Squirrels and Unicorns

Squirrels and Unicorns

I think my dogs are under the impression that there is only one squirrel. 

We go on walks of varying length over the course of the week, and inevitably, we will come across a squirrel once or twice in that span.  When they spot this nemesis of theirs, they have an absolute meltdown unlike anything else I can think of.  Huge leash lunges and desperate, whining whimpers escape from their exasperated forms as they summon whatever strength they can, to pull me towards whatever nearby tree the squirrel has already escaped into.  My dogs will never actually catch a squirrel mind you, though I wouldn’t let them even if they could. 

But what has become apparent to me over the course of my canine ownership, is that their reactions seem almost driven by some sort of long-held grudge.  I think this is because they are under the impression that whatever squirrel they see while we’re out walking, no matter where that walk might be taking place, is almost assuredly the exact same squirrel that has been tormenting them for the duration of their lives. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that they either do no know that there are multiple squirrels in the world, or, that they do, but that for whatever reason, they still believe this to be their one, solitary enemy.  Who knows, maybe my dogs just aren’t good at recognizing the subtle qualities that differentiate one squirrel from another, but that is something I will simply never know. 

What I do know, is that each new appearance of a squirrel causes them to have increasingly dramatic conniptions of misbehavior, which I believe could at least be somewhat explained by a conclusion stating that they were under the assumption that this one, devilish beast was continuing to haunt them on a weekly, walking basis. 

This squirrel has become the beating heart under the floorboards of my dog’s mental capacities.  Try as they might to not think about it, every ingrained instinct is screaming at them to kill that effing jackass.   

You would understand how crazy something might make you if you thought it was the only one, and you wanted it so badly in your teeth, but you could never attain it.   It’s like having your greatest desire just out of reach at all times.

I find this to be a fitting analogy when I think of the world of unicorn wines.  Working in this industry has taught me that there are rabid dogs out there, desperately trying to get their jaws on different varieties of wine that they believe simply MUST be the one and only.

We, as an industry, are partly to blame.  We take these molehills and make our mountains, and then we stare down the rocky face watching as desperate oenophiles fall to their doom in the climb towards a perfection that doesn’t really exist. 

All too often, a wine reaches a level of mythos wherein  nothing else will suffice, and rather than realize that there is typically a nearby equivalent in geography or style, we mourn for a lost experience that we don’t really even understand.  We’ve convinced ourselves that the only thing that will quench our desire is the great white buffalo…the unicorn hidden deep in the wine woods. 

In the modern world of the sommelier, our Unicorns have become very well defined.  We designate our giants based on a combination of factors that include wine ratings, top ten lists, darling endorsements, and how many bottles are actually available.  These ghosts become attached to all sorts of hyperbole-driven superlatives that only add to our salivating need to possess. 

And while we search in vain, we forget that right across the dirt road is a vineyard making similar wines for hundreds of dollars less.  We ignore the up-and-coming region with the same soil, latitudes, and platitudes.    

Basically, we become like dogs, believing that there is only one squirrel worth chasing.  In doing so, we miss the bigger picture—that the wine world, while full of rare diamonds, has plenty of mesmerizing gemstones found along the way.  For every Grand there is a Premier, for every first label there is a second, and for every highly lauded institution and filigreed chateau, there is an undiscovered garage wizard and new world mad scientist just waiting for you to step outside the box.

Don’t get so caught up in the quest for the Holy Grail, that you forget how much fun it is to be living the adventure along the way.

Joseph Phelps: Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (’02)

Joseph Phelps: Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (’02)

There was this half-empty bottle of Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard that I took home from a housewarming party.

The bottle had been open for a few hours, though had been forgotten in the sudden mood change to beers that the night sometimes brings.  The Wine For Sophisticated Homies slipped this bottle under a jacket and spirited it away for further inspection.  What follows is our review of the 2002 Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This wine is reminiscent of the first book you ever analyzed deeply without any prompting from a teacher.  Its complexities range from tannins so heavily layered you might think you were pulling back the plush-chair equivalent of an onion, to a cocoa powder dark chocolate thing that juxtaposes an almost constant hint of charred earth. 

