BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL (2010)—worth keeping on hand for the End of Days

My Fellow Inebriates,

The four-year-old recently took the scissors to Glen Bear, who ended up with a surprisingly restrained fur trim, which nevertheless prompted my mum to put the scissors in a high-up cupboard until the “paper only” rule is better internalized by the kids.

Thankfully not Glen or any of us

Glen has fewer brain cells than I do, which puts him into the negative numbers, but now he also looks like a dork. And even though he doesn’t care or really realize what happened, I’m shaking in my fur. It could have been any of us! And who knows? If the kid had been feeling especially demonic, Glen could have been decapitated.

Rattled by this incident, I started thinking about how illusory our sense of safety is. If you’re enjoying computer access and have the leisure to read an alcoholic bear’s ruminations, it’s a good guess that your basic physiological needs—food, water, air—are taken care of, as well as security concerns such as shelter and privacy too. But as my friend Scarybear likes to remind me constantly, we are just one semi-apocalyptic event away from chaos.

For me that event might consist of scissors-wielding kindergartners, but Scarybear is thinking about much larger destabilizing events. We talked about asteroids (and hemorrhoids) recently, but Scary finds the asteroid scenario, in all its preventability, boring. He’s thinking a gamma-ray burst will do us in this year.

Of course gamma-ray bursts occur all the time. They’re invisible to our eyes, which means we’re blissfully unaware of the daily gamma flashbulb that goes off, bathing our little blue marble in gamma radiation and then winking out. These bursts are 10 quadrillion times stronger than the sun. They don’t even come from our own galaxy—they come from other, distant galaxies (a long time ago, hitting us now) and are thought to be caused by collapsed stars merging. Wow!

So, Scary says in the brief pause he takes from snarfing an entire container of ice cream, what if two collapsed stars in OUR galaxy merged? OMG!

Uncertainty is frightening. I feel exactly the sort of trepidation Scary does about gamma-ray bursts when I’m considering buying a new bottle of wine. Like lots of wine drinkers, I have “go-to” wines that are always reliable; they hit the sweet spot between price and quality that allows you to feel good about dropping $15 to $20 in your local booze shop and pounding your purchase in front of the TV. It sucks to go out on a limb and come home with some barnyardy vinegar and have to drink it knowing you could and should have bought one of your old reliables.

So when our friend Robert came over with one of his old reliables, I took notice. BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL (2010) certainly hits the sweet spot on price ($11.97) and boasts a reasonable alcohol content (13.5%). Made from 30-year-old monastrell (mourvedre) vines, this Spanish table wine is opaque and violet with a fresh berry nose. In the glass it sports generous legs and likewise coats the mouth with a plush, hearty mouthfeel. Stone-fruit top-notes and structured tannins make for a satisfying palate pleaser with a moderate to long finish.

BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL is striking for being unassuming. The flavors are balanced without jockeying among themselves for prominence, which makes the wine undistracting—an excellent choice for a party, an involving conversation, or a really gripping episode of Breaking Bad. And if you’re fretting about the End of Days, BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL can help you relax.

Not Scarybear, though. He was freaked out by Glen’s dorky haircut and worried about his little humans getting ideas about performing ursine surgery, so he transferred all this worry to thoughts of Armageddon—gamma rays especially.

He has a point. The Milky Way is pretty big and pretty old, and collapsed stars aren’t so easy to detect, never mind two of them spiraling into one another. Even if it happened a thousand light years away it would look like a second sun on our horizon, and our atmosphere would get cooked. With our ozone layer fried off, we’d all get skin cancer, but even if we hid indoors, the burst would annihilate all the ocean plankton, destroying the basis of our food chain.

Scarybear figures this could happen any time, meaning that it has already happened in our galaxy and the deadly burst is racing toward us at light speed, ETA Mayan End of Days.

Which means we have just 306 days left to stock up on some reliable wine.

What’s your “old reliable” at the liquor store? Are you stocked up?

