"Wanna make out?”)
Reality, it seems, is somewhat surreal for one of Monterey County’s youngest winemakers, for whom this was his second reality turn after Bachelorette: Season 5. But it’s with a brand new wine book that the Carmel Valley resident and his brother Jacob are poised to really make out. Like bandits.
Tonight (Monday, Sept. 13) is the season finale for Bachelor Pad, in which he and his on-show sweetie will look to trump two other couples in formal battles of double-crossing and adroitness (this week’s challenge is ballroom dancing, and Kovacs doesn’t look too stoked) and inevitable, unintended efforts at all-out annoying-ness.
Not only can I find the courage to admit to watching this soul-sucking TV, I can confess to actually enjoying it at least a little, in large part because 1) I got a perpetual kick out of the fact everyone goes by his or her first name except Jesse, who, in what I hope is a bit of marketing mindfulness at play, goes by “Kovacs” (their wine label is Kovacs Brothers); and 2) Despite playing a cocky game, everybody on the show, even his biggest male rival, is apparently jocking this former minor league baseball player, including himself.
“[Elizabeth] wants something more serious than I do,” Jesse says at one point. “If a girl catches a bad case of Kovacs, what can you do?”
So, even if if he gets stuffed in the season finale and misses out on a quarter million dollar prize, for those reasons he has already won, even if we can’t claim our culture has advanced as a result of the programming in which he’s participating.
Fortunately the Young and the Thirsty: 25 California Wines for the New School Drinker coffee-table-style book ($19.99) does advance a segment of wine-drinking culture by engaging the young wine drinker, embracing new wine tastes, and profiling small-plot producers with compelling backstories (with a side dish of drinkability, affordability and California loyalty).
The opening sequence of its 96 pages start with a Hungarian proverb, an inheritance from their hilarious pops, first-generation immigrant Joseph, who I first met when he poured me an impromptu Syrah tasting on a dusty driveway—“The wines remember the hearts and hands that made them”—and primes readers on Monterey County’s uniquely flavor-producing winegrowing conditions and a little family history at Szalay Winery, where the brothers once packed into a 400-square-foot trailer with Joseph and mom Bette.
What follows is a playful young wine drinker manifesto of sorts from the seventh generation wine makers. “Deep knowledge of wine isn’t necessary to enjoy it,” it reads.
"Be gone, sixer of Old Milwaukee. Come hither, Sauvignon Blanc. There is no need for a proper glass—I will drink you straight from the bottle, and I will like it," the intro continues. "Leave me, mystique and snobbery. Don’t let the door hit ya’ where the good Lord split ya’."
The 25 picks, divided into reds, rosés and “sweet” sparkling/desert pours and arriving with a taste of the stories behind them, include some nice local choices, all between $10 and $30.
• Talbott 2007 Kali Hart Pinot Noir, $21
• Boeté 2004 Estate Cabernet Franc, $25
• Parsonage 2007 Snosrap Cyrano Syrah, $25
• Wrath 2008 Destruction Level Sauvignon Blanc, $29
• Boekenoogen 2008 Chardonnay Stainless Steel, $28
• Mirassou 2008 Monterey Riesling, $12
• Bernardus 2008 Vineyard Designate Sauvignon Blanc, $25
• Scheid 2008 Gewurztraminer, $16
• Szalay Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis, $30
• Kovacs Brothers 2005 Meritage, $19
• Kovacs Brothers 2007 Syrah, $25
The Kovacs Brothers like to say their wine career began when they showed up to buy some wine for blending with only a dented beer keg to carry it in, but this tour marks another genesis.
Their cross-country book tour starts in Carmel Valley this week and crisscrosses the country and even Canada. They’re pushing their unique and irreverent website—including some righteously goofy "Kovacs TV"—and wary of being labeled just good-looking dudes with a half carafe of wine savvy, according to Dusty Schmidt, founder of Imagine Media, LLC, which published The Young And The Thirsty.
“We think Jesse can be the face of an entire winemaking and wine-drinking generation,” Schmidt says. “All of our research supports that the 22-35 wine-drinking demographic is expanding with abandon. Jesse isn’t just a pretty face—he was raised around the winemaking craft, feels it in his body and soul, and is incredibly articulate on the subject.
“This is not a reality star capitalizing on his 15 minutes of fame. Jesse—and his brother, for that matter—are the real deal. They make brilliant wine, and that’s no accident. The vision for this book is their own.”
That said, the “Kovacs” new reality won’t hurt turnout either.