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Dared to Be Different

Author: Christina Julian
October, 2016 Issue

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Prior to taking the parental plunge, I worked as a project manager, where adhering to rigid schedules and turbocharged time management were the only way to succeed. Three years into raising my twins, I’m realizing very little has changed. Much like my toddlers, I thrive on routines, especially when it comes to wine—a point my husband likes to make public at fancy winemaker dinners. So when he dared me to step away from my Holy Grail of sips, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, I took the bait.

The eccentric start

We arrive at Farmstead to enjoy a token night away from our chaotic nest, and I’m unsure if it’s the scorching hot temps or my husband’s silly dare, but I forego my favored Longmeadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc for Wind Gap’s Trousseau Gris (Russian River Valley). Its pinkish-brown-puke hue reminds me of one too many nights spent at home with my gag-reflex-frenzied toddlers, but I carry on. The wine was desert-dry, fitting given the flaming temps and drought-like conditions. I like dry whites but this was too much. I blog surfed as I sipped to see if I was alone in my thinking; apparently I was, because the wine received several high marks including one comment that read, “Very fine and expressive with a bright personality.” I’ve never known wines to have personalities, but then again I hate Pinot Noirs, so what do I know.

I continued with my roll-of-the-dice spirit and ordered the Massican Annia white blend after our server assured me I wouldn’t taste even a hint of butter in what she referred to as a “beaut” of a wine. Despite the descriptor, it felt like a safe move. Happily, she was spot on in her assessment, which was good given the amount of butter my cheddar biscuits were doused in (it’s a flavor I enjoy in my food but not wine). It wasn’t love at first sip, but it did grow on me when paired with a crab Louie salad. The two Italian varietals blended within (it’s 45 percent Tocai Friulano, 41 percent Ribolla Gialla and 14 percent Chardonnay) lent flavors not easily pegged, but it was enjoyable enough that I just might consider ordering this “beaut” again.

The last wine I sampled was the Miner Family Wines Viognier (Simpson Vineyard). It was a standout, at least as far as my palate was concerned—dry, but not so much as to parch lips, with subtle tropical fruit flavors and a lingering finish. 

Search in earnest

On day two of my experiment, I one-up my husband’s challenge and take to the Silverado Trail in search of a Pinot Noir that doesn’t conjure images of high school days spent choking down Robitussin to catch a buzz. I score with one sip of the Failla Wines Pinot Noir, which nearly blew my knickers off. It was light but not thin with a hint of toast, not overly spicy and delivered a deeply fulfilling finish. This wine may cause me to rethink my opinion of the varietal after all these years of pent-up hate.

My last romp to obscurity came with Cimarrosa’s Foglet Nebbiolo (Howell Mountain). I’m a big fan of the winery’s Cabs, some of the headiest in all of Napa Valley, but when owner Dino Dina (a native to Italy) shared this tidbit and offered a sip of this small lot, wacky-for-these-parts wine, I obliged: “It’s hard to find in California because it’s so difficult to grow and it’s finicky—really finicky. Pinot is difficult to grow but Nebbiolo is 10 times more difficult, it ripens late, gets high sugars and alcohol and can be very tannic and acidic. The more you ripen, the harder it is to strike the right balance. It’s really an art to master it.” I felt daunted, given the Pinot comparison, but carried on for the good of the experiment.  

The wine assaulted my palate in a good way. It’s much lighter than I typically enjoy yet equally as robust as the Cabs I often gravitate to, with tannins that are brash yet refined. This is one change I could get used to. Not every day, and certainly not with the pork cheeks Dino claims to be the ultimate pair to this bawdy wine—I won’t stray that far from my routine—but by the end of my dance with diversity, I realized that the bounty of unique wines at the ready in Napa Valley means all change need not be so daunting.

Unless we’re talking about messing with my twin’s sleeping schedule. That’s non-negotiable.

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