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I cook outside all year round in my Queens backyard, mostly grilling, but lately I've taken to cooking with an old-time Dutch oven nestled in my Weber grill. For an early Saturday supper for a group of friends, I decided on a chicken and potato casserole, enlivened with plenty of fresh mushrooms. The meal called for a deeply flavored red.
Call me biased, but I usually tap one of my favorite tasting beats for such an occasion: a red from Portugal's Douro Valley. I'm also on the hunt for bargains to match with Dutch oven cuisine: The entire main course for eight priced out at about $40. I picked up a bottle from Portugal's largest wine company, Sogrape, the Douro Callabriga 2005, which costs just $16 a bottle. This wine is a blend of three grapes: Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain) Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. The wine was aged about one year in new oak barrels and then bottle aged for a year before release. The 2005 vintage was extremely hot and dry in the Douro and delivered intensely concentrated grapes.
The Douro Callabriga was richly fruity and filled with plenty of dark plum and kirsch flavors, with hints of licorice, all backed by fresh acidity. I rated it 90 points, non-blind, a point higher than when I tasted it blind last fall in our New York office. The additional time in the bottle has rounded it out nicely, and it should hold its own for the next two to four years. It was a great match with my hearty casserole. With 43,000 cases made, there's plenty to go around as well.
Sogrape Douro Callabriga 2005 (89, $16)
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