January 28th, 2003


TN: 1996 Viña San Esteban Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley cabernet sauvignon

This was a real surprise. To give you the back story here, the only reason I bought this wine was because it was mismarked at the Trader Joe's in Newark, CA about four years ago. I'd stopped in on my way to see Dan and Matthew - I think I'd probably promised Matthew chocolate chips or something - and noticed that they'd priced this at $5.99, when I'd seen it the week before at the Campbell store for something like $8.99. Wow! What a bargain! It comes in one of those bigger, heavier, "this is a quality product" bottles along with a shiny expensive label with gold foil (woooo!), so I thought, oh, what the hell, I'll buy half a dozen. Anyhow, long story short, I first cracked one of the bottles when John and Anthony were over here for dinner about three years ago, and it pretty well sucked. We'd already had a pretty good Roederer Estate pinot noir that was given to me as a birthday present by my friends Brian and Phil - that was actually really good, if I remember correctly - and then something else, and at that point I'd hoped people were too inebriated to notice that I was about to serve a cheap wine, even if it looked pretty OK [although not nearly as nice as the bottle of Gigondas they'd brought over to the house that evening]. And voilá, le suck! How embarassing. Then again, I kind of suck when it comes to cooking, and I'd badly miscalculated and served a pork loin roast that tasted like lame-ass faux Southern barbecue - think something from Jollibee's, totally inauthentic.


Had another bottle in early 2002, and it still sucked.

Opened another bottle tonight, and mmmmmmm, this is good stuff. I wonder what the problem was? Is it that the previous two bottles were just bad? Or did this actually improve with age? Right now, it's nice and smooth, good fruit, not too sweet, interesting smells wafting up out of the glass, all in all a better than average Cheap Wine Drinking Experience.

Times like these make me despair that I'll never figure out wine, generally speaking. You think you know enough to avoid the bad stuff and find the good, and you're still disappointed much of the time - and then something like this $6 number happens and you think, hmmm, well, I guess I just got lucky.

Oh, a follow-up to the Two Buck Chuck: Dan picked up a bottle of the sauvignon blanc, and I had a sip before hiding it in the back of the fridge earlier tonight. It's pretty good for $2, but it still sucks in that it tastes enough like sauvignon blanc to make you wish you had a good glass of sauvignon blanc in front of you - but not good enough to really satisfy that urge. Perfect tantalus, so to speak.

Night night, chow heads.

[That's something Dan and I often say to each other before going to sleep at night. I know, it's kind of silly.]

Anyhow, time to hit the hay. Gotta get up at 5 AM tomorrow morning to get Dan to the airport. Not the close airport, but the next farthest away airport, in Oakland. He's headed up to Seattle for a week or so to survey the lie of the land.

Over and out.

PS. Call me crazy, but after twenty years, Mesopotamia is still my favorite B-52's album. Sounds better than ever, in fact. Must be the wine + the Sennheiser headphones.