Saturday, I stopped by Famous Liquors on Madison in Forest Park, and ran into one of my favorite sommeliers and fellow unemployed writer, Jim Matthews, who had an array of wines he was offering as part of the regular weekend tasting.
I had a few, but the one I liked best was the first I sampled: Penascal, Sauvignon blanc, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, 2001.
Now, as an aside, The Wife has been in Salamanca, Spain, for several weeks (detained, I suspect, by a matador by the name of Don Pepe; unconfirmed) and the wine actually brought me closer to her, psychologically, without the obvious inconvenience of actually being in the same room together. But back to the wine
Bodying forth an indescribable reverberation of riojas I had in the late 70s, Penascal is one helluva a wine value. I just had it with barbecued pork steaks (Moo & Oink for $1.69/pound), but Im sure it would go equally well with chicken, salmon, or some smoky cheddar or Swiss. The finish is very clean, and it would probably also be an excellent counterpoint to fresh oysters or other bivalves, though with The Wife out-of-town, I suppose its best not to mess with those. Penascal is also slightly slatey, very grapefruity, and with the remarkable ability to provoke a puckering dryness while at the same time stimulating the tongues sweet spots. It may be the perfect summer wine for me guests who like a sweeter wine will not be overwhelmed , and those who prefer it dryer will get what they want, too.
The punchline: its $4.99. Just finding a wine this good (hell, finding a wine thats drinkable) at this price point is a miracle sufficient to meet a Spanish saints canonization criteria. Mere mortals (and by that, I do not mean guys like Al) will have a hard time finding a wine this good at that price or even three times the price.
I took home a case, and Ive got four chilling right now for unexpected guests. Stop by I think Im supposed to be in mourning.