Home Alaska Wine Miracles in Alaska: Number 3: This one just because it’s nice

Wine Miracles in Alaska: Number 3: This one just because it’s nice


Sharing Wine with Family

Sharing wine with people that appreciate it similarly to you is awful nice, isn’t it? To share with my parents a brief window into how I spend my time I brought two (new to me) bottles with me to taste.

Baker Lane 2009 Sonoma Coast Cuvee Syrah

All three of us enjoyed the Baker Lane’s Sonoma Coast Cuvee Syrah. It offers a nose of smoked meat, red cherry and berry, clove, and hints of vanilla, with the palate following. This is an approachable medium bodied syrah that is well-balanced, and juicy in the mouth. It has the structure appropriate to food while not demanding it.

My mom was impressed by its medium-long finish, and my dad liked how clean the flavors were. The Sonoma Coast Syrah is a nice choice for its approachability, hitting the interests of three fairly different palates here.

Interestingly, our views overlapped on the Pinot Noir as well with none of us appreciating it as much. On the 2008 vintage the flavors present as chunky and disjointed with the structure also generally out of balance.

Wine for Smoked Salmon

One of my birthday wines this last year was the 2008 Brewer-Clifton Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay. I love its steely floral citrus combination of flavors. The acidity on this wine is beautiful and perfect for pairing with a richer flavored food. My brother in law home packs salmon from the family’s commercial fishing venture every year and then smokes some of it in a soft-smoke style. The flavors on the fish carry the distinctness of king salmon alongside pleasing buttery smoke notes all with a rich, soft texture. The Brewer-Clifton offers palate cleansing acidity and an utterly clean presentation to complement the fish. Oh! Alaska, how well you treat me on these visits!

It’s nice to see the Brewer-Clifton for sale in Anchorage. I shared the bottle with my mom and sister Paula and they both enjoyed it. Paula’s preference is to drink crisp whites and to steer clear of any buttery/oaky chardonnay’s because of their rounder mouth feel and richer flavors. The Brewer-Clifton showed her a chardonnay that can be done differently.

Angel Joy Tears

Years ago my friend Kate and I accidentally discovered Tokaji Aszu at a restaurant in Montreal named Aszu. We’d ordered a plate of Quebecoise cheeses and asked the Sommelier to take a risk and bring us something wonderful to pair and not tell us till afterwards what it was. He complied beautifully bringing us a glass each of the 2000 5 Puttonyos Oremus Tokaji Aszu. Later when I told our friend Luis about the wine he urgently demanded to know WHERE in Montreal they were pouring that wine because he’d been wanting to taste Tokaji Aszu for a couple of years (it’s harder to find in Brazil, where he’s from, apparently). He and I went back later that same week and worked our way through an utterly extravagant multi-course meal with the Sommelier selecting perfect wine pairings for each course. By the end of the night we were admittedly drunk, and so happy, sipping the Oremus. I announced that it was like drinking Angel Joy Tears, one couldn’t help but feel blessed. Later that month Luis and I plus two friends went to a performance of Shakespeare in the park alongside the pond in Parc Lafontaine near my old Montreal flat. At the end of the show Luis’s friend stood in front of me smiling hugely with a little bag. When I opened it it turned out to be a bottle of Tokaji Aszu they’d actually found at the SAQ (the Quebec Liquor Board Shop) and purchased for me as a gift. I was so happy I stood speechless and smiling with my hand at my heart for a very long time.Though I’d intended to hold that bottle as a special gift from friends, the next morning while eating avocado I realized the Oremus would pair perfectly with avocado. Then perfectly with maple butter toast. Then perfectly with citrus salad… I sipped through the bottle tasting it alongside everything I ate through the remainder of that day, and decided it paired perfectly with anything. The experience was wonderful.

In case it isn’t obvious already, Tokaji Aszu is a sentimental favorite for me. I associate it with absolute joy and gratefulness, with friendship and appreciation. I can’t help but be happy when I drink it (slowly and with great pleasure). Several years ago I introduced my parents to Tokaji Aszu and though my dad doesn’t go for sweet wines generally they both loved it. On my recent visit back home my dad kept commenting, “oh, I wish we could drink Tokaji with you!” On the third day, my mom jumped up saying she’d be right back. After running back from upstairs she showed us this bottle of Oremus 2000 5 puttonyos Tokaji Aszu that she’d pulled from her treasure closet. I’d given it to them as a gift several years ago and she’d saved it.

The 2000 is wonderfully balanced. It’s drinking perfectly right now. The sweet elements are balanced with a rich texture and excellent acidity. The dried apricot and pear fruit flavors dance alongside herbal notes–touches of dried beach grass and sage. The slight tartness couples with mouth watering that keeps the sweetness from ever being cloying. What a treat!


We’re back in Arizona again now. By this stage of my life I’ve learned to better integrate the qualities of where I’m from with the everyday life of elsewhere. For decades though the contrast I felt between my Alaskan life and my life ‘outside’, as we say in Alaska, was a challenge for me. It felt like I needed different persona almost to operate in Alaska versus anywhere elsewhere. The upside of having worked through such difference is that I believe that I do well with traveling, and I’ve developed a deep openness to seeing what is unique and valued in any particular place.

Still, it’s a funny contrast to go quickly to the quiet of Alaska and now be back to the quiet of my otherwise empty house. Outside pollen puffs from the Alpine Birch in my yard are floating up past the window, getting lit up by sun. The small leaves of the birch are dancing in the wind, their tops flashing as they hit the direct light of sun then dance out of it again.


Thank you to Baker Lane for the sample bottles. It was a pleasure to share the wine with my parents, and we all enjoyed the approachability of the Syrah.

Thank you to my mom for sharing her treasure. What a treat!


  1. I am really enjoying the J. Mc book. Last night there was a whole passage devoted to Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay microclimate. He was especially fond of Greg Brewer’s Chardonnay projects. I drove around trying to find any example of SRH’s Chard in Juneau. Alas, to no avail. At least I know I can find some when I go to Anchorage.

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