The dream I have had for three years has come to life. I have an end cap at Surdyk’s filled exclusively with Dara-picked, Dara-approved, Dara-recommended wines! For real. From this point forward I do not need to go with you personally to the liquor store—though sometimes I still will.
Here’s the deal. Surdyk’s, of course, is the enormous Northeast Minneapolis liquor store with the vast wine selection. I, like every thoughtful wine drinker in Minnesota, go there quite a bit. In fact, in my book, Drink This: Wine Made Simple, I reference a moment at the beginning of my wine career when a clerk asked, “Do you like pepper in your Zinfandel?” That was on the floor of Surdyk’s! And the person asking the question was the wonderful Roger Clark, a long, long, longtime Surdyk’s employee. Anyhoo, years passed, friends, family, and friends-I-don’t-actually-know-too-well-from-the-Internet began to regularly ask me for wine recommendations. Ahhh, that’s hard.
Giving a wine recommendation in life is actually way more complicated than you’d think. Typically, a phone call from a friend at a liquor store goes like this . . .
“I’m at the wine shop—what should I get?”
“Well what do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well what are you eating for dinner?”
“Anything. I need something to take to my co-worker’s birthday party, something to drink on the couch tonight, something for this party Saturday.”
“Okay, what are you looking at?”
“A huge store.”
“Well, walk to the nearest bottle and read me what you see.”
“I don’t know what these words are…”
Complicated. And I’ve run into even more trouble simply dropping in on a store and buying bottles, and then recommending them in print or online. I really cannot count the number of times I’ve done that only to find out that what I had picked was one bottle of the mere four cases allocated to the Twin Cities, or that what I had picked was one of the last dozen bottles of a particular vintage, or the distributor was in bankruptcy and the whole allocation was in lock-down. Let’s just say that being a critic and making genuinely useful, helpful, actionable wine recommendations is one of those activities that looks easy as pie from the outside, and is actually near impossible, because of a million small practical impediments.
Which is why I’ve wanted an end cap at a good wine shop! I always dreamed, ‘What if I worked with the store behind the scenes to actually ensure that the wines were abundantly available, and what if I made a curated selection of wines in different categories—cheap stuff for every day, fancy bottles too, and what if it was easy to find, easy to understand, and would change over time to reflect the seasons and the reality of wine as a seasonal product of actual limited quantities?’ Surdyk’s has stepped forward to help me put this dream into practice, to find out if this will be as excellent and helpful as I think it will be!
So, if you go to Surdyk’s now, and for the next couple months, you’ll see my end cap. It’s filled with 9 wines I absolutely recommend. Here’s how we picked them: I made broad suggestions of what I’d like, the Surdyk’s team picked a field of likely candidates based on my requests, what they know of my taste, and actual supplies of the wines under consideration. Then Roger Clark and I sat down and tasted through a panel of possibilities together—and we came up with a fantastic selection, if I do say so myself. Like what? Like the following. I’ll roll out two at a time here on the blog, but if you drop in to Surdyk’s you can see the whole roster. If you try them, let me know what you think! Because you know, it’s been a dream of mine, to be standing in the liquor store every hour it’s open to help people pick wine—seriously. It has been. And now it’s happening, in a fashion.
First: Great Reds, High & Low
Chateau Doyac, Haut-Médoc Bordeaux 2009, $19.99
What, you say you can’t get real Bordeaux for $20? Yes you can. This classic French red, a blend of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 percent Merlot, has the signature pure mineral structure that has made Bordeaux the standard-bearer for great reds for a couple hundred years. With that structure you get a grippy texture, deep, intense, soft and big berry flavors, and a brisk edge of tobacco. It’s the kind of wine you enjoy and discover more as every hour of the evening unspools, pair it with steak or short ribs, or any deeply flavored meat. Should be good for another decade if you’re in the mood to experiment with aging. —DMG
Parducci Sustainable Red, 2009, $11.99
California’s Parducci is trying to make itself ‘America’s Greenest Winery’; it’s carbon-neutral, recycles 100 percent of its wastewater through an on-property wetland, uses 100 percent green power. Check out their website for lots of other green elements to their winemaking. Appealing as that is, the actual wine is beyond sustainable, it’s downright memorable: Chewy and spicy, with cigar-box aromas and pleasant depths. Balanced and well built, this perfect pair for a mixed grill is a blend of much of what grows well in Mendocino County—30 percent Syrah, 26 percent Petite Sirah, 14 percent Merlot, 12 percent Carignane, 12 percent Zinfandel, and more! It will also go well with mushroom or sausage pizza, your couch, and a movie—if you’re looking for a sustainable night in. —DMG