Wine column | Wine Culture

Wine notebook: Dazzling Moet and Chandon, and a power-packed Rancho Zabaco Zin

(Image courtesy of Moet and Chandon)

(Image courtesy of Moet and Chandon)

People often ask me what my favorite wine is, and I never know what to say. It’s like somebody asking which one of your kids you like the best.

But of all the kids on my wine shelves, I guess an easy answer would be French Champagne. Nothing else can impart such crisp, complex, palate-pleasing flavors and sensations. It’s a wine that goes with every food and every mood.

But then — hand me a great dry Zinfandel and I just might change my mind!

Here are some new jottings in my wine notebook:

Moet and Chandon Imperial Nonvintage Brut, $48: Nonvintage Brut is the calling card for any topnotch Champagne house: This one has undergone style changes over the years, and now there is just one NV brut for the world and it’s bone-dry, palate cleansing, complex, layer upon layer of flavor: yeasty brioche, spicy tang off barrels, grapefruit, tangerine, apple. It’s like food. Yes, it would pair ideally with shellfish, caviar, chicken and anything on your Easter menu. It’s a blend of almost equal amounts of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay created from more than a hundred wines.

You can take your celebrations up a notch with the Moet and Chandon Imperial Rose, $64: The lovely rose petal-pink color comes from the Pinot Noir that dominates the blend. It’s a cocktail of raspberry, cherry, mushroom, toast and spice flavors. It’s dry, structured, full-bodied and complex, and the amber tint makes it extra-enticing. The Moet and Chandon packaging itself, whether the Rose or NV Brut, radiates romance and glamour. Moet and Chandon has one of the largest estates in Champagne and was founded in 1743.

Another new red wine release that’s packed with power is the 2011 Rancho Zabaco Heritage Vines Zinfandel, $18. This label is famous for its big Zins crafted off Dry Creek’s Frei Ranch, Stefani Ranch and Chiotti Ranch vineyards. It’s a brooding Zin with intense flavors of dark berries, cherries, thimbleberries (these tiny shriveled bits of skin, pulp and juice grow in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) and dried cranberries. And it gets an extra kick of dark color and backbone from a small amount of Petite Sirah.

Clif Family — you know, the people who make those health bars and love to climb mountains and cycle — has a Limited Release Climber Napa Valley Red Wine, vintage 2010, running about $28 that is delicioulsy dry, though calling yourself a “Red Wine” or “Red Blend” these days can sometimes mean sweet. To repeat, this baby is a dry blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa’s high-rent districts (hey, they’re all high-rent in Napa!). The wine is dark as midnight, earthy and robust — with a blast of plum, dark chocolate, cranberry, black currant and spice. It’s full-bodied and intense, with help from its aging in 80 percent new French oak.