The well-named 2007 Guenoc Victorian Claret from California's North Coast (about $12 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets) is no little slip of a thing. Like Lillie Langtry, the 19th century actor whose sepia likeness graces the label and who once owned the vineyard that supplied the grapes, this wine is sophisticated and multifaceted.
The first pleasure this claret delivers in the glass is its deep garnet color, moody and tempting. At first sniff one is blown away by the rich breath of chocolate cherries augmented by more cherries, sun-warmed, fresh off the tree, ripe and dark. It is a heady beginning.
Chocolate cherries return on the tongue, but the sweetness is offset by black pepper and bold spice. This wine is bursting with fruit, but it also is nicely structured and layered. Well-developed tannins are to the fore. The finish is long, lush and lingering, the dark fruit carrying through to the very end.
A wine this robust and garrulous would marry beautifully with a classic rack of lamb in a jacket of mustard, garlic, bread crumbs and herbs, or with a medium-rare steak generously topped with blue cheese crumbles.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.