FABULOUS ANT PINOT NOIR (2011)—Bad taste? Don’t look at the wine, look at my family…

Despite five years under her belt, and perhaps because she has an aversion to Barney and anything he promotes, Miss V does not possess an “indoor voice.” Thus when she tried on a necklace in Walmart’s jewellery section and declared, “THIS NECKLACE IS TOO BIG, MUMMY, IT HANGS ALL THE WAY TO MY VAGINA,” the family pretty much scored a Walmart Bingo.

I heard about it after a lonely day at home trying to open a bottle of FABULOUS ANT PINOT NOIR (2011). Screw tops sometimes yield to the paws, especially if I can recruit other bears to help, and in this case I lucked out…the bottle had been opened the previous evening. How I didn’t notice this I don’t know. I just assumed it was sealed because my parents rarely, if ever, leave a bottle of red wine unfinished. They are wine gluttons.

FABULOUS ANT, however, had suffered only a tiny sample. This was a bad sign. Not for me, of course—I was over the moon about getting the bottle open—but for the wine in general, which may well have been deemed soup- or stew-worthy and placed for that very purpose where I found it by the stove.

Additionally, this Hungarian Pinot Noir’s presence at LBHQ represented a violation of a cardinal wine-buying rule: no animal labels! The $13.99 price tag, too, was potentially iffy.

Pinot Noir is a famously unforgiving grape, both to cultivate and to vinify. When it’s good, it’s very very good, and when it’s bad it’s horrid. Thus $13.99 for Pinot Noir is more of a gamble than $13.99 for Cab or Shiraz. Often thought of as a “food wine,” Pinot Noir is lighter than those full-bodied varietals and gives greater rein to the earthier characteristics of its terroir—at the expense of a certain lushness, perhaps (the reason my parents hadn’t finished it). Indeed, if you’re used to big, sumptuous reds, Pinot Noir’s relative thinness (not to mention its slightly lower alcohol percentage) may come as a shock. But there are things to savor.

Aficionados of the grape delight in Pinot Noir’s earthiness. Truffles, game, strawberries, cherries, and leather are just some of its sought-after tasting notes, although with its delicacy, it can sometimes fail to mask a preponderance of earthy tones. When done right, these flavors play back-up to balanced fruit and tannins while politely conveying the character of the growing region.

Very well, but do these positives apply to FABULOUS ANT? Hell no, my fellow inebriates. FABULOUS ANT is okay, and it stops short of being offensive, but in a word it’s sallow. It doesn’t do the nuanced dance that Pinot Noir fans seek, nor is it robust enough to clobber you with fruit if you’re not seeking nuance.

Basically, if you’re not a fan of Pinot Noir, you won’t be converted. If you already dislike lighter wines, its less-than-opaque tawny color won’t win you over, nor will its sharper chords, carried as they are on a halfhearted wave of dank earth. It won’t gross you out, but it won’t give you an overwhelming urge to buy more Pinot Noir.

A fellow Walmart shopper

If you are a fan of Pinot Noir, you’ll probably find FABULOUS ANT to be par for the course in its price range. You’ll probably drink it with baked salmon or pasta and it’ll be fine.

Fine I was not by the time everyone came home from Walmart. Sure, FABULOUS ANT has only 12.5% alcohol, but I’m a little bear. I was so wrecked that I continued to hear all sorts of irregular stuff:

From my parents, regarding Movember:

“IF YOU GROW A MOUSTACHE THEN ANY ACTION IS GOING TO HAVE TO HAPPEN FROM BEHIND.” For some men this would be motivating, but they haven’t met my mother. Holy crap, people, I wish I could un-hear that.

From P and V in the bath:

“LET’S BUMP VAGINAS! READY? ONE! TWO! THREE!”

Big splash.

“OWWWW!”

DEAD FROG NUT BROWN ALE—Froggy style has a lot of variations

My Fellow Inebriates,

Two nights ago my dad returned from a trade show with two bottles of DEAD FROG NUT BROWN ALE.

I’d been wondering where the hell my dad was. Often I can find him spread out (his work gear, not his junk) all over the dining room table, stressing my mum out with his tentaculate electronics, and offending us all by playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall out of sequence. But for the last week he’s been scarce.

I suspect he’s been wined and dined by suppliers this week, plied with swag far beyond the two beers he brought home. But we’ll never know. My dad has this effective trick of entering the house with his headset on, carrying on a conversation until the novelty of his arrival has worn off and everyone’s forgotten to ask him about his day. Repeatedly throughout the week, and well past the bedtime of the kids—who would ignore his phone conversation anyway and attack him—he’s entered mid-conversation, muttering away about terminations and racks and permits, and—seeing he won’t respond anyway—I’ve gone back to looking at the People of Walmart or trying on moustaches or whatever other productive thing I was doing before he came in. Effectively I’ve forgotten to interrogate him about this trade show and whatall’s been going on there. For instance:

Why only two beers?

Why NUT BROWN ALE particularly? Does he know that DEAD FROG markets an array of unusual brews (mandarin orange, pepper lime, toasted coconut)?—not quite targeted at craft beer geeks (too light, too lager-y) yet not targeted at the Molson Canadian crowd either. In fact, DEAD FROG has been a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to aligning with the increasingly divergent craft and mass beer markets, particularly with its 650-mL specialty brews, and would have found itself dead indeed had it not sought $500,000 in investment money earlier this year.

 

If my dad hadn’t been yammering into the headset I would have asked about DEAD FROG’s beer portfolio—did Dad have the option to scoop some other products for yours truly or was he just not interested? Did he have his fill of them at the show? OMG, would my dad do that without me?

Fact is, Dad might have picked the best of the bunch. DEAD FROG NUT BROWN ALE is a nice beer. Dark and almost cola color with a moderate-to-weighty mouthfeel, it carries a hoppy punch yet doesn’t distance itself from the warming, mellowing maltiness of a good ale. Crisp carbonation focuses the hop/malt intersection nicely. You can detect chocolate in the background plus the eponymous nuttiness, making for a solid, interesting brew that doesn’t cloy and isn’t so intriguing that it becomes annoying or precious. Paws up for sure. Or flippers or whatever.

With its recent cash infusion and wealth of marketing ideas, DEAD FROG, just one of three new brewers making a splash in British Columbia, evidently has some (frog) legs. If we all boost our drinking, we should be able to keep the frog alive.

The Reverse Wine Snob—Recommend!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Occasionally I am too drunk to write much, so here’s a shout-out to The Reverse Wine Snob.

If you ever find yourself with less than $20 in your pocket (or g-string, if you’ve had to sell your clothes), and you want some wine, Jon Thorsen is your guy. Thumbing his nose at bottles over $20, the Reverse Wine Snob has garnered a lot of attention lately with his spot-on wine recommendations for those who are rightfully unwilling to pony up more than 20 bucks for a bottle.

Thorsen has a great palate, and wine producers have realized this. Despite his avowal to focus on sub-$20 wines, wineries continue to send him unsolicited samples of $20-plus wines, so he’s had to create a “Saturday Splurge” feature so he can review those too (as opposed to turning them down and recommending they be sent to Liquorstore Bear…but I digress, wishfully).

I totally admire the Reverse Wine Snob. If I weren’t drunk all the time, I’d still only be maybe be one-tenth as coherent and informative. In fact, if I ever review a wine and you think I meandered a bit or didn’t quite get around to what it actually tasted like, it’d be worth your while to look the wine up on the Reverse Wine Snob.

If I were to make only one small criticism, it’s that he never features the People of Walmart.