Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WBW 49: Sending Bush out with a Bash

Yep, it’s time for yet another entry in the annals of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Today’s host is D. Honig – political cartoonist, wine blogger behind Two Days Per Bottle and organizer extraordinaire. He’s asked participants to raise a toast to the end of the Bush era. The spirit in which that toast was meant he diplomatically left up to those partaking.

The wine I’m writing up for today’s episode was bottled in June 2001, just a few months after George W. Bush assumed office. I drank it about a week ago, just a few months before he will have no choice but to leave office. The bottle spent most of the time in between resting peacefully in my cellar. The wine came through its near 8-year term in good shape; only its label was a little worse for wear. I wish I could say I’ve taken as much enjoyment from W’s two terms as President.

California Red Table Wine “Pleiades X Old Vines,” Sean Thackrey NV
About $16 on release. 13.9% alcohol. Cork.
Forget about McCain, Bush’s wannabe successor. Sean Thackrey is a maverick. Like his wines or not, there’s no denying that he’s an iconoclast. Though he doesn’t own a single parcel of vineyard, Thackrey has established a reputation over the last twenty-plus years, in spite of his disbelief in the importance of place, as one of the wild and wise men of the CA wine scene. He ferments at the natural end of the spectrum, using techniques that hearken back hundreds of years and relying very little on modern technology, much more on gut feeling. It’s a risky approach but one that seems to have worked for him. Just read this excerpt from a piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle a few years back.

"If [Thackrey] succeeds, he gets a wine of unique character. When he fails, he usually puts the wine into his nonvintage blend Pleiades, which he calls a 'disobedient wine.'

'It pays no attention to winemaking rules,' [Thackrey] says of Pleiades. 'I use fruit that's incomplete. Some has good flavor and not much mouthfeel. Some has good mouthfeel and not much flavor.'"

Pleiades is a non-vintage blend of just about everything under the sun, all leftovers apparently. To quote Thackrey again, "People sometimes ask me to tell them the varietal percentages, and I say, 'Give me a break.'" That’s an outlook I generally applaud, though I can’t get on board with the dismissal of the concept of terroir often attributed to him.

Anyhow, back to the wine. When last I opened a bottle of this, about three or four years ago – in keeping with today’s theme, let’s call it the end of its first term – I was none too enamored with it. Gobs of in-your-face fruit, squishy tannins and somewhat heavy handed oakiness. As it nears the end of its second four years, however, Thackrey’s tenth Pleiades has reached full maturity and done some interesting things along the way. It’s still not perfect. The alcohol, even though low at 13.9% by today’s CA standards, stands out. Fruit and oak, on the flipside, have become much more harmonious. A generous deposit of tartrate crystals on the cork and sediment in the bottle speak to Thackrey's relatively non-interventionist approach in the winery.

On day one, a distinct eucalyptus element dominated the wine's aromas, backed up on the nose and in the mouth by developed flavors of red berries, spiced plums and kirsch. Day two brought major changes. The fruit became lighter in tone, driven more by dried cherries. But what really stood out was tobacco. The wine practically reeked of tobacco – think Red Man chewing tobacco. Sweet, spicy but still definitely tobacco. Not the most food friendly wine out there – its tannins and acidity are both a little too soft relative to its body – but an easy pleasure, simply to drink and enjoy, after two terms in bottle.

History, I expect, shall not be so kind to Mr. Bush.


Joe Roberts said...

Great review, David - I dig the way you write, you have a knack for making the flavors come alive (and I normally get bored to tears reading wine reviews, so it feels like 'high praise', at least as high as I'm able to offer! :-)


David McDuff said...

Geez, Joe. You're makin' me blush. Thanks much for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Awesome review indeed. On an awesome wine. I really love Thackrey's stuff. And you're right. THAT is what you call a maverick. Without falling over laughing...


David McDuff said...

Thanks, Rémy. Laughing is right. I don't know if you get to see the Presidential campaign commercials up north but McCain's main ad, the one that closes with the buzzline "The Original Maverick," is nothing but a stream of non sequiturs and spun platitudes. I'm fearing November....

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