A Toast to the Golf Masters with Master Somm Wines
Just one champion will don the green jacket this weekend at the fabled Masters Tournament. A few other visitors to the Augusta National Golf Club will have the chance to sip from a certain green-stemmed wine glass created just for the Masters by yours truly. To celebrate, I plan to fill my glass with wines from the Masters. Read on so you can, too.
People often ask me, since I live in Napa–do I plan to make my own wine? It’s very true that sooner or later, after serving so many great wines, visiting world-class wine regions, working harvests and helping winemaker friends at blending trials, many Master Sommss find it hard to resist the allure of trying their own hand at winemaking. And with 3 acres planted to Sauvignon Blanc on our Napa Valley property, I could actually make estate wine. But (for now at least), with so many great wines on the market–including from my Master Somm colleagues–I am happy to just keep tasting and telling you about others’ vinous handiwork. Here are some great Master Sommelier wines to check out.
Scarpetta Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy – Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey is one of those guys who was born to be a restaurateur. He exudes that genial and masterful deference to the food, the wine and his guests that makes one feel a sense of excitement and utter well-being to spend a few hours in his care at Frasca Food & Wine (his fine dining-but not fancy-restaurant) or the more casual Pizzeria Locale, both in Boulder, Colorado. When Bobby and Frasca’s Chef/Partner Lachlan Mackinnon left their pedigreed posts at the French Laundry to create a very special Italian dining experience, they didn’t just dip a toe into the boot of Italy. They dug deep into the northeastern Friuli region, notable for its unique cuisine style and very distinctive wines that include my all-time favorite Italian whites. Launching a wine based on Friulian grapes and terroir was a natural compliment to their restaurant venture. This bottling is a great introduction to Scarpetta wines. And it is far from your garden variety simple-and-citrusy Pinot Grigio. It has much more depth on the palate, with a distinctive ripe Bartlett pear flavor and palate weight that carries it far beyond salad or the salumi plate to richer dishes like herbed polenta with goat cheese, as well as cuisines with an exotic spice element such as Indian or Thai. Pick up some bottles of this wine for spring and summer sipping, and look for it next year on a Delta flight – it’s the first Pinot Grigio I’ve ever chosen for in-flight because I think it will really show beautifully at 30,000 feet. Also make a pilgrimage to see Bobby and his adorable and elegant wife Danette at Frasca in Boulder (maybe on your way to see both of us at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen this June?).
Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo Inigo Montoya, Walla Walla, Washington – I remember when Master Sommelier Greg Harrington passed his Masters exam. It was in 1996 (when I passed) at the age of 26—making him the youngest-ever American to pass the exam. After piloting wine programs for Chef greats like Joyce Goldstein, Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse, Greg with his wife Pam did a 180 and headed to Walla Walla wine country. They had sensed something distinctive in the region’s wines, and I couldn’t agree more. For at least a decade now I have been impressed with the sense of place expressed in many of Walla Walla’s best wines. The region has made fast-paced progress in figuring out what to plant where, and how to farm it, to capture balance, earthiness and distinctiveness—all the signs of a great terroir. When I served this wine to my husband John (whose palate prowess actually rivals that of many a Master), he got that it was Tempranillo, but guessed old world, Spain. I am sure Greg would be honored by that! I got pretty new American oaky-coconut scents in the nose, and grippy, tarry tannins and bruised black plum fruit on the palate. The wine is lusty and interesting now with a subtle cheese such as Manchego or Idiazabal, but if you have the patience to wait, I believe it will morph like a butterfly and be something truly amazing in ten years or so.
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