We're celebrating National Drink Wine Day on February 18 by recommending three very different red wines from three countries: Lebanon (Bekaa Valley), the United States (California's Russian River Valley), and Spain (Rioja). This momentous holiday occurring in winter, we decided to stick with three reds that we've recently enjoyed, all three findable to varying degrees. Enjoy!
Château Musar Gaston Hochar 2007 ($42)
Wildly surprising, yet much noted, this wine from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault to produce a dense dark cherry colored red that will surely continue age well and mellow in color over time. An earthen, cedar chip nose also features nice dark fruit (black cherry juice), giving way to blackberry and plum on the palate with full, pleasant tannins. It oozes sophistication, and will get your dinner guests talking about great wine from unexpected places.
Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 ($39)
This California Pinot Noir took us by surprise for its intense red nose, in ways more resembling the alcoholic fruitiness of a Zinfandel and the shale notes of Petit Verdot. Far more substantial than your typical Pinot, we ultimately found the brambly palate of beach plum and other berries to be very smooth. This is one of those hearty Pinots that you can drink in the same sitting as a Cabernet Sauvignon, and love it!
New Yorkers can find this wine in the amazing gem of a wine shop, Penn Wine & Spirits, located at Penn Station in the exit concourse of the LIRR level, between tracks 16&17.
Cortijo Rioja 2014 ($13)
Don't let the lower price and the somewhat mediocre ratings fool you, this Spanish red (made from Tempranillo, also known as "Tinta Roriz" in northern Portugal, and "Arragones" in southern Portugal) made a fantastic pair with our dinner of pan seared cod over basmati rice topped with linguica (Portuguese Sausage), kale, kidney beans and roasted tomato. It's quite versatile with food, and offers a soft red fruit and chocolate nose with vanilla pipe smoke that carries throughout the experience. There's a creamy quality in the mouthfeel, less tannin than you'd expect, with a bit of cranberry and tart raspberry in the finish.
We owe credit to Jimmy's Hideaway in Provincetown, MA for cooking up this delicious meal!