3 rules about wine labels, and what happens when you violate them

My Fellow Inebriates,

Last night an animal clawed through our garbage. Presumably it was a raccoon, but it could also have been Scarybear. Or it could have been the neighbors’ cat Cuddles, a monumentally dense animal that refuses to exit our driveway when Dad backs the car out.

One day the kids drew a chalk circle around Cuddles, who stayed within it for the whole afternoon and was still there when Mum called everyone for dinner. Trapped by its magic boundaries, Cuddles seemed indifferent and probably would have loitered all night, but I’m guessing Fluffy tapped into some higher evil realm and released her with his mind while the family was eating. Fluffy may well have empowered Cuddles to ravage the trash as well, although she seems a bit dumpy for that level of exertion. Scary isn’t known for physical feats either, and he doesn’t smell any more garbagey than usual, so it probably was a raccoon.

My dad’s job tonight is to stay awake until the raccoon comes back. If he can catch it in the act, slay it, and skin it, then Mum won’t need to buy stewing meat for the YELLOW TAIL bourguignon she’s planning. A barely touched 2010 Cabernet-Merlot has been languishing at LBHQ since our very good friends brought it over for dinner, unwittingly violating three rules about wine labels:

    • BEWARE OF PRIMARY COLORS

    • BEWARE OF ANIMALS

    • THIS GOES DOUBLE FOR MARSUPIALS

Call my parents snobs (not me! I wanted to drink it) but they avoided consuming YELLOW TAIL even at the cost of remaining sober throughout the evening. They’d better hope our friends don’t read this review, because they slagged that wine. This is what happens when you get picky about wine: it ruins your appreciation of cheap wine and turns you into a pretentious douche who decides to make beef raccoon stew instead of knocking the YELLOW TAIL back with your favorite little bear.

Let’s hope Cuddles doesn’t encounter the raccoon. Come to think of it, we haven’t seen Cuddles for a few days…

If my dad succeeds in catching the raccoon, justice will be served in more than one way. Not only will he punish it for strewing our trash all over the street and causing the garbage dudes to reject it (which means we have to guard it from raccoons for a further week), but he’ll punish raccoons as a species for shredding the swimming pool in the back yard of the very neighbors who brought us the YELLOW TAIL!

I don’t know what sort of weapons my dad will use against the raccoon. I don’t like thinking of its furry bandit face getting brained by a shovel or choked by a length of Monster Cable. Let’s hope he does it quickly so the animal doesn’t suffer. Dad probably doesn’t want it caterwauling in our driveway at 3:00 a.m. either, especially since we’re new to the neighborhood.

He’ll have to bleed it out properly so the meat doesn’t get ruined. Whether this is a family-friendly activity remains to be seen, but I’m guessing the kids will wake up and want to be part of it.

As for your humble bear, I will be nowhere near this action. I don’t eat stew. I sympathize with animals. I want to drink the YELLOW TAIL CABERNET MERLOT. Yes, it has a schoolhouse grape-juiciness, lacks any depth at all, clouts you over the head with tannins, and features a stylized kangaroo leaping beneath a crayon-blue banner. All these characteristics say to me easy drinking, fun, approachable, chill-out wine. To my mother they say (beef) bourguignon.

So it’ll be a big surprise for her when Dad emerges from his dead-of-night scuffle with a reeking freegan trophy. She’ll swoon when he plunks it on the counter for her to butcher. And she can tell our good friends with a wink, “That YELLOW TAIL did not go to waste.”

Commanded by ELDERTON COMMAND SHIRAZ (2003)

My Fellow Inebriates,

When my parents nixed the Star Wars liquor cabinet, it was my mum turning the killjoy switch. My dad agreed that thing is epic, although he stopped short of agreeing it was ideal for our new headquarters.

My mum said she’d prefer something like this:

…Which is pretty awesome too, although in an obviously different direction. Honestly, I’m not sure it would go with our art. And, more troublingly, a highfalutin cabinet like this one cries out for spectacular wine in a price range—ahem—above ours.

Only one such wine has crossed our doorstep recently, courtesy of the inestimable Christine, whose booze expertise would be necessary to outfit such posh furniture.

Several weeks have elapsed since Christine brought over the Barossa Valley Shiraz in question, ELDERTON COMMAND (2003). A suitable grieving period had to pass before I could reflect on it, and even now it’s painful to contemplate the empty bottle.

For several years Christine had been saving, if not strictly cellaring, the bottle, which originally came from her brother, and we were honored to partake. While she didn’t build it up to be all that, she did advise some extra breathing time for it, which we whiled away with some less pedigreed hooch.

