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Randall Murray: Clearing a backlog and a bit of a goodbye
Randall Murray
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column publishes monthly.

The towering rat’s nest on my desk is teetering and I fear a tragic paper tsunami if I don’t attack it soon.

So here goes.

It’s odds and ends time for Wine Without Pretense. Let me start with a couple of impressive rose wines I’ve encountered recently, both from Spain’s famed Rioja region.

First is Beronia Rose from the 2018 vintage. Rioja, in the north-central part of Spain, has been known for decades to produce top-quality red wines. But this light pink selection is no slouch. Made from a blend of garnacha, known in France as grenache, and tempranillo, Spain’s finest red grape, the Beronia offers a great balance between delicacy and backbone.

I love the mild bite of acidity in this rose, which makes it a perfect picnic wine — and we are getting into picnic season. Not only is this a fine little sipper, it’s also a fine little value. Price is about $11.

Wine of the Month

Firesteed Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2017

The wine: Dry but fruity white table wine.

The grapes: 100% pinot gris.

The source: Willamette Valley of Oregon.

The verdict: What a lovely white! Oregon’s Willamette Valley is highly regarded for its two Pinots — noir and gris — and Firesteed makes both. I generally prefer red wines as most certified winos do. But this time the white took the honors. It is so nicely structured: crisp, but with no hard edges. There’s a unique mélange of flavors — honeydew melon served with a lemon slice. Honestly! We served this wine with a simple dish of roasted chicken and veggie risotto and it was a friendly match. It should be a great table companion to seafood and poultry dishes as well as vegetarian fare. Firesteed is well known for producing fine value wines. This is one of them.

The price: About $18.

The second Rioja rose is from Vina Real, also from 2018. These winemakers add a splash of the Spanish red grape viura to the tempranillo-garnacha formula. The result is a hint of citrus in the wine, which enhances the drinking experience — an experience I deeply enjoyed.

The Vina Real has a bit more of a salmon tinge than the Beronia, perhaps from the Viura. It, too, is a lovely food wine, with hints of strawberries in the nose. I sampled this with a plateful of spicy sautéed shrimp and it was great. Good value, too, about $12.

When one thinks of Italy’s famed Tuscany region, one most often conjures visions of big, hearty red wines: chianti classico, brunello di Montalcino, the super Tuscans.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to discover an untypical Tuscan wine recently; Il Borro Lamelle, which is a chardonnay. The producers at Il Borro refer to lamelle as “our youngest child” and “the only white wine amongst our wines.”

Let me suggest they consider making other white wines, based on the quality and overall drinkability of lamelle. I really enjoyed this crisp, straw-yellow offering from the 2018 vintage. It’s a cross between a fruit-bearing California chardonnay and the elegant linear white wines of Burgundy. The final impression is of a wine in full balance, with clean fruit notes and a long finish. Suggested price is about $20.

Pencils down, at last

As Neil Sedaka once crooned, “breaking up is hard to do.” In the past few weeks I’ve been reminded just how true those words are.

After almost 35 years of trotting out my dog and pony wine education courses on the campuses of colleges and universities in three states, I’m putting a cork in it.

In the past decade I have enjoyed being part of the Brenau University Learning and Leisure Institute guided deftly by Kathy Amos, who injected her own brand of humor and discipline into the fascinating variety of continuing education courses BULLI provides to this most fortunate community.

My thanks go out to Kathy and all the staff of BULLI over the years for making me feel welcome. My Wine Without Pretense courses were, I’m proud to say, quite popular, and I got to exchange views with some fine, fun and intelligent folks who put up with my brand of humor and casual approach to wine appreciation.

I will miss them. But it is time to go. In a matter of pure coincidence, Kathy has announced she is retiring, too.

To all the folks on the campuses of Lafayette College and Lehigh University in Pennsylvania; Florida Atlantic University and Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, I am grateful for the chance to persuade students of all age groups to peel away the myth and mystique wrapped around wine, and simply enjoy it. I have been so pleased to have had countless students say to me, “You made wine approachable to me.”

Not a bad legacy if I do say so.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.
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