I’m sorry. I know that sounds crass, and after all, you’re reading a wine blog, so you’re clearly a sophisticated creature, but as “fire” recently became the new “f” word in wine, I thought that such a title, paired with such a wine, was fitting. Forgive me. As you know, lately, I’ve been drinking wines from small producers in fire-impacted parts of California wine country, trying to support them with my words and get you to support them with your monetary votes. Thank you sincerely to those who have answered that call. Last night, however, I finally after several weeks had a wine that wasn’t domestic. Sort of.
Sonja and I settled down with friends in the basement, excited to catch up on This is Us, and I pulled this bottle from the cellar. I wasn’t quite ready to let go of Cali, so I pulled a rare old world wine that was crafted by a Napa Valley winemaker. Dave Phinney, founder of Orin Swift amongst so many other great labels, is behind this locations series, and had made this particular wine in France. A compromise, I thought of it.
Most of my friends in wine country are telling me that the worst has passed, and are beginning to reopen their wineries. I’m relieved. I know we all are. More than that, however, I’m excited to visit again, and to see the phoenix that I know is coming hard and fast. It’s what Americans do, after all — rise from the ashes, believe that David can slay Goliath, throw hail Mary passes. Had fires burnt every last square foot of Napa and Sonoma to the ground, we’d still be there replanting in the spring. You can’t keep a good vineyard down.
As I often rate great Merlot as “Suck it, Sideways” Merlot, for what I’ll assume are obvious reasons, I’m wondering if “F-off” can be my new phrase for great Cali wines by producers who survived the fire. Then again, that would be, well, hundreds of them, wouldn’t it? Maybe I’ll have to think of something else. The 2017 vintage is destined to taste a little smoky. What if I called them “Put this in your pipe and…” never mind.
Overstated and hyperbolic as all of Dave’s wines tend to be, this Locations wine is huge and rich and 15% ABV, making is a monster by all standards. Prominent blackberry and raspberry, formidable structure from thick, gangly tannins, and notes of tobacco and leather abound. Huge yet easy to enjoy, this is a Dave Phinney wine and no mistake. As the blend goes, it’s a G-S-M-hold-the-M blend; the tech sheet tells me only that those grapes not Grenache or Syrah are “assorted Bordeaux varietals”, perhaps another “F-off” from Dave, as that narrows it down to, what, five? C’mon! I wanna know! And in the under $20 range, well, find me a better French wine under $20. I don’t think you can.
“F” was for “fire,” but not anymore. Now “F” is for the farmers who raise grapes, the fight of first responders, fair weather ahead, fine wine as always, and the future of the California wine industry, a bright one indeed, thanks in part to winemakers like Dave Phinney. Thanks for reading.