Sun 14 Oct 2007
… but sometimes I think the scenario in a winery must go like this:
Setting: The staff tasting room at a winery. Gathering of senior winemaker, associate winemakers and assistants and so on, tasting the young wine of the newest vintage. Sniffing, snorting, slurping, pondering and then:
Assistant to the assistant winemaker, young guy, wearing rectangular black glasses frames, a goatee and spiky hair, a black t-shirt: “Whoa, that really sucks!”
Long silence. Unobtrusive coughs, a few discreet throat-clearings.
Associate senior winemaker: “We don’t consider ‘that sucks’ to be a reasonable comment in light of the dedication and years of experience that this venerable institution of a winery AND our senior winemaker merit.”
Assistant to the assistant winemaker: “Right, dude, sorry, I guess I forgot myself.”
Associate senior winemaker to the senior winemaker: “Sorry, chief, he forgot himself.”
Senior winemaker (everyone genuflects): “No, no, I appreciate the evaluation, youthful though it may be. I was thinking myself that perhaps this sample doesn’t quite reflect the fine heritage of our historic vineyards and institution. How many cases did we make?”
Profound silence. Much meditation, regret, remorse, misplaced hope.
Assistant to the assistant winemaker: “Uh, chief, we made approximately 548,678 cases of this wine. You know, give or take.”
Senior winemaker: “Whew, that’s a shitload of bad wine. What were we gonna sell this stuff for?”
Associate senior winemaker, snapping fingers: “Price?”
First assistant winemaker: “Um. I believe that this wine was slated for the mid-upper-premium or $15 line-up.”
Senior winemaker: “Well, hell, what’s-a-matter with you boys? Create a new label, put a retail price of $8 on it and we’ll sell the bejesus out of it. Call it, er, Clos de Firefly. You” – pointing to the assistant to the assistant winemaker – “you know anything about fireflies?”
Assistant to the assistant winemaker: “Um, well, I used to collect them in a jar when I was a kid.”
Senior winemaker: “Good enough! Write a back-story for the label. Something cute. Tap into the small-town-nostalgia-chasing-fireflies-in-summer-twilight stuff, you know, the whole Booth Tarkington-Ray Bradbury crock. We can still make a million bucks from this swill. And, hey! who made this frog-gargle anyway? It wasn’t me, was it??!! Ha-ha-ha!!!”
In other words, readers, a few hours ago, on this Sunday, I posted a “Refrigerator Door Wines” page of 12 inexpensive products at KoeppelOnWine, and while some of the wines are terrific examples of their grapes, genre and price, a few left me thinking, “How the hell did these wines get out of the producer’s door?” What were they thinking? The chief culprit? The Crane Lake Sauvignon Blanc 2005, a wine that I used to recommend for people looking for a cheap reliable white to serve at parties and receptions. Not this one, which smells and tastes like a bad blend of riesling and muscat. “Jeeze, F.K.,” you might be saying, “who cares? It’s just a bottle of $6 plonk.” Yes, but the purchaser of a bottle of $6 plonk deserves a clean, well-made, varietally true wine just as much as the person who buys a $60 cabernet.
The best wine of this dozen? The Mirabile Nero d’Avola 2005 from Sicily, at $14 a super-affordable kissing-cousin to an Amarone suited for hearty red meat entrees, like, you know, if you have a haunch of venison in the freezer or a beef brisket. Also don’t miss the Jewel Collection Firma 2004, from Lodi in California, a robust and rustic blend of barbera, sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, a real bargain at about $9.