Moving onto the reds, knowing that while I am working remotely, alongside my boss, M., and our superstar sales rep from Cutting Edge, TJ Hooker, I was still finding myself slipping in and out of thought. I find myself thinking about the first time I picked up the phone and called TJ’s boss, Mark Maher, who has become something of an oracle to me. As I may or may not have said before, Mr. Maher gets a lot of credit from me for my career and I can’t thank the guy enough (except maybe to be very supportive of his portfolio and company). Don’t get me wrong, I am no sycophant or pandering brownnoser; I support the best wines at all times. Fortunately, Cutting Edge has a pretty solid book.
So sitting here with Mary and TJ, I found myself thinking about that phone call I made to Mark, from mutual friend and another one of my wine mentors, my brother from another mother, Eric Jerardi’s place up in Vandalia, The Little Store. My wife had just gotten a killer job in Cincinnati, and being the good husband I at least try to be, needed a gig there as well, since we were moving there and all; the commute to Vandalia would’ve proven a real muthafucka. Mark put me onto a wine store/restaurant in historic O’Bryonville called Chateau Pomije and the rest was history. I’ve considered Mark a great friend in this business, and have always sought out his advice with my next move career-wise.
Villa Brondello Primitivo Puglia 2010. Grade=Very Good. A little bit a barnyard, a little bit of plum and cherry fruit – Easy-to-drink red, with some light spices, herbs and wild berry elements.
Petraio Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2010. Grade=Very Good. Light, dry, a bit of clove tobacco, tomato paste and dried herbs mixed in with black cherries.
Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Rompicolo Maremma Toscana 2010. Grade=Very Good. Medium-to-full-bodied red, chewy fruit, nice finish. Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese.
Montepeloso a Quo Toscana 2009. Grade=Amazing. Phenomenal notes of black currant, black cherry and blackberry, rosemary, thyme, anise with underpinnings of hot rocks, fresh-picked blackberries, chalk, and rosemary. From the Suvereto region in Tuscany, this winery is turning out some of the coolest red wines on earth. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Marselan (geek alert!), and Alicante Bouschet is remarkable. For wine geeks and neophytes alike!
Longefay Brouilly 2010. Grade=Outstanding+. Previously reviewed.
Sibling Rivalry Pinot Noir Victoria 2008. Grade=Fair. Flat cherry coke, carmelized wood and chocolate pie – tastes old already; like the intentionally made it this way.
Chime Pinot Noir California 2010. Grade=Very Good. Soft cherries and red berries, sandalwood, and cinnamon, this is a solid, inexpensive Pinot Noir.
Domaine Eden Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains 2010. Grade=Amazing. Delicious red and black berry fruit, clove tobacco, cinnamon stick, flowers, incense, sandalwood, the hits just keep coming. This is a seriously kick-ass Pinot Noir from California. If you don’t know the Santa Cruz Mountains has some great vineyards, you do now.
Domaine Eden Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains 2008. Grade=Amazing. Dense, rich black fruits, milk chocolate, hints of vanilla bean, espresso and mint. This is one monster Cab, giving you all at once complexity, power and grace. One of those “holy shit, this is good!” wines.
L’Ecole No. 41 Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009. Grade=Outstanding. Cherries, blueberries, plums, baking spices, vanilla, chocolate, espresso and toasted oak, this is a juicy, fruit-driven wine with great grip and a velvety finish.
Cadence Coda Red Mountain 2008. Grade=Amazing. Blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, loganberry – like a trip through the IHOP syrup bar but without the sugary sweet aftertastes; there is significant acidity here, lending this Bordeaux-themed red to a drier, more substantial finish. One helluva value comparatively; this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is magnificent.
Borsao Berola Campo de Borja 2009. Grade=Outstanding. Black cherry, aged balsamic and black pepper in the nose, with flavors almost cherry torte-like with hints of mocha, coffee bean and baking spice. Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon unite to give you a rich, full-bodied red.
Zerran Montsant 2010. Grade=Outstanding+. Fleshy cherry and red currant with a touch of black cherry, plum and strawberry undertones, touches of garrigue, spices, mineral and vanillin oak. An impressive blend of Garnacha and Mazuelo (Carignan); full-bodied, complex and satisfying from start to finish.
Lunta Malbec Mendoza 2008. Grade=Outstanding+. Shows off an impressive amount of acidity, some earthy components, blue fruits, smoky oak, touches of baker’s chocolate – this is a solid effort, this is what Malbec should be.
Albacea Monastrell Jumilla 2010. Grade=Outstanding. Fleshy black cherry, Goji berry, loganberry, spice box, pipe tobacco, black pepper, this is a superb value, new from Juan Gil; a terrific wine for everyday.
San Pedro de Yacochuya Salta 2008. Grade=Outstanding+. Umami all over with blackberry smoke, anise, dark plum and black cherries. Dark, dense and really cool, this display of darker fruits, smoke, savory notes and smoldering oak underpinnings gives you a tasty red. Malbec/Cab blend.
Yacochuya Malbec Salta 2005. Grade=Amazing. Notes of sultry dark plum, black cherry, hickory smoke, mesquite, mineral with hints of incense, smoky vanilla, blueberry. This is a seriously slutty red, decadent with its voluminous delivery of sexy dark fruits and spices.
Luca Beso de Dante Mendoza 2008. Grade=Amazing. Silky mouthfeel, black fruits, graphite, chocolate, hickory smoke, mesquite, tobacco and dark spices. Another Malbec/Cab blend, this monster is full-bodied, smoldering and densely-concentrated.
Susana Balbo Nosotros Mendoza 2008. Grade=Amazing+. Hot chocolate, plum pudding, Goji berries, blueberry pie, mesquite, clove tobacco, dark brown spices, peat, chocolate torte, charcoal and roasted vanilla bean. 100% Malbec from 50 year old vines; this is a gargantuan Malbec, full of dark, brooding fruit aromas and flavors, smoky oak and firm, extravagant tannins.
What I took away from that little warehouse visit, leaving Mary and TJ to run off and do a host of errands, is that after ten years of servitude over at Mordor, a bondage I was denying each and every day the past decade, was over; I had rediscovered why I got in this business in the first place. Without even knowing it, I had relegated that passion and drive to the darkest corners of my mind, replacing that excitement and exuberance with the sad realization it had become a job. Recently a friend of mine, known here at UTGT as Killer Bees, noted that I had been seemingly going through the motions over at Mordor. Serving the orc army I guess meant perpetual defeat.
I know I seem to be slamming my old gig a lot. Yeah I am still a little bitter, but I can see without much bias (hindsight is such an unforgiving bitch sometimes) that despite all the advantages and latitudes my last gig gave me, the grind of it had started showing several years ago, and the wall I had hit had been pulverized after coming over to PS. I’ve been given this massive opportunity, and I sort of feel like Lazarus did, rising from the dead, seeing the sun again, and feeling a new day, a rebirth.
Every day in this business is a new revelation for me, and forgive me for wearing out those sentiments, but I am feeling pretty unencumbered and free these days.
On a future note, I think a lot of my 2012 Top 50 is gonna come from this warehouse visit. Not a dud in the bunch (except the Sibling Rivalry) and I think the most “Amazing” ratings in one sitting ever in the history of UTGT. Whoa!