So how do Grahm’s new wines stack up against the old standbys? Pretty well, actually. But that isn’t surprising, is it?
I was at a business dinner the other night, and the group wanted to order wine. What should we get? asked one. I don’t know much about wine. That’s OK, said another. I don’t know much, either. But Siegel does. He can order it.
I mention this not to tout my wine skills (the Wine Curmudgeon is, of course, incredibly modest). Rather, it’s to offer advice for those times when one needs to order wine and there is no wine writer around. This is most often a problem in a business setting, where what one orders is often a reflection of one’s sophistication (as unfair as that may be).
So keep these pointers in mind:
I have written very nice things about Bonny Doon and winemaker Randall Grahm recently. And, ordinarily, I’d slow down. But he keeps making such terrific wine that I’m almost compelled to keep writing nice things.
Take, for example, this syrah (about $20). It tastes almost nothing like any New World syrah — none of the over-the-top inkiness of Australian shiraz and no overdone California fruit. In fact, it has quite a few French-style syrah elements to it, including a wonderfully funky aroma. And regular readers know that if the Wine Curmudgeon recommend a wine that costs more than $10 or $12, it must be really, really good.
Having said that, don’t drink this if you’re expecting one of those high alcohol, incredibly unsubtle, jammy-to-the-point-of-no-return syrahs. But if you want a deep, dark, rich, well-balanced red wine, drink it with barbecue and grilled steaks.
Regular visitors to this space know that the Wine Curmudgeon feels that wine scores are as much a danger to the Republic as the designated hitter. Each is flashy and showy, and in the end does nothing to make wine or baseball any better.
So when the always knowledgeable W.R. Tish can add his perspective and enthusiasm to the project, I’m happy to share his views. Plus, he is a pretty funny guy, one of the few standup comics/wine writers in the business.
“Ah, where would we be without wine ratings?,” Tish writes. “Probably sitting around a table on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean with a carafe of ros and the catch of the day ?and not a care in the world as to the wine ?s rating.”
Tish’s effort is here. In this case, the higher the score, the worse the offender. Enjoy, and keep in mind that the only score that matters is whether you like the wine or not.
? Wine shoppers overwhelmed: This is not really news to anyone who has actually gone wine shopping (as opposed to buying by scores and snobbery), given the 400 or so brands introduced each year. But it is interesting that one of the largest wine companies in the world has noticed. Constellation Wines, the U.S. arm of massive Constellation Brands, says almost one-quarter of wine shoppers are overwhelmed by sheer volume of choices on store shelves and like to drink wine, but don’t know what kind to buy and may select by label. Which explains why so many of those brands have cute animal labels.
This is the second of a three-part series detailing my recent conversation with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. The final part will run next Monday. To see the first part, go here.
When Randall Graham sold his Big House and Cardinal Zin brands in 2006, I did two things. I sent an email to various friends and acquaintances who like wine, wailing and moaning that Big House, my favorite $10 wine, would never be the same. I also called around to find out how much he he was paid by a company called The Wine Group.
When I brought this up, Grahm cut me off: “Don’t believe everything you read — or that you wrote — about how much money I got.” The figure reported then was $50 million, so we’ll take his word that it was less than that.
It’s a great value, actually.
The Oak Leaf label, produced by The Wine Group, is the retailing giant’s house brand. As noted a couple of weeks ago, it has scored quite a few successes in respected wine competitions. The Wine Curmudgeon was skeptical, of course — not only because that is his nature, but because he is skeptical of all things Wal-Mart.