Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday Find, February 7th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this", and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending, we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

File this under: I Didn't See That Coming.

There's been a lot of that lately. It's like 19 degrees or something outside. The Seahawks, underdogs in Superbowl 48 went in and blew out Peyton Manning's Colts, er sorry, Broncos. And now this? 

Provincialism is a funny thing.

Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic got off his road bicycle and decided three days before the Cyclocross World Championships that he'd give it a go. Stybar, was a four time world champion (including his Junior and Under 23 titles) of the sport and so initially you may not see what the big surprise is all about. Here's the thing, over the past two seasons Stybar has stepped away from the sport and moved almost exclusively to road racing full time, seeing some big time success with stage wines, though nothing like his previous domination. While the sport of cyclocross has it's roots as an over-winter training for professional road racers, it has become a thing unto itself. With riders exclusively trained in the discipline becoming stars in their own right. Here in America, much like professional road cycling, it's a niche sport, but within a niche sport. In Belgium? It's huge, it's the national sport and they see crowds at their cyclocross races that rival what we see at NFL games. Seriously.

There is no bigger star in Cyclocross than Belgian national champion Sven Nys. He is the Peyton Manning if you'll excuse the example, of the sport. He wins a lot, and much like Manning he's not won as often on the biggest stages. He has two world championships, many predicted a bunch more. So when the final lap came around for this year's race in Hoogerhide it was Stybar and Nys locked in a battle. Stybar won. Many who follow the sport, myself included said it was kind of a bummer that Stybar won, in terms of growth of cyclocross as a discipline that deserves equal consideration to road racing. The rainbow striped jersey, worn by the world champion over the course of the season will likely spend a lot of time in the closet as Stybar once again gears up for a road season. Such whining does not take away from the impressive victory over the sport's reigning champion but maybe it just wasn't the result I saw coming?

Today's Friday Find has a lot in common, both in terms of something I didn't see coming an a little bit of provincialism here in the Northwest wine corners. Last year the announcement of the sale of Columbia to wine giant E&J Gallo was bemoaned here in Washington wine country. We've always seen the Washington industry as a little different and so seeing a California giant, the likes of Gallo come in was not something we were necessarily happy about. Even me, if I'm being honest I was not thrilled with the idea. 

The first Gallo-Columbia wines have been released and I was contacted by them to see if I'd like to try the wines. I said sure, smugly certain that I would not like them, that they'd some how become California-ized. I didn't see that coming. The 2012 Columbia Winery Columbia Valley Chardonnay is very, very good and when you consider the $14 price-point means that you'll likely be able to find it on "sale" at many retail outlets at around $10, it's super. ( I don't care for the new label design though.) The wine is fruit driven and bright. It underwent fermentation in stainless steel, and while there's a texture given that it was left "on lees" for nine months, it's not creamy, but rather layered. This is not a California version of Washington Chardonnay. Not in the least. The acidity is ample and it tends way more towards a minerality and fruit than perhaps the anticipated baked apple pie with butter on butter. It's really nice, and finding it should be a breeze. Northwest wine loyalists, please forgive me, but it's really, really good.  


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