And The Winners Are... Food & Wine Picks Its Best Wines of the Year"/>
I mean, I certainly understand the impulse. Being a serious wine snob generally involves downing a whole>"/>
I mean, I certainly understand the impulse. Being a serious wine snob generally involves downing a whole lot of grape juice, searching out restaurants with excellent lists, buying cases of bottles from little boutique vineyards, popping corks and putting them down--all of which can honestly be called "studying" and allows a person to generally just become a big ol' wino guilt-free because their stated hobby (or, in a few rare cases, profession) is being an oenophile.
I understand, too, the charm of wine. The differences in flavor and bouquet that obsess people for decades, the grapes, the growing, the microclimatology, the history. I have friends who are way into wine. I used to eat semi-regularly with a couple who'd been in the business for years and owned their own vineyards. I've been to tastings where people who thought I cared poured me splashes from bottles that cost more than I make in a month and I did my best to ooh and aah along with all the other experts while secretly just wishing I had a nice finger or two of fine Irish whiskey or maybe a couple cold beers. It's not that I don't like wine. It's not that I can't appreciate the art in it. It's just that, when it's my choice, I'm going to go for beer or liquor over wine almost every time.
But it's good that there are other people out there who can get as worked up over a killer bottle as I can over a cheesesteak or a salami because, if there weren't, I wouldn't be able to tell you that Food & Wine magazine just came out with its list of best American wines of the year and that, at the very top of the list, is a Washington state winery.
"A master sommelier at 26 (the youngest of any American) and in charge of 'everything wet' for the restaurant group B.R. Guest at 34, Greg Harrington was doing quite well in the NYC wine scene. Then, in 2004, he and his wife, Pam, took a tasting trip to Washington state. In Walla Walla, 20 winery appointments soon morphed into 40, and the Harringtons realized they wanted to make wine there themselves. Two years later, 'We sold our 650-square-foot apartment on the Upper West Side, which bought us 18 acres and financed half the winery. We knew if we could get our first two vintages in the barrel, we'd find a way to make it.' When Harrington's Cabernets and Côte-Rôtie-esque Syrahs hit the market, the critical response was immediate and gratifying. These aren't knock-you-over-the-head wines. He says, 'We like higher acid, lower alcohol (most of our wines are under 14 percent) and only a touch of oak.' Harrington is now gambling on Tempranillo, which may prove as successful as his first big risk."
And Gramercy wasn't the only Washington state name in the bunch. The F&W winos also picked best bottles under and over $20 and, locally, came up with the 2007 Columbia Crest H3 from Horse Heaven Hills in eastern Washington (in the under $20 category) and the 2007 Pepper Bridge merlot from winemaker Jean-François Pellet who works out of the Walla Walla valley in the over $20.
Most of the rest of the awards were taken up by (no surprise) California wineries, but Oregon also made a decent showing. So for those of you out there looking to round out your cellars (or just drink a whole lot of wine in the name of "research"), you can check out the full list of winners here, on the Food & Wine website.