Monday, August 10, 2009

Wine With Clothes

As HoseMaster of Wine, I spend so much of my time here hosing all the fools and hypocrites in the wine blogosphere and the wine world that I don't often get to show off my impeccable taste in wine. And you know I have impeccable taste in wine. It's easy to tell. I mean, really, how many other people out there can stick their nose in a glass of wine, take a small sip, swish it around in their mouth and then come up with "89 points!?" This takes years of experience! It only sounds ridiculously easy, but, trust us, we who review wines, it ain't. You may disagree with "89 points" after you buy the wine and it sucks like a bucktoothed lamprey, but I'm the expert, my friends say so, and I have a blog and a keyboard to prove it. And numbers can be confusing for novices. They ask stupid questions like, "What's the difference between an 89 and a 90?" Forgivably ignorant question, but ignorant nonetheless. The standard answer is "I liked the 90 slightly more than the 89." The actual answer is "Ad revenue."

But I do have kind of a soft spot for what is known as the monthly Wine Blogger Wednesday. I enjoy this like I enjoy Jay Leno's Jaywalking spots--it's like wallowing in a warm ocean of human imbecility and misinformation. Nothing but laughs. Like someone will propose writing about wine and music pairings. And, can you believe it, they all do! It's not enough to just match wine with the appropriate food, now you have to pick the right music to accompany the wine. What about clothing? I know, let's blog about how what you're wearing affects the wine!

I opened a bottle of Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay. It was pretty good with my stonewashed denims, and maybe even a little better with Lederhosen, but when I put on my merkin and a codpiece, the wine just sang. In a falsetto, but it sang.

It's not enough you display your poor taste in wine, you have to mix it with esoteric music too? Oh God, I can just see it now. These dorks taking not only their own wine into a restaurant, not only their appropriate Riedel stemware (Riedel--the MG of wine glasses), but also their iPod with the music best suited to their 96-point Australian wine (A Flock of Seagulls, or Olivia Newton-John, which is more gooey?). Yeah, yeah, music affects your brain waves, but these folks don't exactly have the stuff of tsunamis in their skulls. They've barely enough to drown a mosquito.

Like most of you, I drink a bottle of wine every night. I try to drink interesting wines. After so many years as a sommelier, there aren't very many wines I don't have some appreciation for. I don't get free samples any more. I don't get tasted regularly on expensive Napa Valley Cabernets or flashy Burgundies or esoteric Italian wines, but the upside is I also don't have to taste all the manipulated and manufactured crap that desperate wine reps hope will end up by-the-glass so they can make the payments on their bar tabs. Now I just drink. Here are my impressions of a few of the wines I've tasted in the past week or so. Remember, friends, comedy is easy, wine descriptions are hard.


I have this thing for Tannat. Don't know where it started, with some bottle of Madiran I had a long time ago, but now, I seek them out. For me, it's To be, or tannat to be, that is the question. (OK, new Wine Blogger Wednesday idea--wine with Shakespeare! To paraphrase, What fucking fools these mortals be.) Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, but Lone Madrone is his own label. Neil also has a thing for Tannat, there is even a bit planted at Tablas Creek thanks to him, so when I stopped at the Lone Madrone tasting room on HWY 46 W a few weeks ago (his were some of the best wines I tasted that trip--Paso has a lot of wineries, but very few actually worth tasting at) I was hoping there would be a Tannat to taste. And here it is, Tannat, in its gigantic glory. Man, this stuff is darker than Dick Cheney's soul. Darker than a spelunker's wet dream. Darker than the negative of a Johnny Winter photo. I love good Tannat (and Tannat is a pedigreed grape--Tannat is to Uruguay as Malbec is to Argentina, as Carmenere is to Chile, as Gruner Veltliner is to the Land of Stupid Sommeliers). Tannat is like Petite Sirah with some actual complexity. The 2005 Lone Madrone begs to be decanted, but there isn't enough oxygen in Scarlet Johansen's lungs to open this baby up. I gots Scarlet fever! Inky and brooding, very late in the evening it starts to get blueberry and cassis flavors, dark chocolate, a bit of briariness. And always the tannins. This wine is about as subtle as a lie from Sean Hannity's lips. And don't miss Lone Madrone's 2006 Roussanne! Fantastic example of this wonderful grape.


"Breggo" means sheep in the strange lingo of Boontling. As the farmer said to the lonely
shepherd, "Leggo of my Breggo!" Breggo is a relative newcomer to the Anderson Valley scene, but, wow, are their white wines good! I stopped at their tasting room on HWY 128 to get some of their Pinot Gris, but it was sold out. I bought this Gewurztraminer instead, and now I wish I hadn't been so damned tight and bought a few more. You can list the Gewurz worth drinking in California on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to give me one. Navarro, Fogarty, add Breggo. This '07 Gewurz had everything. A beautiful nose, filled with lychee and apricot and peach and flowers, a sensational, slightly oily texture (there may be some residual sugar here, but it only added to the impression), and a long, almost Vendange Tardive finish. I know Breggo is sold out of this wine, and they should be. I'd be wary of buying the '08 because of all the wildfires in Mendocino that year. Every wine up there has the possibility of smoke contamination. And when there's a fire in Mendocino, even the Breggo get the munchies. Break out the Fritos and sheep dip!


