Ruminations on Bad Merlot

How could something so pretty:

…be so evil?
It doesn’t *look* evil, does it? I mean, look at the lovely color in the bottom of the glass. How could something that color be awful? I mean, it’s VIOLET. It’s PRETTY.

And yet it was mean. Ill-natured. Vindictive. BAD.

See, as far as I can tell (to bastardize a quote beyond recognition): Bad Merlots are all alike. Good Merlots are all good in their own ways.* Because my most recent bottle of bad Merlot was so forcibly reminiscent of every other bottle of bad Merlot I’d ever encountered, I felt the need to see if I could finally put my finger on whatever it is that makes an otherwise innocuous bottle of wine truly, truly suck.

Here’s my most recent experience: 

Open bottle, pour wine into glass.
*sniff*
Feet. It smells like feet. Stale feet, even.

At this point, I wasn’t alarmed. Many reds smell like stale feet when they’re first opened. It’s because they need aeration, which is why wine types will sit with a glass and swirl it absently while they’re chatting. Once the wine aerates, it starts to smell like all kinds of things: fruits, flowers, colors, mushrooms, earth, whatever. Before aeration, however, it’s pretty much stale feet. (Or whatever you’d like to call that smell – for me, stale feet is what comes to mind. Not particularly dirty, stinky feet, mind you, nor particularly clean, fresh feet. Just, you know. Feet.)

Undaunted by the foot smell, I gave the wine a quick, forceful swirl, and ignored it for a few minutes while I threw together an alfredo sauce.** Then I returned to the wine.

Swirl.
*sniff*
Feet.

I ate dinner.

Swirl.
*sniff*
Feet.

Tired of waiting, I decided to give it a try.
It tasted like feet (I’d imagine, anyway – I don’t make foot-tasting a habit), plus something that struck me as slightly plummy and slightly dusty, plus something that struck me as raspberry vinegar.***

I decided to wait longer. So I read a Cracked article.

Swirl.
*sniff*
Feet.

I read a Salon article.

Swirl.
*sniff*
Feet.

I read a few Hyperbole and a Half posts.

Swirl.
*sniff*
Feet.

*sigh*

Frustrated, I gave the wine the sort of vigorous swirling that makes me relieved to own 16 oz glasses, because smaller glasses would result in one hell of a mess. Then I leaned in, breathed deeply, tried to smell around the feet for something else. I got a faint whiff of plum and violet. The taste remained the same: foot-dust-plum-raspberry vinegar.

The smell *had* changed slightly, however – opened up a bit, I told myself – and this was enough to keep me invested. I left the wine on the coffee table and picked up a book to lose myself in for a while. A solid hour passed.

Swirl.
*sniff*
Feet.

Swirl (violent)
*sniff* (deep)
Feet.
*growl*
*sip*
Foot-dust-plum-raspberry vinegar.

I gave up.

In my mind, a good Merlot is a sensuous creature, velvet in texture, deep purple in color and layered in flavor. A bad Merlot is what I just described – so tightly wound that even if there is anything in there beyond the feet-like smell and taste of tannins, it flat won’t relax enough to let me discover what that might be. A few tantalizing hints might pop up from time to time, seeming heralds of a glorious glass, ultimately meaningless. While I’ll happily wait an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon for a glass to take its time to develop, I do need it to actually do so.

Bad Merlots don’t develop. They just leave you hanging, ultimately wishing something else – something worth drinking – were in the glass in front of you.

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*To Leo Tolstoy, wherever you may be, allow me to offer the deepest of apologies.
**If you don’t make your own alfredo, you should (if you eat alfredo and all that). It takes ten minutes and it’s much better than that jarred stuff. Seriously, throw it together while the pasta boils – it takes about the same amount of time.
***Please note, because this is important to remember: the wine hadn’t gone bad in any way. As in, it wasn’t too old, it wasn’t corked, it wasn’t cooked. It was just BAD.

2009 B Side Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

This. You want this bottle (or I, at least, want more of them):

Region: Napa Valley
Grapes involved:
90% Cab Sauv, 10% Malbec
Cost: $20ish
Food pairings: It’s a Napa Cab, so think “steak wine!” and go nuts on whatever variation of that theme suits your tastes. I actually had it with a hunk of Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar (like, so sharp that it was flaking) on some wheat crackers and was a happy, happy girl. In a few hours, I will finish the bottle with a giant hamburger topped with the same cheddar, bacon, caramelized onion and brown mustard, and I will be an even happier girl.
Rating: 92 points, Wine Enthusiast

Here’s the wine itself:

This glass of wine produces all kinds of scents: black cherry, black currant, violet, rubber, spun sugar, vanilla and oak, orchid, and lots and lots of earth. It’s really fun (to me, because I’m really nerdy like that) to stick one’s nose in the glass and huff like it’s some sort of illegal substance. I rarely have this much fun smelling any wine that isn’t Pinot Noir (because they smell crazy, like an amalgamation of everything I’ve ever smelled in 31 years of life).

