David Banner, explaining what will happen if he is forced to buy overpriced wine 92-point wine with too much oak and high alcohol. Of course, the fellow in the tie from the Winestream Media doesn’t believe him, and we know what happens next.
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Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm is perhaps the most subversive person in the wine business, and one sip of his rose, the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, shows why. On the one hand, it has all of the necessary qualities for a terrific pink wine — freshness, nary a hint of residual sugar, and a certain stoniness that many of the great French roses from Provence have.
On the other hand, the Vin Gris de Cigare ($15, sample, 13%) also tastes like it will age for at least a couple of years. What cranberry fruit there is is hidden beneath the other components, and the fruit should slowly show itself over time. This is not supposed to happen with rose, which is usually made to last for just one vintage (and is perfectly fine when it does). That Grahm makes a rose that will age, and for only $15, is just another example of how sneaky he is, and how his wines almost never do what the wine business says wine should do.
Hence it’s no surprise that I enjoy them so much. Highly recommended; serve the Vin Gris de Cigare chilled, either on its own or with any summer food, be it salad or grilled fish, chicken, or beef. I drank it with socca, the chickpea flour pancake from southern France on a hot Dallas Saturday afternoon. If I wasn’t magically transported somewhere other than my air conditioned living room, the combination reminded me why pairings can work as long as we aren’t slaves to them.
Finally, a note about Grahm’s newest — and perhaps most subversive — project. He is crowdfunding a vineyard to create 10,000 new grape varieties, in the hope of finding a unique New World vinifera, something that didn’t come from Europe and so is better suited to our climate and soil. In this, Grahm figures he has a chance to explore New World terroir in a way no one ever has. That creating new grape varieties is incredibly difficult does not seem to daunt him in the least.
The project is about 15 percent of the way to its $350,000 goal — you can contribute here, and there are some impressive premiums. And, given my experience with crowdfunding, Grahm will have more fun than he can imagine. Not that I know anything about waking up at 2 a.m. to check the funding percentage.
• Tulips, anyone? The Wine Curmudgeon rarely passes up an opportunity to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald on one of his (and my) favorite subjects: “You know, the rich are different from you and me.” How else to explain this story about investing in wine from the New York Times? It talks about how the wealthy borrow money against their wine collections the way the rest of us do against our homes (assuming, of course, we even own one). Says the founder of one such lender: “Whether it’s real estate or wine, it doesn’t make sense to accumulate assets with pure cash. With wine, you can borrow and not put your home or some other important asset at risk. You can finance toys with toys.” And the tulip reference? The Dutch 17th century economic crash brought on by flower speculating — not that I’m making comparisons.
• Not this vintage: Remember the Monty Python bit about the Scotsman who has to defend Wimbledon’s honor? It came to mind when I read this piece about what is apparently the first vintage ever of Scottish wine — admirable and a good try, but “undrinkable.” The wine, a white made with cold-hardy grapes, is apparently oxidized, a not uncommon problem for inexperienced regional winemakers working with odd grapes in untested climates. Still, if we can do it in Texas, there is hope.
• One of the best: I only met Bill St. John a couple of times, but I read him regularly and appreciated his skill as a wine writer. Bill was someone who cared about quality and value, and he wrote for his readers in clear and concise language. He has retired from the Chicago Tribune, and his final column says it all: “By and large, we take wine and especially winemaking way too seriously. We’ve made of winemakers what we’ve made of chefs — superstars and entertainers. … We’ve let winemaking and so much folderol about wine — buying, storing, collecting and bloviating — get in the way of our wine.” Bill will be much missed.