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JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery’s 2017 JUSTIFICATION is a perfect pairing of two Bordeaux varietals. Credit: Courtesy of Colangelo & Partners.

There’s an old school of thought that holds that an “eaux” suffix used in lieu of an anglo “O” is inherently classy. You know, in a “retreaux” kind of way, similar to how your dog Fido cleans up to become Fideux. By extension, this is how I feel about Bordeaux varietal—they’re classy—and yes, I can go from typology to logography in about a glass and a half. And I don’t need to justify doing so since I was sipping JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery’s 2017 JUSTIFICATION, a marvelous red blend led by cabernet franc that puts its own wordplay right on the label.

The varietal choice here is interesting in itself. Often used In blending, cabernet franc is the ladder upon which cabernet sauvignon climbs to greatness thanks to the grippy, tannic structure it offers. It stands to reason JUSTIN would have some on hand—located in Paso Robles, the vineyard/winery was founded in 1981 and is known for crafting world-class Bordeaux-based wines, particularly its cabernet sauvignon. Here, however, cab franc is the main attraction, backed up by a lush merlot. The breakdown is 65 percent cabernet franc and 35 percent merlot, which plays both varietals to their strengths. The result is akin to the synesthetic time travel of Proust’s madeleine: Twinings Blackcurrant Tea at Christine’s Cafe circa 1988, topped by red licorice soaring over it all like the oboe in Mozart’s “Gran Partita.” Cinnamon, cedar, autumnal rakings and the shavings of a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil.

The wine is opulent but with concision; it makes its statement in a few bon mots and leaves the room. It does not apologize or patronize, which, of course, makes you want it all the more. A few more tastes and an additional note begins to come to mind. Perhaps it was that line from Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” playing on Spotify that landed just as I sipped—something about vampires on Ventura Boulevard—and I tasted … was it blood? Another taste, then another and finally, like Marie Antoinette’s heady provocation before the guillotine—“Apres nous, les deluge!”—I experienced a flood of righteous sanguinity that awakened an ancient and horrifying thirst deep from within my being … OK, enough vamping on Poe. But there is an interesting, if quiet, note of iron undergirding the affair, which adds yet another dimension to this wine’s complex and compelling profile.

Pair with the moon, a howl and the throat of your lover.

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