LUCCARELLI NEGROAMARO (2016) — Because it’s Wednesday, dammit

This week I have a find from our local booze shop’s “Consultant’s Choice” display. (Actually there are TWO such displays. I’m praising the <$20 collection—I’ve never had any from the pricey Consultant’s Choice shelf.) For just $13.99, this fruit-forward, full-bodied Italian wine will make your fur stand on end.

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But before I start mouthing off about wine again, a backgrounder on Puglia. I had no idea it existed, my fellow inebriates, until it appeared on the CC shelf. Puglia wine comes from Italy, where almost anything can grow. According to the Internet, if it contains notes of plum, raspberry and anise, the grapes were probably harvested off the back of the heel of the Italian boot. The bottle we tried, LUCCARELLI NEGROAMARO (2016) is a stunning example of Puglia, and one that we intend to buy repeatedly.

This wine has that quality that makes you go “ahhhh.” It makes you want to lick the bottom of the glass (which I’m not allowed to do even though I’m very absorbent).

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J. LOHR SEVEN OAKS CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2010)—in my fur

My Fellow Inebriates,

This week Miss P is touring a historic Fort Langley site with her class. My dad, who is joining the field trip as a “parent helper,” has the option of dressing up with her in old-time pioneer clothes. Although this leaves the house empty for us bears to party, I still get freaked out by these Fort Langley outings. Last time they went, my mum emailed me a photo of a bearskin rug.

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This is how the conversation went later.

Me: Nice photo. We bears call that “bear terrorism.”

Mum: I thought it would make you laugh.

Me: Did “Silence of the Lambs” make you laugh?

Mum: Some bits of it.

Okay, so my mum is a freaking psychopath. She nevertheless has produced a useful justification for getting into the wine. I mean, what bear wouldn’t need to calm down after seeing something like that?

j lohrThe wine in question is J. LOHR SEVEN OAKS CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2010). How a wine costing $22.99 entered our home is a point of dispute between my dad, who took my mother’s disappointment with a recent $11 bottle as a command to go and spend 100 percent more next time, and my mother, who has a “wish list” of $25+ wines but won’t ever buy any of them because of a pathological parsimony that, once early-onset dementia and $11 wine claim a few more of her brain cells, will probably eventuate in her cooking seagulls after they’ve choked on our garbage, and who therefore hotly disputes having had anything to do with my dad’s decision to buy the J. LOHR.

Needless to say, this dampened their enthusiasm for the bottle. Neither one made so much as a comment on its aromatic cherry notes, its glass-gripping body, or its ripe, jammy fruit swimming in vanilla-oak. It was biggish, almost lush, stopping short of hedonics however, and more or less thumbing its nose at us for parting with 23 bucks.

If anything, J. LOHR SEVEN OAKS is a consistent wine. From vintage to vintage, it holds up in its price range. It has a certain velvety smoothness that suggests fine attention and craft. On the tongue it could linger a little longer, but of course I can always just stick my paw in the glass and slurp it out of my fur. Because it’s my fur, damn it!

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So I would buy it again, my fellow inebriates, but only when my mum ups the wine budget. Until then, there are plenty of decent wines that ring in under $15 and give J. LOHR a run for its money.

VALDEPEÑAS ANCIANO GRAN RESERVA TEMPRANILLO (2005)—Because someone needs to mellow out

My Fellow Inebriates,

On Friday my mum told me to go away and make myself “useful.” When I offered to drink the bottle of ANCIANO GRAN RESERVA TEMPRANILLO on the counter and come back with useful tasting notes, she looked at her watch (9:00 am) and said, “No, I meant you could help Dad wash the car. He could probably use something small and absorbent.”

This seemed abusive, so I determined that I would drink that bottle at the first opportunity. I’d show her “absorbent”! Watch me absorb a bottle of wine!

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They were sneaky, though, and poured it into a bearproof decanter. Tempranillo is a varietal that benefits hugely from decanting, often changing character entirely from one hour to the next if it’s allowed to aerate sufficiently.

By law, a Spanish wine can be called “Gran Reserva” only after being barrel-aged at least five years. This particular bottle has seven years under its belt, and we’ve previously tried another by the same vintner that boasted ten years’ ageing. The ten-year wine was delicious, striking very typical Tempranillo chords: leather, vanilla, tannins, plus raisins, plums, and vegetal notes. I didn’t expect the seven-year wine to stack up, especially at $3 cheaper. How did it fare?

Well, once I got my furry face into a glass of seven-year ANCIANO, it delivered a surprisingly easy-drinking experience. Lush and full on the palate, inky in the glass, ANCIANO served up a diversity of flavors, headlined by ripe raspberries/currants with some vanilla and cedar for back-up. It was smooth and mellow—not challenging the way a Tempranillo often is—the sort of bottle you could open with your breakfast omelet, then sip all day (okay, you’d need several bottles). I loved it, people, and I’d buy it again. It’s a mellow sipper, and goodness knows we could stand to mellow out at LBHQ. Especially my mother.