Many people in Denver would probably agree that this has been a most peculiar summer. We have had our share of sensationally hot, dry days, as expected… but we have also felt an inordinate amount of rain and even hail. Premature motions towards autumn have me passing by the crisp whites and roses in favor of something a bit more…cozy.
Last night, that nip was in the air, as the rain started to fall. I was dining at one of my favorite local restaurants—Table 6—browsing their eclectic and ever-so-thoughtful wine list. Myself excepted, the party consisted of all men who also indicated a bent for the red wines by their choice aperitifs. With assistance from the server, I settled on a 2003 Weingut Brundlmayer St. Laurent from Langenlois, Austria (about 70km northwest of Vienna).
Upon one sniff, it was easy to see how St. Laurent, a grape with French-descent, was from the same family as Pinot Noir. Both boasted forest berry fruit, dried herbs, and toasted qualities, but the St. Laurent carried another element that fell outside description. There was a piece of Austria it was trying to translate on the tongue…a ‘terroir,’ if you will. Many ‘Sankt’ Laurents (as they are sometimes called) that I have tried in the past are simply more tannic and fierce than Pinot Noir; their mineral qualities are a bit more transparent as well. This wine, in particular, though, seemed to have more to say. There was a greater purpose to its presence. It was establishing the flavor of the region itself. Everyone was exceedingly impressed at this rather inexpensive wine (only about $50 on the list, $25 retail).
We moved on to a rather muted ’98 Chateau de Fonsalette. Perhaps we were too anxious to hear its song and consequently starved it of a much-needed visit with oxygen. We also tried a Barolo from the great 2000 vintage. This, too, was not quite ready to talk, but it maintained a kind of tension that was tantalizing to the imagination. A trace of reliable rose petals began its hushed bouquet. I am quite certain, in a few more years… Ah, Nebbiolo. You have my heart.
All these reds brought out the fall in me. They were all very complimentary to the spread we shared before dinner—an assortment of appetizers from fried green tomatoes, confit bacon, and little Phillies (my favorite)—as well as our individual meals, which ranged from marinated Brisket and Halibut over a bed of bacon creamed corn and fingerlings to fresh Salmon with garden vegetables and Chicken ‘n Waffles (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).
I, of course, had to finish on a sweet note. So along with my warm peach tart that came with a green almond ice cream shake, I enjoyed a 2004 Raymond-Lafon Sauternes. Situated in Bordeaux just next door to the highly acclaimed Chateau d’Yquem, Raymond-Lafond represents some of the best sweet wine you can find from this region for the price. Each year, they manage to create some of the most refined, elegant sweet wines on the market. This one was still a baby, but the botrytis-affected grapes allowed for the inevitable notes of honey, white flowers, and apricots to surface.
It may not fully feel like summer, but that unmistakable first smell of fall is still yet to be inhaled. Until then, small sips of transtitional reds are a delicious way to welcome the upcoming season if you find you are needing something a little more substantial…