Saturday, June 23, 2012

Serpent Ridge Basilisk (2009)

According to legend, the basilisk was said to be the king of serpents, with the ability to kill a person with just one glance. The first mention of the basilisk was in Greek legend.  The Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, wrote in his Naturalis Historica  that the Basilisk of Cyrene as a small snake, "not more than twelve fingers in length," with both a lethal venom and lethal gaze.  This king of serpents would emerge from time to time over the centuries.  The sightings were confined mostly to literature, from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales or Leonardo da Vinci's Bestiary.  Yet, the basilisk's reputation continued to be well-known, so much so that the word "basilisk" has been used to describe someone who was particularly a horrible person, such as Charles Dickens used the word to describe Mrs. Varden in Barnaby Rudge ... "[b]ut to be quiet with such a basilisk before him was impossible."

Despite its long, negative history, there are reports of a much more approachable, friendly basilisk in the hills of Carroll County.  The only relation of this basilisk to the "king of serpents" are the snakes that appear on the label of the red wine blend that the winemakers at Serpent Ridge Vineyards call the "Basilisk."  And, rather than being feared for its lethal gaze or venom, this Basilisk has won a gold medal in the Maryland Governor's Cup Competition.

This wine is an interesting blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Cabernet Franc.  Each grape varietal contributes to this wine.  The wine pours a good maroon color, although from certain angles, the light is able to create more reddish hues.  The aroma is clearly reminiscent of a Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of black cherry, currant, vanilla and pepper.  As for the Cabernet Franc, its influence on the taste belies the fact that it is the junior grape in this blend.  There are intense berry flavors, that gravitate to lighter, fresher fruits than one would ordinarily associate with the Cabernet Franc rather than the Cabernet Sauvignon.  The latter grape has its presence, with the hint of oak or mocha, but those flavors are clearly relegated to the back of the the wine. 

The winemaker suggests that this wine is best paired with steak, lamb, barbecue and chocolate brownies.  I think that it can be paired well with lamb and with some barbecue, but the wine has some versatility because of the mark left by the Cabernet Franc.  This dish could work with pork or chicken dishes that feature a light tomato or mushroom sauce.  Indeed, this wine could even work for some seafood. 

Unfortunately, the Basilisk is not found in stores, but it can be purchased at the vineyard for $26.00 per bottle. 


For more about the legendary basilisk, check out Wikipedia.

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