A Wine Opinion From a Guy Who Doesn’t Know Wine

When I was a precocious (read: underage) young drinker, I was concerned with how to appear as mature and distinguished as possible in my drinking habits. I drank a lot of difficult peaty scotches that tasted like licking the inside of a Cadillac, and I came of age (or rather, pretended to) when IPAs were beginning to become the beer nerd’s favorite. I cultivated a taste for these things, and I still have it, partially because a stubbornly immature part of me likes when other people gag at my drink order.

But in the past few years, I’ve started leaning towards inexpensive, low-alcohol (often canned!) beer. I love Olympia and Hamm’s. I drink Pacifico, Rolling Rock, and once, courtesy of my brother, a devastatingly cheap LaCroix-esque gas station beer whose name was sadly as forgettable as its flavor. I’ve found that there’s beauty in trying to love and appreciate something that does not call out to be loved and appreciated—in putting as much thought and attention into simple things as we are taught to put into complex things.

And in our marathon canned wine tasting, there were a lot of complex things on display. We tasted the shit out of that wine, y’all. I tried my damndest to really taste wine the way people have taught me, and actually had some success. A lot of times I’d write down a fruit or a texture and feel inwardly rewarded when somebody else had it down, too. Elusive tastes became as intoxicating as alcohol.

Yet when all is said and done, I think the canned wines I’m most likely to go back to are the sparkling ones. A canned red can be good, but it doesn’t leave condensation in your palm. It doesn’t dance on your tongue. I want to forget I’m drinking anything at all, sometimes. What I want, come to think of it, is Miller High Life.

I don’t think that Miller High Life is the champagne of beers, as the folks at Miller insist. There is no “High Life” region of France, as far as I can tell. But I contend that canned sparkling wine is the Miller High Life of wine. That’s a high compliment, in my book.

Review from AJB Issue 1

2016 Houndstooth Rorick Heritage Vineyard Barbera Calaveras County. Immediately this wine hit me with black pepper and butter-basted steak and fettuccine Alfredo. Once I got under that first wave of aroma, I found the dessert course for this ultra-rich dinner; raspberries and plums and hints of spice, opening to a pie crust yeastiness. The steakhouse meal delivered by the aroma and front-palate gave way to fruit that was more heavily spiced and almost underripe in it’s sourness. This is the wine you want when you’re having a Summer barbecue with fresh berry cobbler to follow, and it’s only it’s tannins that keep it from being truly special for me: They’re well-balanced, but thin.

2017 Heidi Schrock Furmint Burgenland. Imagine you’re at a trendy restaurant in downtown Oakland, and you order the cheese board. The waiter brings you a hunk of chipped slate on which are a dizzying array of meats, cheeses, crackers, and fruit. An opening in the middle of it all is unfilled, and as you watch the waiter opens a jar and pours a healthy portion of Orange Blossom honey into the right onto the slate. That minerality and floral sweetness hits your nose all at once, and you dig in. That is this wine in a nutshell. It comes from the Austrian-Hungarian border, and this wine draws on the sweet wine roots of the area to make what is effectively orange honey as a dry white wine.

2015 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Napa Chardonnay. Here I’ve done a more broken-down tasting.

Aroma: Butter. (Yes, that’s all I wrote. Butter.)
Weight: Medium
Texture: Butter, acidity
Taste: Butter, butterscotch, nuts, thyme, minerality
Finish: Nice long finish that clung to the palate well.
Color: Pale yellow

These notes might lead you to believe that the butter flavor in this Napa Chardonnay was overwhelming. It was not. This wasn’t movie popcorn butter, this was butter sauce, butterscotch like I said above, with an emphasis on the butter. Excellently balanced between acidity, fruitiness, and oak flavors.

V Coturri Founder’s Series “Red”. A wine that I almost couldn’t believe I was drinking as I was drinking it.

Aroma: Black cherry, aged vanilla, raisin
Weight: Medium
Texture: Rough cotton, woolly tannins
Taste: Black cherry, raising, caramelized fruit, raisin tart, golden raisin spice roll
Finish: Raisin and oak, dry, slightly woody
Color: Rusty tawny

Do the notes above put you in mind of anything? If you thought to yourself, “boy, that sounds like a Port”, you’d be right. The Coturri Red is effectively a dry Port, and it fascinated me so much I’ve bought three bottles. If you see this, and you have any inclination towards Port, buy it. Buy as much of it as you can. It is excellent.

Finally, we turn to a wine that not only surprised me, but has surprised every person I’ve tried it with. The  2017 Pheasant’s Tears Shavkapito is a wine from Georgia (the country, not the state) that blew me away with it’s complexity, and the complexity of it’s minerality. There’s elements of clay (which makes sense given the wine is aged in clay pots) but also shale and petrichor. There’s blackberry and black cherry and spice and it’s all wrapped in a tannin bundle that cries out for decanting, but also makes your tongue sit up and pay attention. There aren’t my normal tasting notes for this, but I will say this wine has made me more excited than I ever thought I would be about Georgian wines.