Why Can’t I Taste the Grapes? (or “Dude, What Happened to the Granola?”)

March 29, 2011

Born in New York in 1894, Granola quickly became popular. Its earthy ingredients and crunchy goodness gave consumers the wonderful feeling of doing something healthy for themselves, like performing jumping-jacks outside, or wearing a track suit. Soon Granola’s popularity grew. Active people and hippies lined up to eat it by the sack full. Seeing an opportunity to bring Granola to the masses, large food companies made a few small changes to the recipe by adding some honey, and lo, the Granola bar was born. Okay, it had a bit more sugar now, but consumers easily justified that by saying the honey makes Granola easier to eat while running and allows the bar to be carried conveniently in the pocket of a track suit.

In typical big-business fashion, cereal companies reasoned that if a little sweetness was good, more is better, and began adding little flakes of chocolate to the mix. Consumers reasoned that the excess calories gave them that extra kick at the finish line and besides, any extra weight incurred by the additional calories could easily be hidden by a loose fitting track suit. Again, the bar’s popularity grew.

Next, they added a delicious, sticky, marshmallow syrup to better hold the healthy chocolate bits to the now rather dry tasting oats. Then the oats were removed in favor of Rice Krispies, which went better with the sugar-coated coconut shavings and didn’t get stuck in the bottom of a track suit pocket. The little chocolate flakes were then replaced outright by M&Ms for still more of that finish-line kick, and caramel stripes made the healthy bars more marketable to children. To avoid overstating the milk chocolate taste, a dark chocolate was used to coat the bars.    

Finally, just to be sure that this healthy snack never went to waste, manufacturers added eleven different chemicals, most of which begin with the letter X, to give the product a shelf-life of millennia and prevent them from discoloring a track suit.

Were they finally perfected? No. They became Snickers by another name and it’s exactly what some argue is happening to many wines today. Excessive intervention during the wine making process and the over-the-top use of oak during aging has had the effect of throwing out all the grape’s natural qualities like they were dry oats. This week’s recommendation lets the grapes speak for themselves.

CC 2009, Chardonnay ($14.99): It’s as if a pear, a grapefruit, and a green apple had a love child. CC is also great with mild cheese…and a track suit.   

Boone’s Farm Lectures Bordeaux

March 15, 2011

Before you start getting all sanctimonious, Mr. French Bordeaux, you should take a look from that top shelf you seem to equate with a throne, to the group of us down here on the bottom shelf. We’re gorgeous. All twenty-eight flavors of us. Just look at you up there with your French name too difficult to pronounce yet alone remember. You have what, two flavors? Red and white? Neither of which, I assure you, taste like Melon Ball or Pink Grapefruit.

Do you like our labels? We do. They’re fun, and youthful, and easy to read by fun, youthful college kids who will happily buy fifteen of us instead of missing out on a semester’s worth of books and a few lunches just to afford one of you.

But where are my manners? We haven’t introduced ourselves. We’re the Boone’s Farm family. We live down here on the bottom shelf. I’m Blue Hawaiian and this electric, neon blast of liquid cotton candy on my right is Wild Island. The rainbow of Fruity Pebbles flavors behind us is the rest of our family. We were created in a state-of-the-art lab. Were you created in a lab, Mr. Top Shelf French Wine? I don’t think so. No. It was eight thousand years of evolving out in the vineyard for you. BOOOORRRRINNNNGGG! Jeez, just a couple hours with a really fun guy in a white lab coat and twenty eight of us were born. Give him another ten minutes and we’d boast another dozen flavors. Want to know the last time we were in a vineyard? Never. Because the vineyard is hot and it’s dry and it sucks.

By the way, how old are you? And please don’t tell me you’re more than ten…Ten? Really? You’ve been sitting there for ten years and nobody’s bought you? Most of us were placed here this morning and will be gone by the weekend–earlier if there’s a big sporting event or an Irish holiday.

And have you noticed we have fruit flavors from all over the world? That’s because we’re so well-traveled and sophisticated, probably three to four times more sophisticated than you. Yes, it’s time you get off that high horse, Mr. Bordeaux, and ask yourself who is really better. Then stand back and let the Boone’s Farm family turn this evening into a party.

This week is The Wine Rogue’s first Sparkling Wine recommendation:

Mumm Napa, Brut Prestige ($19.99): MNBP sports top shelf quality with a lower shelf price. It’s crisp and delicate with a very high deliciousness factor. It also pairs with most anything under the sun.

