9.20.2015

Wine column no. 73: The 2012 Luminary is a bran splinter new wine that sheds light on an old concept

Sept. 20, 2015: Anyone know a fifty-cent word for theft? Does it matter?

Here’s what’s on my mind lately. Suzanne Mustacich of Wine Spectator puts it well in the Sept. 30, 2015, issue:

“‘Get me a unit of Cheval, a good chunk of Cheval,’ said the voice on the recording, a taped phone conversation between the accused mastermind of an eight-month crime spree, in which more than $1.1 million worth of Bordeaux’s best wines were stolen, and an accomplice.”

Mustacich was writing about Carlos Da Silva Lopes de Sa’s decision to plot with accomplice Yoann Gautrau, the alleged ringleader, to steal from one of the most famous wine producers in France. Along with 13 others, the pair robbed 18 wineries and negociants before later selling the stolen wine at reduced prices. Sentences included $67,000 fines and up to four years in prison.

Those are the real world consequences when people are willing to stand up and say they saw or heard something happen that the law says shouldn’t have happened at all. But that stuff is boring. What’s more fun, what’s more exciting, is letting the thieves get away with it.

That’s where the fifty-cent word concept comes in. That’s how Robin Hood became not a thief and a liar, but a savior to those who had less. That’s how Jay Gatsby got known for throwing outlandish parties, and not for how he got the money to throw the parties in the first place. That’s how David Niven, with his sweater tied artfully around his neck, became not “The Pink Panther’s” jewel thief, but the charming, witty guy you’d like to say you know. It’s why we rooted for George Clooney in “Ocean’s Eleven,” and in “Ocean’s Twelve,” and again in “Ocean’s Thirteen.” It’s why a fitted suit, a nice haircut, and a good idea or, perhaps, just a license will get you in the door. After all, as long as you’re polite to the right people, no one really cares what you do once you get in there.

Anti-heroes, in other words, are cool. Following the rules is boring. Flouting the law, especially when you do it with style, is always the way to go. And most importantly: There are no consequences for believing all of this to be true. Just think what could happen if the people who are younger than us start thinking this way, too. Maybe they already do.

So let me break this long line of popular logic to bring you a wine that, I think, does it better — all within the rules, all with talent, and all with its own sense of style. Let me present ingenuity. Let me present my own version of class. And let me explain, finally, why this approach should be cool: Because it shouldn’t be shameful to agree to abide by laws that help us all.

The 2012 Luminary Red American Blend is a blend of 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa, California; 19 percent Syrah from Double Canyon, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington; 8 percent Syrah from Chamisal Vineyards, Edna Valley, California; 16 percent Zinfandel from Home Ranch, part of Seghesio Family Vineyards, Alexander Valley, California; and 2 percent Merlot from Carneros, in the southern corner of Napa, Pine Ridge Vineyards.

The Luminary has a cassis nose, is smooth, well balanced and concentrated. It’s sold at Winetree Liquors on Weinbach Avenue for $42.99. It contains 14.7 percent alcohol.

Michael Beaulac of Pine Ridge Vineyards, Jason Ledbetter of Double Canyon, Fintan du Fresne of Chamisal Vineyards, and Ted Seghesio of Seghesio Family Vineyards are all experienced winemakers who wanted to do something different. 

They knew wine’s Old World traditions meant that wines that feature multiple varietals should use fruit that comes from one particular region or state. But Crimson Wine Group, which owns Luminary, is based in Napa. It’s not an Old World company. Innovation is more easily embraced there. You don’t usually get judged for pulling yourself up by your bootstraps in America.

Unhindered by the constraints of expectation, of someone else’s limitations, these four vintners managed to create something that is both new and good. They crossed state lines and blended fruit from four very different appellations to create the first American wine of its kind. Even more lovely: They did it within the bounds of the law. In these lands, these men had opportunities, and they used them in the right ways.

Here’s another thing I like about this company’s mission, which captures well the goals of what a luminary does: It promotes the long-term growth of those it serves, its customers, its people, its communities, the environment, and its shareholders. Some might say that’s innovative, too. It’s certainly helpful, at least.

As for that fifty-cent word concept, there is a better approach. You don’t have to pay any money or flout any laws to benefit from it, either. Many people already have it within their reach. It’s called common sense. And that, I think, remains priceless.

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