F&W reported on the trend of punch replacing bottle service at bars and lounges months ago, and now the New York Times' Style section has caught on with Sunday's piece, "Drink, Dance, but Don't Say 'Club.' " For those of you playing at home, we offer 8 punch recipes, including the 1732 Philadelphia Fish House Punch, plus $12-and-under wines that would be delicious in a bowl of punch, or on their own.
I had the good fortune yesterday to attend a substantial retrospective of gran reserva Riojas from some of the top producers in the region. I've long been a Rioja fan, and have for just about as long been convinced that traditionally styled Riojas are some of the best wines to cellar if you're interested in drinking older wines—they age wonderfully, especially from great years, and, relative to similarly long-lived reds, are distinctly underpriced.
First, though, I should give a shout-out to my fave affordable Rioja from the big tasting that followed the retrospective, which was the 2004 Bodegas Luis Canas Crianza, a juicy, cherry-filled, appealingly streamlined red that sells for under $15. Good juice.
Of the older wines, the winner of the day for me was the 1982 Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, pale red in hue, utterly classic with its aromas of dried cherries, leather, black tea leaf, and resinous spices. On the palate it added a coffee note to that mix of characteristics, and a silky texture and presence that was just gorgeous—drinking it was like a psychic transportation to Rioja. Which is pretty impressive, for fermented grape juice in a bottle...
The two oldest wines in the lineup were fascinating as well. The 1964 Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva (a blend of 75% Tempranillo with 25% Cabernet) was intensely luscious and deep to start with, full of sweet rich cherry and mocha notes, lush tannins, and a lightly resinous funky note—which, unfortunately, intensified as the wine opened and eventually left it pretty odd and stinky. Such are the risks of old bottles. On the other hand, the 1964 Faustino I Gran Reserva, which started out somewhat nondescript and a bit thin, opened up into a beautiful old Rioja, elegant in a noble way, with cool sweet berry notes, layers of herbal nuances, a hint of dark chocolate, and a really graceful structure. So, such are the benefits of old bottles...
None of those wines is really findable except, possibly, at auction (or in Spain). The 2001 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial ($54), though, should be around and about, and was the star of the younger wines in the retrospective—cherry fruit with notes of licorice and forest floor, ripe and dense but not heavy, and a leathery-gamey hint on the end. All the richness of the '01 vintage in a classically styled wine, in a sense. I wish I had a case so I could see how it will be, forty years down the line. —R.I.
Every spring, I wait for that transcendent moment when everything comes together and the season hits its most refreshing, jubilant, birds a-chirping note and there's no looking back to the bleak days of winter. That moment finally arrived last night over a couple of pizzas on the patio of Franny's in Brooklyn. I was with my dear friend John, we could see the Big Dipper, the pies were expertly wood-fired and I discovered the absolutely most perfect pizza wine ever in a glass of Bonarda from Italy's Lombardia region. The 2007 Castello di Luzzano Oltrepò Pavese ($16, find this wine) is deep red and lightly frizzante with lively cherry fruit and a kick of juicy mandarin orange flavor that was incredible with the tangy tomato sauce on our buffalo mozzarella pizza. Served chilled, it's similar to a Lambrusco but not as dark and frothy, just bright and clean. And to think this is only the beginning of patio-Bonarda-star-gazing weather. —Megan Krigbaum
Despite the dreary weather here in NYC, it is Spring, so I'm going to operate under the delusion that if wine glasses are filled with lively springtime wine, then the sun will emerge, birds will chirp, fluffy clouds will drift in the cerulean sky, and all that sort of pastoral folderol will mark our days for weeks to come.
To that end, I'd suggest going out en masse and depleting stores of their stocks of the 2007 Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner ($14, find this wine). It's a bright, vibrant white, with the pea tendril-pepperiness that Grüner often has, fresh grapefruit acidity, and a briskly herbal finish. Loimer makes a variety of higher-end estate Grüners that are impressive as well, but for the cash, this one's a no-brainer. —R.I.
Starting this time of year through the fall, New York City's eternally crowded scenester restaurant, Balthazar, goes through something like a billion cases of Sancerre a week. This minerally French Sauvignon Blanc is intensely refreshing on a hot day, but thanks to its popularity, good, cheap Sancerre is a rarity. So I was thrilled to find another, equally satisfying Sauvignon Blanc from France's Loire Valley: the gulpable 2008 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny ($15). It's got that telltale Sauvignon grassiness along with ripe yet tart apple flavors. There's a slight richness (thanks to the touch of Chardonnay in the blend) along with plenty of snappy acidity and clean minerality. In other words, tough wine not to like... — Kristin R. Donnelly
Maybe it's the odd juxtaposition of snow and the beginning of Spring, but somehow the idea of an off-dry (lightly sweet) white wine seems like the ideal thing today. Maybe it's the thought that if Spring were actually acting like Spring is supposed to, I might be able to sit on a porch and sip one with some prosciutto & melon, instead of staring out a window at snowflakes. Regardless, here are three that caught my attention lately:
2007 Grove Mill Riesling ($17, find this wine) As often seems to be the case with New Zealand Rieslings, a little sweetness seems only to intensify and focus the flavors of lime zest and pear in this wine; it's got a nice floral note on the nose, too.
2008 Ca’ del Solo Muscat ($20, find this wine) Randall Grahm's Ca’ del Solo wines come from his estate vineyard in Monterey County, which is farmed biodynamically (and is mostly composed of Chualar and Danville Sandy Clay Loams, if you want to really geek out about it). This vintage of his Muscat is wildly aromatic, all spice-gumdrop, melon and tangerine, and manages to be full-bodied in texture without actually being particularly heavy or high in alcohol (it's 12.5%). Moreover, it's made from Moscato Giallo—an semi-obscure muscat clone from Italy's Alto Adige—with 12% Loureiro, an even more obscure Portuguese white variety typically used in Vinho Verde. Regardless, it's a mighty tasty wine that sure makes me wish it were summer...
2007 Abbazia di Novacella Gewürztraminer ($25, find this wine) I tasted this a few months back when I was zooming through the Alto Adige on my way to Slovenia for a story, and it's stuck in my mind ever since. Intensely spicy, with a kind of spiced bosc pear character and lots of flavor, this comes off slightly sweeter than it actually is. The winemaker told me that there's only three grams per liter of sugar here, and that the perceived sweetness is mostly glycerin; he also told me that it was grown on calcareous soil, though the importer's website says, contrarily, "gravely sand of moronic origin." What sand of moronic origin might be I don't know, but I sort of love it.