Anyhow, the down side to getting up early is me forgetting that we were going over to Ian and Jen's for dinner, which in turn meant that I forgot to get some wine for dinner. Oops. Luckily, booddhabear had to go to Costco to get some new eyeglasses [woof! grrr! etc.], so I tagged along.
Costco's kind of an interesting place to shop for wine. Their prices are of course very good, and what they stock is a can't-miss interpretation of what Americans drink; what you see are either cheap and tasty plonk like [yellow tail] or Beringer white zin, or else relatively high-end stuff that conforms to standard yupscale palates. Generally, the latter means inoffensive fruity stuff with big planks of oak stuck in it, or else extremely expensive things that you drink so that you can be seen drinking them, e.g. Ch. Cheval-Blanc [OK, that's unfair to Cheval-Blanc, but you get the idea]. Still on my extended quest to try every Australian wine made in 2002 for sentimental reasons, I picked up two bottles of Shiraz from the McLaren Vale in South Australia: Ch. Reynella [$20] and Shingleback [$16]. The Reynella is made by a gigantonormous corporation [Canandaigua, apparently] that doesn't even have a proper Web site for the wine; Shingleback appears to be some dodgy family-run startup that is entirely focused on selling stuff into the US market [and their home page doesn't work right now]. So... um, interesting choices.
The Reynella was pretty much exactly the kind of wine I don't enjoy. It was very similar to the 2000 Kalinda reserve merlot Boo and I opened Tuesday night: kind of straightforward/boring, vaguely fruity taste severely obscured by about a pound of sawdust in the wine. Gross. It's like drinking Welch's through a pencil. Yeah, maybe it'd get better if you were to lay it down for a decade, but frankly, who cares? You can get the Clonakilla Hilltops shiraz for the same amount of money, or the Wishing Tree for $10 and have yourself a lot more fun.
The Shingleback was at least less oaky, but it's still that warm climate style of Shiraz that I don't care much for. It's too simple... uninteresting perfume coupled with somewhat lightweight mouth feel. Just... dull. I did go for a second glass of the Shingleback, though.
To sum up: If you're shopping for shiraz at Costco, just get the generic Kirkland stuff. It's the best of a mediocre lot. If you really like Shiraz, though, just bypass the chain entirely and head for an indy shop that carries The Wishing Tree and Clonakilla - it's hard to go wrong with that - or, heck, why not stick with the Rosemount Diamond Label shiraz. Sure, it's raspberry motor oil, but at least it's cheap and doesn't taste like you're cleaning Bob Vila's floor with your tongue.
At this point, we'd killed both bottles and dinner wasn't even in sight. Oops. That tends to happen with good friends. So, off to Whole Foods I went in search of pinot noir.
I hadn't been to a Whole Foods in nearly two years, and I was reminded why I don't like going. They have too many cool things there - Madiran for $11, Cahors for $15, lots of interesting Rhône wine for about $10 a pop... and some interesting pinot. I tried not to think about it too much, and went with the first two things that caught my eye: a 2001 Cristom reserve on sale for $25 [because who doesn't like a sale?] and a Domaine Carneros for $23 [because I really, really love their sparkling wine].
I'll spare you the detailed tasting notes, but the Cristom was hands down the best thing I've drunk since leaving Australia. This is from Oregon, and every thing about it was totally harmonious. Oak? Yup, but just a little in a wonderfully subdued manner. Tannin? You bet - just enough to provide a nice counterpoint to the fruit. It was wonderfully rich, spicy, and most importantly, beautiful.
By comparison, the Domaine Carneros was a huge letdown - kind of an electric cherry Lik-M-Stix wine. No subtlety at all, no spice, no anything save for a huge throbbing core of cherries that, well, I guess a lot of folks would be into, but I don't like pinot unless it's got at least a whiff of the feral about it. You know?
Anyhow, at that point it was time to go home, get some sleep, and get in to the office early the next morning to do some testing. :)