Eugene Weekly : Wine : 2.12.2009


Bubbly for Love
Cuddling up with local bottles
By Lance Sparks

My old pal Mole is the avatar of love, so this month he goes a little nuts. He and sweet Molly have been married since the Big Bang, but they act like they’re still on the honeymoon, and come each year’s Valentine’s Day, he goes into an utter dither, decorates our office in hearts and flowers, hunts frantically for artful tokens to give her, plans dinner, puts each potential wine through mass-spectrometer analysis: “Poifect,” he says, “dey’s gotta be poifect.”

But this year, like no other, Mole’s still lingering in the glow of the inauguration, has our lab draped in bunting, flags on standards, framed drawing of Barack Obama (by our artist bud, Michael Backus) dominating the office. Kinda weird: Obama, big red hearts, Obama, Cupid-with-bow, Obama … maybe not so weird. Love, more than war, is a powerful force that gives our lives real meaning.

And wine plays a powerful role in love, the liquid elixir of romance, the second element of poet Omar Khayyam’s quartet of love: “A loaf of bread … [wine] … a book of verse, and thou.” There we go.

When it comes to the quaff of love, the primary arrow in Cupid’s quiver gotta be bubbly, maybe because it takes so much of the winemaker’s love and coddling to coax the union of flavor, balance and bubbles into a bottle under high pressure. But then, when we get home, there’s just so much fun in the fizz. And our fave in fizz is Oregon’s own Domaine Meriwether Capt. Clarke Cuvée ($25), an outstanding blending of chardonnay and pinot noir for round flavors, got those needlepoint bubbles that tickle the palate. We could pay a lot more and not get a lot better, but in tough times and tight budgets, we could look to our northly neighbors for surprising bubble value in Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut ($9), crisp, clean, balanced flavors, apples with light toast notes, lively and enjoyable.

If love’s in the air, we usually keep the menu light, certainly in the early stages, mebbe nibble delicate goat cheese, some cold shrimps, served with a light white. Ryan, wine maven at Provisions, steered us to McKinlay 2005 Pinot Blanc ($13). We’ve long been fans of pinot blanc, a grapely clone of pinot noir, for its flavors (apples, pears, citrus notes) and versatility, a bit rounder than pinot gris, lighter than chardonnay, easy to sip, friendly to a wide menu. McKinlay’s version is rich, ripe, loverly.

Sloooowly, Oregon winemakers are coming around to Gewürztraminer, a delicious wine when well made, and adaptable to Oregon foods — but a hard sell to consumers, many simply stumped at pronouncing the name (just say g’vertz, that works). Namasté Vineyards 2006 Gewürztraminer ($8.50) is yummy, bright with citrus (grapefruit) notes, a dash of white pepper, just enough residual sugar to accent the fruit on the palate. Put next to some Thai nosh, the wine blossoms.

The wine-lover’s wine, whatever anyone else claims, is pinot noir, and Oregon’s really good with this grape, but the best have become painfully spendy, so when good juice appears wearing a modest jacket, we get buzzed. Bryn Mawr Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir is delish, with candied cherry flavors, firm structure, fine balance, bargain-priced (for pinot noir) at $16.95, easy to love.

Mole sends salutes and Khayyam’s injunction, “Be merry with the fruitful grape” and “Be shuah ta share ya love.” ’Nuff said.