Weird and Uncategorizable Wines

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir-Mondeuse Santa Maria Valley 1999 ($20) (Cape Mayhem): Medium dark garnet color. Lightly jammy nose, cherry-plum candy with smoky undernotes and light hints of root beer. The wine has enough acidity but it seems unintegrated, with the fleshy fruit not quite running parallel with the spine. The flavors are hard to place, plumskin, clove, dark cherry, somethingorother, something else, and the finish turns tarry-tangy. Decent enough, a bit all over the place, a little better with some time and air. (5/26/01)

Beaulieu Vineyards "Special Burgundy" Napa Valley 1990 (50% petite sirah, 40% charbono, 5% early burgundy, 5% napa gamay)(Swedes Invade). After much quizzical label-peering and musings on the intended definition of the word 'special,' I get up the nerve to pour myself some of this. Hmmm... dark garnet, fairly dense-looking in a special kind of way. Plenty of smoky toasted oak on the nose, but also plenty of dark blackberry-plummy-earthy PS-style fruit to support it. There's a dark and dense core of earthy matte black fruit that's feathering a bit at the edges but maintains a good rough, rustic core and finishes tarry-dark. There's some decent enough acidity, and the fruit is a bit one note thick and matte black, but this ain't swill either and actually appeals to this occasional PS drinker on a rough-and-tumble level. (3/24/00)

Flowers 'Perennial' California 1997 ($21.99) (Sitting Jeebis): (A blend of zin, late harvest chardonnay, pinot meunier, pinot noir, etc.) Dead medium red color, smells of ripe raspberry and plum, with smoky-toasty bass notes. This wine, very tight on release, has opened up nicely. The zin is dominant in this blend, but there's a certain plumminess as well. Turns smoky-tarry on the short finish. Too oaky, but not the horrorshow that many of the other Flowers wines I've tasted have been--this one is drinkable enough, if a strange combination of oddness and generic ripe red-oakiness. Tony declares it "Weird," but it's the best wine I've had from this producer. (3/31/01)

Fox Run Vineyard Lemberger Finger Lakes 1997 (Finger Lakin' Good): Okay, nice deep red color, so far so good; swirl a bit, a sniff... oboy. This has a real sulfurous burnt-match aroma dominating the dark black cherry fruit underneath. Someone says "after this, the pinot tastes good," but I'm trying to give it a chance. Dark black cherry flavors, decent concentration, but a bit limpid and low-acid and I can't get past the stinky sulfur. Finishes short, with fine tannins. Not good, but I'd take it over the pinot. I think. (12/8/99)

Hunt Country Vineyards Foxy Lady Finger Lakes Red (NV) (Geekfest): Medium light garnet-brown; watermelon/strawberry nose; jammy-fruity, lettucey. Sweet & mellony, but somehow kind of friendly, more like a wine cooler than table wine, but served well-chilled on a hot day it had a certain appeal, not to mention it's hard to seriously rap a wine called 'Foxy Lady...'

Homemade Rustic Red, Brooklyn, NY (NV) (Geekfest): (I didn't quite catch the whole story on this one--apparently made by a little old man in Brooklyn and dispened in five-gallon jugs, it arrived with two strips of masking tape on the bottle with the name written on them in felt-tip marker...) Purply-dark Kool-Aid color; grapy, grapy nose, whiff of nail polish; dusty, earthy taste, crisp, juicy, utterly woodless. Simple & quite pleasant.

De Gluck Gluck Agustus El Niño Syrah/Grenache California 1997 (Geekfest): Medium garnet; muted earthy-cherry nose, not lush, but smooth & crisp with just a hint of horehound; cran-cherry comes through on the midpalate, very light tannins. During impromptu discussions with the winemaker it came out that there had been a need to adjust the acidity levels, which seemed very nice to me in the final product. The opinions of those who had tasted the wine last year (I didn't) seemed to be almost universal in agreeing that it had come together remarkably in the interval.

