I had to do a blind tasting recently for a wine class. I was able to identify the grape varietal, but only because I had the context of knowing that all three wines were made with the same grape. That let me taste three very different wines & then see what the similarities were and what types of grapes could make these three diverse wines. This was a case where if I had focused on only one aspect and not thought about the group as a whole, I would have failed.
Focusing on only one thing at a time and not thinking about the group as a whole seems to be a serious problem for Jerry Jones. I had expected the Dallas Cowboys to be in much better salary cap shape in 2014. This was the year where they no longer would suffer from the blatantly biased and punitive salary cap penalties that they and Washington faced because NY Giants owner John Mara was able to get his divisional rivals penalized for treating the uncapped year as an uncapped year.
I knew that there would be some contracts that had been back loaded to get them through the penalty years. I just didn’t expect it to be this bad. They were penalized $10 million for not being part of collusion in 2010. This penalty was broken into 2 years at $5 million each. This year the salary cap has been raised to $133 million, which is an increase of $10 million over last year. Surely having an additional $15 million to spend would have the Cowboys sitting pretty right? Unfortunately when the new year started, the Cowboys had $37 million (or almost 28%) of their cap space tied up in 2 players. Tony Romo & DeMarcus Ware. Projections showed them being somewhere between $20-$30 million over the cap.
On February 28th, the team cut 4 players, but that only saved $1 million in cap space. According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys reduced their cap problem a bit more on March 3 when Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee agreed to restructure their contracts. The move will save the team roughly $7 million. Finally, they restructured Tony Romo’s huge deal so that 12.5 million of his 2014 base salary of 13.5 million will be converted into a bonus. That lets them spread that amount out over the remaining years of his contract. That gets them to just about 1 million over the cap. Of course it means that Romo’s cap hit will be way too high by the end of the contract. At some point that bill has to come due.
There are doubtless more moves to come. Miles Austin may be cut, which will save almost $5.5 million if he is designated as a June 1st cut. DeMarcus Ware may have to take a pay cut. Eventually they will get below the cap. The problem is that they will have just barely cleared enough room to sign their draft picks & maybe a mid-tier free agent. At the same time, they will have put themselves into the same position next year unless the cap dramatically increases (which it may).
The bottom line is that the Cowboys will have worked hard to meet the salary cap & preserve the core of a team that has gone 8-8 for the last 3 years. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl champion Seahawks have almost $12 million in cap space. At least a truly bad team like the Raiders has managed to get to a point where they have over $66 million in cap space & can try and fix their team over the next couple of years. I think Jones needs to look at the entire roster. Nothing suggests that will be the case though. If Jerry Jones employed a General Manager who had put him in this position repeatedly, that GM would be fired. He should at least hold himself accountable. At best for Cowboys fans, he should bring in some help.
Here are the wines we tried blind.
Domaine Sylvain Gaudron “La Butte du Trésor” Sec 2011 Loire Valley, Vouvray AC $14.99 12.5% alcohol
The wine was clear & bright with a pale straw color. The nose had a crisp acidity and smelled of kiwi, green fruit, & green apple. It was clean & intense.
Those green fruit flavors followed through on the palate. I tasted kiwi, green apple, lime, & a bit of grapefruit. It was dry, with a long finish. The body was light, but the intensity was high.
Truthfully, I might have guessed that this was a Sauvignon Blanc if I hadn’t tried the other wines & known that they were all the same. It reminded me more of a new world, Southern Hemisphere wine than of a Loire Valley Vouvray.
Botanica Chenin Blanc 2010$19.99 13.5% alcohol
After smelling this wine, I knew that we weren’t dealing with Sauvignon Blanc. I narrowed it down to Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay immediately. This wine was straw colored, but turning yellow. The nose had obvious French oak with some cream, a little nuttiness, & lemon. On the palate those same flavors came through, with the oak being the primary flavor. It had a full body & the lingering lemon cream & nut made it an enjoyable wine. It could have been a light Chardonnay or a medium bodied Chenin Blanc.
This wine is from the Western Cape of South Africa. They make some fantastic Chenin Blancs over there.
Chateau Pierre Bise Coteaux du Layon AC 2001 $31.99 (500ML) 12% alcohol
The final wine sealed it for me as Chenin Blanc. It was a golden or deep amber color. The smell of burnt sugar and caramel told me it was a sweet wine. In fact, it was a nice sweet wine with acid that was nicely integrated, a long lasting finish with flavors of brown sugar and that tell-tale taste of botrytis.
The wine is from the Loire Valley. It is hand-picked in several passes so that the grapes are picked at their ripest. Most of them were infected with botrytis, which in this case is a beneficial fungus that sucks most of the water from the grape & concentrates the sugars.
Because the grapes are so ripe, there is more fructose than glucose in them. That means that the wine will taste sweeter. During fermentation, the glucose is converted into ethanol faster than the fructose. Since there is residual sugar in this wine, it is primarily fructose, which tastes sweeter to us in wine. That’s kind of getting into the geek side of things, but I think it is kind of neat. Sometime I’ll get really geeky & explain why no wine is ever 100% dry since only the 6 carbon ring sugars change to ethanol. The upshot is that this is a delicious dessert wine that is not fortified.
Once I had tasted all three & thought about them as a set, it was obvious to me that the wines were all Chenin Blanc. While it isn’t the most prestigious grape out there, it is one of the more versatile. There aren’t many grapes that can make a fruit forward crisp & acidic wine, a soft creamy wine, & a botrytis dessert wine. It is all about keeping the big picture in mind. Jerry Jones should try it. I’ll probably just drink extra wine while I watch the Cowboys play.