Hey everyone – the wrap-up of articles for Wine Blogging Wednesday #43 has been posted over at the Wine Life Today blog. Check it out – the wine bloggers involved wrote some great stories and reviews for this WBW.
The topic this time around was “comfort wines” and Joel over at WLT has done a great job summing up the submissions. I’m also very humbled by the kind words Joel offered up describing my article. Thanks, Joel!
Apparently WBW #44 will be hosted by the venerable Gary V. over at Wine Library TV. God help us! J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! (just kidding, Gary).
For Wine Blogging Wednesday #43 (this round hosted over at the fine WineLifeToday blog), we’ve been asked to review a “Comfort Wine” – and to explain why, like a good comfort food, this wine evokes some special, relaxing, or good-ol’-down-home feeling for us.
First, let’s start with my comfort wine. Then I’ll lay the story on you – and to give you fair warning, this time the story is a bit intense. But I think it will be worth the read.
The wine is Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf Du Pape. As always, Dude will provide a bit of history (and then a bit of his story).
CDP (as wine geeks like to call Chateauneuf Du Pape) is a region in the Southern Rhone valley of France, it’s name means “New House of the Pope” and stems from the 14th century (when Pope Clement V relocated the Holy See to France – a fascinating story in and of itself if you’ve got time to read it). CDP wines still bear the French papal insignia on their bottles.
CDP doesn’t so much have soil as it has rock. The vines literally grow through large stones called galets, which absorb the daytime heat and reflect it back on the growing grapes in the cooler evenings (and help with moisture retention when things get really dry in the summertime). The result is that the grapes get pretty ripe, pretty fast. And when I say grapes – as in plural – I mean it: up to 13 varietals are permitted in the red blends from the region, though these days the majority percentages are given to Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.
CDP generally gets a bad rap among the wine geek crowd, because the winemaking is generally prone to Brett (short for Brettanomyces, a yeast that adds complexity but can lead to overly mousy flavors if not kept in check). Also, the wines are not terribly food-friendly due to their lower acidity. And to top it all off, CDPs often go through a “dumb” period in their development, where they temporarily lose their vibrancy as they mature – and it’s generally not easily predictable, so you can get burned if you pop the cork at the wrong time.
At this point you might be asking yourself, “what’s to like at all about this CDP crap?” Well, when done right, red CDPs are dark, spicy, and jammy, with firm tannin and hints of stone and minerals, sometimes with a bit of spice on the nose for good measure – in other words, they can totally rock (and not just from those galets)! As for my review…
Smokey dark fruit, slightly gamey, evoking rocky minerals, and a bit of mushroom. Finishes a bit too rough and heavy. It’s good, but not anything to write home about.
But this wine is my guilty pleasure.
Why? Because it reminds me of the biggest lightening of an emotional load that I’ve ever experienced…
Set the Way-Back Machine for Jan. 2003. Dude is in Toronto (in the middle of one of their coldest cold spells) with his mom, his younger brother, and younger bro’s then-fiancee. A few months before, younger bro’ was getting checked by his doc after a bout of heat exhaustion (brought on from hot-weather mountain biking in Delaware). During that treatment, doc decides to check younger bro’s heart (which has a congenital valve defect), just to be on the safe side. Lo and behold, younger bro’s heart defect is in overdrive – and if he wants to live more than another year, he’s going to need serious heart surgery.
That’s where Toronto comes in. Toronto may not be famous for its normal, everyday medical care, but it’s home to Tirone David, one of the best heart surgeons on the planet and (most importantly for little bro’), an expert at the Ross procedure. Younger bro’ had chosen Ross as the preferred method for mending his ticker, as it was the most compatible with his healthy, active lifestyle.
The days leading up to surgery were intense but not without their fun times, and we kept it together pretty well – until the big day came. What I remember most was sitting in the waiting room for about nine of the most grueling, emotional, and sickening hours of my life. I was trying to keep calm, cool, and collected so that mom and sister-in-law-to-be could remain calm, cool, and collected. But the surgery took far longer than we’d anticipated, and there was news of complications – but not news of how severe those complications were, or what they meant for little bro’s chances of survival. Eventually, I took a “walk to clear my head,” which was basically an excuse to find a quiet corner in the hospital and totally lose it to my tears, anxiety and exhaustion.
