Unfiltered

A Mötley Crüe cru, the cult of cult wines and wine from outer space
May 11, 2005

• Drinkin' in the Boys Room: Known for big hair, loud rock and a rude attitude, Mötley Crüe seems like a band more suited to Jack Daniels than fine wine. Yet lead singer Vince Neil, 44, has apparently realized what Sammy Hagar and other rock bad boys learned long ago: You have to grow up sometime. These days, Neil, who has also appeared in TV shows such as The Surreal Life and VH1's Remaking, likes nothing better than a nice glass of wine after the show. He has even commissioned a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based winery to produce his own "Vince" label. "He's a very big wine fan," says John Ott, president of Adler Fels winery, who says Neil's "people" approached him after the singer discovered the winery's festively named Big Ass Cab. "He thought it was funny and stocked it on the tour bus." The first releases, totaling 500 cases, are a 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet and a 2004 Napa Chardonnay, each priced at about $20. Neil's organization will distribute the wines nationally and feature them during the Crüe's two-year world tour. If fans can't find a corkscrew, they can just smash the bottle open.

• Some people deal with life's problems with a sense of humor. We were delighted, when after a blind tasting of California Pinot Noirs in our Napa office, the wines were unbagged and we came across Hanzell's announcement to us, proudly proclaiming the wine has tested at less than one part per trillion of TCA. About two years ago, Wine Spectator discovered the frequent occurrence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), a chemical compound that produces musty aromas and flavors, in Hanzell wines. Since then, Hanzell has discovered systemic TCA contamination in its old cellar and has aggressively addressed the problem, openly sharing their results and tips with the wine industry. Hats off to Hanzell.

• You've heard of super Tuscans, now how about a super European wine? Hacienda Unamuno in Spain decided it wanted to add grapes from recently acquired vineyards--across the border in Portugal, just a few miles from the winery's location in Arribes del Duero--to its new high-end Durius Magister bottling. But that plan ran up against Spanish appellation regulations. "So, if the D.O. rejects me, then I will reject the D.O.," said Victor Redondo Sierra, president of Arco Bodegas Unitas, which owns Unamuno, as well as Marqués de Monistrol and Marqués de Griñon. Instead, he will label the 2005 Durius Magister as a wine from the European Union--making it the first to carry the EU label. Though the just-released 2002 Durius Magister, priced around $50, is a blend of Spanish and international varieties, Sierra sees potential in a cross-border wine using Portuguese varieties too. He is hoping the wine will gain similar notoriety as the super Tuscans that made their name, in part, by defying typical government classification. Now the question is: Will the wine wear its label like a cape?

• Moonie Alert? Unfiltered gets a bit cynical sometimes, especially after reading too many press releases in which wines we've never seen before are touted as "cult" wines. We thought you needed a following to be a cult, but if by "cult," they mean "unheard-of wine from unknown producer" or someone who has been brainwashed by reading too much marketing hype, then yes, there are a handful of new "cult" wines out there. We were particularly dazzled by the claims of Row Eleven--a producer started in 2004 that is just releasing its first wines--that it makes "cult-quality" wines. (Our tasting panel found them to be in the 78- to 82-point range). Tudor winery, a relative newcomer, sent us a press release announcing not only is it a cult winery, but it is "emerging as one of the new 'top echelon' American cult wineries." Of course, we feel for Stony Hill, which, marking its 50th year as a producer, claims it was the "original cult winery." Anyone want a glass of Kool-Aid?

• Wine from Outer Space? This one isn't billed as a cult wine, but maybe it wouldn't have been far off the mark. Monterey County's Hahn Estates--the producer of Hahn, Smith & Hook and Rex Goliath wines, has come out with the new Red Flyer label, a 2003 California Rhône-style red that the press release says was "born during an armistice in the war of the clones." Along with Syrah, Durif, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Carignane, it includes a secret Clone X, which the release says has been smuggled "from outer space through a local vineyard to make a very appealing blend." We're guessing someone involved has spent an awful lot of time watching their Star Wars DVDs in preparation for the upcoming Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.


Unfiltered

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