CASTILLO DE ALMANSA RESERVA (2008)—When you’re looking for a deal

My Fellow Inebriates,

When in doubt at the liquor store, buy one known and one unknown item. This gives you, if you happen to have a booze blog, something to review, as well as something reliable to get you ripped out of your head if the new item doesn’t work out.

LB at liquor store near and farOn Saturday we searched the liquor store for our favorite consultant, a dude who has literally NEVER BEEN WRONG about any recommendation and who, when asked about, for instance, the appropriateness of daily wine drinking, will snort derisively and say, “I grew up in Europe. We always had wine—dinner, noon, Wednesday, whatever.” Confronted with the notion of alcoholism, our guy would no doubt scoff again and point you toward an extraordinary find for under $15.

Which is one of the reasons we shop there. Our family tree may dangle one or two alcoholic berries, but at LBHQ we haven’t started worrying seriously yet (at least about the humans). Our main problem is guilt—every time we buy a bottle of wine, that’s a couple of kids’ swimming or gymnastics lessons, right? Seriously, we’ll bankrupt ourselves long before we the humans disappear clinically into the bottle.


And so, carrying this perpetual guilt about what we might be depriving the kids of by spending money on liquor, we nevertheless entered the hallowed store seeking two cheap bottles in the hope they would overdeliver quality-wise for Easter dinner. But our guy wasn’t there to help us choose them. Instead we got this oily clown whose habit is to wander the aisles pitching hard liquor while describing his own drunken exploits.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy this very much, but my mother isn’t a fan. She thinks this idiot is a major douche—an opportunist who uses his liquor-store gig to maintain a permanent buzz.

Again, this sounds fine to me. We could both tolerate it, in fact, if he wasn’t such a condescending git. Compounding it: My mother was wearing her low-rent rocker jeans and hoodie rather than the usual semi-presentable trenchcoat. She had a mangy well-loved bear in her purse. So this douchebag consultant’s immediate impulse was to divert her to the discount section. When she said, “Actually, I’d like a wine recommendation for Easter,” he proceeded to read verbatim from the shelf-talkers, mentioning after this epic customer-service effort that he’d just been to a wine show himself, “but of course all the wines I liked were very expensive.”

customer-service-smallHoly crap, we were both starting to feel hostile—maybe even marginalized. Never mind that, for complicated reasons, we were carrying a tube sock stuffed with large(ish) bills and we could have rocked our oenophilic world were it not for the persistent voice of conscience reminding us of P and V’s swimming and gymnastics fees. This dickhead had no right to point us toward the expired Budweiser in the corner. Okay, maybe we looked a little sketchy, but we had business there. Only one of us would have drunk our purchase out of a paper bag in the park—and lacks the thumbs to accomplish such antics. My mother had respectable plans for our wine purchase, otherwise she would have made a beeline for something offensive like GRAY FOX CHARDONNAY.

castillo de almansa

If you haven’t given up on this post yet, you may wonder what we bought.

We decided to stick with two cheap winners, FINCA LOS PRIMOS TORRONTES (2011) and a Spanish fave, CASTILLO DE ALMANSA RESERVA (2008). A blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Garnacha varietals, this $12.99 red wine was aged for a year in oak barrels before bottling, then cellared. The result is a mature, inky wine with considerable weight and structure—loads of dark berry character and a boozy finish. While some might argue that CASTILLO DE ALMANSA goes best with food, those of us who eschew food think it’s awesome by itself.

This wine is well known to bargain hunters. It’s big and bold, moderately tannic, and offers decent complexity in the licorice-cherry-oak vein. If you have the patience, which I usually don’t, it benefits from decanting and breathing. Or you can just pound it.

MONTSANT BESLLUM (2008)—Worth all two thousand pennies (even if THEY’RE worth $32)

Exasperated by small piles of change strewn over the floor by kids who equate coins with Lego and fling them everywhere, including the yard, my parents decided to school them about money.

To understand how laughable this is, you’d need to have lived with my parents for the past near-decade. My parents suck at managing money. They’ve paid far too much interest to Visa to have any business criticizing four-year-old Miss V for throwing a bag of nickels into the bathwater. They’re so financially oblivious that they had no idea, two days after the announcement, that the Canadian penny is being scrapped.

I had no idea either. I don’t have any money of my own. I don’t have pockets or a purse (just fears of becoming a purse).

Plenty of countries have eliminated the one-cent coin without mishap, so the idea of a penniless society isn’t that terrifying. Yes, of course businesses will milk the situation by altering their prices upward to multiples of 5, but it seems forgivable considering all the cash-register reprogramming and staff retraining that they’ll need to do.

We’re actually a dumbass country for keeping the penny in circulation as long as we have. Pennies are worth 1.6 cents apiece, costing $11 million a year to mint. You can’t buy anything with a penny. They confuse math-challenged store clerks (one panicked the other day at Zellers when my mum offered $5.02 for a $3.72 transaction). Copper theft is rampant throughout the country, highlighting how valuable the element is in comparison to the coins minted from it. (And, in fact, pennies minted since 2000 are mostly zinc rather than copper.)

It’s illegal to throw money away, but plenty of people chuck pennies away for all of the reasons above. When my mum takes it into her head to vacuum every other month or so, and I’m scrambling out of the way of the shop vac’s maw, I can hear pennies clattering into it. Pennies suck!

Still, I wish I had a couple of thousand pennies to haul to the liquor store. They’d weigh ten pounds, which would almost kill me, but I’d come home with another bottle of MONTSANT BESLLUM (2008), the wine we drank last night while watching Breaking Bad. We’re two seasons behind on the show—considerably behind my papa and bionically-kneed nana, who have been gorging themselves on Breaking Bad. It’s tough to watch a show about crystal meth turf wars with two little girls on the couch beside us, so we have to wait until after bedtime to watch, unless we want to explain how addicts sometimes get sprayed with bullets at the bus stop or choke to death on their own vomit.

The 2008 BESLLUM is a 50/50 mix of Garnacha (Grenache) and Carignan, aged 16 months in French oak. The two varietals complement each other with their respective low and high acid profiles, resulting in a lush, opulent wine that exudes cherries, plums, and dates. Smooth on the palate while intense and warming, the wine develops admirably as it sits, becoming an entertainment unto itself. In truth, BESLLUM is enough of a conversation piece to warrant turning off the TV and focusing on the taste.

BUT NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARKING-LOT SHOOTOUT IN BREAKING BAD! The intense scene may have distracted us a tiny bit from the magic of the 2008 BESLLUM, necessitating further tests. Sadly though, I don’t have two thousand pennies. I did attempt to raid the kids’ piggybanks, at which point I learned about my parents’ idea to teach them about money. Here’s the half-assed plan strategy:

The kids will put half their money in the bank. With the other half they’ll buy something vapid and retarded My Filly ponies, which cost, with tax, $3.35, or 335 pennies. This teaches the girls that $3.35 equals:

It teaches me that the 2008 BESLLUM equals: