Captain Planet Month: Fire 04/20/12
Last week I kicked off Captain Planet Month here on Convicted for Grape, and the response has been, in a word, nominal. But that’s to be expected of a post about Earth, which is after all a rather dispassionate, static, stoic, boring element.
Never fear! This week I have a surprise for you, and no, it isn’t Fire – I said I’d be covering Fire last week, so if you’re surprised by that news, you either don’t read my blog nearly enough, or you read my blog so regularly that you’ve come to realize what a liar I am. In which case, good for you! But this is Fire week and that’s not the surprise, so I guess this entire train of thought has been a gigantic waste of time.
You know what else is gigantic? Texas. But not only is Texas the largest contiguous state in our Union; it’s also one of the hottest, and therefore the ideal birthplace for my Fire wine. Wheeler, the Fire Planeteer, may have been a New Yorker, but his hotheaded temper and never-say-die spirit certainly align with the core tenets of Texasism. Plus, remember that King of the Hill episode in which Hank discovers he was born in New York, but then feels better about it when he learns that New Yorkers helped to defend the Alamo? Well, I’m just going to assume that was historically accurate: another point in Wheeler’s favor.
What’s that you ask? Why yes, they do make wine in Texas. And yes, that is the surprise. And no, I hadn’t tried any Texan wine before now. I have a good excuse though, and this time I won’t even place the brunt of the blame on Pennsylvania’s puzzlingly archaic liquor laws, which have thwarted me so many times in the past: unfortunately, Texan wine is not a very easy thing to find outside of Texas period, and it was only thanks to the help of my Twitter companion and #Bteam buddy James Freeman that I was able to acquire some at all.
But now, without further ado, it’s time to sit back, relax, and feel the burn. At which point you may find it difficult to relax, but hey, such is life.
Fire, the avatar of calefaction. Least tangible among the elements, yet most volatile of all. Ephemeral empyrean embers, searing and scorching their way inexorably toward their own oblivion, might roast a marshmallow, or may just as easily decide to incinerate the very city containing the store that sold the bag from which the marshmallow came. As for wine, fire isn’t generally considered a desirable characteristic. Less welcome in the bottle even than earth, fire (more commonly described as “heat”) suggests an excess of alcohol, often signaled by a burning aftertaste.
Which brings me back to my very first Texas wine, the Landon Winery Reserve Tempranillo 2010, listed at $24.99 on the winery website. Tempranillo is a grape I don’t drink as much of as I probably should; indeed, this marked my first foray into American Tempranillo at all (the grape is most famous as the principal player in Spain’s Rioja region, whose wines I generally ignore because too many people have heard of them. I’m like that).
Texas, as I might have mentioned earlier, is a reputedly hot place, but that wasn’t my only reason for selecting this wine. What first gave me the idea was a reference via Twitter to the Landon Tempranillo as “the burning wine,” which seemed to fit the Fire bill perfectly. And when I poured myself a glass, I found the wine more than lived up to its reputation – albeit in a slightly different way than I anticipated. While it certainly burned, it wasn’t the familiar flame of ethanol, but rather seemed to emanate from the wine’s tannins. Now, I’m well acquainted with the tannic tendency to desiccate – inducing dryness – but this is the first time I’d describe the sensation as fiery, as though a thousand tiny scorpions were stinging the inside of my mouth. And not in a good way.
The wine itself smelled strongly of grape juice, reminding me of Manischewitz more than Tempranillo, though later cherry made an appearance, with an accompanying cameo of vanilla. Similar flavors ran through the palate, but the wine kind of hit a wall with those tannins, which really struck me as mean more than anything else. I didn’t even come close to finishing the bottle (see above).
This Tempranillo earns thumbs up. I don’t know who hurt you, tannins, but it’s time to move on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I can’t remember whether I ever shut my stove off, so I’m just gonna go-