There’s something to be said for a wine that makes itself smelled even from across the table. I poured a glass of this, sat down at the computer, and at no point forgot that it was there: it positively exudes perfume. The color is remarkable: rich and deep, dark red with a slightly watery rim, at first giving the appearance of an older wine but somehow it’s all very youthful at the same time.
One smell of this and I’m transported: this does not smell like any wine I’ve had before. All kinds of random associations come to mind: the crisp, dry, crinkly skin of fresh tomatillos; dusty corridors in government buildings in distant counties, dessicating in the summer heat; the smell of the upstairs closet with Mom’s college papers, reel-to-reel tapes and all; a warm summer’s night in the house where grew up in the San Joaquin valley, crickets and trains on the night breeze, the warmth never fully gone from the hay bales outside. It’s remarkable.
Trying to think more traditionally about this for a minute, there seems to be a dry, dusty mint or basil note hovering over dry baker’s chocolate on the nose, wet earth, dried meats (not smoked), and (remarkably) something like dried violets. In all honest, I find it absolutely fascinating: so many different smells, such odd suggestions of things that really don’t have tastes or smells. If a mark of a great wine is that it somehow manages to remind you of things in your past that you’ve forgotten, well, then this wine’s a great one.
The first thing that strikes me about this wine in the mouth is the texture: it seems much richer, unctuous, fat, wide than most others do. Taking a minute to experience the physicality of the wine, I sense that it seems to slip away quietly, somehow vanishing towards the middle-back of the mouth while leaving that same impression of fullness behind. There’s good acidity here, which I suppose guarantees the soft disappearance; the tannins are finely checked and leave a lingering sense of elegance.
As far as the flavor of the thing goes, it again doesn’t really taste like any other wines I know. There are fleeting hints of typical syrah and zinfandel – snatches of deep, plummy fruit and smoky bacon fat – and yet there’s some other flavor dominant which (and I do apologize for the suggestion) somehow reminds me of mucilage or packing tape: it’s definitely not the usual thing. At times I find it challenging and not quite welcome; at other times, especially when paired with some soppressata-style salami, it calms down into something more conventionally agreeable, with flashes of comforting sweetness amongst rich smoky earth and ripe red fruits.
I have absolutely no idea what Don Pullum and the rest of the folks at Sandstone Cellars are doing, but it’s some of the most interesting wine I’ve ever tasted. If there ever needed to be proof that Texas makes serious wine, this is it.