I've been drinking a Rosenblum Syrah (2006 Snow's Lake Vineyard, Lake County) and have been pondering similes to describe how the wine has opulent fruit flavors that seem obscured by a heavy, thick coat of smoked wood. You know that smell that penetrates your clothes if you sit near a camp fire for any amount of time? Imagine that in your mouth. It's the same after taste you'd get from drinking a single malt scotch aged in toasted barrels for a decade or more (I'm thinking primarily of Laphroaig, one of my favorite go-to single malts).
I say all this because in the midst of my mental exercises trying to figure out an interesting way to breaking down this wine into words, I had a glass of something far superior that threw my thoughts about it into clear relief.
The Rosenblum wine is very "American" - ripe fruit, too much wood. The glass of wine I had, a Montepulciano/Sangiovese from Marche, Italy - the 2006 Poderi San Lazzaro, Rosso Superiore - reminded me why I love good Italian wines.
We had dinner at Pizzaiolo in Oakland, and of the several by the glass offerings, I chose the Montepulciano from Marche because I've had wines from that region and that grape before and really enjoyed it.
Marche is a region in central Italy on the eastern coast.
I got a little rubbery dirt on the nose, and in the glass I tasted violets, black and red fruits and a spicy finish. At $10.75 a glass, it was the most expensive choice on the menu, but it was worth it.
The fruit tasted fresh and pure, without any heavy overlay of wood or vanilla that ruins so many good American wines. I've certainly have had bad Italian wines, but the more I venture out to other countries, the more I understand why many winos prefer cheap foreign wine (cheap meaning less than $20 a bottle) to a comparably priced American bottle.