CAMERON HUGHES LOT 313—A yummy way to get your resveratrol

My Fellow Inebriates,

Even with full-on exploding-out-both-ends stomach flu, the kids don’t want to sleep. They want endless games of Uno, Sequence, Sorry…hours of Power Rangers Samurai episodes (accompanied by a parent and some bears, of course)…as many books as can be read between vomiting spells…but not bed. Not at all.

A hundred years ago, everybody’s grandma would have given those kids some Scotch. Or in our case, Malibu, because that’s all we have. But in their predictably boring way, our parents are toeing the line when it comes to alcohol and children, which means they’re passing up twin benefits—health and peace.

Sure, alcohol depresses the immune system. None of my hobo friends is going to be on the cover of Men’s Health anytime soon. But a small sip of wine would confer some heart protection and lower the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related dementia (“which we’re not concerned about just yet for the kids,” my mum said).

Resveratrol

But what about my parents? Just a couple of weeks ago my dad locked his keys in the trunk of the car. My mum sent Miss V off to school without her lunchbox. And somebody consistently forgets to flush the toilet…a somebody under 7 years old. Surely Miss P could use red wine’s memory-boosting resveratrol?

“You are really reaching,” said my dad. “This is a good opportunity for you to dry out.”

But why? The bears aren’t affected by the LBHQ stomach bug. We bears have nasty-ass enzymes that allow our digestive systems to process anything. There’s nothing my mother could cook that would kill us, and that’s saying something.

It’s really hard to watch Power Rangers Samurai while sober. It is a totally stupid show. IMDB rates it 4.8/10, which is the lowest rating I’ve ever seen. If we are going to sit on the couch letting it melt our brains, we must have some resveratrol.

A good source would be CAMERON HUGHES LOT 313 CALIFORNIA FIELD BLEND (2010), a captivating mixture of Zinfandel (71%), Petite Sirah (10%), Syrah (10%), and Carignane (9%). We sampled it about two weeks ago while watching Fringe, which made the show less scary and less comprehensible. As with lots of J.J. Abrams programs, if you miss a couple of episodes you’re really f*cked, especially if you don’t have enough resveratrol. At 14.5% alcohol, the wine didn’t do J.J. Abrams any favors, but who cares? This is the last season for Fringe, he is probably totally bored with it, and he will probably end it in a totally unsatisfactory way.

Cameron Hughes is not a vineyard or a vintner. Describing itself as an “international négociant,” the company sources and finances small lots of high-quality wine from the world’s best regions. By partnering with high-end producers it creates 100 unique wines per year and sells them at a fraction of the price of bottles bearing the source wineries’ official labels.

If this seems crafty, consider the term “Field Blend.” A field blend is produced from a bunch of different varietals all grown in the same field and harvested at the same time (but since they don’t reach maturity at the same time, a best-guess average picking time is chosen and the vintner hopes it works out). This is kind of like trying to guess when everyone in the house will stop barfing so you can disinfect the sheets, and apparently very few winemakers use this old-school method any longer because of the risk that many of the harvested grapes won’t be optimal. But with Zinfandel comprising more than two-thirds of CAMERON HUGHES LOT 313, the method is somewhat less risky than with a more evenly distributed blend.

The hue is deep, ripe cherry. Wood smoke and lush fruit exude from the glass along with spice and berries. Oak aging provides tannic weight; the wine parches just slightly past mid-palate after enveloping the tongue with a burst of berry and smoky, rich, balanced Zin fruit. The finish lingers and lingers.

CAMERON HUGHES LOT 313 is one of those fabulously concentrated wines with enough structure to make it a conversation piece. Given CH’s approach to wine production, it would probably compete with a wine twice its $20 pricetag. Moreover, this particular blend will never exist again.

All of which recommends it highly as a post-flu restorative, if not a kiddie sedative. Of course I proposed it to the family, but my dad said he was still grossed out by toast. I said, “Oh, well, I’ll have some CAMERON HUGHES without you.”

My mum said, “If you mention wine one more time, I’m going to read you The Velveteen Rabbit and substitute “bear” for every occurrence of “rabbit.”

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BARAHONDA ROBLE MONASTRELL SYRAH (2008)—Whatever the hell Labor Day is, this wine should be part of it

In diapers

For bears like me and Scarybear (and lately Fluffy too), Labor Day marks not the beginning of an arduous work cycle but the end of two months of being dragged through the yard, decorated with flowers, festooned with miniature ponies, draped with various dishtowel-cum-frocks (you know what I mean, don’t be dirty)—in short, a laborious summer. We bears don’t care if we can’t wear white shoes after September 3, as long as we don’t have to don any more dresses—at least not before 3 p.m. each weekday. Yes! The kids—both kids—are returning to school, and we bears will be left to hang out and stare at the walls, or whatever you might think we do when nobody’s looking.

In bondage

What the hell does Labor Day signify anyway? Who really has the whole summer off? Nobody at LBHQ had the summer off. Dad worked, Mum worked (here and there), the kids worked on their X-box skills, Scary and I got worked over by the kids, and we all changed headquarters, which was a lot of damn work.

Despite the bear abuse freely countenanced by my parents, I’ll miss summer. The best thing about it was that, as soon as it got hot out, my dad would buy beer. In fact, everything about our summer was a trigger to buy beer. Packing? Beer! Moving? Beer! Unpacking? Beer!

But surely autumn offers equivalent booze-buying triggers. If anything the approach of inclement weather should spur us to polish off the gin, pound any lager occupying the fridge, and welcome heavier, more robust delights like the BARAHONDA ROBLE MONASTRELL SYRAH (2008).