A brooding guilt will envelop you as you sip this plumberry tonic, like a prizefighter gripping and ungripping victoriously bloodied knuckles.  In its youth, it might’ve smacked you around before leaving without so much as a single appearance of the velveteen black fruits it now espouses…like so many a stolen communion wine chug.  Such is the dangerous backbone of this beauty.  The graphite, like pencil shavings blown from college-ruled paper wherein you are required to write “I will not steal wine from Sister Mary’s lockbox,” over and over and over again until you have proffered a palatable penitence, smudges the glass.   

Only fourteen years of age, and already it shows a complex personality, but there is another decade of ambition within these legs, particularly if the wine shaves on a daily basis and always remembers to put on lotion.  I’m sorry, what was it we were talking about again? 

24 out of 27 Top Hats.    

Ernest Remy: Oxymore Vintage Champagne (’08)

Ernest Remy: Oxymore Vintage Champagne (’08)

On a recent evening dressed in crisped suits with expertly executed bowtie charm, the Wine for Sophisticated Homies sipped upon a dazzler made by the Ernest Remy Grand Cru Champagne House.  Their Oxymore 2008 Vintage Champagne is a Cuvée we felt was worthy of discussion.  What follows are the feelings we were left with. 

There is a clearly evident prestidigitation being performed by the nimble-fingered winemaker at Ernest Remy. 

In their presentation of Oxymore, they claim to bring the collision of wine and art into being in bottle form.  One can hardly argue after seeing the magnificent wreckage of delicate flavor entered into evidence upon each new touch of the glass to the lips. 

I should like to tell you that this wine deserves to be drunk from a vintage champagne coupe by a women in a subtly revealing Evening gown.  Complexity like collarbones, winding and arched. 

A Quidditch Snitch Golden hue envelopes the glass as dried apricot and perfumed honey coat the praline finish.  This is cheese plate accoutrement in a glass, delivering tiny snake bites of popping pleasure to the tip of the tongue as it shows the quality of it’s age even now, though it could be kept much longer in order to reveal itself as an even more illustrious product in its mid 20’s.   Glorious orchard fruits and dried varieties show deference to the brioche-nut-bread of this Godspell of a wine.  Prepare to be enraptured.  Dress appropriately for the occasion. 

15 out of 17 Top Hats.   

Papapietro Perry: Pinot Noir (’13)

Papapietro Perry: Pinot Noir (’13)

In the year of 2013, Papapietro Perry made a Pinot Noir on the edge of the Russian River Valley in a vineyard named after a man named Peter.  The Wine For Sophisticated Homies tasted this wine.  Here is the review that followed: 

The town council is holding it’s annual Cherry Festival at the soda fountain and your invited.  Cuff your jeans and slick back your hair and get ready for what will inevitably turn into a coming-of-age teen musical, wherein the baddest of dudes will at some point sing in perfect harmony.  This wine invites you to leave all pretension at the doorstep. 

This wine is every red fruit you’ve ever considered when making a list of red fruits.  It’s berry picking at its’ most American.   Think of juice running off an everyberry popsicle in the middle of July with some blond girl staring at you from across the pool as her hair blows in front of her face.  And she’s got this red bike parked nearby.  And there’s this dog playing tug-of-war with this guy in a bathing suit.  They’re all there.    

This wine is a poodle skirt and a bobbed ponytail.  It’s nervous glances up on Lover’s Lane.   This wine wants to be poured into Rubenesque goblets and drunk passionately while waxing poetic on the merits of freckles under bronzed skin.  The palate sings sassafras hymns.  Bunches of wisteria and white rose dance around the outer edges like ballet figurines silhouetted in a campfire’s glaze.  And speaking of which, that toasty marshmallow oak?  It’ll sneak up on you and hug you and hold you like sinful smores melting you into sleeping bag submission.

This wine is all the things you miss when they are gone, and all the longings of the last nights of freedom. 

Oh to be young and beautiful. 

9 out of 10 Top Hats.