wine sketchez: Three Fat Guys Wines

Three Guys, Two Wines, One Obsessed New Fan

Chardonnay.  Cabernet.  So how are you to be bedazzled or even a little taken by varietals that so many producers bottle?  Easy.  When they’re done to this stratospherically savory extent.  Before I get into the wines my and Three Fat Guys’ vin ami, Wes, sent me, you have to examine their story, which starts with genuine tempo and color.  The elevated interest and tireless curiosity for and in wine.  Tony Moll, one of the Guys and Owners of the this playful yet prominently tasty enclave of a label, tell me his fascination with wine started just before starting Three Fat Guys with partners Jason and Daryn.  He tells me that in the off-season he’d go to local wine bars in Sonoma and just immerse himself in everything about wine.  Oh and that’s another facet to this brand I find immeasurably interesting and encouraging as a wine consumer—  all three played professional football, and those journeys together on the Road for the game is what actuated their chasing a more oeno-centric story.  When home from the season, Tony would find his favorites, what he liked and didn’t like, and intensify his fondness and acuity in wine’s world.

He knew he wanted to create a “premium wine,” he tells me.  Well, if I’m to react to such a remark, he failed gloriously.  The Fat Guys’ wines are anything but premium, in my language—  Words I’d employ then immediate deploy to this page are ‘cosmic’, ‘inspiring’, ‘vocal’, ‘inter-dimensional’… inexplicably delicious.  The Chard and Cab Wes sent me were anything but template, anything but expected.  Yes, the common consumer would note their “premium-ness”, but I find myself in uncommon sphere and state tasting these wines.  What I tasted was something of a quality that we consumers wish for.  You can find a simple “premium” bottle on the shelf at Safeway.  This is different, another planet and page, story, narrative.  What was in the bottle was true fermented magic, a lively literary quality that educates a sipper’s senses, like I jotted in the Composition book, “Moriarty-esque reflective madness”…  But, again, more on that in a bit.

This is a small producer that’s not on the “I’m a small wine label” self-anointing chariot.  What you have in your glass with TFG is three gentlemen who love wine.  That’s it.  The fervor of their fondness translates to what you sip, exponentially.  You can only be smitten and seraphically instructed with their bottles.  Tony tells me that he loves the reaction when people taste his wines, when people merely look at him and utter in tremor, “WOW.” Remember, these are offensive lineman, put on the field to protect the quarterback, to block, to be firm and stern.  And how serendipitous in how they don’t care about notoriety, awards, scores, or any other kind of pseudo-prestige.  They just want to be known for wine, wine that is “damn good wine” as he tells me.  Well, with this motion, he and his Guys succeed ad nauseam.

I started with the Chardonnay as you might expect, the other night, hoping that I would taste something new from Chardonnay’s all-too-frequently harangued identity.  First nudge of fragrance after opening bottle, smelling cork and then into bottle’s neck, was pair and vanilla, apple and a cinnamon-sewn pie crust.  On palate, I was greeted with tame acidity coupled with the apple and pie crust, vanilla and almond, a little toast… lavender?  There was a that jazzy weather I dream I’ll one day taste in Chardonnay.  Finally encountered, finally taught something new.  And as the wine invited and later fully embracing the temperature of the room, the texture became more sensual, the apple and pair soupçons more immediate, more visible and believable.  The Chardonnay took on a haunting and persuasive, bewitching quality I’ve never experienced in a Cali’ white Burgundy.  This was a new experience, and I was renewed as a wine lover.

I’m a “Cabernet guy” you could say, so I’m exceptionally welcoming and nearly a bastard critic with Cabs I’m sent.  Like the Chardonnay, TFG’s Cab had a dark personality and widely-erotic electricity to every parcel of its palate.  This is the wine that had the personality of Dean Moriarty, his wild charisma and irresistible allure.  The fruit that spoke to me was in the purview of blackberry and dark chocolate-adorned cherry, then cocoa powder and espresso, a wink of mint and black licorice, smoke.  Doing both its vineyard site, vintage, and varietal a marathon of justice.  There was a rare coherence in this bottle, a bewildering synergy of all parts and personalities, measures and clefs.  If one of these wines sends these gentlemen to some unseen notoriety, whether they want it or not, their Napa Cabernet offering will cement such.

