One of the more rewarding aspects of being a judge in a wine competition is the opportunity to discover new wines unburdened by the inevitable prejudice of knowing their identity. It compensates, in part, for having to wade through dozens of what are, at best, mediocre wines.
One such pleasurable revelation at the recent Critics Challenge competition was this week's wine of the week, the Henry Estate Pinot Noir 2008 ($18).
It hails from, not surprisingly, Oregon, home to many of America's finest pinots. A cooler, more Burgundian climate and a stubborn determination to be "not California" lead many of its winemakers to produce fresher, more food-friendly wines.
This perfectly describes the Henry pinot noir. It's a beautiful pale-scarlet color, fresh, fruity and vibrant on the palate, and is the perfect red to drink slightly chilled this steamy season.
It's not a serious wine, not a wine to be pondered and discussed, but a pretty, fresh quaffer packed with the essence of strawberries and rose petals. It even manages a hint of gravelly minerality, a surprising bonus in a wine at this price.
To find this wine near you, try www.wine-searcher.com.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Half an hour helps it open
Food Pairing: Pork, pasta, BBQ, and even pizza
Grapes: 100 percent pinot noir
Web Site: www.henryestate.com