BR COHN MENDOCINO COUNTY BARBERA (2009)

Big question among my search terms this morning: “Does meth look like a blue jolly rancher”?

I would have no idea how to answer this question if it weren’t for Breaking Bad, a show so intense that I can watch only one episode at a time or my fur is affected. In Breaking Bad a chemistry teacher (Bryan Cranston) diagnosed with lung cancer decides to manufacture methamphetamine to make some quick, substantial cash so his family will be taken care of when he kicks the bucket.

You might decide to watch Breaking Bad because you’re a fan of Malcolm in the Middle, in which Cranston plays a bumbling, lovable dad and husband. You might decide to sit the whole family down to watch Breaking Bad because you liked that character so much. But OMG, don’t, unless you want your kiddies to see drug pushers liquefied by bathtubs full of acid or—perhaps worse—Cranston running through the desert in his tighty-whities.

I adore Breaking Bad. It is well-thought-out, well-paced, well-written and—the key thing—suspenseful without resorting to cheap teases or obvious foreshadowing. It is nuanced, cadenced, intelligent, rife with subtle social commentary, and completely absorbing.

So I have decided to start watching it sober.

This is a big step—a step you could almost call a slippery slope. If I could find six other television shows I liked as much, I might stay sober every night to really understand the plotlines. This would change my life immeasurably, save the household money, and leave people like Julia Gale of Broker’s Gin without a bear to share alcohol-related pleasantries with.

Fortunately television is full of shit, so I’ll have finished Netflix’s trove of Breaking Bad episodes before I ever discover anything as good. Not only is it urging me toward a dry path; it’s convinced me to avoid crystal meth.

Not that there’s any meth around here. My mum’s not a very precise cook, so I doubt she could make meth without blowing up the house, although it would be funny to watch her try (but not if she does it in her skivvies like Bryan Cranston). My dad’s better at measuring stuff but not so good at timing things, so he too would probably blow up the house (and I don’t want to see his ginch either). But I can tell you from watching Breaking Bad that meth does not look like Jolly Ranchers; it looks more like Herkimer crystals, and the kind Bryan Cranston makes in the show is indeed blue. With his chemistry knowledge he knows how to make an ultra-refined product that can out-compete the tainted cookery of meth-head street punks.

Much the way an exceptional vintner crafts wine that outcompetes the lesser viticultural market players.

Here at LBHQ we are firmly in the <$20 wine range (the competent street meth level, if you will). Our exposure to boutique wines is pretty limited, but occasionally we luck out. A few months ago my good friend Pixie gave us me a delightful chardonnay, and at Christmas my dad’s parents gave us me a bottle they bought on a Californian vineyard tour: BR COHN MENDOCINO COUNTY BARBERA (2009).

We knew before decanting this wine that it might be special. Nana and Papa (they don’t know I call them that) indicated they intended my parents me to enjoy it on a special occasion. They told us it came from a Sonoma County boutique winery owned by Bruce Cohn, manager of the Doobie Brothers, and that it had been well reviewed.

With philistines like my parents that sort of set-up can skew a wine tasting unfairly. Knowing a wine costs more money than their usual plonk or that it comes from a specialty winery skews their objectivity. This is why they need a bear to help them taste wine properly.

In the glass BR COHN MENDOCINO COUNTY BARBERA is a deep garnet color with generous legs. The aroma is lush, redolent of raspberries and cherries and almost imperceptible vanilla bean.

On the palate the wine delivers on these fruit-forward essences, dry and warming despite the ripe fruit profile. Medium- to full-bodied with low tannins and good balance, the wine concentrates the fruit to the front of the palate, finishing memorably with cedar and vanilla, but only moderate length.

BR Cohn Tasting Room

The wine is an unusual Californian offering made with 100% Barbera grapes and aged in oak for 18 months. Although it is recommended as a great pairing wine, I think food would distract from the experience of tasting it properly rather than enhance its characteristics.

This wine is an example of what a vintner can do with enough viticultural depth. And indeed Bruce Cohn grew up on a farm, learning about wine at a young age when he wasn’t milking goats and dreaming of musical fame. The MENDOCINO COUNTY BARBERA is no street-punk-quality table wine—it is crafted with experience and depth. Just the way Bryan Cranston makes crystal meth on Breaking Bad—he cares about making a sublime end product.

Not that crystal meth is sublime! You should really not ever do crystal meth, especially if you like having teeth, a job, and freedom from incarceration. But if you ever do decide to start cooking, you might want to be a chemistry teacher.

My mum thinks I’m overdoing it with the analogy, which essentially means she’s not going to take me to the UVIN to make our own wine—mainly because it would end up being the cheap-and-nasty street-punk budget version, and only I would tolerate drinking it. (Which was my plan.)

Finding good booze is a lot like finding a beloved television show. There are zillions of bottles on the liquor store shelves, most or even all of which I’d truthfully drink, but considerably fewer bottles that are special. BR COHN MENDOCINO COUNTY BARBERA (which isn’t even on my liquor store shelves) is definitely a special wine.

 

SANTA RITA 120 CABERNET FRANC-CARMENERE-CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2010)

My Fellow Inebriates,

Apparently my DTs were a minor matter to my parents last night, as they decanted our chosen bottle of wine and let it sit for almost 45 minutes before I got my chance at it.

One of many offerings from Chile’s SANTA RITA, the 120 CABERNET FRANC-CARMENERE-CABERNET SAUVIGNON smelled young and thin, like an ordinary table wine. I’m not saying I wasn’t excited, because I was totally dry and would have gone for anything at that point. I’m just saying the fragrance that initially wafted from this vino didn’t quite transport me.

So the first sip was a splendid surprise. Whereas the smell had hinted at thinness, the wine actually had good body, lots of fruit, nice acidity and warm tannins.

It wasn’t as complex as I would have liked. Once the initial rush of alcohol had calmed my jones and the ability to discern flavor had kicked in, I found myself wishing for more…more something.

It did have some stuff going on. Behind the blackcurrent and plum notes there was a satisfying leathery twang to it, a hint of Elastoplasts that kept me returning for a curious sip. It was very fruity, but somehow full of contradictory tastes.

I should mention I was watching Breaking Bad, this show about a chemistry teacher who decides to start cooking crystal meth and ends up in all kinds of scary situations. There was this scene where he taped a big bandage to a horrible-looking leg gash, which might have suggested bandages to me, but not the specific brand name I was tasting. I definitely think the wine hinted at Elastoplasts rather than Band-Aids. You may think that’s very pretentious of me to distinguish between the two, but if any given plonk-reviewer can assert the ascendency of cassis over blueberry in a wine, then I can tell you which type of bandage I think might have fallen off someone’s toe during the stomping.

Breaking Bad actually stresses me out, and the wine helped a lot. I’m kind of an idiot when I watch TV because I forget it’s pretend. With its 13.5% alcohol content, the SANTA RITA 120 blend calmed my jitters and eased away the idea that druglords were going to attack the house. There isn’t even any crystal meth here, peeps, because my parents are super-boring, and that’s okay.