I wonder, non-judgmentally, who really buys these things. Surely they're in highest demand around Christmastime, when Bill Wyman's divorce lawyer's clients need reminders of how good they've been all year. And the corporate logo ones probably make nice briefcase-stuffers at Caligulesque i-bank holiday parties. The right wine to the right person is the most meaningful of gifts, but vitis vinifera's true strength come December is that it's the best impersonal gift imaginable. To the recipient, it offers a cozy, inoffensive obviousness--you know 50+ other people got the exact same thing from the deep-pocketed master of etiquette who sent it, likely with the same typed message. But that's fine because you either a) like wine, in which case you'll enjoy evaluating the contents, b) are indifferent to wine, in which case you'll enjoy getting drunk from the contents, or c) don't drink, in which case you have a re-gifting trump card.
Do these rock bottles ever twist'n'shout their way into distinguished private collections? I'm guessing not, though I welcome evidence to the contrary. The liquid inside is produced by Miramonte. I've never had any of their wines, which appear to be middle-class SoCal fruities, but assuming the Syrah with the gold-tongued Stones icon is the same as the one advertised on the Miramonte site, you're paying a fancy restaurant markup (nearly 3x) to get Mick's kisser on the bottle. Only the truest fan, sure the wine will transubstantiate into Keef's dope-saturated blood once it crosses the threshold of his teeth, would personally invest in this supreme piece of kitsch.
But what a pleasant surprise as the centerpiece of an anonymous gift basket on your desk one sleety morning during the endless corporate goodwill season when, to understate the matter, you can't always get what you want.
- Domaine de L'Ameillaud Vin de Pays Vaucluse 2006 - Basso profundo flavors of dark berries, pepper, and smoldering tobacco make this Grenache-heavy Vin de Pays an incredible value for under $10. Buy buy buy!!
- Domaine Guy Roulot Bourgogne Blanc 2006 - Apparent wood influence of slightly burnt sugar on the nose. Spicy apple flavors and nice acidity equal a good ambassador of an underrated white Burgundy vintage.
- Miner Pinot Noir 2000 - Elder statesman. Tantalizing wet leaf/forest floor nose totally falls apart five minutes after pouring. Stewed strawberry and rhubarb fruit flavors survive a little better, but this offers a difficult paradox--a cerebral, complex wine that must be guzzled.
- Louis Michel Chablis 2006 - Pale with green hue. O.G. Chablis--green apple is the only obvious fruit flavor. No pear, melon, toast, etc. Major acidity. Gains depth as it gets a little warmer.
- Silverado Merlot 2003 - Very mellow with the only remaining tannins coming from the bigtime French oak. I didn't perceive the cocoa you're supposed to take for granted in Napa Merlot, but there was vanilla a-plenty and juicy blackberry that was delicious with blue-collar Brooklyn pizza. Time for these great wines to get their reputation back.
- Cos D'Estournel 1995 - A baller Bordeaux that distinguishes itself with browbeating black and white pepper flavors supporting incredibly pure and concentrated cigar box, blackberry, and cassis. I opened this a bit too early--over two hours before pouring, and so there was more oxygen than I would have ideally liked in the composition. But no biggie--a defining experience.
- Bollinger R.D. 1996 - Oh wow, oh wow. A Champagne that would make you sit down if you weren't already. One of those wines that hits you so hard and so completely that the specific flavors (candied apple, Christmas spice, yeast) are trivial.
- Louis Latour Corton-Grancey 1999 - Grand Cru all the way--imagine eating a black cherry the size of a plum. Characteristic Cote de Beaune Pinot heaviness might overwhelm in the second glass, but the elegance imparted by nine years of age counters that hazard. I'd love to try this again in 2013.