Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I do this for you.

I find the time to wander around California and discover wines that are worth more than just a taste.

It's been a thing to me for some time. 

I'd go wine tasting (Disclosure: I'm a Wine Ambassador for Honig Winery in Napa) and find wines that were lovely after a sip or two in the tasting room, but somehow lost several elements when I drank a glass or two at home.

There might be all sorts of reasons for this. 

It might, for example, be my imagination talking. 

But that's what a wine is -- an appeal to the imagination. 

Last year, my imagination was piqued by 5 wines that broke that brief first-date barrier.

So this year, I've traveled and sipped, come home and drunk a little more. 

Here, then, I offer you five simple viticultural joys that had me wanting more. 

Paso Robles, around three hours south of San Francisco, makes such a pleasant change from, well, San Francisco. Here, pretensions are cast aside in favor of, well, sanity. The first time I went to Adelaida, the tasting room looked a little like a large shed, with a reasonably long bar and varietals of many descriptions. A visit in August, however, took me aback. The tasting room had become a cathedral. A remarkably tasteful one. Would this mean the wine had suddenly gone snooty, like your neighbor who comes over all sanctimonious and buys himself a Tesla? Not on the evidence of this Pinot Estate. It retails are $30. With every glass, I wanted a long-term relationship. This is a wine you can drink with anything. The winery suggests salmon or venison. I could drink this with the ready-roasted chicken from my local supermarket or just a slab of taramasalata on Pita Bread. It's the apogee of sheer beauty.

I fancy more than a few people look at Gamling and McDuck's website and think they've recently ingested something disturbingly perception-altering. Adam McClary and Gabrielle Shaffer present themselves as, well, themselves. They're highly entertaining people. After all, they're from Minnesota. So when you see on their site a Christmas greeting that reads "May you sow the earth with the blood of your Monopoly adversaries," you think: "Ah, yes. That must be Gamling and McDuck." These people have even released a comic book. Their Napa wines, though, are no cartoon. When I first tried this little $36 joy, I did something terrible. I helped myself to another pour. I felt shame, but my shame wasn't as great as my enthusiasm for its astonishingly welcoming attitude. It's the sort of wine you could happily move in with and it would never snore.

Once it was prune trees. Then the Baciaglupis began to grow grapes that were the source for many excellent wines. I must have driven past this Russian River winery hundreds of times before finally turning in and finding an exalted level of peace. Twin sisters Katharine and Nicole nudged their parents into opening their own little winery. And when Nicole poured me this Zinfandel, I began nodding furiously, making odd gurgling noises and not speaking at all. This is a good sign. Sometimes, Zins in Russian River and neighboring Dry Creek are designed to hammer you into submission with their crowbar of fruit and alcohol. This urbane $50 specimen was astonishingly seductive. Last week, my girlfriend and I pulled out a bottle and had it over dinner. Actually, it had us.

It's usually not a good idea, you might think, to go wine tasting at a music festival. The last two years, however, I've gone to the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, as much for the wine as for the music. Well, this year A Tribe Called Quest failed to show. Twice. I first encountered Leo Steen's Chenin Blanc last year, when Duran Duran were truly spectacular. This year, I had to settle for the Who. And this relatively new Chenin Blanc. Since then, my girlfriend and I have been sharing it whenever we can and forgetting to tell anyone about it. This thing sucks you in with its aroma and talks to you in whispered tones while you drink it. The lovely thing is that it's not trying to get you drunk. It's a mere 12.1 percent ABV and retails at $24. Think of it as Duran Duran's Wild Boys as sung by the Vienna Academy Male Voice Choir.

One chilly Wednesday earlier this year, I took a Sonoma winemaker on a Napa tasting trip. Winemakers don't necessarily have a lot of time to taste other people's wines. They're too busy trying to make sure their own wines don't fall into pit of despair, leading to shaming expressions from the shamans of the wine world. Still, we wandered into this little place in Calistoga and somehow failed to emerge until almost two hours had gone by. Laura and Michael Swanton, who themselves wafted into the tasting room at one point, seem content to do their own thing. This Cab wormed its way into my soul. Yes, at $60 a bottle, it's the priciest wine on my list, but it brought me consistent joy. Laura Swanton used to work at Cisco, doing no-doubt fascinating things that would send me to sleep before 11 a.m. This slightly smoky -- to my palate -- Cab is an awakener. It tells me that all you have to do to ensure tech companies make the world a better place is to leave them. 

Published on: Dec 10, 2017
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