Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kind Hearts and Clarets

For Valentine's Day we ordered a bottle of Basel Cellars Claret - 2002, while dining at one of my favorite local restaurants, The Homestead. We were on a Claret theme after tasting an excellent one from Robert Karl Winery in Spokane.

What is a Claret? It's a term that traditionally refers to red wine from the Bordeaux region of France, but the name has no official, legal definition and is often used as a generic term to refer to dry red wines. It derives from "clairet," the name for a certain type of light red wine that was exported from Bordeaux in the Middle Ages and became quite popular in England. The wine, because of its light color, was known as "vinum clarum," "bin clar" or "clairet." It bore little resemblance to the wines that are characteristic of Bordeaux today--but the name endures, especially for many New World wines looking for alternative names instead of "Bordeaux-style" and the licensed "Meritage" name.

The Basel Cellars Claret is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and all of these traditional Bordeaux-style varietals are from Walla Walla Valley Vineyards such as Pheasant Run, Pepper Bridge, Spofford Station and Waliser Farms. It was a fairly aromatic wine with red and black fruits - full of plum taste. Tannins were very mild and yet the sweetness from the oak really came through. It came through so much that we questioned if there may have been a tad bit of residual sugar hanging around.

It was a well rounded wine, but we felt we may have paired it with the wrong food choice. We dined on Steak Oscar, a filet topped with Oregon Dungeness crab and a Bernaise sauce. Perhaps it would pair better with lamb, duck or even a sweet tomato-basil sauce over pasta. What it did pair wonderful with was our dessert. We shared a heart shaped chocolate fudge torte with a raspberry coulee. The pluminess of the wine matched beautifully with the dark chocolate and raspberry flavors.

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