WINESLACKER..the lazy drinker's guide. Another 'slacker yammering on about drinking.

February 22, 2007

The Middle Coast

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:37 am

The intrepid Wineslacker recently returned from the great White North; yes, Monterey, California. Whilest there, he felt it his duty to dine well and test the best efforts of the expanding California wine industry. No, let’s not call it an industry. While there is no doubt that there is a Wine Industry in California, home of Gallo and Bronco Wines, that is not to what the Wineslacker is referring. The Wine Buddies, the Wine Club (close!), the Wine League… yeah. The Wine League.

The ‘slacker and intrepid dinner companion traveled up the still truly beautiful El Camino Real to Greenfield, which just 3 years ago was a sad and dusty town for the poorest farm workers and is now bustling; bursting with new housing construction and a busy business section, a farm worker town, but one with evident vitality and energy. Why? Well, an educated guess would be rolling acres of wine grapes for fine wine butting up to the town, and that requires hand work and necessitates skilled workers, for the growing and harvesting of la grande grapes.

Traveling that little road over the hills that become the Carmel Highlands into the golden late afternoon sunshine, the ‘slacker is transported back to the days of old, when California was more of this; a quiet, lonely, mysterious land full of fruit and honey and aching beauty. Rocky, rolling hills, brilliant green pasture land, dotted with gnarled oaks, casting long shadows in the golden afternoon sun. On a long, lonely, narrow road; sometimes so narrow one takes a chance on one barreling pickup truck that might be rolling along on toward you on the other side of that blind, one lane curve. Fortunately the ‘slacker holds back from his instinct to throw the old Mercedes into the winding curves with 1950’s abandon and just avoids cascading into eternity with his beautiful companion (he knows better than to taste wine before driving this tiny ribbon of road).

This is the California the Wineslacker likes to remember, not the long line of cars and SUV’s streaming out of the Monterey area at rush hour (yes, there is a rush hour in Monterey). This is the California that yes, was not as diverse, not as democratic, not as fair and certainly less prosperous for the majority. Yet, it was beautiful and quiet and in many places, still lonely. There is a certain nostalgia for this, even while recognizing the inequities. We don’t wish for the bad old days to return, but, sipping a delicious glass of local red, gazing over the rail on the veranda at Nepenthe, far above the crashing surf, watching the quiet circling of turkey vultures and red tail hawks over rich green pastures and redwood filled canyons, well; one has to admit to the doubt that all this will last much longer and be grateful for the chances we have had to experience the beauty of some of the last of the lonely country left in California. We have hope for the future, but we know how strong is the greed and arrogance that cannot see the value in leaving the land empty and graceful for all.

Wines the ‘slacker has met recently and recommends for quality and value:
The common man’s Pinot, Mark West
Mandolino, 2005 Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio, at Trader Joes
Justin, 2005 the Orphan, blended red
Cameron Hughes, 2005 Lot 27, another incredible buy from CH, a lucious Syrah, check your local Costco,
French Hill, 2003 Sierra Foothills Barbera
Served at Nepenthe, far above the rocky surf at Big Sur, from a French family’s outpost in Paso Robles, Tablas Creek’s Cote de Tablas

And the amazing, now legendary, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
Bon Soir

February 8, 2007

Filed under: A new Zin,Cameron Hughes Value — Dex Wineslacker @ 11:14 pm

Lot 21, Amador County/Lodi Zinfandel 2004 arrived Tuesday. With trembling hands the Wineslacker received the vaunted bottle from the hands of “Chocolatea” Lorri K., Erotic Chocolatier Extraordinare. Driving home, he shivered with anticipation for the moment of revelation, the unveiling of yet another possible triumph for the California phenom of wine, Cameron Hughes.Cameron Hughes, himself.

Already the ‘slacker had trumpeted the virtues of other CH winners; Lot 15, a jammy blend of Napa County Cabs; Lot 16, the sophisticated Stag’s Leap district Cab., and the buoyant Lot 17, heavenly hillside California Barbera. And then the lovely Lot 23, Meritage; what a bargain. Available to ‘slackers and ‘slackettes of all economic strata, thanks to Cameron’s right on market target, all under $20.

We ripped open the capsule and pulled up that cork with abandon. Pouring out the silky juice, we noted the clean, deep garnet color. A couple of quick swirls of the glass and we stuck our curious nose within. A sweet mixed berry bouquet with a plummy nose. So far, so good. Knocking back the largish German glass, we took a bit on the tongue. Hmmmm, balanced fruit with, with, something very out there; something vegital, something slightly asperagassy. Odd.
Yet again. Yes, there was the fruit, the fine structure as promised, and now this unusual green grocer thing. Bell pepper? “Well”, the ‘slacker thought, “it’s got some wild layered thing happening, kind o’ like Ridge Zins, with their herbs and twigs.” Interesting.

In something of a hurry that night, the Wineslacker made his notes, pushed away the glass and headed for dreamland; morning approaching far too fast for extensive wine exploration. What to write…

The next night, after a long, long day at the foundry, the ‘slacker headed home. It struck him that perhaps his first taste of Lot 21 was too much in haste. We should have given the thing a few moments in the open air. Make a short story even shorter; we gave it a new trial, after a night of being opened and it was a new wine. The veg taste, what ever that was, was temporary. Open this baby up, leave it by itself for an hour or two; or, decant; whatever, and it rights itself like a well spun top. It lives up to it’s promise and, while maybe a tad more conventional than one might be hoping for, it becomes one very honorable Zinfandel; well balanced, structured, very flavorful, with some pleasant minerality and a fine long finish. Maybe just a touch of black tea at the very end. And, once again, one exciting value.

The lovely dinner companion and The Wineslacker entertained with the well regarded Rosenblum low end Vintner’s Blend last weekend and it could not hold a candle to this fine bottle, just about the same price. Just take a little time to breath before beginning.

We mention the following, for the sake of complete transparency; Lot 21, unlike the other Cameron Hughes Wines reviewed herein, was provided by the producer.

Get it at Costco, soon, or, directly from the classy website of

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