The Good Life on a Shoestring

Like most people, I spend the cold months eating richer foods and drinking heavier wines. And while I’m a huge fan of stick-to-your-ribs comfort dishes and all those heavy reds that pair so perfectly with them, there’s only so much my liver and I can take. High-octane wines have their place, but I just don’t enjoy them when the mercury starts to climb.

Which is why now is the perfect time to head on over to the state store or wine shop and stock up on pinot noir. For the money, there’s just nothing better this time of year. It’s light-bodied and somehow refreshing, it has higher acid levels and lower tannins than most other reds and its alcohol tends to be moderate, perfect in this blissfully warm weather we’re finally enjoying.

Its flavors are nothing short of extraordinary. Whereas so much of the wine people drink these days is all about the fruit and the alcohol-anything made by Yellow Tail, for example-good pinot noir tastes like nothing so much as red berries, mushrooms, damp earth and maybe even the faintest hint of rose petals. It’s more subtle than obvious, more flirtatious than easy – Ingrid Bergman, perhaps, as opposed to Marilyn Monroe.

The problem is that good pinot noir tends to be expensive. Although you can find a great bottle of most wine for around $10, a decent pinot will set you back $20 and often more. But don’t feel as if you’re being taken for a ride: Pinot noir is more expensive because the grapes are a headache to grow and the process of turning them into wine is fraught with risk and difficulty. The good news, though, is that a great bottle of pinot can be nothing short of life changing. And you can’t put a price tag on that.

If you’re in the market for a life-changing wine experience, you’re in luck. Brasserie Perrier will be hosting a wine dinner on May 8th, which will feature one of the best wine producers in the country, Flowers. Five of their wines, including two fabulous pinots, will be paired with five courses created by executive chef Chris Scarduzio. It’s $140 and well worth the money.

Then there’s the Philadelphia Wine Festival this Friday, where for $125 you’ll be able to taste more fabulous wine than you ever thought possible. As for the pinot noir that’ll be poured, look for the 2005 Felton Road (New Zealand), the 2002 Iron Horse (California) and the 2004 Argyle Reserve (Oregon). They are not only delicious, but they won’t burn a hole in your wallet if you chose to pick up a case or three.

Just make sure you chill down your bottle of pinot to 60 or 65 degrees – a quick stint in the fridge should do the trick. It’ll taste brighter, fresher and a whole lot more exciting than if you drank it at room temperature. And while you’re waiting for it to cool down, toss a few lamb chops on the grill (grill-pan if you live in an apartment) or run to the store and grab a few roasted chickens. Then open the bottle, dig in and wait for your life to change.

AroundPhilly Staff

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