When I was twelve, my best friend had a little brother. Being an eight-year-old little brother is about as cool as trying to be a ninja when you’re thirty-five. Of course, when you’re twelve, it’s a cosmic truth that no eight-year-old is going to seem cool, but this kid didn’t do much to alter that truth either. Here are some pointers I picked up from that eight-year-old about trying to fit in with his brother’s twelve-year-old friends: 1) If you’re the only kid on the hockey rink with figure skates, be sure they’re not white. 2) Bear in mind that any group of twelve-year-old boys who spent the last week playing army will not be favorably disposed to crawling under the ping-pong table to play rabbits. 3) When your middle name is “Neil” and your last name is “King,” repeating the phrase “Kneel before the king! Kneel before the king!” is not even remotely cool. There are more but those are a few of the big ones.
As the years passed and the difference in our ages became less of a factor, I noticed some things. For one, at seventeen his jump shot was better than his older brother’s. At twenty three, he was always the guy at the end of the evening with the phone number of the hottest girl at the party–something his brother could never do. At twenty six he was working as an engineer—and not the train kind either. I eventually learned that he could show his own variety of cool that was unlike his brother’s.
Cabernet Sauvignon has a dorky little brother too–Merlot. It grows in the same areas and has many of the same flavor profiles as Cabernet but it’s a mistake to think less of him for not doing what his big brother does so well. For example, he often doesn’t go with that thick steak as well as Cabernet. He does, however, work better with roast chicken. Merlot is often fruitier than Cabernet (as in real fruit, not the dorky kind of fruitiness encountered by playing rabbits under the ping-pong table) so it tends to not overwhelm food like his big bro. This week’s recommendation displays the best of Merlot’s unique and un-Cabernet-like qualities.
Artesa 2005, Merlot ($22.99): The light oak and tannins in this wine are completely supported by the soft fruit; much like a hockey stick completely supports a kid on two white figure skates.