Penfold’s BIN 389

IMG_1414Have you ever considered the meaning of “adult beverage”?  What comes to mind?   Well alcohol of course!  Today’s wine, Bin 389, does contain a grown-up amount of alcohol, about 14.5%, but that isn’t what makes this an “adult” beverage.  So I ask you, what makes an adult?  There are biological and legal definitions to be sure, but what do you think when you say adult?

Not a kid, mature, not frivolous, serious, how about knows their way around, worldly, fully grown or capable.

I would have to describe Bin 389 one of the most adult beverages I have ever sampled, and is certainly in the top 3 wines I have ever enjoyed.  This wine was a milestone for me in my wine drinking.  Frankly I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Bin 389 is often referred to as ‘Poor Man’s Grange’ or ‘Baby Grange’, in part because components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange. First made in 1960 by the legendary Max Schubert, this was the wine that helped to build Penfolds solid reputation with red wine drinkers. Combining the structure of Cabernet with the richness of Shiraz, Bin 389 also exemplifies Penfolds skill in judiciously balancing fruit and oak.

The color is a beautiful deep purple, the nose refined, measured, and absolutely fantastic.  I got fig and dates.  As for the taste, well that was something you had to sit with and think about.  This  is not a overly complex wine, but it is one that requires time and concentration to fully appreciate.  The 389 is a wine that, if you respect it, it will respect you back.  This wine requires mindfulness.  I loved it.

The blend is simple–51% Cabernet, 49% Shiraz–but the results are exceptional.  Matured for 14 months in 40% new, 20% 1 year old and 20% 2 year old American oak hogsheads, this Penfolds wine will last 20 years in the bottle.  At $60 this is not a pizza wine, but it’s not out of the question for whenever you feel like treating yourself to something special.  This wine also give you a glimpse into Grange, you know, the $800 Grand Master of Penfolds.

Mindful drinking is a concept that I’m exploring and I want to write more about as it develops.  I enjoy wine, but by being deliberately conscience of every sip I heighten my wine experience and enjoyment. “Awareness in every sip”.  I know, to some this sounds like work, but to be honest its pretty cool.  Plus it has the added benefits of making you a better wine drinker and increasing your enjoyment of wine.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it”.


Segal’s Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve 2011

GetAttachmentI am a child of the Cold War.  In fact all I’ve known for my entire life has been war and rumors of wars (Matthew 6:24).  I’ve been lucky enough to have lived where those wars were not fought, but my clocks have all been at three minutes to midnight, when all hell would break loose.

I still fear that The Reds will let the nuclear rockets fly, with a bright flash my final act will be to stick my head between my legs and kiss my ass goodbye. I am coming to understand there is a global warming clock, and it too is set at three minutes to midnight.  When it goes off, I’m to stick my head between my legs once more kiss my ass goodbye.  There’s a racist clock as well and…you guessed it…when it goes off, follow the directions listed above.

All of this makes me think about something a music teacher once said to me, “If we are going to get any good songs out of World War Three, we better write them now!”

I don’t mean to belittle very serious problems, but folks, I’ve been three minutes away from the end of the world for 60 years, it is very difficult to take some of this stuff serious.  I will say I’ve never experienced a gathering doom darker than what I’ve experienced in the last six years,  and the darkness has increased rapidly over the last six months.

So the question is this: can wine save the world?  I guess that would depend on whether you thought the world worth saving.  I must confuses my answer more times than not is no.  But even in my heading on the blog I say I’m “Saving the World one glass at a time.”

You see, for wine drinkers it’s all about the grapes, about grapes, no troubles.  To plagiarize Toby Keith (and I’ll bet money he’s never been mentioned in a wine blog before):

“We ain’t east, we ain’t west, we ain’t left, we aint right, were not black, we’re not white, we just want to drink and enjoy.  We’re all ballcaps and turbans, we don’t want to be disturbing, but when we raise up our glasses we don’t give a row of rats asses if you’re democrat or republican, were just all wine lovers.”

Wine growers in Syria and Lebanon have stood up and sipped, slurped and swallowed in the face of ISIS.  Man, those guys are brave.  When asked about the dangers a winemaker in Lebanon said, “War doesn’t kill yeast.  In the 10,000 year history of Lebanon we’ve had war and wine, nothing is going to change.  I plant my vineyard not for me, but for the next generation.”  No freaking clock for that guy.

I talked with an Israeli in Haifa and drank wine while looking at the Mediterranean Sea.  He said the Mediterranean is the only neighbor Israel has that isn’t actively trying to kill Israelis.  The next day we drove off to see vineyards in Galilee, Golan Heights and the Judean Hills.

Wine has been made in the Holy Land for a millennia, but modern wine production got started in 1882 when Baron Edmond James de Rothschild established the Carmel Winery.  Today they make about 25 million bottles a year.   There are now over 320 wineries in Israel producing over 36 million bottles a year and exports of about $30 million.  Kosher wines are the bulk of that, but about 60 percent of Israeli vineyards are not Kosher.

Our wine this week is a Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Reserve from the Kadesh Valley in the Galilee Heights.  Kadesh mean “holy” and it was the main camping area for the Israelites while they were wandering in the wilderness.

In 1925, Yankel Hirsh Segal and his family emigrated to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv.  Brothers Elhanan and Yehezkel established Israel’s first distillery in the German colony known as Sharona, or Kirya, in Tel Aviv. Their experience and reputation led them in the 1930s to be asked by the French rulers to set up distilleries in Beirut and Damascus.  In 1954, the family decided to concentrate on wine production.  The winery moved to Ramle, and was called the Zvi Vineyard.  The name was later changed to Segal Wines.  All the winery’s bottles bare the Segal wine logo, reproduced in Zvi Hirsh’s own handwriting.

In 2001, Segal’s was bought out by the Barkan Group.  The new management recognized the quality and tradition of Segal’s wines, and allowed it to be managed as an independent winery, with separate cinders, installations, and it’s own unique production process.

Winemaker Avi Feldstein is a former poet, journalist and barman.  He first started out as a tour guide, later becoming a professional manager in charge of development.  Avi had the best training possible for becoming a winemaker, learning everything in the vineyards from doing it.

The wine has a cranberry red color and a slight, fleeting nose.  I have discovered that, in regards to the nose, when its “on” its enjoyable.  California cabernet drinkers would most likely not approve of how soft a wine this is.  The grapes are from Barkan Dishon Vineyard, and the wine is aged for 14 months in a mix of French and American oak.

Wine has the answer for global warming.  Most vineyards employ biodynamic farming techniques that have minimal impact on the environment.  Many vineyards are self-sustaining, using alternative power sources and have a very small carbon footprint.  I believe what I read in the press that wine is good for your health.  So wine isn’t only good for the planet but its also good for you.

The main reason I have hope that wine will save the world is, as Hemingway said, “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”  It’s a fact that no one has ever beheaded another person while drinking wine.  Wine gives me hope.

Now, I know all is not well, three of the victims of Paris terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo were wine label designers.  I have real fear for the winemakers in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, as Islamic fundamentalists don’t drink wine.  Ultimately, the world is in our hands, it’s up to frail fallible humans to determine if we make it or not.  Oh Lord, I need a drink!