JAMES MITCHELL CABERNET SAUVIGNON—Big enough to chase away your trauma

My Fellow Inebriates,

Unless you are unnaturally hirsute, if you haven’t started cultivating your Movember stache you are pretty much shit-out-of-luck. Even if you start now, there you’ll be on November 30 going, Look everybody, look at my upper lip, look at my rad…baby-soft down. You’ll have to watch your copiously moustachioed pals head off for their triumphant end-of-Movember shave while your own peach-fuzz trophy succumbs meekly to the Hair-Off Mitten®.

Despite this logic, my dad has steadfastly refused to get his stache on. At first he cited work policy: “No facial hair.” But then he slipped up and mentioned that several coworkers were doing it.

“So you have to do it. You have to do it, Dad, because I can’t.” You see, I had only recently realized the static nature of my own fur growth. It is what it is, people; it doesn’t grow! (I’d always thought I was just growing and shedding simultaneously like wild bears do. OMG! This revelation was almost as traumatic as the one about my missing genitals.)

I meant to keep bugging my dad but was distracted by the severed arm we saw on the way home from elementary school drop-off. Any other day of the year I would have panicked, and for a second I did, but then my two brain cells reminded each other that yesterday was Halloween.

At afternoon pick-up the arm was still there although it had been tossed from the curb to someone’s front yard. Five-year-old Miss V asked casually if it was real or fake. She seemed receptive to either answer.

When you see something as shocking as a severed arm, you need to process the image so the horror doesn’t overwhelm you. You might even need a sedative to arrest the involuntary recapitulation of the unspeakable apparition by your unwilling retinae. I sought such a chemical this evening in JAMES MITCHELL CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2009). Its 13.9% alcohol seemed just the ticket.

Grapes from the Lodi region of central California enjoy a Mediterranean-style climate with warm days and cool nights, along with rugged, loamy soil. JAMES MITCHELL CABERNET SAUVIGNON is a good example of the area’s brawny viticulture. From the moment the cork is extracted this wine takes no prisoners—boisterously rich black cherry and lingonberry come out swinging with a hefty dose of oak, flaunting the wine’s quintessential Cabernetness like a handlebar moustache.

With these olfactory harbingers, the sipping doesn’t disappoint. This is a big, gorgeous Cab that doesn’t pull punches. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a Cabernet, get ready for a striking one. Tannins parch the tongue masterfully as berries, oak, and licorice go to town on your mid-palate; the finish reverberates with lingering dark fruit. This is a serious wine for those who like getting down with big, bold booze. And if you get some in your moustache, well, you get to enjoy it even longer.

All of which is much better than dwelling on severed arms or your dad’s non-compliance with Movember.

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TOMMASI VALPOLICELLA (2010)—Well done, Tom

My Fellow Inebriates,

Mum and I both feel fully justified having a glass of wine (or two) every single night my dad’s away on his corporate team-building week. After all, he’s getting paid to golf. He’ll come back bronzed and well exercised, wined and dined, and, as I pointed out to my mother, no doubt there’ll be strippers and hookers and who knows what else.

Despite this last bit, my mum kiboshed any additional booze spending. LBHQ has some upcoming expenses, including a change of digs, which means we need to sock away some moving money.

When I asked how on earth I would manage without a new wine to review, my mother said, “Well, how did you manage before last October?” I said I didn’t have the same maelstrom of anxieties to contend with back then—the school hadn’t begun scaring us about lice yet, no one had shown me any handbags made of severed teddybear heads, my granny was alive, there wasn’t a haunted bear named Fluffy living in the house (he turned the alarm clock off on us with his mind yesterday and almost made us late, would you believe it?), my nana didn’t have any bionic bits yet, and we weren’t facing a change of headquarters.

“Too bad,” said my mother, “and half these things have nothing to do with you anyway.”

With that I had to scour my furry head to remember a recent tasting. Last time my nana and papa were here they brought over a 2010 Italian Valpolicella by TOMMASI VITICOLTORI, translated “TOM’S WINE.”

