I am by no means a wine afficionado; no sommelier am I. But I do like to think of myself as a rather avid appreciator, an enthusiast even. I have a moderately sharp palate, far from perfect. More than anything, I know that the best way to understand wine is to keep tasting it. So when I recently learned of Mankas Hills Vineyards offer to send a free bottle of their Amelie 2004 Cabernet-Merlot to anyone in the US with a blog, how could I resist? Now, you are not obliged to post anything about the wine, but come on. Like you can shut me up about such things.
Now, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a wine from Suisun Valley, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by wines that have come from what I would have considered to be unlikely locations, and Suisun is not so unlikely at all, adjacent to Napa as it is.
Best of all, it was waiting for us upon our return from Mexico, sitting demurely on the stairway between the second and third floors of our building, its nondescript white box hiding its boozy secret. Last day of vacation rules. Perfect!
And so we cracked open our bottle of Amelie and paired it with, what else, delivery pizza (from Noe Valley Pizza, of course). With the caveat that my palate was perhaps far from its most refined,
having just been sick for a few days and then on a plane for several
hours, my musings forthwith:
Color: Ruby tinged with brown, reminiscent of many Italian wines, albeit without the tendency toward amber/orange on the edges. Dense, fading almost to black at the bottom of the glass.
Bouquet: Big, bright cherry and dark berry notes, finishing with an almost minty or eucalyptus-like note, not unpleasantly. But it’s a bit hot — rather high-alcohol. After that burned off a bit, it mellowed out considerably.
Palate: Smooth mouthfeel, no doubt driven by the merlot. The tannins were still there and obviously substantial enough to give the wine some structure, but it didn’t have that tooth-sweatering effect of a big, chewy cab. The flavor and the bouquet hewed very close to each other, with strong berry flavor, trailing off to a bit of tobacco, which worked rather well with that eucalyptus note. Not a huge finish, but satisfying and definitely drinkable.
Pairability: Well, it went just fine with pizza, but it could easily stand up to big meat. I think lamb would be especially nice — again, that eucalyptus thing — but even pork with a nice fruity sauce would do well.
Would I buy it? At $15, sure, why not. If I were John at Quaffability, I would rate this wine a solid 100 — even price-to-quality ratio.