The Kitchen will be featuring a weekly column by our resident wine correspondent, Jenny Desmond. With eight years in the business, a sense of humor about wine, and a open and an affable approach to the subject. Please join me in welcoming Jenny to the team - we hope to drink a lot with her, and learn a few things along the way.
Eric Asimov's article in Wednesday's New York Times raved about White Rhône Blends from California. These aromatic white wines are delicious, and so are their red skinned cousins, which are also popping up in California.
Originating in Southern France, the key Rhône grapes are: Grenache, Syrah, Carignane, Mouvedre and Counoise. Any wine labeled as a Rhône will be a blend of some or all of these grapes. When blended together these varieties highlight each other's best features. A delightful medley of fruity raspberry flavors with peppery spice and, at least when it comes to the California versions, some nice toasty oak which make the wines silky and smooth. These are heartier wines that will pair well with meat, game and stews.
In general less expensive Rhône blends are good values for your money, whereas the pricier bottles can rival some of the best wines in the world. Many California wineries are beginning to creep out of the woodwork with Rhône blends, Tablas Creek Winery is a personal favorite. Not only are the wines delicious but they also practice organic farming and have many different styles in varying prices.
At $39.95 the Esprit de Beaucastle rouge is a definite splurge but the Cote de Tablas for $19.95 is easily justifiable. You can find both of these wines at Sherry-Lehmann (679 Madison between 61st and 62nd Streets) and Zachy's (16 East Parkway, Scarsdale). With the newly improved New York State shipping laws you can also order directly from the Tablas Creek website.