By Celia Strong
There’s more than one way to fill a glass, and thank goodness for that. Even though that sounds sort of funny, “more than one way” can refer to a lot of different things. The first way to fill a glass that comes to my mind is how, at wine tastings, where you go from table to table with your glass in your hand, and tell whoever is pouring which wine at their table you want to taste, some tasters hold their wine glass so that the opening is perpendicular to the surface of the table. That pretty much means that the opening is way too far over and whatever wine might manage to get poured into that glass has little chance of not coming out onto the table.
I have been faced with this situation, repeatedly, and the only reason I can come up with for holding a glass this way is some weird notion that you think you might get more poured into your lopsided glass. (Trust me, you don’t. Because you can’t!)
A better way to fill a wine glass might be as easy as pouring in some wine from a bottle. Into a straight up glass. And, while we’re taking the easy way, why not just make it a good bottle of wine. Well, yeh. That is what we’re here for. Right? Right.
Our wine this week is a neat little find. A red from California. A blend. Of five grapes. From a “retired” winemaker. With a neat name, the wine, I mean. And, yes, easy to pour into your glass and then into your mouth.
Let’s start, now, with a little information about the winemaker. Phil Laffer is an icon in the Australian wine industry. He is responsible for the development of the Jacob’s Creek line and worked with them and their importer into the United States, Pernod Ricard, since 1994. Being very reasonable and down-to-earth, he was well liked and respected both at the winery and in the vineyard as well as in the business offices and boardroom. He didn’t actually retire, but chose to slow down a bit. With more of his time available, Pernod Ricard asked him to develop their new red wine, our new red wine too, in California. (As you’ll taste, a good decision.)
The new wine is a blend of five grapes. Repeat. I figure if we look, as fast as we can, at all five we’ll be able to better taste and appreciate this wine.
The first variety, in order like other food products, from highest percentage to lowest, is Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is a variety we are all aware of, and the greatness of this variety in parts of California is not lost on us. The wines that Cabernet makes vary depending on how ripe the grapes are when harvested. When more unripe, green bell pepper and vegetable flavors show up in the wines. When the grapes are overripe, the wines get jammy and stewed fruit flavors. In between under and over ripe, we get the good stuff — strong fruit flavors that include black currants, black cherries and plums. In California, where ripening is much easier than in some other regions and climates, the good stuff is in the wines and in
Grape number two is Merlot. This variety, which is related to Cabernet, is a bit thinner skinned, though, so less difficult to get just ripe. Merlot also brings a softer, smoother texture (mouth feel) to its wines. Its flavors include plums, cherries (black and red), blueberries, boysenberries and chocolate and cola. Smooth and delicious.
Number three grape is Zinfandel. Now we know our wine is moving away from the traditional Bordeaux varieties, Zinfandel being an “American” variety. (Really, we know Zinfandel came from Croatia, but California grows it the best.) Zin grapes are thinner skinned, ripen quickly because of that, and do well in warm climates. These grapes have a high sugar content so their wines tend toward slightly higher alcohol levels. Its flavors include red raspberry, from cooler growing areas, and blackberries, licorice and black pepper spice from warmer areas. Zinfandel wines have good structure and a juicy, mouth watering texture. (I hope you’re thinking about all these flavors and textures layering on top of each other. Just in liquid form, and in a glass for neatness.)
Fourth in line for this wine’s grapes we get Petit Sirah. Actually, this grape is no relation at all to Syrah, or Shiraz as it is also called. Petit Sirah is a separate variety that even though it looks like a small version of Syrah is really the Durif grape. As Petit Sirah, this grape is located almost completely in California. The wonder of DNA has proven they are not related, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has recognized Petit Sirah and Durif as interchangeable names for the same grape. This variety makes wines that have heavier tannins and spicy plum flavors. The wines are dark colored, slightly acidic, firm textured and full in your mouth. Besides the plums, it also tastes of blue and black fruits and has hints of black pepper. (Petit Sirah wines are heavier and darker than Syrah wines.) Most Petit Sirah wines are a bit short on the finish, so blending them with other varieties is the norm.
Finally, grape number five is Syrah. This is the variety we know from Australia as Shiraz, and, beside California and Australia, it is grown in most winemaking countries. Wines made from Syrah can be medium bodied with berry, chocolate, coffee flavors, mostly from cooler growing regions or heavy and spicy (black pepper, again) from warmer climates. Violets aromas are also associated with Syrah wines. With its wide range of climates, depending on site, California produces a range of styles from Syrah. One more layer into our glass.
So, now we have our five grapes for this week’s wine. Time maybe for its name? Deadbolt. Like you use to cut off a lock that you’ve lost the key to. Personally, I like to think the name was chosen to make us cut off ideas locked in our heads about what wines can or should be. Since Deadbolt comes from California there are not any wine laws that say what grapes can be mixed with other grapes. Or that you can’t mix grapes from different parts of the state. You know, like Cab and Merlot have to grow in Bordeaux soil to make a Bordeaux wine. The only thing that is locked up with this Deadbolt is some great flavors and textures.
The first vintage of Deadbolt was the 2010, released in October of 2012. Definitely a new wine. And the first United States wine for Pernod Ricard and Phil Laffer. It is big and bold and smooth and juicy and jammy and fruity and a bit high in alcohol (13 percent). Dark colored, a purplish-red, it is full of cherry and plum and mocha flavors.
Look at that, all its grapes played their parts. I suppose we could think of this wine as a contender in the group of red blend wines that are now popular. Truthfully, some are contenders and some are winners. So, hold our glass up, straight up so you get more into it, pour some Deadbolt in, and taste it for yourself. It’s a winner and so are you. For $10.99, too. Enjoy.