Jim was a cowboy, rough and tough. He liked to say that he preferred his coffee black and his women blue. The wine he drank was red, and not that fruity stuff, like Beaujolais. He was a Syrah man, a Zin man, a Cabernet man. A real man. Jim roped steer and steered ropes. Jim drove cattle, drove them through valleys, across streams. Jim drove those cattle, drove them crazy. Jim was deaf, and when his incoherent mumblings reached the ears of the beasts they would bleat mournfully as if asking him to stop. But their cries fell on, well, on deaf ears. The deaf ears of a real man. Cowboy Jim was hard at work one sunny day, driving the cattle crazy on his way to deliver them to a dude named Hoss down at the Ponderosa. Jim had met Hoss on previous cattle runs. Hoss was a big man with a barrel chest, and he was slightly dense. Hoss was different, for sure. he was fond of show tunes and interior design. He dressed impeccably, and his diction was flawless. But he was a cowboy, a real man, so Jim could forgive Hoss his quirks. Another thing about Hoss, something that Jim liked a lot: Hoss loved his wine. In the evenings the two cowboys would pull some corks and shoot the bull. Their conversation was easy and relaxed. They were just two manly cowboys drinking hearty red wine. Jim played the accordion and soon learned a number of Ethel Merman tunes so Hoss could sing along. Hoss and Jim became a team, and traveled together across the cinematic countryside. They had everything they needed: A good horse, a blackened coffee pot, wine... and orchestral backround music. It was the good life. But there were whispers from the other cowboys. Whispers that Jim and Hoss were... well, a different breed of cowboy. There were horse whispers too, but that’s another film entirely. Hoss and Jim did not care. They were happy roping, happy riding. Happy singing songs from The Music Man by the campfire. They were a team. After their workout (they had taken up the sport of Rassling) Hoss opened a bottle of 1995 Palmer ($139.99), and a ’96 Palmer ($129.99) as well. To compare and contrast, Hoss explained, and to pair with duck confit. A new world opened up to Jim. These Palmer wines were vibrant and exciting. Hoss explained that Palmer blended the characteristics of every commune: hearty (and manly) like Médoc, soft and supple like Pomerol and St-Emilion, sturdy and straightforward like St-Estèphe. And with the Fragrance of Margaux. Jim found that the ’95 was fleshy and soft, and brimming with a sweet cherry jaminess. The ’96 was firmer, denser. Manlier, yes, than the ’95. One to drink and one to save. But as Hoss explained the wines, how Palmer was made from nearly half merlot, Jim grew agitated and fled. He would no longer partner up with Hoss. Jim and Hoss were finished. Now a lonesome cowpoke, Jim worked alone. And he denied the truth about himself each and every solitary day. “I ain’t no Merlot drinker…” —Joe Zugelder
I’m happy to present some delightful barbeque style reds. First off, the 2004 Fess Parker Frontier Red ($7.99) is comprised mostly of syrah, but boasts ten other Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. This blueberry and coco duo braids together oodles of juicy spice on the back palate. Dare I say, this wine, (weather permitting) inspires diving board canon balls, jack knives, and swan dives in between each sip. It’s hard to believe we are selling this wine for so little! Snatch up this tender, seductive, and oh-so-nurturing little number that sings like Billy Holiday and kicks it up with a feather-weight punch of frivolous fruit. From a very solid and steady producer, the 2004 Bogle Russian River Pinot Noir ($11.99) is an absolute steal! Wafts of herbal notes and roasted cherries excite the palate. This well-balanced wine slithers its way down, while recalling hints of tobacco and leather on the finish. This little guy is a pleaser; wherever you might bring him, he’s sure to dazzle and adapt to all kinds of summer fare. The 2004 Brown Napa Valley Zinfandel ($32.99) is for folks who like Zinfandels that can rival the flash of a neon light. It’s flush with a sugary nose, but not as weighty as you might first suspect. It boasts a jolt of Fourth of July fruit, however the stewed and jammy essence is well integrated with acid, smoke and spice to give the over-all impression of a well-constructed wine. Enjoy with mango chipolte ribs, or braised duck in a spicy pomegranate sauce. The 2004 Sobon Amador, Rocky Top, Zinfandel ($12.99) is another cheery and efficient wine to enjoy over a fierce game of lawn darts (at your own risk) or perhaps, an old favorite of mine, slip and slide, horse-shoes, or when all else fails, Twister. With a little Rocky Top spreading heat and happiness throughout your veins, you’re sure to make a new, ahem, friend. —Keelyn Healy
This month it’s all about the Complete Package. These wines are impressive and unique on every front, including labels. That’s right folks, I’m review wines with cool labels here! No matter how irrelevant they are regarding quality, sometimes you just want to make a statement, not only with what’s inside but what’s on the outside, too. Never fear though, the great liquid that’s vesseled inside these expressive bottles is terrific too. 2004 Peirano “The Other Wine” Red Blend ($11.99) Lodi has arrived!! Forget what you may believe about this wine region, because you’ll be blown away by the many tremendous, inexpensive reds coming from here. I was immediately struck by the rich core of fruit and intensity from this syrah/petite syrah/cabernet blend. You might also be struck by the, ahem, provocative label on the front. I don’t know how in the world they got past the TTB, but Peirano produced a knockout, both inside and outside the bottle! 2002 Aia (Miner Family Vineyards) Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.99) The 2001 was one of our best selling Cabernets in any category, with its dark, bold, red label splashing “AIA” in contrasted white on the front. A standout in all senses of the word, this wine will take center stage and demand respect in any situation. Last night I poured this blind to a group of highly tuned tasters, and everyone nailed it… except for the price. A $60+ Cab from Napa was the overall guess! 2nd wine for Miner. In my opinion, a truly superlative Cabernet effort. Speaking of best sellers, how about showing up to a dinner with 2004 Peter Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($29.99)? Does it have a pink border, a comic book font, and a big paw on the capsule? No doubt! The wine, just as its playful theme suggests, remains elusive, mysterious, but oh-so-enjoyable no matter how many sips you take. On the nose, a syrah-like gamey element ushers in the telltale (excuse the pun) aromas of crushed cherries and truffles of pinot-land. The bold, rich, ripeness belies the insistent backbone of acidity that makes this one of the better all-around food-focused Pinot Noirs under thirties dollars in the store. Thank you, Michael Jordan, for finding this diamond of a wine! Enjoy. —Martin Reyes
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