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freakshowMichael and David Phillips, 5th generation grape-growers from Lodi who started the winery in 1984, are known for their wild labels and memorable brand names like their 7 Deadly Zins. Freakshow is no exception; label shoppers will find it irresistible. But the juice is pretty good as well if you like big upfront fruit.

Smoke melding into a chocolate background envelop very ripe black cherry aromas and hints of damp forest floor. The foundation of ripe almost prune-like aromas establish the wines dominant character giving it a dark almost brooding aspect on the nose.

The palate flavors initially reinforce the nose with fig and heavy dark chocolate with a slight woodiness appearing midpalate as the wine gathers momentum. The finish is a bit short, losing fruit quickly leaving soft, fine-grained, yet drying tannins in its wake. Round, full, and a bit heavy upfront, the midpalate refreshes with a nice caramel/cola seam providing some lift and lightening the moof before leaving a sandy impression in closing.

This classifies as a fruit bomb but it’s well made and shows some textural evolution. It’s more of a sipper than a food wine. A big barbecue sauce or grilled steaks would be fine. I served it with stuffed flank steak (Bavette de beouf farcie) but the rich, figgy, dried fruit seemed too imperious.

17 months in French oak.

For a family winery this is a huge operation producing over 600,000 cases per year, and their children now run the operation so it seems likely to stay in the family for awhile. That’s nice to see in an age of rapid consolidation in the wine business.

For all its brooding quality, this is not an angry Cab. It aims to be more easygoing. This piece by King Sunny Aide brings some sorely needed freshness and brightness to the experience. The elongated synth phrasing and repetitive percussion gives the wine length and evolution and brings out top notes.

Score: 90

Price: $20

Alc: 14.5%

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