Rednecks ‘n Red Rhones – Race Day Wines


Rednecks ‘n Red Rhones 2013 – “Danica, DANICA, DANICA”
Or “Grenache, you made me do it, but I didn’t want to do it.”

Sunday comes way too early and though the sky is cloudy, it still seems a might bright. Steeling my liver for another day of fine vit’ls and high octane fruit juice, I can’t help but think of the Allemand Cornas. Since when have I loved a Cornas so much? And then that life-reviving Chateau La Tour Blanche. Damn fine! The memory of that Mordoree Cuvee de la Reine des Bois makes me almost want to take a moment. But in the back of what’s left of my head, I’m also fondly recalling the Cims and the Ferrer Bobet, and somewhere the strong, sultry voice of Pasty Cline sings, “You made me love you; I didn’t want to do it.” Later that morning, Greg – who is trying to eat his breakfast – asks me to stop snorting the empty Cims bottle.

Sunday’s race-day activities ramp up. The green flag is about to wave as Greg and I stumble into Chez South where all the usuals are deep into the Mountain Dew – Rhone style. Half empty bottles litter the tables and counters – it’s a homey feel just like I left my own singlewide back in Patch’s Trail Park. We’re joined by a host of newcomers, most of whom are either “Mark” or “Marc.” It’s like sitting in the middle of bad SNL skit as the intros are made. Knowing my synapses might be sparking poorly, Steve- Mark, Katie-Mark (daughter of Steve-Mark) and Marc Hanes-Marc, have already entered a number of bottle names in the word processor for me. Barb-Marc puts us all at ease with appetizers – including a gorgeous antipasto plate (a thing of beauty) and assorted cheeses. We know we need to pack a good base for today’s cornucopia of high fly’n vine sap.

Sitting on the table is a magnum of Domaine de la Pépière Clos des Briords Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Loire France 2006. Beside it rests a 2004 DuMol Chardonnay “Isobel” from Green Valley in Sonoma.

Where in hell’s bells is the @#$%@ Rhone-style $^!+. For a moment, it seemed like the Grenache Archangel of Darkness had departed only to be replaced with his evil twin, Archangel of Blah Blanc. With a sedative at the ready in case I channel some left over ugliness from the Grenache-plagued night before, Dr. Ellis points me to,

Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage Rhone 1998
Sporting 100% Marsanne and an easy 13.5% alc., this classic takes the day’s pole position with an earthy, diesel-esque nose which carries all the way through the palate with assists from white grapefruit zest, lemon curd, lychee nut, hazelnut and just down right nutty goodness. Find this wine

Mondavi Winery To Kalon I Block Fume Blanc Oakville, 2009
I admit it. I’m weak when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc. I love well-made SB. I’ve never slurped the To Kalon vineyard stuff. While never a fan of Napa SB, this entry captivates. The vines were planted in 1945. This is real Sauvignon Blanc with some gooseberry, apricot and white grapefruit juice. Nice minerality and an almost limestone quality. Excellent cut, yet with a round mouthfeel. The alcohol (14.5% alc.) doesn’t show at all. 200 cases made. Git yurself some. Find this wine

As for the race, Matt Kenzzzeth takes off from the pole at the drop of the green flag and retains the lead at Kanzzzazzz. Before we doze off, we’re revived with,

Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc Rhone 2004 (Bottle #2642)
Sweet Jesus! Bright, but faint tangerine, lychee fruit, with some petrol note and yet with a mushroomy mid-palate. Fueled with 14.5% alc. The finish – once you get there – is ever so long with white pepper. Can I hear a “Hallelujah!” from the crowd?! Find this wine

Tablas Creek “Panoplie” Paso Robles San Luis Obispo Co. Ca. 2002
A blend of 80% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache and 7% Counoise that takes its parentage seriously and does Beaucastel proud. My lands! At alc. of 14.8%, it’s smooth and totally approachable. The deep, smoky purple color suggests the years of life ahead of it. Flavors of black olives and iodine carry the middle followed by Asian 5 spice and black pepper on the finish. Bob correctly adds, “leathery” to the descriptors. Loads of tannins now that will likely smooth and ease out over this champion’s expected long life. Find this wine

