Chasing the Dream: Razor’s Edge Wine

The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” In the 1944 novel, The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham, the main character Larry Darrell eschews a traditional lifestyle for a nonconformist and less financially rich life. He gives up his fiancé, his lucrative stockbroker job to search for meaningful and spiritual experiences in a wandering journey through post WW II Europe.

Have you ever felt like doing that? Have you felt like throwing away the traditional life and a comfy career to follow your dreams? Michael Opdahl, winemaker for Razor’s Edge Wine, did just that. In a recent conversation with Mike, he regaled me with a story of a young, whiskey and beer drinking man from the Midwest who strayed from his path into the unknown to chase a passion.

Mike got involved in the wine industry after a casual encounter with wine. After one glass, wine turned into a hobby, wine became a passion, wine grew into a part-time job and then then wine became his life with a full-time career as a winemaker. Back in 1997, he moved to California for a rewarding job in finance. While at a party, the owner of the company he worked for gave him his first taste of quality wine; an Australian Shiraz. Mike fell in love and by the next day he was off on a buying spree that turned into a serious habit. He was soon buying 10-20 cases a week and stocked a respectable cellar of Australian wines.

After famed wine expert, Robert Parker, published his first reviews of Australian in 1999, Mike realized he had a business opportunity to resell the oodles of cases of high scoring wine. He did that for a while and then got an import license to really get the business rolling. He soon became an importer for Two Hands Winery and built a successful wine importing business. That wasn’t enough to slake his thirst for the wine industry.

In 2004 he embarked on his Razor’s Edge moment and started Razor’s Edge Wines and Fetish Wines (more about Fetish in this blog post). He set out to make affordable wines with top quality grapes from McLaren Vale. Razor’s Edge produces about 50,000 cases at a co-op winery in McLaren Vale, Australia. The grapes are sourced from a select group of small growers that farm the Willunga, Padthaway and other sub-regions of McLaren Vale.  Mike has a close relationship with the growers and the Razor’s Edge vineyard manager works with them to determine the right time to harvest and quality of grapes for each varietal.

Razor’s Edge wines are barrel aged in both French and American for varying lengths of time depending on the varietal. The Cabernet is aged in French oak, and the Grenache is stored in neutral barrels to let the juicy fruit flavors shine through.

Here is what you can expect from them.

2008 McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache

Look The satin lining of a smoking jacket: translucent, bright, Bing cherries with dried cranberries at the edge.
Smell A bowl of boysenberries, raspberry brambles and fresh strawberry preserves.
Taste The ’08 Shiraz Grenache blend comes on like a black cherry Jolly Rancher, powerful, tart and fruity. The mid-weight body has a light mouth-feel and eases into an intermediate-length finish filled with anise, cedar and blackberry. This wine is fruit forward but doesn’t get all Carmen Miranda on you. Drink it with a meal or on its own.
Price $12

2008 McLaren Vale Shiraz

Look Like a surrealist’s interpretation of a razor cut; violets and blood, deep reds and purple, translucent bordering on opaque.
Smell A big nose of zippy blueberry juice and tart blackberry.
Taste This is a signature McLaren Vale shiraz style with lush plum, jammy blackberry, vanilla balanced with mild tannins and zippy alcohol. It has a nice, long finish framed in oak. It is approachable on its own, yet big enough to stand up to a steak dinner.
Price $10

2008 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon

Look A vivid glass of ripe mulberries, both translucent and bright.
Smell The ’08 Cabernet has a full aroma of tart dried cranberries, and spiced blueberries.
Taste It tastes like a blood red meat served with a peppercorn, baker’s chocolate and blackberry reduction sauce. It is balanced with hints of glycerin and just enough tannins to give it depth. Its finish lingers with oak, but politely doesn’t over stay its welcome.
Price $14

Razor’s Edge wines are distributed in 47 states. If you live in the Dakotas or West Virginia, you are out of luck. It is also distributed throughout Europe, Canada, China and Singapore.

The conversion from Mid-western financier to Aussie winemaker probably wasn’t easy, but these affordable, award-winning wines certainly don’t reveal the winemaker’s background. Mike Opdahl has captured the spirit of McLaren Vale with fine, hand-crafted wines in a boutique winery.

Razor’s Edge Wine provided samples of each wine for review.

What are you drinking?