SonomaWino: Gallo Family Vineyards

There's a mouse in my bottle, eh.Finally, an excuse to pop a cork and wear Mickey Mouse ears without shame: Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging report that a naturally occurring substance found in red wine offsets the negative effects of a high-calorie diet in mice, significantly extending their tubby rodent life spans.

The property, “resveratrol” (a name that sounds ready-made for marketing by the pharmaceutical industry), is found in the skin of grapes, which is where red wine gets its color. It’s conjectured that resveratrol plays part in the so-called French paradox, the baffling fact that the French can enjoy heaps of brie and smoke Gitanes without dying as frequently as we ugly Americans.

This brings me to an unrelated but equally annoying paradox, which is that the size of my bank account seems to grow in inverse proportion to the maturation of my palate–the more I become accustomed to fine wine, the less I am able to afford it. I attempted to address the issue by e-mailing Harvard Medical School and suggesting that they ditch the frat-rats and do their vino studies on me and a few of my pals. Dr. David Sinclair, who helmed the resveratrol study, couldn’t be bothered to reply to my offer (probably too busy taking orders from Pfizer), so I resolved to start drinking cheaper wine.

Before there was the box, there was the jug, and among local producers, Gallo has long been a favorite. One need only utter the words “hearty burgundy,” and I flashback to the junior college campus and my first citation for “minor in possession of alcohol.” Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Gallo has plugged the jug and ramped up an impressive array of premium wines under their new Gallo Family Vineyards banner.

The rich 2004 Winemaker’s Signature Pinot Noir is raspberry sauce drizzled over cheesecake, followed by some smart chat about the use of butane torches in the kitchen. The 2004 Winemaker’s Signature Barbera, by contrast, is a lean wine, rife with berry notes that build in complexity toward a creamy finish–imagine “fruit at the bottom yogurt,” but upside down. The 2003 Winemaker’s Signature Meritage is a gratifying whiff of dry parchment, splashed with boysenberry that finishes like a long kiss goodbye. All these wines can be had for under $30, which does little for my paradox, but everything for my self-respect.

Gallo Family Vineyards, 320 Center St., Healdsburg. Open daily, 10am to 6pm. The tasting room offers various programs ranging from complimentary to $10. 707.433.2458.

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