There’s a lot to catch up on, but here are some recent encounters and experiences that (I hope) are worth sharing:
• I’ve been thinking, and writing, a lot lately about non-standard bottle sizes (smaller or larger than 750ml). And in the course of reorganizing my cellar, I found a half-bottle of 2004 El Coto Crianza Rioja. I figured it was at best past its prime, and quite possibly shot. Wronnnnng! The wine was delicious, rich and robust, with a perfect amalgam of tasty fruit and tempranillo dust. It actually tasted young. Another reminder that the wine world is full of surprises, often delightful ones.
• In cleaning out my once-ginormous file of wine-related quotes, I unearthed this unattributed gem:
“The Buffalo Theory and Wine: A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.
“In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of wine eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you always feel smarter after some wine.”
• I loved watching the Kansas City Royals roar through baseball’s postseason. They were fueled by a marvelous bullpen and an even better defense. But on the other side of the ball, they were indefatigable, outscoring their foes 51-11 from the seventh inning on. In trying to come up with a wine to exemplify this plucky, multitalented bunch, there was but one choice: Relentless, the syrah-based blend from the estimable Napa winery Shafer. A few years back, proprietor Doug Shafer told me that the wine was named in honor of longtime winemaker Elias Fernandez (left), whose work ethic, meticulousness and skills are legendary. I acknowledged that it was a fitting tribute, and joked that “I guess ‘Indefatigable’ would not be an optimum name for a wine.”
• I love wine dinners, although the trade-sponsored ones can be a bit laborious. Not so last night’s soiree at Vincent for Balanced Wine Selections. Starting with dynamic white folle blanche (my first) and Muscadets from the Loire, through the gorgeous Etienne Calsac Champagnes and then back to the Loire for nightcap cab franc and chenin with rich, earthy cheeses, every wine was exemplary. But the highlight might have been two side-by-sides: trousseaus from the Jura and a St. Joseph alongside a Cornas (another personal first). I learned a lot and loved even more.
This is a seriously cool idea, deftly executed: direct-to-consumer offerings that keep the prices insanely low (largely by cutting out two tiers, the importer and distributor): rockin’, rollin’ Domaine Johann Michel Cornas for $35, clean, vibrant Parentiére Muscadet for $11 (!), and all of it costing even less when buying by the case. Which I will be. By all means, check it out at the website.