McGuigan's Chambourcin Old Sax Vineyard 2001 (Scheduling): Mmmm, smells of yesterday's sliced cucumbers and cinnamon candy. Jeff, smelling it now, says "No, it was decent when it was first opened... really... you should've tried it an hour or two ago... no, really..." Perhaps I should have, and perhaps it was, but it ain't now. Simple candied red fruit runs alongside a dark tarry streak but doesn't bother to introduce itself, finally stopping dead and allowing the tar to be the last thing standing. Disjointed, weird wine. (12/8/02)

Monarchia Nimród II Eger Cuvée 2000 (Shanks): What the heck is this? Nimrod II? An ESPN promotion? ("Without wine, who would cheer for the Nimrods?"). No, it's wine from Hungary. Hmmm. Medium-dark garnet color. Smells ripe and jammy, black cherry and smoke, like wine candy. Tastes jammy as well, with blowsy black cherry fruit coming right at you, then turning diffuse and vague while at the same time some pointy acidity jabs at the underside of my tongue. Flabby on top, spiky underneath. Ripe and simple and a bit of a mess, simply bloody awful with Brad's lobster-mango salad with avocado dressing. (4/24/04)

Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery 'Tailgate Red' Table Wine NV (Pennsylvania) ($8) (McNetta 2002): Sweet nose of cinnamon, cherry bubble gum, cranberry juice and spearmint. I have never smelled spearmint in a red wine before, so this is an exciting wine for me. I pass it to Lisa, who emphatically confirms my diagnosis. It smells like a fiendish new flavor of JellyBelly brand jellybean: CranCinnaSpear! Tastes lightly sweet, a demisec red. Could use a little more structure. After a few sips, the combination of flaccidity and sugar make it seem sweeter, a Pennsylvania moëlleux gummy-rouge. But really, although it's not exactly a style a geek would like, it has a lot of flavor and could conceivably make a good picnic wine on a hot day for someone who likes Pennsylvania moëlleux rouge. Actually, it goes oddly well with brownies hot from the oven, so perhaps a Pennsylvania Banyuls Lite is more the proper analogy. (6/02)

Pontchartrain Vineyards Norton/Cynthiana 'Rouge Militaire' Louisiana 2000 (Sleeping Cats): ($13) Medium-dark garnet color and smells somewhat tutti-fruttied with a cinnamon-pepper streak, Juicy Fruit™ and Big Red™ chewing gums mixed with dark one-note red fruit and laced with a dark licorice streak. Tastes candied and simple but pleasantly peppery and decent enough if your tastes run towards candied and simple wine with a splash of cinnamon. Frederick seems impressed. "Thees terroir..." he asks, "Ees it perhaps... a... swamp?" Six Prongs carved from the compressed matter formed from putting three tons of unsold cotton candy into a garbage compactor, then rolled in breadcrumbs and microwaved on 'High' for forty seconds apiece. (9/17/02)

Tedeschi Vineyards 'Plantation Red' Ulupalakua 1997 (Prodigal Hawaiians): Grown on the island of Maui on the slopes of the dormant Haleakala volcano, this wine (yes, it's made from grapes) is Tedeschi's top-of-the-line Hawaiian red, running about $16.50, and it makes its presence known immediately in the form of a very odd, slightly barny-stinky nose, with strange hints of flowers and very old, slightly moldy orange rind flitting about to tickle the nasal passages. It's medium-light garnet in color, so it looks like wine, but everyone keeps asking if I'm sure it's made from grapes. YES, IT'S MADE FROM GRAPES. I swirl, and enjoy the peculiar aromas emanating from my glass. Well, maybe 'enjoy' isn't quite the right word... experience? At any rate, it tastes thin and a bit tart--sour cherry, charred wood and dry tannins with a bit of a bitter streak, short and ugly.

