Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Thirst


Between November 2007 and October 2008 I tasted 1500 wines, give or take. Not a number that's gonna make Vaynerchuk weep with jealousy, but it puts in context the fact that claiming 200 more between October 2008 and now would be a stretch. I won't say that changes in my fortunes and circumstances this past year+ have made me more ignorant of wine writ large, just that my intake of the stuff has become way more... protectionist.

This is tough to deal with. I miss discovering my way through flights of this and verticals of that, knuckle-slapping my palate into obedience. As someone who does very little traveling, my window on foreign and wonderful terroirs is now opaque with grime. Selfishly, it stings knowing the wines I would have had access to last year are still out there, and other people are tasting them.

Worst is the plaintive wail of a goal abandoned. When I was doing loads of tasting, I thought I was finally going to get the autodidact thing right for once. I can blind-taste an apple and know what it is because I've eaten thousands of apples. It works the same for grenache, right? The more you taste it, the better you know it.

It occurs to me now how many times I've used that last sound byte--true as it may be--as a cheap excuse to get hammered. And to save this post from total dishonesty, I can't deny that my "new" "life" has fostered a far deeper understanding of a few varietals from root to glass. I appreciate the reminder that a shift in focus is rarely the same as failure, but I still miss the hell out of drinking Burgundy three times a week.

Recent notables:
  • Chateau Bel-Air 2007: The cheapest Bordeaux I could find--AOC Bordeaux, of course--came on strong with a tartish blast of vague fruit, revealed two glasses in to resemble grape soda. I found myself imagining a scrawny plot of merlot forced into fire-sale Bergerac soil, and dust clouds blowing across the vast obscurity of the Bas-Medoc. Hard to finish.
  • Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Dark stuff with decent wood tannins providing structure where the low acidity falls short. Incredibly intense berry flavors, but not a wine that's going to make CA believers out of old world snotties.
  • Indaba Shiraz 2008: Warm (at any serving temperature), sweet, a fruit bomb with a little gamey depth, this wine pushes all my buttons. Anyone who whines about "overripe" modern reds can just keep walking--they won't be missed.
  • Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz 2009: A polarizer, this. Though not as sticky as the av-er-idge Port, Jam Jar is heavy, sugary, and sure to freak out drinkers who aren't expecting this sort of thing. Priced for everyday consumption, it has varietal character and ultimately makes perfect sense--basically a marginally sweeter version of the Indaba Shiraz. Surprise! They're made by the same guy.
  • Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale: The only pumpkin ale I had in fall '09 I didn't want to spit out, i.e. the only one I had that prioritized pumpkin flavor over cinnamon/clove/allspice bullshit. The 7.9% ABV demands you sip slowly, which is the only way to get everything that's going on in this exemplary ale that would be great with or without the cucurbita.
  • Homebrewed "Easy Tiger" Kolsch: When I whip out another post a year from now, it will be about my odyssey into homebrewing. This one, that I've been drinking constantly for the past month, is IMHO a respectable stab at a German pilsner without the temperature-control capabilities necessary for lagering. Light body without sacrificing maltiness, complex hoppy finish?