Let’s get the Valentine’s Day mention out of the way first thing – my views on this most Hallmark© of upcoming holidays are akin to those recently espoused by my friend W. Blake Gray. In summary: I’m not a huge fan, but I do love spending quality time with my wife. For those of you who insist on having a V-Day wine tidbit, I will refer you to the study that I highlight every year at this time, which found that wine knowledge actually makes you makes you more attractive (and re-submit as supporting evidence the fact that my attractive wife actually decided to marry me).
For those who need a little more by way of wine recommendations for V-Day festivities, I am going to tackle that topic today because with V-Day falling on a Monday I’m guessing most people are going for their (obligatory) V-Day proceedings this weekend. Anyway… I’d like to point you to a selection of wines from a recent press dinner at Philly’s fabulous restaurant XIX organized by the Center for Wine Origins (great dinner, by the way, in which I got to finally catch up with Philly wine personality Brian Freedman and Philly Wine Examiner’s Jeff Alexander, among others). They are wines about which (lucky for me) I was planning to write anyway that (lucky for me) just so happen to also have potentially significant V-Day appeal – provided that your pockets are deep enough to lay down the cash for them.
Please note: generally speaking, I’m NOT a fan of going for expensive wines just for the Hallmark© V-Day holiday – I’d rather save those for anniversaries with real significance – but I share the following because they can serve triple duty as 1) recommendations for special events that are actually special to you and aren’t special because some marketing machine told you they were special, 2) are really friggin’ good anyway and so wine geeks will want to try these and 3) can serve admirably in a pinch for those who can’t escape the marketing hype and/or just really need to impress someone on V-Day.
So, here goes…
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Seventh Lombardi trophy, that is.
See, I’ve been a Steelers fan for over 30 years, which places the activity in rare company when it comes to my lifetime activities, bested only by things such as breathing, sleeping and enjoying birthday cake. And for those of you sick of hearing about my NFL alliances (basically everyone but me), I offer this tidbit only as backdrop to a duo of 2007 California wine recommendations, so don’t get your jock straps into too much of a bunch just yet.
When the Steelers won their sixth championship title I was writing a piece about a Napa Valley wine while watching the game bleary-eyed in the middle of the night GMT in England. This year, I’ll be in Portugal (more on that next week) watching the Superbowl bleary-eyed in the middle of the night GMT. So I figured I’d better write about some Napa Valley wine again, because we all know what happened the last time all of those totally unrelated elements came together, right?
Not that I’m superstitious. But I might be planning on wearing the same pair of underwear I had on during Superbowl XLIII. And I’m not gonna say if that pair of undies been washed since SB XLIII. Let’s just not go there, okay?
Fortuna smiled and samples of two Napa wines well-worth your time have recently made their way to my sample stash (“recently” for me, that is, not “recently” in normal people time – which means these wines have done a bit of cellar-aging by virtue of my total failure at personal time management).
And the odd thing is, they were wines I had fully expected to hate…
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Ok. I know I’m not totally alone in thinking that Brett is a flaw. Or at least I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
Helloooooooooo? Is anyone out there….???
The minor bought of vinous paranoia has to do with what seems like my inclusion in rarefied company, and I mean that in the “two percent of patients have a severe allergic reaction” sense or rarefied, and not in the “Emmy-award-winning drama for the seventh consecutive year” sense. You see, sometimes, it feels like I’m part of a group, rather tiny in number, that thinks a certain range of smells – barnyard, band-aid, and (putting it in the most polite context I can muster) “dirty diaper” – aren’t indicative of terroir, or the almost-as-ubiquitous “character.”
Call it the anti-brett clan, maybe?
It’s the group that classifies the presence of brettanomyces (a yeast that imparts aromas of band-aid, barnyard, and sometimes meaty funk to wines) as… well, as a flaw. No different than the unpleasant, musty odor cork taint, or the rotten-egg stench of sulfer.
Especially since, with increasing frequency, I seem to disagree with both the famous and not-so-famous wine critics and reviewers on how wines should be rated (in terms of recommending them to others) when those wine (to me, at least) very clearly display classic (nasty!) characteristics of brett.
I know that wine appreciation is subjective, and one person’s swill is another person’s prestige cuvee, but do people really enjoy the smell of band-aids and barnyard in their wines? I sure as hell don’t – and while I enjoy a touch of funk in some of my wines (the kind that smells like Slim Jims, or smoked meat), my prevailing thought for some time has been that brett is actually a wine flaw – yes, even the interesting meaty funkiness that I happen to… well, not like exactly, but not hate, either.
I say this because brett yeasts cannot yet be controlled, and until such time as they can be controlled (so that winemakers can ‘dial-in’ the amount – and type, as there are many brett yeasts and they impart different ‘flavors’ of off-beat funk) then whether or not the wine has pleasant smoked meat characteristics or instead smells like one of my daughter’s diaper blow-outs is almost entirely dictated by chance.
The aspect that has me questioning my sanity in all of this is that other people seem to like those wines – lots of people… and in some cases, they seem to really like them.
Other people like Robert Parker and Stephen Tanzer, for example…
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