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Fun with Fume Blanc


When soft drink giant Coca-Cola sold its wine business in 1983 two things happened.

Competing California wine makers breathed a sigh of relief that the big budget onslaught of the Coke marketing machine had ground to a halt -- and the properties passed to new owners who made far better wines than Coke's leading West Coast brand -- Taylor California Cellars.

One of those winners was Ferrari-Carano Vineyard and Winery, a stunningly beautiful Sonoma County property that, since its first vintage in 1987, has built a solid reputation as a go-to wine for restaurant lists and offers a well-balanced range of great wines with good values for retail consumers.

I tasted through a range of Ferrari-Carano wines last week and detected a remarkable central theme to the wine maker's work -- beautifully well-balanced wines that present as immediately drinkable and palate pleasing.

If I was forced to pick just two wines from this line-up, I would have to select the Sangiovese-Malbec blend labeled as "Sinena."

Again, balance presented paramount in this easily drinkable wine. It is rich with the tastes of red and black fruits and finishes with notes of caramel, vanilla and spice. The oak program insures nice tannins and plenty of acidity on the finish but with, here I go again, balance.

Complex and satisfying enough to drink alone -- it would be equally enjoyable paired with foods like pasta in tomato sauce, pork, lamb or beef.

The blockbuster for me though was Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc.

Fume Blanc (pronounced: foo-may) is a term invented by Robert Mondavi in the 1970s to help sell Sauvignon Blanc -- they are the same wines. Today, wine savvy consumers are comfortable with Sauvignon Blanc thanks in part to the grassy New Zealand varieties. But this Fume Blanc is far from grassy and a world away from the herbaceous New Zealand cousins.

Part of what sets this wine apart from the NZ Sauv Blancs is the fact that it's partially aged in oak instead of an all-stainless steel slumber. That added bit of flavor tweaking adds complexity, character and has made Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc an award-winning, food-friendly wine.

While grassy tendencies of the varietal can't completely be left behind, the forward elements of this wine brings suggestions of honeydew melon, grapefruit and floral tones. It is crisp and clean in the mouth and a brilliant acidic finish makes it a winner with foods -- particularly seafood or chicken.

Quite serendipitously, I found it on the list at Hunter House Inn on Tybee Island last weekend. I ordered a bottle to share with friends -- all of whom had chosen a different fish entrée.

For me, it was a dead-on winner with my Red Snapper. It allowed the subtleties of the fish to shine through -- but didn't dull the beautiful soffrito of the black beans in the recipe.

Savannah area retailers are on board with this wine -- and it's easily accessible for around $15, give or take a buck or two.