The Great American Porch: wine’s final frontier. Since the early days of idle living, beer has held sway over porch dwellers—those pensive souls who, for as long as winos can remember, have looked down upon vino, believing it to be too sophisticated for the gritty business of porch life. But this is hyperbole, a collective delusion brought on by wine’s hoity-toity reputation; vestigial misconceptions of a younger, misguided, evangelical America that welcomed an era of prohibition as a remedy for alcoholism.
But if we consider that the American front porch owes its design to those early settlers—immigrants from European nations who brought with them commonplace architectural elements that can be traced back to prehistoric times—surely wine, which many of those American pioneers made at home, figures well into porch life. On his porch, did the great Julius Caesar tipple back on beer? Did Napoleon pound lagers on the front lines with his men? No. Our own Thomas Jefferson drank only the finest French wines from his estate in Monticello, most certainly while reclining on his “Venetian Porch.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Venetian porch at Monticello. (Photo: wikipedia)
I invited one of Los Angeles’ most talented wine aficionados, a free thinker from Silverlake Wine, Mr. Jamil Williams, to join me on a friend’s porch in Silver Lake to take in the setting sun, and to pound—not sip—our way through a roster of wines. Silverlake Wine has garnered a reputation for its highly curated selection of boutique bottles from hands-on producers, primarily from California, France, and Italy. Of that mix, Jamil and I filtered out 10 wines that we have deemed suitable for porch pounding.
So pull up a chair or rocker, get out your dirtiest coffee mug or paint can, and divide an entire bottle of wine between you and a friend. Don’t sniff it. Don’t swirl it. Just pound it. Let the stillness of the night transport you back in time to some porch in, say, Ancient Egypt. You are Pharaoh, and you are drinking some good-ass wine.
Porch-dwellers across this great nation, hear us out: Let the wine replace your tired rum and coke, your poor PBRs, your muddled masses of god-awful swill. Stop being a grape snob, and let’s get going.
“Fiction” by Field Recordings
Good for: People who appreciate Will Farrell
From: Paso Robles
Price: $40 for a 4-pack
We wanted to start off our porch-pounding endeavors on the right foot. Jamil brought a few 500ml cans of this bright and refreshing rosé from Field Recordings. The move is to pound it vigorously—and we did. Mind you, that’s about four to five glasses of wine, which we consumed in about 30 seconds (after we pounded a can of “house beer”). My first reaction to the wine was of surprise. With most liquids from a can, we have been trained to expect some kind of carbonation. I complained about the lack of sensation, and Jamil was quick to remind me that there is a carbonated rosé, and it’s called “Sofia.” Touché. We crushed the cans in our hands—an energizing, tingling effect was taking hold, intoxicatingly stranger than fiction.
2014 The Ride Series “Helmet” White Grenache Blanc (Made in Association with McPrice Myers)
Good for: Presidential hopefuls
The late-afternoon sun beating down on the porch made me feel hot underneath a three-piece suit and bowtie, and so, quite naturally, I began talking in the same accent Kevin Spacey employs as President Frank Underwood in House of Cards. “At least you’re dressed the part,” quipped Jamil.
“Well, don’t ruin it for me,” I replied in my best Southern accent, “I’m only half way through season three.” Of this Grenache Blanc, Jamil said it is the arm wrestling champion of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. “What the hell does that mean?” I asked. After a pensive moment he mustered: “That’s what it means.” “Well, that’s more than I knew about it. And it’s pretty tasty,” I said, as President Underwood.
“This is part of our new ‘Ride Series’ at Silver Lake Wine,” Jamil explained, “which is an effort to make approachable California wine that is of high quality and made by somebody who is hands on. But it’s gotten a little too warm in the sun.”
“I prefer it like that,” I said, fully steeped in my newfound role as Commander-in-Chief. “Because then at least I can taste whether it’s bullshit or not.”
We tipped back hefty mouthfuls, spitting some back out over the scorched, sunburnt lawn. “Tomorrow morning,” Jamil started to say, pointing to where we were spitting, “All green grass—right in that area. I guarantee it.”
2014 Vincent Caillé Domaine le Fay d’Homme ‘La Part du Colibri’ Abouriou
Good for: Getting you lit while you light the BBQ
At a typical wine tasting, we wine professionals like to “rinse” each glass with a tiny splash of wine to rid it of any aromatics or flavors from the previous wine. On the porch, however, we didn’t worry much about that.