Various Wine Reviews by Celebrities and Other Notable People

March 8, 2011

Brett Favre on a German Riesling: I know I said this is the last time I would review wine but now I’m not so sure. I mean, some guys review wines into their eighties, right? Anyway, I’d be happy to tell you what I like about this wine during training camp…or not. Tell you what–I’ll text you my review.

Charlie Sheen on a Spanish Tempranillo: This wine won’t get me drunk. No, I’ll get this wine drunk! Its face will melt off and it will die! I can do that! I’m Charlie Sheen! Then it will tell all the other wines about me and soon all wines will love me! I wouldn’t, like, date any of them though. Just because they love me doesn’t mean I want to date them. Probably nothing good could come of that. Oh, and this wine has a nice little mid-palate. Did the president ask about me? I’m Charlie freakin’ Sheen!

Liberace on a French Bordeaux: A lovely, simple wine. Sometimes it’s good for a winemaker to strip down the wine. Get rid of the frills, the additions, the gaudy intervention, and show the grapes in their naked, au-natural form. This wine does just that. It’s like shedding my diamond studded Count Dracula/King Henry/marching band jacket for a simpler, subtler g-string and turban. Not that I would wear a g-string and turban just anywhere though–unless it’s to the beach with one of those feathery Mardi Gras masks on a stick.

Glenn Beck on a California Zinfandel: I don’t care for this wine. The winemaker is probably a Nazi. I fear for this country, my friends. 

Dr. Seuss on an Oregon Pinot: I taste some oak, I taste some cherry. I taste some smoke, I taste some berry.

That stinky, unkempt, obnoxious guy at the mall on an Italian Borolo as he struggles with security guards trying to carry him away: That’s right! That’s right! I said it! Weak fruit undertones and overdone tannins! I’m just keepin’ it real! That’s how I roll! A fine display of oak integration but the tannins outweigh the subtle floral notes on the finish! I gotta be me! That’s how I roll! I gotta be me! I’m just keepin’ it real!

The Wine Rogue on Flipflop 2009, Riesling ($6.99): A seven dollar Riesling can be a bit like the women on www.hotavailablebabes.com: You know what you’ll find will likely be bad, but you’re still a little surprised at how bad. Not so with this bottle. Flavors of pineapple and a delicious minerality make this wine as much of a bargain as it is a treat.

The Forbidden Wine (or “How Can I Drink This Without My Wife Finding Out?”)

March 2, 2011

Leaving me alone in the house with an expensive bottle of newly acquired Brunello is like throwing a Dungeons & Dragons nerd in the closet with an unopened Wrath of Ashardolon board game (yes that includes all forty-two plastic hero and monster figurines). Immediately, the wine-lubed gears in my brain begin to turn, plotting a way for me to open and drink the bottle, which my wife has clearly reserved for a special occasion. Could I drink the bottle when she’s out, get rid of the empty, then pretend to know nothing of the missing wine as if we never had it in the first place? No, that only seems to work for little things like leftover chocolate cake. It clearly didn’t work with our tax return money.

The little devil on my left shoulder suddenly sounded so much more reasonable than the goody-two-shoes angel on my right and I began to formulate more complex schemes. Maybe, just maybe, I could pull off some kind of an elaborate switch. I’ll take the cheap red blend out of the bottle and switch it with the Brunello! Then—“Should we drink the cheap blend this evening, honey?” That could work…for a while. But eventually we’d entertain and I’d get sent to retrieve the Brunello. I’d have to make that long, gloomy walk to the wine closet feeling every bit like I did in fourth grade on that long, gloomy walk to the principal’s office. Then, at the table, as I felt my face getting red and my wife’s eyes boring into me, our guests would politely talk about how they remembered the Brunello tasting so much more complex the last time they drank it .

No, until I think of a more brilliant David Copperfield-like scam, I’m stuck here in the house with the coveted wine, always within reach but always forbidden. So close yet so far away. It is for this reason that finding a great sub-twenty dollar wine is so fun: No scams are required to drink them. This week’s recommendation is priced to be enjoyed on any occasion—even without the wife’s permission.

Cannonball 2007, Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.99): A dark, well-rounded wine from California. I tasted dark fruit and smokiness with not too much oak. It’s very big but still controlled and complex–like the retired football player who becomes a concert pianist. Cannonball is good on its own or with a juicy steak.

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