Clos Mimi 2003 Petite Rousse Syrah; Tulocay 2001 Pinot Noir

Wine Merchant, 20 South Hanley Road, Clayton; 314-863-6282

Mar 2, 2005 at 4:00 am
We adore red wine and have been preaching the glories of pinot noir for the past three or four years. Long before Sideways' Miles Raymond altered the wine world with his snobbish praise of the grape -- we knew. There has always been something about pinots that tickled us.

Not that we could explain it, nor are we boasting. On the contrary: When it comes to verbalizing our tastes in wine, be it a varietal or specific bottle, we're all thumbs. If someone describes a wine as having hints of "citrus, passion fruit, just the faintest soupçon of asparagus and, like, a nutty Edam cheese" (as Miles did in the film), we nod, grunt and think to ourselves, "Tastes like really, really good grapes." We get nervous during such discussions, especially in the company of more refined and/or accurate taste buds.

So we prefer being led to nice wines by those who know, by people with good taste. So when two different tongues suggested in the same week that we grab the same bottle -- out of the thousands on the market -- we called the Wine Merchant and had them special order a couple. The wine: Clos Mimi's 2003 Petite Rousse Syrah. It's a humongous wine, flabbier than a pinot, and it tastes like a big bunch of purple grapes.

It arrived a few days later, but when we swung by the Merchant, we got sucked into a discussion with Rich Gotsch, one of the shop's most eloquent ambassadors. Although he respected the Petite Rousse, he's not a fan of the bigger wines. So we asked him to recommend a pinot noir, and he excitedly suggested a Tulocay 2001 pinot noir.

We raced home and set up our ideal tasting scenario: wine, water, a deep-dish Black Thorn pizza and a television show called (gasp!) Stars Without Make-Up. Yes, it's true. We watched the whole hour while tasting two amazing bottles of very different wine. Alec Baldwin with a fat gut. Cher with a facial mask. Britney with pimple cream. It made us feel dirty. But what better way to experience wine than when one is feeling ashamed and gorging on pizza?

During the session, though, we had an epiphany. We can taste wine; we just haven't had the confidence to declare our opinions. So, we shout for all to hear: This monstrous Petite Rousse hits with a deep, rich blackberry jam, a touch of macadamia nut, a back end of rhubarb and, er, honey-roasted ham. It is a powerful, confident wine that would pulverize an itsy pinot in a fistfight.

And the Tulocay pinot? It, too, rocks, but in a more refined way. It's got a depth and wanders all over the palette. To wit, after four or five tastes, a whole world opened up, one that arrived with a touch of whole-wheat toast, then blossomed with pie cherries, a little trace of cranberry, with toffee and dark-chocolate turtles to close. Superb! We give it a 91.754! Yowza! The next time you're watching tabloid TV and you feel dirty, the Tulocay pinot will lift the spirits! So will the Petite Rousse! Go!