Grapey Grins and Gripes: Smoking Loon deliciously indulges dark red quaffers

Spinnaker

The entrance price barrier for most wines at local grocery stores and wine specialty shops are typically very low, but with that also comes the ubiquitous horrible bottle of wine from time to time.

Before I go any further, I would like to dispel a rumor — I know, many aficionados far greater than myself have stated something many times that bears repeating — the age, price, vineyard and location doesn’t necessarily mean a specific wine is up to snuff.

That being said, what should dictate whether you purchase a specific bottle or not is more up to your personal tastes. However, for the neophyte wine connoisseur, you might not know what exactly titillates your palette.

To start with, all wines you sample should at least score 85 points or above on Wine Spectator’s or Wine Enthusiast’s lists.

This week I have chosen to review one of my all-time favorites, Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon, based out of, you guessed it, Napa, Calif. The region is one of the most over-lauded and overpriced areas to buy grapes or wine but this is simply a great, fairly inexpensive bottle of wine. Depending on the store, it is usually priced between $8 and $10 per bottle, which means even the most cash-strapped among us could easily afford to sample this delicious yet uncomplicated wine.

A lot of people say specific types or brands have “acquired tastes,” and while I sometimes find myself making excuses for brands I have come to love, I consider that concept simply B.S.

If you have to make yourself like something, then why are you really drinking it — or more importantly, who are you trying to impress?

The Smoking Loon Cab has a distinct earthy and smoky aroma that ought to pique your olfactory senses. It has the full-bodied taste like most other Cabs but has strong overtones of pepper and light yet presents undertones of tobacco and plum. It is an extremely dry wine with a slight acidic taste and moderate tannin levels. However, it does go down smooth but has a strong bite for an aftertaste.

This is definitely not for the basic Riesling or Chardonnay drinker, but for the more adventurous imbiber with a love for deep and dark reds.

Don Sebastiani and Sons, a California negociant, produces the Loon. Sebastiani, it should be pointed out, doesn’t produce its own grapes but buys in bulk from other surrounding vineyards and produces its own varieties of wine.

The winery makes a host of other labels but also produces a Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc under the Smoking Loon label. Outside of the Cab, the Blanc is my other go to as it is also dry but quite a bit lighter.