Stan discovers a gold mine of great wine, good food
May 9, 2001
One man's opinion:
Every once in awhile, you feel like the prospectors who first struck gold in California. I taste a lot of wines and they range from excellent to good to poor in reverse order and various shadings in between.
But there are days when you discover a nugget, genuine gold, wines that are a cut above, but still affordable and, even more important, available in Mississippi.
When we first tasted the Greg Norman wines, both their red blends and their chardonnays, we knew we had found two nuggets wines of quality under $20. My reports from local outlets are that you've tried them, liked them and purchased them again and again. The only complaint I've had is from a consumer who said they have gotten so popular, their favorite package store has trouble keeping the Greg Norman's on the shelf.
Another wine discovery of pure gold was when we found the Karly's red zinfandels. There are many juicy, flavor packed red zinfandels on the market but none are better than Karly's. Their best is Warrior Fires. One notch down is their Buck's 10 Point. At the bottom of the list is the Karly Pokerville, but it is still a wonderful bottle of wine, just not as powerful and concentrated as the most expensive versions. At prices ranging from about $15 to $22, they are a steal, particularly the Warrior Fires.
Last week we discovered two more. I am privileged to review wines for the state warehouse and they sent over two merlots for tasting. One was the St. Supery Merlot 98, a very good, very pleasant wine with nice flavor, but a bit lacking in depth and structure. I would rate it about an 86 on the 100 point scale.
But the other was something special, a true 90 in my estimation. It is the Chateau St. Jean Merlot 98. It is one of the finest merlots available in Mississippi, smooth with a velvet-like texture. The wine has a rich flavor, very little tannin, outstanding structure, lovely fruit and excellent balance.
My favorite merlot is Pride, which sells for about $34 in New Orleans but is unobtainable here. The Chateau St. Jean isn't quite at that level, but it is the next best thing and it should sell for under $25 in Meridian. There are many merlot lovers, but most of them have never discovered the difference between the outstanding wines made from this grape and the inexpensive $10 to $15 merlots offered by most local stores.
The best of the inexpensive merlots is the Columbia Crest from Oregon. At under $15, it is truly a fine buy but it is not in the class with the St. Jean. Just once buy a bottle of this quality and discover for yourself that a few extra dollars can mean a lot of extra pleasure.
But the find of the month possibly the find of the year when it comes to white wine is the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 99 from New Zealand. I truly believe it is the best sauvignon blanc I have ever tasted. It can challenge any chardonnay for pure flavor and pleasure. For most wine lovers Chardonnay is the yardstick by which white wines are judged. This sauvignon blanc is a worthy challenger. There are grapefruit overtones along with flavors of lime, pear and melon. The taste is long lasting. This is a wine you will always seek to find and remember a long time whenever you have the opportunity to taste it.
Unfortunately, it is in very limited supply. And it is likely your favorite outlet won't have it and possibly can't get it. When I checked with the state warehouse recently, it was all sold out. I'm moving heaven and earth to find some for the May 24th wine tasting, but I make no promises.
But in truth, no matter how good the wine is, it needs good food to bring out its best features. Let me throw a couple of other thoughts your way. Since I have family in New Orleans, we are there often and in the process have discovered many good things to eat in that city.
One is a soft, white, triple cream cheese called Vacherin that was made to enjoy with wine. You'll find it at Martin's Wine Cellar for about $20 in wheels the size of some Camembert but Vacherin is much better.
Serve it on Bremner wafers, the best cracker to serve with cheese and wine. It adds to the flavor, but without influencing it. They are available in certain Meridian stores.
The other is a tip to those of you who never have dinner in New Orleans without asking for turtle soup. There is a store named Foodies on Veteran's Boulevard that specializes in many foods you wouldn't and couldn't make in your own kitchen. One of those is turtle soup, every bit as good as that served at Commander's Palace. It is sold frozen in quart containers for $10.99 and a container comfortably serves six. It is truly gourmet. Check my freezer and you'll know what I think of it.
Yes, I know this is primarily a wine column. But good food and good wine are indeed the marriage made in heaven. New Orleans is a good place to hold the ceremony.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.