By James Knight
They call me Mister Knowitall, I sup the aged wine. That's no self-assessment, but the only lyrics I could recently remember from the band Primus, whose special blend of twitchy riffs and quirky, staccato-delivered lyrics won fans in the '80s and '90s with what could loosely be termed "the thinking man's thrash funk." To be honest, although I could still hear the six-string bass thumping in my head, I only got as far as "They call me Mister . . . " before Googling the rest. It's been a long time. Indeed, the band's first album in 12 years, Green Naugahyde, is due for release this Tuesday, Sept. 13. So what has frontman Les Claypool been up to in the meantime?
Claypool, a 17-year West County resident, became fond of the area's robust Pinots, and credits the purple potation with weaning him from the danker enthusiasms of younger years. "For us, going out to a nice restaurant is a good time now," jokes wife Chaney Claypool. Initially intending to make a personal stash, the Claypools teamed up with a few partners to produce "fancy booze for semi-fancy folks" in 2007. They celebrate new releases at an annual party and concert at Sebastopol's Hopmonk Tavern; tickets sell out quickly.
The tasting room seems made-to-order for the tiny winery. Formerly housing Sheldon Wines, it's a caboose filled with art, vintage model trains, an M&M dispenser and a bar built by Handcar Regatta team Krank-Boom-Clank. Not content to merely slap a name on a label, Les can be counted on to don a headlamp in the wee hours of morning to pick grapes alongside the crew with mariachi music blaring all the while.
But the question on everyone's mind is, does this wine suck, or what? The Pink Platypus, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Ros– 2009 ($18) has enticing aromas of strawberry-guava juice and a squirt of orange zest to the dry, fruity palate. The 2008 Purple Pachyderm RRV Pinot Noir ($35) has baking spice, sweet strawberry jam and rhubarb jelly aromas, cherry-strawberry flavors and an easy-drinking, soft finish. The Rhone-style 2009 Fance Blend ($24) hails from Lake County and has toasted chicory, dark fruit and lavender, pepper jelly and an agreeable, silky body.
Yes, in a similar sense with which fans affectionately lauded Claypool's band with the cheeky epithet "Primus sucks!"—a bumper sticker once seen on VW vanagons everywhere—we can say with authority: these wines suck!
Claypool Cellars, 6761 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. Open Saturday–Sunday, 1pm to 5pm. $10 tasting fee waived with purchase. Wines are also available at restaurants and bars including La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge, Lagunitas Tap Room, Zazu Restaurant, Hopmonk Tavern and more. 707.861.9358.
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