There's been a lot of buzz about this estate nestled in the hills above Alexander Valley. The owners are certainly throwing money at it like Obama at a banker's convention. They hired Ulises Valdez, Phillipe Melka, Emily Wines, and even a winemaker! I call this the New York Yankee approach to the wine business. Looks great in the preseason predictions but can all this overpriced talent create a winner? For years folks have tried to make a sensational Cabernet based wine in Alexander Valley. Jordan made the appellation famous and graciously set the bar very low. If it were limbo no one could beat them. In recent years it has been Huckleberry at Stonestreet and Verite attempting the feat (Robert Parker aside, Verite is about as interesting as a James Laube column, only easier to buy, if you can afford it), as well as Lancaster, whose wines have definitely improved under David Ramey's consulting. But Skipstone just might be the real deal. The 2005 is damned nice wine, 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and the rest split between Petit Verdot and Malbec. This is still one of those work-in-progress wines, but for a first release it's pretty impressive. It already seems to have an identity, a nice seamlessness, a vividness to the fruit, a loamy richness that speaks of the vineyard. I liked it very much, and it was worlds better the second day, which is always a good sign. If the wines improve over each vintage, Skipstone just might be the Bordeaux blend that puts Alexander Valley on the map. Or maybe they could trade for Michel Rolland and a player to be named later.


Matt Reid said...

Shocking! You liked a wine. I don't remember trying the tannat (was it that good?), but I thought that Lone Madrone's Nebbiolo was the only one from California I've ever had that was worth drinking.

I enjoy the Breggo line up, too.

Don't know Skipstone. Maybe if I find a couple of hundred bucks lying around....

Samantha Dugan said...

Well, at least we now know what thrilling developments come from a prescription medication and wine pairing, Wine & Music Pairing Wednesday! Let's take two of the most subjective things on the planet, smash them together and post our findings. What goes better with almond flavored "Champagne", Jane's Addiction or Nat King Cole...or a better question, who gives a shit?

I had to Google that just to see if you were yanking our chains, (sighing) it's real. I was going to check out some of the posts but then I remembered, I didn't care.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Matt,

Thanks for posting. I actually like a lot of wines, way more than any winemaker I've ever met has liked. I just don't review that many wines because, frankly, no one cares. And, yes, the Tannat was that good. I didn't get a chance to try his Nebbiolo, and I agree with you, if it is good it's the only CA Nebbiolo worth drinking. Neil is a terrifically talented winemaker and probably hates almost everything he tastes.

My Gorgeous Sam,

Let's start our own Wine Blogging Wednesday! But we have to do it HoseMaster style--naked and drunk. I'll be drunk.

I love you so much, My Darling Sam

Samantha Dugan said...

Can I at least have a smock?!

Anonymous said...

Any blogger worth his or her salt (and have you seen the prix of fleur de sel recently?) would know that Lone Madrone's best wine is the aptly named "BARFANDEL." You can assign any score you like to this wine, but I'm not sure what the point is, frankly.
If Gallo starts importing Macon for the Frei label, will that be their "French Frei" wine?


Matt Reid said...

Glad to hear it, Ron. I agree that Mr. Collins (I don't know him) is a great winemaker. On the same trip I visited Tablas Creek. Went in wondering why I should pay Cal prices for Rhone wines, rather than just buying Rhones. Left with a bunch of Tablas wines, and the answer. I hope for Mr. Collins's sake that he likes most of the wines he tries!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Sam,

I love it when you're shy...A smock it is, maybe even a smock turtleneck.

Anonymous 1,

Yeah, I tasted that Barfandel. Actually, I tasted it and then retasted it about five minutes later, like any good Barfandel.

Hey Matt,

Send me some free samples. I promise to review them, but not necessarily positively. Or whatever you bloggers say to get free wines..,

Anonymous said...

Hosemaster, Sir,

That's why they say the Barfandel wine has such a lonnnnnng aftertaste. It's also why, I think,. they charge you twice what it's worth.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Anon 1,

Well, you know what bulimics say, What goes down, must come up. Same with wine pricing, by the way.

Wines for the People said...

You've got the lingo down, Mr. HMW. At least, that's what I've said and I've gotten one free sample so far. But hm... I didn't ask for that one.

Anyhow you'll have to wait a bit. My own wine is still hanging on the vines (first vintage is 09, in other words), and hyping the wines I make for a living is not in my job description.

Anonymous said...

Catch the hottest new wine lifetsyle magazine for hipster beverage mavens: WineRX, which nails down the most ideal wine and prescription drug combos for a content-hungry wine geek community.

Charlie Olken said...

Wine For The People??

Has this name not been used twice already? The old Wine and The People in Berkeley back in the radical heyday of that town, a wine supply store and wine label run by Peter Brehm and Dennis Kelly.

And Wine For The People is a brand out of Colorado.

Man, the people are really getting to be important.

Here are other labels about to appear--

--Wines Of, By and For The People
--Hear No People, See No People, Taste No People
--Wine For The Peeps
--Pinot Power To The People
--Parkerized For the People

Daddy said...

By the way, please have that winery rep pictured above deliver me a bottle of Lone Madrone Tannat. There are times when I just have to have a sample.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Have your people call my people.


Be careful, you won't be able to get the stains our of your pants. From the Tannat, I mean.