Picks With Personality

(By Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)
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By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The 2004 Provenance Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded an impressive 91 points by a leading wine magazine. We'd rate the 2005 vintage an 8.

That is, an 8 on the enneagram, a widespread personality typing system that has been taught by as varied a set of groups as the FBI, the Jesuits and Stanford Business School.

Thinking of wines as having personalities can help you make better pairings with food. With that in mind, the powerhouse 2005 Provenance Vineyards Rutherford cab ($40) surely qualifies on this nine-point system as the Challenger, or one that must have its own way. As Andrew's pick this week, it's a full-bodied and intensely flavored red that could obliterate light dishes.

In exploring how the enneagram could be applied to wine, we brainstormed with creativity expert Michael J. Gelb, author of the bestselling "How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci." Gelb also collects wines, and he says the enneagram is one of the most useful tools for understanding their differences. After all, as he puts it, "The finest wines have their own personality, expressing the unique characteristics of the grape, earth and season."

We typed various wines, then compared notes with Gelb.

9: The Peacemaker. The heart of a 9 is its agreeable nature, which can mediate any situation. No matter what food is on the table, a 9 wine goes along cheerfully. Rosé is the ultimate 9: Its dominant characteristics morph seamlessly from those of a white to those of a red as need be. Keep an eye out for the newly released and exceptionally food-friendly 2007 Tapeña Rosé ($10) from Spain and the 2007 Kim Crawford Gisborne Rosé ($13) from New Zealand.

8: The Challenger. Like the Provenance Rutherford cab, these wines dominate. The wine comes first, and the food (almost invariably red meat) must bend to its mighty will. Gelb says, "Barolo, 'the king of wines,' is an 8." We also think of tannic cab, malbec, tannat and petite sirah; one of the best and most restrained type-8 wines we tasted this year was the 2004 Neal Family Napa Valley Petite Syrah ($40).

7: The Enthusiast. The ultimate epicure, this type celebrates joie de vivre. Gelb counts himself in this category; when it comes to wine, champagne, with its lively bubbles, is the quintessential example. Pop a cork, and it's ready to party with anything except red meat -- and a rosé champagne will dance with that, too. With its creamy lemon curd flavors, whisper of sweetness and streams of exuberant bubbles, Karen's pick this week, the NV J Cuvee 20 Russian River Valley Brut ($32), will lift your spirits and the flavors of virtually any hors d'oeuvre, especially fried or salty ones.

6: The Loyalist. Always there and always reliable, it's your house wine, pairing well with most of the dishes you like to eat at home. Gelb's house wine is the 2004 Muga Reserva Unfiltered Rioja ($26), which he characterizes as "a phenomenal value" for its "remarkable elegance, complexity and depth." When we're not tasting for this column or our next book, our more modest household opts for one of our favorite Rieslings or, with red-sauced pasta or roast pork, something like the light- to medium-bodied 2006 Tortoise Creek Central Coast Merlot ($12).

5: The Investigator. These are "meditation" wines that you can sit in a corner with and examine. With them, food is beside the point. Old Bordeaux is a prime example that Gelb classifies as "the most intellectual wine." Also worth investigating are wines featuring unusual varietals, including charmers such as the 2007 Clayhouse Central Coast Adobe White ($15), a chenin blanc-dominant blend. It contains 22 percent Princess wine grapes, which have yet to be recognized by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, so the grape composition listed on the label totals just 78 percent.

4: The Individualist. When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that "wine is bottled poetry," he was surely referring to a pinot noir. "It's a 4 wine: elusive, artistic, romantic and difficult to understand," Gelb says. The 2005 Faiveley Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet Mercurey ($23) is a red Burgundy from a classic vintage that delivers impressive value while pairing beautifully with mushroom, salmon, tuna and lamb dishes.

3: The Achiever. Lots of actors are Type 3s, in that they can perform any role. Chardonnay can do the same: still to sparkling, dry to sweet, steely to oaky. "High-powered California chardonnay is a 3 that will do anything to entertain and hold your attention," Gelb says. The 2006 Matanzas Creek Sonoma Valley Chardonnay ($30; $25 at Calvert Woodley) boasts balanced oak and a hint of botrytised fruit, and it can star with chicken or pork in a creamy mustard sauce.

2: The Helper. We think of sweet, semi-sparkling Moscato d'Asti and big, fruity shiraz, with all their food-friendliness, as typical 2 wines. "Australian shiraz gives everything and just wants to overwhelm you with love," Gelb says. That's certainly the case with the 2005 Omrah Shiraz ($18) from western Australia, whose bright cherry and blackberry fruit and pepper notes cozy up to lamb.

1: The Perfectionist. Sauternes is the ultimate 1 wine. "It transforms [noble] rot into perfection," Gelb says. Match it with Roquefort cheese and you have a holy grail pairing.

As a 1, Karen identifies with perfectionists on a quest for ideal matches in every wine-and-food-pairing situation. Luckily, as a 9, Andrew keeps the peace by reminding her that any agreeable match is worth taking pleasure in.

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, authors of "The Flavor Bible" and "What to Drink With What You Eat," can be reached through their Web site,, or at

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