The lucky ones made it. They got off the ship at Ellis Island wearing dirty shoes, and over time they trudged through the lines and the new rules and the streets that weren't, it turns out, paved with gold. Now you -- their great-grandchild, their second cousin, their friend -- sit reading a newspaper, in America.
This means you could be a proud West Sider who goes to the Germania Mannerchor Volksfest every August. Or you could be a part of that generation whose ancestors cast off the immigrant hyphen of lore long ago. For you, you're simply an American.
Either way, wine's not some foreign substance that has no relevance here. Because here's the truth: Evansville may have strong German roots, but Germans make and drink wines, too, like Riesling. And if that's not convincing enough, then consider the fact that many of the wines you'll find in local wine shops are -- like many of us -- essentially blends. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for instance. Or Chardonnay and Semillon. Shiraz and Grenache. The point is that these wines are a good fit for Americans, because we all came from somewhere else, too. And when you get the mix right, when you combine hard work and diligence and a fair amount of luck, you can be there to experience something awesome. And that, our friends, is the quintessential American story.
So we begin with the 2009 Orin Swift Prisoner from California. This blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono, Grenache and Malbec could be considered a mutt of some sort, but truth be known, it's definitely a top dog. Serious and fruit forward, this red is a good match against rotisserie chicken, and its slight tannins mean it will likely cellar well. Other vintages of this wine have scored in the 90 point range out of 100 at Wine Spectator. Kwiq Liquor has this in the upper $20-$30 range.
The 2007 Brassfield Serenity is a smooth jumble of Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gerwurztraminer and Semillon. This Clearlake, Californian, is fun, crisp, easy to drink, with inklings of lemon. Other vintages have ranked in the mid-80s out of 100 according to Wine Spectator's scale. You can get this 13.5 percent alcohol bottle at Winetree for between $10-$19.99.
Here's one to get at Big Red Liquors in Bloomington, Ind.: The 2004 Durigutti Familia, which is a potent mingling of Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. We paired this 14.3 percent alcohol bottle from Argentina with steak, and it gave us plum, tobacco and cherry flavors in return. Wine Spectator ranked this a 92 out of 100. $59.99.
And finally we arrive at Bogle's The Phantom. This shadowy figure is usually such a hot item that it doesn't remain on shelves for long, but we spied it at Kwiq Liquor some short time ago. We get one of these blends every year, but our tasting notes just take us back to the 2005 vintage. We thought that was earthy, and it was rated an 85 out of 100 by Wine Spectator. These days it's easier to find the 2007, which was released last August. It's a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Mourvedre.
this column runs as "bottle by bottle" in the evansville courier and press twice or so a month. the focus is on wines, food and how they intersect. if i receive gifts, i'll tell you. photo credits are noted. i buy most of my wines from winetree, varsity liquors, schnucks, the fresh market, kwik liquor and winestyles (in evansville, ind.); big red liquors and sahara mart (in bloomington, ind.); vecchio's italian market (in newburgh, ind.); whole foods (in st. louis); and binny's (in chicago.) also, i do try a number of wines that i don't necessarily mention in the column, through travels to france and other markets (germany, hungary, italy, etc.) that don't sell wines i can find here. those experiences factor into my tasting descriptions, even if i don't mention them in the column, so keep all that in mind. i write the column to tell my readers in the evansville, ind., area what i consider to be flavorful, balanced and good-value wines for sale in this area.