Edmunds St John Durell Vineyard Syrah, Sonoma Valley Ca.1995
Not to be forgotten as the Arpy-chastised impersonator of Rhone wines is Steve Edmunds. A Rhone Ranger of the finest order and oft’n discussed among the Over the Wall Crew, his wines never disappoint. This particular wine is lighter and brighter than the Tablas Creek, but with blackberry, iodine, orange zest and black olive flavors. It lacks in length to the TC, but that’s picking a nit. 14.4% alc. Impersonate all you like, Steve. We’ll leave a light on for ya. Find this wine

Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah Bennett Valley Sonoma Ca. 2008
A Russell Bevan wine, and like Russell, it’s big and over the top; “as big as the man who made it,” says Greg. It embraces the nose and wags the tongue with brown sugar, molasses, sweet black fruit including plum and blackberry. A bit of rosemary races to the finish. Lavender in there too? A soft wine with a big profile and jet fuel 16.5% alc. If Marilyn Monroe ever attends a NASCAR race in another life, this is it. Find this wine

Torbreck “Rug Rig” Barossa Valley South Australia 2005
This is exactly what you expect from Torbreck: sweet with brown sugar, some sweet black fruit (blackberry and black cherry). It’s all soft and plushy. The sweetness carries through from attack to finish of this 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier blend. 14.5% alc. A linear wine. Expecting it to change is like expecting Tony Stewart to lose weight. Find this wine

Cowan Cellars Bennett Valley Syrah, Moaveni Vineyard, Ca. 2010
Oh, sure, the bright, sweet fruit of blackberry and sour cherry says California, but the crisp, lean acidity and food friendly profile nods to the Old World. Some iodine and olive notes tease out as the wine waits in the glass. Too young (a continuing theme through this weekend), but that’s fine. Despite its youth, it’s approachable. It clocks in with the expected food friendly 13.2% alc. Find this wine

As for the race, (oh yeah, the race is on) only two leaders have led 108 laps, but we’ve seen 5 cautions. Toby-Marc, the Souths’ new dog, settles in for a nap with a mess of new Mark and Marc friends.

Sine Qua Non Five Shooters Syrah Confessions Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Santa Barbara Co. Calif 2010
It’s almost wrong to taste this after the Cowan. The alcoholic heat burns from the attack to the finish, but the big, sweet confected fruit still grabs and smacks the nose. Sweet blackberry fruit. Head and shoulders better than the Five Shooters Grenache, but still a cocktail wine at 15.2% alc. The Syrah is supported with cameos by Grenache, Roussanne, Petite Sirah and Viognier. I almost think I catch Jim shooting longing glimpses at this wine, but then, by this point on race day, seeing double is standard and hallucinations aren’t unheard of. Find this wine

Greenock Creek Seven Acre Shiraz Barossa Valley South Australia 2001 (M.J and A.B. Waugh winemakers)
Initially, this shows some interesting black fruit with plum and blackberry. Brown sugar follows with blueberry…. almost blueberry cream, but not over the edge. Some vanilla and wood; too much wood. 14.5% alc. Another linear Aussie wine. Find this wine

Time to move on in this game of non-Rhone wine roulette.

