Opici NV Dry Marsala (Italy)

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on July 25, 2010:

People have asked me why I enjoy gunning down so many wine bloggers, lame as most of them are, to the point where I have treat it like an art in defense of intelligent Washington wine consumers, similar in the way the Mafia protects its interests.

I am all for freedom of speech, mind you, until I read some of the absolute lamest of wine descriptions (yes, lamer than my own) such as today’s entry on the front page of the Arts and Life section of the regional paper, describing the “Working Girl” line of wines from Olympic Cellars as “the wine doesn’t disappoint, with full, sweet fruit tones and just a touch of tart. Drink it chilled, with cheese or cold meats.” Wtf? Is that all it takes to get printed in the paper as an “authority” on wine??? “The sprightly label”?? I thought the TTB disapproves of words that connote effervescence. No wonder the New York Times has made such deep inroads in Seattle.

Wine writers have a serious responsibility to at least sound intelligent when describing a wine’s character. “Full, sweet fruit tones” just does not cut it. Especially, when the author implies or recommends that I buy the wine (that he/she most likely did NOT).

Another great wine sin that bloggers appear to cross the line is calling themselves a so-called authority on Washington wines by using titles such as, and I may be covering up the real names but you can figure it out, “Essential Guide to Washington Wines,” “Washington Wines Journal,” and “Seattle Wine Blotch.” For one, there are eleven AVAs in Washington. Some bloggers think there’s only one: Walla Walla. Other bloggers think Woodinville’s “best” syrah is something not made by Betz Family Winery. He/she thinks that naming some obscure, well-hidden wineries that produce good wines (but NOT at a level maintained by Bob Betz, MW) makes that person sound “informed” or “trendsetting.” That person sounds like an uninformed dolt who flies through a tasting room, does not buy any wines, then claims to have “tasted over a thousand wines” or toots about being in some wine centenarian club. Really, is it about the wines or is it about the blogger?

One of the most honored justifications for wine bloggers is not some cheap faux-plastic statue doled out at some wine blogger’s glee club convention, or having oodles of poodles for Twitter followers. It is this: seeing your own words on, not just one or two neighbor wineries that is convenient, but on the websites/in the tasting rooms/Facebook/etc. of several wineries throughout Washington State. This is what I look for as a true means of serious wine writing today. Are the wineries themselves reading (and agreeing with) your reviews, then utilizing such influence to sell their wines? The issue is one to see a winery re-tweeting simple flatter from admirers; it’s quite another when the bottom-line is positively affected (and earned through honesty).

And, therein lies a call out to the Washington wineries themselves. Do you know who’s writing out there? Do you know who are the bullshitters who could “shine-up” a bottle that’s been stored next to the furnace for a decade? And, I suspect, since most wineries are recent startups (in the last decade), these hard-working risk-takers are versed in the power of the internet and can quickly research what they need to find. Can you differentiate who’s truly writing about your wine(s) from someone who easily gathers words from other musings found on the internet? Are you through denying the internet has zero affect on your sales? Do you still believe some old geezer can speak for the mass of new wine consumers two-generations down? And, do you still believe you have to give away “samples” as a cost of doing PR-business? Let me answer that last one—if your wines are good enough, the writer will happily BUY them. Enough said.

But, I digress.

While I’m loving my virtual wine trip through Italy that culminates with tonight’s contestant, it’s time to change gears and see wine as more than a refreshment.

Marsala is a DOC wine (1969) produced at the westernmost tip of Sicily (DOC: Sicilia), just off the “boot” of Italy. Marsala wines are similar to Portuguese Port wines in that, they are aged in wooden casks, fortified to 17-18% alcohol, and processed in similar fashion (in perpetuum vs. solera). While labeled “Italian dessert wine,” this juice has more of a Thunderbird-plume in the glass, essence of liquid nuts (the tree kind) and tiramisu, and the color of cheap, flattened root beer. A heady, hardcore wine.

Thankfully, the good folks on the cuisine side of the world thought to find a better use for Marsala wines. The dish is called chicken marsala, and it is a sublime combination. The basic recipe, and I do mean basic so do not blindly follow this, calls for pounding chicken cutlet then coating with flour and frying them until brown and setting aside to cool. With the same pan, add veggies and fungus along with a near cup of Marsala wine (dry or sweet, it doesn’t matter), and reduce until syrupy. Reintroduce the cutlets and allow to cook for another 5 minutes. After a few nibbles, pair it with a couple ounces of same Marsala wine. This 50-rated wine becomes the centerpiece of a 95-point dinner.

Alcohol: 17%. Bottled by Fratelli (not the defunct ice cream) Fici Marsala. Imported by Opici Import Company of Glen Rock, NJ. Grapes from assorted regions. No addition of caramel coloring or flavor stretchers (Mistrella or Sifone). Cola color derived from blending in older vintages. Grapes: 35% Catarratto, 35% Grillo, 30% Inzolia. Screwcap.

Recommended as a real digestif or between the “first and second course.” Mamma mia! I don’t think so.

Music pairing: “Parla piu piano” from “The Godfather”. Rated: 50. Value: $2 (as a wine), $20 (as a reduction sauce). Paid: $9. Purchased from the bottom shelf in the “dessert wines” section of Fred Meyer. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Storable for 2-3 months at room temp after opening. Keep next to the olive oil. Arrivederci!

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