“Michael and David Phillips are fifth generation farmers in Lodi, California. To say they are clever marketers would be true, but might be misunderstood as a disparaging observation. Michael David may not have invented the really big and bold style of California wine, but they’ve certainly helped develop that market. And they have done so with a light-hearted, almost whimsical touch. Proprietary names on Michael David labels have included 7 Deadly Zins, Incognito and Earthquake. This week’s ‘Pick’ is the second release under the Freakshow label, which might become a separate and additional brand.
“Complementing the Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon is the recently-released 2014 Freakshow Red, a blend consisting mostly of Syrah, a bit of Petite Sirah and, as the winery website says, ‘a splash of Souzao.’ (That latter component is a grape native to Portugal, where it is used for Port wines. Obscure in California, it is usually used in blends for Port-style wines, though at least one Lodi winery, St. Amant, has produced it as a stand-alone varietal table wine.)
“Freakshow Red is a powerful bottle of wine. Big and jammy, the predominant personality is blackberries, but there are other aspects, as well. We found toasty aromas that included dark roast coffee, and a smokiness that sometimes seemed apparent, yet sometimes not. The flavors were dominated by the deep, dark berry fruit, but there were recurrences of the smokiness, as well as some dark chocolate notes. In general, our reviews have not been kind to high-alcohol wines (this one is 15.5%), but there’s a big audience for these big bruisers. Freakshow Red is a well-made wine and shows the concentration that good Lodi grapes are capable of producing. There’s also that identity—just the name ‘Freakshow’ is intriguing. Then there’s the label. It’s marvelously complex and even includes some embossing. But what does a freakshow have to do with wine? We really have no idea, but the packaging makes us smile and the wine inside is really a solid example of that big, in-your-face style of California red wine.”
Food Affinity: “Hardly subtle, the 2014 Freakshow Red would overpower many foods. Better drink it on its own or pour with similarly powerful flavors. Roasted, smoked meats might work. Many sausages and strong cheeses would also be appropriate.”