Blackstone, William, was the notable English (and thus Anglo-American) jurist of the 18th century, with his key works published in the 1760’s. The man himself seems to have been a pretty impressive 18th century Tory social climber, but time tumbles everyone down. Now, whenever his name appears, it’s a hazy reference in a very British period drama and it’s always from the mouth of either some cold reptile of a barrister justifying the cruelest exploitation of a working class hero, or less often, the squeaking ineffectual panic noises of some well educated mouse-person about to fall to a Victorian slasher’s straight razor.
This thin California Merlot bearing Blackstone’s name most closely resembles the last of these tropes: it’s not a foundational force of jurisprudence, nor is it entirely cruel, petty and oppressive – it is silly and mostly benign, but still somehow contemptible. With minimal body even for a Merlot, foggy purple tinged ruby appearance and a fuzzy, cherry scent buoyed on what might be charitably be described as a clean or fresh notes Blackstone appears innocuous. Uncharitably the stuff stinks of some kind cherry scented, bleach based floor cleaner – thankfully well diluted, but still strong enough to conjure images of some long green linoleum hallway where behind the reinforced glass window of every identical door some mortally ill sufferer is beyond the aid of science.
Blackstone’s flavor is also unremarkable at first. Simple, typical of a single varietal blend starting with muddy, sweet blue plum that slides coolly into a soft vanilla. The whole wine takes a drastic turn after this soporific beginning, as the astringent hospital cleaning fluid flavor rises up like a slasher movie villain, tearing the mellower notes of a very traditional, if uncomplicated, Merlot apart to splatter everything with gobs of tsharp red cherry. It’s the ending of Blackstone that is the most puzzling though.
An odd lingering taste, reaching past the standard doubtful flavors of cheap wine. This singular strangeness does remain a stodgy British strangeness, in keeping with Blackstone’s name though, and it’s even a relief after the bleach and cherries – a mushy sweet raisin taste with a yeasty baked layer – the near caramel flavor of a Garibaldi Biscuit (that extra thin sandwich cookie with raisin paste in the middle).
Blackstone is a slapdash wine, in a way that it’s very serious namesake, old William, would entirely disapprove of, and yet it captures something of the horror popularly associated with 18th century English jurisprudence. Blackstone is monstrous inevitability and harsh cruelty, barely held in check by a veneer of dusty propriety and there are dodgy biscuits afterwards.