Gravy be damned!

My mum likes cooking, but not enough to do it sober. That’s why, when Auntie H called to ask what she should bring for dinner, Mum said wine. Auntie H was hesitant; she said she didn’t know anything about wine, so I got on the phone and coached her through it. Well, actually I sat beside the phone gesturing madly while my mum claimed to be just joking about requesting wine. Dammit, we needed that wine, no matter what crazy bottle Auntie H and Uncle B might choose.

real de aragonWe especially needed wine because Mum had committed her annual profligate crime—she’d poured a bottle of LANGA REAL DE ARAGON over the turkey, torturing any liquids-only folk and animals (okay, just me) to suffer the sizzle of quickly evaporating alcohol off the browning poultry as whatever angels inhabit the LBHQ oven greedily guzzled their supposed share. It was horrible, people, but of course you know I’m getting used to it. Apparently it makes good gravy, but that doesn’t make it forgivable.

We did snatch one glass of LANGA REAL DE ARAGON, noting the 90-point Robert Parker accolade it wore around its neck before the cork got popped. Not bad for $13.99—could it be true, or was Parker just hammered when he made the call?

Don't let my mother do this to you, my fellow inebriates!

Don’t let my mother do this to you, my fellow inebriates!

It was true. OMG, my fellow inebriates, it was true. LANGA REAL DE ARAGON is crisp and subtle, wafting bright orchard goodness and biscuit notes. Fresh and lively on the palate, this Spanish bubbly deserved to be drunk, not sacrificed to the turkey. Gravy be damned!

Once the sparkling wine was gone I felt very morose. But luckily Auntie H and Uncle B arrived with their two monkeys and not one but TWO, count ‘em, two bottles of wine. Check it out:

Gnarly Head Zin 2011

Now, if I can only get the bottles open…

SHOT IN THE DARK CABERNET SHIRAZ (2010)—Pound it all at once or you might get bored, put the screwtop on, and find yourself sober enough to work out the next morning. And who wants that?

My Fellow Inebriates,

Upon learning Joe Weider had died, I had a sudden impulse to work out. After all, you don’t get to be 93 sitting on a barstool begging your parents for cheap rye.


But, hell, who needs to be 93 anyway? (Incidentally, for bears, 93 is more like 32.) If I live to be either, my parents will be long dead, and who will take care of me?

P and V??

P and V??


So the plan is to carry on drinking myself to death. Last night’s poison, SHOT IN THE DARK CABERNET SHIRAZ (2010), an award-emblazoned $13.99 offering at my local booze shop, appealed to my mother despite its contradiction between wine-show performance and price point. Finally optimism won out and it came home with us like an orphaned wombat.

We’ve been so-so about Australian wine lately. Yes, it’s awfully good for our general drunkenness and anti-longevity efforts. But Aussie winemakers are famous for harvesting overripe grapes or even adding sugar to wine to pump up its alcohol content, generating a boozy smokescreen for what are often “bulk” characteristics. Maybe we need to hit a higher price point (okay, we do). Or maybe we just haven’t been sufficiently diligent at avoiding:

  • Labels with stupid names
  • Labels featuring criminals
  • Labels featuring animals
  • Labels with eye-bleeding primary colors
  • Labels referring to churches, parsons, or other clergy with or without random qualifying adjectives

shot in the dark cab shiraz 2010SHOT IN THE DARK, while a stupid name suggesting half-assed viticultural efforts, nevertheless skirted all these other red flags, plus it came festooned with a row of awards, which ultimately propelled it into our shopping basket. Three-quarters Cabernet and one-quarter Shiraz, it benefits from decanting somewhat, although it ceases to develop new flavors after 15 minutes or so, at which point you probably want to pound it. Predominant aromas are sweet berries and a cloying grapey simplicity that is, in fairness, free of any chook or other barnyard shenanigans. Reasonably pleasant on the nose, it’s slightly more assertive on the palate, introducing herbs, oak, and eucalyptus. The mouthfeel is less dense than I’d have expected with this blend, coming off middling rather than dense. The finish is a bit forgettable.

