A Damn Good Jug o' Wine

I was in Rhinelander, WI, giving a reading last week and someone in the audience, hearing I was a wine critic, raised her hand and said, “You have to go to House of the Spirits before you leave!” I nodded and said I’d try, but she insisted, “NO, I mean it. It’s this weird little wine store where you walk in and something completely different and perfect just appears. Like that magic shop in Harry Potter.”

Well, who could resist?


So the next morning, on my way out of this two-block town, I stopped at the combination gift store/real estate office/coffeehouse for some espresso and went into House of the Spirits, a place that was last decorated (and dusted) in 1962.

Two steps in the door, and what should I run into (as if Dumbledore himself had planted it there) but a clear glass jug of Three Thieves Circle K Ranch Pinot Noir 2004, with a silver screwcap and one of those little monocle-like loops for you to hook your finger through.

Three Thieves actually is made from about 75% Pinot Noir grapes and a quarter Syrah. Grapey, fruity, red, and juicy, this is a full-on, in-your-face John Wayne and Dean Martin, shoot-em-up kind of wine. Take it along in your saddlebags when you ride a horse along the Rio Grande. Swig it by a campfire. Guzzle it before getting the bullet dug out of your side.

With an alcohol content of 13% it’s right in the mid-range of California reds these days. But here’s the surprise: at $11.99, it’s a steal. The jug is a full liter, so you get 6-8 glasses for your 12 bucks, instead of 5. And besides, it’s somehow great fun to pour from a jug. Even if you’re using Riedel.