In case you were wondering what happened to those decapitated bears

CRYSTAL HEAD—Vodka for the End of Days

My Fellow Inebriates,

Have you ever woken up with a surprise in your bed? Typically I wake up with all sorts of things in my bed, but my favorite discovery this week was a bear-sized bottle of CRYSTAL HEAD VODKA.

What’s interesting about vodka connoisseurs is the value they place on the spirit being without taste. The most prized vodkas taste like nothing and disappear without a trace into mixers such as tonic and orange juice. This is what makes vodka so dangerous. You keep tasting your hi-ball to see if you can taste the vodka, and if you can’t, you add more. Next thing you know…well, you know.

I wondered whether CRYSTAL HEAD, a brainchild of “invisible world” enthusiast Dan Ackroyd, would impart that throat-parching edginess that is the hallmark of cheaper vodkas, or whether, with its sizeable price tag, it would be a bit more refined. My mouth is already furry inside, so I’m fairly forgiving of vodkas that evaporate one’s saliva, but I still wanted to see where this peculiar skull would land on the vodka spectrum.

The best test is the straight sip, so I sat up in bed and got to it.

"Now, if only someone would hollow me out and fill me up with vodka."

The skull-shaped bottle references the great mystery of the 13 crystal skulls from ancient legend. Many believe there is a connection between the skulls and the upcoming End of Days. Each of the 13 skulls carries a distinct type of knowledge, and together the posse form a repository of unimaginable power that will be unleashed in the Apocalypse.

So obviously CRYSTAL HEAD vodka makes a powerful breakfast.

The smell is neutral, perhaps a little citrus despite the advertised lack of citrus oil in the vodka’s production. The first sip is sharp—not as smooth as expected, but it settles down in the mouth, finishing in an almost imperceptible vanilla sweetness. The mouthfeel is jagged and edgy, amplified by an acetone quality that seems to magnify with each sip.

I decided to lurch downstairs with my freaky skull and try a lemonade mixer. The kids asked me what was doing with their lemonade, and I told them I was making it extra yummy.

Filtered through Herkimer diamonds. Can you even do that?

But it wasn’t. Far from disappearing into the lemonade, CRYSTAL HEAD seemed to crackle through it like with chemical harshness, that acetone taste redoubling in spikes that hurt my teeth. I loved it. It was the best way to wake up ever, and I’m grateful to my (yes, my) wonderful friend Pixie for a mind-altering taste trip that absolutely launched me out of my comfort zone. Drink up, people, the end of the world is coming sooner than you think.

ROLF BINDER HALES Barossa Valley Shiraz (2007)

My Fellow Inebriates,

With the impending end of the Mayan calendar I sometimes feel as though the apocalypse is breathing down my neck. And that calls for wine.

There’s something so reassuring about a big, succulent, jammy wine, and when I’m quivering with paranoia my sights turn to my local booze store’s Aussie section, and in particular Barossa Valley Shiraz.

ROLF BINDER HALES Barossa Valley Shiraz is a spectacular example of that ripe, intensely layered fruit that comforts me so much. Floral on the nose, it rewards the drinker with symphonically placed cedar and blueberry notes, good body, and an endless finish.

I’ve always been afraid of Australia. Apparently it is overrun with baby-eating dingoes, and all the Tasmanian devils are riddled with cancer. They have spiders as big as dinner plates and big-ass rastling crocs, plus poisonous snakes that could swallow me in one gulp. But perhaps these are just the right conditions for growing perfect grapes.

ROLF BINDER HALES is 90% Shiraz, collected from several vineyards along the western coast of the Valley, and 5% contributions from Grenache and Mataro grapes.

I like this vino so much that Australia has become my new top of the world.

But it’s no simple fruit bomb. Sure, it’s all-singing and all-dancing, but it has a disciplined dryness that stops it just short of going supernova in your mouth, making for a tantalizing sipper that continues to surprise as it opens up.

I RECOMMEND sipping this amazing ROLF BINDER offering for that reason. Yes, if you pound it, you’ll still enjoy it, but then it’ll be gone, right? And you’ll be crying the way I do so often. Don’t worry, the world won’t end before you finish the bottle.