“What wine do you serve a winemaker?” Yarden Blanc de Blancs 2009

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The day began like any other, with Sonja sending me a photograph of Titus being cute in the morning. He makes me wonder if all toddlers are bipolar; only a few hours later, at home, he was screaming at the top of his lungs in a shrill, almost demonic tone, because he did not want the apricots I had given Sonja to bribe him into the tub with. I guess that will teach me to chain him down and force-feed him fruit. Mea culpa.

“Luis Robledo is coming to dinner!” I told Sonja excitedly and, when her facial expressions did not dramatically shift, I repeated “Luis Robledo!” with further emphasis. “You know these wine people are only celebrities to you, right?” came her reply. Nevertheless, I knew Sonja was excited to see Luis, even if she wasn’t going to get all fan-girl about it. The last time either of us saw Luis was on our honeymoon at his winery, and the bottle of Tempranillo he signed for us, though long ago imbibed, still sits in a place of prominence in our china hutch, a fond memory every time we look upon it.

Luis’s visit did present a slight problem to me, however. He was coming to Nebraska for the first time, so naturally I had to make steak. Steak is what we do here. But normally when winemakers visit I pour beer or make cocktails for two reasons: first, because often they are sick of wine, and second, because when I have someone here who makes world class wines, it’s difficult to pour them something that they’re going to be impressed by. They’re always polite, but I’ve found beer to be a better go to. That said, I was not about to pair my filets with a tallboy of Coors Light last night, so I had to get a little creative.

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Luis arrived and I threw the steaks on. We started talking — Luis is so easy to talk to, and such a passionate person, and I poured us some sparkling wine to toast the reunion. The wine I had finally selected was Yarden, from Galilee in Israel. Their Blanc de Blancs 2009 is a killer wine and a great value, and I thought it likely that my Sonoma-based friend had not had a tremendous amount of experience with Israeli wine. I was introduced to Yarden by my friend and fellow wine writer, Odedi, and I’m now a huge fan of the producer — so much so that we’re in the process of bringing their portfolio into Nebraska. Watch for it soon!

 

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As I mentioned, the 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blancs is a great wine at a great value. Light in color with little darkening despite nearly a decade in bottle, the bubbles are persistent while the brut nature of the wine keeps it light and refreshing. A hint of stone fruit plays behind notes of creamy brie. I’d pour this one every night and be pleased to do it.

Dinner consisted of steaks, mushrooms and onions, asparagus, and Sonja’s potatoes, which were excellent. I got the steaks to everyone’s liking — which I don’t always, and the conversation continued. We paired the steak with another Yarden wine, a Cab Sauv 2014. I decanted it for a full hour, and the smooth nature of it, combined with beautiful notes of cedar and rich purple and black fruits, reminded me of the first time I tried this wine a few months back in Florida. Another tremendous value, it punctuates the quality of the  Yarden lineup and goes brilliantly with red meat. Best of all, Luis, whose family makes some of the best wine in California in my opinion, truly seemed to enjoy it. Phew! Now I know what wine to serve a winemaker.

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After dinner, Luis was exhausted and left shortly after we put the kids to bed. It was beautiful outside, so Sonja and I stepped out onto the front porch with a bottle of rose’ from Galil Mountain in Galilee, a sister brand to Yarden. My first Israeli rose’ ever, it did not disappoint, the beautiful vibrant color being somewhat offset by a very restrained yet flavorful take on rose’ wine. Again, I’d pour this nightly and be happy to do it.

As I wrap up here and get ready to go to the gym, I hope that my beautiful wife, still slumbering upstairs, will send my pictures of our amazing kids this morning. I wonder what will make Titus giggle uncontrollably today, and what will set him off. I know Zooey will grow into this state soon, and I wonder if I’ll respond differently to her, my daughter, than I do my son, when she is irrational and angry. I seem to have more patience for her tantrums for some reason. I also wonder when Titus will grow out of this; I know he’s bound to, but honestly I hope it isn’t soon. Every stage in their development has been a pleasure to be part of. Bipolar or not, their lives enrich my own a great deal.

Cheers to all of the stages of life,

Mark

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