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Posted by Robert Whitley on July 16, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Drink What You Like?

I'm often struck by the utter banality of the exhortation, presented as wisdom by many wine professionals, to drink what you like.

In other words, same old same old is just fine. Suggestions that might broaden the palate and open up a world of intriguing tasting experiences are trumped by one's personal comfort zone. You want a buttery Rombauer chardonnay with that rare prime rib, big guy? You have at it.

Of course, that would be sticking with a favorite and comfortable flavor in the extreme, but it is the current conventional wisdom, yes? Well, no.

The drink-what-you-like crowd wants you to be confident in your own taste buds and flavor preferences. The reality, however, is that those personal preferences evolve over time and only after tasting a broad selection of wines that you probably won't like.

I'm not fond of retsina, the white wine from Greece that tastes like Pine Sol. How do I know I don't like it? Bingo. I've tasted enough retsina from the best producers to know that no matter who makes it or what they do to it, it's not my goblet of vino.

I feel almost the same way about pinotage, the eclectic red wine from South Africa. I've tasted one or two that I found palatable, but the vast majority leave me longing for something, almost anything else.

Tannat, the tannic red from the south of France and Uruguay, is another clunker in my book.

You may or may not have the same reaction to these wines, but you will never know until you try. And that's what the DWYLC misses.

For example, during one of my many visits to Northern Italy I fell in love with ribolla gialla, a white wine you will find in Friuli. You won't find a huge selection of this delicious white in the U.S. because most importers who bring in white wine from Friuli focus on pinot grigio.

The reason they do is because everyone is comfortable with pinot grigio. Ribolla gialla not so much. The importers, having been told this over and over again by the drink-what-you-like-crowd, are afraid to bring in any significant quantity of wine that you may not like or don't know that you might like if you would only give it a try.

If you're thinking this is a vicious cycle, you would be correct. So here's my advice: Next time you are at your favorite wine shop, pick up something you've never had before.

If it boasts a recommendation from a credible source, or a medal from a major wine competition, give it a shot. You might not like it. You might even hate it (as in my experiences with retsina).

Then again, you might love it. Unless you try it, you will never know.

Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville (Napa Valley, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($55)
A great value in a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from an allegedly weak vintage?  Yes, indeed.  As prices continue to go wonky in the valley, there are a few producers that remain dedicated to elegant, complex Cab at fair prices.  This wine is sourced mainly from the famed To Kalon vineyard, and is worthy of its proud heritage.  It's my kind of wine -- layered aromatics that start with vibrant pepper and dried herbs, followed by blackberry and black currants, and ending with rich vanilla and spice.  The palate is dry, and delivers on the promise of the nose with moderate grip, lively acidity and a blossoming finish that shows excellent integration of flavor, and will gain in complexity with further bottle aging.  Winemaker Genevieve Janssens is making great food friendly wines, and living up to the legacy of the winery name.  Well done!
95 Rich Cook

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
The Gary Farrell Winery Today
Ed McCarthy

Gary Farrell is one of the pioneers of Pinot Noir in Sonoma's Russian River Valley, along with Joe Rochioli, his son Tom Rochioli, Tom Dehlinger, and Burt Williams, with his partner, Ed Selyem. Gary Farrell began as winemaker at Davis Bynum Winery in 1978, and opened his eponymous winery in 1982, while continuing as winemaker at Davis Bynum. These are the guys, the prime movers, who made the Russian River Valley (RRV) region synonymous with outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California back in the 1980s. Interestingly, most of these wineries and vineyards are located in the same area, adjacent to Westside Road, south of the town of Healdsburg.
A Vacation Case
Paul Lukacs

Take the wine with you. Put a case in with the backpacks, boogie boards and fishing rods when you pack up the car for your beach or mountain vacation this summer. Not only will the selection likely prove better (and the prices lower) than at stores where you're going, but why waste valuable vacation time shopping? The only problem with taking wine on vacation (besides finding room for it in the trunk) is that you won't know exactly what foods the specific bottles you select will be accompanying. Versatility thus has to be an important factor when filling your case.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Pork Chops with Anchoiade

There are certain times when nothing says 'summer' quite as poignantly as anchovies. Perhaps this emotional taste-connection to tiny, salty, oily fish is triggered by memories of meals in southern France, where sauces based on anchovies can play a starring role in local dining. One of the tastiest and most versatile anchovy sauces is anchoide, an ancient traditional multipurpose mixture that generally consists of nothing more than anchovies, olive oil and garlic.
On My Table
Re-Defining a Category
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

In a recent blind tasting of miscellaneous white wines, I suddenly 'got' the Oregon Pinot Gris style. Here before me was a well-made white wine, solid in quality and yet simply delightful in personality, a pretty, flavorful wine that aimed to please more than simply to impress. It was a wine that, on a warm summer day, might tempt a critic to quit the analytical wine-tasting, grab the chilled bottle and head for the patio. I knew that many Oregon producers aim for a crowd-pleasing style in their Pinot Gris wines, and here it was.