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Majella’s sparkling shiraz & taxes: perfect for a picnic

June 20, 2008

I have to admit, right here, right now, that I have yet to finish our 2007 taxes. I am stalling even now as I write! (Think rebate, think rebate, think rebate…)

But we’re making progress! In fact, thanks to Annie, we should have all of our numbers squared away in their little boxes by Monday when Charles will help us use his Turbo Tax program.

And so, to say thanks to Annie, to celebrate the near completion of our taxes, and because it’s a beautiful, shimmery solstice eve here on the California coast, we popped the cork on a bottle of 2004 Majella sparkling shiraz.

What in the world is a sparkling shiraz, you ask?

Until a few months ago, that was my question too. A red sparkling wine? Good? At the idea, at the very suggestion, my mind immediately flew back in time to my high school prom, and having my date pop the plastic cork of the cold duck–red sparkling wine spilled all over my cream colored dress. We left the beach for a nearby McDonald’s where I washed my dress in the sink and used the hand dryer to dry it off enough for us to head to the prom just in time to get our pictures taken. (If I had a scanner, I would post the picture!)

The suggestion to try a sparkling shiraz came to me at the Grateful Palate Warehouse sale last April, and I thought I might as well give it a go. I bought two bottles, one by Trevor Jones (?) and one by Majella. The first we tried right after we bought it–I was just too curious and we had friends coming over for a tritip barbeque and I thought it would be fun. With serious trepidation, I let the cork fly to the delight of the gathered children, and poured. I hesitated at first, but Borbala and the Big Monkey went for it and came up for air with big, surprised smiles on their faces. “This is good, really good!” said Borbala happily. It’s bright, cheerful, bubbly nature was a perfect cheerleader for our evening BBQ on the deck, with the candles lit, and the evening coming in.

So when Annie offered to come over and run tape on some numbers for my taxes, I put the Majella in the frig and told the Big Monkey to pick up a larger piece of fresh wild Alaskan sockeye salmon at the store. Once we had the numbers done, I grabbed some glasses and the bottle, unwrapped the foil, and carefully carefully eased the cork cork out of the bottle. Eerie fog escaped out of the top of the dark bottle, and I gently poured the deep ruby liquid into our glasses. Much more beautiful than white sparkling wine!

“Cheers! To death and taxes, or to the death of taxes, to summer, to friends, to sparkling shiraz!”

This is a wine that makes you smile. Really! Maybe it’s a newbie grin. But it is so good, so surprising, such an unexpected pleasure.

“Earthy!” proclaimed Annie, and I agreed–earthy in the way that the peat influences and infuses a good Scotch, earthy in a way like the breath of the land at the end of a warm day…and then the fruit floods your tongue–blackberries, I thought, a bit tart and sweet at the same time but not too sweet–the sweetness a bit like plums grown in my grandpa’s yard in Bakersfield, the sweet fruit inside the tart skin. The bubbles floated up like tangy ocean spray. This tasted nothing like grape soda or cold duck.

“If this wine was a song, what would it be?” I asked. “What would you want to dance to or listen to when you drink this wine?”

After some discussion, including my insisting that just because it was an Australian wine, it didn’t have to be Australian music, we came up with reggae. This would be perfect at the Hollywood Bowl listening to Ziggy Marley or at a picnic or in a park with a reggae music festival happening–Pato Baton’s “One World Is Enough for All of Us” comes to mind.

Since it wasn’t that cold, we stashed the sparkling shiraz in the fridge while we prepared dinner–grilled corn on the cob, salad, rice, and wild salmon. When we refilled our glasses, we all decided we liked it best chilled, but not cold.

Which makes it even more perfect for a picnic: as the glass warms, sparkling shiraz still tastes great!

We’re packing up to go camping at the beach this weekend to celebrate summer solstice–I have a bottle of Paringa’s sparkling shiraz all ready! (and a bottle of Chris Ringland’s Ebenezer 2006 shiraz–what a gorgeous bottle! I can’t wait to try this one Saturday night even if it’s not sparkling!)

If I’ve got you curious to learn more about sparkling red wines, try this article from the San Francisco Chronicle. There’s also info at the Grateful Palate site.

In the meantime, enjoy a little reggae–Pato Banton singing “One World is Not Enough” at the Topanga Canyon Earth Day celebration April 20, 2008:

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