Strong Arms Shiraz
$11.99 -- Whole Foods, Austin, TX
Color: Deep red
Nose: Blueberry with a hint of cinnamon
Middle: Dirt, creamy vanilla
Back: Cedar, okra?
Burns clean?: Yes
One of my bloggin' colleagues writes that at some point in your wine-drinking days, "you stop following individual grapes or regions and begin chasing individual winemakers and importers." I believe we're on the same page when I say that it's not that the latter two entities are a better indicator of quality--but that you're probably in tune with their taste. Tuning is more important, because wine is for pleasure.
The first time I really asked with interest who an importer was, it was just after sharing a bottle of Henry's Drive Shiraz with my friend Todd. Good lord, it was good, and I'd never seen it before. THE GRATEFUL PALATE, OXNARD, CA. Watching for this on the back label has never led me astray, and it didn't with Strong Arms Shiraz, either.
A lot of wines have groovy packaging and not much else. In the case of this wine and the others imported by Grateful Palate, it's an attention to style that extends to every part of the operation, apparently, from grapes to fact sheets to leveraging value: good luck finding another $12 wine with more complexity, subtlety, and intensity than this. Everyone seems to benefit from this outfit; it's like magic--check out not just the label art, by Mel Kadel, but the way Grateful Palate took the time A) to go for six different images and B) make a separate PDF out of each.
(I've seen Kadel's art compared to Sendak and Gorey, but it seems to me perhaps as much like a Kathe Kollwitz, cheered up by Roald Dahl, collaborates with Shel Silverstein type of thing. Sick, wrong, and lovely!)
Food matters to The Grateful Palate. The best sign of their attention to detail is that they have not only great wines, but a Bacon of the Month Club. I didn't do justice to the wine by pairing it with cajun roasted chicken (though the onions came out splendidly), but with edamame (also lightly cajun, just to be perverse) the shiraz was harmonic.