Sometimes our first encounters with a wine or a varietal can be the catalyst for our relationship with it down the road. For better or worse, our first encounters act as crucial benchmarks that feed into our unconscious bias. This entry in the 27 bottles series is meant to be equal parts joyous stroll down memory lane & horror story that I can't believe I'm sharing for your enjoyment, ha!
I'll be highlighting three bottles that I'll aptly label as the good, the bad & the ugly of first encounters. Like all the bottles featured in this series, they all impacted my palate or my perception during the early stages of my career up to this point. Spoiler warning: one of these bottles I would likely never recommend you purchase BUT understand that it does serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things and at the end of the day you should drink whatever your heart desires.
Moscato has become a wine that I often avoid bringing up in conversation simply because of the connotation it has when it comes to the African American community. People often make the assumption that only sweeter wine styles are the ones that we can appreciate, and that is simply untrue. It's not our fault that the sweet stuff was what was the most easily accessible at one point (I'm looking at you Sutter Home & Barefoot), but anyone who has read my blog knows that I find beauty in a range of styles from bone dry to full on dessert wines.
The wine varietal in question, Moscato, is often vinified into sweeter styles that are completely unserious and lack the necessary complexity to be viewed as anything other than that. The La Serra Moscato d'Asti from Marchesi Di Gresy, a producer in the Piedmont region of Italy who mostly works with Nebbiolo, is the first Moscato I came across that planted itself firmly before me & declared to be seen as a serious interpretation of the varietal. Incredibly complex aromatics of orange blossoms & nectarines immediately lift themselves from the glass to molly wop your senses. The tiniest of bubbles, a kiss of effervescence if you will, gently dance on the palate and helps provide additional lift to the wine's sweetness alongside its balanced acidity.
This Moscato is perfect before a meal with grazing boards or small plates, during a meal with dishes packing a little heat, and with desserts like peach cobbler a la mode! I always say not to shame your sweet wine drinkers, and this is a sweet wine I say will convert you. PRO TIP: pair it with pork or chicken dumplings with a crunchy chili oil dipping sauce from your favorite take out spot.
Pinot Noir is a heartbreaker that I adore. Mostly because he is a diva that knows what he likes and will not achieve his full potential unless you adhere to certain criteria during the growing season & winemaking stages. It is for that reason that producers will often "over manipulate" this grape. The best of Pinot Noir is light bodied, wrapped in soft red fruit tones like strawberry & raspberry on the nose and seated in savory notes of mushroom & earth. While it can present itself with fuller, bolder characteristics, I've always found that a certain producer has created a Pinot that doesn't read as Pinot to me....or the professor I studied under who would purposefully pour this during blind tastings where we were tasked with assessing quality.
Meiomi Pinot Noir is the perfect example of Pinot gone totally left. It is sourced from warmer pockets of California and it is subject to extensive oak aging. Plus, it receives a healthy dose of artificial coloring to deepen its appearance. The result is an interpretation of the variety that reads more like a big boy California Cabernet than Pinot Noir. Dark chocolate syrup, stewed cherries, and strawberry laffy taffy were tasting notes I often made when that aforementioned professor would make me blind taste this alongside other depictions of Pinot Noir.
If you enjoy Meiomi Pinot Noir, more power to you & I hope it continues to bring joy to your glass. BUT as for me & my house, I'll wave to it from the sidelines with another Pinot. There is a market for this style of Pinot, so I understand the appeal, however, if you want a Pinot Noir that is bigger in style (without the questionable winemaking practices) I'd suggest the juice from Russian River Valley! Those Pinots are definitely weighty without hiding what makes Pinot Noir so special.
I was deeply, deeply obsessed with Sauvignon Blanc when I first started studying wine seriously. I ventured from sweeter styles like Riesling into more acid driven whites, and Sauvignon Blanc checked so many boxes. Tropical fruit notes, big grapefruit and citrus flavors, the slightest flecks of green herbs & vegetables are descriptors I would apply to the Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand specifically.
The Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc had me in a chokehold something serious back in 2016/2017 while I was in college. I was constantly drinking it as my go to wine when I was craving a little Savvy B. I remember I was working as a line cook & working 16-hour days during my summer break (which obviously was anything but a break), and still living in the college dormitories. One day after work, I stopped by Harris Teeter to buy two bottles of this sauvignon blanc AND the largest chocolate chip cookies I've ever come across. I'm not sure what possessed me that night, but I drank an entire bottle while crushing two of these cookies-----not a wise idea, at all!
I pride myself on my ability to pair wine & food and my understanding of the art form that it is. This pairing from hell, Sauvignon Blanc & chocolate chip cookies, had me blowing chunks for what felt like eternity. The hangover was so nasty that I dumped the second bottle of Nobilo down the drain and swore off the wine for the next several years. Obviously I don't recommend this pairing EVER. I revisited the wine for the first time just to have a baseline for this post, ha! All that trauma aside, if you are studying wine seriously or happen to be a New Zealand lover, the Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc is actually a textbook example of how that varietal showcases itself in the region.
Whew, now that I got through all of that I kind of need a drink. I'd love to know about some of your first wine encounters and how you feel about them now that some time has passed. Don't worry, we can unpack any trauma together on this one, ha!
The Certified Wino