Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Naked

I'll admit, I can be influenced by wine marketing. Larry Lockshin, an Australian researcher on wine consumerism, determined that the average person takes 38 seconds to purchase a bottle of wine once they've decided on the type of wine that they're looking for -- and the wine label has the largest degree of influence on the average purchaser's choices.

When I get a case of writer's block, I'll usually wander down to the wine store and make an aimless wander through the aisles to try to get inspiration. While facing down a blinking cursor is frustrating, it does give me a ready excuse to buy a few more bottles. (Isn't this why shoe shopping is supposed to be therapeutic for many women?)

In any case, I was amongst the whites when the Four Vines "Naked" 2007 Chardonnay caught my eye. There it was -- a perfect theme for an article: The Naked Vine does "naked wine." A minute and a half and a couple of impulse buys later, and away we go. This is where wine shopping clearly differs from shoe shopping -- I've never seen a decision made on a pair of shoes in under a minute. What can I say? I'm decisive. And influenceable.

(Pardon me while I prepare to duck the black slingback pump the SPinC is ready to throw at my head...)

Now, aside from being an easy trigger word for someone with my particular mental slant, "naked" for Four Vines actually refers to their winemaking process, specifically that their Chardonnay was produced unoaked. The wine started off with light notes of citrus and lavender on the nose. There's a strong lemony flavor and a lot of acidity for a California chard, which I think is a good thing.. As promised, there was no oak and only a little buttery flavor, which I found mostly at the "beginning of the finish." The finish is crisp, lemony, and lasting. It's a very pretty wine; more delicate than I expected in a Santa Barbara County chard and exceptionally balanced for a wine of this price. ($11-14)

Along came dinner -- a grilled citrus-and-herb marinated grouper over couscous and a diced red pepper from our garden. Unfortunately, the Four Vines ended up turning the flavor "fishy" (grouper is not a "fishy" fish in my experience ordinarily), so we called an audible and opened one of my other impulse purchases, the Washington State-grown Snoqualmie "Naked" 2007 Gewurztraminer.

For Snoqualmie, their "Naked" series of wines (they also make a naked Riesling, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Rosé) is produced "as close to au natural" as possible. These wines are grown from 100% organic grapes -- or, more accurately, grapes that are in the process of being certified organic. We decided to go with the second naked wine of the evening because...well...gewurztraminer goes with almost everything and we needed something that could handle an interesting pairing. It worked. Even with the mild gewurz sweetness, it had enough acidity to handle fish. Since the fish wasn't heavily peppered, the pepper on the wine's finish really came out and added a really nice balance to the food's flavor. When we tried it on its own, it started us with a lingering scent of herbs and apples. Its flavor is quite peppery with some honey and melons on the back end. The finish is tingly-peppery and fruity. ($11-13)
I hit a snag after that wine, though. I looked high and low and couldn't find another naked or nude-themed wine. (Well, except for Cycles Gladiator, but we've already discussed that, and see below...) So, I took some poetic license and went with the Charles Smith "Eve" 2007 Chardonnay ($12-15). Smith describes his wine as "sinfully tempting," so it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to think he was trying to design a wine that encourages people to drink in the buff.

Eve welcomes you into her garden with a light nose of melons and lemons. She tempts you with a very pleasant and extremely interesting flavor. She's got a crispness and creaminess that reminded me of a lemon crème turned into wine (without the overpowering sweetness, of course). Her finish is nicely balanced with some more lemon and just a touch of oak. She's great for sitting back and sharing, and she didn't back down from our citrus and chili powder marinated shark with an avocado-orange salsa. (OK, OK, I'll quit while I'm behind...)

On a separate, non-wine related note, I always enjoy sifting through some of the SiteMeter data that comes in about how people find the Vine. After I posted my article about the banning of Cycles Gladiator in Alabama, I had a ton of Google search hits from people looking for "naked gladiator." I'm interested to see if some of you get called into your boss' office at work, since we'll probably overload any content filters for "naked" out there...

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