Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pistachio Nuts, B.F. Skinner, and Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

For people seeking the short story on 2001 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is simply extraordinary. I bought it a few years ago at the King's Contrivance Liquor Store in Columbia. (Click here for the posting on where I get my wine.) This wine had a dark berry flavor. It was surprisingly sweet, dark, and extremely intense. You could certainly taste the oak that provided soft vanilla overtones to the flavor. Simply stated, this wine was delicious. Although the price was $16.49 on the bottle, I think it was on sale and I paid about $12.00 for the bottle. Keeping it for a few years really paid off.

Now the long story...

(If you have the time, follow the links. It might be fun!)

In an earlier post, I suggested that some of the fun about wine drinking is about finding a wine where the quality seems to bear little relationship to the price. When I drink wine like the perennially good Petite Syrah from Bogle at around $12.00, I feel that I have somehow beaten the system! The Ancient Vines Zinfandel (around $12.00) from Cline gives me that same smug satisfaction.

But there is another joy of drinking wine that is linked to a theory, which is totally devoid of any research basis, that I have about pistachio nuts. Put a bowl of pistachio nuts in front of me, and I cannot stop eating them until the last one has gone. Other people often seem to have similar weaknesses.

(By the way, if I am drinking wine before dinner, I usually avoid peanuts. I don't consider them very wine friendly.)

Apart from unrestrained gluttony, I believe that this compulsion to keep eating is related to the behaviorist idea that habits are more strongly reinforced if the reward for a behavior is given randomly. So, if you eat thirty pistachio nuts, you are likely to find twenty six good ones, one little stinker, and the remaining three will simply sing in your mouth. Seeking the reward of that perfect pistachio, you just keep on and on eating them.

The pistachio nut enthusiast probably knows that the best pistachio nuts in the world come from Iran which, according the article in Wikipedia on the subject, produces more pistachios nuts in the world with 38% of the world's production. You can usually tell an Iranian pistachio nut just by looking at it. They tend to be much larger than most, and they simply taste better. (Avoid pistachios that are dyed red. They are rarely any good.)

Readers in Maryland can buy Iranian pistachios at Sizar's food market:

6955 Oakland Mills Rd
Columbia, MD 21045.

For a Google map, click here.

(They are not quite as good as getting them from a firend traveling to Iran, but they are still pretty tasty! Sizar's is a nice little Persian grocery store with not just food from Iran, but all sorts of food from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. You can also get Indian food there, including chutneys curry paste, and so on.)

So what has all this got to do with Geyser Peak? Well, I wanted a red wine for dinner on Friday night. We did not have guests so I was not looking for one of my better Bordeaux, but I wanted something a little bit better than an $8.00 "everyday" wine. I also wanted to drink up any potentially "over the hill" wines in the cellar. So that was why I picked the Geyser Peak -- not too expensive, possibly aging, and, without guests, the risk of disappointment was low.

This wine was my unpredictable reward. I hoped for "good" and would have been satisfied with "okay," but I never expected extraordinary. It reminded me of much more expensive wines, and I began to think of Silver Oak. It was so dark, dense, and the blackberry/cassis fruit was marvellous. The oak provided a rich vanilla almost creamy! Although probably mature, it was clearly not in decline, and I would venture to say that it was at its peak. I have one bottle of this wine left. I will drink it soon but on a very special occasion!

I have had a lot of good luck from Geyser Peak, and this experience will keep me coming back again and again to seek that perfect reward!

The winery's notes on this wine are below:

Vintage: 2001
Appellation: Alexander Valley

Grape Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Storage/Type: 100% American oak barrels: 20% new oak; 80% a balanced mixture of one-, two-, and three-year old oak
Maturation Time: 15 months

Production Comments: A portion of the fruit for this wine was processed through our rotary fermenters. These innovative tanks enable maximum desirable extraction with only four or five days of on-skin fermentation, and minimize extraction of harsh, undesirable tannins.

Bottling Information & Analysis: Bottling Date: 06/03

Release Date: 12/03

Cases Produced: 49400

Alcohol 13.5%

pH 3.72

Acid 0.60

R.S. Dry

Wine Description: Classic Alexander Valley aromas of sweet blackberry fruit and cassis burst out of the glass on this wine. The vibrant intensity of the fruit aromas is typical of Geyser Peak's style, as is the restrained oak, which supports the fruit without dominating it. Ripe raspberry, blackberry and black cherry flavors harmonize on the wine's rich, juicy mid-palate with toasty oak notes. Typically Alexander Valley tannins come to the fore on the finish, which harmonizes persistent fruit flavors with fine-grained tannins.
Recipes: Black Olive Tapenade Crostini, Fabulous Flank Steak, Grilled New York Steaks with Cabernet Reduction Sauce, Pork Chops a La Piacenza, Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Jus, Red Wine Braised Oxtail

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