(Arroyo Seco Vineyard, Monterey)
(Draeger's Market - Blackhawk, $10.99)
My American Heritage Dictionary defines "pure" in part as "free from adulterants or impurities"; "fun" as "enjoyment, pleasure, or amusement"; and "wine" as "the fermented juice of grapes." For me, J. Lohr Estates' Valdiguié nicely defines "purely fun wine." Don't ponder this red too much, just drink it!
Several factors combine to create this glassful of unadulterated amusement:
First, the colors are beautiful and striking. Transparent ruby and garnet tones along with a bright purple outer rim really jump from the stemware.
Second, the aromas. The ol' schnozzola (salutes to Jimmy Durante and M*A*S*H's Sgt. Maxwell Q. Klinger) is bombarded with abundant layers of plum, violet, strawberry, boysenberry and rose. Fifteen percent of the juice was fermented using a technique perfected in the Beaujolais region of France called carbonic maceration. This unique fermentation process results in additional aromas of banana, bubblegum and everyone's guilty pleasure at the Alameda County Fair - cotton candy.
Jeff Meier, J. Lohr's vice president of Winemaking, vinified this wine employing no wood at all, 100 percent stainless steel. Don't despair. Wines produced in this fruity style are satisfying and worth the money.
Third, the palate. In short, you'll experience a tidal wave of soft fruit. Super ripe blueberry, plum, strawberry, cherry and watermelon flavors take center stage. It's medium bodied, mildly tannic, plenty acidic, and really easy-drinking. We're talking charming, interesting yet uncomplicated, luscious adult grape juice here which is enjoyable all year long.
Lastly, the pedigree of Jerry Lohr's estate grown fruit. Besides the 30-acre "Wildflower" block dedicated to Valdiguié, the remaining 874 acres of Arroyo Seco vineyard produces Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and White Riesling.
Valdiguié, once mistaken in California vineyards as Gamay Noir or Napa Gamay, originated in southern France's Languedoc-Roussillon region. Picture yourself sitting outside a neighborhood bistro near Montpellier, a perfect Mediterranean sun warming your face, and ordering a carafe of "house" red wine to accompany your meal. It would likely be similar in style to this Valdiguié.
Once praised and coveted in the 19th century, vineyards planted to this highly productive and sturdy grape are nearly extinct today. In fact, many wine encyclopedias fail to provide a specific reference. Shame, shame!
All right, what should one eat with "Wildflower"? Two words during this time of year: Thanksgiving dinner. Experiment with this varietal after the aromatic white wines have made their way around the table and before the big Central Coast Pinot Noirs or red burgundies are uncorked. Should you wish, the wine can also be served slightly chilled with the turkey and trimmings. A sip of Valdiguié after a spoonful of sweet and tart, home-made cranberry sauce is magical.
Happy holidays to all, have fun and let your palate be the judge. Please pass that cranberry sauce…
Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.