“If I didn’t love you, I’d hate you…”

by Katie Pizzuto on June 27, 2010

in rum,Wine

Nothing excites me more that being pleasantly surprised by a product, and it continues to prove my point that when possible, we should taste things blind, having no idea who made it, what’s in it, or where it’s from. Well, maybe a few things excite me more than that, but this blog is about gastronomy, after all. No matter how objective we think we are, we inevitably approach what we drink with certain biases, expectations and preconceived notions that throw us off our game. I don’t give a shit how diplomatic you think you are…you’re not…and that lack of diplomacy affects you every step of the way, from the store shelf decision to when you fill your glass and take a sip. The longer I do this, the more I realize just how little I know, and just how big a smack to the forehead I often need.

I diss California chardonnay all the time, and mostly it’s with good reason. While there are always exceptions to any rule, Cali chardonnay’s rule has pretty much been “make it taste like buttered lumber” for the last decade. So while I know there are always going to be a handful of winemakers flipping mass consensus the bird and continuing to make graceful chardonnays, I’m not about to be the idiot guinea pig who tosses down 20 or 30 bones to find out which ones they are. But like any other trend-driven industry, it looks like (thankfully) the pendulum is swinging back to more naked chardonnays, that are expressive of their fruit and maintain a great backbone of balance and acidity. Not that Kunde Family Estate is chasing trends, but their 2008 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay happens to be one of the few that have made me bite my tongue. Unlike many of their neighbors, this chard is pretty much a half-blend of barrel-fermented wine (with completed malolactic fermentation) and stainless steel-fermented wine (no malolactic). Add to that a very limited, restricted use of new oak and you have a $17 bottle of California chardonnay that I’d happily throw down for, with beautiful yeasty and butterscotch notes that don’t overwhelm the more nuanced citrus and pit-fruit profiles of the chardonnay grape. Had I tasted this blind, I would’ve guessed Burgundy, not California.

Then there’s this bottle of rum that I never—and I mean never—would’ve entertained buying had I seen it on a store shelf. In fact, quite the contrary, I’d probably go running in the other direction, much like I do when I see Cabo Wabo tequila or Ed Hardy wine. Tommy Bahama makes clothes, home accessories and shit like that…must they stick their name on everything? Seriously? That’s what I would’ve said to myself, and I’d no doubt have mocked them for attempting to become yet another conglomerate whore, but I would have been wrong because the rum is actually worth the money. Man did I expect the worst out of this…I actually winced when I took my first sip (served simply on the rocks) because I was waiting for a harsh burn that never came. This smoother-than-a-baby’s-ass, 80-proof dark rum is made in Barbados with all-natural ingredients and aged at least 3 years in bourbon casks—no added sugar, no artificial flavors, no bullshit. It had nice notes of vanilla, pecans and caramel, with a great round body. Well worth the $29 for the 750ml size.

And while I was busy enjoying the Tommy Bahama rum—a beverage that has yet to be made by anyone better than it is made on the island of Cuba—a wine falls into my hands that’s made by a Cuban living in Oregon. Here I thought all we were good at was rum and cigars…but a Cuban making wine?! And my beloved pinot noir of all things?! Most Cubans simply aren’t enophiles, period. While they can easily wax eloquent about the silly American bastardizations of the beloved mojito, or toss back a couple of Hatuey beers after a day of toiling in the Caribbean sun, pinot noir isn’t exactly a popular pour at the corner bar. So though I tasted Cubanisimo’s wines with a little trepidation, I was secretly hoping to love the wine my compadres were making in the Pacific Northwest. Not only is their 2008 Estate Pinot Noir a gorgeous example of Oregonian pinot with plenty of dark fruit and earthy notes ($30), but their Rosado ($19) is a fantastic summer barbecue wine. The wines fall more in line with the full-bodied pinots of California than they do the more lithe Burgundian pinots, but a beautiful effort if those are what you enjoy. I’d raise a glass of Havana Club in their honor if I wasn’t so concerned about where my next bottle is coming from!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Don June 28, 2010

I too love being pleasantly surprised. I was particularly intrigued by the Cuban wine from Oregon, because Oregon wines I feel are generally overrated. Glad to hear that there are some hard working vintners that are as concerned about their craft as they are about a huge payday. Looking at you Willamette Valley Vineyards! Maybe it was that harrowing trip around the cape (I doubt their makeshift raft could have paid the freight to use the canal) that made them say…”If I ever make it to Oregon, I’m gonna kick their asses in the wine industry!” Katie, since you are Cuban by descent perhaps you could hook me up with my newest passion. You got any connections for some of those sweet Cuban cigars? 😉

Anyway, nice post. I love it when a beverage over delivers!


2 Katie Pizzuto June 28, 2010

Yeah, was really happily surprised with all 3….and while the pinot noir was a great effort, I’ll still admit that it’s not my favorite style of pinot to drink. But that being said, just because it’s not my preference, it doesn’t mean I can’t tell that a sincere effort is being made to a particular style of wine, and that they are great examples of that style.

As for the Cuban cigars, to be honest, most times I just hop the border to Canada, buy a bunch, and then tote them back home. No one has ever bothered me at customs. I’ve also bought them at different islands in the Caribbean and done the same. I actually do know a couple of Canadians that would probably help out a worthy cause as well…maybe you guys can barter and trade for really good US craft brews that they can’t get up there, LOL!!


3 Coupe 60 June 29, 2010

Obviously Katie you are just kidding about bringing Cuban cigars back into the United States from Canada and the Caribbean as you would never do something against the law, and then certainly not post it in a public place…we all know that you are kidding, and would not publicly advocate or suggest such behavior to your readers on this public board….Being the fine upstanding citizen that you are…


4 Katie Pizzuto June 29, 2010

Err, right, exactly. I’d like to think our government is a little to busy handling our economic crisis, the oil spill and our battles overseas to worry about some idiot blogger shooting her mouth off, but who knows. By the way it might interest readers to know that it is only illegal to bring these Cuban products into the country. Simply having them in your possession (say in your liquor cabinet or humidor) is NOT illegal…gotta love legality!


5 Katie Pizzuto June 29, 2010

I meant “too” busy not “to”…need a drink.

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