Oysters and beer. Rice and beans. Sam and Dave. As with all great pairings, wine and cheese deliver something greater than the sum of their parts. Brix Nouveau focuses on wine and cheese and its mission, according to manager Rosabelle Gorman, is to entice people to experience new and unusual wines in a relaxed, non-inhibiting atmosphere. There is not a wine offered here that Gorman is not proud to serve, so there are no disappointments. There are no bottom-of-the-budget wines. All are meant to be the main feature of your visit. You also will not see any $500 prestige labels, but a world tour of fine wines that will surprise and intrigue you. Prices range from $24 to $109 a bottle (most are under $60), and many are available by the glass.
• Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs Brut, Jura, France. This Champagne-method sparkling wine is made in the Jura mountain district of France. It is made of all white grapes, namely colombard, ugny blanc and chardonnay. Its color is pale gold, with tiny bubbles and a nose of flowers and citrus. In the mouth it is peaches, cream, apples with lemon and, of course, plenty of effervescence. This is a smart alternative to comparable Champagne at a fraction of the cost.
• Stock and Stein Spatburgunder Trocken Rose 2011, Qualitatswein (QbA) Rheingau Germany. This wine is made bone-dry, slightly effervescent, slightly rose in color, with minerals, citrus and wild berries on the nose, and lemon and Granny-Smith apples in the mouth, but with a full fleshy mouth feel. Spatburgunder, by the way, is the less-than-charming German word for pinot noir.
• Black Dog Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast California. This wine exhibits everything California-wine lovers love about California chardonnay, and everything Europeans hate about California: This wine is the equivalent of turning your music system all the way up with the volume, bass, middle and treble all on “10.” It is a mouth-explosion: It is oak, butter, pears, caramel, almonds and cream, with a less-than-modest alcohol content of 14.7 percent. If chardonnay is indeed all about the winemaker, this winemaker does summersaults for attention.
• Mouton Noir “Other People’s Pinot” 2011, Willamette Valley Oregon. More reminiscent of Burgundy than the west coast, this is a light bodied, delicate wine. Purple and young, it exhibits minerals and cherry aromas on the nose, and clean, ripe fruit, with black cherries and a velvety burgundy feel on the mouth. This wine is as delicate and understated as the Black Dog is bold. It would be a great introduction to red wine for someone who might not think he or she likes red wine.
• Melville “Estate-Verna’s” Syrah 2010, Santa Barbara County California. This winemaker also wants to make a solid first impression. This syrah does not copy its old-world cousins in the Rhone valley nor emulate its bad relations in Australia. It tastes like California, where they turn both the volume and the graphic equalizer up a notch. The nose is full of black plums, anise and fennel, berries; in the mouth are spices, black pepper, dark silky, jammy fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and a curious dose of roasted tomato on the long ripe finish. This winemaker uses 50 percent whole grape clusters, stems and all, and ages the wine in neutral 10-year-old French oak. The clusters mean there will be some stem flavor, and the 10-year-old oak means that only very subtle wood flavor is leaching from the cooperage.
• Chateau Jean Faux 2007 Bordeaux Superieur, France. They saved the best for last. Greater than the sum of its parts: 80 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Franc. If you had offered this to me blind as a classified Saint-Emilion I would have believed you: Rich purple inky color, mint, chocolate, tea and herbs, raspberry and blackberry fruit on the nose, silky smooth, fleshy and soft in the mouth, long finish of all of those things, and smoke and tobacco. It contains a textbook 13.5 percent alcohol content. This is an outstanding wine from a Bordeaux vintage that was inconsistent at best. It is ready to drink now, but could stand five more years if you cared to lay it down.
Spring has sprung, and Brix has a nice café-patio which is waiting for you to enjoy. April will be a great month at Brix Nouveau, and I look forward to seeing you there.