Thursday, May 21, 2009

This post is brought to you by the letter "Y"

That's right — it's your old pal TwoBusy, back for another exercise in suck. "But why," you ask. "Why would he do such a thing? Why, Santy Claus, why?" A reasonable question, my young Who friend. And I shall answer it thusly:
  1. Because blogmistress Mrs. Big Dubya failed to break me off at the knees when I tried this last time. This'll learn her.
  2. Because nobody else has bothered to fulfill the demands of this month's assignment. (That's right. Nobody. I'm looking at you... and you... and you.)
  3. Because we happened to drink a bottle last night that met this month's requirements.
  4. Because I haven't thought of anything to write for DadCentric this week. (Speaking of unfulfilled obligations.) But hey: don't let that stop you from heading over there! Here... read what this old guy had to say!
And that's why I'm here. Sitting on the other side of your screen. Staring at you. Always, always watching.

Um. What I meant to say was: we drank a bottle that meets the May requirements — less than $15/bottle, and appropriate for grilling. And now I'm gonna talk about it! The it, in this case, is a bottle of Australian white with the horrifyingly long name of Yalumba Unwooded Chardonnay "The Y Series" 2007. That's about six words too long, if you ask me, but nevertheless that's what's on the label.

Yalumba is - per their promotional materials - Australia's oldest family-owned winery. Which is cool. I've actually been familiar with them since the dawn of time and/or the moment when I first began to explore the world of wine and discover that it was, in fact, a potentially pleasurable pursuit even for an uncultured simp (not chimp, mind you) like me. To be specific: the Boston Wine Expo of 1995. If you've been to the Boston Wine Expo at any point in the past seven or eight years, you know what an overcrowded logistical nightmare it's become... but back in '95, when I was but a pup, it was a completely different experience.

I went at the behest of one of my roommates at the time, and brought along TheGirlfriend (who would subsequently become TheWife) for laughs... none of us knew jack about wine, but we'd heard second-hand that you paid an entrance fee, walked around, drank a bunch of stuff, and generally had a great time. Given that there's not a whole lot else to do in Boston in mid-February when you're two years out of college and living off of a luxurious $24k/year in salary, we decided to give it a go.

What a great decision that turned out to be. There were plenty of distributors and wineries there, eager to share their wares with connoisseurs, restaurateurs and feckless simpletons like us. And to be truthful, it wasn't an impressive crowd — we had the full run of the place, and weren't shy about stopping at every booth to sample a glass of this, a sip of that, a snort of something else. To be clear... we got pretty sauced. But even as we sauced like sauciers, we also found ourselves discovering that we actually had preferences: there were some things we enjoyed more than others, and some specific wine styles we were enjoying consistently from booth to booth.

It was a great experience, but my fondest memory of the whole thing is the Yalumba booth. I know they had some reds and whites, but what really made an impression on me was their Tawny Port – from my first sip, I was hooked. It was beyond delicious: just a sumptuous, rich, throat-coating and belly-warming glass of amber wonderful. I couldn't believe how good it tasted, and felt compelled to prove and re-prove to myself how good it was by visiting and revisiting the table multiple times.

When we finally stumbled... I mean, walked... out of the old World Trade Center in Southie and into a February snowstorm, there were two things I knew: 1) we needed to hail a cab; and 2) I needed to find and buy a bottle of Yalumba Tawny Port.

So. That was 1995. Now, it's 2009 and I'm ancient, decrepit, and far more well-versed in the ways of wine. Still, when TheWife and I stopped by our favorite wine shop in Boston's majestic MetroWest last weekend, and the owner suggested we take a look at a few of the cheaper bottles he had on display - all of which, he claimed, were far better than the price suggested - my eye was immediately caught by the Yalumba name. Granted, I've had a few of their wines over the years (to varying levels of good and indifferent), but when I saw the bottle of Chardonnay for $12 even... I had to give it a try.

Which leads us to last night. As a quick dinner, I grilled up some chorizo, cut a whole slew of slices off a block of Vermont cheddar, threw a ton of fresh strawberries and raspberries into a bowl... and pulled this Yalumba Chard out of the fridge.

I have to take a moment here to offer a disclaimer: we're not Chardonnay drinkers. As I noted in last week's award-winning Whinery post, we're not really white wine drinkers at all... but Chardonnay, in particular, has always been something we've made a point of avoiding. Why? Because Chardonnay is what you always get when you go to catered events and there are waitstaff walking around offering you wine, and your choices are reduced to "Red or white?" And the white is almost always a Chardonnay. And it's always bland. Just... dull. Lifeless. Boring. A semi-chilled alcohol delivery system, and nothing more.

Granted, we've had a few high-end Chards that were pretty amazing - Grgich Hills leaps to mind as one example - but whenever we've picked one up with a price in the teens or even low twenties... it's served as a reminder of why we avoid Chardonnay in the first place. In short, we'd come to the conclusion that in order to get a good one, you had to drop a bundle. And for us, it just wasn't worth it.

With this in mind, we opened and poured the Yalumba with a little apprehension. The good part, of course, was that if it sucked or had little/no flavor at all, we were only out $12. The bad part was that we had nothing else chilled and ready to roll if this was a flop.

Good news: not a flop. I won't go to the extent of claiming that the Yalumba Y Series Chardonnay was anything close to a match for a true, high-end Chardonnay... but it had legitimate flavor and character. The back label goes into all kinds of absurd levels of detail in describing what we were supposed to be tasting - " aromas of melon, grapefruit and honey... fresh tropical fruit flavours of peach, pineapple and fig give this wine texture and palate weight" - but to be honest, I wouldn't recognize a fig outside of its natural newton habitat if one came up and bit me, so I can't truthfully say whether or not I pulled any of those specific flavours (to adopt the Aussie idiom) from my glass.

But. It was a decent bottle. There were legit fruit overtones to the wine, and what's more it offered a sense of subtlety and layering that I've never before tasted in a cheaper Chardonnay. I actually - to my surprise - found myself enjoying it. Does that mean I'll be foresaking my beloved NZ Sauv Blancs in favor of the Yalumba Y Series Chardonnay? Nope. For a couple of extra bucks, I can still pick up an Allan Scott Sauv Blanc that will blow this Chard out of the water. But that being said, I wouldn't be opposed to picking this up again. And if you've got more of a taste for Chardonnay than I do, I'd say it's well worth checking out.


Mrs Big Dubya said...

Well done, well done!


Marla said...

Oh My, so much to say about whine, er can you ever decipher all the subtle nuances. Personally I much prefer a sancere or better yet a white burgundy, however it is so subjective isn't it?