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.


Lip-Smacking Taradiddle (When The Green Peppers Must Fall)

Elepantocetomachia. It’s when an elephant engages a whale in combat––a highly imaginative fisticuffs worthy of today’s Animal Planets cable programming. It’s an undeniably preposterous scenario. Although, if I were to bet, my money would be on the Whale.

It is just as far-fetched to believe you’ll enjoy and wines under dark circumstances. To this, there is no exception. You can open a bottle of [pretentious bottle here] and have it fall utterly short of impression. Why? You’re date across the table could be talking about their cat again. The one with the infected eye. The one that clawed your back up last week while making love. The cat that would be forgiven a hundred times before you ever were.

The slightest apparition of an ill mood can send the wine in your glass afoul. We’ve all been there.

But is it always your mood? “Maybe it was the wine itself,” you think to yourself. A wine is never the same wine, bottle to bottle. There are too many variables when it comes to enjoying a glass from a particular country, a particular region, a particular hermitage, a particular viticulturist, a particular grape. There are an innumerable instances in with your wine, from growth, production, bottling, shipment, and sales that work against it; and only a handful of supposed (wished/crafted) ways in which it can go right

When you open a bottle, and it tastes like its from the brow of Uma Thurman (heaven), that is reason to appreciate it all the more.

But there are bad wines. Sometimes you have them all in a row.

Perhaps it was your palate that was off that night. Perhaps everyone around you was merely lying about their appreciation, their lip-smacking taradiddles––pretentious nonsense. The room may have been too warm; the host was not at all happy to be serving you; you may have had a panic attack coming on, maybe, possibly, for sure; or, really thinking on it, maybe “it just wasn’t a wine day.”

Even Bacchus had to rest, after all.

Wine is the drink of merriment, a mood enhancer. Come into it askew, your bound to come out of it as spun and worn as your Led Zepplin II record.

That said, read the following with the same fallacious presumption that a GOP nom would read an environmental study. Believe nothing.

The March 8th Burgundy Tasting:

2011 Château Charriére Savigny-les-Beane Blanc “Vermots Dessus” – $24
Smells of tarts and smoothness. Agreeable.
Lemon and butter and Clean. An a-okay wine that failed to inspire.
Skip it.

2011 Jaques Bavard Auxey-Duresses “Les Clous” – $32
Smelled like a fish tank that had married HAL 9000.
Tasted like it, too.
Skip it.

2011 Domaine Sylvian Langoureau St-Aubin 1er Cru “Bas de Vermaraian á l’Est” – $37
Some spice hits the nose. Very sweet-smelling.
The wine is way off the mark, I’m afraid. Cloying sweet. Overly acidic. Your not going to have a good time with this wine, much like a blubbering fat kid being thrown down water slide only to become stuck half way down the middle.
Skip it.

2011 Domaine Benoit Ente Chassagne-Montrachet “Les Houilléres” – $70
Smells of garden and peppers. Really, very lovely.
An attack of freshness: green peppers mingling joyfully in the nude with a summer flair. * An utter delight to drink. **

2011 Domaine Delarche Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru – $90
Smelled of dairy and red pepper.
The wine was reaching for something bold, but fell short. The flavors muddled together, a semi-sweet burnt marshmallow.
Skip it.

2011 Château de la Charriére Santenay 1er Cru “Clos Rousseau” – $25
I failed to write a tasting note. I was probably awash with boredom at this point.
Skip it.

2011 Domaine Faiveley Monthelie 1er Cru “Les Champs Fulliots” – $40
A light potpourri nose. Some delicate intrigues.
Light on acid and tannin. Heavy alcohol swallows it’s mysteries whole.
Skip it.

2011 Domaine Mongeard-Mgneret Savigny–lés-Beaunes 1er Cru “Narbantons” – $40
A promising dark chocolate, forest floor and pine smell.
Some hint of breakthrough fruit, but otherwise too volcanic for my taste. Hard to tell what was going on with this.
Skip it.

2011 Domaine Stéphane Magnien Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru “Faconnieres” – $65
A bitter and dark mess. They missed the mark on this. I had to utter out “where they trying to make Bourbon?” This wine may have been a nice drink right after bottling, but now? No. It’s a lost sailor thrown from a cannon fraught frigate.
Skip it.

