4.08.2012

Wine column no. 30: Three genres of wine (original and edited versions)

Here's what I actually wrote, not the version that was published in The Evansville Courier and Press today:

Agatha Christie knew it. So does Jerry Bruckheimer. And now, vintners have finally figured it out, too: Everybody loves a mystery.
Take the 2009 Lock and Key Meritage, a red wine produced in the north coast of California. Its producers are cagey about its origins. But what they are willing to say this: It's in a French Bordeaux style, its grapes hail from Lake and Sonoma counties, it's enhanced with French oak, and there were 10,000 cases made.
Luckily, Winetree's got this gem, which thrusts red fruits and an appealing mixture of soothing texture and a spicy kick for under $20. If this 13.9 percent speciman wobbles at all, it's in the finish, which seems short and incomplete compared to the strength of its flavors. And interestingly, that's almost exactly like a mystery.
Thankfully, most good mysteries leave some clues. And this Lock and Key's labeling as a Meritage definitely gives a lot away. If you've never heard of Meritage, then you're not the only one. It's pronounced like "heritage," meaning it's not something you'd want to add a French accent to. Meritage got its name when a group of Californian vintners created the Meritage Association in 1988. They were hoping to emulate French Bordeaux styles of wine. What this means to those of us who drink wine is this: Meritage must be a blend of at least two of the following different varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenere. If you're really curious about this vintage of Lock and Key's Meritage, then you can go to www.lockandkeywines.com, where you can play around with the percentages of three possible varietals that were used to create this wine. If not, you can just enjoy a wine that's uncomplicated, relaxed and easy to drink.
Now onto dramas. And no, we're not talking about the kind you love to hate. This isn't soap opera wine. We mean the stuff that gets you thinking about themes beyond white wine and chicken, beyond steak and potatoes. Want conflict? Want pure, unadulterated love? Then turn to the 2010 Venge Scout's Honor from Napa Valley, Calif., that we were fortunate to get a taste of at Madeleine's Fusion restaurant. Because that's one thing about dramas ... they have long finishes. Comedies may make you shake out your laughter, but dramas force you hold the beauty in. Or, in the case of this 15.2 percent alcohol blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Charbano and Syrah, they make you realize what good wine really can be. Here's an example: The word elegance really doesn't cut it. So we won't use it. In fact, we encourage you to throw that word out. Burn it. Grab a knife and physically extract it from this newspaper. Then replace it with a glass of this berry-heavy and exceedingly smooth Californian that, vintner Kirk Venge says, can be cellared for quite some time. Now, want conflict? Then force yourself to wait for another bottle of this same vintage that's sure to become even more beautiful as the years wear on. Simply said: That's drama.
The Venge (pronounced ven-ghee) family has farmed vitis viniferra varieties in Napa Valley, Calif., for nearly half a century. In 1976, the family purchased a 17-acre vineyard in the Oakville District that was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the Venge Vineyards website said. "This fortunate development cast the family among the winemaking pioneers of Napa Valley," the website went on to say. In fact, Kirk Venge's father, Nils, created the first 100-point Robert Parker wine from California. Parker is an influential wine critic who was clearly impressed with Nils Venge's 1985 Groth Cabernet Reserve. Have we had that wine? We can only dream ...
These days, the Venge brand is hard to find in Indiana. But if you want a taste of something that you'll remember for a long time, that exemplifies grace and all-out personality, then don't hesitate to stop in at Madeleine's to try the Scout's Honor.
OK, onto comedies. But we're not thinking formulaic sitcoms. Our brand of funny is dry humor, the kind that makes you think, the kind that makes you yearn for the wink of someone's eye. And that can be found in the 2007 JC Cellars The Imposter, a red wine from California that we purchased at Sahara Mart in Bloomington, Ind., for about $29. Sure, this wine may claim to be something it's not. But it's clear as dawn what this blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvedre and Viognier is. And to our eyes, it's just plain good: Soft, elegant, intense and balanced, with a huge chunk of blackberry flavor and black pepper thrown in for good measure, this wine is about mocking what's not honestly good. Plus, any wine that clocks in at 16 percent alcohol will easily betray the imposters in the room. Are we joking? Surely not.
And neither is Jeff Cohn, the winemaker, president and "JC" of JC Cellars. Ever heard of Rosenblum Cellars? Those who like Zinfandel might be familiar with their style of Zinfandel. Cohn held various
positions at Rosenblum, including winemaker, until he began his own label, JC Cellars, in 1996. He finally set off on his own in 2006, choosing to live in Alameda, Calif., instead of in Napa or Sonoma
valleys up north.
Why? Because, for one thing, he wanted to escape the competition of that region. He wanted to be able to live his own life. And that brings us back to the 2007 The Imposter label. Cohn's philosophy about wine is that it should be honest, it should be true to itself: "Wine should have a personality," he told a reporter. "It’s something that should come from the wine maker’s heart.”
We're certainly not vintners. But as wine lovers, we get that. And there's nothing fake about that.

