Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How One Yearns for the Toll of the Mission Bells . . .

As we sit down to write our reviews tonight, we find ourselves stuck in melancholy mentalities.  This could be a result of one of two things: either we're sympathizing with the plaintive, spiritual Amos Lee album, "Mission Bell," or we're deeply disappointed in our 2007 Cab from Sterling Vinyards.

As we first sniffed and tasted our Cab, we clung to the hope that it was just taking its time opening up. We got a dramatic amount of heat on the nose (at 14.6, the alcohol should be strong, but not overwhelming) but couldn't pick out much else. Nick got a bit of sweet corn, Maggie some blueberries and bacon . . . but neither interpretation was strong enough to convince both of us.  As we tasted the wine, the story was the same: we could literally feel the alcohol trickling down the back of our throats, overwhelming any beautiful fruits or sensual textures we might've encountered.  We've had a few rocky beginnings in our days, and we decided to give the vino a few minutes to mature, and move onto the music in the meantime.

Amos Lee . . . well, we're kind of lost for words on this one.  We apologize for the lack of our usual wit and characteristic banter, but Lee has us feeling spiritual.  With a bluesy voice and gorgeous harmonies, Lee gave us some southern spiritual, layered it with soft rock, and topped it off with some country.  The first track, "El Camino", captured our interest from the start with seriously beautiful piano/trumpet harmonies and relaxed vocals.  Then, "Windows Are Rolled Down" took us by surprise, showcasing that solemn inner happiness while going for a thoughtful drive on a summer day.  Just when the album would get a little melancholic, a song with a funky southwestern beat like "Hello Again," or a spiritual uplifter like "Cup of Sorrow" would bring us back to Lee's philosophic, solemn plane.

After being so impressed with our Audio we thought we'd revisit our Vino, hoping for some emerged flavors or matured personality. We were grossly disappointed.

For its price point, the 2007 Cab was really a sad product.  Overwhelmed by heat and without any real backbone, the wine seemed to be all for show.  We thought back to a previous AudioVino, when we had compared wine to different types of women.  Nick told Maggie she would be a complex, old-world French wine.  This Cab personified a brunette with blonde highlights, lots of makeup, and a Hooters t-shirt, and a fake tan.

Nick's Review

Amos Lee's album Mission Bell is fun, spiritual, relaxing and ever reverent.  His gospel-like vocals flow with super ease and he sings with what sounds like little effort, yet he is able to produce a fine and ever evolving sound.  He'll make you think of Willy Nelson (coincidentally, on the album) or Roger Miller (this blogger's favorite singer!).

There are multiple instances when you feel like Amos Lee should reach this ultimate falsetto note and you can almost feel the note before he gets there . .  but he won't get there - yet.  He'll drag it out and keep you wishing, until finally he hits that note satisfying something deep inside you that makes his music seem so fulfilling and worth a second spin.

The 90's had the alternative rock and the 00's had indie rock.  Now is the time for the new wave sound of the 10's and that is a retro vibe that can make you feel like your hanging out with a college-age version of your parents or even your grandparents.  For the nostalgic persona in all of us, be sure to listen to Mission Bell, just don't do it while drinking Sterling Vineyard's 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.



"I think I met one of those 'California Gurlz' from that Katy Perry song - only I saw her without her makeup and made a beeline for the hills of Napa."  That being said, this wine is probably touted as a decent buy according to many a wine sales rep.

My pallet has six zones, 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6, with 1 and 2 being the front, 3 and 4 being the middle, and 5 and 6 being the finish . . . this wine scores a 1.88 on my pallet.

What a sour representation of it's vintage!  2007 is supposed to be the creme de la creme of the decade.  It's the vintage that anyone in their mid twenties should be able to look back on and say "Man, this is the vintage that turned me into a wine lover for life!"  Unfortunately this wine was neither a big over the top Cali-Cab or the complex Bordeaux style sipper that I was hoping for.

I did gather one interesting note from this wine though:  there is enormous complexity you can get in the nose of a wine when smelling it through the concentrated opening of a decanter!  The wine in my glass smelled thin and hot, but out of my decanter it reeked of corn husk!  I could even picture myself at my Grandparents shucking corn that was about to be dropped into a boiling pot and served up fresh with butter and salt and pepper.

Don't waste your money on this 2007 Napa Valley - there are hundereds of other Napa Cabs from this vintage that will blow you away!

80 pts.

Maggie's Review 


Amos Lee pulled off a great album. I'd heard a song or two on my Jack Johnson Pandora station, but none of those tracks prepared me for this album.  Lee sounds more like a male version of Macy Gray singing church songs than a seaside guitar player.

I really loved the first track, "El Camino," and I loved it's reprise (feat. Willie Nelson) even more.  My favorite song on the album might have been "Jesus," which turned out to be the only truly uptempo tune.  That said, the album didn't get repetitive.  Instrumentals and interesting harmonies kept every song sounding new, fresh, and philosophical.

Lee's voice frustrated me on just a few notes - mainly because, having minored in Voice, I am kind of picky. His range is great, but there are a few places where he pushes just a little too hard.  Of course, that's neither here nor there to the average listener.  He did a fabulous job with a spiritual album.



I am disappointed, I really am.  While Nick prefers more complex, finer wines to big California Cabs, I am a Cali girl all the way.  I generally love the bold, fruity flavors that California has to offer.  I'm a sucker for the sucker-punch, a slave for the fruity . . . but this had none of that going for it.  In a wine predominated by alcohol content, the balance becomes so tilted towards the sharp heat that it masks itself as acidity and shockingly strong tanin.  The negative attributes of wine become funneled into one overpowering, concentrated taste that is too hard to get past, especially for a novice like me.

I got the hint that under better conditions, this wine would've been decent.  I got a lovely blueberry taste paired with a savory bacon scent, which would've been a delicious breakfast in a wine glass under different circumstances.  Unfortunately, the balance was so off that none of that could shine through.

I have to judge this wine even more harshly because of its price point.

78 pts.

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