Chilled chocolate and berries

Camelot pinot noir
(any vintage 2002 — present)

It’s been more than a year since the movie “Sideways” premiered. Film critics were charmed and wine enthusiasts were, well, ambivalent.

I both loved and hated the movie. I loved it because of the many soft and quiet shots of the rolling vineyards of Santa Barbara County and the perfectly placed wine vocabulary unique to the subculture — think “malolactic fermentation” and “soup篮 of truffles.”

And while I enjoyed the many outrageous and melancholy moments, my favorite part was seeing someone step up to a bar, alone, and order an entire bottle of wine.

I hated the movie because it remains solely responsible for a 45 percent increase in pinot noir consumption in the United States since its release. Supply, demand, you do the math.

Even before the pinot craze of 2005, it was nearly impossible to find a good bottle for under $15. However, some do exist, such as the 2002 Camelot.

Miles, the protagonist in “Sideways,” said pinot’s flavors were “the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet.” He was not talking about this wine.

That said, at $8 a bottle this is a tasty and versatile wine. It offers good ripe berry flavors and, dare I say, a soup篮 of chocolate on the finish.

Unlike most pinots, it’s a good match with grilled chicken, fish and sausage of various flavorings. I prefer it a little colder than one would serve most pinots — 15 to 20 minutes in the refrigerator before serving should be right.

This wine is widely available on the Hill — as ubiquitous as bananas.


Dry Creek Chenin Blanc
(any vintage 1999-present)

Few American winemakers produce a pure chenin blanc, let alone one that can compete with those traditionally crafted in the Loire Valley.

Although it is bone dry, Dry Creek boasts a sweet citrus nose, and every sip provided a nice balance of pear, melon and citrus, particularly grapefruit.

Enjoy it chilled by itself or with any grilled seafood, chicken or summer salads. For the brave, try a chenin shooter: nearly fill a double shot glass with the wine, drop in a raw oyster and down the hatch!

Classy, crisp, refreshing, this wine is a steal at $10 a bottle, so buy a few at this price while you still can.


This is the first of our monthly wine columns featuring wines that are readily available at restaurants and retail locations on the Hill. LaVallee is a public-affairs consultant for Susan Davis International and a certified wine buff. He can be reached at dereklavallee@hotmail.com.