When I was growing up my family had a psychotic dog. Once, the dog (his name was Chumley - strikes fear in the heart, no?) and I were playing with his rawhide chew toy - he would bring it to me, we'd play tug-of-war with it, I'd win, throw it across the room, and he'd come trotting back with it for more. On about the dozenth or so go at it, Chumley dropped the toy at my feet where I sat on the floor, wagging his tail and with a big ol' doggy smile on his face. I picked up the rawhide for one more round of tug-of-war and Chumley, logically, lunged at my face and took a bite out of my chin. It wasn't bad, just a tiny gash, but I was more distraught by how he had turned on a dime like that.
Yet another time, Chumley savaged the face of a friend of mine. Granted, my friend had wrapped his arm around Chumley's neck, and I couldn't even get out the word "don't" before the dog turned on him.
Needless to say, this dog made Cujo look like Benji.
I recently had a similar (though far less dramatic) experience with Stag's Leap 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Artemis. It is the fun, playful red wine that turned on me. I first encountered this Cabernet at a wine tasting my wife dragged me to on my last birthday. Yes, the same tasting that turned me into a lover of wine and made me want to learn all I can about wine tasting and wine making. At the tasting, the Artemis was one of the first wines I tried. The event was a large one, with representatives of the many wineries on hand to ply their wares. The gentleman from Stag's Leap gave me some lovely overview of the Artemis which went in my right ear, bypassed my brain, and exited my mouth as "uh-huh". Whatever waste by-product was generated during this transaction left my other ear in the form of a potentially deadly gas, I think. But, I lifted my glass, skipped what I felt at the time were the pretentious gestures of spinning the wine, looking at it, and shoving your sniffer in the glass. I went straight to dumping the contents into my gob and barely tasting it before letting it plummet down my throat. But it was delightful. To think that this wine elicited such a positive response from me in my very brief and limited exposure to it says a lot about what Stag's Leap put in the bottle. I wish I could describe exactly what I experienced, but since I was a criminally inept taster at the time (still probably am) I really can't tell you much more than I liked it and immediately bought a bottle.
Which brings us to the second half of the story: That bottle I purchased came home with us unopened and has been in our cellar (okay, it's really just the laundry room) for just about two months. We finally uncorked it and poured a couple of glasses for the missus and me. And that's when Chumley came home to haunt me. This was not at all the wine I tasted at the event in March! It couldn't be! Could it? Yes, it was the very same. And in the time since my inaugural tasting and the return visit to the Stag's Leap Cabernet, I have learned just the tiniest bit more about properly tasting a wine. Mind you, Robert Parker I am not. Hell, I'm not even his gardener's bastard half-son's dog Chumley's discarded rawhide chew toy. So, take everything you read here with all the salt in the Earth's oceans.
My second go round with the Artemis was not pleasant. But let me throw in the giant caveat that I have since learned that it is almost certainly my fault for this bad experience. I have been told that Cabernet's (and other bold reds) are best when they've had a chance to breath - which, no doubt, the Artemis at the tasting event had sufficient time to do. At some tables, in fact, the pourers were using aerators on their reds to help open them up. In our second tasting of the Artemis at home, we gave it no such respect - out of the bottle, into the glass, down our throats. This time, however, I did give the "pretentious gestures" a try, and - surprise, surprise - I learned a lot about the tasting process and what I miss out on by not taking those vital steps.
I won't go into too much detail on my tasting - it smelled bland and hot, it tasted bland and hot, and there was hardly a finish (but it was hot). Had I treated this bottle the way it deserves, I have little doubt that I would have found it just as enjoyable as I did at the tasting event. So, I think it's only fair that I pass no amateur judgment on the wine at this time, and I will commit to giving it a proper handling the next time I buy a bottle - which will be soon. But, based on my original, positive experience I would recommend anyone give Stag's Leap 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Artemis a try. It's $40 at the one big retailer near us, but they're not known for great deals, so you may likely find it for as low as $30 near you.
That's a bit stiff to chance on my newbie recommendation. So I will do my best to do it justice the next time around.