Some Merlot, Pretty Damn Good After All

I’m one of them now.

I have, for a time, tried my best to distance myself from the ones that now surround me––considering myself to be an outsider for whatever duration I will remain in Los Angeles, or California as whole. But one cannot accomplish this. Not when wine is to be explored.

I joined Bevmo! It’s one of these chains of stores, selling all things alcohol, but wishing to be something more approachable. What a silly little store. But god bless them for having wines, nonetheless. The overall appearance was something more reminiscent of dust-on-top-of-a-bookshelf than I cared for. Above me, playing, was a terrible remake of a Parcel 41, 2009Gorrilaz song that I happened to admire. A song re-sung and accompanied by a flamenco guitarist is not a necessity in this world. There was an employee who looked to be weeping over some matter that was indecipherable to me. In short, it felt the very air around me was shouting, saying to pick your wine and get the hell out.

But what kind of investigator, what kind of writer, would I be if I simply left without poking around? I explored the sections. Some of the wines seemed fair, the others frightened my better subconscious, the part of my brain that knows an awful wine before consuming it. It’s this part of my brain I need to better attune myself to––for it plays lute music and dances carelessly into the evening.

It’s been several months since I’ve mingled with merlot. The time felt right, and there was a sale on a Parcel 41 merlot from 2009. Following a drought in the winter of 2008, California had a very wet Springtime, followed by a moderate summer and fall that greatly supported a robust season for vintners.

This was good and bad. There was a surplus of wines that hit the market. Those who made good wines put out their great wines; and those who made poor wines did the same. Both at their highest capacity.

2009 is a gamble for wines from Paso Robles and Napa, Santa Ynez. Yet the Parcel 41 should please just about anyone, I was pleased to find.

2009 Nine North Wine Company Parcel 41 – $17
The nose had little hope to it: there seemed to be an over-exhilarated sense of richness, jam, and simplicity.
However, delving into it, we found the wine to be nothing of the sort. Dark for a merlot. Its taste, quite agreeable; it’s mouth feel, like a satin liquid delving down deep into the back of your throat. Very nice, but lacking the sort of depth that causes one to praise a wine. It’s how it goes for merlot. But this was a great merlot, as opposed to so many others that lack even an iota of fun, of precision that the grape can exhibit.

After purchasing this wine, I had a group meeting with a new group of writers. We properly evaluated each others work (all at various stages of terrible, of course) and had chatted about What exactly is superfluous in screenplays. It turns out, bare bones is most welcome in today’s writing scene. We don’t have the time or patience for prose in bulk. Perhaps many of us are tired, or impatient, with the bullk of many things. Wine (especially) included.


An H.F. Scott Musing and more Stacked Bottles

Guest writer H.F. Scott:

I never pretended to be a sommelier. Actually this is not true. There was that one evening back in November of ’87 wherein there was a party at Sir Galvin’s mansion in upstate New York. I was a younger lad then, fresh out of Cambridge with a self-proclaimed affinity and “education” in the art of imbibing. For the love of wine, especially. And feeling rather full of my self and my mind full of prurient matters (being young, it’s nearly a given), I decided to make my way in to Sir Galvin’s yearly ball of the coming “Winter Spell,” as the annual party was so named.

I dressed the part well enough, renting a suit that a monsieur assured me fit the proverbial proper bill: a step above the serving hands, but hardly matching the esteemed swathe of the guests. Upon my arrival I addressed the head chef with the appropriate aplomb in diction, addressing my self “as this evening’s sommelier.” He stood back, quite against himself, informing me that a rather randy fellow by the name of Pierre was already mingling among the guests as head sommelier for the evening. I had to diffuse the situation as quickly as it arose. I conjured a bit of a libelous saga, in that I was actually deemed the head sommelier of the evening and Mr. Pierre, was, “as I say,” I informed him sotto voce, “not quite up to barely cake.” This confused the chef, and I elaborated. “Mr. Pierre made quite the guffaw back at the McKainerie household, where he mistakenly mispronounced Beaujolais, offending the head of the household there. He’s been dropped a level in the sommelier institution.” The chef was not aware of any such ranking in the sommelier culture. I had to correct him, falsely, for the sake of my tale.

In the Galvin cellar was a fine lot of wine; wine’s I’ve only read about in prestigious editorials of high society and magnanimous wealth, something quite out of the league of my graduate class and available expenditures at the time. I had taken the most impressive bottles of the lot, meaning the French bottles ranging the dates of ’54 to ’69. Any wines younger than those dates would have made me look quite the fool, I suspected.

I tell you, the bourgeois were thirsty that night. Wild were their eyes, pleading were their gullets. The madness and lust for drink took care of my ineptitude of passing for any proper sommelier, much to my advantage. This was not a sophisticated party, more of a cradling of all that is spontaneous of the world rather than a sobering communion of the more dignified spirits among us. Before serving each bottle to a mélange of oblong, fleshy arms reaching out for a pour like a suffering man for a swift bullet, I had tried to give my best conjecture about what they were about to drink, about what terrior the wines were cultivated from and what care had been meticulously planned, coordinated, and dealt for each bottle’s parturition. They cared not; for it is said that after the fourth glass of any wine, you could not longer distinguish between them. To wit, that verity was proving true.