2011 Domaine Delarche Corton-Renardes Grand Cru – $70
I had to question the sanity of the host after this wine. Why wold they save this for last? To tease our tongues with something sweeter than melting down a box of peeps, adding red food coloring, and calling it wine? A poor show. My tasting note here may be an exaggerated, but the Corton-Renardes lack of appeal certainly was not.
While, not terrible, it is nowhere near as fun as listening to Yanni stone-cold sober.
Skip it.

* My inquisitive companion inquired about the taste to our host. Although she was happy to come across the fresh taset, she was passively informed that this green pepper redolence and linger was nothing more than an indication as to “the wine’s young age and that it should go away soon as it matures” In fact, the host seemed rather displeased with our satisfaction in the “Les Houilléres'” particular qualities. As it soon appeared, he failed to take us seriously after this episode.

** Sad, then. How the green peppers must fall.

Working The Bottle To The Bitter End

Highlighting one wine this time: The Château de la Charriére Beaune 1er Cru Clos Des Vignes Franches. A 2011. It’s one of these rare wines that comes across my way that doesn’t drain my soul. Meaning it’s relatively inexpensive. And delicious from end to end –– this is something we will touch upon in a moment.

For, I have a problem with my frugality. What’s the problem? If I spend over thirty dollars a bottle, my knees shake and I feel much too woozy, like a diabetic running a Cookmarathon. I wish I could say I was exaggerating. I’ll blame my parents for indoctrinating me with the simple equation I’ve come to know well: Money Spent = Sin/Devastation/Sadism/Masochism/Deviancy. Oh, and I won’t even go into my state of mind when I buy organic food (!).

And organic wine? Are you mad? I can hear my mother fainting from two states away. And there. What’s that sound? Why yes, that is the cry of my grandmother in her grave craggily imploring me to “stop that right this very instant! Do you know what you can be doing with that money? Do you?”

A personal psychoanalysis aside, there are some lip-smacking, bright and simply gorgeous wines to be had at terrific tariffs. The ’11 Charriére carried its weight well, being scrumptious from beginning to end.

Now, many (okay, all) wines evolve as the night unfolds. Some start off quite happy only to turn dark and brooding after a few hours. Others are harsh, exhibiting an acidic rush, only to loose it all and feel hallow and sugar-laden thereafter.

Eric Asimov is at it again –– showing everyone up in the wine writing world, causing us to question why we even try to begin with. He’s crafted a wine drinking course, of sorts, that he hopes many will participate via a thread on the New York Times website. The idea is everyone will buy one or more of his recommendations and then log in to elucidate on just how they experience said wine.

Sure, it’s a great idea; after all, there’s never been a discussion online where disagreements end poorly, or with verbose hatred clearly defined in ALL CAPS. I suspect everyone’s opinions about how they experience wine will be treated with declaration and the utmost respect.

What’s intriguing to me about wine is that it evolves. Mr. Asimov points this out well enough. The most keen of us pick up on it. Others don’t give two hoots in hell. But if you choose to ignore, I’d argue, you are missing half of the fun. Wine is a very temporal experience. It’s all over the place, a very tumultuous fire child; it’s what The Animals were really signing about with their cult-ish and youthful lust cull, “Wild Thing.” (Challenge me if you will on that assumption).

With the grand majority of the wines we purchase, most open life a fire bomb and fizzle out just as quickly. It’s the new thang of the wine world, am I right? You open, say a Shiraz, and it has this way of screaming in your face. You are enraptured by it at first, but then find out you’re too old too keep up with it and you leave it by the wayside. They’re damn exhausting.

A good wine works when you open it. It works when you’ve come to the middle of it. And it works at the end of it. A good wine makes you want to open another. A good wine dares you to miss it. Greater wines do the same, but challenge your intellect in the process. A wine with god-like muscularity does all of the bellow, but seems utterly bonded to its dichotomies. Great things push and pull you. They should never bore you. Rather, they engage you. We seek out these wines for the same reason we seek out anything else in our lives.

God. I’m a wino.

This would also send my grandmother flopping around her grave.With respect, of course.

2011 Château de la Charrière Beaune 1er Cru Vignes Franches – $27
A solid, grounded sort of nose. Firm, lovely. And long draw of elegance.
Silky-smooth butter over the tongue. A good tannic base with a balanced mild fruit. Lip smacking and inviting. Very enjoyable. A terrific pinot that begs you to keep going.
Worthy. Very Worthy.