Dehlinger Syrah Russian River Valley Ca., 2002
An incredibly youthful purple color brightens the eye. While this is a soft wine, it’s approachable now. Yet, it shows the structure and depth to go for years. Notes of plum and sweet berries carry the profile with shadows of rosemary and a touch of lavender. This has layers of fruit with some leather lurking in the background. 14.9% alc. A solid effort. Find this wine

Bedrock Syrah Hudson Vineyard T’n‘S Blocks Carneros Ca. 2011
Incredibly dense, bright (on the rim) and deep plum-purple (at the core). Black pepper and plum on the attack. A stemmy finish that doesn’t bruise with 14.2% alc. Find this wine

Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2006 (Bottle number 02734)
A nose of Port. Molasses on the attack; molasses the finish. Not as much heat as the 16% alc. might suggest, but heat nonetheless. Another time to move on. Find this wine

Henry’s Drive Shiraz Reserve Padthaway South Australia 2003
Dense, thick, opaque … and that’s just the color. Is this wine or Robitusson cherry cough syrup? 16% alc. Hanes (Marc #1) seems to be writing up a dissertation on this stuff. Move on, Marc #1. Even if there’s a caution, this one won’t get the wave around. Find this wine

Poonawatta Estate Shiraz Eden Valley South Australia 2003 (Bottle number 0809)
A cooler climate Shiraz from one of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in Aussie land. Only 2 acres of the original vineyard remains from the original 1880 planting. While it attacks with brown sugar (as you’d expect), it layers in rosemary and lavender. A nice Syrah … for an Aussie. The alcohol shows a little at 15.5% alc, but it’s not harsh. The wine has a sweetness you’d expect from an Aussie, but just as it begins to get over the top, it pulls back with a rush of acidity that braces the palate. Find this wine

Kyle Busch spins out causing a caution early in the race. So far he’s the only one having a bad day. We set down our mason jars just long enough to pick up plates and tuck in a meal of grilled lamb, flank steak, potatoes, green bean with fatback the way grandma made ‘em, polenta, (which grandma never heard of), grilled onions and black olive bread a la Greg.

Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge Rhone 1997
“I smell bacon!” Something on the attack is sweet (in a very good way), but it doesn’t translate as a distinguishable fruit per say. Smoked meats, iodine, sour cherry and blackberry with a slight black pepper finish. In between attack and finish, some herbal rosemary blooms in the mid-palate. Nice heft. The length isn’t necessarily typical of Chave; it’s a bit short. Some bricking on the rim. Really too young to drink, but wonderful to have now. It reflects a restrained 13% alc. Find this wine

Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge Rhone 1991
Steve pulled this on a lark. We spent so much time comparing the ’91 and with ’97, that I didn’t put much detail down. For that, I should be sent to the garage. But we hotly debated which wine was best. For me, the ’91 is ready now, not just for its fruit, but for its heft, length and layered goodness. Others gave the edge to the ’97. Find this wine

Joseph Phelps Syrah Napa Valley Ca. 1999 (from magnum)
Damn! Where’s the nose on this? The deep purple color belies the still youthful quality of the wine. The near absence of a nose confirms the wine still behaves very youthful. But on the palate …. On the palate the wine comes alive with sweet fruit (cherry and blackberry), with a backbeat of smoked meats. Some brined black olives on the ohhh,-so-long finish. Layered complexity? No. Despite the long finish, it lacks the depth of some of the other wines. But can this be California juice? This attempt clearly faces East with a distinct nod to the Old World. 14.2% alc. Find this wine

Failla Syrah Que Syrah Vineyard Syrah Sonoma Coast Sonoma Co. Ca. 2001
Ehern Jordan’s effort with pretty cherry on the nose. The stemmy bite suggests a whole cluster fermentation, perhaps. Unknown if that’s accurate, but taking hammer swings is what we know best. Green olive on the attack and finish. A cloudy wine with a touch of funk. 13.5% alc. It’s confounding enough to tempt the crowd to re-examine and re-analyze it, but not enough to hold anyone’s attention. Find this wine

Paloma Syrah Spring Mountain Napa Valley Ca. 2003
Sweet black fruits with a stemmy, rosemary finish. New World in every respect. Still young … or will the fruit fade before the tannins soften? 14.8% alc. A somewhat slutty wine. It gets the usual attention and then someone calls a taxi. Find this wine