Between veering out of sight from the true sommelier, Pierre, and emptying bottle after bottle to the obstreperous bunch of party-goers, I had found time to taste the selections myself. It was hard to tunnel my wits about exactly what I was tasting, but even among the raucous laughter and clatter of high spirits I knew that the wines were quite elevating. You know it when you feel it; it’s something between spirituality and existentialism. Harmony, I had found, could be conceived through a bottle of wine. Perhaps with wine, I was further inclined to suspect, was a key to harmonious convergence of the gods, the earth, the soul and miraculousness of human perception and understanding. Wine may not have been the only passage to this uniquely human insight, but it was assuredly one of them.

The woman attending the party, letting their clothing ripple off loosely as they danced and made merry, may have had a part of this epiphany for me. It’s difficult to say because when a man is lost in the whims of intoxication, whether with chemical substance or of pure life, fact was no longer a truth – except for that President we had in office then; James Earl Carter was a wholly beast of man who should have been ripped navel to pupil. That was a fact. Or was that my father coming out?

Finite moments matter, I suppose.


Stacked Bottles

2010 Altovinum Calatayud Evodia – $14
The usual suspects of a red nose: some cedar notes, oak and spicy plum. The wine itself is big chewy, bold and a dark punch to the tonsils. It’s pleasing in a drive-by-drinking kind of way, pleasing but not complex or intellectually engaging. It’s more Shamu than Flipper. However, it’s a worthy wine.

Image from


NV Rex Goliath Shiraz Giant 47 Pound Rooster – $6
A jam fest, not unlike a Dave Matthews concert than, say, a Grateful Dead festival. It takes a good day of aeration for the sweet to march away in shame to let the wine’s backbone to come blinking out of hiding. Far too long to wait for such a wine. Have a decanter close and open it a good deal before whatever it is you have planned for it. Borderline.
2008 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – $24
Pretty, perfumed nose that entices rather than giving way to any particular redolence. Pepper, lime and tabaco fill the wide structure. Filling with a cherry spice and a elegant linger. Light on tannins, but present nonetheless. A sturdy wine that was interesting, but not something I’d sing praises to; although it’s worthy.

2009 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1970  – $ 40
Nice hints of dark must, heady. Jammy and pale at first, but when decanted the tannins open and express a taut nature. Although the wine never feels who or well integrated. Fairly flabby.  It starts off with a promise, only to flounder a while later, much like Heart’s career as it attempted to transition to the zeitgeist of the 1980’s. Pass.

Stacked Bottles – Decemeber 26th

It’s Past Christmas and the new year is right around the proverbial bend. If you’re like anyone else on the web, and why shouldn’t you be, then you’re no doubt being bombarded, plagued even, by “Best of’s” and “Top Tens.” None of that here. Instead, this post will be business as usual. We recently plowed through three bottles to warm up our livers for the onslaught of imbibing that will surely follow over the next week.
Another EveningTwo of the bottles bellow, the Montstant Mas Donís Barrica from Spain and the Silver Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia, are sure to please if you bring them over for any holiday gatherings – the Montsant Mas Donís Barrica, especially. If you’re planning on tackling some rather heady egg nogs or cups of steaming wassail instead, shelve these wines and keep them for yourself.

The third bottle, a Barefoot Cuvée sparkler is, as you may have already feared by name alone, kind of a dud. It’s the end of the year. Hell. Spend some extra dollars and taste something with more elegance then you may be used to…or hit up that special bottle from that certain special chateau you had years ago and that still haunts your palette. Chances are you’ll be trying to cling onto the walls as you stumble to your bed around two or three in the morning on new year’s day; I contend that you should partake in some terrific bubble before this hilarious dance takes place.

2009 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Mas Donís Barrica (Old Vines) –$12
Bright, heavy and heady on the nose with some essence of plumage. At first there’s this delicacy you can’t quite pin-point; sweet and condensed fruits with a base tannin structure in back. Give it another few minutes and the expression comes through more clearly. There’s and evolution and something else to discover with every new sip or two. The tannins deepen, but never overbear; the plum-y acid quails and haunts; the mid-range as a whole encapsulates in lieu of broadening. Truly a worthy wine.

2010 Silver Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – $12
Cherry madness on the nose with a hint of chamomile, pretty with some snarly head. The taste itself is slightly flabby, but fun. Nice concentration of acidity, a delicate sweetness and a deep tannin you have to search for instead of being slapped with. In the end, nothing but your first reaction is elucidated on and it has a tendency to taste just like many other cab’s you’ve had before. All said, It’s quite spot-on. Worthy.

2009 Inama Carménére Colli Berici Piú – $ 19
A pretty and flourishing nose that only hint of fig and spring. Soft, velvety and luscious, but perhaps just a little too much so. The tannins in the back are tight, but there’s a lacking note throughout wanting you wishing for something more to be expressed. While generally soft and approachable, it’s not the most inviting to drink during long takes. Because of its price and little sense of bright future with aging…Pass.

NV Barefoot Cellars Bubbly Brut Cuvée – $8
Appreciatively dry. A mellow back-end with palm oil and cantaloupe clean finish. It’s a fun and easy take down. But there’s little that we can say is too exciting. If you’re buying some bubbles, go ahead and spend twenty or so clams from some enticing producers from California.  Pass.

Eric Asmiov, et al., in the New York Times recommended some fantastic options: Scharffenberger Mendocino County, $17; Roederer Estate, $19; or the Iron Horse Green Valley, $27.