2006 Domaine La Milliere Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone
The farmer's market is back in McMinnville. Over the winter you slowly forget how wonderful such small things can be. Just a block long with maybe two dozen producers, markets like this hold treasures supermarket buyers, including Whole Foods et al, can't give us. Every Thursday now through late fall you'll find me at the market.
Today's treasure was lion's mane mushrooms. As usual, each visit to a farmer's market I approach without a recipe in mind, letting the local provenance guide me. With the beautiful mushrooms I added to my bag some fresh organic eggs, chives and the excellent aged Gouda from the Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Warm crusty baguettes from the Red Fox Bakery, just picked greens and a pint of fresh strawberries from a small organic farm guaranteed a perfect dinner.
The meal could not have been simpler:
4 or more large lion's main mushrooms (or other meaty, flavorful fresh mushroom) chopped into large chunks
2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A small wedge of aged cow's milk cheese like Willamette Valley Cheese Company's aged Gouda cubed
Minced fresh chives
Salt and pepper
5 large eggs with salt and pepper beaten lightly with a fork - using good eggs is very important so look for eggs with yolks that tend more towards orange than yellow
To match with this very local food I strangely enough grabbed a bottle from far, far away. The 2006 Domaine de La Gramière Côtes du Rhône, which is produced by two Americans, Amy Lillard and Matt Kling, who are living a dream that many of us have as they are living and making wine in France. I had resisted opening this wine for almost a year now as I felt it really needed a little time to come together and my patience was well rewarded. The wine has broadened and gained more complexity and aromatics. This is one of those wines that is big to the French, but medium bodied to Americans. I love the meaty, smoky butcher shop aromas this wine has developed along with the bright, ripe black fruit flavors. I think it's going to get better for another year or so, but now that it's this good I don't know how I'll keep my hands off of it that long! La Gramière is imported by Kermit Lynch.
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Sometimes it’s embarrassing as an American to taste the incredible range of bargains available for under $15 from Europe and compare them to American wines at the same prices. The boring standardization of the American wine industry in this range is numbing. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different labels, but in the bottle you find only dozens of styles. As you stare at shelf-after-shelf of American cabernet, merlot or chardonnay in your local grocery store you can reliably just pick the one that’s on sale as they are all more-or-less the same wine. However, with just a little more work you can find an entire world of wine bargains that offer far more character than these homogenized industrial wines. It’s important to remember that these bargain reds should be served cool, 65°F or so, to bring out their freshness.
The red wines listed below are all under $15 and many of them are under $10. All of them were purchased in grocery stores, not fine wine shops, so it is possible to find them. Each has character, if not complexity, and best of all, they are great with food. Inexpensive American wines have become the elevator music of the wine world, wines like these are the original tunes.
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Recent tastes I’ve enjoyed, all under $20 except for the Barolo, which is about $40:
Recent wines I’ve enjoyed:
Yet again it happens. The best deal on the list is an older wine. This time is was Hermitage, Paul Jaboulet Aîne, 1999, which was going for $67 a bottle on a list filled with current vintages for bigger bucks. This wine is perfectly ready to drink now, with earthy aromatics, firm structure and the long enticing finish that only arrives after all the sweet young fruit loses its baby fat. What was striking about this fine syrah was its balance and refinement. Syrah loses its complexity when producers feel the need to supercharge its already robust character. In this wine you can actually taste syrah. The most corrupted varieties in New World winemaking have to be syrah and pinot noir as winemakers have turned pinot noir into syrah and syrah into port.