Lagier-Meredith Syrah Mount Veeder Napa Valley Ca. 2002
Decanted. Sweet blackberry, black olives and a slightly candied aspect lead the attack. The smoky finish is etched between orange zest edges. The abundance of tannins will carry it for years. This L-M exhibits all the stout structure you’d expect. I return to the L-M time after time thinking it will be more than it is. If the wine has layers underneath, it doesn’t get there … at least, not yet. 14.7% alc. Find this wine

Lagier-Meredith Syrah Mount Veeder Napa Valley Ca. 2005
Although three years younger than its cousin, this L-M is surprisingly approachable just now with notes of ripe blackberry and brined black olives. The sweet attack moves to a smoky, but not quite bacon-esque meaty goodness. Loads of structure here. 14.7% alc. This is classic L-M.  Find this wine

Cristom Syrah Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Wash. 2008
Very young and tight; even unyielding. Eventually, some sandalwood, raspberry and black pepper gopher to the surface. A stemmy finish detracts from the overall effort. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting wine that bears following. 13.5% alc. Find this wine

Kyle spins himself out again, but this time demolishes former teammate Joey Logano in the process. When the dust settles, over his radio Kyle is heard to say, “Kansas, right?” Yeah, boy, you got that right. We renew acquaintance with,

Copain Syrah Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Santa Barbara Co. Ca. 2006
Loads of coffee. The most Cote Rotie of all of the wines today. Blackberry on the attack with brown sugar and rosemary following close behind. Lavender peeks out just before the finish of coffee and wood. A bit stemmy on the finish, but again, picking a nit. 14.6% alc. Logano could use some of this to take the edge off. Find this wine

Stone Roses’ Fools Gold jams in the background and BK is a lap down. The Blasters follow. Johnny Winter Live at the Fillmore gets started and someone (anonymous to protect the guilty) remarks, … “I was there, but I don’t remember it.”

Pax Walker Vine Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Ca. 2007
The color shows a thin rim of youthful purple quickly turning almost opaque. Brown sugar – classic Pax – but softer than others. Other notes include rosemary, smoke and blackberry. Some coffee notes peek out near the finish, but palate stripping tannins need time to tame the rowdy profile. Good depth and potential for longevity. The 475 cases made pack 15.9% alc. Find this wine

Lillian’s Syrah Blue Label Amity Oregon 2007
This might have Oregon on the label, but it’s all California juice in the bottle. Oh, this is soft with blue and black fruits. Some black olive threads it way in without being pushy or wadding up the pack. Balanced and easy at 14.8%alc. Approachable now in a sultry way, it will be stupendous later. Poured as a mystery wine toward the close of the day … and a good thing – it’s an easy wine to drink. Find this wine

John Duval Shiraz Barossa Valley Australia 2005
Corked. (A bonus for you, dear reader. You are spared from slogging through another anti-blueberry rant.) Find this wine

Ch. Suduiraut Sauternes Graves Bordeaux Premier Cru 1990
Crème brulee, burnt caramel, anise, mineral with flan-like richness and mouthfeel. This ain’t Syrah and thank Gawd it’s French. (The last time a good ole boy said that, LaFayette led a charge on the tail of Tarleton’s Raiders.) This should be how every memorable night ends. Well, this and just a sliver more of Barb’s chai cheesecake. 15% alc. Find this wine

More corks fall by happenstance and we find ourselves lapping a bonanza around a plethora (more Redneck Thesaurus usage) of too-good-to-be-true vine squeez’n’s. Cabs and such aplenty, but with the Rhone Rangers being sidelined, the note takers do the same.

As for the race, well, the final laps wind down to nothing less than hard pedal-on-metal rac’n in a battle between Kenzzzeth and pretty boy Kasey Kahne. Kenzzzeth holds off Kahne to eke out a win by 0.15 second … and all from the pole.

Jimmie Johnson finishes third … and complains. The Penske teams pay a bigger penalty than anyone expected with two torn up cars, neither of which finish on the lead lap.  NEXT =>


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