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Wine with words 

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Time Warner struck again the other day. I’ve been having problems, but this was a neighborhood-wide outage, taking with it the land line (no biggie), the computer (much more of an issue) and, of course, the TV. Which meant no CSI, no Law and Order SVU, no Criminal Minds, Zombieland, or Warehouse 13. What’s a guy to do?

Oh, what about read a book? Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table, a collection of essays from the New York Times assembled by The Gray Lady’s Amanda Hesser, had been sitting on top of a pile against just such an emergency, so I decided to dig in. Like a good small-plates menu, the pieces are largely bite-sized and range from one chef’s misguided attempt to hire a blind cook to a Chinese woman’s meditations on love and Tang (the drink, not a dynasty), and a wistful paean to a fish looking back at a poet from a plate. Recipes are appended to the end of most contributions, savory morsels all.

But since I was making an occasion out of adversity, it seemed a shame not to accompany my literary feast with a glass or two of wine — but what wine would go with such a diversity of tastes? Of course: pinot noir, the universal restaurant fall-back for those occasions when one party is having salmon and the other scaloppini. As fate would have it, I had just purchased a bottle of 2008 Puelche Reserva Pinot Noir Nequen (around $15), a wine from Argentina’s southernmost (hence coldest) wine-making region, Patagonia.

Patagonia is new wine country, with most development occurring in the last dozen years or so. La Bodega del fin del Mundo (love the “end of the world” play) is one of the first wineries to make a name for itself in this wildly beautiful Andean region still looking for its signature. But if the Puelche is at all typical — and more research will be required — then pinot noir has surely found a new home. I loved this wine.

The infatuation began with its brilliant ruby color and only intensified with the equally brilliant nose, opening with slightly candied cherry, then taming down but adding spice in the process. On the palate, the entry was also slightly sweet at first, but the sweetness was buoyed with beautiful cherry fruit and a lively jolt of acidity. There was none of the mushroomy barnyard quality of a good Burgundy, nor did the wine have a plush fruit of, say, a Willamette Valley vineyard’s typical product, but it was nonetheless pinot at its supple and seductive best.

Though I didn’t do so, I might also have pressed a new-to-me riesling into service. Riesling is a wine that’s at least as flexible as pinot, if not more so, and the 2010 Leitz Eins Zwei Dry Riesling Trocken Rheingau (about $18) proved the point admirably when sampled later. Whiffs of tropical fruit and white flowers combined with mineral and talc beguile at the beginning, and sharp acid, citrus, green apple, quince (I’m bound to get one of them right if I mention several) and a little more mineral continue the attack on the palate. This would be great with shrimp, chicken, veal in lemon butter, spicy foods of all kinds… or yet another collection of literary tidbits. Don’t wait for an outage.


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