Bargain shopping for wine & free agents

24 Apr

James Harrison        I’m typing this on Wednesday before the draft, although it may not get posted in time. The real news a week or two before the draft isn’t the premiere free agents signing. They signed weeks ago. It isn’t the news about which potential draft pick’s stock is rising or falling, since that is usually just BS spread by teams who want to confuse others about their preferred players, or by agents trying to work the media for their clients. The real news is the completely unsexy free agent signings.

There are some starters being signed now, but most of the players signed are either back ups or role players. Even a high profile signing like James Harrison in Cincinnati is more about the situations where he will be effective & the leadership he can bring to the team than it is about him being a three down player on defense in 2013. I could run through a ton of examples here, but the gist of it is that the guys that get signed in the week or two before the draft aren’t expected to be stars or to start. Sometimes they are players who were considered draft busts at their previous team, but are now being paid more in line with their production. They are backups getting backup money. They are crucial to a team’s long term success though. If you don’t have depth behind your Pro Bowl lineman, you end up in a situation like the Eagles last year. Everyone wants their starters to stay healthy, but there will be times when you have injuries. Last year the Houston Texans had their linebacker corp dramatically depleted. They soldiered on, but they really needed 3 dependable backups & they probably had 2. That hurt them in the playoffs.

Some of these deals in the last few weeks are for people who won’t make the final roster. In Washington, the Redskins have signed Pat White & Rex Grossman. That gives them 4 quarterbacks on the roster. They won’t keep more than 3 during the season. With Robert Griffin III out for most of training camp, they need arms to get through practice. Pat White probably won’t make the 53 man roster, but he might get an opportunity to impress another NFL team during a preseason game. More importantly, as they said in Bull Durham, “It beats the hell out of working at Sears.” This is the time of year that NFL teams go bargain shopping to fill out rosters. Much of the time they hope these guys won’t get much playing time, but they need them to perform when called upon.

I have been doing some bargain shopping myself recently. Much like a typical GM in the NFL, I have been pleased with some of my acquisitions & disappointed in some others. I tried several of these wines with a leg of lamb that I bought in the bargain bin at the grocery store, so that I could complete the bargain shopping theme (& have a tasty meal).  I bought a few wines on clearance & here is what I found.

Bastianich Rosato 2010. IGT wine

I hate it that I’m reviewing a rose’ & not giving it a good review. As the title of the blog states, I love rose’, but I can’t recommend this one. If this weren’t under a screwcap, I would think it was corked.  The fruit is pretty much gone. The wine is 100% Refosco, which is a varietal I don’t really know. I would like to find out how this grape tastes, but this wine didn’t tell me. It was dry with an orange color. This bargain buy was a bust.

Delas Les Lanes 2009 Crozes-Hermitage
Good tannins. Beautiful blueberry & blackberry .  It has almost a perfume nose.  In fact if they sold a perfume that smelled like this, high quality winos would beat a path to the sales door.  It has deep flavor with layer after layer of flavor.  Maybe some tobacco.  It is a delicious wine.

The wine actually says it is Syrah on the back. It looks like it was added by the importer. The only reason I mention that is because although all Northern Rhone reds are Syrah, they don’t usually list the varietal on the label. They just assume that everyone knows that the Northern Rhone reds have been Syrah for hundreds of years. That might work for a small percentage of the population, but I think it would be great if everyone would provide varietal information. This wine was fantastic by itself.  It would be great with steak, lamb, or char-grilled chicken. Actually this is good enough that I might drink it with just about anything.

Kenwood Sonoma Valley 2009 Zinfandel. Jack London Vineyard
Deep red color & deep red fruits on the palate. Solid, but not overpowering tannins.  Long finish.  Some blackberry.   Smooth.  It seems  like a nice balance of new & used oak.  Not sweet, but full bodied with a hint of sweetness.  Very nice example of a Sonoma Zinfandel. More smooth & polished than a slightly warmer climate Zinfandel.

Delas Haute Pierre 2008 Chateauneuf du Pape
Pepper. There is a ton of pepper. Plenty of tannin.  I opened this right before dinner & it was just all right.  The next night I pulled it out again & was amazed at how nuanced & textured this wine was.  There is dark fruit, pepper, plum & an umami taste (if I have that right).  It is almost like duck fat. That tastes better than it sounds I promise.  This is a wine that still has time to age. The wine is so purple it looks black in the glass, with just a hint of red at the surface. I have 1 more bottle & I am torn on whether to wait a year or two to see how it evolves, or to crack open that bottle right now.

I heated up some leftover lamb & it was a special combination.  The lamb  had  marjoram & spice & the combination was terrific.  There was a synergistic effect & both tasted better together than alone.

Lois Grüner Veltliner
This wine is crisp, but actually goes with the lamb.  How weird is that?  This is a Perfect summer wine, lemon, lime, stoney minerality, & a mouthwatering quality that is hard to explain. There is some  kind of green fruit that I can’t place, maybe guava? It is something tropical for sure…maybe papaya.  This is great on its own, but I think it would really rock with spicy seafood.  Grüner Veltlinger (which is oddly enough pronounced Feltlinger) is one of a few wines that pairs with asparagus.  There are a chemicals in asparagus called mercaptans (an ingredient in skunk spray) that can make asparagus taste like tin foil in your mouth when paired with wine.  Luckily, a few wine likes Sauvignon Blanc & Grüner Veltlinger don’t have the same reaction with asparagus & they taste terrific with it.

Roc de Jean Lys Bordeaux Superieur 2007 Terra Burdigala
70% Merlot 30% Cabernet Franc
This is really earthy.  I don’t know for certain that there is any Brettanomyces, but I could definitely believe it.  It is definitely a heavy wine.  There is some red fruit under that earthiness.  It might also smell a little like rose petals that have been run over in the mud by a wagon wheel.  I’m not sure why I feel like I know how that would smell, but it seems about right to me.  There is nice dryness & acidity.  Tannins are solid.  I think this is a good wine for stews or lamb…or lamb stew.  It is hard to identify by varietal characteristics.  If you were doing a blind tasting, I think that you would stump some experts.  You might get more Syrah & Grenache guesses than Merlot & Cabernet Franc.  I didn’t really get any Cabernet Franc notes from it.  Good wine, but this would be weird if you got it expecting a more traditional Bordeaux.  This would be my situational player.

The results of my bargain hunting were 2 great wines, 2 good wines, 1 wine that would be good in the right situation, & 1 bad wine. If your NFL team can do that well in the bargain shopping phase of free agency, they will have a solid year.The Pope's new castle

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