The headline on The New York Times wine column earlier this year read "To Study Wine, Buy and Drink." The author, Eric Asimov, suggested the best way to learn about wine is to drink it, as opposed to reading a book or taking a class.
More specifically, Asimov recommended taking home a mixed case incorporating a variety of wines — six whites, six reds. The plan: Just drink them and find out what really appeals to you.
Two New York wine shops came up with mixed cases for the column, but as you might expect from an East Coast situation, most of the wines were European. So the thought occurred to me: Why not come up with a mixed case of Southern Oregon wines?
With an eye toward variety and including as many local labels as possible, here goes:
- Chardonnay. There are a number of good ones out there, but my first choice would be Valley View's Anna Maria Chardonnay. It has a special zing to it. You could also try LongSword.
- Viognier. This varietal is a relative newcomer in the area. I'd give a nod to Daisy Creek Viognier, with Devitt a close second.
- Pinot gris. RoxyAnn's is consistently good, also Del Rio.
- Gewurztraminer. Foris would be my choice, and it's priced in the $10 range.
- Riesling. Not many local wineries make riesling or sauvignon blanc. One that you do find is Bridgeview's Blue Moon Riesling (in the blue bottle). It's popular and under $10.
There are several possibilities for the remaining slot. A white blend like Troon's River Guide White or Foris Flyover White would work. Or you could branch out into sparkling wine with one of John Michael Champagne Cellars' releases or dessert wine with Madrone Mountain's Late Harvest Gewurztraminer.
- Cabernet sauvignon. To offset the $15-$25 cost of some of the recommended wines for this project, I'd go with Valley View's regular Cabernet (not Anna Maria), a good wine for its $10-$12 tariff.
- Merlot. Choices abound, since many of the locals make this varietal. I'd pick Weisinger's, Daisy Creek, Del Rio, Slagle Creek or Rosella's
- Syrah. A good selection would be Cliff Creek, an award winner.
- Pinot noir. The Academy of Wine makes a superior one, also EdenVale.
- Claret. RoxyAnn, Weisinger's, Del Rio, Fiasco and Valley View are strong candidates.
Other red blends. Again, choices abound, like Paschal Quartet, Weisinger's Petite Pompadour and Schmidt Family Vineyards Soulea. To keep costs down, you could select Bridgeview's Cabernet-Merlot or Troon's Druid's Fluid.
One drawback to this suggested project is that you aren't likely to find all of the above wines under one roof. Many Valley View, Bridgeview, Foris and some Troon wines can be found at supermarkets. For the others, try a wine shop or visit the winery.
Overall, the idea is just to have some fun and support the local wine industry, too.
WHEN I PERUSE A RESTAURANT wine list, I usually look for four things:
1. Does it feature some Southern Oregon wines?
2. Does it also offer a respectable selection of other Northwest wines — good labels from Oregon and Washington?
3. Are many of the wines available by the glass?
4. Are at least some of them listed at what most of us would consider affordable prices?
McGrath's of Medford is weak on No. 1, but strong on both No. 2 and No. 3, and does pretty well on No. 4. Of the 37 wines on the list, 29 can be ordered by the glass. Griffin Creek and Bridgeview are the lone locals represented, but other Northwest labels abound, like Hogue, King Estate, 14 Hands, Willamette Valley, Columbia and Erath. And there are good choices in the $4.50-$5.75 per glass range.
I sipped some Eola Hills Chardonnay ($5.75) followed by Snoqualmie Cabernet-Merlot ($5.50).
Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com.