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Late August, to me, means Jersey tomatoes—the kind we picked sun-warmed from my family's backyard when I was a kid, juicy and full enough of flavor to stand on their own drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. As I don't have a yard now, I depend on a local farm's annual tomato festival to get my fill. Despite the rainy summer and tomato blight that hindered this season, Catalpa Ridge Farm managed to put forth about 25 varieties for its tasting.
Walking away with 10 pounds worth, I enthusiastically plotted a variety of end-of-summer meals. I started off with a cold tomato and melon gazpacho (a recipe from Mark Bittman), using sweet-tasting Celebrity hybrid tomatoes and cantaloupe. Sauvignon Blanc is often a good pairing for tomatoes, so I pulled out a 2008 Fetzer Sauvignon Blanc that I'd bought for $7 to check out the sustainability pioneer's new light-weight bottle design, which uses 17 percent less glass.
My husband, who equates Fetzer with his college years working at restaurants pouring its inexpensive white Zinfandel, looked at my choice quizzically until the first whiff of lemon, melon and mown grass drying in the sun. The Sauvignon Blanc's tangy citrus and herbal flavors made a straightforward pairing with our entrée of shrimp with lemongrass, finishing clean and smooth. But the creamy texture of the tomato-cantaloupe soup brought out the best in the wine, making it feel rounder and accenting its melon character. I gave it 84 points, non-blind, and my husband was happy he gave the brand another try.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Fetzer Sauvignon Blanc California Valley Oaks 2008 (83, $9), plus see the 2008 Chardonnay that earned our Best Value designation.
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