about Montinore myself. My sister recommends their whites generally. Email?

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Lily-Elaine - my email is in my profile - brooklynguy at Not sure what Montinore's email is, if that was what you were asking about...