Posts Filed Under wine blogging wednesday

Tales of the Purple Monkey: Bye-Bye Bush

Vinted on September 17, 2008 binned in commentary, Tales of the Purple Monkey, wine blogging wednesday

This way-cool special edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey has Plumboo and I not tasting or reviewing any wine whatsoever!

Participating as we do in the ongoing monthly wine blogger carnival Wine Blogging Wednesday, the Purple Monkey and I usually take part via a theme-based wine review. Instead, this election-year-inspired September WBW theme (hosted over at the fine blog 2 Days per Bottle) has us picking a wine that we will taste in the future, in order to answer the question “What will you drink to toast the end of the Bush era?”.

Before Dude answers this one, there are some things that you need to know about the Dude:

  1. Dude is NOT a Democrat, and Dude is NOT a Republican.
  2. Dude does NOT WANT to be a Democrat, and Dude does NOT WANT to be a Republican (hopefully this stops you party recruiters from hitting the Send button on the e-mails you started writing to me when you read #1 above).
  3. All the people in the Bush administration that Dude liked are long gone by now. Dude now thinks that the Bush administration is a freakin’ abomination.
  4. Dude would like to compare President Bush to a box of Tic-Tacs (in terms of which would make a better president), but thinks that would be insulting to the Tic-tacs.
  5. Dude thinks that President Bush deserves his 30% approval rating, except that it’s about 30 percentage points too high.

Ok, now that we’ve lost all seven of the Bush supporters who may have been reading this, we can get down to business!…

I will be toasting not only the end of the Bush era, but also the beginning of the era for whoever the hell is coming next… because I feel it’s extremely unlikely that they will make worse decisions than Bush in terms of the progression of Liberty, fair trade, U.S. economics, foreign policy, environmental concerns, education, separation of church & state, and energy independence. I could go on but Dude is getting a little angry now. Let’s just say that I am thankful that Bush stayed in good health, so that Cheney never had a chance to try to ruin, er, I mean run the country.

There is but one choice for a toast under these circumstances. Bubbly! And lots of it.

Which means that the bubbly needs to be tasty, and not too expensive. Sparkling wine to the rescue!

It goes without saying that this wine must be made in America. So, I’m going with a NY Finger Lakes stalwart: Chateau Frank‘s Brut. The vintage, naturally, will be 2000, the year that Bush stole, er, I mean took office. This wine happens to be aged underground for three years “sur lie,” which means on its lees (the remnants of the yeasts from fermentation), giving it extra body, and a pleasing bready character. That is also auspicious, considering that the word “lie” comes to mind immediately when Dude hears about the Bush administration…

Now that I think about it, having a wine in my cellar that so perfectly matches this situation might be a sign that the universe itself is, in fact, intelligent. Not sure…

Anyway, a toast:
The King is Dead! Long Live the King!!





Back to My Roots: 3 Wine Lessons from a Magnum Opus (WBW #48)

This ultra-exciting edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey has Plumboo and I once again taking part in the Wine Blogging Wednesday blog carnival! Because it’s an anniversary edition of WBW, it’s being hosted this month by cool-guy and WBW founder Lenn Thompson at Lenndevours.

I say “ultra-exciting” edition because Lenn’s theme has Plumboo and I going back to our “wine roots” (read Lenn’s post for more details). Well, back to my wine roots anyway – Plumboo is a plush toy with a plastic squeek for a head, so I’m not sure he’s got any roots worth getting into.

Going back to my roots is ultra-exciting for me, because it gives me a chance to explore why I got into wine in the first place. And it has to do with a wine that everyone loves to hate (oooohhhh… drama!).

I’m talking about that over-the-top, over-priced, and oft-overlooked Oakville stalwart, Opus One.

Go on. Make fun of me.

You know that you want to. You snob!

Love it or hate it, Opus One is the wine that made me serious about vino. Before I get into that, let’s get a little background for those of you unfamiliar with the big O.O. …

Opus One is a joint venture international premium wine venture between Napa legend Robert Mondavi and Bordeaux legend Baron Philippe Rothschild. The aim: produce and ultra-premium Bordeaux style wine, made with the best fruit that Napa had to offer.

This style of international collaborative winemaking is fairly common now, but when founded in the late `70s, Opus One was pioneering stuff. It also made Napa Valley wine more serious – after all, a First Growth was now involved. Oh, MY!

