02 September 2011

Big House Wines: The Slammer & The Birdman

Whenever I see these jail-themed wines from Big House, a line of dialogue starts running through my head:

"This is the main cellblock area. Home to such famous criminals as Al Capone, Mickey Cohen, Joseph 'Dutch' Cretzer, and Robert Stroud, the famous Birdman of Alcatraz."

So says the late great Phil Hartman in his role as the former prison guard and current tour guide Vicky from the infamous scene in 1993's So I Married An Axe Murderer. That story then takes a dark and disturbing turn that has never failed to make me laugh.

And on the subject of prison wine, be sure to check out the story of Sherman "O.T." Powell via The Moth Podcast. In order to fund his cravings for snacks and cigarettes while in the clink, Powell went into the wine business. He talks about the headaches and challenges of production, marketing, and dealing with the regulatory state--it's strangely like real life wine business.

2009 Big House "The Slammer" Syrah
Central Coast, California
$10, 13.5% abv.
Strawberry and cherries, with black tea and firm tannins. Little bit of pencil shavings and a slightly nutty aftertaste. A decent pizza and burger sort of wine that goes down easily. Good choice for backyard BBQs, which in the South can continue well into November.

2009 Big House "The Birdman" Pinot Grigio
$10, 13.5% abv. (also available in the 3L Octavin format)
A little orange marmalade with a supporting cast of dried peach. Light, low acidity, and a quick, short finish.

I served the Pinot Grigio with this neat little thing I found at the local grocery store: a set of a dozen frozen coconut shrimp with a sweet orange sauce and hot chili sauce. OK, it's pre-fab frozen food, and it's not that healthy, but damn these things are delicious, and the box retails for around $8. Excellent pairing with the wine.

Note: These wines were received as samples.


Do Bianchi said...

it's remarkable how restrained the alc is in these wines... I love thinking about categories like this... wines made under duress... it reminds me of all the tales of winemaking and wine adulteration in WWII Italy... Biondi Santi famously pissed in his wines before he gave them to the Germans...

I don't think I'd ever go near these wines but I love this post man... once again showing how wine is a pretext for us to dive into history and culture... making us reflect on why and HOW we're here...

Benito said...


The winemaker for Big House is from Romania, where wine was made under the control of Russians, Ottomans, Soviets, and others over the centuries. At least the Austro-Hungarian Empire had good taste in wine during that stretch.

These are fun picnic and BBQ wines, and lots of people actually believe that the grapes are picked by inmates of a California penitentiary. Makes for a good story for your more gullible friends. ;)


EllenLV said...

Benito, what is the brand of the shrimp please?

Benito said...


Private Selection, one of the house brands for Kroger.


EllenLV said...

Thanks, I am going to go and find some tomorrow. I want it for the Thurs game, (Go Pack) I think it will go good with my corn chowder!
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