Reviews of Herzog Variations Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, the Tomintoul 16-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky and the Longrow Red, Cabernet Sauvignon Cask, 11-year-old, Peated Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week December 31, 2014
We are thrilled to see that William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk (one of us is an unabashed “Star Trek” fan, the other is simply a fan of all things Shatner), has begun a new television series that focuses in a Shatner-esque way on wine appreciation called, simply, “Brown Bag Wine Tasting.”
Available on ORA.TV, a television production studio and on-demand digital television network, the episodes feature Shatner talking to a guest about various non-wine aspects of their lives, such as their career and childhood. They do spend some time tasting wine from a bottle hidden by a paper bag, but rather than using the usual wine-geek jargon Shatner has the guest reveal their impressions in a more personal fashion. Says Shatner, “I’m using wine as a way to explore the psyche of each of my guests.” As the press release described it, the show “follows Shatner’s adventures as he asks willing participants to blindly taste wine and describe it in terms of their occupations, with the goal of making the show fun, interactive and a social experience. The series was created out of Shatner’s love of wine and conversation, as well as wanting to have a fun wine tasting experience in an entertaining format.”
In one episode Shatner had celebrity chef Alton Brown portray a sparkling wine in terms of food as he was preparing lunch, in another episode actor and educator LeVar Burton (of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame) described a California Sauvignon Blanc as a well-mannered child. One of the more fascinating installments featured a marijuana dealer who had little experience with wine, while other guests have included a magician, a motorcycle expert, a train enthusiast, a craft beer salesman, a music historian, a cheese monger and comedian and television and podcast personality Adam Carolla.
It is a unique, yet effective interview approach. Wine is the vehicle but it is the guest who is the focus. We get a glimpse into their worldview when they elaborate on what they taste in the language of their careers. Shatner successfully strips away the snobbiness of wine and demonstrates that personal context and taste, not what others say, is what matters most in making wine enjoyable.
With the New Year upon us, we think a brown bag interview with Shatner himself would be a great way to transition to 2015. If we were selecting a wine for it, we’d opt for something to reflect his now very distant Jewish upbringing in Montreal. Perhaps the kosher Herzog Variations Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($26; mevushal): This beefy, youthful, firm but well-structured wine exhibits lovely aromas and flavors of red currants, blackberries, blueberries, cassis, cherries and distinct but not over the top oak, with a little spice on the absorbing finish. Opens beautifully with a bit of aeration. Ready to drink now, but should develop nicely over the next four to five years. We presume his description would be a little more other-worldly.
Of course, a little guiding spirit wouldn’t go amiss either. So for those who waited patiently for the hooch, consider toasting the start of 2015 with a dram of Tomintoul 16-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $50; certified kosher by the OU): This excellent, medium-bodied, gentle and sophisticated whisky offers lovely aromas and flavors of hay, marzipan, espresso, vanilla fudge, cream, dried fruit, a very subtle hint of anise, toffee, pepper and honey, and with remarkable yet improbable hints of mint. Wonderful and a real bargain for the price.
Or, for those of you eager to spend a bit more cash for a bit more flash:
Longrow Red, Cabernet Sauvignon Cask, 11-year-old, Peated Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky (52.1 percent; $90; every year sees a new release with a different type of red wine cask; the current in the UK is “port” cask): This unusual yet successful whisky matured for seven years in ex-Bourbon casks, then an additional four years in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels (from Australia’s Angove Winery “Long Row” label Cab), and offers aromas of fruit salad (strawberries, cherries, raspberries and citrus) against a medium but distinct peat smoke and brine background, with hints of new leather and something vaguely like gasoline and olive oil, but not in a bad way at all. This distinct nose is followed with a seriously oily body and nicely sympathetic flavors of fruit compote with spice, rich peat smoke, light brine and faint black licorice, ending in a long finish of rich peat and red fruits (currants?). An unusual and wonderful whisky! L’Chaim!