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three glass of red wine, rose wine and white wine with french cheese and delicatessen in restaurant wooden table with romantic dim light and cosy atmosphere

Jim Rooney: Seasonal Wine Ideas

I’ll begin with a confession. I am neither a sommelier, nor have I ever been employed in the wine business. What possibly then could lend me enough credibility to informally offer wine suggestions to my fellow throomers (besides personally knowing the Throomers owners)? It’s a reasonable question worthy of a response, as soon as I think of one. Okay, let’s try this as rationale.

In his mega best-selling non-fiction book, Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell put forward his premise of what makes anyone an expert in their field. He posited that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in any endeavor to become a true expert.

I was certainly no prodigy, especially since it’s illegal to be a prodigy in drinking wine, but, ‘Three hours a day for ten years?’ Ha! – are you kidding me? I passed 10,000 hours of wine consumption many labels ago, and I don’t recall it even being a challenge. The bigger issue was convincing me at the end of many evenings that it was time to shut down my “dedicated practice” session. I was simply that passionate about becoming an expert in this field.

Jim Rooney in his oft-visited wine room

While Gladwell’s Outliers study has since been questioned in some academic circles, it certainly worked pretty well out here in the wine bars. Along the way, I’ve had countless good times with friends and provided at least a few local sommeliers and shopkeepers a modest annuity payment as dependable as any social security check.

Now that I’ve clearly established my credibility, at least to me, let’s talk about specific wines.

This Column’s Intentions

In 1965, legendary rock band, The Byrds, released their version of the classic Pete Seeger song – Turn! Turn! Turn! The song’s inarguable lyrics were taken almost verbatim from eight verses in the bible, and in the chorus they repeatedly chirped, “To everything ….. there is a season.”

There is without debate an aspect of seasonality to wine drinking. The art of wine consumption considers compatibility with the seasonal climate, just as it does food pairings and other external circumstances. Lighter, crisper wines meant to refresh the palate are more desirable in the warm summer months, while fuller, richer wines accompany our comfort foods in the depths of winter, all meant to ‘warm the cockles.’

Thus, I intend to offer wine varietal suggestions with this idea of seasonal consumption in mind.

In a recent Throomers feature, our Master Sommelier friend, Virginia Philip, said this: “My philosophy is to know what you like to drink and why you like it. Visit wine country, put your hands in the soil, touch the vines, there’s nothing like it. Taste wine often, try new things, keep notes. Then, drink what you like and enjoy it. There are delicious wines available from all over the world at every price point.”

Following the Master Sommelier’s suggestion, I’ll not only continue to “taste wine often,” I’ll also be focusing on wines “at every price point” that I happen to “like and enjoy,” regardless of any critic’s opinion. And I’m not just speaking about my wife.

Finally, the wines I suggest should generally be available for purchase in local shops and retail outlets, fine restaurants, and online. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Winter Season Wines

It is stemware-chillingly cool this Spring, so I’ll initiate the column by suggesting two consistently good wines appropriate for winter sipping. The latest vintage available on retail shelves, or whichever is available on proprietor’s wine lists, should fare-you-well.

Photo courtesy of Megan Rooney Images

WHITE: CHALK HILL SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY

Chalk Hill Chardonnay is just as appropriate for spring and summertime quaffing, maybe even more so, but depending on the occasion and food pairings it works well year-round. It is a perfect sunny winter afternoon’s luncheon wine when paired with a fresh turkey breast and sharp cheddar sandwich, served on multi-grain toast with an artisanal mustard condiment, and a steaming cup of white bean and vegetable soup. Honestly, does life get any better?

As you can imagine, the name ‘Chalk Hill’ well describes the terroir (microclimate) – the Sonoma Coast’s warming breezes and its flinty, dusty, volcanic soils. Wilfred Wong, expert spokesperson for Wine.com, says this about the 2017 Chalk Hill Chardonnay: “It is flavorful and balanced, and a very good example from the Sonoma Coast AVA. Its aromas and flavors of ripe fruit and cream oak make it a nice pairing choice with a southwestern style salad with thinly-sliced beef.”

(Editor’s note: “I’ll take one of those salads, please, along with my soup, and my turkey and cheddar sandwich. Oh yeah, and a second bottle of Chalk Hill while you’re at it.”)

That reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon I once saw on a cocktail napkin: A nice couple is sitting in a restaurant booth enjoying a chilled bottle of wine. Sweetly holding hands, the man leans in to his date and says, “This might be just the chardonnay talking, but I think I want more chardonnay.” (I changed the word “wine” to “chardonnay.” I think the Chalk Hill made me do it.)

Chalk Hill has more expensive ‘estate’ offerings, but their entry level ‘Sonoma Coast’ Chardonnay is delicious and regularly available in local markets in the mid-to-upper $20 range, and on restaurant wine lists at about twice that.

On a personal note, this is the wine we were sipping (probably an earlier vintage) at an organizational lunch meeting held in August 2018, when the Throomers concept was first developed. It was perfect in the dreamy, oppressive heat of Florida’s deep summer, and it is tasting just as delicious in our relatively temperate winter months. Especially now that throomers.com has become a superbly tangible reality.

Red: Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel

The Seghesio family immigrated from Italy nearly 125 years ago and has been making top-shelf Zinfandel ever since. Their business legacy, besides fine wine, is one of resilience, having survived two world wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression and many other obstacles along the way.

Today, Seghesio is part of the Crimson Wine Group, which includes Pine Ridge, Archery Summit and other top brands. Seghesio annually produces several highly-regarded single vineyard Zinfandels at higher price points, notably ‘Home Ranch’ and ‘Cortina.’ However, their ‘Sonoma Coast’ offering, priced in the low to mid-$20s, is regularly rated 90 points or better (on a 100 point scale) by Wine Spectator magazine.

The 2016 is rated an impressive 93 points with the following tasting notes: “Plump and loaded with rich, jammy fruit, this Zinfandel is a pleasure to drink. Bold accents of wild berry, spicy cinnamon and licorice glide dynamically toward plush tannins. Drink now through 2025.

In my experience, Seghesio leans to the lighter side of Zinfandels, which makes it another wine worthy of year-round consumption. It is an excellent everyday wine to accompany pizza or flatbreads, pasta, burgers, steak, swordfish, or whatever you may have bubbling in the slow cooker.

Until next time, enjoy wine often, seasonally, and with health and safety always top of mind. I look forward to hearing any feedback (or drinkback) you may have at editor@throomers.com