The Praedominium of Wine: a Passover Tale

Seige of Jerusalem

Seige of Jerusalem

The history of Jerusalem is beyond EPIC. No filmmaker has or will ever capture the full impact [ed. Kingdom of Heaven is decent]. Only a great modern biographer such as Simon Sebag Montefiore can do the story justice; pick up Jerusalem: The Biography.

Jerusalem is not the most ancient city nor is it necessarily the most historic although there would certainly be arguments on that point. It is without doubt the most holy city if for no other reason than three major inter-related religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – claim Jerusalem as their own but have been forced to share it for millenia. Neither Buddhism nor Hinduism have a Jones for Jerusalem. Think of Buddhism as the Riesling of important religions: alluring with its particular salvational purpose [ed. would you align Hindi with Chianti?]. Which brings me to wine worship.

Which church do you belong to? Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir? Is Christianity Cab or Pinot? Would you characterize Islam as Merlot or Malbec? And where does Judaism fall? Shiraz is the most ancient grape and Rhone styles are unique while at the same time highly diverse each style with its sect – GSM vs straight Syrah – of devoted followers.

In ancient Jerusalem [ed. you mean like the 1990s?] battles were fought continuously over which group – Greek Christians, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Armenian Christians, Syrians, Egyptian Coptics – would control access to the Holy Sepulchre among other holy shrines that dotted the city.

still trying...

still trying to work things out

The Cabernet vs. Pinot camps each have their fanatic followers. The religious group that held control over the holiest sites was known as the praedominium; the groups that literally held the keys to the shrines and sites. In wine the Cabs held the keys for decades but have been replaced by the Pinots. There remain plenty of Caberneticos whose rituals are strictly celebrated: high prices paid for dense fruity juice that quickly overwhelms any ability to taste anything that gets in its way. The Pinot-ites are the new praedominium of wine which means they have key figures, i.e., the quadi, who rule on matters of divine inspiration and reverent libations. These quadi are Jim Clendenen and Maggie Harrison who rule the world of domestic Pinot Noir.

If you are thinking of changing teams you may want to begin with their labels: Au Bon Climat (ABC) and Antica Terra, respectively.

Clendenen is the most accessible. He makes Pinot Noir wines under his ABC label. There are multiple price points across ~20 wines from $21 to $50. You can expect to taste a light to medium bodied wine with smoky old world character which means it will likely have plenty of funk, forest floor and barnyard aromas and flavors. We blind tasted an ABC beauty last summer and it stole the show. He does not make a bad a bottle of Pinot Noir wine and he is recognized in the Old World as a master winemaker.

maggie_harrisonWEBMaggie Harrison is not so accessible. Making Pinot Noir was her first choice in life. You might say she was called to her mission. She wanted to travel to Asia and Africa to find life and herself. Like an itinerant crusader she prepared for travel waiting tables for nine months, then flew and sailed to unusual destinations until she ran out of money. She got ill in Africa and was forced to return home and pick a new vocation. She ended making wine under Manfred Krankl until the Antica Terra opportunity was tossed into her lap. She has been there since her first vintage in 2007. We recently came across a bottle from that vintage and pulled the cork. Wish we had more.

Clendenen and Harrison. When you are ready to shake up your faith in Cab this is where you want to turn. Many religious folks do. We try to capture three recent religious experiences in vin.

anticaterra07WEB2007 Antica Terra Pinot Noir $50: If you can find this wine… This is simply terrific Pinot Noir. There are many terrific Pinot Noir winemakers in the Willamette Valley which is our vinous Holy Land. Maggie is simply making the best Pinot Noir outside of France. Smoky nose that blows off. It is NOT brett. The flavors are exotic with acidic red fruits, berries, mushrooms, tart and lean. 30 minutes later this incredible creamy strawberry flavor emerges. 13.5%

hospicedebeuane07CROPWEB2007 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Maurice Drouhin $59: Tasted last in Jan 2012 when the wine was shut down, man that wine was D-U-M-B. Thirteen months later it is starting to show some character as predicted by the owner of Scott Paul Wine in Carlton. The color is light rust. Looks over the hill! But it is not. The flavors slowly rouse over the next hour. The wine is very very good. Flavors are lean suggesting this still has a ways to go to fully mature. This is elegant powerful stuff; like Pope Urban when he made made his speech that roused 30,000 Europeans to descend on Jerusalem in the late 11th century. Maybe this wine will be out of control next time we open it! Great contrast to the Antica Terra which will also take more time. However, as austere as Maggie is the true Burgundy is even more so. 13%

jjprum_zeltingerWEB2003 JJ Prum Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese $30: This is why so many people turn to Buddhism after they have had their fill of rich red wines. This wine is spectacular as so many Mosel Rieslings often are. Fruit cocktail juice in a glass but it is from real fruit without sugar and thickener added. It just ends up that way! Oily and lush. Stupidly delicious. If you cannot love this wine then you may not be religious after all. 7.5%

Here are some questions for the Seder. How is it Great Britain came to be so involved in the affairs of Jerusalem? What are the various sects that have occupied and ruled Jerusalem in the past 500 years that are still fighting for every inch of holy land today? Who controls the Holy Sepulchre? What is the Holy Sepulchre? Why is Jerusalem so important to so many religions? Which “tribe” has controlled Jerusalem for the longest number of years?

Ridley Scott directed Kingdom of Heaven which is actually a very good movie about the crusades and the battles in the Holy Land. Jim Clendenen as Saladin? There may be a director’s cut.


  1. Wavatar
    Dr. Dionysus says:

    Connecting wines to religions is fun. I’m unable to make any informed suggestions, but I can offer up a few observations.

    Firstly, early Taoist adepts were kind of famous for their wine consumption. Many a sage’s life was said to end in a drunken stupor drowning in a body of water where perhaps they were last seen reciting poetry to a reflection of the moon.

    Buddhism is a wide and varied path that I’m unqualified to speak for. So I will. The goal (if there can be one) is to have no goals. Equanimity in everything. That sounds like a perfectly balanced wine, wet/dry, sweet/sour, cat-piss/mouse-breath. Not sure if such a wine exists.

    Likening a wine to Islam is also a little iffy, since they don’t drink. Might as well go all the way, then. Look for the wine that has a bacon back or maybe that bottle that’s impossible to open?

    The wine that best represents the Jewish faith? I will defer to Mrs. tBoW on that one, but I am reminded of what Moe, the Bartender from The Simpsons once said about a lady he liked “she’s as sweet as Jewish wine.”

    • Wavatar
      Bacchus says:

      Love the Islam query. Of course, plenty of Muslim people drink wine among other libations just not in front of other Muslims. I had to include Muslims since they are as hell bent as the other faiths to control Jerusalem. Bacon back indeed! Hey if you’re not afraid to weigh in on religions you know little about then you have a future as a wine taster. Summer is around the corner.

      Buddhism is akin to Rielsing (IMO) because both are unusual, irregular, selectively fancied holding strong appeal without pretension.

      I only wish I could have gotten something in about Godfrey and Baldwin IV; a first growth and the height of grand melancholy. One of the most memorable wines I ever had tasted like sour buttermilk. That would be like Baldwin who was renowned for his youthful beauty only to become a leper in his teens until death around 30 years. He is the King of Jerusalem in the silver mask in the film.

  2. Wavatar
    Sket says:

    If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?

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