O.O. (located on the main drag in Napa) is a modern temple to high-end winemaking. Touring the O.O. facility literally changed how I look at wine. I’ve spent a lot of time working for major CPG companies, so I’m no stranger to touring manufacturing facilities – and what I saw at O.O. floored me.

Here was a winery that was combining high-quality ingredients (arguably the best fruit that Oakville / Napa has on offer), old school techniques and know-how, ultra-modern equipment, and expensive “by hand” techniques to make a premium product. I could immediately draw parallels to the manufacturing practices of premium chocolate brands like Ethel M.

So why does everyone love to hate this wine?

Well, for one thing, it’s totally over-the-top. There is usually very little that is subtle about this wine. It also takes years to develop, and often comes across as astringent and tough when it’s opened too early. It’s also very expensive – usually $150-$200 per bottle.

Are you paying for the snooty chic factor? You bet. But you’re also paying for the result of really, really expensive production techniques, such as hand-sorting the best fruit for the final blend.

And here’s the thing – you’re also paying for a really, really good wine.

I’ve been drinking through my small cache of 1998 Opus One for a few years now. I picked up a few bottles of the 1998 O.O. because `98 was supposed to be a ‘bad’ year for wine in Napa. Despite that, Opus made a wine that I thought (to the best of my then burgeoning wine geek ability at the time) had some ageing potential. It turns out I was right.

The `98 O.O. is drinking beautifully right now (see my mini reviews here and here). Is it as complex as as First Growth Bordeaux? Not really. But halfway through a glass of that explosive fruit, you won’t give a sh*t about that.

O.O. is oft-maligned because it’s priced like a Bordeaux, so people expect it to act like a Bordeaux.But this is not Old World, sporting a monocle and a tux sophistication, people. It’s California used-to-be-a-hippy and now owns an Internet company, sporting a pony-tail and mock turtleneck sophistication. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What did Opus One wine teach me?

  1. Not every wine is worth it’s price to everybody.
  2. Never overlook a wine just because it gets bad press – make your own judgments.
  3. Trust your wine instincts (and your own personal palate).

Many years on, these lessons still serve me well, and I pass them on when I teach others about wine. Or to anyone within earshot when I’m tipsy and waxing wine philosophical.

Those lessons are deep-rooted into my wine soul. Just like one of those fabulous Oakville vines…






Wine Blogging Wednesday #47: Brought to You by the Letter ‘S’

Welcome to the latest edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey!

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday blog carnival has Plumboo and I contemplating the theme: “Wines Brought to You by the letter S.” Like a fine wine grape, that one is just ripe for interpretation!

Finding a wine that starts with the letter S was relatively easy. Making that find an interesting and educational read is a bit more difficult (at least for me – and a plush toy with a squeek for a head). So to significantly spice things up in the S-wines department, Plumboo & I sailed off to Sunny Southern Italy, to give you a taste of the Salice Salentino DOC.

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Salice Salentino is located in the decidedly Mediterranean clime of southeast Italy – the ‘heel of the boot’ (see above). It’s part of the Apulia region, a relatively flat, fertile, and hot area that has been ruled by (in alphabetical – but not chronological – order) the Angevins, Aragonese, Bourbons, Byzantines, Hohenstaufen Germans, Moors, and Normans. Now, it’s ruled by wine; Apulia produces a ridiculously large volume of wine, even by Italian standards (up to three times as much as is produced by all of Chile). And a lot of it is total plonk

But… there has been a move towards increased quality in the region, and better wines can be found accross the price spectrum, including the value category.

With a hot climate, Salice Salentino needs a hardy grape that can take the heat. It’s found it in the thick-skinned Negroamaro varietal, whose name basically means “black & bitter.” The origins of Negroamaro are not conclusively known, but one thing’s for sure – it thrives in Salice Salentino. Negroamaro produces dark, tannic wines with flavors of black licorice and bitter tea, but for all their bitterness the better examples still exude softness and sultry black currant flavors. A good match for the spicy tomato sauces and garlic-laden cuisine typical of the region. Mmmm…. garlic…. [editor’s note: drooling permitted ].

As for our wine review for this month’s WBW – we take a quick look at a widely-available and very accessible SS:

2005 San Marzano Salice Salentino (It): Sultry, sensuous & $ensible SS from sunny Southern Italy. Scents of black licorice sweeten the sale.

For more on Salice Salentino and the wines of Southern Italy check out:

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