There I was, Minding My Own Memorial Day…
So there I was, minding my own Memorial Day by the pool, reading an old copy of the New Yorker (1963: a story about the Clay/Jones fight at Madison Square Garden), when all of a sudden I poured a Cabernet down my throat that my wife put in front of me. The sun had just fallen below the tree line so the Rose had been put away.
At first I was startled. "Hmmm….I’ve already had a single sip of this stuff and I’m not drunk!"
Still surprised at the wine’s balance, finesse, forward fruit notes and lovely hints of herb, I ask my bride, "what the hell is this?
"It’s a Cabernet I picked up," she said
"Where’s the bottle honey," I said as I took another swig.
As she approached me with bottle in hand, I noticed I still wasn’t tipsy even after taking two good sized swigs of what had to be a California Cabernet–it’s almost all she buys.
I moved aside the laptop (which held roughly 80+ years of New Yorkers on it.…Amazing) and watched the wife swagger over toward me. She has a smirk on her face, a bottle in one hand and a half full glass in the other.
Upon sitting the bottle in front of me I could see it was a familiar brand, though nothing that would be called coveted by any wine lover or wine snob. It carried an Alexander Valley appellation and a 2004 vintage.
Before investigating further I took another good swig just to make sure the long weekend hadn’t gotten into my head.
Even after the third gulp I felt no heat on the palate and no alcohol-induced fuzzy-headedness, yet the same sweet berry center, it’s herbal note, the nice structure and medium tannins and a lovely balance struck me.
"How much was it, Darlin?"
"It was much more my price range than yours."
That meant somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-$14.
I had to look.
There it was. Staring me right in the face. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen such a thing in years:
TWELVE POINT FIVE PERCENT ALCOHOL.
I immediately felt the urge to blog. Then I thought better of it, remembering that only a couple good hours of Memorial Day daylight remained. Plus, the wine was very good, the air clean, the New Yorker story was humming right along in beautifully written prose and I just didn’t want to think about typing. I’d leave it until tomorrow morning.
So what do you know. A 12.5% Alexander Valley Cabernet. I thought them extinct. I thought them, if they did exist, to likely be an experiment with water gone bad. But this wine didn’t taste that way and even if it was an exercise in stretching a vintage I didn’t care. Of course I secretly hoped that a winemaker had decided enough was enough of the 15% CA cabs and was trying to make a point.
What worried me more was that we would not be able to find any more of this. The wife is on it.
I suppose I’ve written about my fatigue with high alcohol wine enough to bore a number of readers. Usually it’s a "complaint post". You can file this one under "revelation post" or "discovery post". However, since I do not review wine, this post does not include a wine review on any kind of the 2004 Laurier Cabernet Sauvignon.
Interesting since this is a Bronco Wine Company brand..I’ve had the same problem as you’ve had with the high alcohol Cali Cabs..are there any out there that are not the super ripe, high alcohol style? So far, the only one I’ve found is Maybach (and at the price, they are NOT everyday drinkers!)
I think before we get too excited about a label reading 12.5% we should consider a few possibilities. First, lets remember the legal permissible fudge factor for %ABV for labels. This wine could actually be 13.25% and still be labeled 12.5%. Though a 13.25% Ca Cab is still something to rejoice. The other possibility is the good old “spinning cone” which allows a winemaker to taste a variety of alchol levels and pick the one they like and low and behold the wine has just that amount of alcohol. I think there is a big difference between wine made to have a low alchohol level and wine made from grapes with low potential alcohol. I would certainly be interested in getting an opinion from someone who favors the ‘low alcohol’ style as to whether or not they care HOW the wine becomes low alcohol.
Sneaky of you.
For naturally lower-alcohol Cab blends, don’t forget Bordeaux. The early-arriving 2005s are really nice, and priced so reasonably that they will induce chuckles when you think about the folks who are sitting around waiting for their futures.