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Old, True Friends

Gil Kulers’ Wine Pick

          This column is about old friends. Not the kind of friends that stab you in the back and lie to your parole officer. I’m talking about the type of friends that are there for you when you need them. Someone who will bail you out of jail on a rainy night even after you stabbed them in the back and lied to their parole officer.

          Now, I’ve previously written about the wines I’m mentioning today. I’ve tried them year in and year out, some for longer periods of time, some shorter. And none of them have ever disappointed me (you guys getting the “old friend” analogy now?). At least two of them are fairly popular. But when I first tried them, they were new and unknown, but wonder to behold, instantly likable.

          There are a lot of wines you become acquainted with that you like immediately. Then, they go all Hollywood on you and famously raise their prices. Or they cash in on their popularity by making a bajillion bottles that are a mere shadow of its former yummy self.

          Pietra Santa Winery is located in the Cienega Valley of California. Familiar with Cienega? Neither is anyone else and that’s OK. A winery outside the limelight regions is great for your wallet…as long as they can deliver the goods. Pietra Santa makes a bunch of wines, but I’m only familiar with their cabernet sauvignon, that rich, smoky, dark-berry-fruit-infused cabernet sauvignon. All I can say is it was yumdigidy then for 20 bucks and yumdigidy now for 20 bucks.

          Pietra Santa means Sacred Stone in Italian, so it’s no wonder that Pietra Santa makes Italian Blends under the label Sacred Stone. Don’t turn the bottle over to look at the price because you won’t believe a $10 wine can taste so good. Someone told me the winemaker messed with the blend of merlot, sangiovese, zinfandel and dolcetto grapes to make what they call cask #5 (This is their current version. This is a non-vintage wine). Billy Joel once said: “Don’t go changing to try and please me. I like you just the way you are whoa-oh-OOH-oh-oh.” Turns out that sometimes friends change for the better.

          About 100 year ago, I ordered a bottle of Paul Jaboulet Aîné Parallèle 45 at Kurt’s Restaurant (now Kurt’s and Vreny’s) in Duluth. I was familiar with Jaboulet, the well-known Rhône Valley winemaker, but not the then-new $12 (retail) red wine. Apparently it was a hit. They now make a bajillion bottles of this grenache/syrah blend. It can be found in just about any wine list or grocer’s wine aisle, but here’s the catch. It remains a reliable, old friend, maybe even a better friend.

Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator with the Society of Wine Educators and teaches in-home wine classes. You can reach him at Gil.Kulers@WineKulers.com.

2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Parallele 45, Côtes du Rhône, France
$13
Two Thumbs Up
Pleasant aromas of violets, cherry brandy, clove and smoke. It has flavors of blueberry, tart raspberry, a touch of plum, nutmeg and tar (in a good way). Just right for hearty winter foods.

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.

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