There’s nothing more sensorially expanding than the trade-up from barnyardy plonk to a silky, plush Barossa Valley Shiraz. It’s like turning from your moon-crater-examining backyard telescope to the freaking Hubble. In fact, I barely remember what wine we were sipping before Christine unleashed ELDERTON COMMAND.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh does not cover it, my fellow inebriates. A rich, jewel-toned purple, ELDERTON COMMAND exudes bounteous aromas of plum and blackcurrent underlaid by American and French oak, presaging its total seduction of the palate.

The first sip is immensely mouth-filling, enchanting the palate with luxuriant dark fruit, teasing hints of violet and vanilla plus the sense that chocolate is in the same room somewhere nearby. How many angels can dance on the head of the pin? gasps your brain’s reward center as it fumbles willingly toward utter enthrallment, incognizant that the small clichés your tongue might summon to explain this wine’s power are just that trite.

Now, much of our descriptive helplessness owes to LBHQ’s ongoing adherence to the $15-20 price range. COMMAND commands $90, which puts us in Christine’s debt for exposing us to this rapturous product.

According to oenophiles who actually know what they’re talking about, 2003 was a rough year for the Barossa Valley, demanding a special artistry from vintners. That Elderton soared above its fellow producers with this inky, complex, and concentrated Shiraz speaks volumes about Elderton’s virtuosity. Smooth and lingering, COMMAND offers the sort of soul-enslaving depth you won’t find in an everyday wine, and at 14.5% alcohol it will get you freaking hammered.

THE GARDEN PATH SHIRAZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2006)—Good without animals

My Fellow Inebriates,

Transman reminded me today that the Canada geese are back. You can tell by all the green goose poo on the sidewalks along 64 Avenue and 201 Street, one of our habitual routes around Langley. The geese congregate by the liquor store, honking and shitting their assurance that spring is here.

Where the goose poo is in our hood

I had wild animals on the brain because of yesterday’s post about roadkill cuisine. It was a post that prompted a follower or two to discontinue reading Liquorstore Bear, perhaps because it espoused a roadkill diet (“freeganism”), perhaps because of a cynical link to Pascal’s wager, or maybe because somebody couldn’t handle the truth about the would-be payload on Noah’s Ark (We’re taking on water, Japheth! Jettison the dinos!).

I’m as much of a stats whore as anybody else with a WordPress blog, so I did wonder who’d left me (I couldn’t figure it out), and what the exact proverbial straw had been for them. They’d stayed with me through bestiality, animal porn, unorthodox comments on pregnant drinking, plus all kinds of misguided astrological advice. I pictured the reader muttering, “I just wanted to know what wine goes with chicken, damn it.”

As you know, I’m not a food guy, but I still appreciate the question. Chicken cordon bleu? Chardonnay. Pad Thai? Sauvignon blanc. Prime rib? Shiraz or cab. Wine/food pairing notions have achieved pretty good societal penetration; everybody’s got a loose idea of what goes with what. But roadkill poses a challenge. And if you’re still with me, I hope it’s because you won’t mind this handy guide:

Meat

Wine

Badger

Merlot

Beaver

Zinfandel

Frog

Pinot Blanc

Groundhog

Pinot Noir

Kangaroo

Shiraz

Cat

Gewurztraminer

Badger meat
huntergathercook.typepad.com

Social convention, and nothing but, separates such animals from the ones you find in Save-On Foods. That and the fact that they’re gamey, riddled with ticks and often carrying TB. But don’t let that stop you—just cook ‘em really well.

Of course you know, my fellow inebriates, all this comes with lashings of hypocrisy. I don’t eat meat myself, and I feel anxious on behalf of my fellow animals on the lower part of the food chain. (I couldn’t very well recommend a wine pairing with bear, for example.) The geese worry me especially with their frantic honking and sudden movements. What’s to prevent anyone from pulling over the car on 201 Street, putting on the emergency lights for a minute, and hacking a goose’s head off with a machete?

Such a person would need only make a 180° turn to find the liquor store. They could stow the spurting goose in the trunk and shop for a complementary wine—Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or even Barolo.

This isn’t something I picture either of my parents doing. They are totally boring people. But they do frequent that liquor store, where there is a very good consultant, who recommended THE GARDEN PATH SHIRAZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2006). Made with fruit from Australia’s well regarded Langhorne Creek vineyard, this oak-aged blend exudes ripe currant, berries, and floral notes—leggy and purple in the glass. Medium- to full-bodied, THE GARDEN PATH is lush on the palate, fruit-forward but delicately balanced: a lovely, controlled fruit symphony that rewards the drinker with a satisfying finish.

Such a wine deserves to be enjoyed for its own merits, and THE GARDEN PATH offers such an intriguing array of taste harmonies that the best thing to do would be to decant it, then focus on every sip. But if, just before you unscrewed the bottle, the scent of barbecued squirrel happened to waft from your neighbor’s yard, you might want to put the bottle under your arm and invite yourself to dinner. (You might.)