Skalli Wines – Demystifying Delicious Wine

Have I mentioned before that I am stupid? 
Because I am. Really, I’m quite dumb – about wine, anyway. As much as I know how my food should look and taste, I am just clueless about wine. So many times, I have bought a $30 bottle of wine because I am intimidated, when the truth is that I could have probably found one for half that price that I liked just as much. How is a gal to know what wines are delicious when her palate is…to put it kindly…inexperienced?

Feisty Foodie recognized my ineptitude (she didn’t quite put it that way), and invited me to a luncheon held by Laurent Sauvage, head winemaker for Skalli wines.

Now, Skalli  is not the type of wine that I would ever think I could understand. The winery owns land in Napa, France and Corsica, produces several different varieties and grades of wine, and focuses on how the terroir of each of the different vineyards can produce the most complex and intricate wines. What I can understand is when Sauvage said that Skalli’s goal is to bring delicious wine to America for less than $150 a pop. When Skalli started in the 1980s, there was table wine that tasted badly, expensive wine that tasted delicious, and nothing in between. Skalli thought that this was ridiculous and has committed itself to producing wine that is both affordable AND delicious. That is something I can understand. Especially when it is paired with food. 
 Chicken Liver Pate
The luncheon was held at The Lambs Club, so I knew that the meal would be delicious, and this amuse bouches started things off on the right food. The pate was incredibly delicate and nuanced. There was no overtly offal-y taste or iron-y overtone – just the rich, hearty, gently spiced taste of chicken liver in a smooth, spreadable texture. The gelee on top added acidity and sweetness, and the celery leaf was small but added a hit of vegetal freshness.
House Cured Gravlax with Tarragon Aioli
Salty, silky, and just a touch briny, this was a burst of freshness. It was light, but with a rich mouthfeel that tempered the bright, oceanic glamors. The tarragon mayonnaise, licorice-y and creamy, added a fattiness that also helped temper the brightness of the dish. I could eat about 6 plates of this, no question!
 Forant Chardonnay, 2009
The Forant wines are part of the Skalli family, and come from vineyards in the South of France. Chardonnay is not the type of wine that I usually like – it is often over-oaked, which to me tastes just like licking a tree. Or, it is overly “buttery,” which is not a flavor that I want from my drink. This chardonnay was, no exaggeration, a revelation. It was clean, crisp but not at all acidic or bitter, and smelled and tasted like pears – sweet but not saccharine. The taste was round and soft, developing warm, nutty flavors on my tongue. The best part? It retails for about $12. If I did not know better, I would swear this cost 3X as much, if not more. It is that balanced, that complex and that easy to drink. The best part of this was how well it complemented my appetizer:
 Amberjack Sashimi with Fennel and Apples
Amberjack is a member of the tuna family, and I find that it has the meaty texture of tuna but the slightly brinier taste of yellowtail - still mild, but with a bit more of a sharp, salty kick. here, it was served with tart apples, sweet fennel, and the subtle bite of chives that made the fish even richer and more luscious. Pairing it with apples was a particularly inspired touch, making the fish seem sweeter and softer than ever. The chardonnay paired beautifully with this dish, refreshing and light. 
Chateauneuf du Pape, La Tiare du Pape, 2008
 Though we also tried an (unpictured) Cote du Rhone, retailing for a very reasonable $15, my favorite wine of the entire luncheon was this Chateauneuf du Pape, La Tiare du Pape, 2008. Produced in France’s Rhone Valley, this wine blew me away. Red wines can often have so many tannins and be incredibly dry. This was only gently tannic, enough to bring out the rich, almost meaty flavors of the wine. If the chardonnay was a sea scallop, this was a small piece of foie gras – intense, full bodied, and leaving me wanting more. At $38, it was the most expensive of the wines we tried, but the taste was simply incredible. I would love this paired with a slightly funky blue cheese, a piece of red meat, or…
Rigatini with Butter, Cream, Parmesan, and White Truffles
I know, you probably think I have had too many white truffles recently. I don’t care what you think. White truffles have a limited season, and as long as they are available, I must eat them every chance I get. Dare I say that this pasta was even better than the ravioli I enjoyed at Locanda Verde? The housemade rigatini was chewy and hearty, bathed in just pure cream, sweet butter, and nutty Parmesan cheese clinging to all its ridges. The truffles on top were the star – meaty, earthy, funky…they were divine. And they blended perfectly with the wine, bringing out the sweeter, lighter notes. 
This luncheon was not only delicious, but eye-opening. I learned how a lot of wines costs have to do with branding, not always taste. Wine does not have to be intimidating, expensive or complicated. Just In this case, not at ALL – the wines I tried are reasonable priced enough for weeknights, with tastes that knocked my socks off. Feisty Foodie and I both swore to run right out and buy the chardonnay, and I will not hesitate to purchase the Chateaunuef du Pape the next time that I crave creamy bone marrow spread on baguettes. 
And best of all, I’m not stupid any more. 
Well, not about wine, anyway. 
Special thanks to Feisty Foodie for inviting me.
*Note: My meal was paid for by Skalli.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*

Comments

  1. Sippity Sup says:

    I can tell from this post that you have more innate wine knowledge than you may even realize. Follow your instincts. GREG

  2. Sarah says:

    You are now a classy wine expert.

  3. JustinM says:

    "Are you chewing gum?"

  4. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Sippity-thanks for the vote of confidence!
    @Sarah-well, I'm a wine expert, anyway… ;)
    @Justin – Next, I'm going to go around getting wasted off all the tasting samples

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