The wine’s flavors are mostly in the blackcurrant arena with some cherries and plum, all dominated by earthiness (like, go outside, dig for a moment and then sniff), woods (cedar comes to mind for some idiot reason, even though I know they age in oak and there’s nothing in this wine that says “hamster cage” to me – instead, it’s more real, clean cedar, like a forest) and some warmth from the alcohol. There are lots of little, tiny whiffs of rubber and leather and mushroom and a bunch of oddities like that which I’d expect more from an Oregon Pinot Noir* than a Napa Cab, but which are fun to pick up and play with. It’s full and thick and layered, with teeth-coating tannins and a long, blackcurrant-y finish (that again, I swear, has some rubber in it)(and yet, it’s good – like, I know I hear “rubber” and think EEWWWRGH WHYYY and yet I like it here)(just trust me here, people).**

So this wine was far too much fun to play with and write about. It’s a bit more expensive than I usually go for (being, like most of us, rather broke), but it’s still a reasonably-priced wine and, well, it’s Sunday late-afternoon and I do not live in an afternoon tea-drinking part of the world. So, forget the tea: I have a few precious hours of leisure time, so I’m spending them with a trippy fun wine.

I hope your day passes as happily.

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*if ever there was a wine that tasted like *everything*, it would be an Oregon Pinot Noir.
**whenever I find a flavor in wine like rubber (or brown leather jacket or whatever else), and I find that I really, really like it, I wonder what’s wrong with me.

2009 BV Coastal Red Blend

 Oft-repeated scene from work*:

ME: So I have a new wine to tell you about today.
RETAILER: Is it another Moscato?**
ME: No!  This one shining, glorious time, it’s not a Moscato!***
RETAILER: [raises single eyebrow] They let you sell something else? What is it?
ME: It’s a red blend! [jazzhands, winning smile]
RETAILER: Get out of my store.**** 

For those of you not in on the joke, Moscatos have been surface-of-the-sun-level HOT for a year or so now. In consequence, seemingly every line of wine has come up with their own.+ Meanwhile, nearly everyone not drinking Moscato has taken to drinking some variation on a theme of blended red, usually Menage a Trois or Apothic or something of that ilk. The upshot is that it feels like 95% of the wines I’m selling right now are sweet (typically with “Moscato!” somewhere on the label), red blends, or sweet red blends. So those of us in the industry get tired of them, and we joke about it, but the wines sell, so we continue on continuing on.

Anyway, I’ve had many, MANY red blends, mostly at work meetings. I’ve shared a few of the good ones in the past, and as I quite enjoyed this particular blend, I’m sharing it as well.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

Region: California
Grapes involved:
Zinfandel, Merlot, Barbera, Petit Sirah
Cost: $8.99-$10.99 or so
Food pairings: This would be pretty phenomenal with milk or semi-sweet chocolate. I had it with linguine alfredo, because alfredo was what sounded good at the time. Honestly, it worked just fine, but pretty much anything alcoholic would have worked pretty well. I was thirsty, y’all.

Here’s the wine itself:

Smell-wise, this is a big ol’ jammy++ cherry fruit bomb shot through with vanilla and a touch of pink pepper. It’s like the scent equivalent of the sort of red commonly associated with midlife crisis-style tiny sports cars. Flashy, showy, absolutely lacking in any subtlety whatsoever.

Taste-wise, there’s a brief flash of vanilla before getting straight into the cherry, which is a strong, very tart cherry. Then there’s a bit of oak (which is doubtless what gave the vanilla flavor in the beginning, but which I’m separating out here because it develops a slightly woodsier quality after it’s been hanging out on my tongue for a moment), many more cherries, and a sprinkle of pink pepper on top. I’m admittedly persisting in calling the pepper pink because of the color association I get when I taste it – I’ve never actually tried real pink pepper (though I’d like to and should remedy this soon). For the rest of it, the mouthfeel is soft, the finish is short, the tannins are light and easily approachable.

