Wine Rating: 90
In my experience, if you want to do something and do it well, whatever it is, you need two things. You need to love it, and you need to be obsessive about it. Some people can get away with ‘calling it in’ and might actually pull it off quite well. But I think the line between something being good and being great, as thin as it might be, is worth taking note of and more often than not, worth going the extra mile for. So, where am I going with this?
Well, for the past month, I’ve been thinking about what or who, I wanted to write about next. For the last week, I’ve sat down at least three times and attempted to write ‘this’ article. I’ve pondered, I’ve researched, I’ve typed, I’ve backspaced, and ultimately, I’ve scrapped every word I’ve written.
My first few endeavors included plotting along and scribbling about my growing disinterest over the last few years, for Bordeaux wines. With my initial effort, I was just over 1000 words into the article, when I found myself completely bored. Bored with the topic, bored with what I was writing, bored with my words. It had to go. I started over two more times and was met with the same outcome. It too, every word… erased.
Here I am. My article, due in a week and I’ve got nothin’. So I decide I’m going to sit with the stillness for a bit. Ask myself, “What is it I really want to say?” and then just let it come. It’s the holidays after all. The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ they say, and even though nothing feels terribly interesting at the moment, I’m going to let it find me. Something real, something simple, something honest.
I’m a writer. My focus happens to be on wine, but not because it has to be, but because I love wine and I love writing about it. The question becomes, do my readers want to know about the great winemakers? About newly discovered regions that have beautiful vineyards and lovely fruit? Probably not and if they do, they likey read Wine Spectator magazine, for that. It’s my adventures with wine that I genuinely want to write about. I enjoy sharing a tale or two about my life, diving into experiences I’ve had along the way, be they recent or from a long time ago. Describing the ways a specific wine can evoke a visceral response in me or send me crashing into the memory of a beautiful encounter. When that happens, I go with it. I put on my dancing shoes and sashay across the page, writing quips or recollections about some magical fermented juice. If I’m writing, it’s almost guaranteed that I am also filling my belly with juice, possibly with the very wine I’m writing about it. How much I’ve had to drink can usually be determined by how dizzy my words get by the end of my piece or by the way my words slur and slosh and my vision blurs, right before I pass out, which will not be the case with this article. (cross fingers)
Here’s a truth for ya’. I’ve been referred to as a ‘wine snob’ more than once, and there’s a note of truth in that. I may have a snobbish approach, but I’ve come to it honestly. I earned it, and I’ve certainly paid my dues, while on this wine journey.
It is also true that I drink Cristal every New Year’s Eve, with my wife. Is that a bottle that’s worth the $200 I pay for it? It is to me. Could I have just purchased a $35 bottle of Schramsberg and enjoyed it just as much? Yes. So, why then would I pay $200 for a bottle of champagne? Is it because I’m an idiot, with low self-esteem, who needs to keep my level of social status at its maximum? Is it so that once the bottle is drunk, I can take a selfie and post it on Instagram? Is it so they’ll “like” me? If that was why I did it, what would happen next, when it’s done, and I’m jonesing for the next one? Let’s see. I’d feel like shit again, but I’d get to say that for that moment, I was king of the world. That is of course until I see some young hipster on IG dining in France post a photo of himself with three barely clad Victoria Secret models pouring magnums of Cristal all over each other. As Charlie Brown says, “Sigh!” But… that’s not why I drink a $200 of champagne. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally identify with Charlie, but not in this case. My choice of Cristal is because I love it. Because I’m passionate about what I drink, about the people who make it and about why they do what they do.
Hmm? Okay. Wait. It’s coming to me. Sweet clarity. And… there it is. I’ve got it. This article will not be about excess or snobbery or high priced cult wines or the absurdity of conspicuous consumption and Veblen goods. I’m going to put all of that away.
Did you know that the average cost of a bottle of red wine in the US is $10 – $14? Something like 90% of people who drink wine, purchase them at that price. Only dopes like me pay $50 – $2500 for a bottle of wine, but like with any passion, the more obsessed you become with it, the deeper you go down the rabbit hole. You must keep pushing that boulder up the hill. Your anxiety level demands that you work, beg or steal to get the entire collection. Sleep becomes a dream induced vision of your obsession dancing above your head. They sing to you as you dust them, and then carefully, oh so carefully you put them back on the shelf, or in my case (in this case), back in the wine cellar. My preciouses!