SHOT IN THE DARK has garnered a lot of buzz, and perhaps these raves take into consideration its low price. I doubt I’m the only one staring at the emperor’s hairy ass—at least, my dad agreed this wine wasn’t all that—but the hype seems a bit over the top. It’s certainly not a bad wine, but as a centerpoint for conversation, without the distraction of food or conversation that sparkles more than my parents’, it ends up lacking. Most damning (at least in LBHQ terms) we didn’t finish this bottle all in one go. Instead we replaced the screwtop and went to bed. And that’s how I woke up sober and managed to work out for five minutes after hearing that Joe Weider was dead.


My Fellow Inebriates,

Sixteen bucks in our local booze shop and we had ourselves a bottle of PETER LEHMANN BAROSSA BRUNETTE (2008). We’d had some luck with Peter Lehmann wines before, mostly because they’re competently made and easy to drink, and we held this one to the same expectations. How did it measure up?

peter lehmann barossa brunetteIn fairness to Peter Lehmann, his BAROSSA BRUNETTE was upstaged by an Argentine Malbec we enjoyed immediately before it (review to follow). Although we have friends who would debate this, the LBHQ policy is to have the lesser wine first, moving from good to better (we can’t afford “best”). It’s very pleasant to savor one wine only to have it topped by another. This way you get to enjoy both wines—the first in ignorance of the second. If you have the better wine first, whatever follows is going to seem like relative crap.

Well, yes and no. Sometimes it’s just a shock to the palate. Sometimes that second wine isn’t necessarily lesser—just different. You have to let those taste buds shift gears and adjust. If the second wine is decent, this usually occurs within one glass. However, if the wine is relative crap, you end up bitching about it until it’s gone, wishing it were like the first.

This may have been what happened with PETER LEHMANN BAROSSA BRUNETTE. Following a Malbec that overdelivered with complexity and ripe fruit, the Lehmann offering came across as one-notish, industrial swill. Which probably wasn’t a fair judgment. So let’s address it on its own merits.

To do this we have to dismiss our impressions of the first glass. All of us (bears, parents, our friend R) were getting pleasantly pissed when we opened the BAROSSA BRUNETTE. Almost pissed enough to enter the basement for Guitar Hero embarrassment.

We will ignore the first glass. A Guitar Hero interval…

Just what we needed to absorb the first wine. The second glass is fair game.

Okay, so LBHQ (and guest) impressions were as follows:


Barnyardy…one-notish…mass-production…couldn’t get past the barnyard note


Industrial/standard…thin…turpentine/petroleum…ish. Didn’t really quite work…


Mass-market swill but not objectionable; I’m having more.


You guys really don’t have to finish it; I’ll take care of it.

The stuff is pretty standard and typical for its price range—certainly not a “find.” A 75:25 blend of Grenache and Shiraz and ringing in at 14.5% alcohol, BAROSSA BRUNETTE is earthy and dry with unexpectedly assertive tannins yet a surprisingly short finish. As much as we’ve been happy with previous Peter Lehmann buys, this one reeks of mass production and even has the sense of being constituted of leftovers. As R said, it doesn’t really quite work.

But there our criticism ended. We had alcohol to ingest and “Bulls on Parade” cued up. My dad kicked my mum’s ass; she is really never going to improve at Guitar Hero, but at least she has thumbs and can make the attempt. Between songs we dissed Peter Lehmann’s marketing team for the following ad copy about Peter Lehmann, the man himself:

Peter Lehmann logo

This wine is a testament to the man and his bravery to dream.

Even when you write your marketing copy in the third person, everyone who reads it knows you signed off on it. Or at least you should have, especially if you’re saying your product is representative of you and your bravery to dream.

I’d like to believe Peter Lehmann himself is blissfully unaware of the douchebag copywriting being done on his behalf. After all, the guy is 82 years old. If I were 82 I’d be hanging by the pool, and if I owned a vineyard I’d be wrecked all the time—too wrecked to care what anybody wrote about me.

Let’s hope that’s the case. But for any of you out there, let’s just say: Even if you write your ad copy in the third person, everyone who reads it suspects you signed off on it. So if you say you’re a “gifted innovator,” a “visionary,” or a “thought leader,” we generally read it as “dickhead.”

Note to anyone with a marketing bio: It wouldn’t hurt to self-deprecate a bit. Your work stands as its own testament, does it not? Don’t be a tool.