Jungle Beauty. La Dolce Vita. Diary of Faith. Ice Carnival. Daydream Believer. These are not summer wines, they are daylillies blooming in the summer gardens circling my home.
The Wine Goddess — my wife Mary Lee — has carefully nurtured these dazzling gems for years — some from seedlings that she hybridized herself — and she now has 200 varieties popping out with each new glorious sunrise. The colors, fragrances and textures of these amazing gifts from Mother Nature are incredible.
So, while lounging in the pergola surrounded by this overwhelming beauty, it suddenly occurred to me that I was going to have some fun.
I called down the Wine Goddess from on high (she was reading on the upper patio) and I told her we were going to play a game of wine-daylilly mix-and-match. I’d select a wine and then we’d tour the gardens looking for a perfect flower to pair with the wine’s color.
She was intrigued but not sold on the idea until I gave her total control over the selection of each daylilly.
I then produced four elegant wines — two Cotes de Provence rosés from France and two Chardonnays (Italy, Chile) — iced down in a cooler to a chilly 51 degrees. Then, one glass at a time, we went a traipsing through the gardens, starting in the front of the house, then along the side the driveway, and wending our way around the U-shaped backyard.
Of course, what I thought would be a simple 30-minute romp — leaving me the enviable job of sipping wine while she mixed and matched — turned out to be a 90-minute educational adventure with the Wine Goddess. She knows her stuff. In the end, these wonderful, complex creations didn’t make it easy for us. Their colors are brilliant and exacting, like Monet’s masterpieces. Oftentimes we hit on a pairing and then landed deeper into the gardens where we found a better match, requiring us re-evaluate. I was patient and kept sipping the wine.
So, the photos accompanying this column represent our best wine-daylilly combinations. I hope you find them delightful forviewing and drinking pleasure.
Not to be outdone, however, are these equally beautiful wines which I have reviewed:
* “UP” of Urban Provence Rose 2017, $24 — The Ultimate Provence Estate where this rose is crafted is located on the outskirts of trendy St. Tropez, the playground for the rich and famous. Well, you don’t have to own your own jet to enjoy this fabulous creation which comes in a stunning glass-ribbed luminous bottle. The shiny pink color features a cool streak of rose petal highlights, making it appear a shade more golden in the sunlight. This would be a sensational color for a debutante ball gown. On the palate, dry, tart cherry and strawberry rhubarb pie flavors deliver appealing coolnes. There’s mild touch of pepper as you swallow, which makes for a good final impression. The grapes are Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Syrah and Rolle. This rose has style and grace written all over it – surely a marketing campaign to attract millennials. Order it online for the best price as it is not widely distributed in Massachusetts.
Chateau Berne “Inspiration” Cotes de Provence 2017, $19.99 —Provence has created the global market for stunning rose wines, and this is an exemplary standard bearer. The color is pale pastel pink and it comes in a stylish, glamorous glass bottle that is fit for the most lavish wedding party or special occasion. The winemaker boasts that Inspiration is an “exquisite dry wine first and a rose second.” That’s a stretch, but I can concur with the partisan assessment of Inspiration’s overall high quality. The Grenache-Cinsault-Syrah blend is delicate and red-fruit flavorful on the palate. Each sips ends with a crisp, clean, mineral finish of tart strawberry. Inspiration is a darling of professional wine reviewers (Wine Advocate, 90 points; Wine Enthusiast, 91 points). New Hampshire wine outlets have it on sale for $2 off the $21.99 suggested retail price.
Elio Grasso ‘Educato’ Chardonnay 2016, Piemonte, $28 – Gianluca Grasso, who has taken over primary winemaking roles for his father Elio, introduced this wine in May at Vino Italiano in Waltham. It is impeccably crafted with non-native grapes produced from 30-year-old vines tucked into a corner of the Grasso estate, which is famously known for its Barbera, Barolo, and Dolcetto red wines. The goal, said Gianluca, is to let the Chardonnay express itself with little, if any manipulation from the winemaker. “Educato” refers to the education the grapes receive from nurturing themselves in the sandy, limestone-based soil of the hillside vineyards. Initial fermentation takes place in steel tanks and followed up with time in French oak barriques. Flavors are rich in lemon and yellow apple, and it finishes with a touch of salinity that sharpens the palate. The texture falls delicately on the side of creamy. The first vintage appeared in 1990 and nearly two decades later, Educato is graduating to a whole new level of refinement.
Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2016, Chile, $17 – This wine is part of the popular Serie Riberas (Riverbank Series), and it is produced in the Ucuquer Vineyard, located along the banks of the Rapel River in the Colchagua Valley. It’s hot here in the Andes Mountains, but cool night-time breezes from the Pacific Ocean protect the grapes from over-ripening. The bottle is tinted to reflect the wine’s greenish hue and fresh-fruit notes. While the must is decanted in steel tanks, the wine ferments in mostly older French oak barrels before aging for nine months in the same wood. The process gives the Gran Reserva a subtle toasty hazelnut note to go along with mango and pineapple. It’s full bodied and creamy. Gran Reserva Chardonnay is a fine every day patio sipper. Watch for this to go on sale at summer’s end and snap it up.