A “Proprietary Red Wine” from a man named Michael Polenske, who hit it big in other enterprises then started Blackbird Vineyards, raises the following thought: “Proprietary Red Wine” is part of an appealing minitrend in winemaking—the trend to blend. Single-varietal identification, in other words, has grown a little stale. There’s only so much mystery you can imply when you call a wine by the name of its main grape.
Among twenty snowy mountains, / The only moving thing / Was the eye of the blackbird.
(This is actually the first verse from the great Wallace Stevens poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”)
The Blackbird proprietary blend is a “Pomerol inspired” wine, in the words of the accompanying literature, adding further to the feeling that this trend to blend is real. Why? Because witness number four:
A wine made from 95 percent Merlot, 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. If ever there was a wine that deserved to be called Merlot, this one qualifies. Also, what’s so proprietary about a blend when you announce it in whole numbers on the back of the bottle?
I was of three minds, / Like a tree / In which there are three blackbirds.
Conclusion: The labeling of “Proprietary Red Wine” is meant to encourage focus on the “Pomerol inspired” part of the marketing, and distract from the “Merlot” part of the truth.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds. / It was a small part of the pantomime.
There’s nothing wrong with Blackbird’s obvious marketing ploy: All of us who were scared away from Merlot by Paul Giamatti’s “I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!” in Sideways could indeed use a reminder that Pomerol, one of the great Bordeaux appellations, for which connoisseurs pay giant money, is composed largely of Merlot.
And this is far more important than the rest: Blackbird “Proprietary Red Wine” is so good it’s a blessing.
A man and a woman / Are one. / A man and a woman and a blackbird / Are one.
Opening my own bottle of Blackbird, on a nothing night at home, when I’d made a lamb stew from Lulu’s Provençal Table, a ridiculously good cookbook, I had to admit that it was an imperfect pairing.
It hardly mattered: This wine has such a dazzling array of flavors and smells, all so well fused into an uplifting whole, that the food couldn’t bring it down.
I do not know which to prefer, / The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / The blackbird whistling / Or just after.