Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Nothing But The Best

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Sometimes even the gourmet, foodie, culinary enthusiast – whatever name you want to call them – that person we all know (or in some cases are ourselves), the one with the ever prepared kitchen ready to launch into a meal at a moments notice, sometimes even that person just plain runs out of stuff. A situation all the more complicated when the “stuff” we are out of happens to be, well, something to drink after a hard day’s work.

Such was the situation tonight, I realized, as I stood holding the door of my liquor cabinet open contemplating the near empty shelves with barely even a palatable mixer in evidence. Kirchwasser? Not on your life. An amaretto sour wouldn’t be out of the question, except the only brand in hand at the moment cost a whopping $8.99 / bottle leading me to believe that, for one reason or another, it was best partaken of in the company of more, let’s say, appetizing ingredients. Most frustrating of all was the entire shelf lined with bottles of Maker’s Mark. FULL bottles of Maker’s Mark. Collectibles every one. Three comprise the Triple Crown series – all autographed – honoring Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Others were issued in remembrance of individuals and achievements in University of Kentucky basketball history. I have two sealed in white wax with a ribbon dated 1996 over the seal – the next to last year UK won the NCAA men’s basketball championship. I’m holding onto them with the vow to open one of the bottles the next time UK hoists the trophy. No chance of touching one of those now before Coach Calipari plays his first game. After giving serious consideration to whether I really need a bottle commemorating Coach Joe B. Hall, I realize bourbon is just not in the equation tonight.

The state of the cellar at Chez Honaker wasn’t much better. The lone unfallen solider among the empties – apparently I keep them for decoration – was a bottle of House Wine. Yep, that was what it was called. I had received it as a gift one night from friends who came over for a dinner party. We laughed at the time, it was an interesting bottle to keep sitting around. Truthfully I never thought I would open it, not unless it was really late at night, a group of friends were over and more than a few bottles had preceded it. As it was, the time was shortly past dinner. Besides the cat there was no one else around, and I hadn’t had a glass in well over a week. The bottle had accumulated a nice layer of dust. I wiped it off and turned it over to read the label. “The Magnificent Wine Company” the label proclaimed. Oh no, I said to myself. This is going to be even worse than I thought. Should I put it in a paper bag before I start to pour? I was almost afraid to keep reading, but forced myself to do so. “2004 Columbia Valley”. Great, it’s OLD house wine. I decided to bite the bullet, or in this case, pop the cork, poured a glass and took a sip. It was… not bad. Decent fruit, some tannins, not too much oak. Overall, not half bad. I picked up the bottle and discovered it was a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Syrah. Intrigued, I headed upstairs to my office, googled “Magnificent Wine Company” and dug a little deeper.

Founded in 2004, the Magnificent Wine Company (click here for their website) was the brainchild of former rock band manager Charles Smith, who Food and Wine Magazine recently named 2009 Winemaker of the Year. House Wine and it’s sibling, Table Wine (I’m not making this up), were created by Smith to bring affordable, good wine to the masses (his K Vinters label actually markets a wine called “K Syrah”…). None other an authority than Wine Spectator named the 2006 House Wine Red a “best value” and scored it a respectable 86 points (the House Wine White scored an 89). Retail price is approx. $10-12. Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t take the wine more seriously before now. Suffice to say, next time you are over for dinner and find yourself being served a glass of House Wine, or even Table Wine, please understand it’s not because I don’t like you or am in any way less than thrilled about enjoying your company. It’s just that everything good in life doesn’t have to come with a fancy label. And sometimes, the brown paper bag can be a good thing.

This post is dedicated to my dear friends Natalie and Brian – for the years of good times at dinner and the occasional bottle of House Wine.

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