Also known as Mourvèdre, Monastrell grapes are known for producing intensely fruity, tannic, high-alcohol wines that, if not aged correctly, can evince barnyardy notes. The grapes are hard to please, preferring hot sun and high irrigation plus a crapload of viticultural TLC. Monastrell is often blended with Syrah because of the tannic structure it imparts, as with BARAHONDA ROBLE.

Our favorite liquor store consultant hadn’t yet tried this wine; he said it was new to the store. But he did advise pairing it with food—barbecued animal perhaps, or pasta with red sauce. Even though this dude is the full-on maestro when it comes to wine tasting, we decided to ignore his advice. My mother assured him she would cut some cheese, which was a lie, at least in one sense.

At the time of drinking, the kids were on Vancouver Island with their (our) grandparents. The house was very quiet and calm. The mess hadn’t ratcheted up throughout the day. There wasn’t the usual post-bedtime fallout and clean-up. I’d spent the day on the same part of the couch all day, unsummoned for play. It was eerie.

Now, either this weird calmness conjured up some crazy, silvery sensitivity on our palates, or BARAHONDA ROBLE was freaking awesome. Maybe both. Rich maroon in the glass, it demonstrated generous legs as it whispered huskily of blackberries and oaky refinement. Swirled in the glass, those blackfruit flavors concentrated into an olfactory rush, layering on luscious dark fruits.

And the sip? OMG, my fellow inebriates!! Does wine really taste that much better with the kids out of the house or was this wine just that insanely good? Ahhhh, to ever know that, we’d have to buy another bottle and drink it with the kids at home. But yes, this wine is—apologies, Robert Parker—this wine is fucking-A. Crossing the front palate like an old-money guest with an armload of gifts, BARAHONDA ROBLE redoubles the fruit-laden generosity promised to the nose with cherry, dried fruit, and gorgeous minerality. It unloads its parcels in the foyer then charges to mid-palate, still producing gifts—well-integrated oak, rich jam, and deep earthiness. It continues rhapsodically discharging these wondrous flavours, finishing with grippy tannins before depositing its wonderful 14% alcohol in one’s furry tummy.

Was it a sensory orgy? BARAHONDA ROBLE was too disciplined, too structured for that. It stopped just short of that, and just as well. You wouldn’t—couldn’t—get the impression that this wine wasn’t in control of the dance.

What a marvelous under-$20 find from the Spanish wine aisle in our local booze shop. A spectacular summer ender, too, and a product to stock for the coming cold months.

With a product like BARAHONDA ROBLE warming your fur, who needs summer? Labor Day’s arrival is welcome, especially if it occasions another wine purchase.

BESO DE VINO (2009)—Worth drinking but not saving

Get this, my fellow inebriates: My parents are so disorganized that they actually had to call the movers and ask them to come a day later. Luckily they picked an odd time of month to move, or we’d have been S.O.L.

Why could they not get their shit together in time? What is wrong with them?

In addition to being video-game addicts and procrastinators, over the last six years I’ve come to suspect they possess a gene or gene combination responsible for hoarding behaviour. Tell me, who has 14 non-working stereos? Who hangs on to books that are embarrassing (The Yeast Syndrome, How to Write Erotica)? Who has just been forced to work backwards through four years of unopened mail?

There is indeed a genetic marker associated with hoarding, located on chromosome 14. Hoarding is a subtype of OCD that tends to run in families. But my parents can’t blame any familial line for their propensities, although you don’t have to delve too far into the family tree to find moderate insanity (and—as summer’s open windows bear our conversations aloft—our neighbours probably suspect my mother of another chromosome-14 disorder, Tourette’s).

In all likelihood my parents are just disorganized, which might explain why, without managing to pack all the stuff we’re not using, they’ve packed our few meager alcoholic items along with all the wine glasses. They won’t find that stuff for days, even weeks, which leaves us without glassware to christen the new LBHQ. Hell, it leaves us without glassware when we feel overwhelmed and desperate later today. And it means no one will be buying new wine until we find the glasses—OMG!

In fact, we’re all caught up on wine reviews, except for one bottle.

Wine Advocate gave BESO DE VINO (2009) 90 points, a too-good-to-be-true score for a $13 wine. Not that we haven’t had awesome $13 wines, and for all we know, reviewer Jay Miller was taking into consideration the low price. But this ain’t no 90-point wine.

Antonio the Bull, amorous animal with low-swinging balls, is the frontman for this Spanish Syrah/Garnacha blend. Usually my mum knows better than to purchase wines whose labels feature livestock, but  the pricetag talked her into it—especially since it had a blue-and-black label rather than a yellow-and-red one (avoid!). BESO DE VINO seemed safe, and we’ve been having good luck with Spanish wines lately, so she plunked down the $13.

It’s hard not to like this goofy little bull and his mondo testicles, but you can’t rely on his tasting notes. Sure, the wine is a lush and opaque purple, but it doesn’t serve up the promised aromas of “roasted coffee, baked berry, chocolate covered espresso bean…” It serves up a grape-juice fragrance—pleasant, fruity, and full, but juvenile somehow, even though I couldn’t detect any nuts. Now, maybe we were primed for an impression of immaturity by the bull’s jouncing teabags, but honestly, there isn’t much on the nose.

Does Antonio realize bulls don’t often live past 15 years old?

On the palate BESO DE VINO comes through with full-bodied dark fruit and a generous mouthfeel along with some modest tannins, but it still suggests a kid’s juice box rather than the Reidel glasses we’ve prematurely stowed. Although I could pick out some of the suggested coffee notes, some earthiness, and some spice, BESO DE VINO isn’t much more than a half-decent table wine. It would taste just fine, for instance, with some cheese strings or Lunchables.

Still, you can’t argue with $13, and there’s nothing offensive about BESO DE VINO, except maybe Antonio the Bull’s dangling yarbles. It’s worth drinking once, but not worth hoarding a supply (really, parents).