Spoiler Alert: this is not a blog about the Cinemax explosion of a television show called Banshee (although it is a tasty testosterone tour de {by} force).  It’s not even fully a blog about Banshee, the newest wine project from Dorian Gray…I mean, Baron Ziegler (seriously, his hipster youthful appearance not only makes it hard to believe he runs both a budding cult winery and a cool wine import company called Valkyrie, but I just want to card him every time I see him on sheer principle).  No, this is a moment of minutiae about the mélange called Mordecai.  


Baron calls this wine ‘a unique beast’.  Whereas some producers are taking declassified fruit that didn’t make the mainline cut to create a value wine, or focusing on specific field blends, or even mixing vintages (not to be confused with mixing metaphors, which is every other blog), the Banshee boys (Baron has partners) have a mentality for Mordecai that is a revolving recipe based on ‘half Bordeaux varietals, half Rhône varietals, and then add the Spice Box’, basically eschewing regional identity, traditional varietal blending, and any other boundary that keeps them from making a singular, delicious, versatile vino.  They don’t really stress the cost aspect in their discussions of it but the Mordecai (like all the Banshee lineup) hits the quality/value ratio like a Chicago Bears middle linebacker (so much so, they could’ve easily called this blend Butkus, Singletary or Urlacher) (as long as we’re talking unique beasts) (is it Fantasy Football time again already?).


The 2012 Banshee Mordecai starts with one-third cabernet sauvignon from Calistoga and adds another 12% of cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot in roughly equal parts, all from Napa, fulfilling the half Bordeaux varietal quotient.  For the half Rhône varietals, the linchpin is a little more than a quarter cool climate mountain syrah from Broken Leg Vineyard in Anderson Valley, with a significant dose of old vine carignan from Mendocino and a 5% grenache push from Paso Robles. The remaining 11% ‘spice rack’ is equal parts Dry Creek zinfandel, 

Sierra Foothills barbera, and 5% of (surprise!) touriga nacional from the Rockpile AVA, a traditional Portuguese varietal that doesn’t get much play in the USA.  The blend itself follows no known pattern or established logic.  The palate continues the trend.


The color is deep purple, appropriately enough because the nose starts off with a little smoke on the water (when you can’t mix up the metaphor, you can always double up on the entendre).  The aromatics never overwhelm, but they whelm just fine, thank you.  The idea of Bordeaux + Rhône + a little something something as a loose formula actually becomes a reality the more time the wine spends aerating.  Baron has mentioned white flowers on the nose, which maybe happens to you  when you look like you’re ready for Prom, but my take was a lot more dark fruit/tobacco with minerals and angry herbs.  The taste wavers in interesting and unexpected aspects over time, yet remains both brash and brooding throughout.  It’s a mouthful (easy for me to say).  If any one component had a lasting effect, the syrah showed some iodine here, braised meat there, enough so that the masculinity of this wine was never in question.  Yet one could say the final upshot is that of its own fantasy team of varietals, melding into a unit worthy of a broad array of bold dish pairings from tripe to t-bone, bleu cheese to buffalo, and if ever a wine was made for short ribs, hi, my name’s Mordecai.      


Lastly, while I’m definitely a big fan, if this blog gives the impression that Banshee begins and ends with the Mordecai, I believe otherwise.  With Banshee and Baron Ziegler, there’s Mordecai and more to come.


Peter Kasperski