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2011 Tastes: A Few Wine Choices

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
By Louisa Hargrave   Dec 6, 2011 11:41 AM
Mar 30, 2012 9:16 AM

While I was leafing through the December issue of Food and Wine magazine, an image of a pretty Gwyneth Paltrow-lookalike in an ad for Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Merlot caught my attention.

The woman is posed with her chin resting on her hand (referencing Rodin’s “The Thinker,” no doubt). With bare neck, arms and shoulders, she wears large sparkly earrings, false eyelashes and a dinky little ring on her right hand. We can’t see her left hand, to know if she is married or engaged. In a separate image, we see a bottle of the Rutherford Hill wine.

The text of the ad reads, “If he brings the Rutherford Hill it’s a yes.”

So I asked myself, “Yes to what?” She’ll go to the movies with him? She’ll marry him? She’ll sip the wine while she texts her girlfriend? Or, well, she is already half-naked, after all.

Down at the lower outside corner, next to the image of the wine, the ad reads, “It’s a sure thing.”

But I’m not convinced that she would be so easily tempted by a bottle of California merlot, even Rutherford Hill, which has been an important producer of Merlot since 1976 and has 8,000 oak barrels of wine aging underground. Rutherford Hill is owned by Terlato Wines International, one of the largest wine companies in the world. They must spend millions of dollars on advertising; surely they know that women buy more wine than men, so why is this woman waiting to see what “he” brings before deciding, “It’s a yes?”

I’m glad the Terlatos are so confident. Good luck with that. But I can’t blame them for trying to get an angle on how to influence wine consumption. Marketing wine ain’t easy.

Tasting wine has been shown to be an “ambiguous experience,” according to two scholars who reported on their experimental wine tasting in the latest edition of the Journal of Wine Economics (Vol. 6, No. 1, 2011). “Most people do not prefer expensive wine [to cheap wine] when they taste them blind,” the research stated. Yet this experiment indicated that when women who are told ahead of time that a wine they are about to taste is expensive, they will rate it higher than when they tasted it blind.

If the woman in this ad knew that the Rutherford Hill costs only about $25 (not cheap, but not expensive either), she might have been less eager about it.

All of us are influenced by what I like to call “consuming expectancies.” Although I am not immune to being influenced by brand or price, I like to think that I can detect quality.

Influenced or not, I offer you a brief 2011 round-up of some wines (cheap and expensive) I’ve tasted worth remembering:

From Long Island, a few of many to try: Palmer Albariño, Coffee Pot Merlot, McCall Pinot Noir, Peconic Bay Riesling, Borghese Chardonnay, Lenz Cuvée, Paumanok Petit Verdot, Macari Sauvignon Blanc, Grapes of Roth Riesling.

More recondite international picks include a slew of wines.

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina, from Italy, shows that modern techniques can bring brilliance back to grapes with a legacy. This wine had an intriguing herbaceous quality, layered onto pineapple and hibiscus aromas.

Regis Minet’s 2009 Pouilly-Fumé Vieilles Vignes from the Loire Valley is a Sauvignon Blanc with extreme complexity, beautiful fruit, odd minerality, and intriguingly long finish.

The Reisten Pinot Blanc 2010 from Moravia is supple and gorgeous. All finesse.

Then there’s the Les Deux Rives Corbières Rosé, from the south of France, but not sun-baked. It’s lively, fresh, with pretty red fruit aromas and even a touch of plum. Not at all sweet; not at all harsh.

Try the Champagne R. Pouillon Cuvée de Reserve, which shows every attribute of first quality champagne, with far more character than the bigger houses offer in their anchor wines.

Another standout is the Muller-Catoir Haardt Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2009, which has a delicate citrus and pear aroma with a hint of white flowers. What makes this wine outstanding is its incredible elegance, and its evolution in the mouth, which goes on and on. Lovely!

I also loved the Peay Vineyards, Pomarium Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009: a favorite California Pinot. It’s spicy, peppery, full of fruit and intriguingly complex.

The Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge Cuvée des Cadettes 2005 is like the shower of Danae. Imagine a languorous woman on a velvet sofa, suddenly invaded by an intensely stimulating deluge of sensation.

Lastly, I have to mention the DiamAndes Gran Riserva 2007 from Argentina. Whatever French winemaker Michel Rolland did here, it worked. This wine is DELICIOUS. A Parkerized wine? Yup. But DELICIOUS.

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