This isn’t a wine likely to win awards or impress wine snots or anything like that. Frankly, it doesn’t need to be. It is yummy as hell, one of those wines that’s easy to drink and enjoy without having to put much thought or attention into it. This makes it an excellent Thursday night wine – good for unwinding, but not so hedonistic that it demands one be able to sleep in the morning after.

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*For those of you who haven’t figured this out or are joining this blog in progress, I’m a wine sales rep for a local-to-me distributor.
**It’s always a Moscato.
***I should point out that I don’t hate Moscatos. I don’t particularly *like* Moscatos, but I don’t hate them (erm, all of them). The only wines I’ve ever encountered that I absolutely, always, undoubtedly and forever *hate* are really sweet reds, like Brachettos and Lambruscos and whatever it is one would call that fermented stuff they make out of Concords (which I cannot convince myself to label wine, FDA regulations notwithstanding). It doesn’t mean that any of those wines are somehow inferior – it simply means that they don’t agree with my taste buds.
****Please note: I’ve never actually been kicked out of a store.

+Honestly, I find myself wondering where on earth all the Muscat grapes are coming from. When Pinot Noir became hot, it took a while for it to really saturate the market because there flat-out weren’t enough grapes to make the wine (because Pinot Noir is an absolute bitch to grow). With Moscato, on the other hand, it got mentioned in a few R&B songs, took off in popularity, and every major line of wine had one in (what feels like) *months*. I’m not trying to point to any kind of weird conspiracy or anything, I’m just intrigued.

++Someone recently said to me that they had no idea what it meant when wine writers use the word “jammy.” In my world, “jammy” is the equivalent of what I’d expect were I to shove my face into a vat of raspberry (or strawberry, or cherry, or cranberry) jam. Like, super-super fruity. With jazzhands, of course.

New Belgium Snow Day

The impression I get is that this is the 2 Below replacement, and that 2 Below is now a thing of the past (or possibly also the future, but at least not of the moment). What I’m saying is that I’ll be curious to know what 2 Below fans think of this beer.

Basic Info:
Name:
Snow Day Winter Ale
Origin: New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO
Style: Winter Ale/American Black Ale
ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 55
I drank this: poured from bottle into glass while glaring at the television because I was stupid enough to have turned on the news. (Newsflash: the US Congress is kinda stupid.)

The first impression I had of this beer was a combination of “oooh, dark!” followed by “oooh, hops!” followed by “that combination can go dreadfully wrong.” That said, this isn’t my favorite hoppy dark ale – that honor typically belongs to whatever iteration of Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale I’m able to get my grubby mitts on at the time –  but it isn’t an off-balance mess, either.

Smell-wise, there’s a bitter hop top note – like a really yellow grapefruit rind that’s been mushed together with some grass (really pungent, but nicer than I’m probably making it sound) – floating over a mix of caramel, chocolate, toasted malt, and something slightly nutty. It reminds me slightly of a citrusy, salty caramel.

This beer is medium-bodied, fairly low in carbonation and an odd-but-nice combination of soft and sharp in mouthfeel. The hoppiness partially comes across as really biting, hence the sharp; there’s also an almost blanket-like feeling to the malt backbone of the beer, hence the soft. The flavors fall into the same sort of pattern. The hops are exactly what I was expecting based on the smell, all sharp and brightly, pungently grassy, whereas the malts are softer, all nutty caramel, bitter chocolate and toffee notes. The hops dominate the malts for the most part, and linger on for a few moments in the aftertaste.

Overall, this is a totally drinkable, probably sessionable beer (pending you’re watching the alcohol content – this is admittedly a bit high for most session beers). Compared to something like the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous, this is a fairly quiet beer – it’s not going to overwhelm you with anything, but it’s balanced and tasty.

As a replacement for 2 Below, I’ve mixed feelings. 2 Below was one of my holiday favorites for years, but I wasn’t as into it last year. I don’t know if it was the batch I had being a bit off, the draft lines being in need of a good cleaning (which was kind of what I was guessing), or if my palate had changed enough that I just flat wasn’t as into it. I have enough fond memories, however, to be sad to see it gone.

I can’t say I’m overwhelmed, but I’m not underwhelmed, either. Meaning, I suppose, that I’m whelmed. I have high expectations when it comes to New Belgium. They’ve met expectations. We’re good here. I’d love to know what you think if you’ve had one.

2009 Dona Paula Estate Malbec-Syrah

I love Malbec. I love Syrah. What could possibly go wrong?

