I liked Mike Brunson almost immediately.
When I met the Michel-Schlumberger winemaker, it was a brilliantly sunny and warm October day in Sonoma, and the Michel-Schlumberger estate was certainly living up to its reputation in terms of gorgeous places to visit in Dry Creek Valley.
Mike seemed pretty down to earth for someone who was making a go at creating ‘prestige cuvee’ style wines that retail for $50+ a bottle. He certainly knew the estate property like the back of his hand, and was clearly committed to understanding every aspect of biodynamic wine grape cultivation.
What sealed the deal for me, though, was when we started chatting about the winery’s dog.
“You can learn a lot about somebody from how they treat dogs,” he said. “That and whether or not they like Reggae.”
As far as I was concerned, truer words have rarely been spoken.
Of course, it helps that Michel-Schlumberger pumps out some really tasty (though pricey) wine, and that my visit will forever be etched into the ‘happy-place’ recesses of my memory, not because of the beauty of the grounds (which were stunning), but because lunch consisted of the tastiest portion of pork shoulder that has ever crossed my lips. It was the kind of pork that I imagine would be served to carnivores in heaven.
So what does this have to do with French Bocce, or ambiguously gay marketing?
A lot, actually….
I recently received samples of a new line of wines from Michel-Schlumberger, named Pétanque after the French lawn game of the same name (which is sort of like bocce, but with metal balls). Seems that the Michel-Schlumberger folks were so enamored with their wine estate’s Pétanque court that they decided to make the game a cornerstone of the branding and marketing efforts for their new line of ‘second label’ wines, which in the French winemaking tradition are usually made as lower-cost wines for everyday enjoyment.
Mike is also the winemaker for the Pétanque wines brand, and he offers this bit of helpful advice for distinguishing Pétanque (the game) from Bocce:
“If you mix up Pétanque and Bocce, just remember that Pétanque has metal boules and Bocce has wooden balls. If you were to try and mix the two sports, you won’t end up with a new game, you’ll just end up with a bunch of broken wooden Bocce balls.”
So that covers the French bocce part.
Which brings us to the ambiguously gay marketing part…
First, I should say that I tasted the Pétanque protfolio (Syrah, Cab, Chardonnay, and Sauv Blanc) and I was impressed – the wines are approachable, and very California (a.k.a., fruit-forward) but with decent acidity making the wines fairly food-friendly. Busting out the Syrah at a BBQ is bound to make you some new friends whether you’re playing Pétanque, Bocce, horseshoes, or just trying to hit on your neighbors sexy cousin from out of town. The only slightly disappointing number was the Sauvignon Blanc, which is tasty on day one, but flabbed out quite a bit on day two. None of the wines are blow-yer-mind revelations, but they hit the mark squarely head-on for the price-point (around $20).
One thing I’m not so sure I understand is the graphic that forms the basis of the Pétanque press materials and labels. It features a very effeminate guy with balls in his hand, apparently French and apparently playing Pétanque.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Anyway, Pétanque is certainly worth a look. I recommended pairing them with the heavenly pork shoulder of the gods, if that’s available in your neck of the woods.
images: (1winedude, Petanquewines.com)