Friday, December 23, 2005

Wine: Syrah: Alban Vineyards: Pandora 2001

I picked this bottle up about 9 months ago over at Paul Marcus, and we've been meaning to drink it for a few weeks now. We knew what we were getting into. I'd fallen for the creative bottling a couple of years ago on the way to a friends' Thanksgiving dinner. The cork is sealed in bright red wax, the label is evocative of a Haight-Ashbury magic carpet ride, and the base of the bottle is as agressively tapered as the neck is long. It's a stand out and a crowd pleaser, though you may find as I did that sharing such a bottle with a crowd can leave you wanting for more.

The label et al. are particularly arresting because the more widely available wines produced by John Alban are already fairly striking. Uniformly heavy, with a stylized grape vine motif that makes me want to rethink my ambivalence toward the word classy.

Pandora is a small production blend of Syrah and Grenache. The percentages vary from year to year, but production holds steady at 200 cases. The wine hits the dominant strains of various cult favorites. It's exceedingly high in alcohol, coming in at 15.9%. A few bottles I can think of top this number (The Jackass Hill Zin, at over 18 percent for instance), but at 15+ percent the Pandora packs a wallop. The wine is dominated by dark berry fruit and spice, but manages to pull in some of the flint and earth that I've come to associate with other Alban Vineyards wines. Not as much flint as some, but it's certainly there.

We drank about two thirds of this bottle with some Buffalo Osso Bucco, and then proceeded to try and assemble our buche du noel to comic effect. I would realize the next morning that I had freewheeled my way through techniques 228 and 229 in Jacques Pepin Techniques unintentionally concocting a recipe on the fly. Magic carpet ride indeed.

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