It's Just Grape Juice
A Slate of Wines
You can’t go wrong with the Slate Street wine loft, whether you're out for a relaxing dinner, attending one their fabulous wine tastings or just grabbing some appetizers and a glass of wine. But you better get a seat early, because
Breathing some fresh air into the tannic Albuquerque wine scene, the Slate Street Café’s wine loft dazzles from its understated modern décor to its masterfully minimal wine selection. Envisioned by the proprietor, sommelier Myra Ghattas, and brilliantly executed by manager Damon Scott, the loft is the place to go to relax and enjoy a wonderfully unique glass of wine in a comfortable yet chic environment.
I had the honor of being Damon’s personal guest for one of their wildly successful wine tastings. Held the last Thursday of every month and then repeated the first Tuesday of the month, you'll have the chance to sample and learn about a fine selection of wines side-by-side. Like a politician working a room for votes, Myra will not only shake your hand but hold it while teaching you about the finer points of her selections. And let's not forget that chef Albert Bilotti, of former Kanome fame, cooks up some phenomenal food for you to enjoy while sipping your wine.
To my delight, last month’s tasting was a generous three-ounce sampling of three dramatically different cabernets, which I have classified by their personalities, served with a plate of beautifully presented aged Gouda, English cheddar, Guinness porter cheese and a marvelous New Zealand lollipop lamb chop.
2003 Casa Silva
Surprisingly understated and medium-bodied, this cab is atypical and, unfortunately, immediately forgettable. On my first sip, I was pleased by its everyday approachability, but disappointed by its lack of real character. Presented first out of the three wines, I thought it was a “good” wine. However, in comparison to the other wines, the Casa Silva falls short of any praise and isn’t meant to be analyzed in-depth.
2003 Ferrari Carano
One of my favorite wineries, Ferrari Carano has been making fine Alexander Valley wines for decades, and this vintage does not disappoint. With a gorgeous nose of sugared plums, this deep crimson wine dazzles even before you take your first drink. The clear rebel of the group, its ripe, lush and powerful beauty will knock your socks off with amazing deep, dark fruits. Damon says this wine tastes like “raisins all over the place.” While that may not sound appealing, it does accurately reflect the sense of mouth-filling flavor that'll make you fall in love with such a big, over-the-top cab.
A contrast to the Ferrari Carano’s all-out fruit assault, Signorello provides a more elegant, graceful interpretation of a cab. When I put my nose to this glass, the wine held back, giving me only a prudish glimpse of what lay ahead. Seductive in its fullness and provocative in its refinement, my palate was greeted with generous yet muted plum, and luscious yet powerful oak. The most structured out of the trio, the wonderfully chewy tannis stayed with me as I bit into Chef Bilotti’s delicious lamb, creating a completely different culinary experience.
When you finish your wine tasting, let me pick a few choices through Slate Street’s visually confusing and non-intuitive wine menu, which is, thankfully, chock full of unique wines.
2004 BenMarco, Malbec ($11 per glass)
One of the staff’s favorite reds, this smooth, decadent--if not slightly jammy--Malbec from Argentina will not disappoint and pairs brilliantly with many of Chef Bilotti’s marvelous creations.
2003 Cosentino, "The Franc” ($12 per glass)
Cabernet Franc has always played third fiddle to its big brothers--Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot--in Bordeaux blends, but that's beginning to change. Cab Franc is coming out swinging as a very successful single grape wine. Cosentino knows how to bring this baby out of the closet with a gorgeous tobacco nose and earthy fruit flavors that rise above the powerful structure.
2004 Michael-David, “Incognito” ($8.50 per glass)
This incognito blend of Rhone-style wines greets you with a pleasant and approachable spicy palate that is immediately likable and, most importantly, wonderfully delicious.
Slate Street Café will hold their next wine tasting on Nov. 30, and again on Dec. 5, from 5-7 p.m.
The featured wines will be Argentine Malbecs. Cost is $15 for three 3-ounce tastes of each wine and a complimentary appetizer designed by Chef Albert Bilotti to pair with the featured wines.
Slate Street Café is located at 515 Slate NW (one block north of Lomas, between Fifth and Sixth Streets). Reservations are not accepted for the wine tastings, but you may call 243-2210 to reserve a table downstairs for dinner following the tasting.