I know, I know! I said there’d be no snobbery and I meant it. But if you’ll humor me for just a minute, I want to say something about (and to) my fellow collectors. Be it wine, rare books, baseball cards or Beanie Babies. Once you start learning about it, reading books on the subject, or god-forbid, talk to others with the same interest, at some point you’re likely going to start up leveling. It starts small. First, you just want one that’s in slightly better condition. Then it’s the limited edition. Then it’s a signed limited edition. Then it’s the rarest of the rare, the unicorn, the one you’ll end up chasing for the rest of your life and this is true of anyone who has ever been a true collector, and I am a true collector.
I just looked on eBay and saw a listing for a 1st Charity Edition Rare Ty Princess Diana Beanie Baby with a ‘Buy It Now’ price of $92,500. That, of course, includes free shipping. Who the hell would want to spend nearly $100k on a bean bag that costs less than $1 to make in China? You would! If you’ve been collecting them for years, and have achieved that level of mania, then that Princess Diana Beanie is what you need to have in your collection so that other crazy people like you can admire it. Of course, if you happen to already own the most coveted Beanie Baby to every exist; Patti the Platypus, then you might already have this one too.
All of that said, I’m back to my point and with a ‘new year’ upon us, and as promised, I’m going to set aside my wine snobbery for a moment and share with you a wine that I honestly enjoy. So much so, that I purchase two cases a month. I buy so much of it that my supplier has started offering it to me at wholesale. It’s not a $300 Cabernet from Napa, or a $400 French Burgundy. It’s my Monday through Thursday wine that I have with dinner every night. Why not Friday through Sunday you ask? Well, on those days I open wines that I consider exceptional, and I share them, but only with a few select people in my life. This wine is priced near the national wine buying average. Yeah, I know, look at me drinking like the hoi polloi.
My wine for this piece, my daily driver, my Monday through Friday is ‘Cherry Pie’. The winery that produces Cherry Pie was started by famed winemaker Jayson Woodbridge in 2008. He sourced pinot noir grapes from the famous Stanly Ranch, in the Carneros Appellation of Napa. His focus was to make approachable wines at an affordable price, and he’s done that and more. The Stanly Ranch wines are around $50. The wine has subtle notes of bubble gum, cherry, blackberry, and plum. The alcohol is a whopping 15.5%, so it has some nice heat, if you like that, as I do. As the success of Cherry Pie grew, Jayson started featuring single and multi-vineyard wines from top California Pinot Noir locations. Still wanting to make a wine that was for everyday enjoyment, he created Cherry Tart, a pinot noir that sells at retail for around $20. If the name, Jayson Woodbridge sounds familiar to you, it may be because he’s known for his very famous and affordable winery, Layer Cake and If You See Kay. As it so often happens in Napa, when you get some success, here comes the men in suits with bags of money and so was the case with Jayson Woodbridge. In late 2017, Vintage Wine Estates (a huge wine conglomerate) announced an agreement to acquire all three wine brands from him. The wine is now so accessible that you can find it at most big chain supermarkets. One recent marketing change that VWE did was rename the reasonably priced Cherry Tart wine to Cherry Pie Three Counties. As someone who works in marketing, this was a brilliant concept. Now the difference between the $20 and the $50 is just the grape source.
In coming full circle, you might be asking yourself, “So, is John Turi passionate about Cherry Pie?” Well, the answer would be no, but I am passionate about what I drink and a $20 daily drinker that I really enjoy, suits me just fine. If I had Johnny Depp’s monthly wine budget; estimated to be about $30k, my daily drinker would be a nice Screaming Eagle or a Harlan Estates wine. Also, I’d have cases of Cristal all about the house, just in case the Victoria Secret models stopped by and wanted to take a shower.
Cherry Pie, Three Counties, 2016
Appearance (Color): Red
Aroma (Complexity): Tart berry fruit, apricot, pine
Body (Texture and Weight): Medium
Food Pairing: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Serving Temperature: 60°