What: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2008, Napa Valley
Stolpman Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Santa Ynez Valley
It’s really fun to celebrate when you don’t have anything in particular to celebrate. My wife Teri and I celebrated life one night recently and decided to do so with some special wines with a great dinner.
We like to do that occasionally to remind ourselves how fortunate we are.
This night we started with jumbo shrimp for a shrimp cocktail and herbed olive oil for dipping crusty French bread. That was accompanied by the Stolpman Sauvignon Blanc. Wow! What a matchup.
The wine was crisp and creamy, with tastes of tropical fruit and melons. It really left the taste buds tingling, waiting for another bite of shrimp and spicy sauce. It was an outstanding way to start a meal.
After finishing the appetizer and Sauvignon Blanc, we headed to the main course: coldwater lobster tails. I split the tails and pulled the meat out through the slit and broiled it while it sat on top of the shell. I spritzed it with lemon juice and sprinkled a little paprika on it to make it look nicer. We also had baked potatoes.
The matching wine was even better than the Stolpmann: Grgich Hills Chardonnay. (It’s pronounced Grrr-gitch.) It is a perfect lobster wine. Smooth, creamy, with citrus and apple notes and good acidity, it offered a nice balance to the succulent lobster meat dunked in butter. There also were some nice mineral notes in the wine.
Some people worry about drinking a white wine that is four years old, but this wine was superb. The winery suggests this Chardonnay will reach its peak at 7-10 years, so there is still plenty of life left in it.
Details on the wines and wineries:
The Grgich Hills Chardonnay has a great back story. It can lay claim to being a descendent of what was proclaimed the greatest white wine in the world.
Winery owner Miljenko “Mike” Grgich gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. He was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena and brought his 1973 Chardonnay to the competition.
An eminent group of mostly French wine judges blind tasted French and American wines. When the scores came in Grgich’s Chateau Montelena was proclaimed the best white wine in the world. Imagine the embarrassment of the judges, who at that time thought there was no other wine besides French wines. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon also won the red competition.
If you want to see a great movie about this episode, rent “Bottle Shock.” It is riveting. Better yet, drink a good California wine while you’re watching.
The results put California on the world’s wine map, and served notice that great wines could be produced there.
A year after the competition Grgich and a member of the Hills Brothers coffee family founded Grgich Hills. They produce outstanding wines and have a welcoming tasting room. When I was there for harvest last year they were offering the public a chance to stomp grapes in a vat outside the winery. Having visions of the “I Love Lucy” episode, I declined.
I bought the wine when I visited the winery, and I think I paid slightly under $40 a bottle.
The Stolpman is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara. It is fermented in the classic Loire Valley style, with 90% stainless steel fermentation and 10% barrel fermentation.
Tom and Marilyn Stolpman founded the winery in 1990, building on Marilyn’s dream of an “investment we can enjoy.” Stolpman Vineyards sold its grapes to other wineries until 1997, when it began producing its own wines.
Experimentation with dry farming and high-density plantings increased the quality of the fruit. The winery specializes in Syrah, Roussanne, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc with limited plantings of Grenache, Viognier, Petite Sirah, and Chardonnay, which serve as blending grapes. They also practice organic farming.
I bought this wine from Wine Access, which sells wine online at a discount. I think I paid about $20 for it.