Red eye

Shannon-Ridge-Wranger-red-10614The stranger had come up the trail from Texas, leaving Kiowa country for the high chaparral. He nosed his mare up the mud-churned Main Street, past the drover’s cottage and the land office. As unhurried as the longhorns he’d passed bedded on the short grass by the depot, he raised his eyes to the mound at end of the rutted street. Boot Hill.

He tied up to the hitching rail outside the one-story brick building that housed the county bank. He paid no mind to the cowhands watching him from the stock corral as he stepped up to the boardwalk, his spurs adding a metallic rhythm to his stride.

As he pushed open the swinging doors to the noisy saloon, he took off his hat and beat at the trail dust that coated his chaps and vest. Every man in the place looked his way, taking the measure of the stranger as he strode up to the bar.

The barkeep took down a half-empty bottle of rye and growled.

“What’ll it be, podner?”

“Chateau Margaux ’67, if you please.”

Shat-toe who?” the bartender asked, stunned.

“Margaux. But the ’67 isn’t widely available. Perhaps just a Champagne Cocktail.”

“Listen, Mister,” the bartender replied. “This is a cowboy saloon and we only serve cowboy drinks.”

“Fair enough,” said the stranger. “Make it a Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red.”

The room went deathly quiet. The piano player froze mid-note. The card players warily placed their hands on the felt-covered table. Finally, the bartender spoke.

“Did you say ‘Wrangler Red?’ I know what a wrangler is, but I ain’t never heard of no Wrangler Red.”

The stranger’s trail-hardened features relaxed into an amused smile.

“It’s a red blend,” he explained. “A mix of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

The bartender paused long before responding.

“You don’t say.”

“I do say,” the stranger continued. “Wrangler Red, named for its deep garnet, ruby color, has aromas of ripe cherry, blackberry, raspberry and rich vanilla oak. The flavors include blackberry pie, cinnamon spice and sweet vanilla.”

“Did you say ‘blackberry pie?’”

“I did,” said the stranger, growing more animated. “It’s a rich, elegant wine with soft tannins, nice balance and a lush, lingering finish. Hang on … I have a few bottles in my saddle bag. I picked them up at Johnny Edwards General Store up on Main Street for a mere $8.99.”

The piano player, card dealer, bartender and several patrons agreed that Wrangler Red was, indeed, a multi-layered wine of great depth with a smooth, silky finish. As the stranger prepared to leave, they thanked him for introducing them to a beverage so robust, rewarding and cowboy-ish.

In one sweeping gesture, the stranger removed his hat and bowed deeply. Then he was gone.

Moments later, one of the cowhands from the stock corral burst through the saloon doors.

“Who in blazes was that?” he demanded.

“You mean the stranger?” the bartender asked. “He was just passing through. But he’s a good man. He made a lot of friends here.”

“Well I think he’s loco,” the cowhand declared. “I done saw him riding out of town.”

“What’s the matter?” asked the card dealer. “Ain’t you never seen a cowboy ride a horse?”

“Not side-saddle, no.”

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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