In a recent interview, Mutineer Magazine Editor Alan Kropf characterized his publication as one that reports on fine beverages in a cultural context (as opposed to the market-based focus of most other wine mags). It’s a fair claim: the pages of Mutineer are indeed devoid of scores and rankings, concerning themselves instead with celebrating drinking culture through in-depth features that aim to inform rather than judge. It was no surprise, then, that pretension took a back seat to good ol’ boozy mayhem at the Mutineer Magazine National Launch Party.
Held at the swank-happy Falcon Hollywood, the Mutineer party claimed around two-dozen Winos on its guest list, some arriving as event volunteers and others as paying guests. Making good on Mutineer’s mandate of inclusivity, the party featured a diverse cross-section of fine beverages for our eager sampling: wine, beer, spirits, sake, and even soda all found a home in Falcon’s dimly-lit enclosure. What follows is a digest of some of our favorite tipples from that evening, coupled with embarrassing photos of our members in action.
I started my evening on a bubbly note with the non-vintage J Vineyards Brut Rosé (Russian River Valley), a 70% Pinot Noir blend, pale and salmon-ish in my glass. A nose of yeast and strawberries was followed by a bright, slightly cheesy palate, which featured some pleasant notes of peach and orange blossom. Next door to the J table, I grabbed a pour of the 2008 Cycles “Gladiator” Pinot Grigio (Central Coast), boasting a nose of citrus and guava. The palate was light, yet rich — stylistically more like a “Gris” interpretation than a “Grigio,” I thought — with notes of tropical fruit and caramel. Finally, I stopped by to visit the party’s sponsor, Paso Creek, and tried the 2007 Paso Creek Zinfandel (Paso Robles), which was being poured by two members of the LA Derby Dolls, complete with skates. Ripe and berry-driven, the Zin featured good charcoal notes and a spicy finish.
Intrigued by the promise of a new and unknown flavor, I poured myself a sample of the Jones “Fufu Berry” Pure Cane Soda. The nose was fresh and fruity (like a fufu berry, I guess), and skewed into mixed-berry Jolly Rancher territory. The palate was refreshing, with big watermelon notes, and was quite sweet — “that cane sugar is no joke,” I scrawled in my notes. Max commented that he’d mix this particular soda with vodka and tell his date it was some kind of expensive martini.
Our good friend Larry Schaffer had a serious clown car routine going on with his extensive lineup — as soon as we thought we tried the last bottle, out came another, each one tastier than the last. The 2006 Tercero Grenache Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley) offered up a distinctive nose of must and petrol, followed by a fresh, mouth-coating palate. The 2008, meanwhile, was young and crisp, with a cake batter nose and some acid and herbal notes on the palate. “The ’08 is more the style I want to make,” said Larry. “The ’08 a quaffer, while the ’06 is more contemplative.” I followed these two with a taste of the 2008 Tercero Gewurztraminer (Santa Barbara County), which Larry vinifies in a dry style, eschewing the sweet-n-syrupy standard typical of most California Gewurz. Lychee and melon on the nose ushered me into a beguilingly dry palate, with light and zingy notes of apricot and tropical fruit.
It wouldn’t be a Hollywood party without some hard liquor, and it wouldn’t be a Mutineer party without some absinthe. Watching Esmeralda Distillery’s Obsello Absinthe being prepared is half the fun: a portion of the spirit is poured into a glass, after which a sugar cube is suspended above it, and spring water poured over it until it dissolves. The cocktail itself is a potent one (although I suspect I may have been given a slightly healthier dose of the spirit than I should’ve). Flavors of anise and black licorice were balanced by a distinctive green herbalness. “It tastes like Christmas gone wrong,” mused Andrea upon taking a sip. (Two slightly more complimentary reviews can be found here.)
