Newsroom budgets and not bottles have consumed most of my time lately, although I did get to taste five wines in the Pergola over the weekend.
While the Wine Goddess did her thing in the garden, I studied the grape of the gods with cool detachment. I told her this was work. She shouted something unintelligible.
Several weeks ago during a buying binge, I purchased red blends Meditrina and Pillar Box Red, Spy Valley Pinot Noir and Hogue Riesling. Here are my findings.
Meditrina is the name of the Roman goddess of Wine and Health, and a glass of this a day will keep ... Well, you know how that goes and it's true. The wine is blended at the Sokol Blosser Winery in Dayton, Ore., from three grapes, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. Meditrina first hit the market in 2005 and has to be getting better, because I enjoyed a wonderful mouthfeel and balance from this luscious juice. While no one grape overpowers the other, the Zin factor makes a vibrant point on the finish. I starting singing, "I just kissed a girl named Meditrina." It's $14.99 at Costco.
Pillar Box Red is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from South Australia and packs a bit more punch than Meditrina. This blend had a lot going on from blueberry and minty aromas to delicious black fruit and subtle oaky tastes on the palate. A silky finish made this a great sipper. The price is $16.69 at Costco.
Hogue Late Harvest Riesling was a pleasant diversion, a very aromatic white that had me thinking smooth citrus blends. I had to call in the Wine Goddess for a sniff, and she told me it was apricot, tangerine, peach ... How does she do it? The wine was a bit sweet for me but she loved the cool, refreshing taste. From Columbia Valley, Wash., Hogue puts a "sweet meter" on the back label of each bottle which is great for consumer tastes. Next time I'll try the semi-dry version, but at $9.99 a bottle this is a great match for spicy cuisine, especially Indian and Thai dishes.
Spy Valley Pinot Noir is made in Marlborough, New Zealand, a region made famous for its sauvignon blancs. But they can craft reds of distinction too, as this Pinot Noir attests. Great deep cherry color and, naturally, a robust cherry aroma hits the nose with hints of a complex character. The Wine Goddess, called in a second time, said "licorice." Does she make these things up? I don't think so. I have a nose for news; she has one for wine. Go figure. Anyway, she thoroughly rated this one of her top Pinots; I found it enjoyable. It was a bit pricey at $22.99 a bottle at the N.H. Liquor Store, including a $2 discount. Don't pay anything more.
The crowning moment came at Sunday dinner, when we cracked open a 2009 Sterling Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that we brought back from our trip to Napa Valley last October. This was a stunning experience. We grilled two thick steaks on the grill, baked two potatoes and made a wedge salad. The deep purple wine sat in a decanter for 30 minutes when the food hit the table. Pow! The Cab is big, bold and delicious and layered with very intense wild berry flavors. I even picked up some chocolate. According to the winemaker, the Cab is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months and blended with small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot. This was truly elegant. The Wine Goddess had little to say except, "When are we going back to Napa."
Unfortunately, Sterling Vineyard's Diamond Mountain Cab is rarely sold in local stores and must be purchased online. It retails for $65 a bottle. It's worth finding for a special occasion.
NEXT WEEK: The best of the bottom of the barrel bargains in wine today.
Wine Novice is located at lowellsun.com/winenovice. Follow Jim Campanini on Twitter @suneditor.