It was an experience I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy.
Little bro’ was revived several hours later. And he began to do well, working his way to an improbably swift recovery. The day he was released from the hospital, I made my way to the nearest shopping area to get Gameboys (little bro’ is a gamer), provisions for dinner, and most importantly wine (which by that time I sorely, sorely needed). Now, the LCBO stores aren’t much better than their PLCB counterparts, and I was getting mighty frustrated by the poor wine selection on offer. Running out of time before having to meet the family back at the hotel, and needing a quick pick, I grabbed a bottle of the Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf Du Pape and hightailed it out of there.
That evening, eating dinner with my extended family in our hotel suite, and seeing my little bro’ on the mend and nearly back to his old self, the weight of the entire earth seemed to lift right off of my shoulders. Each sip of that Chateau Cabrieres Chateauneuf Du Pape tasted like the purest, rarest red nectar – straight from the good earth, poured right from the glass directly into my soul.
Little bro’ is still with us, is still going strong, is still mountain biking, and is now the proud father of a little baby girl.
And Dude still feels a little bit of the world’s weight coming off his shoulders whenever he sips a glass of that heavy-finishing Chateau Cabrieres.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…
This month’s edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday comes to us courtesy of Spitton.biz, who have tasked the collective talents of the budding wine blogging community by asking us to review an Italian Red, using just seven words.
Tricky, to say the least (get it?); especially for those of us whose prose, how shall I put this… does not value highly the elegance of the concise.
But let’s not sell ourselves short (get it??), or wax too philosophically about the relative merits of our brief (get it?!?) and minute (get it?!??) contribution to the great big blogosphere.
Ok, ok… I’ll stop!
Anyway, for this excellent exercise in enological economy, Dude chose an old stand-by wine: Castello Banfi’s Rosso di Montalcino D.O.C. (2003, Tuscany). Before Dude delves deep into the diminutive depiction of this dapper delicacy, let us first examine some way-cool background information so you can get up close and personal with what Rosso di Montalcino is all about….
Most wine lovers have at least heard about the famed wines of Brunello di Montalcino, from Tuscany in Italy’s Central-west region. These suckers are famed because a) they’re expensive, b) they taste great and can make amazing matches with roast meat dishes and c) need upwards of 20 years of aging to tame their harsh tannins and bracing acidity, developing over long periods of time into a plum-fruit-filled, smoky, and leathery behemoth of a wine (Dude has personally tasted 25+ year old Brunellos that still could’ve used a few more years in the bottle to soften up!).
But what if a) you’re not rich and b) you don’t want to wait around for 20+ years until you’re old and gray in order to enjoy a big, bad Montalcino wine?
You can still get some of that good, down-home Montalcino love by going with a Rosso di Montalcino. Both Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines are made from the Brunello grape, which is a clone of Sangiovese, and both undergo similar wine-making techniques. But Rossos have a much lower minimum barrel aging requirement, and usually are made with grapes from younger vines than those that make it into the Brunellos. This makes them a) cheaper (usually under $20), and b) ready to drink without the multi-decade waiting period typically needed for good Brunellos. They’re not as heavy, heady, rich, or complex as Brunellos, but Rossos give you a tasty teaser of what their bigger brothers are like, and are well worth the effort of checking out in their own right.
Got it? Groovy!
Now, let’s get to this typically wordy Dude’s atypically “unwordy” review. My 7 words are meant to tell a story, so I enlisted the help of some pictures (hopefully that doesn’t mean I actually used 7,007 words… oh, drat!):
Not too long ago (June of 2007, I believe), in what is probably the coolest take on Blogosphere wine reviews since the inception of Wine Blogging Wednesday, Chateau Petrogasm was born.
If you’re at all interested in the visual arts, have even a small semblance of a sense of humor, and enjoy imaginative takes on the varied impressions that wine can have on different palates (& I hope this includes all of you Dude-O-Philes out there!), then you really need to check out the Chateau immediately. Or better yet, subscribe to their feed.
I recently submitted my first humble contribution, which you can check out here (thanks for the post, Ben!).