Three lessons learned for the writer, here.  1, Chardonnay is the most extraordinarily effusive and gorgeous white varietal, if done the way these lineman have ordered.  2, if all Cabernets were done this well, I would not drink anything else.  All other varietals would be hit with a preference asteroid which would tie them in certain extinction.  And, 3, the focus of any small label—rather than telling everyone they’re a small label, or artisanal label, or some cult wine producer—should be to just make some damn good wine.  Well decreed, Mr. Tony.  These wines are unlike any expected palate presence of Chardonnay and Cabernet.  Par conséquent, their unique beat, their instructional quality, their haunting stubbornness in anyone who sips.



Wined and Windblown


Had been meaning to stop, for years, and finally I did a few weeks ago.  Feeling like a guest at a resort, or at an elevated Aspen cabin; cozy and convivial, inviting and rich in story and passion for the grounds, for what’s poured.  I knew it’d be great but just not as intense as I experienced in such greatness. Joseph Phelps is a beacon of not only quality but as well its own distinguished and directed language in the wine it bottles.  IMG_9642Prominence and promise, passion, and an extended communication and connectedness with everyone they have over—  And that’s how you feel, that’s how I felt, as if over at someone’s delightful dwelling, focused on wine and the grounds, the Napa Valley and the history of what’s been catalyzed by the Joseph Phelps story.  I could have sworn I wasn’t a local, but here for a first.  An out-of-stater.  Tourist, I guess.  But certainly not from here.  It was musical; a wined moment I could sing and sing to, as I was being sung to with the views from that back patio and from the notes in the wines the host put out for us.

There were some other tastings I’ve done in the last couple weeks, like at Bergamot Alley in Healdsburg, where the owner, Kevin I think his name IMG_9981was (yes, Kevin.. I see looking at his card that I forgot I put on my desk here in the home office), poured a cosmically magnetic flight of import wines for me.  I had to get something.  And.. I did.  Two.  White and Red.  And where else.. oh, the Suncé tasting room in Kenwood that opened a couple months ago.  I realized you just have to get out there.  Taste wine and find something you like, and I know I’ve said that in a something-wined page or string of pages I’ve written before, posted to some blog or I don’t know, but in this last month or so it’s become like a staple and stake of clarity in IMG_9875my wined life—  Get the F out there and taste some wine.  Tonight I’m sipping a Grenache, from Sanglier, their ’12, which won’t surprise people I know.  But, it’s a wine I trust, that I can depend on, and it’s just goddamn delicious.  It’s memorable.  And I have to be honest, I thought I didn’t have any more left.  I actually thought, when I saw the bottle shape was Burgundian, that it was one of Glenn’s Russian River Pinots.  But, no no no!  My gregarious Grenache, with all its voluptuous and erotic tumble of berry and cherry, chocolate and black pepper floating around— whatever it is, it has me.  Now as I roll through pictures in my phone like that typical wine geek, or blogger, or tourist so struck by everything around them that they take pictures of everything, and I mean everything; from the doorknobs, to the winery dog, and the ceilings, each stinkin’ label that’s in front of them.  And them, this “they”, I start to envy them, the visiting ‘they’.  The tourists…  They don’t say things like I am here, like “some other tastings I’ve done the last couple weeks”.  To them tasting is something a vacation entails, something they plan for an envision and fantasize for weeks before getting out there.  They don’t just go out and taste, they can’t.  They’re not here.  But I am.  And the weeks neoteric have been invaluable teachers, with encircling and forcefully fruitful lessons to me as one who sips wine more than just a little.

But, I have to again paginate, recently I’ve just been tasting.  The climate of love about my wining “palate” (a word I’ve come to hate as everyone says it and so many say it and oversay and overuse it do so just to sound like someone who should be listened to when really they’re the ones who should be first ignored; they’re the bad ‘they’).  And I’m lucky enough to live close to these tasting rooms and wineries, these roads that are like a jolting reflective spell veins.  So I pour myself another glass, try to finish an article but I wind up getting so lost and whirled in the wine here at my bottle-emboldened home, in my own tasting room, my own flight, my own visit-that’s-not-a-visit that I disconnect from being a local.  And different that the tourist, or planned visitor.  This is something else.  But I’m tasting.  And it’s wine.  So wine.



