Horseshoes and Handgrenades NV
Wine: Mouton Noir Horseshoes and Handgrenades
Region: South Oregon + Red Mountain, Washington
Grapes: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
I met Andre Mack, aka Mouton Noir, in 2003-04 when he was head sommelier at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York. He'd been a prominent fixture in Napa at Keller's flagship The French Laundry and, before he'd arrived in NYC, was already someone everyone in the wine industry wanted to know. He has since left the restaurant business to make small lot garage wines in Oregon, though he's still based in Brooklyn where he lives with his wife Phoebe Damrosch, author of the highly recommended Service Included, and their two beautiful boys. Always an innovator with a hyper-creative mind, Andre has combined his wine expertise with graphic design skills to create an urban hip hop influenced brand that includes beautifully made Pacific Northwest wines and a line of street wear inspired wine geek T-shirts with a tongue-in-cheek, renegade bent. The world is a better place for it; there's always room for more great wine and unconventional thinkers.
One of Pig&Vine's earliest posts was on Mouton Noir's O.P.P. (Other People's Pinot) and remains one of my favorite drinks to date. It's a classic Oregon pinot with ripe red berry fruit and great balance. The Horseshoes and Handgrenades however, is a little less straight forward. Not only is it a blend of syrah, cabernet and merlot - three grapes not commonly found together - but the fruit comes from two different states. The grapes are from a single vintage, but American wine law does not allow a wine to be vintage designated when made from grapes grown in multiple states, so it's simply "American red wine."
I picked up a bottle in New Orleans this past June, which I finally opened a few weeks ago with a friend who was quite taken with it. My intentions were to grab more for her on my last trip down to NOLA at the end of September, and though I failed that task, as luck would have it, Andre too was in the Crescent City that week, and we met up briefly at a trade tasting. We hadn't seen each other in about ten years and the reunion seemed, like so much in life, to be perfect timing. I had a chance to ask him about the particulars of the wine, specifically the name.
"There's several different meanings," he says. "Close only counts; the proximity of the two states...It's a constant reminder that almost isn't good enough - in anything we do in life." He once told me he sleeps only four or five hours a night, and every idea that zips through his head is immediately put into action, leaving ample room for more ideas. I admire goer-doer types. While not exactly a lazy dreamer, I'm definitely more aligned to the sitter-thinker kind.
Still, I can't help but attach some sexual innuendo to Horseshoes and Handgrenades - somewhere between luck and fireworks - but that's more a reflection of my mental state than a shared reality. Though if we apply this final philosophy to anything in life, certainly it could represent a balance of lucky timing and Voltaire's advice, "We must cultivate our own garden."
Andre says, "I always tell people it means create your own luck and blow the fuck up." That's what I'm talking about.
Mouton Noir Horseshoes and Handgrenades is a deep ruby color with cherry fruit on the nose and palate, excellent balance and smooth tannins that make it easy to drink on its own, though it's even better with a friend. Mouton's tasting notes read, "Think cherry pits and leather whips."
Unfortunately Mouton Noir wines aren't available in Alabama, but it's absolutely worth the smuggle across state lines.