You've never seen so many glasses so vigorously rinsed only one wine into a tasting... (1/15/00)

Tedeschi Vineyards Maui Blanc Pineapple Wine NV ($9) (Sleeping Cats): Smells like pineapple in a marble cup. Tastes like pineapple, although in a pleasantly restrained fashion, not like fresh juice. Medium-light mouthfeel with easygoing acidity, silkily quiet and surprisingly dignified. Oddly, this has benefited from a couple of years in bottle and really isn't bad. Brought as a whimsical nod to my origins, it acquits itself better than expected, and the bottle empties quickly. (9/17/02)

Le Tourmentin Valais Assemblage de Cepages Nobles 1993 ($40) (Party House): Medium to medium-light ruby color, ambering slightly at the rim. Unusual nose--lightly cedary, soft cherry fruit with a tomatoey baked-bean earthy streak and hints of leather, elegant and surprisingly layered. On the lean side but full-flavored and complex, with good balance and plenty of structure, if perhaps a little more developed than I'd have expected of such a fairly young wine. I know nothing about this one except what the gent who sold it to me said: a Swiss version of Bordeaux varieties. It's not exactly Bordeaux-like but it is interesting, light and layered and suave. (1/5/02)

Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod Maritime Red NV (a proprietary blend of cab franc, merlot and zin) (Premier Cru Jeebus): Medium-pale translucent red color, with smoke-tinged zin character dominating the nose, beating whatever other meek fruit is in there into submission with light raspberry redness. Soft in the mouth, limp and structureless, more light and airy zin character is the only noticeable character at all. Light bodied and simple--not undrinkable, but pretty flaccid and good mostly for novelty value. (9/31/00)

The Village of Elgin Winery (Arizona) 'Tombstone Red' NV (NEVER Say 'Spit'): A blend of unspecified French-American hybrid grapes. Smells like cotton candy drizzled with raspberry sauce. Tastes the same as it smells, lightly sweet and with a laminated, glossy mouthfeel. Actively unpleasant. Joe says "You know, in this company this isn't so good, but I could see enjoying this sitting on my porch." I believe he is alone in this sentiment, but he's trying hard: "It's... different." Different from drinkable wine, at any rate. Reminds me of Bully Hill wines--enjoy the label, skip what's inside the bottle. At the end of the night every bottle is empty except this one, which is three-quarters full. Dale suggests putting a warning sign on it to ward off the waitstaff, but I think it's exactly what they deserve. (4/03)

And lastly, the king of all weird wines...

One of my co-workers who hails from Jamaica, knowing my vaunted status as an Oenophilic-American, came back from her latest trip there with a special surprise for me -- some "good Jamaican wine!"

Well, I of course expressed profound delight and gratitude, but it wasn't until I got home and took a good look at this bottle that true wonderment took over: the label proudly proclaimed (surely to the horror of Senator Thurmond):

Wincarnis Tonic Wine-- suitable alike for the robust, the invalid and the convalescent. In cases of debility and lowered vitality, WINCARNIS will be found a most efficient restorative. WINCARNIS is an entirely natural tonic and its effects are lasting. WINCARNIS is also an invaluable restorative during convalescence and it is unsurpassed as a general tonic. Strongly recommended throughout the world as being both nutritious and stimulating."

Made from Choice Wine, Finest Extracts of Meat and Malt, and Glycerophosphoric Acid.

Take a wine-glassful three times each day.

Well, I had to screw up my nerve to actually taste the stuff, but here goes nothing...

Wincarnis NV Tonic Wine, D. & G. Wines, Ltd., Kingston, Jamaica: it's sitting in my tasting glass--okay, color is almost normal, medium red-orange, sort of sherry-like; nose is... odd... sticky-sweet, nutty, beef-brothy, actually not as weird as I had expected, kind of the like a cheap California cooking sherry with a shot of rump roast in it. In the mouth, gaaack, okay, now it's definitely weird; sweet and tongue-coating nutty, malted-milk flavors, along with a distinctive White-Castle-hamburger-grease mouthfeel that just kind of lingers on the finish only long enough for me to find a toothbrush.

My nominee for weirdest wine, lifetime achievement award!

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