Tuesday, November 14, 2006

2004 Preston of Dry Creek "L. Preston"

After several days of blistering Indian Summer, it's starting to feel like fall again. I wanted something that fit this transition--robust in spices but grilled, heavy on the vegetables flooding into our local farmer's market, but substantial and rich. I found just what I was looking for in a clipping from the September 2006 Sunset magazine: flank steak with warm Moroccan spices, accompanied by a grilled eggplant and pepper salad. When I read the recipes, I realized that they were actually part of a feature on pairing wine with food. The wine the editors suggested was a syrah, but looking into my wine rack I saw something I thought would work even better: a syrah-based California red blended as a homage to Rhone varietals.

The 2004 Preston of Dry Creek "L. Preston" (Chronicle Wine Cellar, $17.95) is a plush, velvety, Rhone-style blend of syrah, mourvedre, carignane, and cinsault. While US wines tend to use a single varietal, blending reds and whites is a long-standing tradition in Europe. Some of the world's best-known wines are in fact blends, including most red wines from Bordeaux and the Rhone. No matter where blends are made, they often represent excellent value, since blending grapes enables the wine-maker to make the most appealing and rich wine possible with a palate of varietal flavors and aromas.

If you aren't familiar with Preston of Dry Creek, they have a great website that describes the farm and vineyard, and the family's wine making philosophy. Preston of Dry Creek are organic wine makers, and they use what they describe as "minimalist" methods. Keep your eye out for their wines.

I had a glass of wine while I was finishing with dinner, and it was just delicious. Deep raspberry in color with scents of spicy red fruits and dark chocolate made you want to dive in and paddle around. More dark chocolate, red raspberries, blueberries, spice, and black pepper swirled around in the flavors, providing a long, luscious finish that sent you straight back to the glass for another sip, and then another. This wine had fully integrated tannins, but was still robust enough to stand up to the spices I was using. Once we sat down to eat, the wine was just as good with the food as it had been on its own.

This was a classy California Rhone-style blend, that represented very good QPR. Why is such an excellent wine only very good in the QPR department? Simply because most domestic and imported Rhone blends are typically available at a lower price point than this one. Still, I will be buying more!

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