Monday, August 9, 2010

More Landmark Birthdays

Having celebrated a couple of 50th birthday parties with friends this year, this was the weekend for landmark birthdays in the direct family - my niece, Stargirl, was all set to turn Sweet Sixteen and Dad - or Grandpa to Stargirl and the kids - was hitting the Big Eight-O. Both were having swell parties thrown for them - and I had no illusions that they were going to be high brow affairs with wines worthy of the Tyrant's cellar being served up.

In fact, the party for Stargirl was primarily for the teens with a few adults thrown in for good measure. I arrived thinking that I wouldn't even have a drink until I got home and needed one to relieve what I fully expected to be blasted out eardrums.

Turns out that my sis, Vixen, came to the conclusion early on that we were going to need a little help to get through the evening. What, with both a blown fuse box and the fog machine setting off the fire alarm within the first hour, there was potential for a long night. Good thing there was a small bottle shop only a block away and there was a kitchen in the back of the hall where Vixen and crew could secretly sip away while preparing all the foods.

Great example for the kids, I know. But, who's kidding who? It wasn't long after 16 that I was sneaking a drink before the school dances. At least we weren't going full out on lemon gin - then or now.

The one "treat" - if you want to call it that - about the fire alarm going off was that the Fire Department actually had to attend at the hall and turn it off. For 15 or 20 minutes, there was a hall full of grumpy teens, bemoaning the fact that the party was being ruined. As soon as the truck arrived and the girls saw that the attending firemen were all poster boys for the marketing stereotype, this was a party never to be forgotten. The two birthday girls posed for pictures with the city's finest and then the whole gaggle of gals lined up along side of the firetruck and started chanting "We want firemen" for the picture.

As they stood in the background, waiting for all the twittering to end, the guys that were attending the party learned an early lesson in life - it's going to be an effort for them to live up to the reality that chicks dig the myth (or not) of hunky firemen putting out their fires.

When Vixen and I headed over to the bottle shop, we succumbed to the reality that now plays a big part of wine - we bought partially because of the labels.

553. N.V. Bottega Petal Vino dell'Amore Moscato Spumante (Venato - Italy)

I actually knew what to expect with this "Wine of Love" as I've tried it in the past (although it hasn't made The List yet). The sweetness of the bubbly, low alcohol (7%) contents seemed perfectly matched to a Sweet Sixteen party. Too bad, Stargirl wasn't actually trying any of it. Thus far, I haven't found a wine that she's really wanted to have a glass of. She might have liked this one.

An added bonus is that the Moscato Giallo grape used to make the wine hasn't been added to my list of varietals for the Wine Century Club either.

554. 2008 Little Black Dress Merlot (California?)

We chose this bottle simply because Stargirl's theme for the party was "black & white." We knew that the bottle was obviously being marketed to the girly segment of the wine-buying public, but it worked with the party theme. This is no doubt a common result nowadays - and exactly one that the brain-thrusts behind branding had in mind.

I find it hard to take a wine like this that seriously though when its branding is so blatant. The website even spends more time talking about fashion and accessories than it does about wine. It also states that the Merlot is actually blended with 12% "mixed reds" and 7% Carignan. I'm not aware of the "mixed reds" varietal but it simply adds to my suspicions - that, and the fact that the website doesn't even confirm that the grapes are all California grown.

The wine wasn't bad though. It's clearly made as a fruit-forward, easy-drinking wine. I doubt that I'd buy it again but it worked on this occasion.

That was Saturday night. Sunday was Dad's do. I was joking the night before that the police had come to Boo's and my wedding for slightly over-zealous partying and now the fire department had attended Stargirl's 16th. I wondered out loud what government emergency services were going to grace Dad's party? The emergency response ambulances - it only made sense considering the collective ages of the expected partygoers.

Luckily that didn't happen.

The party was another example of wine branding at its best - or worst as some might see it - however.

555. 2009 [yellow tail] Merlot (Australia)

556. 2009 [yellow tail] Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

What hasn't been written about the story that is [yellow tail] - the bestselling wine that snobs love to turn their collective noses up at? [yellow tail] is the most spectacular story of wine to ever come out of Australia and I think it's the success of the brand that people dislike - not the wines themselves. The approachable, fruit forward taste of [yellow tail] is exactly what my Mom enjoys and correctly assumes that her guests will enjoy. Dad would probably drink anything, but at 80 you're allowed to without much impunity. The bigger sized bottles at decent prices certainly didn't hurt either.

As much as I pointed out some disdain towards the Little Black Dress concept, I think their zeal goes a bit too far in its efforts to capture the type of marketing success that is [yellow tail]. The thing for me is that [yellow tail]'s success is based more on well-made wine at a good price point - not the brand being the whole raison d'etre for the wine itself.

Back to the party though, Dad was in his full glory - with friends popping in from all different eras to wish him a happy birthday. As embarrassing as it might seem, the cutest gift of the day was the afro fright wig. One of Dad's friends was trying to think of a gift that would be really useful to an octogenarian. She was wondering what can a 80-year old man use more than anything else. The obvious answer to her was hair. Dad might be well advised to trim it down a bit if he's going to wear it on a daily basis however.

A busy weekend. Maybe not as many wines for The List as one might hope for from all the work involved, but everyone had some laughs and good times. What more can you really ask for?

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