Left to my parents’ buying habits and almost Parkerite leanings, Valpolicella is as unlikely to enter LBHQ as, say, a Canadian Pinot Auxerrois. The style—a mixture of Corvina Veronase, Rondinella, and Molinara—is typically light and aromatic with a lower alcohol content. Nana and Papa came away from a 2011 tour of Italy with an appreciation for lighter Italian table wines that can be sipped at length without getting you plastered, and which are often dispensed from giant grocery-store wine machines for about a buck a litre.

I don’t know if TOMMASI VALPOLICELLA is the sort of wine you’d find in an Italian grocery store’s bulk section, but if so, we should pack our bags for that sunny country and stop messing around in Langley.

I suspect my dad’s parents, knowing their son’s preference for big, weighty wines, had some mischief in them when they brought it, and may well have been testing to see if he would dismiss it out of hand. Even the appearance of TOMMASI VALPOLICELLA would worry my dad, with its vibrant ruby clarity and brightness.

When swirled in the glass, it releases a sumptuous fruity bouquet dominated by fresh cherries. Fruit bursts on the palate with lovely acidity and balance. The body is light to moderate without being astringent, and at 12% alcohol TOMMASI VALPOLICELLA won’t land you on your back unless you bogart the whole bottle. For solid-food fans, it would pair nicely with sharp cheese and tomato-based dishes (I imagine).

Predictably my dad had faint praise for Tom’s wine, most likely because he hasn’t acquired a taste for the style. Everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it with dinner (or without, in my case), although—if we’re being honest—my parents and I do prefer heavier wines that get us gooned faster. But it’s always nice not to throw up after a family gathering, isn’t it?

GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS (2011)—Good grapes, good vino

My Fellow Inebriates,

The only item you’re less likely to find in our fridge than white wine is Canadian white wine. Regardless of nationality, any white wine wanting entrée into LBHQ has to get past my parents’ childhood-instilled preconceptions. My mum’s first glass of white wine, homemade and therefore Canadian by definition, came courtesy of a neighbor who brought a jug of weirdly viscous who-knows-what varietal over to condole with her on her dad’s burial that day. The neighbor proceeded to fill and refill my then-16-year-old mum’s glass with it until she threw up.

Oddly though, my dad is more resistant to white wine than my mum. Perhaps this is because my mum is more firmly on the path to full-on alcoholism; perhaps it’s because the Fubar-type pub crawlers of my dad’s youth would have kicked his ass for ordering white wine—who knows? Personally, I don’t care for white wine’s typically lower alcohol content, but I’ll still get on board for it if I hear the corkscrew operating.

Canadian wine’s second hurdle as far as my parents are concerned is the notion they harbor, misinformed in the face of simple chronology, that Canadian vines are too young to produce good grapes. Now, this may have been true in my parents’ mosh-pit days, but OMG, 20 years have passed since either of them saw Skinny Puppy perform, and Canadian vineyards have spent those 20 years maturing very nicely, nudging Canadian wine from risible to…admirable.

This is even more true of Canadian whites than reds, although global warming may assist the latter over the next few decades. For now a $15 wine-shop gamble is best placed on a white, and with this in mind we chose GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS (2011). The oldest winery in the South Okanagan Valley, Gehringer Brothers put itself on the map with Rieslings and ice wines but has escaped being pigeon-holed as a producer of strictly sweet German-style wines, earning rafts of awards for its 22-wine line-up. The PINOT AUXERROIS certainly proves the Brothers can do off-dry very well indeed.

Pale and straw-colored with shy citrus and granny smith hints, GEHRINGER BROTHERS PINOT AUXERROIS is appealing from the get-go. It glances the palate with bracing crispness and astringency—delicious while being a massive departure from the mouth-filling, long-finishing ZINCK PINOT BLANC we enjoyed on Mother’s Day (and suffering just the tiniest bit by comparison). The body is light, the fruit chiming with delicate high notes, the finish lightly sweet. And at 12.5% alcohol the entire bottle can be pounded with minimal consequence (so I argued to my mum without success).

GEHRINGER BROTHERS AUXERROIS has obviously been crafted with great skill and attention. More than a simple summer sipper, it offers intriguing flavor and structure with good acid balance. It was a delightful experiment for LBHQ, but I don’t anticipate a repeat purchase after my dad gets back from his naked golf week, especially if he has any cheap Scotch left over, in which case this entire review will escape my two brain cells, never to be remembered except perhaps if someone searches for “Skinny Puppy.”