Cali meets Civil Rights in Mississippi

Dec 29th, 2010 Jayne Pearce ,

This months choice of book and wine was the thought provoking novel about the 1960’s black civil rights movement in the deep south entitled ‘The Help’. The author Kathryn Stockett produced a real page turner that didn’t disappoint, partly thanks to the three different points of view. Two black maids working for white families and a young, educated white woman get together and secretly write up their work experiences. Given the location of the novel it seemed like a good opportunity to choose some US - Californian wines, and with the wonderful ambiance created by our hostess and her balcony, we were all set.


The first of three Californian wines was the Chandon Brut Classic (NV US$37 equiv) and it was one of the better sparkling wines I’d tried recently. Much like Champagne, it has gone through the méthode traditionnelle with the second fermentation of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier occuring in the bottle as well as 12 months on some yeasty lees. Unlike Champagne it still retains much of the zesty freshness with only a hint of brioche making it a lighter sparkling style. The apples and pears come across nicely on both the nose and the palate and would pair nicely with lighter hors d’oeuvres and sea food such as sushi and calamari.

The second wine was the Sebastiani Chardonnay, Sonoma County 2006 (US$32 equiv). Warning - this wine is VERY drinkable. The very pleasing aromas of apples and vanilla pudding lead you encouragingly to taste a very balanced concoction of ripe apples and pears and a little mineral with lovely integrated oak and fresh acidity. If you’re looking for an all-round wine to have with fish and chicken with some fuller-flavoured sauces then this would work. Being from Sonoma County means the grapes have been sourced from all of the sub-appellations within the area which could account for its complexity.

Finally, the 2006 Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon (US$30 approx) breathed a robust warmth into the tasting, giving a good reminder of what Californian Cabernet’s are all about - big, bold and beautiful. The trademark blackberry, cherry and some plum come cross well if not perhaps a little too bold in the glass but that could be just because it was my first red of the evening. That said, the tannins were supple and the length lingered for ages. This wine cries out for food to complement it so I would lean towards rich flavoured sauces and red meats to match its fuller bodied power.

Although not tasted at the book and wine eve, I recently tried a bottle of Napa Valley’s St Supery Dollarhide 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (US$70 approx) and I can now agree that St Supery is very deserving of it’s  reputation for producing fine Cabernet’s. I was given it as a gift and consequently served it with the Christmas turkey. Although I was a little hesitant to be matching such a bold wine with a white meat roast the results were really quite impressive. Maybe it was the rich gravy and the fuller flavoured roast potatoes but the neither under or overwhelmed the other. The cherry, currant and chocolate aromas continued on the palate with a little herbaceous coriander to give that slight green leaf edge but not in a bad way.  The tannins were ripe and the oak integrated making me want to reach for another bottle of this heavenly stuff. I will just have to head straight to California to get it which, by the way, will be my next stop. It’s bye-bye Belize, great beaches, good friends and high wine taxes and it’s hello SF and choice!

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