FALERNIA CARMENERE RESERVA (2007)—Better than pain meds (I think)

My Fellow Inebriates,

The grandfather I never knew would have been 80 years old today, something I wouldn’t have learned without snooping in my mum’s e-mail box, where I found an attachment from his sister, my great aunt (who doesn’t know I call her that). The picture she sent dated back to 1943, when my grandfather was 11 in Blitz-torn London. In the event of an invasion by Hitler, the poster was to be distributed to the population.

Sorry, Fluffy, you need more than a vacant stare to keep a girlfriend like Dolly.

I’ve had grandparents on the brain lately, what with Fluffy Bear continuing to haunt our house, albeit with attenuated efforts. I had to admit, reluctantly, that Fluffy hadn’t clogged the toilets with his mind; our cheap toilets just object to the products of constipation. Not only is the ghost of Granny loosening her hold on Fluffy; my girlfriend Dolly has also lost interest in his catatonic personality, which of course makes him seem more benign now. And damn, is he ever cuddly.

In other grandparental news, my Nana (she doesn’t know I call her that) got a new knee today. What a fantastic age to be alive, when you can replace your worn-out knee with a mechanical one. It gives me hope that by the time my liver is fully pickled, I’ll be able to order a new one on e-bay.

Nana didn’t have much to say about the operation. She is probably processing the new reality of being part cyborg. She may even be worried about the knee gathering data, assembling a rudimentary intelligence, and coercing her to take up Nordic hiking.

Nana’s friend very sensibly urged her back into the arms of Morpheus, which meant I didn’t get the skinny on exactly what drugs are in her IV drip. I hope that they’re taking care of the pain and, of course, keeping her calm.

Feeling solidarity with Nana against the post-op pain blitz, I urged my parents to open a bottle of wine. The consultant at the liquor store had recommended a promising Chilean red: FALERNIA CARMENERE RESERVA (2007). But would it be as mind-altering as Nana’s post-op cocktail? I pushed the thought aside.

And what was my fourth grandparent Papa (he doesn’t know I call him that) doing, I wondered? Was he bedside at the hospital? Or had he invited dozens of friends over for a housewrecker of a party? Was our wine going to compete with the martinis I imagined him shaking? That thought, too, I pushed aside.

The FALERNIA winery in Elqui Valley, 300 miles north of Santiago, is Chile’s northernmost wine estate. Interestingly, FALERNIA partially vine-dries the carmenere grapes before harvesting to boost their intensity. Given the resulting 15% alcohol and mouth-filling concentration of the 2007 RESERVA, I have to evangelize this method. If you are a fan of big, juicy wines, this one will appeal to you. But let’s back up—the experience is worth detailing.

FALERNIA CARMENERE RESERVA is a dark, concentrated ruby hue with big legs and a heady aroma of cassis, ripe berries, and plum. The flavor is massive and enveloping—without erring on the side of fruity simplicity. On the contrary, it serves up an orchestra of nicely coordinated tastes. Oak aging rounds out the flavors, adding the suppleness and sophistication that is often lacking in so-called fruit bombs. This is not quite a fruit bomb, but it is a near-orgy. And the finish? Endless.

You might call FALERNIA CARMENERE RESERVA an oenophilic blitz. At $18 it’s rhapsody for the tastebuds, and a respectable 15% wallop for your brain cells. Just right for toasting my grandparents—whether they’re floating around incorporeally, floating in a morphine haze, or in Papa’s case, hosting a wild three-day party during Nana’s recovery.

It’s just as well Nana’s doctors probably wouldn’t allow me to enter the hospital with a paper bag containing this wine. It probably wouldn’t tango so well with Demerol. As for Papa, I’m sorry he can’t share it with me, but let’s face it, that means more for me. As for the ghosts—if they’re here—they’re welcome to it, as long as they keep calm.

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