Post Sip is contrite. Lengthier subjects have conspired to slide it off the bottom of the page in recent weeks, but today Sip returns in strength. Revenge is sweet, as Sip salutes just a few of the marvels that have been released this past spring.
Beauty or Bete Noir?--Will an American-grown pinot noir ever succeed in capturing our hearts and palates? Keeping off the ticklish subject of comparisons with burgundies, Sip continues to find the pinot noirs of Oregon to be rather attractive, in their own way. Sokol Blosser's '79 Red Hills and Knudsen Erath's '79 Vintage Select, both from Yamhill County and both at $10, are deceptively easy to drink. Under that soft exterior is so much delicious fruit and lively acidity that the wines will get richer with the years. Sip wishes she could say the same for herself.
Not Just a Pretty Label--"La donna sul cavallo" is no Godiva. Respectably attired and seated ever-so-discreetly sidesaddle, she graces the labels of a new crop of wines from Italy. Worthy of a gentlewoman, the wines of Tenuta Agricola di Lison, in the Veneto region, are also priced for aristocratic pockets. Sip found the '80 Pinot Grigio del Veneto and '80 Tocai di Lison, both at $7, to be delightful and fuller in flavor than the norm. Sip is advised that the wines will be easier to find in restaurants than retail stores. Either invite a gentleperson to escort you to a superior Italian restaurant or despatch the chauffeur into upper Georgetown.
Not Just a Pretty Name--and if you can't remember the name, you might remember the number: Sequoia Grove Vineyards, midway between Napa's Rutherford and Oakville, is Bonded Winery Number 5000. Of the first chardonnay releases, Sip preferred the '80 Sonoma-Cutrer, $12. It balances lemony scents, oaky flavors and high acidity to give the medium-bodied wine a liveliness missing in some California chardonnays. Three cheers from Sip.
Shown-up Well--A light in the gloom of the recent International Wine and Food Expo was the small booth of Napa's Shown & Sons. Dick Shown's '79 Cabernet Sauvignon, $11, the first to be made in his own winery, was initially aged in neutral wood and then transferred into new American oak. Shown wanted to highlight the richness of the grapes themselves. He succeeded. The wine has a little pepperiness and a lot of fruit and earthiness, in a classic "graves" style, Sip believes.
Talking of Classics--Of Jordan's three cabernet releases, the '78 is a benchmark for general manager Mike Rowan: "If I never made a wine better than the '78, I'd be happy." He added that the '80 will have the depth of fruit, the intensity to equal the '78. At $17, the '78 is not a steal and, as Rowan points out, classic American inflation (packaging costs, barrels and energy bills double between 1977 and 1980) will be sizzling right along before the '80 is released in 1984. Sip urges you to start a piggy bank now.
Oh Skeptics Confounded--New York, the state that brings you more variety between the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls than most of us can enjoy in a lifetime, is producing some of the most entertaining wines east of the Rockies. Sip, without wishing to show disloyalty to the delights of our own Virginia and Maryland (which will receive much fuller coverage soon), is enlightened by the wines of Glenora and Chateau Esperanza. Glenora's '80 Cayuga, $5.50; '80 Johannisberg Riesling, $8.50, and Esperanza's '80 Seyval Blanc, $5, are recommended. While confessing to a continuing struggle to appreciate the eastern red wines, Sip did find the '79 Chancellor Noir, $6, of Esperanza to be pleasant. Perhaps because the grapes come from Robert Plain's vineyards? Look for Plain's chardonnays, especially those of Glenora and McGregor. Sip's own skepticism is fainter.