Everyone has or should have a mentor. Whether we know it or not we are all influenced by someone who, in our view, has a profound knowledge about something we would like to be more expert in ourselves. This does not negate the influence of friends and others who also hold sway over our views. What I am saying is that there is someone to whom, when he speaks, we listen a little more closely.
My mentor is Master Gee. He has been around wine for a really really long time. He has been in every crook and cranny of the wine business. He has been affiliated with some of the most notable wine projects in SoCal from retail to wholesale to everything else. He knows everyone. If he does not know you then you do not exist.
He pulled the cork on the single most memorable bottle of wine I ever tasted. The wine was so bizarre and at the same time so exquisite that all my preconceptions about wine were obliterated..an experience that would and should happen again…when I might least expect it…I can only hope.
Master Gee told one of the funniest wine stories I ever heard that same evening. One of the guests at a small tasting in a root cellar was the youngest son of a seminal California grape family. Gee recalled visiting this fellow’s uncle every year for a decade in one of the gazillion acres of vineyards the family owned in the Central Valley.
“Your uncle liked to meet in the vineyards. Every other year he arrived in a brand new Cadillac, dust flying off the dirt roads, we could see him coming for miles. My question to you is did he ever drive it anywhere else? Or was that his tractor?”
Gee has presently made a niche in a very low profile and very unglamorous end of the business (not for the first time). I asked him recently did he miss all the hoopla?
“Not at all. I am really done with wine. [Gee leaned back] Look, wine is all about one story. The point is to convince everybody that this beverage can only be produced on this plot of land by this winemaker. I call it the Magic Chef and the Hallowed Ground”.
I am listening. Please continue.
But first…an appropriate (and much loved) introduction for a fairy tale.
The Magic Chef is the only person on earth who can prepare chicken just so, with these special ingredients in these secret amounts. The wine is made perfectly because he has the magic touch.
The Hallowed Ground is that very rare spot where the vineyards grow, producing the grapes that the Magic Chef turns into wine. The Hallowed Ground is comprised of terroir that cannot be replicated or replaced. It can be emulated but it can never be exactly copied because the Hallowed Ground only exists right here.
This incredibly delicious and justifiably expensive and highly rated wine, therefore, can only be made by this chef working with grapes from this place.
This is the story driving all wine markets.
Over the holidays I pulled a bottle from a place in our warehouse where everyone dumps their soiled labels, Australian gewurtztraminers, and otherwise forgotten wines. It was a 2004 Chilean Cab Merlot blend. This wine sells out at $8 in 1 day. I took it to a dinner with friends and wine people. The usual array of high end overripe high alcohol reds were opened. This Chilean blend was my favorite. 12% alcohol, easy to drink.
I see from where many of my biases traveling in wine country have arisen. Where do yours come from? Master Gee thought my recent entry on The Best of Wine Importers Part 2 was a scream. “What pompous jackasses!!” Then he told me to see Mondo Vino (I did, click to read review).
We looked at his new fleet of temperature controlled trucks with naugahyde seats. Very nice.
[ed. Hanna Barbera vids including complete Fractured Fairy tales are abundant on youtube]
Here are a few wines recently uncorked…
1996 Pira Barolo Marenca $40: Another bottle from the terrific 1996 vintage. This wine has developed almost perfectly. Any nuance of tar and roses has given way to pure black cherry fruit in a well balanced solution. This wine is drinking very nicely right now. Not sure I would hold it much longer. 14.5%. Best I could find was the 1999 label.
2003 Giessinger Port Cucamonga Valley $26: What you say could this be? And where is the Cucamonga Valley? Who can be interested in the wine before the other mysteries are investigated. About the wine…this is dessert wine made from zinfandel grapes grow somewhere near San Bernardino which is otherwise known for being one of the two major Inland Empire cities. It is hot in San Berdoo (where the Hells Angels began). The wine has a nutty nose and ripe date flavors. I believe there are substantial date crops in the region. The wine is nicely balanced and the whole presentation is fairly subdued. Zin has a tendency to be overwhelming. This is not. Nice pick by Pee Wee, wine novitiate. Alcohol not listed but I would guess it is less than the typical 16% for port wine. Nice. Who is this Giessinger Winery? They could not be more local so we will have to learn more. You know, once upon a time more wine was produced in Southern Cal than the rest of the state. Giessinger, Hells Angels and Pee Wee…three SoCal originals.