Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dysfunctional Family Winemakers



If there's one tasting I look forward to the most eagerly each year, it's the American and International Dysfunctional Family Winemakers tasting ("AInt Dysfun?, as it's known in the trade). There's an electricity in the air unmatched at any other event in the wine biz, except maybe the annual Capital Punishment affair held by William Foley in the majestic ballroom at San Quentin when he executes the staff of a new winery he's purchased. And he spares no expense on the food--it's Last Meal for everybody! But there are so many wineries represented at AInt Dysfun? that it would be impossible to taste at every table. (Unless you're Alder Yarrow. But he has a distinct advantage over ordinary humans. Just ask him.) I usually try to visit a few of my favorite Dysfunctional Family Wineries, after all, who can pass up a chance to visit with Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset, the poster children for AIn't Dysfun?, but spend the majority of my time tasting at Dysfunctional Family wineries that are new to me. I don't spend a lot of time here at HoseMaster of Wine reviewing wine, mostly because you babies whine when I do, but I came across some extraordinary wines at AInt Dysfun that I thought you should seek out.

There's something really inspiring about the wines from Overly Affectionate Family Vineyards. First of all, I don't think I've ever seen so many people working at one table before at a tasting. Seventeen members of the Overly family were present to share their wines. They had formed a long daisy chain of holding hands, so only Tricia Overly, the matriarch of the family, who was standing on the end, had a free hand to serve their wines. I was curious about how such a physically affectionate family got into the wine business, but Tricia's answers were constantly interrupted by her children kissing her repeatedly on the mouth. That didn't bother me. But breastfeeding at a trade show is crossing a line! Though I was curious why her son's beard stubble didn't irritate her. I was impressed with the Overly Affectionate 2009 "Come Here and Kiss Me" Chardonnay. When I asked Bennett Overly what made it so distinct, he looked up from where he was nuzzling his eldest daughter's neck and told me that the secret to Overly Affectionate Family wines was "skin contact, and lots of it." I don't come from an overtly affectionate family, so it was refreshing to see a family so openly touching and kissing and sharing physical comfort, so obviously proud of their family and wines. "There's a little bit of me in all my wines," Bennett told me, "and a little bit of me in all my kids too." Yeah, I guess.

After the Overly Affectionate Family wines I rushed over to wash my hands, then taste at the table where some friendly guys were serving My Sister's Underwear Drawer wines. You just can't get more dysfunctional than that! Each label features a lovely engraving of a different pair of the Bagg brothers', Scum and Doosh, sister's panties. Reminiscent of the Harlan Estate labels, except Harlan Estate's Scratch 'n' Sniff smells like money. I asked Doosh where the name of the winery originated. You don't want to know. First, I tasted the My Sister's Underwear Drawer 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon "Edible." The nose was slightly fecal, and the flavors were distinctly earthy, so I might have mistaken it for a Santa Barbara Cabernet. The My Sister's Underwear Drawer 2008 "G-String" Pinot Noir was my favorite. The wine simply glides between your cheeks. Doosh told me the wine is 100% Pommerde clone grown in very chalky soil. "What I'm really looking for in these wines is the same thing I look for in my sister's underwear drawer," Doosh told me, expression of soil..."

As a person who thinks the whole wine and food pairing culture is stupid, it was refreshing to taste with the folks at Domaine Eating Disorder. Siblings Ann O'Rexia and Bill Emia were candid in their views. "Food, in general, is disgusting," Ann told me, "and has no place at the dinner table." As dysfunctional family members, you would expect Bill to disagree with his sis, "Well, I love food, and lots and lots of it. Anyone who doesn't eat his weight in trans-fats a day is just not enjoying life. But wine with food? Don't make me puke." Hard to argue with winemakers who make such remarkable wines. The Domaine Eating Disorder 2009 "Kate Moss" Sauvignon Blanc was predictably lean and acidic, though Bill admired its bounty of grapefruit, melons and Fig Newtons on the palate. Actual Fig Newtons. In every bottle Bill was able to add a yummy cookie due to a loophole in the TTB regulations that allows Nabisco products in certain wines. (There are Oreo cookies in the Eating Disorder Zinfandel from Lodi, but you can't really tell--it's Lodi Zin, after all.) Bill's favorite is the Domaine Eating Disorder 2006 "The Vomitorium" Gruner Veltliner. "If this doesn't make you Smaragd up your dinner, I don't know what will."

It seemed appropriate to end the AInt Dysfun Tasting at the most sought-after cult wine table with dozens of fellow wine bloggers clamoring for a taste of Personal Failure Wines. Personal Failure's concept is to bring together people who have never been successful enough to have pleased their parents under one roof to make wine. Each bottle has a back label that briefly explains how the winemaker disappointed his mother or father, or both. For example, here's what it says on the back of Personal Failure 2007 "You Married That Slut" Cabernet:

2007 was the year I married my wife Betty over the objections of my mother who told me I was marrying Betty because I was inadequately endowed and Betty was the first whore who said Yes, and that Betty was certain to take many lovers and a mockery of me, and that I shouldn't even think about running back home when Betty dumped me because she'd already be dead after turning the shotgun on Dad first, What was there to live for? This is my tribute to her. I hope you enjoy it. And, thanks, Betty, it was fun.

The stories are compelling, and so are the wines. It seemed that each blogger had a Personal Failure wine he could identify with, and this, along with the astounding quality of the wines, made under the supervision of personal failure Tim Mondavi, is what creates the historic demand for these wines. Here's another, this from the back label of Personal Failure 2008 "You'll Never Amount to Anything" Chardonnay:

I dedicate this wine to my Father, Leonard, who, from the time I was a little girl, told me I would never amount to anything. And now, after a stalled career as a surrogate mother for endangered Amazon River tribes, five failed marriages, three failed suicide attempts, and one failed souffle, I want my Father to try my 2008 Chardonnay, which was aged 10 months in Ethan Allen oak and was bottled unfined, unfiltered and sadly unloved.

