80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit
Verdot and 10% Petite Sirah
This is the first post in a segment I’m titling “June Talks Booze”. I’ve worked in the food industry for so long that it’s easy to forget about all of the knowledge I’ve crammed into my brain over the years. (The scariest part is all of the stuff I’ve forgotten! Haha.) Different jobs demand a different level of liquor and wine education, so I’m glad I started mine with the best. The wine program at Canoe wass by far the most demanding I’ve come across. We had blind tastings as a staff bi-monthly and had regular visits from winemakers and distributors. Top notch education for one of the finest staffs in the business. This isn’t where I started my love for wine, this is where I cultivated it and honed my education. The steps I learned there have assisted me in every industry job I’ve had since and has given me an obvious edge since departing. I come to you as a wine enthusiast, wino and bartender who wants nothing more than to share their affection for such a popular drink.
Let’s just start this entire thing by saying that I love wine. A lot. Honestly, what’s not to love? It tastes great AND gets you drunk? You mean I can be social AND look sophisticated? Not that there’s anything wrong with a mixed drink, but there’s something about wine that just oozes class. Particularly good wine, but that’s a given. I think the most important thing I’d like to impress upon you is how easy it is to learn, given proper guidance. I am certainly not saying I’m the best, but I’m pretty damn good and that counts for a lot. Wine is to be enjoyed, not gulped down. It involves a certain amount of patience that most other drinks don’t demand. You’re starting from the ground up, literally, and that’s some of the appeal for me. Aside from the obvious, because getting drunk is a joy as well. I’ll never deny that, although I prefer a nice buzz throughout my evenings while drinking. No hangovers for me, thank you!
I chose Motto Vineyards as my first post, specifically their Cabernet Sauvignon “Backbone”. I have a lot of experience at work with their Zinfandel “Unabashed”, which is quite pleasant and has enough fruit and a hint of spice to make it an easy pair for the steaks we serve at work. Cabernet Sauvignon is a staple in just about every wine-drinker’s repertoire. Unlike some of the more unknown varietals, Cabs are everywhere. California Cabs are some of my favorite and this truly does not disappoint. (My first love is French Bordeaux, but I’m saving that for next week.) I find California Cabs to be easy to approach for people who are just starting out and want to wet their palate. Plus, they have a solid reputation to boot, so it’s also a safe starting point, as well. Outside of being the dominant varietal in California, Cabernet Sauvignon plays a part in many of the world’s best wines. This particular grape is one of the most popular in all of California, second only to Chardonnay, and has been touted as the king of all red wine grapes by many enthusiasts. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape itself is a cross between the incredibly popular Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes, having been accidentally discovered in France around the seventeenth century. (This, however, wasn’t proven until late 1996.) Until the nineties, Cabernet Sauvignon was the most widely grown grape around the world (currently it’s Merlot) and this is due to it’s durability. The plants themselves are hardier and the skins thicker, helping ward off problems due to nature and the elements. This has made it a favorite as a stand alone wine or as a blend.
As I said before, I already have experience with this winery. In stores, I want to say I got it on sale for under $20, which makes it a steal because I think it was actually priced at a little more and the discount was just enough to make me splurge a bit on it. Plus, I had a huge Ribeye that I wanted to cook and I really needed something decent to pair it with. Yes, I pair my own wine when in the mood. Yes, you can drink whatever you want with whatever it is you happen to be eating, but nothing compares to drinking what is made specifically for your meal. Cabs are just made for steaks. There’s no question about it. When it comes to heavier foods, you need something that is going to not only pair well, but stand up to the food you’re enjoying. No one wants a wine that gets lost in the flavors of the dish. For example, it’s few and far between that I drink a Pinot Noir when I enjoy a steak. Pinots are notoriously light and carry light red fruits, staying mostly with red cherries, occasional dark red fruits and forest floor notes. I want big, bold and jammy when I’m dining on a well-seasoned steak. That is not to say that Pinots are a weak grape. It’s quite the opposite, as they’re probably one of the most-loved varietals and often have a “snooty” reputation because of their imbibers. I, for one, love Pinots the most, but they have their place and it just isn’t really with my fatty Ribeye. Sorry, not sorry.
When enjoying this wine, let it breathe for a moment. No, this isn’t a wine you’d have to decant, but it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from a little oxygen. This allows the wine to open up and fully blossom, thus bringing out more of the characteristics the wine-makers labored so lovingly over. I actually took notes on the wine as I enjoyed it. I always start with it’s appearance. Cabs are inkier in color because of how thick-skinned the grapes are, so as you pour yourself a glass, take in that gorgeous hue.
Once I’ve allowed the wine to sit for a moment, I will spend the next few minutes smelling the glass and discerning whatever scents I can from the alcohol. This has become a well-honed ability of mine, but that came with a ton of practice. While wine is pretty customizable and no answer is really ‘wrong’, you’re still never going to have a red wine with tropical fruit undertones. No papaya, pineapple and the like, so if you find yourself getting frustrated, don’t. I spent the latter part of my evening at work tonight training two girls and we covered wine at the end of the night. I admit, I selfishly wanted to drink, so this kills two birds with one stone. They learn something new and I get to taste delicious wine. I think that’s only fair. My point in telling you this useless fact about my job is that I literally just got done telling them the same thing. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not smelling or tasting what others are, these skills come with time. For lack of a better phrase, it’s all going to taste like fermented grape juice until you have a better understanding of it. Then end.
When I first had this wine, I noticed the caramel notes on the nose. This denotes that the wine was placed in an oak barrel at some point in it’s aging process. Further inspection has proven this to be true, as this wine has seen time in older oak barrels and stainless steel, according to the website. A little sleuthing never hurt anyone and I always prefer to be well versed in what I’m speaking of. Fact check, complete. Outside of the discernable oak, I picked up on the red plum, and darker fruits (black cherry, blackberry, etc) I’ve come to love from Cabs on the palate. There is so much flavor packed into this wine. From what I read, they didn’t actually blend the wine until right before bottling, allowing the wine to fully reach the perfect level of deliciousness. It was both bold and smooth, something completely outside of my realm of understanding but totally within my realm of appreciation. This wine paired beautifully with my Ribeye, roasted potatoes and sauteed asparagus. It certainly held up to the spices I slathered across the beef and that means it did it’s job right!
I highly recommend this wine, along with the others from Motto Vineyards. Outside of the “Backbone”and “Unabashed”, they also have a red blend called “Gung Ho” that I plan on incorporating into my life very soon. Perhaps it’ll be a future post. Who knows. For now, my goal is to highlight one wine or random alcohol once a week in this blog. Food, wine and spirits are bosom buddies and should be encouraged in all aspects of life. With moderation, of course. Always be safe and call an Uber or Lyft because no one wants you on the road while you’re intoxicated. Give your keys to a responsible friend if you’re planning on trying your best to run away from adulthood that night. I’m not your mother, nor do I plan on behaving like one, but responsibility is key here. Either way, cheers, friends! Keep an eye out for more posts like this, as well as the delicious food I have planned for you. As always, thank you for your support, encouragement and kind words. They mean the world.
I leave you with the wise words of Francis Bacon:
“Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.”