Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Comfort Zones be Damned

Life has a way of throwing curve balls.  Either you can step up to bat and swing your heart out, or you can jump back from the plate.

Nick recently accepted a position at Binny's Beverage in the Loop of Chicago, Ill.  Nick will be working as a wine consultant in a much bigger city, and will be able to work with so many new types of wine (and people!)  Moving to Chicago is going to be a big change for us two little Wisconsin kids.  Before we leave Eau Claire, we wanted to be sure to do a guest tasting with our two friends, Joel and Steph Peterson.  Joel works in the beverage industry with Nick (you'll find the two of them at Famous Dave's happy hour every Monday) and while Joel and Steph love wine, they are new to some of the terminology and tasting practices.

Joel and Steph weren't the only ones stepping out of their comfort zones tonight.  With the (persistant) recommendation of Maggie's coworker Cameron Lien, we decided to review hard-rock band Trivium's album "In Waves."  Any heavy-metal recommendation from an inked-up Buckle employee should be taken with a grain of salt (or so we predicted), but true to our promise to give every recommendation a fair chance, we decided to take on the heavy-metal challenge.  This is where Joel and Steph came in ... as longtime rock fans, they were much more in their musical element than we were.

On our first sniff, Steph and Joel (as well as we) noted that our 2007 Cab from Hess's Allomi Vinyard was quite hot.  As we allowed the vino to breathe a little, the Petersons' descriptions of "rubbing alcohol" started to give way into some very jammy and sweet smells.  As Nick so eloquently put it, the vino smelled "like the little Smuckers containers you get at a restaurant."  As Joel and Steph began to catch on to our sniffing notes, we moved on to give the Cab a taste.

Steph immediately picked up on notes of clove, while we noted the decent acidic balance.  Florals, clove, and honey made the wine beautiful to taste, and we all took a second to relax.  We were sure that our peace was about to be disrupted by some crazy, satanic, screamo-style tool music.  Nevertheless, we turned up the volume and cranked the tunage.

The album began with "Capsizing the Sea," and intro track of dissonant rock reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails, consisting of layered guitar themes.  "In Waves," the album's title track, began with percussive guitar (though it got a little "Through the Fire and Flames" at some points), but was altogether more melodic than expected.  With no shortage of cheesy hard-rock songs (with equally cheesy titles like 'A Skyline's Severance' and 'Leave this World Behind'), there were also a lot of basic melodic elements that were built upon to create a surprisingly listenable album.  However, the album showcased little true complexity, with basic rhythmic guitar, stagnant chords, and predictable builds on subdivided melodies.  "In Waves" was nothing to write home about, but certainly wasn't the satanical, crazy-loud screamo album we had been fearing.

As for the wine, we were disappointed to find that some of those beautiful fruits and herbs had melted into a syrupy, jammy concoction of drinkable but saturatedly-sweet wine.  The amount of acidity just didn't hold its weight, and the wine turned into a melting pot of fruit and jam.  We all had our own opinions on the wine, but it didn't follow through on its promise from the first taste.

All in all, Joel and Steph learned a lot about critiquing wine, and we learned a lot about metal-namely, that you can't judge a book (or album) by its cover.

Nick's Review


I have a pretty diverse taste in music and can usually find something I like in any album ... even heavier stuff.  I'm a fan of bands like "Dream Theater" and "Underoath," but only in spurts and I usually gravitate towards their more melodic songs.

I have a good friend who loves heavy metal and screamo.  To my friend it is a way to release frustration and clear his head.  For me, I like to listen to music to relax and feel enlightened.  "In Waves" had moments of melody that broke up the heavier stuff and was much appreciated.  One thing I look for in bands that utilize "screaming" (sorry if that isn't the technical term) is their ability to switch from screaming to singing.  I think Trivium was successful at this and I would be interested to listen to some of their other offerings to see if this resonates more.

I probably won't listen to this album again, but I would check out some more Trivium given the chance and probably wouldn't mind seeing them live if they were on a billing at a rock festival.



When I first go into wine I drank a lot of Cabernet.  It seemed to be the most popular varietal and it was definitely the varietal I sold the most of.  However, I began to get bogged down by the big fruit, high alcohol content and excess oak of a lot of the California Cabs (admittedly inexpensive) that I was drinking.  So I switched to other varietals and only drank Cabernet when offered.

Suddenly, with the purchase of a bottle of Mouton Cadet, I discovered old world style cabs.  This wine was more elegant and structured, often lower in alcohol and not overpowered with oak.  These new style of wines I was trying were balanced and I was able to drink more than one glass.  Time and time again I would get a craving for a big extracted Cabernet.  The kind that reminds one of eating fruit roll-ups on the swings during recess!

Hess Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon is a nice marriage of both new world and old world cabernet.  While the wine is big and fruity, the body is light and mouth-watering.  While there is some alcohol on the nose the wine doesn't come packaged with it's own two-by-four of oak.  It's like taking a child to the playground. You're too grown up to go on the swings ... but you're not too adult to steal a bite of their fruit roll-up!

The wine has an interesting nose of black currant and clove, not much on the front end and finishes fruity with a bit of tea on the back of the pallet.

88 pts

Maggie's Reviews


At certain points in this album (such as the foreign-inspired "Ensnare the Sun") I was pleasantly surprised with the group's ability to branch out into other musical ideas - that is, until I realized that although the group imitated different musical styles, they didn't create any musical style of their own.

The band built on very basic chords and rhythms, although the guitar was actually pretty impressive.  While the band seemed to have a lot of technical talent, they also didn't seem to create anything particularly new and interesting.

While I am certainly glad I gave this album a try, I highly doubt I would listen to it again (mainly because so many songs seem to run on and on without any real variety).  I give Trivium props for playing with melodies, but they need to work a little harder on expanding their musicality in order to make anything truly remarkable.



This wine had so much promise on the nose - the idea of clove, honey, florals, and berries married together was a perfect recipe for loveliness and appeal.

I usually love wines that evolve, but this wine evolved too much, too quickly.  It was hot immediately on pouring, but then it opened up to showcase the beautiful tastes and textures that characterize a good Cab.  However, by the end of the bottle (which didn't take long with four glasses to fill!) the wine had turned flabby without being oaky.  It wasn't that is was heavy, so much as it became syrupy-sweet, undefined, loose, and jammy.  The heaviness of the fruit became unbalanced, and made the wine uninspiring and thick to drink.

86 pts.

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