Some wine is described to be authentic. I have been meaning to build a working definition of authenticity for my own clarification and finally managed to squash a prolonged streak of procrastination after discovering ($25 ****) Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades XX on Atlanta’s Local Three Kitchen & Bar wine list. This adjective that has blossomed into standard wine enthusiast fodder, bandied throughout critical wine circles with head-spinning frequency, will no longer be taken casually here. Research turned up these words and phrases to collectively define authenticity:
- devotion to genuineness
- truthfulness of origins
- true to one’s own personality
- conforming to original character and attributes
- adherence to originality
- lack of falsehood
This urgency around authentic clarity was driven by the reappearance of Pleiades in my glass, a wine and winemaker emanating high beams of authenticity, unlike anything I have ever tasted from California before, and a vintage version different from any other wine we came across in the vertical Pleiades tasting we conducted last year.
Conversely, Local Three Kitchen & Bar fanned antithetical flames of authenticity, housed in a building complex called Piazza at Paces somewhere off I-75 in a nondescript Atlanta, GA neighborhood. The southern/suburban/Italian center is designed with grand Roman thematics in mind, and the restaurant is located off a lobby of what appears to be an office building named Forum. You can park your charriot in a brand new multi level parking lot that is just behind the Forum. When you finally navigate the commercial office space and open the door to the restaurant, you spatially transition one more time into yet another farm to table, contemporary barn decor, pig-art dominated meat theme park. It’s a restaurant du jour, paying attention to local, meats, and comfort foods that you have been served at twenty other places. All the boxes are checked, some surprisingly good (brussel sprouts), but most renditions not as compelling as earlier versions (i.e. pork buns compared to Momofuku’s).
While we could have been eating in Epcot Center’s Italy Pavilion housing a mediocre replica of a trendy themed American restaurant, Sean Thackrey and Pleiades XX came to authenticity’s rescue. Dinner guests and wine became the focus of my experience. The polarizing effect of a highly authentic wine showcasing the original attributes of its component parts, not dressed up to be anything it isn’t supposed to be, producing a drinking experience uniquely it’s own, and presenting a personality not shared with any other wine helped push away Local Three’s themed overtones.
The Marin county based iconic, idiosyncratic, and eccentric Sean Thackrey produces Pleiades without any adherence to style consistency year to year. The blend is different each vintage, and possibly never totally represented on the label. According to this vintage’s label, Pleiades XX includes sangiovese, pinot noir, mourvedre, viognier, and syrah among others. The appearance of the wine is on the lighter side, showing off the color characteristics associated with its sangiovese and pinot noir components. You might be able to even see the hint of brown edge that lives at the edge of the glass of Pleiades XX at the right.
There’s a sweetness, almost candy apple quality to the aroma. Earthy and leather notes are neatly tucked into the sweet nose. Simply from the aromatics, it reminded me of Arianna Occhipinti’s southern Italian Frapatto since both wines offer floral sweetness, multi dimensional flavor profiles, great acidity, a lightness on their feet, and sweet/herbal/earthy changing aromatics. Sage and thyme (maybe the mourvedre?) show up after the wine sits around in the glass for ten minutes. The mouthfeel is like a graceful, medium rich pinot noir and it finishes with Burgundian like acidity. Its a wine that juxtaposes styles and varieties to the drinker’s advantage. It does all that for around $25 a bottle. It could be one of the most interesting values in all of California.
In addition to my working definition of authentic wines, there is also Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades as a benchmark of authenticity. And then there is Local Three Kitchen & Bar to prove authenticity is not required to be mostly presentable, sometimes yummy, occasionally attention-getting, and ordinarily unexciting.