Wine Time: JaM Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, California

The JaM cabernet sauvignon is a rich, velvety wine that goes down easy. You would never guess that the wine comes in at a strong 15.1 percent alcohol because there are no hard edges, no out-of-place tannins. Everything is smooth and balanced. SPECIAL

Cost: $18-$22

 

What: The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy, and I haven’t been able to give much thought to meals or food and wine pairings. So I was delighted when my friends Clint and Trish invited us over for a pre-Super Bowl meal last weekend.


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They served a fantastic array of wild game dishes with several wonderful wines including an over-the-top big Napa cab. The wine I thought was the best value of the night was this JaM cabernet sauvignon.

It’s a rich, velvety wine that goes down easy. You would never guess that the wine comes in at a strong 15.1 percent alcohol because there are no hard edges, no out-of-place tannins. Everything is smooth and balanced.

The name JaM comes from combining the letters from the first name of owners John Anthony Truchard and his wife, Michelle, but it could just as well be a description of the cab. I’m not really fond of jammy wines, but this one was full of fresh fruit flavors without being sweet and cloying.

In the glass, it is a deep red with pleasant aromas of blackberry and strawberry preserves. On the palate, you get an explosion of ripe dark berries and plums with some vanilla notes. The wine has a medium body with an ultra-smooth finish. It is an approachable wine that is perfect for informal occasions.

It was as popular with the women as it was with the men and we all marveled at the rich, smooth taste.

The grapes are bought from multiple vineyards in several regions and blended to produce this wine for the masses. Like the other wines in JaM’s interesting portfolio, it is designed to be affordable and easy for wine lovers to appreciate. There’s no need to wait for this wine to age; it’s tasty as soon as it’s released. And it comes with a convenient twist-off cap.

Besides the 100 percent cab, JaM offers a chardonnay named Butter and a sparkling wine called Toast. Each name is a good descriptor for the wine, and when you combine them you get a tasty treat: toast with jam and butter.

The chardonnay is rich and creamy, in the classic California style. Toast is made with traditional Méthode Champenoise techniques, but in an approachable California style. Aromas of honeydew and peach lead to rich tropical fruit and a light, nutty toastiness on the finish.

This week, I wanted to find a wine that had some connection to Camelot, because Augusta University’s American Opera and Musical Theater Institute’s production of that musical will be performed this weekend. (For tickets, visit (706) 667-4100 or maxwell theatre@augusta.edu.) We have been rehearsing for weeks, and it is going to be a spectacular show.

But there isn’t much wine from England, and it’s difficult to find. So I decided the “A” in JaM could be for Arthur, the hero of the play. “M” could be for Merlyn, his magician and mentor. And the “J” could be for Jenny, Arthur’s bride, whose full name is Guinevere.

Or the name JaM could describe the trouble Arthur and Guinevere find themselves in when she falls in love with his best friend Sir Lancelot and King Arthur must choose between love and law.

This wine definitely would be good for toasting Arthur’s noble efforts at creating a legal system and the Round Table with knights dedicated to chivalry.

Winery: John and Michelle Truchard started the JaM brand in 2010 with a cabernet, but they have been around the Napa Valley wine scene for years. They craft ultra-premium wine under the John Anthony Vineyard label, which debuted in 2003.

They also own Vinewerkes, which manages 26 vineyards in the Napa Valley.

John’s parents bought property in the valley in 1974 and were among the wine pioneers who championed grape growing in the area. Michelle’s family has lived in Napa for four generations.

After graduating from UC-Davis, John managed vineyards for other people and then decided he wanted to make his own wine.

During the economic slowdown of 2008, the Truchards noticed less demand for their premium John Anthony wines. John started thinking about more affordable wines. He found a lot of extra grapes and wine floating around the market and created the JaM brand.

The JaM wines have become popular. From 1,000 cases produced in 2009 to 8,000 in 2011 they have now grown to 500,000 cases for their 2015 vintage. They hope to hit the million mark in the near future.

The winery opened a popular tasting room in downtown Napa last year that features comfortable seating, a state-of-the-art sound system and a classic vinyl collection. Live music is featured on Friday nights.

Goes With: The food Clint prepared for the Super Bowl dinner was perfect for JaM. We had this enticing wine with venison chili followed by rabbit, quail and squirrel served over rice. It was perfect for getting us warmed up for the football game.

I also brought over some fried chicken wings that made nice appetizers. The smooth, soft wine was nice with the wings and sipping by itself, but it also held its own with the wild game.

It is a versatile wine and would be nice with burgers or pizza, most any meat on the grill, pasta with tomato sauce and a wide variety of cheese.

Here’s the recipe for the chicken wings:

I cut each wing into two drumettes and remove much of the skin. Then I prepare a coating of House Autry chicken breader, to which I add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and Morton Nature’s Seasons. Mix it all up thoroughly.

If I have time, I soak the chicken in a bowl of milk. If I’m in a hurry, I just run the pieces under the faucet. Dip the wet chicken pieces in the dry mix and place in a fryer filled with peanut oil. Heat the oil to 360 degrees and cook for about 9 minutes.

This produces a very light breading that adds a tasty flavor to the chicken.

wine events

Wine tasting: 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; free; (706) 619-3420

Wine and beer tasting: 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road.; $5; (762) 333-0260

Wine tasting: 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; $5; (803) 279-9522

onstage

What: Camelot, staged by Augusta University’s American Opera and Musical Theater Institute

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11; 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12

Where: Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre

Tickets: $15 adults; $10 ages 60 and older, AU alumni and military; $5 students and children; (706) 667-4100 or maxwelltheatre@augusta.edu

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