Answer: nothing. This stuff is amazing. Actually, pretty much every bottle I’ve had with a Dona Paula Estate label on it has been filled with some really lovely wine. Here’s what you’re looking for:

Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Grapes involved: Malbec and Syrah
Cost: $16.00 or so
Food pairings: We killed the bottle while having steak in a wine reduction alongside fingerling potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts (it was a good night)(like, you probably wanted to be there)(but it was a date night, so we wouldn’t have let you in the door anyway). The combination worked pretty fabulously well.

This wine is gorgeous. It’s a dusky, plummy, deep violet purple hue:

If you can picture that color as a flavor, then you know what this wine tastes like. It’s pretty much exactly that.

For the non-synthaesthetes out there, here’s some tasting notes: 

The nose is a rich combination of juicy plum, a soft, almost musky white floral, violet, spun sugar, and a touch of white pepper and blackberry. There’s a really vibrant core that hits at first, followed by all the softer sugary floral notes.

The flavor is a whole bunch of plum, followed by violet, lots of blackberry, oak, vanilla, and white pepper. It’s full-bodied with medium tannins and a nice acidity to balance out the wood. The mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and velvety in the sort of dead sexy fashion of a good Merlot.

I love love love this wine. It’s everything to enjoy about Syrah combined with everything that makes Malbec one of the fastest-growing varietals on the market right now. At $16, it’s terrifically underpriced. Grab some before the winery wakes up and decides it should be a $40 bottle instead.

2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

Beaujolais Nouveau was released today. The wine, for those of you who don’t know the deal, is the first wine made from the year’s harvest, released to market the crap out of celebrate a new vintage of wine. It’s a wine that they’ve been making in France for a long time – like, this really is a legit tradition rather than a marketing thing – but that they didn’t export until 1951. Its reputation is mixed: it’s a random, fun wine, but it’s not anything destined for greatness nor any kind of shelf life, and has its fair share of detractors due to the insane marketing bonanza surrounding it.

That said, last year’s vintage frankly sucked, so I’m hoping this one isn’t as bad. Here goes:

Region: Beaujolais, France
Grapes involved: Gamay
Cost: $10.00 or so
Food pairings: I always refer to this as a pizza wine. As far as I can tell, that’s pretty much it’s best and highest purpose. That may not sound like much for a wine, but it really is GOOD with pizza.
Rating: Wine Enthusiast gave it an 84

It looks like this:

See how vibrantly pink purple it is (when I hold it directly up to a light, anyway)? It’s that color in part because of how young the wine is. Wine gets browner as it ages. This wine is as young as it gets, so there isn’t even a shade of brown to it.

It smells like bright cherries and berries with a hint of rose petal – it’s a vibrant pink (think hibiscus-colored) smell.

Taste-wise, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the alcohol – it’s not that it’s warming or hot in any way, it’s just that the wine hasn’t had a chance to age or blend the flavor in at all. After that, it’s pretty much a cherry bomb – very bright, almost maraschino-like cherries with a few hints of berry and some violet (which I don’t understand – I emphatically smell rose, but I taste violet), and a hint of something slightly like banana in the background. The mouthfeel is low in tannins and high in acidity, light-bodied, slightly green.

All told, I like it. It’s not my favorite wine; I don’t feel the need to have bottles upon bottles of it , but it is nice. Like I said, I hated last year’s vintage – I thought tasted like vinegar and tomato leaf. This year’s vintage is much more frankly fruit-forward, which makes it a much easier wine to drink. It’s not that I’m particularly in love with fruit bomb wines, but it works here. Big, earthy, mushroom- and wood-laden flavors wouldn’t work very well with all the acidity.

So. It’s pretty good; I like it and I’d love to know what you think.

The label, on the other hand, is horrid. It’s this sort of graffiti-inspired monstrosity:

that I’m sure made a truly terrible tie. And yes, there are ties – like full-on, for serious neckties (the distributor I work for had a few) – and yes, I’ve seen people wear them. The ties are, um, LOUD.

Juice Boxes

By which I mean Bota Boxes, by which I mean I’m reviewing the two wines I’m throwing into the Bolognese I’m making this afternoon. Because I have a lot of time while this sauce cooks can. Because these wines seriously look like they’re juice boxes. Also, because box wine has come a helluva long way from Franzia.

