Red Fox Cellars “Bourbon Barrel” Merlot NV American



red fox merlotI just finished a satisfying week tasting the fine wines of Colorado’s Western slope.

I chose this one to ponder for an evening because it was aged in bourbon casks. Does that make a difference? I’m not sure, but in any case this is a very good wine.

It shows a highly-developed, complex nose with a distinctive flavor note which I found in most of the Bordeaux varietals here. I call it coriander-laced black cherry. Pronounced vanilla with a layer of mushroom provide contrast to the spiced fruit. But underneath it all there is a hint of dried apricot.

Dark, dry fruit fills the palate initially, and then more spice as the palate evolves. Full bodied and creamy yet lively and supple, it is well-framed with fine tannins and crisp acidity in balance, and a long,even tempered fade showing lingering wood notes  on the tail end of the medium-length finish.

This wine expresses an autumnal character. Very ripe, drying fruit,  fully developed, with warm, comforting spices, a melancholy elegance—lovely.

Red Fox Cellars is a relatively new winery (estate grapes on the way)  that takes pride in their willingness to experiment—hence the bourbon barrels used to age this wine.

So what difference do the bourbon casks make? I pick up the coriander note in other Colorado wines using conventional oak. Bourbon acquires vanilla notes from the oak but so does wine. I think the difference is in the dried fruit. Raisin or fig notes are common in red wine but the dried apricot is more characteristic of bourbon. But it is very subtle. Don’t expect a wine that tastes like whiskey. But do expect originality. Experiments are good when they work—this one does.

Score: 92

Price: $20

Alc: 14.1%

Yo La Tengo gets autumnal melancholy in the aptly title Autumn Sweater

Budget Wine: Loscano Torrontes Private Reserve Cafayate 2014


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loscanoA perfumed nose of bright peach and lemon in exquisite balance, forceful and focused, enfolded in stony minerality.

On the palate it opens round and fruity with luscious spice notes, medium weight and a silky, mouth coating texture arrested by tart acidity that drives the medium length, bitter-inflected finish. This has the characteristic glycerol mouth feel and soapy quality that is common in Torrontes but none of that is overwhelming. Fresh and aromatic but the weight gives it a serious aspect.

20% aged on the lees in two-year old French barrels. There is no hint of woodiness but the barrel aging enhances the texture.

Torrentes is Argentina’s other wine, playing second fiddle to the better known Malbec. It is probably indigenous to Argentina–a unique wine that takes well to the high altitude in Cafayate Valley which features vineyards as high as 10000 feet.

If you haven’t tried Torrontes this is a good example at a good price. Highly recommended.

Score: 88

Price: $13

Alc: 14%

Lush, full bodied and a little bitter, that’s Joan Armatrading’s lovely The Weakness in Me

Does Simplicity Have Aesthetic Value?


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Black Square by Malevich 1923

Does simplicity have aesthetic value? The dominant voices in the Western tradition of aesthetics praise complexity; finding unity in diversity is the hallmark of great art. Certainly in wine, complexity not simplicity is most admired. Legendary and high scoring wines all exhibit complex flavor profiles and extensive evolution on the palate. Simple wines might be enjoyable for dinner but seldom induce rapture.

But in food, simplicity seems to have its place. As the celebrated gastronome Curnonsky wrote, “Good cooking is when things taste of what they are”. Great chefs know when to simplify recipes to eliminate anything that might distract from an ingredient’s inherent flavor. Japanese aesthetics has long appreciated simplicity. And many minimalist works in painting, (Malevich or Rothko) or in music, ( Reich or Riley or the blues for that matter), rely on simplicity. Are these exceptions that prove the rule that complexity is fundamental to aesthetic value? Or is Western aesthetics missing something in its praise of the virtues of complexity?

It seems to me simplicity is often a tool through which an artist achieves unity and balance in a work. Thus simplicity has instrumental value. But is simplicity inherently aesthetically pleasing? Can it stand alone, not as instrument to achieve unity, but as something itself aesthetically pleasing?

I’m not sure. But if simplicity has inherent aesthetic value, it would disrupt current practices of wine tasting.

Stay tuned for more on this.


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