Next, I had the pleasure of sampling two delicious bottles of Scotch, one of which was older than a good number of the party’s attendees. The 18-year-old Chivas Regal, the younger of the two, offered a nose of caramel and crème brûlée, followed by a firm palate that softened to a creamy maple syrup character. Adding an ice cube to the glass brought out notes of milk chocolate, and the finish even skewed into dark chocolate territory. I also managed to snag myself a pour of the 25-year-old Chivas Regal before it totally disappeared; the smoky nose boasted notes of damp earth, almonds and marzipan, and the palate was remarkably smooth and woodsy, almost like some kind of peat moss custard. (The rep suggested a dried-apricot pairing, which turned out to be an inspired one. Now I’m doomed to be the only fifty-year-old guy in my gentleman’s club who insists on eating dried apricots when the Scotch is poured.)
Sarah can’t decide what she wants; Larry alleviates her indecision by making an impromptu cuvée in her glass; it’s always a good sign when I find pictures of myself with attractive girls who I don’t remember meeting
The beers! Ah, the beers. Where do I begin? (Where did I begin? Hard to remember at this point.) I think I kicked things off with one of my favorite Laurel Tavern stalwarts, the Green Flash Brewing Company Imperial IPA. With its characteristic spicy nose (rosemary, anyone?), this is probably the only beer I’d immediately recognize in a blind tasting just by smelling it. The palate offers up huge IPA notes of hops and spice, along with some woody nuttiness towards the end. I moved on to the Coronado Brewing Company Islander IPA, featuring a white pepper nose with hints of dried flowers. This was a smoother IPA than the Green Flash, a little bit creamier, with the flavor of a sharp Swiss cheese. Delightful.
Other highlights included the Lost Coast Brewery Great White, a Belgian-style ale brewed with coriander and lime leaves. The palate was light and buoyant, and featured frothy, creamy citrus notes. Another entry from the IPA ward was the Firestone Union Jack IPA, which I was told includes four pounds of hops per barrel. “Is that a lot?” I wondered. I’d say it probably is — the palate was super hoppy, yet still felt rich enough that the hops didn’t dominate. My favorite beer of the evening, though, may have been the Georg Schneider’s Wiesen Edel-Weisse. Sharp and bright, this hefe-weissen featured huge floralness on the pal, backed up by notes of vanilla wafers and cloves. A little bitter action led me into a smooth, clean finish. Man, I love beer.
By this point, it was ridiculous that I should attempt to return to wine, but I threw all caution to the wind and did my best to extract the essence from a pair of Pinots. I grabbed a pour of the 2006 Erath “Leland” Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley), which featured an earthy, cigar smoke nose, followed by a well-integrated palate of cherry and acid, all wrapped up in dark, loamy insinuations of topsoil. The 2006 Erath “Prince Hill” Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills) went in a totally different direction, offering a playful, red fruit bouquet, which led into a light, slightly acidic palate reminiscent of strawberry jam.
Already well beyond my threshold of next-day comprehensibility, I next attempted to jot down some notes about Larry’s formidable lineup of Tercero reds, but much of it proved to be totally illegible. What I managed to salvage was that the 2007 Tercero “Camp 4” Grenache (Santa Ynez Valley) featured a “campfire” nose and a “huge” palate of “raspberry and charcoal,” along with “powdery” tannins; and that the 2007 Tercero “Larner Vineyard” Syrah (Santa Ynez Valley) offered a nose of “cigar and dried raspberries,” followed by an “unrepentant palate” with “ballsy fruit” and “some good pepper and spice.” (I also wrote down the words “100% sand,” which I assume was in reference to something Larry told me about the vineyard, rather than anything I’d tasted in the wine.) I might be annoyed with myself for my shoddy note-taking job at the Tercero table if it weren’t for the fact that Larry has graciously agreed to come visit the Winos in the near future (stay tuned!).
With the evening winding down, the remaining assemblage posed for a legendary group photo before going our separate ways. Upon arriving home, Max promptly climbed a tree, and our various efforts to either remove him from it or to join him in it only prompted him to climb higher. He eventually descended without apparent injury; however, our communal injuries would be felt the next day, when we stirred from our messy slumbers and begrudgingly acknowledged that mixing wine, beer, whisky, absinthe, and soda — yes, I’m going to blame the soda as well — is almost never worth the pain it causes.
In this rare case, though, it just might’ve been.
The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005