Much has been made of the "cute animal" trend on wine labels. But what of ugly animal labels? I submit to you one of the ugliest labels I've ever seen, featuring a dog that I'd be more likely to chase off with a bat rather than pet. This is the 2005 Redheads Yard Dog from South Eastern Australia. 15% alcohol, comprised of 46% Petite Verdot, 30% Merlot, and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sort of a Bordeaux in reverse, where the minor blending grapes are brought to the front. It's not marketed as such, but I'll call it a claret agonistes. Why not combine an anglicized French word with Greek? No editor is paying me, I can do what I want.
This $12 screwcap wine has a surprisingly light nose. It does not present itself as a dark flavor bomb given the prevalence of Petite Verdot. After breathing there are pleasant aromas of leather and blackberry jam. On first opening the wine has a bit of a cinnamon burn effect on the tongue--later this mellows and you get more of a mild cinnamon toast flavor in the background. On the front you're mostly going to taste dark berries. If you decide to try this wine, I'd suggest at least an hour of decanting before drinking.
That combination of cinnamon and jam takes me back. When you're a small child you get used to certain flavors in your house. As far as toast was concerned, we were a butter and strawberry jelly family, or butter and cinnamon sugar kept in a small Tupperware container and frequently replenished by Mom. I remember spending the night with a friend across the street. In the morning--after we'd stayed up past midnight playing with Star Wars figures and listening to a bootleg Eddie Murphy tape swiped from his older sister--Brian's Mom fixed us toast. A layer of butter, a layer of grape jelly, and then a dusting of cinnamon sugar to top it all off. It was a bizarre yet tasty mix that I haven't thought of in nearly 25 years.
Brian's Mom died of cancer a few years after that, the first tragedy of my otherwise happy childhood. Much in the way that Proust's madeleines brought back so many memories, so can an unusual little wine from Australia with an ugly label bring back bittersweet recollections of my youth in the Whitehaven neighborhood of South Memphis. I can remember riding on bikes and trying to play baseball with three people and wandering around the sidewalks every 5th of July picking up the spent carcasses of firecrackers, unrolling the tightly wrapped shells to gaze upon Chinese newsprint while the ozone burn aroma wafted upwards...
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I served it with a ribeye and some blue potatoes fried in brown butter. I got blue potatoes from the Downtown Farmers Market and was amazed by the patterns present inside. I had assumed that the tubers would be solid blue like Terra Chips, but these were tasty regardless. Not that they tasted blue or anything, but there's a big difference in homegrown and fingerling potatoes versus the standard russets that fill our supermarkets.
I still have potato plants growing in the mystery garden, I'm anxious to see how they turn out.