Wines from plonk to premier

January 27, 2014

Although this article was on the Yahoo front page, some readers may have missed it. Titled “How to open a bottle of wine with everything but a corkscrew,” it was informative and fun. Go here if you are interested: The article missed one of the most exciting methods of opening wine I have witnessed, and that is Sabrage, using a saber to separate the cork and top from a champagne bottle. I’m guessing the writer and Yahoo were afraid of the lawsuits that instructions in this art might provoke from uncoordinated attorneys. Go here for a look-see:

Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Barbara Syrah 2012 was rated 94-96 by Jeb Dunnock writing in Wine Advocate; Tanzer said 93. I enjoy Syrah and I trust Tanzer, so I found a bottle to try. It could use a little cellar time but lived up to expectations and shows great promise. I found that decanting and letting it stand for several hours allowed the wine to develop manyfold. In the glass, very dark purple and with plenty of aeration showed brambleberry fruit, cherry, and wood shavings with hints of cola, smoke, black pepper and wet gravel. The palate was equally complex with cassis and cherry liqueur enhanced by pie spice and violet pastille flavors riding a lovely acid/tannin frame through a long, fruit-sweet finish. Best of all, this 95-point McD pick can be found under $34.

For those who think Charles Shaw wines (Two Buck Chuck) make for good drinking, here is some useful information. Fred Franzia, formerly of Franzia Brothers and currently a principal of Bronco Wine Company, produces Oak Leaf, found at Walmart as well as $2 Chuck. These products are blends of “mostly California wine.” They are examples of wines that are consistent because the maker is unencumbered by the mandate of using specific juice and can blend to his taste. They employ leftover odds and ends that can be bought cheaply, mixed to taste, bottled and sold under $5.

As a service to you, my wino friends, I put my taste buds at risk and sampled each of the 10 Oak Leaf products The Sauvignon Blanc was acceptable. The rest appeared to be sugar infused or improperly fermented and not to my taste. I’m not a fan of sweet, low-acid wines. Charles Shaw Cab, Merlot and White Zin were all well made and a decent QPR. I’m guessing if you served them from a decanter, most folks would think they were $10 selections. While I was in the category, I took a look at Three Wishes from Whole Foods. They completely missed the boat with their three selections, Merlot, Chard and Cab. All were unacceptable. To quote one of my fav blogs, Wine Harlots “the virtue of vice,” “Wine Harlots drink crappy wine, so you don’t have to.” I resemble that sentiment. Longtime readers know it is rare that I pan products. Too much good stuff out there to write about. One of my wishes is that this plonk disappears. Please keep in mind I am judging these wines as $5 products, so the bar is low. Two Buck Chuck costs closer to $4. Going way upscale, Paul Dwyer, a longtime pal, invited me to slug down some Domaine Paul Avril Clos des Papes CDP 2006. Opulent barely describes this gem. It is just ready to drink, and another couple of years in the cellar would definitely improve it. Its youth was clearly indicated by the color, which was still a very deep ruby/purple, and an earthy, complex, redolent bouquet of strawberries and raspberries, garrigue, spice box, licorice and flowers. Berry flavors underlined by candied lavender, low but proper acidity, and lovely, ripe tannins round out the full-bodied palate. This is an elegant wine with a pure, long, clean finish. It came on the market in 2007 at $110 and was highly touted by all the likely suspects. The price raced to $175 in 2008, then followed the stock market down to $129. I’m guessing that big-buck buyers willing to buy six could get Clos des Papes 2003 for $650. It will cellar through 2020.