As a five year old kid, there was nothing cooler than going to the Paul Bunyanland Amusement Park in Brainerd, MN. I would wake up early, slam down a huge bowl of Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs, and then scream, yell and squirm in the car the entire way there. By the time I was eight I still loved the park but I had seen Babe the Blue Ox a hundred times. I no longer became disoriented in Mine No. 1 and I didn’t really believe that it was Paul himself speaking to me when the voice came out of the giant statue. It was time for a change. Soon Valley Fair and the Renaissance Festival were added to my repertoire and my passion for the big day out stayed fresh.
Wine needs to be thought of the same way. Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah – what I call the Big Four reds, offer a great ride but sometimes it’s refreshing to hit the midway with a new varietal. Leaving the Big Four to taste wine made from different grapes may not be for everyone. After all, not everybody likes sporting a renaissance era outfit to a massive public event. But by that same logic, you never would have discovered those golden nuggets of calories we call cheese curds if you’d just kept eating the same old corn dogs.
Below are two recommendations that will make you a believer in trying new wines.
Yangarra 2006, Old Vine Grenache ($16.99): Tasting this wine directly after trying a Cabernet is like seeing “Kung Fu Panda” right after watching “A Clockwork Orange”. It is so different and yet there is still so much about it to appreciate. The medium body carries a complex stew of dark fruit and its deliciousness factor is off the charts.
Callabriga 2005, Tempranillo ($15.99): This wine is made from the grapes Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, and Alfrocheiro Preto. How’s that for stepping away from the Big Four? Wine Spectator also ranked it 57 on their top 100 wine list in 2008. The nose on this wine draws you in like the toothless carnie outside the Ring Toss. The difference is you don’t feel cheated after trying it. Cinnamon and spice are tucked nicely into a medium body. I originally bought this wine as a sideshow for weeknights but now I find it taking center stage for big weekend events.