February 9, 2007
Storm? Here's a Safe Port

grahams20tawny.jpg And speaking of pairing wine and food...At the invitation of Jonas Mueller, majoring in viticulture and enology at UC Davis, I joined some 20 future viticulturists and winemakers yesterday evening for their weekly themed blind tasting on campus.

When he said this week's theme would be port, I expected them to be paired with chocolate, the tasting coming just before Valentine's Day. And while port and chocolate generally do make a satisfactory pairing, the food to accompany last night's ports was an even better traditional choice - two robust blue cheeses, in this instance Point Reyes and Shropshire. As one of the student organizers explained, the tasting comes at the dinner hour - 5 p.m. - and cheese, as well as the glazed walnuts and almonds also passed around, would make for a better meal than chocolate. See why the department of viticulture and enology at UC Davis is so highly regarded?

At any rate, the cheeses and ports generally did work well together, though the creamy and more reserved Point Reyes retreated somewhat when up against a couple of the denser, warmer releases. Most of the ports were the genuine article, from Portugal, and most were bought locally, including the evening's clear favorite, the Graham's 20 Years Old Tawny Port ($50), an exquisitely crafted example of the genre, its inviting aromas evoking images of roasted nuts and flowers, its mouth-filling flavors suggestive of fully ripe berries and plums. Luxurious, sweet, warm and long, it's the kind of port meant to be savored while reading a good book on a rainy winter night.

Students, who finance the tastings themselves, got most of the ports, including the Graham's at Valley Wine Co. in Davis.

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