MOCK SOMM: Stewart Cellars, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

IMG_7293Enclosed in this new Cabernet translation, one from Napa which I don’t explore enough and I don’t know how more I need to go over there now, I can simply flurry and fly to a computer and order.  But I slow in my sips and remember what it was like with the first sensory landing; the chocolate and toasted oak, blackberry and cherry and whatever spice that is, nose; then the palate is irrevocably kaleidoscopic in its current and webbed ebb.  Just charming and musical, jazzed from first measure to last.  I look for jazz in wines, as you might know and here I have it, a newly voiced Cabernet beat and snare sound; soft but not passive, assertive with no encroach.  Just a bedazzled figure, me, speechless and only writing what notes I’m capable; the coma-coding charm of this bottle, texture and rhythm, me thinking and writing something down that I check later only to laugh as it doesn’t make sense.  And why don’t I be more technical, why not go more into those descriptors and what wine publications would publish, what a half-faced clack-dish sommelier would say, in that low all-knowing octave.  Because I can’t, no pulse of that angle; what this is, candid adoration of a wine, this Stewart Cabernet, Napa.. Napa and I reconnecting and I have this to thank, but I’m afraid to try others.  And I don’t think I will for a while– need to order more– and the recalls of the jazz I sipped the other night and right now again grip me, have me bobbing my head, not knowing where the wine’s profile and note syncopation will next go.  I don’t need to know.  Just years ago, I was just discovering Cabernet, and I’ve learned a bit since then, but this bottle, as Ginsberg said, “doesn’t hide the madness”.  It teaches me more than I could have called.  It shares its “inner moonlight”.  And this madness, make me mad to keep sipping, in want of more notes, more music from its nuclei, more discoveries and answers but I don’t want it to answer them all; I love its dark mystery, from visual to texture how the sip summarizes itself.  I need another.  Sip.  Bottle.  Case.  So I’m in scribble till the night’s over, till the jazz arrests.


MOCK SOMM: Archival Wines, Napa Valley, Juliana Vineyard, Petite Sirah, 2013

With much PS interpretation you should expect darkness and a preponderance of texture and that’s about it– typically not a lot of complexity, and better left a blending appendage.  But with this bottle you find enigma and spells; the dark fruit and the texture, color most assuredly, but then you’re greeted by this subtext of earth and herbaceous reverb which I’m told, by winemaker Blair Guthrie, is the concomitant of picking earlier than 90% of California Petite Sirahs.  But for the consumer this wine does have its magnitude and severity in strength.  You’ll benefit from letting the wine collect itself a IMG_6609bit, for about two hours to let all those unrivaled flavor arrangements and dimensional shifts in this Napa PS catalyze and come to life, ready itself for showing.  And at the end of the wait, you have composure and accuracy with what the wine intends you to experience and know–  And as you MAY know, or you should, I look for wines that teach me something new either about the chief varietal in bottle or where the fruit’s from.  This victors on both accounts.  And I’ve never had these wines before, this.. my first impression, and that to me translates as Literature, the story and narrative, and a simple but puncturing reward for me as the sipper, reader…  Dickinson said, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Not to say I won’t buy more bottles from Archival, more of this capsuled vampiric whirl, but there will never be a first time, again; me sipping this ’13 not knowing what I’ll encounter and trusting I’ll quite enjoy it only to find the impression it left with me as the sipper, reader, was resounding.  Depth from intro to summation of sip– diverse and direct, a flavorful harness to senses and imagination, taunting you to entertain: “What do I pair with this?” To which I respond, “Whatever you want.” Or, “Why do you have to ‘pair’ it with anything?” Why not just enjoy the novel in the bottle?

And on a bit of a side-note, you can tell these wines were made with intimacy and honesty and a proper monitoring and collaborative curve with the fruit once it arrived at the crush pad.. meant to capture a moment, be singular and never-mimicked… and one way to discern and deduct such, the color– I mentioned its ‘vampiric’ placement and presence and that’s energetically visible in the glass; and the flavors are of the elevated ardor you can only calculate are tempestuously woven into the narrative and apexing aim of the wine.  The effort and acuteness, shown.  Immediate…  And like a Dickinson poem, much is said in a small space, just a meek sip, even one of those miser-ing one-ounce tasting room “pours”.  And how can it not be, this Napa Valley Petite with its persuasive coherence and feel and its volume and content…  Such loud and dramatic edges; romantic and rhythmic, wonderfully illustrative and musical, truthful…..  That’s success, with the winemaking exertion; that’s a story, a narrative, something I or anyone would, should, sip.  Mr. Guthrie will tell you, “My wines…you can’t ever reproduce them, I would never want to because they are my expression of that growing season and that moment in history.  An Archive, if you will…”