Here's what actually ran today in the Courier, after substantial editing:

Agatha Christie knew it. So does Jerry Bruckheimer. And now, vintners finally have figured it out, too: Everybody loves a mystery.
Take the 2009 Lock and Key Meritage, a red wine produced in the north coast of California. Its producers are cagey about its origins. But what they are willing to say is this: It's in a French Bordeaux style, its grapes hail from Lake and Sonoma counties, it's enhanced with French oak and there were 10,000 cases made.
Luckily, Winetree's got this gem, which thrusts red fruits and an appealing mixture of soothing texture and a spicy kick for less than $20.
If this 13.9 percent specimen wobbles at all, it's in the finish, which seems short and incomplete compared with the strength of its flavors.
Thankfully, most good mysteries leave some clues. And this Lock and Key's labeling as a Meritage definitely gives a lot away. Meritage is pronounced like "heritage": It's not something to which you'd want to add a French accent.
Meritage got its name when a group of California vintners created the Meritage Association in 1988. They were hoping to emulate French Bordeaux styles of wine.
What this means is: Meritage must be a blend of at least two of the following different varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenere.
Those curious about this vintage of Lock and Key's Meritage can go to www.lockandkeywines.com and play around with the percentages of three possible varietals that were used to create this wine. It is a wine that's uncomplicated, relaxed and easy to drink.
This isn't soap opera wine, meaning the stuff that gets you thinking about themes beyond white wine and chicken, beyond steak and potatoes. Try the 2010 Venge Scout's Honor from Napa Valley, Calif., that we were fortunate to get a taste of at Madeleine's Fusion restaurant. This 15.2 percent alcohol blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Charbano and Syrah makes you realize what good wine really can be.
Here's an example: The word elegance really doesn't cut it. So we won't use it. Replace it with a glass of this berry-heavy and exceedingly smooth Californian that, vintner Kirk Venge says, can be cellared for quite some time. Then wait for another bottle of this same vintage that's sure to become even more beautiful as the years wear on.
The Venge (pronounced ven-ghee) family has farmed vitis vinifera varieties in Napa Valley, Calif., for nearly half a century. In 1976, the family purchased a 17-acre vineyard in the Oakville District that was planted to cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the Venge Vineyards website said.
Kirk Venge's father, Nils, created the first 100-point Robert Parker wine from California. Parker is an influential wine critic who was clearly impressed with Nils Venge's 1985 Groth Cabernet Reserve.
These days, the Venge brand is difficult to find in Indiana. But if you want a taste of something that you'll remember for a long time, that exemplifies grace and all-out personality, then don't hesitate to stop in at Madeleine's to try the Scout's Honor.
The 2007 JC Cellars The Imposter, a red wine from California that we purchased at Sahara Mart in Bloomington, Ind., for about $29, may claim to be something it's not. But it's clear what this blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvedre and Viognier is: It's just plain good. Soft, elegant, intense and balanced, with a huge chunk of blackberry flavor and black pepper thrown in for good measure, this wine is about mocking what's not honestly good. Plus, any wine that clocks in at 16 percent alcohol will easily betray the impostors in the room.
Jeff Cohn is the winemaker, president and "JC" of JC Cellars. Ever heard of Rosenblum Cellars? Those who like Zinfandel might be familiar with its style of Zinfandel. Cohn held various positions at Rosenblum, including winemaker, until he began his own label, JC Cellars, in 1996. He finally set off on his own in 2006, choosing to live in Alameda, Calif., instead of in Napa or Sonoma valleys up north.
And that brings us back to the 2007 The Imposter label. Cohn's philosophy about wine is that it should be honest, it should be true to itself.
"Wine should have a personality," he told a reporter. "It's something that should come from the winemaker's heart."
We're certainly not vintners. But as wine lovers, we get that. And there's nothing fake about that.

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