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Daily Glass: Surprised Not Surprised

January 2, 2022 Leave a comment

First, I want to use this opportunity again to wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year 2022!

Today, I want to talk about a couple of wines – one was surprising (and not), and another one was simply interesting.

Let’s talk about surprises first.

Have you heard of Harry and David? No, not about some random guys named Harry and David, but one of the most famous gourmet food gift catalogs? I don’t know if Harry and David has international fame, but in the USA this is definitely the most famous food gift catalog in existence. I remember for many many years literally drooling over the description of their most famous, and spoon-ready, Royal Riviera® Pears.

Harry and David’s food gifts are not limited to fruit, cheese, and crackers. Many gift selections also include wine, mostly from well-known California wineries – J Vineyards, Talbott, Louis M Martini, and others. And it turns out Harry and David also offers wine under its own label – Harry and David.

When we opened a holiday shipment from our friends, the appearance of Harry and David wines caught me by surprise – I really didn’t expect to see that name on the bottles. To be entirely honest, I’m not a big fan of food gift baskets, even though often they are the most convenient presents. Seeing a catalog-branded wine got my suspicion to the next level though. It is so easy to cut corners and put some random plonk into the bottle with a private label…

To make me worry even more, this was also a bottle of sparkling wine – and for my palate, finding a tasty sparkling wine is even trickier than a regular still wine. So I had a spare bottle of Champagne ready for the backup and only then proceeded with the opening of the Harry and David sparkling wine. The first sip made me instantly grab the bottle and look at the back label. My reaction to the second line on that back label was “aaah, of course, this is why the good taste is not surprising“. The wine was delicious, and the second line on that label said “Southern Oregon”, which instantly lead to the “not surprised” notion – having spent a week in August 2021 in Oregon, good Oregon bubbles are simply expected.

This 2020 Harry and David Vineyards Sparkling Wine Southern Oregon (11.7% ABV) was simply delightful – creamy, consistent mousse on the palate, a touch of fresh apples on the nose, and more of the fresh apples with a touch of the lemon notes on the palate, clean acidity, crisp, perfect balance, pleasure in every sip.

It is a pity that it is practically impossible to find actual wine information on the Harry and David website – or maybe I just lost my searching skills. I spent some time with google and was able to find this article from Oregon Wine Press, from which I learned that in 2012, Harry and David, which is headquartered in Medford, Oregon since 1934, has hired winemaker Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine Company in Medford to make wines for Harry and David. The grapes are primarily sourced from the vineyards in the Rogue Valley in Oregon. I would love to have more details about the vineyards, how they are managed, how the wine is made, and so on, but hey, good wine is a good wine.

Now, let’s talk about interesting wine. I was looking for a wine gift for a friend and came across Sandhi Rosé. Sandhi wines are not widely known, but as I had the pleasure of tasting Sandhi Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, I was definitely interested in trying the Rosé. Sandhi wines are produced by Rajat Parr in Santa Barbara in California, and the whole project was born out of the desire to produce supremely balanced low-alcohol wines.

2019 Sandhi Rosé of Pinot Noir California (12.5% ABV, $20) was definitely an interesting wine. In my vocabulary, “interesting” wine or food is rarely a positive descriptor. This Rosé was if not interesting, then puzzling. Taken out of the refrigerator (so probably at around 38°F – 40°F, the wine was mostly closed, offering a bit of sapidity and onion peel, both on the nose and the palate. After warming up in the glass for about 10 minutes, the wine opened up offering a hint of strawberries with a touch of lemon, still void of any sugar but getting much closer to the traditional Provençal in its presentation. The need to play with the temperature was taking a bit away from otherwise a nice wine.

That is my first story of 2022. I want to leave you with a picture of the little present, a wine glass, I got from friends – looks like they know me well! Cheers!

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