In which the Elegant Bastard learns to say “Yessss” Again
Yes, I eavesdrop.
It’s not an admirable habit, I know. In effect, I am stealing other people’s words. In my defence, I don’t do it everywhere and I don’t do it all the time. I mean, think about it. How much of what you hear daily on the street is really worth the effort?
But I always do it in wine stores when something unusual is happening.
“Unusual” includes any moment when an anonymous unshaven baseball-capped guy wearing a “Militant Meat Eater” t-shirt asks the sales clerk for a case – yes, a case – of something called Ringbolt. The two of them immediately set off, the attendant ambling and t-shirt guy moving as if he were approaching Nirvana. I follow discretely.
A few seconds later I am watching 12 fairly non-descript bottles of the cutely spelled ring . bolt (in elegant lower case letters) being reverently loaded into a cart. T-shirt guy seems almost furtive, as if expecting interference, and hating to see him disappointed, I interrupt with a casual, “So? Is it that good?”
He looks at me as if I’ve questioned the greatness of God.
“Yes!” he moans, and the “yes” extends in sibilant excess, like something whispered in the aftermath of orgasm.
After he leaves, I buy two. I haven’t said “yes” like that in far too long.
When I get them home and observe more closely, I discover I’ve purchased a 2009 Australian cabernet sauvignon so I smile. The red cabernet sauvignon grape is generally my favorite. What they do with it in California is enough for me to forgive the U.S. for both Walmart and American Idol (though not for Donald Trump or Paris Hilton).
This wine, however, comes from Margaret River, a wine region in Western Australia and a little research reveals that many critics consider it to be Western Australia’s premiere region, famous (fortunately) for its elegant cabsavs, a bit of good news that makes up for the corny “Hold Them Fast Work Them Hard” motto circling the bottle’s neck. The 2009 vintage is apparently highly regarded, as is the great glistening hunk of leg of lamb I scored at “The Meat Department”, my little heaven on Toronto’s Danforth. The dinner menu is instantly decided.
About an hour before the meal, I open the wine and sniff. “First sniff” is both a favorite and a nervous ritual moment for me. Taking in a pleasant aroma from an under $20.00 bottle is a chancy bet at best and I’ve had a few “first sniffs” that made smelling anything afterwards difficult. But I remain heroic and so goes forth my nose.
The aroma is very pleasant: soft, supple and not at all astringent. I get hints of blackcurrant, butterscotch and smoke. A few minutes later, I sniff again and now there are whiffs of red cherry and vanilla cream. My nose declares itself to be in love and it leads me back for periodic fixes while the lamb roasts.
When we finally taste the wine, it does not disappoint. It doesn’t have the overwhelming “mouthfeel” that big California cabsavs sometimes do, but it’s definitely robust and really quite elegant. The tannins are soft. There’s a rich red fruit tang on the tongue along with a hint of strawberry and even a taste of what I can only call red licorice. Later in the meal, hints of chocolate and of almond join the mix. The menu includes a goat cheese and avocado appetizer; the wine responds to that in friendly fashion. What it then goes on to do with the lamb is best described in words that children should not read.
In short, it’s an easy wine to drink and an even easier wine to talk about. Again, I’ve had bigger and better cabs but few were priced at $19.95.
Will I buy more?
(In Ontario, Ringbolt is easily available: VINTAGES 606624)