“This wine is from a fifth-generation winemaker who lives in the town of Muscadet Sèvre et luh meh meh…” And there it went: I was already slurring my words. “This is a wine for some serious BBQ,” I added. “Like if someone was BBQ’ing in the front yard here, I’d be down. But I’d like them to smoke the meat,” I said.
“So, you’d see them starting to do it wrong and you’d be sitting up here giving commands?” Jamil asked, jovially mocking me. “Excuse me sir! I’d like my meat smoked!”
“I’m the Chief! I get what I want!”
“I don’t know if this is a porch-pounder to me—It’s a little too dry,” said Jamil, referring to the wine now.
“I guess it could be a little juicer,” I offered.
“Juicer and I hate to say it,” he said, “and I don’t want to be a wine person here,” but added, “but it could use a little chill on it.”
“Well, where’s our goddamned chiller?” I shouted toward the sun. On porn shoots they have a fluffer, so it seemed only right. Our chiller, however, was nowhere to be found. So we opened another bottle.
2014 Domaine Saint Lucie “MiP* Made in Provence”
Jamil poured almost half the bottle of this rosé from the south of France in my glass. It was incredibly light in color, juicy, and quite gulpable. Instead of slurring more words trying to describe it, I accused Jamil of being a surfer dude—given his broad frame and head of dreads. I said, “How did a surfer get into wine?”
Like everyone else, he had moved to LA to do the “entertainment thing.” But then his brother, who lives in Blue Hill, Maine, suggested he come out there for a year to reconnect with reality. He went and began working at a wine shop, a converted barn owned by a Wall Street wanker who had little interest in the business.
Jamil didn’t know anything about wine, but he learned quickly after meeting Max Treitler, a wine aficionado and cellist who runs in circles with Yo-Yo Ma. Treitler agreed to teach Jamil what he knew. Seeing an opportunity to help himself and the Wall Street dude, Jamil convinced Treitler to partner with him and buy the wine shop.
As for the rosé, “When it runs out in October, people literally weep over it. It’s the most popular rosé in California,” said Jamil. “It’s Seal’s favorite wine.”
“Well, ‘I compare you to a kiss from a rosé on the gray,’” I sang.
2014 Kinero Cellars “Alice” Grenache Blanc
Good for: A night on the porch with your mistress (or mistresses)
From: Paso Robles, CA
At this point, I was shoveling bread into my mouth while Jamil seemed cool, composed, and smartly sober. “This wine used to come in these 500 ml bottles that were seriously the perfect porch pounder. Anthony Yount makes it—you know him?” I asked.
“Yeah, the baseball player, from the ’80s,” said Jamil.
“Exactly,” I said. (Anthony is in fact, not a baseball player from the ’80s, but why complicate things?) “I feel like this is something you would carry at Silverlake Wine, just because of the pretty label,” I said, rather accusatory.
“Maybe,” said Jamil. “I feel like if there’s a girlfriend or mistress involved in the operation, ya know: ‘Yeah, your art is good, I’ll put it on the label…’ wink wink.” We took big gulps, swallowing a lot, spitting out some. I decided to go for a world record spit-take and ended up spit-spraying all over myself, the porch, and various porchwares.
“That’s how they teach you to spit in the wine schools,” I said. “You’re good at it,” said Jamil. “You’re like a Windex bottle, either stream or spray. And, ya know you could sell that product. It’d be like a strap-on-spitter. If you’re outside, some spray. At hoity-toity affairs, a stream.” We made it a hand-shake deal.
As for Alice [the wine], she’s a lush who strikes a good balance between richness and the kind of tension that leads to gunfights in old westerns: citrus, quince, mineral—it’s all there, and the porch could barely handle it.
2014 Bainbridge and Cathcart Cuvee “Rouge Aux Levres”
Good for: Pairing with pears
From: Loire Valley in France
This wine, unloaded in glugs into my coffee mug, had a powerful bouquet. “This is Loire Valley, Anjou. The grape is Grolleau. The winemaker adds a little CO2 instead of sulfur as a preservative, and it can be a little fizzy,” explained Jamil.
“That’s juicy!” was about all I could think to say. (All my best wine words had flown the coop dozens of minutes before.)
