Enthusiast's Corner

The Pleasure of Wine, Coast to Coast

The Pleasure of Wine, Coast to Coast

Now and then, it is important to sit back and appreciate wine's ability to cast a magic spell on special occasions.

In one sense, August is like any other month of the year. Serious issues—economic, agricultural—face grapegrowers and winemakers the world over. Our valued readers have wine purchasing decisions to make. One purpose of this page is to provide guidance on these matters. However, it's summertime, and this month I'd prefer to slow down and reflect. I am taking a vacation from the issues, and from examining trends and received truths passed down by marketers. I want to relax, kick back and reminisce about the good times that wine has brought me recently.

The pure joy of wine is the flavor, the unpredictability, the story behind the label, the intellectual pleasure we derive from comparing one to another. It is the warmth and ease generated by the act of drinking. It's the laughter it generates, the good companionship that springs from sharing it. It's the wonderful interaction with food. These are things we sometimes take for granted.

I was recently a host at an outstanding wine event, and a guest at another, and I'd like to share my appreciation for both. Wine Enthusiast recently held its fourth annual Toast of the Town event at the State Theater promenade at Lincoln Center in New York City. Over 2,000 wine enthusiasts attended, enjoying great wines and truly astounding food. With the jazz ensemble playing, and the promenade full of joyous wine enthusiasts, with chefs plating dishes, winemakers pouring and these pros trading good-natured palaver with the guests, the energy in that room was incredible.

If you wanted a breath of air or just a quiet respite, you could walk out onto the terrace overlooking the famous Lincoln Center fountain. You could sip your wine and watch the attendees for that night's ballet arriving in their finery, or watch the light ebb from rust to blue as the sun set. As the host of this massive party, I couldn't help but take pride in seeing people enjoy themselves so thoroughly, and seeing the extra effort the wine companies had made in bringing out their outstanding wines, and the restaurateurs made in providing such memorable and delicious food. It was like the pages of Wine Enthusiast Magazine come to life. (See this month's issue for more on the event.)

Days later, a similar scene was played out at Auction Napa Valley. As I went from venue to venue at this dazzling event, I was astonished at the opulence wine provides. On the grounds of Trinchero Winery, 1,500 people walked from stand to stand tasting samples from local restaurants, and wines from some of America's best wineries. Everyone was smiling, laughing and really enjoying themselves. By night, local wineries hosted elaborate and tastefully chic hospitality events. The live auction was star-studded.

The expression of pleasure on the guests attending both of these events was the same: sheer ecstasy. It is this sociability, on a smaller scale, that we're trying to express with our "Perfect Wines for Summer Sipping" story in this issue. Summer offers any number of occasions that call for wine, food, friends and family. Our editors offer their suggestions for wines to accompany barbecue, a light meal, a lazy day by the pool or at the beach.

The winemakers of Dry Creek, a winegrowing region in California's Sonoma Valley, are justly renowned for their excellent Zinfandels (the quintessential barbecue wine), and now are producing Rhône varieties that American wine enthusiasts are enjoying in increasing numbers. Steve Heimoff visited the area, and found that the winemakers are excited for the future of their region. This excitement is mirrored in the gentrification of Healdsburg, from a sleepy rural town to one with chic shops, outstanding restaurants, posh accommodations and a wealth of well-run, friendly tasting rooms.

Daryna Tobey, on her most recent trek to Australia, spent time in the Adelaide Hills. This is not a name that springs quickly to mind when thinking about Aussie wines, nevertheless this small region produces fruit that is turning up in bottlings from some of Australia's top producers.

Traditionally, salad has been thought of as difficult to match with wine, but Karen Berman dismantles that myth in this month's Pairings article. From salads dressed with vinaigrette, with its sharp acidity and assertive flavor, to the ever-present Caesar, to tomato-laden salads, Berman finds a wine to complement.

But to worry about a wine to match perfectly with a summer dish—why, that smacks of seriousness and issue-tackling. And I'll have none of it. Enjoy the rest of your summer.


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