Monster Mash

One of a handful of brands in Paso Robles who get more than their fair share of eye-rolls–none more-so than from ME over the years–for the lowest-common-denominator lush-fests they foist off on the 99, all of whom lap it up with sticky, lip-smacking relish. But way back in their club-selections and TR-only offerings is a brace of limited, interesting selections. I used to actually be semi-related–two or three times removed–by marriage to the principal of this brand, and for that esteemed luxury, benefited from my choice of these bottlings, all of which have long since vanished from my cellar. But here’s an example.

Black as you can expect from new-world renditions of this variety: deep dark impenetrable ruby, the abrupt edge staining everything it touches. Big ripe nose–also expectant from this producer–more darkness, round, thick and concentrated, the fruit a dense blackberry scramble with the glossy sheen of porty heat, tropical banana and wilted bouquets.

On the palate, a wine so massive, tiny sips crumble together in clogging piles, searching for places to go in your mouth–like swallowing a brick of pressed cherry, the bitter relish of sharp edges accentuating the hugeness and leaving very little to the imagination. As anyone familiar with this variety will attest, the tannin doesn’t allow much reflection on fruit–and in the alpine versions, this fruit can be light and frivolous, tied seamlessly to cold-weather complexity and plenty of acid–but here in California, EVERYTHING has been cranked up a few notches–everything but the acid. It would be fascinating to compare numbers at harvest between the two regions: the Europeans probably 23°, 3.5, 6.8, finishing at 12.5 and .4 … Wouldn’t be surprised here if Paso pulled in 27°, 4.1, 5.2 and finished close to 15 and 8 or 9 g/l. I’m guessing the oak treatment would most likely be a tad different too. The oak here is fairly apparent, granting even more creamy dessert to the already-stewed liqueur.

This wine plays perfectly into the wildly-successful marketing approach of BIGGER IS BETTER. It is easy to imagine bros elbowed around the tasting room lustfully booming, “WHEW!!! This thing’s a MONSTER!!!” And a monster it is.

2016 TOBIN JAMES ‘Silver Reserve’ Lagrein Paso Robles 15.0

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