You can understand why the Personal Failure table was so busy. Personal Failure speaks to us all.



30 comments:

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, VKM said...

"slightly fecal, and the flavors were distinctly earthy" Funny how that is praised when its from the Loire but ridiculed when from Santa Barbara.... Perhaps you need a re-visit and a re-taste? Unless you would rather have Robitussin? Whitehall and Robins still have a back stock from before alcohol was barred as the main ingredient in cough syrup. They'd be happy to let you have some. The DXM will make you think you're drinking the cult wine of your choice.

Otherwise funny post, You're so cool, I love your beard.

Sycophantic, tango anyone?

Sip with Me! said...

Mmmmm, I just love the wines from Personal Failures. The 2010 "Not Even Nominated" from Walla Walla is a personal favorite. Boy, talk about finishes, I still can't get that taste out of my mouth.

abc said...

That was why you looked so happy at the tasting, you found the back room.

Ethan Allen oak? I think that is what my uncle uses for that dandelion wine he makes.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Tamara Darling,

I've got something for that taste in your mouth.

As for "Not Even Nominated," well, you've gone one better than a Poodle Award. You're on the HoseMaster Blog Roll! Though, come to think of it, that's almost Personal Failure squared.

Amy Love,

I was happy at the tasting because I was drunk. It's required that you engage in substance abuse to attend the Dysfunctional Family Winemakers Tasting. I'd consumed six bottles of Nyquil.

abc said...

I thought it was the gruner at lunch? :)

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

You must have missed the Identity Crisis table. Such a pity, all those Pinots with all that envy! The Oh Cote My Beaune was a little shy but fairly charming in its own way but you could tell it was overshadowed by the much more boisterous Who Needs Terroir When We Got Syrah....chunky, full and filling everyone's mouth with goo. So sorry you missed it!

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, VKM said...

"chunky, full and filling everyone's mouth with goo"

Sam, Lines like that cost $3.99/minute, taxes and fees extra.

Sip with Me! said...

Dearest Ron,

Thanks for adding me to your blogroll, I'm truly humbled you consider my droll blog worth a visit. Now I owe you big kiss AND a firm spanking. As for the wine, with all due respect My Love, perhaps I wasn't talking about myself.

Ron Washam said...

Tamara Darling,

Sure, you expect me to believe you're a wine blogger who's not talking about herself. That would make you a rare Poodle indeed.

Your blog is worth a visit, especially for the spanking.

Kathy said...

Ethan Allen oak. Tim Mondavi. And more. This is a classic. Line by line.
Beyond good, hosey. Thank you.
Will we see these winery reviews on selected blogs soon?

Ron Washam said...

Kathy,

Well, sure, and they'll be getting really cool badges!! Points are so last year, and grades are lame, but badges are what all the real wineries want. Personal Failure wines received the coveted 1WineDoody "Gave Me a Boner" badge. But, I hear it's regifting from STEVE!

Thomas said...

Pinning that Doody badge on the boner must be a sight!

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, VKM. said...

Thomas, It takes T-50 staples.

Thomas said...

Arthur,

Don't brag.

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, VKM. said...

About what? My new Archer Stapler?

Beau Carufel said...

I take it you weren't able to stumble over to the hotly-debated-farming-philosophy tables?

Yea, that was weak. It's Friday.

PaulG said...

Having spent a pleasant half hour scrolling thru the past 4 or 5 hosings, I am once again shamed into a search for a new career, as wine blogging clearly is owned, lock, cork and barrel, by you, HMaster. My sincerest appreciation for the depth and breadth of your depraved rantings.

Charlie Olken said...

If we lived in a monarchy, we would say, "The King is dead, long live the King".

What do we say for a HoseMaster?

Samantha Dugan said...

We say we love him still

jenny said...

Love the names especially the Kate Moss

Dave said...

Might I propose an addition to the "Comments from the Critics" column in the left margin? Label it from Anonymous:

The HoseMaster's contributions to the world of wine appreciation are exceeded only by the invention of the corkscrew.

Kathy said...

Did you happen to stop by the USB table? It was the one with spigots plugged into the iPids. It was so cool. You could just do an instant search, assume a false positive, and come up with a blog. Whatever had been alleged to have been tasted and spit came out.
Really, an online spit bucket. (I don't know how they did it!)
Unfortunately, as there was that perennial shortage of insightful spit, the table ran dry pretty early.
I'm sure there will be more next year.

Wines for the People said...

HMW can't be dead, because the comments here would be full of tearful lamentations. Yet no post in weeks, and not even a new comment in 12 days. I must draw the only logical conclusion. Everyone has taken their toys and snuck off to play without me.
Sulkily, WinePeeps
(Word verification = pitihony, or Pity Honey)

Anonymous said...

http://www.winepressnw.com/2010/09/29/5579/hosemaster-of-wine-calls-it-quits.html

Such is the fate of the HoseMaster :(

Art said...

Hosemaster! Hosemaster! Sind Sie hier, Hosemaster?

Samantha Dugan said...

Just missing one of my favorite writers.....nice to read you again.
I love you

Jo Diaz said...

Still missing you.

Samantha Dugan said...

Jo,
I feel ya. I miss him too....

Sgt. Sassafras said...

Hey Ron

what happened - squirrels got your tongue?

moscato said...

I’ll be sure to visit again and will spread the word to my friends.