So, the 24th edition of Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades (label babel: vintage indecipherable unless you read the pithy romance copy; varietal unspecific – it’s a “red table wine” with a vengeance) is standard issue dinner party fare but for people whose company you actually enjoy.

When I first read about cult winemaker Sean Thackrey, two notions struck me simultaneously:

A) did his open vat fermentation technique in a coastal town make his wine susceptible to seagull poop?
And B) He probably hates being called a “cult winemaker.” Hence, his post dot-com URL

It says Sebastopol on the label but the legend is that the dude is based in Bolinas, CA.

That’s a coastal town whose inhabitants ritually remove the highway signage so it can’t be found. I surmise that Thackrey’s wines are their only means of communicating to the outside world. The message in the bottle is similar to the satellite Voyager’s – a gold record of classic rock-n-roll, a couple of etched nudekins, a vague map, maybe a spell.

At first: Dulce de leche on the nose, not quite caramel, not quite butter but a friendly first kiss from a red wine, which are usually more inclined to pinch your cheek like an aunt when you’re a kid, or your partner’s sibling when you’re older and things are more complicated.

Did the dried berry notes of every sort – a basket of pickings left in the sun, then dipped in creme fraiche. That’s the lactic underpinning that keeps preening on the fray like an attractive onlooker with opera glasses and oxblood lipstick. And they’re looking at you. Good choice, they say, good choice indeed.

Takeaways: Pleiades XXIV Old Vines Red Blend

Pleiades makes for a brilliant gift bottle that won’t break the bank and telegraphs a bit of class. It generally retails around the $25 mark. Also, if you can no longer spell it you’ve had enough.