The holiday season is upon us and while I’m not exactly Oprah, I thought I’d go ahead and share a couple of my favorite things by pairing some new Christmas music with a couple of not only new to me, but new to market, wines.
In the course of my Christmas shopping, I’ve noticed these Duck Dynasty cats have their bearded mugs on everything: t-shirts, bottle and can koozies, bobble heads, and yes, mugs. The Robertson clan has even released a Christmas album, Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas. And I hear one of them bought a winery—on a whim—at some point, so we knew branded libations were inevitable…
Yup, the guys who revolutionized duck hunting and reality T.V. have entered the wine business. Crazy, right? Crazy like a fox, Jack! While I’ve only seen a couple episodes of the show, I will say this: the Duck Dynasty dudes seem fairly down to earth and funny, and everybody seems to love them. And they’re obviously marketing geniuses.
The new Duck Commander wines are actually made by and in partnership with Trinchero Family Estates in California. Three varietals were made available on release: the 2012 Wood Duck Chardonnay, the 2011 Triple Threat Red Blend, and the 2012 Miss Priss Pink Moscato. I’m only talking about the Chardonnay and the Red Blend here, mainly because they were the only two varietals available in my local store.
To be honest I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the music or the wine. The Robertson Family Christmas album, however, brought a pleasant surprise with its fourteen tracks of Christmas cheer.
This is no musical masterpiece, mind you, but the Robertson clan doesn’t embarrass themselves with their vocal send-ups, either. And the list of guest performers is impressive: George Strait, Alison Krauss, and Luke Bryan are all involved in this project; like I said, people love these guys.
The word that keeps coming to mind when I consider this album as a whole is: sweet. It’s just plain sweet. Listening to these songs, poems, and readings, I feel like I’m sitting around at a Robertson family Christmas gathering with everyone taking turns leading the family in a song. Sweet.
Even the pandering tracks are performed decently and come off as sincere. The first track, “Ragin’, Cajun, Redneck Christmas,” while a horrible vocal composition using all the right “redneck” words and phrases “just ’cause,” is a fun little Cajun-y romp that doesn’t disappoint. And that’s the thing with this whole album—it doesn’t disappoint.
Even Reed Robertson’s solid vocal performance of the Rodney Carrington hit “Camouflage and Christmas Lights” doesn’t come off as pandering. It is pandering, but the song itself is pandering, so let’s not fault the Robertsons for that (even though I’m sure an intentional decision to include this on the album was made). But let’s be honest, these cats know their audience—huntin’, fishin’, guns, trucks, ‘Merica, “the troops,” and Jesus are gonna play well to their fans—and there’s plenty of all of that, but with enough lighthearted humor that it doesn’t seem overdone or insincere.
The humor particularly shines on the Willie Robertson/Luke Bryan duet “Hairy Christmas” and on the Willie-penned, Uncle Si narrated “The Night Before Christmas;” both are a little cheesy, but with cute enough turns of phrase that the cheesy is fairly easy to overlook, particularly if you’re a fan of these guys to begin with.
My harshest criticism of the album is of “Away In A Manger.” Don’t get me wrong—Sadie Robertson does a fine job delivering a sweet lead vocal on this country waltz rendition of the traditional Christmas hymn; however, if you are blessed enough to have Alison Krauss do a track with you, give her a verse to sing! Don’t relegate her to harmonies for only part of the song. That’s just criminal, Jack!
I don’t know what else to say about the music. It’s a fun little album that fans of the Duck Dynasty and the Robertsons will absolutely love. I’m personally somewhat ambivalent about the show and the family—for no other reason than lack of exposure—and still found the album to be a welcome addition to my Christmas playlist.
I wish I could say the Duck Commander wines were a welcome addition to my Riedel stems, but…
2012 Duck Commander Wood Duck Chardonnay
With a nose of strong citrus I alternately identified as lemon or pineapple, I wasn’t expecting the worst. Well, I didn’t get the worst, but this buttery, slightly tart Chardonnay isn’t particularly good. It definitely came off as a “typical” inexpensive, butter-laden California Chardonnay.
I feel fairly confident I could closely replicate this wine at home by mixing together some combination of lemon juice, syrup from canned pineapples, sugar, and grain alcohol with an entire stick of butter. Let’s just say this isn’t going to show up anywhere on my recommended list anytime soon and leave it at that.
2011 Duck Commander Triple Threat Red
The slight promise the Wood Duck Chardonnay showed on the nose was a delight compared to the nose of the Triple Threat Red Blend. Upon opening, the nose on this one was almost offensive, dominated by a musty alcohol smell. Hey, that sometimes occurs immediately upon opening a wine, but this was a little much. I gave this a bit of time in the glass and revisited before taking a sip, and while the nose improved a little, it was still dominated by alcohol with only a hint of dark fruit and maybe a little spice.
The nose wasn’t a perfect indicator of the palate on this wine. There are hints of slightly bitter dark fruits, but it comes off as a little medicine-y. There is a bit of a pleasant vanilla/cream on the finish that minimizes the bitterness of the fruit, but that bitterness lingers. And there is an almost sweetness that once again leans toward medicine-y.
I let the bottle sit open for a couple of hours with no more than a glass poured and discovered it had softened a bit. A quick sip the next morning (after pumping off with the Vacu Vin overnight) revealed that the nose and palate had both softened a bit, but the characteristics of the Triple Threat were mostly the same, only less so.
I’m all for inexpensive wines that encourage discovery, but the Duck Commander selections are not those wines; I’m not a fan of either of these—even at $8.97 per bottle. That said, I’m sure there are some people who will drink these wines up—but it won’t be me. While I didn’t expect a whole lot from either selection, I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised and discover that they could at least be serviceable sub-$10 bottles. Not the case, Jack.
If you’re looking for some fun new Christmas tracks for your music making device, “Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas” is worth the download. If you’re looking for a new bottle or two of wine to try, Duck Commander wines are a no-go.
I’m sure The Rib and I will peek in on the Duck Dynasty Christmas Special tonight, but will be sipping almost anything other than Duck Commander wine.