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Wine label with dog paws? You'd be surprised at taste

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Sept. 3, 2003
Last week's wine tasting was a gold mine of discoveries. A capacity crowd learned just how much better wine can taste when poured in a glass specifically designed for that purpose.
Everyone attending received a Spiegelau glass, made in Germany, 83⁄4 inches tall with a 22-ounce capacity. These are professional glasses, used by many of the country's leading, and priciest, restaurants. As a result of the reaction to them, I understand Meridian's two leading wine stores now carry them in stock.
But as important and exciting as the glasses were, the real finds were the seven wines served. These were probably the finest collection of bargain wines we have ever served. Prices ranged from $10 to $20. They were all good. Several were outstanding.
The wine of the evening was Rosenblum's Chateau La Paws from California. This wine is made by a very rich man as a hobby. He also is a man with a sense of humor. The Chateau La Paws got its name from dogs. So help me. The La Paws means dog paws. The label has puppy tracks printed on it along with a drawing of a dog bone. The cork even has dog tracks etched on it.
You would think it was just a joke if you saw it in the store; one of our local merchants told me that was happening in his store. It sat on the shelf and didn't sell because people didn't take it seriously.
But the wine maker knows what he's doing. Rosenblum's was named the winery of the year in California in its recent state fair competition. One of the similar bottlings using the mourvedre grape, the same grape used in La Paws, won the gold medal in its class at the same event. A zinfandel won a double gold medal as the best wine made in that state last year. He is obviously a winemaking genius.
The wine itself is marvelous. Smooth, no tannins, a deep cherry-like flavor with a color to match and priced at only $15. The tasters drank every drop, contacted the wine store managers present and made arrangements to buy every bottle they had. I understand it has since been reordered. Make a joke of the label if you wish, but the wine inside the bottle is serious stuff.
Another favorite was the Cartlidge &Brown Syrah. That's a $12 wine from California with the deep color and a tantalizing peppery finish the best wines from that grape are famous for. This same winery produces cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel and chardonnay. I've tasted the cabernet and chardonnay and both are rated 86 and 87. They are truly bargains. Critic Robert Parker says the Cartlidge and Browne chardonnay is the best value on the market at its price.
We wrote before the tasting of the South African wine Goats do Roam, a blend of five different grapes from that country. Here again the label may be fun but the wine itself is powerful with deep flavors and intensity. At $10 it is hard to beat.
My other favorite was a cabernet from Chile, the Aresti Reserve. It is hard to believe that much quality can be put in a bottle in Chile, shipped here and still sell for $10. This is a reserve wine, meaning it was aged in a cask for a reasonable period before it was put in the bottle.
It is a full wine with berries the dominant flavor but with a subtle touch of licorice in the background on the finish. If you think you wouldn't like it because of that you're wrong and you owe it to yourself to try a bottle. I don't know of any cabernet in that price range I like any better.
The Alexander Valley zinfandel was well received, but it was more port-like than peppery. Most zinfandels go the other way. Rich, smooth, lovely bouquet, it made a lot of friends. This was the most expensive wine of the night at $20.
Also served was the Linden Estate Merlot from New Zealand. I'm not normally a major merlot fan, but this wine had a depth and richness about it that I found appealing. This was a $15 wine retail.
The only wine that was disappointing was Bouchard's Pinot Noir from France. It's main problem was that it was from the 2001 vintage and French pinot need years in the bottle to maximize its potential.
As a result the Bouchard was tannic and thinner on the pallet than pinot noir should be. Five years from now it will be nice not great but nice. Most people aren't going to be willing to wait five years to drink a $14 wine.
We finished the evening talking about our semi-annual wine and cheese tasting. It will be Sept. 25. About half the places have already been spoken for. Tickets are $35 and reservations may be made at 482-0930. It, too, will likely sell out. It always has. We recommend you call soon.