When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
But when you play the “Game of Thrones” wine tasting, everybody wins. Also nobody gets stabbed, decapitated, disemboweled, impaled, poisoned, burned alive, blown into a million little pieces or shoved out the Moon Door.
The HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels returns at 9 p.m. Sunday, and here at Poppin’ Bottles we are maybe a little too excited about it. We’re not exactly swanning through the newsroom dressed like the Mother of Dragons or that know-nothing Jon Snow, but we are spending way too much time debating who will live, who will die, who will end up on the Iron Throne and how those people on Pyke are building ships when their trashy island doesn’t even have any trees.
We’re also talking about Game of Thrones wines, made by California winemaker Bob Cabral, who was named Winemaker of the Year in 2011 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. This means he is a real winemaker and not just some guy throwing some random grapes together so fans (me) will eagerly buy a bottle just because there’s a dragon on it. (Note: There are also stags, lions and wolves on the labels, so don’t get your sigils in an uproar.)
But we want to drink and know things, so in the spirit of Cersei Lannister — first of her name, long may she reign, though truthfully, it’s probably not going to be that long — we tried all three wines. And they’re so good you’ll forget winter is coming.
2016 Chardonnay ($19.99): There’s a little oak in this blend of Chardonnay (90 percent) and Riesling (10 percent), but not much. It’s refined but not fussy, with distinct peach and honey flavors. It’s the sort of wine you drink when you’re hanging out in Dorne working on your tan and having inordinate amounts of sexual congress or lounging around King’s Landing, hiding out while your various enemies attempt to storm the Red Keep. Keep it far from the wildfire stash.
2015 Red Blend ($19.99): A dry but robust blend of Malbec, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah that you can pair with just about anything (the tasting notes suggest blackbird pie, to which we say a hearty hell naw — try just about anything else instead). You’ll taste dark fruit — berries, cherries — and there’s a finish of vanilla. Tyrion Lannister definitely drinks this wine to excess, and you might, too. Beware. It’s that good. We almost had to resort to trial by combat to decide who got to take home the leftovers.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99): They are not drinking this wine on Pyke, that’s for sure. This wine is for royalty. A deep, rich red, Cabral’s Cabernet is delicious, the tannins as smooth as Littlefinger’s lies. Tasting notes suggest black currant and briar, but we are not sure what “briar” tastes like. Probably better than Walder Frey’s last meal. This, then, is truly the wine one savors when one ascends the Iron Throne. But drink fast. You may not be there long.