Today's wine may not be for everyone, it's kind of a funky one, and not an everyday wine, but a fun one every once in a while! So buyer beware.
I first heard about this wine, or really this grape recently, when it was described to me like so: "It's just...I don't know, weird. That's really the only way I know how to describe it, it's not like anything else I've had." So naturally, I was intrigued. Boy oh boy was that guy right, it's like my mouth was confused, but happy...I think?
The grape is called Mission, and unlike many other grapes we've covered so far, it is NOT named for a region, but for a vocation. Brought over to New Spain (California) by Franciscan Missionaries in the 1700's, Mission wine was, and is still, mostly used to make fortified wines, by mixing it with brandy. In addition to this, it was commonly used to make sacramental, or "church wines." During the 1800's and early 1900's it was the most widely planted grape in California, but that has obviously since changed.
It goes by a few other names around the world such as Criolla Chica in Argentina, and Pais in Chile, but isn't used much these days in the sates. Probably your best bet for finding it, would be in it's fortified form, called Angelica Wine, which is super sweet but mellows significantly with time and is quite a good bottle if you're willing to wait. Notoriously Mission wines in their unfortified form are subpar, somewhat "meh" wines, especially if you're used to big bold heavy hitters from California. I actually really enjoyed it though, like I said earlier, not an everyday wine, and kind of funky, but I like that. Again, I see wine as liquid storytelling, and I think it's an interesting story, worth hearing from time to time. This wine tells a story of religion, and a greater purpose. It tells a story of mission bells in the distance, of musty old robes, and funny little haircuts. It tells a story of a seed that grew into a mighty oak, the first of the grapes to be planted here, clearing a path for an entire industry in California, and the new world.
Ok, so you now know that this wine is funky, weird, and subpar. I'm selling this so well, right?! Like I said before, there aren't many 100% Mission wines floating around, but I got my hands on this one from Broc Cellars, a super cool, all organic winemaking operation out of Berkley, CA, known for doing unique, awesome wines! (Check them out if you get a chance)
So what is it actually like?
Well right off the bat, the first thing you'll notice is that color! It's a beautiful, light, bricky red, bordering on pale magenta. Not quite what you'd expect from a California red, but then again, get used to that with this wine!
If you have one of those funny double sided Sherlock Holmes hats, you may want to put it on before diving into this wine, you'll need to do some serious sleuthing to pick out all of the subtle flavors going on here. I love that kind of wine. It's like an adventure in your mouth. Take a sip and you can almost hear Sloth (Goonies reference here) yelling "Hey you guys!" from your tastebuds.
Up front you have intense ripe red fruits that feel like they're going to get too sweet but never do. From there you'll notice a very thin mouth-feel, which I realize sounds like another one of those stupid snobby wine terms, sorry about that.
Basically, picture drinking maple syrup, how it fills your mouth, coating all of it's surfaces, with it's flavors lingering for a while. I equate a "heavy mouth-feel" to something like that. Now go the other way. Picture drinking a light tea, or flavored water. Picture how easily it slips across your tongue, down the sides of your mouth, and then virtually disappears, leaving very little to remember it by until your next sip. That's how I would equate "thin mouth-feel."
Back to the wine. So you have ripe red fruits, and a soft, thin mouth-feel, a quick slip-n-slide for your tongue if you will, and then, right there at the end there's something I would call ever so slight spice, and a little acidity. You'll know this less by the taste, and more by feeling. It should feel a little like pins and needles for just a second, dancing across your tongue. Not in the "ouch! ouch! My leg is asleep!" kind of way, more in a "Ooo, that was an exciting little tingle" kind of way. The lingering feeling (it's too light to call it lingering flavor) would be a dry, earthiness, that quickly dissipates and leaves you curious and wanting to go back to it.
This is a wine that needs to be served with a slight chill, and lighter fare, if any. I plan on grilling pork tenderloin tomorrow, and will probably have a bottle of this on hand. Pork is about the heaviest I would go food-wise with this though. I'd say it lends itself more to a picnic with cheeses, and fruit, maybe some salami to balance the light acidity.
So all that to say...Mission wines are kind of weird, but I like weird. If you want to try something a little out of the norm, head to your local wine shop and see if they have one, or you can always ask if they can order one for you! As always, drink on!