As a wine writer who has taken the vow of poverty central to our profession, I get to taste pricey wines only 1) when invited to a tasting (a great perk of the job), or 2) I never get to taste them at all. There are whole worlds of white Burgundies and and Trockenbeerenauslesen and single-vineyard Priorats that will never pass my lips. Once a year on my birthday, I let myself buy a wine with a dollar value matching my age, and I am definitely looking forward to March, 2011, when I get my $65 bottle -- and get onto Medicare.
Meanwhile, there is the kindness of neighbors.
The winery is spectacular, a fantasy vision in the land of faux chateaux, and that's why Fran and a friend went to visit. Here's a sample detail from the Quixote website. She picked up a couple bottles of wine while she was there for her brother, a major wine hound, but then decided to share one of them with us, along with a simple meal of polenta and broccoli rabe.
The bottle in question was the 2005 Panza Grenache-Mourvedre. (Most of the Quixote and Panza wines are either Cabs or Petite Sirahs.) List for this bottle is around $45 -- I can't find it on the Quixote website, so it's probably a tasting room special. Astronomical? No. Quite a bit for an unknown Rhone blend? Certainly on my budget.
The wine was absolutely delightful. Since it includes two of my favorite grapes, I was programmed to like it, but then, so did everyone else. Clean, focused fruit, seamless blending, tannins to hold it together but not to obtrude, good acidity, something for every square centimeter of tongue and mouth, and a refreshingly modest (14.1%) alcohol level.
I would happily drink this wine every night of the week -- if I had a $300-a-week wine budget. No complaints about the wine; but nothing so memorable that it would tempt me to break my limited bank, either, when there is an ocean of roughly comparable Rhone blends from multiple continents out there under $20.
It's the usual Napa surcharge, plus the legend-of-Carl-Doumani markup, plus the architectural amortization fee that more than doubles the price. Which is why us wine writers like to have as many friends as possible.
Thank you, Fran.
Price: $45-ish. Alcohol: 14.1. Points: Depends on who is paying for the bottle. Full disclosure: Good bottles make good neighbors.