If you have to search for flavor in your wine, buy something else!

| July 7, 2011

If I’m going to write a blog about wines with flavor, I might as well start with a wine that dances across the tongue with the force of an Alvin Ailey composition, instead of a Petipa ballet who, by the way, trained in Bordeaux. So let’s go rummage in the cellar to find a wine that has some of that God-given flavor that has drawn people to the fruit of the vine for thousands of years . . .

Gee, there are so many choices. This is going to be tough. All those delicious Thomas Rivers Brown wines from Outpost, Two Hands and River Marie, let alone the Schrader To Kalons. There’s the power of the Big Man, Phillip Cambie of Chateauneuf, who once said to me, “Non Non monsieur, I am not the Michel Rolland (famous French wine consultant) of Chateauneuf; he is the Phillip Cambie of Bordeaux.” I’ll bet that makes members of the anti-flavor crowd quake in their boots, if not change their diapers.

But this time, it was the bright orange, pumpkin-colored cardboard three-packs that drew my attention – Cayuse, the home of the $6,000,000 Frog (the wine is named “The Bionic Frog”). Since my desperate attempts to get The Frog have thus far been thwarted, I was forced to go with the 2008 Camaspelo, a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from the Walla Walla Valley in Washington. A left bank Bordeaux blend from the left coast of the good ole US of A.

Drinking a 2008 Cab is extreme infanticide, but we are the brigade of the extreme, so why waste time waiting 40 years to taste a namby pamby wine that couldn’t spell flavor if you spotted it the F-R-U- and I. Cayuse says that they are trying to “craft food-friendly wines of incredible depth, individuality and character.” Well, I’m going to drink it with a standing rib roast fire roasted on the Big Green Egg, so it sounds like a perfect match. Let’s give it some extra time to breathe, so we’ll start with a violent splash decant at 5:30 pm.


While I wait for the BGE to do its thing with that beautiful roast, let’s talk a minute about biodynamic wineries. All Cayuse wines are made biodynamically, which means no fertilizers, chemicals, insecticides or fungicides. Some of their vineyards are plowed with horses, and they use an astronomical calendar to guide some of their farming choice. I’m not convinced that it really matters. Charles Massoud (a really nice guy) from Paumanok (a winery on the North Fork of Long Island) once told me that owners who care about their vineyards and pay attention to them can make good wine, and that biodynamic wines were good because their owners paid attention to what they were doing and cared enough to do a good job. When I met Nicholas Joly, the high priest of the biodynamic religion, I got the sense that he had a double dose of aluminum foil under his hat, but he’s a special case. Most of the biodynamic people I have met seem no less sane than the rest of us.

Ok. It’s 8:00 pm. The rib roast is at 120 degrees, the crab cakes are ready for the appetizer, and it’s time to start pouring the good stuff. Since Cayuse and crab cakes might be the worst pairing in history, I grabbed a half bottle of 2001 Trimbach Cuvee Frederick Emile as a starter. Nice wine with up front white and tropical fruit, minerality and bit of sweetness that was not overpowering. No petrol yet, which is fine with me, because I cannot understand why people enjoy drinking kerosene with their Riesling. The minerals worked well with the seafood.

Now it’s time to pour the heavy artillery. The bomb. The ne plus ultra. The wine to kick the behind of those wimpy Frenchy cabs. The nose is strong red and black fruit with just a hint of coffee. The palate is the nose, in spades, with a bullet. A bit of chocolate with the red fruit, and some good Mozambique vanilla in the background. This is why I love wines with flavor. Let them explode in your mouth. Let them touch the depths of your soul. Let them surge through your brain until you can sense the flavor coming out your ears and eyebrows. Feel them from your hair follicles to your toes. That’s right boys and girls. This wine gets a big WOW. Sit back, relax and enjoy it. A single sip floods your mouth with the reason your are drinking the wine in the first place. You do not have to get out a shovel and dig deep to find something to excite the palate. It’s right there in front of you. Do not over-intellectualize the wine. It’s a powerful alcoholic beverage with massive flavor. You know wine. That’s the stuff that people have used to sanctify rituals for thousands of years. So you think they would have done that if it tasted like water. Of course not. So why would you like your wine to be a hybrid mix of water and “real” wine? You wouldn’t. Put that weakling stuff away and enjoy the good stuff. Life’s too short to spend it search for flavor in your wine.

Cayuse says you should let this wine sit and keep your hands off it to let it age. I have some more and I’ll try to do that, but there’s no shame in drinking it early, especially when it tastes like this. I think I’m a bit stingy with points. I hate those critics, including those from the forefront of the flavor brigade whose palates align with mine, who think that if you like a wine, it should get north of 95 points. Not me. I want to use the scale so it’s meaningful to the reader. On the other hand, this is really good. For those of you who like points because test scores are as American as mandatory secondary education, let’s say 93 points, which is the middle of the outstanding category.

Just to test the features of this blog software, here’s a photo I took of Charles Massoud back in 2006 getting a barrel sample at Paumanok:

Category: Dueling Wine Palates – Magnums at 20 Paces, North American Wine, Philosophy of Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine and Food Blogs

About the Author ()

Mr. Hack is an attorney and partner in the firm of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP in New York City . His practice focuses principally on representing banks and other financial institutions in corporate, securities, regulatory and lending matters. He is the Second Vice Chair and Chief Financial Officer of the Business Law Section of the New York State Bar Association and a member of its Banking Law Committee. In addition to practicing law and buying, tasting or thinking about wine, he is a member of the board of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation and a director and former President of the Men's Club of Congregation Kol Ami, one of the largest Reform Jewish congregations in Westchester County , New York . He has written and lectured extensively on various legal matters but this is his first serious attempt at wine commentary. His wine taste leans towards wines with lots of flavor, but he has plenty of red Burgundy in his cellar to balance that out. His favorite wine is "Anything made from grapes that is not Retsina." He does not have a favorite wine region and has had excellent wines from six continents. He does not expect to have anything worth drinking from Antarctica . He has visited the wine regions of Tuscany , the Napa Valley , the North Fork of Long Island and the Finger Lakes in New York . He looks forward to an eventual trip to the wine regions of France where he can try out his once almost fluent but now extremely rusty French.

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