“Yeah, it’s got some juice to it,” said Jamil, throwing me a bone.
“What’s the grape, you said Grillo?”
“Anjou. In the Loire Valley of France. That’s where all the Pears d’Anjou are from,” I made up.
“Awesome. I would drink this on a porch.”
“Dude, we’re on a porch.” So it goes.
2014 San Lorenzo Il Casolare Bianco Verdicchio
Good for: Sipping while polishing your fine Italian Leather boots from Le Marche
I was beginning to feel fresh and feisty, while Jamil, clearly the consummate porch pounder, maintained focus. “Give me that screw-cork!” I barked. “This is from San Lorenzo,” I said, uncertain of what that meant. “You want a rinse?” I poured a good glug into Jamil’s mug, which he swirled around with the previous Grolleau, creating a rosé, then promptly pounded it down.
“I like your style!” I shouted, a bit too loud. “So, this wine is a hundred per-chent Vermentino.” I looked back at my notes to be sure. “Correction! This wine—it’s one hundred per-chent Verdicchio. Cheers.” We clinked coffee mugs (and beyond coffee mugs, we recommend old coffee cans for your porch pounding affairs).
“I love this wine,” said Jamil. “This is one of my favorite wines and for $13.50 it’s killer. We sell the shit out of this.”
“It has good fruit and good acid and good mineral. Damn good.”
“It’s all there. Whatever descriptors you want, whatever you think—it’s all there.”
2013 Weingut Salomon-Undhof ‘Undhof Kogl’ Riesling
Good for: Finding out you were completely fu*king wrong about your Riesling hate
“I just brought this based on principle,” said Jamil. “This is a great Austrian Riesling. And when it’s super ice cold it’s a good porch pounder. They’ve been importing this to the U.S. since 1937.”
“That’s before World War II,” I offered, helpless by now. “That’s before a lot of things. And the family that owns this wine—they’re growing Riesling in New Zealand too. I recently was hanging out with a billionaire wine guy from New Zealand. We were in his private jet and guess who was on that jet? Will Costello, who just became a Master Sommelier.”
And that’s when we decided we would be like Master Somms, right then and there, on the porch. So, we gave it a go: “This is so juicy, crisp, has some serious stone fruit action,” I offered up. “Yeah. It’s Bright. Racy. Refreshing. Mouthwatering,” said Jamil. “People think it’s sweet because it’s a Riesling,” which riled us up.
“If I had a nickel for every Tom, Dick, and Harry who thought all Riesling was sweet…”
“You’d be a billionaire.”
2013 Zocker Grüner Veltliner
Good for: Making neighbors nervous by chanting, “Long live Zocker!”
From: Edna Valley, California
Grüner continues to be the darling of frequent wine drinkers. This one is from Edna Valley in the Central Coast of California, where nearly every vineyard in the appellation lies no more than a few miles from the ocean. Think of it as your ocean-front porch pounder. “People love this wine,” said Jamil. “It’s got something for everybody. It can be appreciated by a lot of people.”
“Yeah, I hear it. It’s a salty dog, chalky, and has some serious fruit.”
I suddenly felt the urge to pull out one of those cheap, vanilla flavored cigars. A “Black and Mild,” I professed. “That would work because the wine has enough fruit to hold up to it,” Jamil assured me. “Black and Mild and some ribs. Long live Zocker! Long live Zocker!” And you too can shout this glorious phrase from a porch. Yes you can.
2014 Cruse Wine Co. Valdiguié ‘Rancho Chimiles Vineyard’
Good for: Napa diehards
From: Sonoma, California
It was getting late and the sun was beginning to set behind a row of silhouetted palm trees. From our porch we could see the wannabe movie stars lining up for coffees at Intelligentsia, and suddenly that seemed appealing. Jamil realized that Silverlake Wine’s Monday night tastings were happening right now and he should be there. I said I felt like I should be there too. Then we laughed about that and opened one more bottle.
“Alright. This is for the Napa people. It’s a grape called Valdiguié, which is close to Gamay. It’s from 40-year old vines in Petaluma. The fruit is concentrated and it’s aged in French oak, but it doesn’t show that oak much.”
He said that for under $30, this was some “real shit.” And, admittedly, it’s a wine you want to drink a shit ton of. And that, my friends, is what drinking on a porch is all about.