Only fitting as a tribute to the now-departed Sopranos that I give
What do I mean by "expatriate wines?" Many grapes are native to a certain region or country. For the most part, grapes prefer their original terroir. Wines from a grape's native region tend to be better examples of a particular varietal, but not always. Planting a grape in a different country’s soil sometimes yields an interesting result.
For example, malbec -- a humble blending grape in
Luckily, there are always a few winemakers who have enough stubbornness and desire for particular wine styles to overcome a grape’s homesick tendencies. A few other places around the globe are now making good wines from Italian stock. For instance, Sangiovese -- the backbone grape of Chianti, is now cultivated somewhat widely in
Blue Fish 2005 Pinot Grigio Pfalz -- Pinot Grigio actually hails from
The wine has a soft nose of grapefruit and honey. The wine is medium-bodied and is quite dry. There's also some tart, tropical flavor. The finish is grapefruity and of decent length for a simple wine. I'd consider it a cross between a Sauvignon Blanc and a Grüner Veltliner. A dry, acidic wine is usually refreshing and food friendly. You could have this with a risotto, with some grilled chicken, or baked swordfish. You could also sip this one by itself on a warm day. $6-7.
Rancho Zabaco 2004
I won't make any bones about it…I really enjoy this wine. Rancho Zabaco does three different, readily available zins. There's the "Dancing Bull" -- about $7-8 a bottle. There's the "Stefani Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel," setting you back $28-30. Then you have the “Sonoma Heritage Vines.” At $12 or so, it’s a huge step up from Dancing Bull and holds its own against most other wines. Scrape your couch cushions for a few extra bits and try it.
The Heritage Vines has a big nose -- sharp with blackberries and mint. The body, not unexpectedly, is big and bold with a nice balance of dark fruit and tannin. The finish is long and dry, with a nice cherry taste winding it all up. You going to put barbecue sauce on anything this summer? Get a bottle of this to go with it.
Goats Do Roam 2005 "The Goatfather" -- Goats Do Roam has been a favorite value pick of mine ever since I had it for dinner a few years ago at Francesca's in Lexington, KY. The Goatfather ("Goats do roam…capice?") is a "reserve" release from this South African winery. This wine is a blend on which the winemakers claim omerta. It's a mix of traditional vinifera (Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot) and a couple of Italian varietals (Barbera, Primitivo). The result? While the nose of The Goatfather doesn't exactly conjure images of an Italian trattoria, you do get some interesting plum and licorice scents. The taste is strong and earthy. Decanting is a must. There's a surprising amount of tannin here -- it reminds me a great deal of a petit sirah with the chocolate flavors therein. The finish is long and smoky, with plenty of tannin. Like most big Italian reds, this wine would be much better paired with food than having it on its own. This would be a great match with earthy, savory foods. Sausages, ribs, stews and root vegetables would be excellent with this. You'll find it for $12-14. Similar "Super Tuscan" Italian blends will run you $20 and up.
One last thought about the Sopranos -- I thought the last two episodes were some of the best television I've ever seen. As for the last scene -- yes, it was a little over the top. I never thought I'd read about the symbolic confluence of Journey lyrics, onion rings, the Latin Mass, and the difficulty of parallel parking an Audi within a single textual analysis, but it's now part of our collective memory. In one single cut to black, David Chase's series cemented its place in pop culture history, and Victoria Principal didn't even have to find James Gandolfini in her shower.