While we wait, endlessly, for the new grapes to come in -- what was supposed to be Malbec on Wednesday is now maybe Malbec on Friday -- let me think my way back a few weeks to the most recent bottlings of the 2009s.
Among the adventures from that vintage was a five-grape Bordeaux blend, the whole contemporary crew -- Merlot from Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma, Cabernet Franc from the Russian River, Cabernet Sauvignon from El Dorado County in the Sierras, Malbec from Russian River, and a pinch of Petit Verdot from Napa. I will admit that Bordeaux grapes are not my preferred cup of tea, but with some goading from my co-conspirators, doing the whole Bordeaux Bingo became an irresistible force. (No, no Carménère, the phantom Bordeaux grape that migrated to Chile; we'll get around to that when we find a source.)
For the first few months of its life, this blend tasted marvelous; almost ready to drink, full of tasty fruit. Then it had an attack of aldehydes, unpleasant compounds put together by the mating of ethyl alcohol and oxygen, dampening the aromas/flavors and offering up something stale and nasty instead. Thanks to the miracle of sulfur dioxide (aka sulfites or SO2), this unpleasantness got fixed, and the fruit came back.
When we got around to the label, like most home winemaker efforts, this one has a convoluted, private story. But stick with me; the labels themselves are worth it.
Then it got better. Eileen, raised as a good Catholic girl, did her Lives of the Saints homework, and discovered more about Saint Vince. Somewhere in the second or third century, Father Vince was making his daily rounds, visiting a farmer and grape grower, getting there on his usual mode of conveyance, his pastoral donkey. While St. V. and the farmer chatted up transubstantiation and plenary indulgences and the virtues of alms-giving, the donkey idly chewed on the nearest vines.
Miraculously, the next year, that stretch of vines bore the most productive crop. The donkey, it seems, had invented pruning in the vineyard. NOTE: the donkey did not become a saint, but somehow Vincent did.
This vinuous wonder is nicely captured in the labels designed by graphic artist / wine lover Mimi Heft, a friend of sub cellars.
The label above is more or less the conscientious donkey, pruining carefully, practicing precision viticulture. Below we have the exuberant donkey, more in line with his species nature, a sort of Wine Jackass.
Finally, we did a label celebrating Vince Raphael himself, looking more saintly than usual:
And by the way, this is a heck of a wine.