Travis Peak Muscato D’Arancia 2005
Travis Peak Muscato D’Arancia
by Cathy Hastings
Some of the best adventures in exploring the wild frontier of Texas wine are to be had off the beaten path – and when it comes to wine, there are some definite ruts in the main road. One of my favorite recent discoveries is a wine that doesn’t fall into one of the same two types of white or three types of red that I see poured at almost every dinner or event I attend. This is one of those surprises that you need to dig for a little bit, but when you find it, you’ll know you found a treasure.
Travis Peak Estate Muscato D’ Arancia 2005 can be classified as a “dessert wine” because it is made from a variety of grape that produces sweet and semisweet wines. To call it that is a shame though, because if others, like myself, have had a previous unpleasant experience with a sticky-sweet dessert wine they might not even want to try it. Let me reassure you – we are not talking about that thick, sappy and painfully sugary substance that you might have been trying to forget. This is a light wine with the faintest hint of effervescence. Imagine softening the bite in champagne down to a kiss, and then you’ll have an idea of what the texture of this wine is like.
Another, even greater reason I refrain from calling it a dessert wine is because, well, it sounds like it should be for dessert. And while it can be – it’s sublime with dark bittersweet chocolate – the true magic of this wine is what happens when you taste it with different kinds of food.
Before you taste it with food though, taste it on its own so you can see how the flavors transform. Beginning “sniffers” will find this one to be a good wine to try your nose out on. Give it a good swirl and then smell it and see if you detect a delicious, citrusy scent to it. The wine professionals describe it as, “classic orange and clementine peel bouquet with nectarine, gooseberry, and mandarin palate.” I definitely do get the distinct scent of a freshly grated orange, but then I’ll start to recognize several underlying scents that I am equally fond of, such as orange blossoms in bloom, and honey. The important thing is that they are all scents that I find extremely appealing. Smelling it creates anticipation before the glass ever touches your lips, like finding out you just won a prize. Then tasting it delivers the prize home.
The best part of this wine isn’t the first taste, though. It’s the taste that comes after a bite of bleu cheese, or a piece of sushi dipped in wasabi, or smoked salmon with a spicy horseradish-sour cream sauce on top. It’s the way the character of this wine transforms when paired with strong and spicy food that is the real prize. Although the goal of pairing any wine with a meal is to complement the flavors, this is not nearly so subtle. This wine doesn’t just enhance the flavor of bleu cheese, it drops it into warp drive – and not only is the flavor of the cheese suddenly magnified, but so are particular flavors in the wine. If you follow the bleu cheese with a bite of sushi and wasabi, the same thing happens except that different flavors in the wine jump out. And if you serve it with a variety of different appetizers, you’ll get a separate burst of flavor with each one. It’s like listening to a jazz orchestra when each musician steps forward and plays a solo.
“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
A wonderful way to experience this wine is to take it on your next picnic or road excursion. It’s a little lower in alcohol content than many mainstream wines, which I personally prefer in the afternoon. Pack up some fresh fruit and a few different cheeses, make some sandwiches with roast beef and horseradish sauce or prepackaged sushi (make sure your sushi was just prepared if you do that, it does not sit well for a long time) and include something from a bakery made with dark chocolate. The wine is best when it’s ice cold so pack it down in the ice along with your picnic. Then find a lovely place to stop and take your time enjoying everything this wine has to offer. Keep in mind, this wine is not limited to snacks and finger foods. The “hot-sour-salty-sweet” nature of Thai cuisine, for example, makes this wine an ideal accompaniment to a Thai meal.
Travis Peak Estate Muscato D’ Arancia 2005 costs about $16 a bottle. This is a little above the $10 most people are willing to spend and because it is hand-crafted and bottled in more limited quantities that what the mega-wineries can produce, it will never show up on a bargain rack. I consider it worth spending a little more for because I look forward to having it – something I don’t necessarily do with a bargain wine – and I always keep a pleasant memory long after the bottle is gone. When I can buy two bottles of something else for the same price and can’t remember either one of them after they’re opened, then I’m not so sure I got a good deal after all.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, you’ll have to work a little harder to find this one. But what’s an adventure if it’s too easy? Go forth, take a risk, try something new, and enjoy. Cheers!