Book and Wine Review: Unplanned Parenthood: Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand, by Darren Delmore of Delmore Wines

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews, Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-10-2021

Unplanned Parenthood is the third installment in Darren Delmore’s Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand series and it’s very much in the same vein as the first two (Slave to the Vine, Lucky Country). It’s one man’s intensely vulnerable take on his journey in wine and search for contentment, stuffed to the brim with over-indulgence and poor decision making. It’s sad and frustrating, punctuated with enough laugh-out-loud moments and simple joys to pull you along—kind of the way life itself feels sometimes.

As I mentioned before, I was fortunate to run into Darren while cruising through Paso Robles a couple years ago. He was an incredibly gracious host to my wife and I at the Tin City co-op where he operates, even scaling the tall stacks of barrels with a wine thief to give us some samples. For this book release, he actually sent me some bottles (thanks, Darren!) to enjoy. I found his Pinots to be genuinely gulpable, and I greedily downed them, the Syrahs too. See my tasting notes below (“Read the rest of this entry”), and check out Darren’s website for more info.

In Lucky Country, Darren worked the harvest at Two Hands in Australia, and in Unplanned Parenthood we find him back in California, this time working at Goldeneye in Anderson Valley. It’s 2010 and he’s 34 years old. 

And it all starts with a bang.

One morning just before starting work at Goldeneye, Darren wakes up with a knee in his back, gun leveled at his head, and immediately second guesses the wisdom of planting that plot of Petite Sirah on a pot farm with his friend Willie. Luckily, they’re able to skirt jail time, as the authorities let them go, but it’s a scared-straight experience for Darren—at least for the moment.

The book covers a lot of ground, taking readers from California to Two Hands in Australia and back. (Those who’ve read Lucky County will be up to speed on the character lineup in Australia.) Darren drinks wine and beer (like, a lot); serenades friends, ladies, and crowds with his guitar; surfs some killer locales; walks with trepidation yet frothing desire into one fling after another, hoping for a love that lasts; and does his cellarhand thing. I also concluded by like page thirty that Darren should probably lay off the edibles.

This episode in the trilogy is more about Darren’s search for love than anything else. And that’s why I call the book intensely vulnerable. This is a real person, baring his soul on the written page, putting himself upon the altar of public critique and judgment. I judged Darren as I read. You’ll judge him too. That’s human. But I also think it’s the point. It’s all therapy: for Darren, who no doubt did some genuine self-reflection through the writing process, and for readers, who are called to reflect upon their own life choices, for better or worse.

Darren is building a great little brand here, based on his own style: oceanic, vagabond, raggedy, but with enough follow-through to actually pull off three legit books, a website, and 5+ bottlings of Pinot and Syrah. I dig it.

My Recommendation
I love reading Darren’s prose. It’s straightforward and honest—Hemingway’d approve. But I’m not a huge fan of the graphic nature of some of the scenes. I also struggle with the title, which is a bit misleading, since the “parenthood” component comes too late in the book and doesn’t play the role I’d expect. Those two disclaimers aside, Unplanned Parenthood is entertaining cover-to-cover, laugh-out-loud at times, and just a solid weekend read. We’ll see if Darren has a fourth installment in him!

Delmore 2019 Syrah, Bassi Vineyard, Central Coast (SRP $40)

I like to crack a bottle of wine to kick-off my nightly cooking. The kitchen heat and Doobie Brothers blaring on Pandora are perfectly complemented by a glass of juicy ink. This night I made patty melts with charred-scallion chipotle mayo. The wine is a beautiful purple color and on the first sip coats my teeth with tannins and hits the sides of my tongue with great acidity. There’s black fruit and some chalkiness, which I tend to note a lot in Syrahs. It’s very well balanced. The oak comes through, but isn’t overdone. We finished off the bottle sitting around the firepit eating (and here’s a pro tip) peanut-butter cup s’mores.

Delmore 2019 Pinot Noir John Sebastiano Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills (SRP $50)

Thanksgiving 2020 was unconventional, and my family went with equally unconventional dishes. We paired this Pinot (among other bottles) with turkey, crab cakes, French onion mac and cheese, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I immediately got blue fruit on the nose, followed by fruit punch. It got more specific as it opened up in the glass, with mouth-watering sour cherry and strawberry, and a wisp of umami, which I love! There’s a lot of great fruit in this wine. It’s a solid, medium-bodied Pinot with a good whole-mouth feel. One you should drink young/now.

Delmore 2019 Syrah, Stolo Vineyard, Central Coast (SRP $45)

I drank this one as Christmas approached, with Stevie Wonder’s Christmas album on the turntable and shrimp and tomato grits bubbling on the stovetop. It’s deep purple in the glass. Great color! It smells of red licorice with some spice, like cinnamon and oregano. The wine’s tartness paired well with the spicy reduced cherry tomato slurry. As we emptied the bottle, I could taste all the unfilteredness that settled at the bottom, all the grit and thickness. It’s raw, this bottle, and I love that.

Delmore 2019 Pinot Noir, Eden Rift Vineyard, Cienega Valley (SRP $50)

Purple, like dark cherries, with translucent rim. This Pinot has a lot of baking spice, more so than fruit. My wife and I get cinnamon, allspice, gingerbread, molasses, and mocha. There’s muddled raspberries and black pepper. It tastes like sour gummy worms in my mouth and the acidity darts right to the back of my tongue, and lingers on my teeth with a pleasant almost menthol-like tingle. This is an easy-drinking wine you can quickly knock back—maybe good for summertime, with its light weight and great tartness.

Delmore 2019 Pinot Noir, Central Coast (SRP $30)

The nose on this one is fresh, like the air after a rain, and it has more expressive fruit aromas than the Eden Rift Vineyard Pinot, with black fruit and blue fruit roll-up, like lunchtime in elementary school. It has a full mouthfeel with slightly discernable acidity (I’d prefer more). It’s not as good as the Eden Rift for taste. Relatively speaking, of Darren’s three Pinots, this one comes in at number three. It’s the only one without a vineyard designation, so it makes sense. It’s an overall balanced wine, with wonderful aromas, but I’d opt for the Eden Rift or John Sebastiano first.

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