The 2007 TWODOG Cabernet Sauvignon in a glass next to a bottle of the TWODOG "Style" white wine that has been replaced with glow sticks. The Cabernet was a subtle wine that provided hint of fruit with a sweet vanilla and velvety texture. Photographer: Talyn Sherer
Entering The Sun and Moon Cafe last Friday evening, TWODOG Wine marketing man Mark Earl greeted SLUG photographer Talyn Sherer and I with hearty handshakes and made sure that we had seats at one of the reserved tables. Straightaway, he talked about his days at the Speedway Cafe discovering local music. This was an excellent segue for him to introduce the concept of TWODOG Wine, a new approach to wine that is unpretentious and targeted to the everyday joe, providing high-quality wines all the while.
Mark described TWODOG as being “unconventional” as he broke some mini glow sticks and put them in an empty TWODOG bottle with a label that included an almost Warholian array of red, blue and yellow squares amid QR codes. He talked about their campaign in China and how their owner and reps had made 17 visits in the past three years—he pointed to owner R. Dee Erickson, whom he mentioned is pushing 70 years of age: Erickson was rocking a white chicken hawk and was wearing a shirt with the name of one of their wines, the Doggy Style. It was at this juncture that I caught on that TWODOG are not just paying lip service to doing business unconventionally.
I sat down, and Mark made sure we had some wine to start out with. Padilla Erickson is TWODOG’s higher-quality wine brand, but we were content with the regular TWODOG branding as I had the red Cabernet Sauvignon poured for me. It had a sweet, grape-y aroma and thick legs on the glass. On my tongue, it was moderately dry and became tart on the sides of the tongue. It was a great wine to start with, as it was an approachable red amid its mild, grape-tasting sting, with a whiskey-esque follow-though up the nose. Mark also explained that TWODOG’s business and distribution is mainly conducted in Utah, though a part of their sourcing of their wines derives from California, as they acknowledge the Golden State’s prime winemaking climate.
He also rounded out the party by hiring two belly dancers from the Beauté Obscurité trio who alternately performed lovely solos on the Sun and Moon back patio. Their highlight duet was the fire dancing, which included them swallowing fire from two batons that they each held, which would re-ignite. They topped it off with amazing candelabra-like handheld fire sconces to end the routine.
Back inside, the first course had been served for the first pairing of the night. The Doggy Style White Wine Blend was the first wine on the roster, which accompanied an outstanding chorizo slider, which included avocado, panela cheese, carmelized onions and ancho-chile aioli. The Blend had a moderate aroma and was crisp on the tongue with a light, refreshing finish. Drunk after a bite of the slider, it cradled and encapsulated the spice of the chorizo, and deflected any overt spiciness along with the muting of the avocado to distill the flavor of the meat. The carmelized onions balanced out the cheese’s thickness, and the overall finish brought back the spice for a kick at the end. I must say, the chorizo was remarkable. Up next was the Marinated Grilled shrimp alongside the Sauvignon Blanc. The shrimp, marinated in citrus and red pepper, had peppery character. The white Sauvignon Blanc emanated a deep yet piercing aroma, and it brought out a sharp tang from the shrimp after I ate and drank subsequently. The after taste bloomed sweetly, and the combination had thick character going down.
Onto the reds: Going back to the Cabernet Sauvignon, which came paired with a bacon-wrapped date filled with blue cheese, topped with pomegranate, balsamic and honey reduction. Might I add: these bacon-wrapped dates were DIVINE, and pretty much solidified that I will always eat meat, as the bacon’s and date’s sweetness tangoed elegantly and tastefully on my palate—I’ll be dreaming about this one for a while. Though I’d say that it was a weaker pairing, the Cabernet washed down the heavy date and allowed the food flavor to reemerge for a flavor tremor on the back of my tongue. I feel that this wine would have been more aptly paired with the following course, the Black Pepper Seared Beef Tenderloin, whose decadent bourbon demi-glace sauce brought out a lot of the Jefé Rhone Style Blend’s characteristics, along with crispy yams and garlic mashed potatoes. The wine itself retained an aroma that seemed deep and almost impenetrable, with very thick legs up the glass. Initially, I found it to be approachable, sweet and wet with a sparkly, effervescent after taste in the mouth. After the steak and potatoes, though, it emitted a dry finish. The steak sauce, as mentioned, added so much—the food unlocked a stinging flavor on the tongue. The steak, additionally, was a perfect medium rare, cut in un-bloody, thin strips. These wines are good, people!
Solo-acoustic act Buildings With Legs (Danny Smith) played a set amid the casual restaurant background, and I got a chance and privilege to have an impromptu interview with Erickson. TWODOG is his fifth profession after being a chef due to his family’s restauranteur background, then a mathematics teacher at the University of Utah, an aerospace-defense rocket scientist during the Cold War and commercial real estate. “Now, I’m making wine, which is my ultimate passion,” he says. “Raised in my dad’s restaurant, I’ve always been involved with food, and I’ve always been intrigued with food-and-wine synergy, which is the concept that is food is one, wine is one, but if they’re paired together perfectly, they become free.” He started TWODOG in 2008, and his been doing it with a “Utah perspective.” He carries on with a big middle finger to the culture and poise of California winemakers, who are steeped in bourgeois tradition. Erickson says, “I think they have their heads up their asses. They have this whole elevated view of who they are. They have this culture that says, ‘We’re experts—you stay out. If you don’t know how to talk about wine, you’re not part of the club.’” TWODOG, on the other hand, maintains a proprietary business on the supply side, and have access to the wine making complex in California, and are not constrained to one, particular venue or facilities. Although much of TWODOG’s business methods are held secret, Erickson aims to remain local at all possible points. He says, “We’re able to produce quality wine at reasonable prices, and we do it all from Utah, and we shop in Utah—we pay taxes in Utah, personal and corporate.”
Sure, some of the initial stages of their business model involve the snobs to the west, but Erickson and the gang are like Robin Hood in the wine game, and they offer their delicious product to us, here, and rep Utah, too. “Everything we do in Utah, we can,” says Erickson. Hell, the advertising firm they contracted to make their bottle art is over by the Gateway. He is also proud to say that all the business he conducts in China doesn’t involve some salesman, which he says is the practice of California winemakers—he is sure to be on every China excursion. He says, “When we go there, I’m like a fucking celebrity. They’re just amazed that a ‘California’ winemaker would give them enough respect to come over and sit at their table and drink their traditional liquor, smoke their cigarettes, have dinner with them, and take time to talk to them.”
Erickson and TWODOG are at the helm of making wine something for everybody, not just California wine nobility, hence “Doggy Style.” TWODOG’s Cabernet Sauvignon is available in all DABC stores, the Zinfandel in selected stores, and the Premium White and Padilla Erickson line in the Metro store. To learn more, go to twodogwine.com. Check out our full photo gallery of the event by Talyn Sherer here.