Friday, January 23, 2015

Whole Foods Wines: Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon

Everybody loves a wine with a back story, even if the back story is a bit contrived.  Bubo - a California winery - has taken the Latin word for "owl" as their name.  It's also the name of the goddess Athena's magical owl, so we are getting into Edith Hamilton's territory - something I didn't really anticipate as I tossed aside the old cap'n'gown.

Owls are associated with wisdom, good fortune and animals that wear glasses.  They are also known in modern times as great pest control devices - that makes the name perfect for a winery, since most vineyards have owls - real or plastic - stationed on their vine trellises to keep away vermin who like to munch on grapes.  Vermin who don't know any better will end up on the business end of a set of talons, leaving no one to tell the story and warn the young 'uns of the terrible vineyard raptor who guards the sweet little clusters.  It may seem sad for the vermin, but business is business.  Personally, I'd rather see grapes in the form of a 750 ml bottle than as vermin food.

So, owls are alright with me.  We once had a couple of owls in the trees near our home, and I took the chance of hooting back to them one evening.  They went away and we didn't hear their hoots for months.  I always wondered what it was I said that offended them so.  Could it have been something like "vermin is murder?"  They may have decided to hoot it up for a while in more carnivorous trees.

Since owls are such good stewards of the land, Bubo Wine Cellars says they are "deeply committed to a sustainable farming philosophy that recognizes that growers are long-term stewards of the land they farm.  We favor natural over man-made controls and encourage biodiversity."  That means there will be owls.  In fact, there is one on the label.  There is no mention of exactly where the grapes are grown; the appellation is "California," and that covers a lot of ground.

The Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 allows you to hoot it up for under $20 at Whole Foods Market, where it is a mainstay of the wine department.  At 13.5% abv, you can hoot it up a little more than you usually do with a California Cab and avoid that "not so in control" feeling.  When you decide to try and hoot at the owl on the label, it's time to put the cork back in for the night.

Bubo Cabernet pours up deep and dark, and gives a big whiff of oak spice on the nose.  Clove and vanilla jump right out, leaving the cassis notes running behind.  There are some spicy and herbal aromas playing into the nose as well.  Flavors of ripe blackberries and red currants carpet the palate, with those oaky notes coming through.  Clove and vanilla pave the way for cinnamon and a hint of eucalyptus.  Tannins are up front and ready to take apart a juicy bite of ribeye, while the acidity sits fresh on the tongue.

If the wine were not as complex as it is, I might be tempted to think it too oak-driven.  With all that's going on here, though, the oak effect is as welcome as an owl in a vineyard.  Just keep an eye on your vermin.

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