To start off with, the 2010 Bota Box California Pinot Grigio, as presented to you in Glowing Sunlight Bright-o-Vision:

Region: California (not any particular region in California, but people, this is a $4 carton of wine. It’s pretty impressive that it’s got even a California appellation)
Grapes involved: Pinot Grigio
Cost: $4.00 or so
Food pairings: I typically do Pinot Grigios with lighter pasta dishes, especially in the summer. That being said, this is a wee tiny box of wine, and I’m throwing 90% of this into my cooking. *That* being said, this wine is good enough that it doesn’t need to be consigned to the kitchen.
Rating: (DUDE IT IS A BOX WITH A RATING(!)) 84 from Wine Enthusiast. This wine has been on a ton of Best Buy lists. It’d also be a good, cheap Thanksgiving wine for the Chardonnay and Riesling haters out there.

The scent here is vibrant and strong, slightly citrus-y without being the grapefruit bomb of most Sauv Blancs. There’s some minerality here, as well, and a definitely sense of acidic dryness.

Flavor-wise, there are some pears and citrusy flavors (mostly lemon), topped with bright acidity. There are a few hints of peaches and something sort of tropical (pineapple-ish, honestly), and then something that’s definitely rocky. It’s highly acidic in that way that activates your saliva glands, meaning it’s a good bet for pairing with food. The aftertaste has a sort of oaky moment that I’m not sure what to do with, but that fades out and turns into apples as it goes away.

Next, the 2009 Bota Box California Cabernet Sauvignon, in slightly-adjusted-for-but-still-glowy Bright-o-Vision:

Region: California
Grapes involved: Cabernet Sauvignon
Cost: $4.00 or so
Food pairings: Well, you know, it’s a Cab Sauv. It likes steak. Or cheddar. Like, it kind of rocks with a good sharp cheddar mac and cheese. And, you know, it’s good for cooking.
Rating:
85, Wine Enthusiast

This, like all drinkable reds, needs a few minutes to open up. Once it does, it’s predominantly bright red cherries and some spice of the allspice/nutmeg variety, with a hint of earthy woodsiness in the background. There’s even a touch of a sort of caramel note to the woodsiness.

Tasting, it’s a lot of cherry and nondescript berry with a bit of green olive, a touch of wood and some warming alcohol (that blends nicely into the cherry). It’s a fairly soft Cab – there’s decent structure in the tannins, so it’s not going super velvety, but it’s not scrapy or harsh or tooth-and-mouth-drying either. The aftertaste is some kind of awesome combination of cherries and bright red Macintosh apples which lingers for two-three minutes or so before fading off. This is, following current trends the way one would expect a box wine to do, a very fruit-forward Cab – the fruit hits first and lingers longest.

So there you have it. Box wine can be totally good, and that’s before I’ve bothered getting into the 88-point, Lodi-appellated Malbec and Zinfandel that Bota makes (which I drink for realz, y’all).

I’ll be slapping the Bolognese recipe up here later complete with more bad pictures, but I figured I’d give you the wine review now. Because with a 6-hour sauce, I’ve got plenty of time to write.

Founders Dirty Bastard

In celebration of the perfect fall beer and the fact that KU’s basketball season starts tonight (nominally, anyway – ’tis the first exhibition game, during which my team will warm up by trouncing Pitt State*)(ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK, BABY), I’m forcing myself to find the energy to tell you all of a wonderful beer which many of you have had and many more of you should.

Basic Info:
Name:
Dirty Bastard**
Origin: Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI
Style: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 50
I drank this: flopped at home. I like flopping.

The obligatory crap photo, which does not at all do justice to the color of the beer, which is a warm, coppery caramel color:

The beer has a caramelly-malty smell, heavy and rich and almost nutty. There’s almost a hint of dark fruits in the background. The alcohol is well-hidden in the nose – smelling it, I wouldn’t guess this was a high-octane beer.

Flavor-wise, it starts with a hit of dark, raisiny fruit, followed quickly by nutty malts, caramel, a bite of hops (without a particularly strong or bitter hop flavor), a touch of alcohol, and the slightest hint of yeast. The hops provide a balance to the strong maltiness without giving the beer a bitter taste – they prevent the beer from becoming overly sweet (despite the fact that the only words I can find to describe it should make it sound pretty sugary). It’s like the hops provide a structure for the malts to play around in, so that things stay balanced without straying from the character of a Wee Heavy (the way I appreciate malts in superhoppy beers for the backbone they provide the hops to stand on). The mouthfeel is rich and thick, more in a creamy way than a syrupy or velvety way.

