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The Daily Tar Heel

Polk’s cabernet: hard to get

	Katherine Proctor

Katherine Proctor

Allow me to activate your knowledge of U.S. history and remind you that when James K. Polk won the presidency in 1844, it was as a “dark horse,” or surprise, candidate.

So, as would any person with a propensity for remembering the monikers of presidents and their affiliates (see: “Lemonade Lucy,” wife of Rutherford B. Hayes), I thought of Mr. Polk when my housemate Carson recently presented a bottle of The Original Darkhorse Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Darkhorse cabernet promised “bold flavors of blackberry and black cherry, supported by firm tannins, brown spice and a dark chocolate espresso finish.” I wondered whether Mr. Polk — an alumnus of our little University and the namesake of Polk Place — would find that combination of flavors agreeable.

This column is obviously not a place to discuss the ramifications of the Mexican-American War and manifest destiny (we can leave those topics to the online commenters).

However, I will not avoid making the purely factual statement that Polk’s attention to westward expansion constitutes one of many factors that facilitated the eventual bloom of the California wine scene and for the easy accessibility of Californian wines, like The Original Darkhorse.

It’s a little too storybook that the Darkhorse cabernet happens to be, not unlike Polk’s presidential campaign, subtle and unexpectedly potent. It’s the sort of wine that I picture being served to a bunch of tech consultants in a bar with low, bluish lighting and futuristic metal furniture.

And the Darkhorse image is notably minimalist. The logo, an angular and symmetrical silhouette of a horse’s face, is sleek and austere and ripe for imitation by tattoo artists.

The label’s only other holdings — besides the earlier cited matter-of-fact litany of the wine’s flavors — is the winery’s telephone number, without even the barest instruction to call it. And the winery’s mission statement is just the pithiest — “to create great wines for the price of good.”

It all gives the impression that Darkhorse wines are somewhat coy and like to play hard to get.
Visiting the website, I clicked the link to “read more” about the wine I was enjoying so much, and was less than gratified with the scientific list of information about the wine’s composition — fermented at 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, stored in steel tanks for 4 to 9 months, etc.

There was none of the fluff or gushing or cuteness we see in other wine marketing campaigns. The people at The Original Darkhorse know they’ve got a solid product, and they trust that the product will do the work for them. Paying $7.99 a bottle, I’d be inclined to agree.

Would Mr. Polk? Perhaps in theory, but the man was a bit of a teetotaler. Sam Houston once deemed him “a victim of the use of water as a beverage.”

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