For a Scotch Ale, this is just about perfect. The only beer in this style *possibly* more perfect is a Founders Backwoods Bastard, which clocks in closer to 10.5% and which is, for me at least, emphatically a one-beer type of thing (“one beer” as in “two would have me under the table and counting ceiling tiles). If you can find some near you, grab it. I had to trek to Missouri to get some. It was worth it.

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*
for those of you not from Kansas, I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about the University of Pittsburgh (i.e., Pitt, i.e., my husband’s alma mater, i.e. a real basketball opponent. Pitt State is a tiny school in tinier Pittsburg, KS, and while it’s a lovely school and a lovely town filled with lovely people (I know a veritable shit ton of people who went there in pursuit of music degrees of varying types), their basketball team is going to lose. Badly.
**please note: whenever “bastard” appears in the name of a beer, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be flipping amazing. Just saying.

2010 Finca La Linda Torrontes

Region: Cafayate, Argentina
Grapes involved: Torrontes
Cost: erm, $11-14 or so,  I think? My boss gave me this bottle, so I’m going off what I found on the Google.
Food pairings: Ceviche. Period. It would be *amazing*. See also: guac. Like this thing is begging for avocado.
Rating: nothing that my lazy butt could find, but I was admittedly being lazy

So, this amused me. I twisted off the cap (sidenote: I *love* twist tops on wine) and was presented with something that looked like the sort of child proof/tamper proof cover one finds on every OTC painkiller out there:

The nose is orange blossom, grass, something slightly citrusy, and something white floral like (davana comes to mind). The white floral notes grow stronger the longer the wine sits out and warms up. It’s a pretty, perfume-y smell.

The mouthfeel is pretty full for a white. It doesn’t have the sort of buttery texture that comes along with a long stay in oak barrels, but it’s still nice and full – it’s much richer than most white wines, without the really acidic bite that comes with a lot of Sauv Blancs and some Rieslings. The flavor is a bit of melon and peach with a lot of orange blossom (yay for bitter florals! <3), something that kind of seems like apple blossom (that I hope isn’t interference from my perfume), some lavender, a touch of some kind of white floral (this time, I’m coming up with paperwhite more than davana) and some lemon and orange rind and the slightest hint of green bell pepper. It’s got a really nice bitter kick that goes in with the florals – as a Campari lover and certifiable hophead, this is probably my favorite aspect of my wine.

The aftertaste, for whatever reason, is mostly green melon.

This is lovely and I could slurp on it forever, especially if I could find myself presented with a plate of ceviche. Enjoy.

2009 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir

Region: Willamette Valley, OR
Grapes involved: Pinot Noir
Cost: $17-20-ish
Food pairings: salmon, grilled veggies or chicken, sushi (maybe? like tuna-heavy sushi more than crab), strawberries (I’d imagine – I *hate* strawberries so I’m not going to verify), lighter cheeses
Etc: the vineyard is certified sustainable and Salmon Safe 
Rating: 87 – Wine Enthusiast

This is a fun wine – it has, flat out, the strangest tannin structure I’ve ever come across. I’ll explain in a moment.

Scent-wise, this is mostly cherry with undertones of vanilla, leather, violet, stuff like that. Like any good Pinot Noir, almost any scent you can think of is hiding in there somewhere – Pinots tend to be a wine snot favorite because of their complexity.

Flavor-wise, the cherry (think bright red cherries – not maraschino, but something bright red rather than dark or golden or sour) is the centerpiece, surrounded by violet leaf, rose petals, and a touch of earth and sage – it’s kind of like the wine equivalent of being in a flower-strewn cherry orchard. It’s light-bodied, light enough that it would be fantastic with seafood.* As any good Pinot Noir should be, this wine is quite dry.

And then there are the tannins. They’re… they’re, like, mouth-scrapey almost, but not in that tooth-coating way that means it’s impossible to rub your tongue on the roof of your mouth – it’s sharper than that, not quite so powdery, so that the wine comes across as slightly astringent. This isn’t bad (even if I’m not making it sound that great) – the feeling is really strange in a fun, different way. I wouldn’t want it in every wine, but coming across it in this was quite a bit of fun. It made me enjoy sipping it alone more than I usually do – the sensation in my mouth was so interesting that I wasn’t interested in spoiling it with food.

So, you know, grab some and enjoy. It’s not the cheapest Pinot Noir out there, but you’re flat out not going to get a cheap Pinot Noir from Oregon – they’re too good. As they go, this is well-priced and lovely to drink.

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*Because seriously, that “pair reds with meats, whites with chicken and seafood” rule is so, so tired.