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"A slight chill can focus aromas, tame the perception
of alcohol and can make a red [wine] seem more refreshing, especially when the
weather heats up." ~ Alison Crowe
Here's part-two of a great conversation I had with the
winemaker of Garnet Vineyards in Carneros. A Santa Barbara native and winemaking degree
from UC Davis in her back-pocket she's lighting up the wine world. If you'd
like to stay in touch with her many adventures, you can do so by following
In the photo above she is demonstrating the proper technique
on how-to reinsert the bung back into the bunghole [oh-my]. If you didn't know,
Alison has ventured into the world of wine-blogging, one she has dubbed
theGirl and the Grape;you
should check out when you have a chance. As an example; Alison queries in a
recent blog post "so don't know your bung-hole from your wine thief?"
so if you don't then grab the rest of the storyhere.
There were so many questions, I had to break up this
conversation into two parts. I know I promised I'd have it ready to go by
Monday, but life-happened. That said, here is part-two and without any further
ado here you go.
Cuvee Corner: Being a winemaker in your region is tough, but
what are some of the benefits and/or challenges?
Alison Crowe: Benefit: Every day is casual Friday. Challenge:
Everybody thinks you just drink wine all day.
CC:It has been said "Writers about wine should,
at least on occasion, be troublesome, irritating and critical.” ~ Andrew Jefford what
are your thoughts?
AC: I’m in an interesting position because I'm both a
winemaker and a wine writer.Sometimes I have to wear my brand-owner hat,
but I will tell you I am always wearing my journalist hat, which perhaps makes
me a little more curious, skeptical and some would say outspoken than many of
my winemaking colleagues.
I believe constantly challenging our assumptions is
important and I love writing about what’s happening in and what’s changing in
the wine business. On the winemaking side, I believe in science and data but
the first truth to which we must answer when making wine is pleasure- the truth
of our senses.
CC: It has been said, "No pessimist ever discovered the
secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land" ` Helen Keller how
would you describe yourself?
AC: I’m curious, generous and skeptical workaholic
hedonist who believes in the power of human relationships and in first giving
others the benefit of the doubt. I love people. Winemaking begins with people.
CC: It has been said,” The greatest wines are not forced,
pushed or exaggerated,” [Italian Winemaker Bernabei].
And he went on to say “They maintain their sense of place" what your
AC: I always believe that you have to respect the fruit. I've
been writing this in articles and it’s in my book: Sometimes all you have
to do is get out of the way.
CC: Has the profile of Pinot Noir in California changed in
the past 10 years?
AC: “California Pinot Noir” is a big category and since
Sideways has expanded greatly in volume. See my answers to “unbalanced
fruit bombs” for more insight- There are indeed more bottles of what I would
call “value” California Pinots out there, say $7.00/bottle and under, built
largely on mass plantings of Central Valley Pinot Noir.
But most Pinot-lovers aren't drinking these wines and are
sticking to their tried and true Sonoma, Santa Barbara and
Monterey Pinot Noirs. Have these wines changed? I think in exciting
new ways. I love how the popularity of the varietal has prompted it to
keep being planted in abundance in cool climate areas like the Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast
and the Russian River.
We keep loving our Pinot and keep nurturing it, and as our
vineyards mature we learn more about how best to grow it and make it. I
love the variety in style and approaches I see in Pinot Noirs and I think as a
varietal class, it really offers so much for the curiosity seeker. Few
other varietals lend themselves to such different clones, yeast regimens,
fermentation schemes, oak and aging approaches.
Try finding that same scale of sheer variety in something
like Napa Cabernet; that is a very narrowly-proscribed winemaking recipe viz a
viz ripeness levels, maceration, barrels, etc. I make Pinot Noir and when I go
to a big Pinot Noir tasting, I'm as excited to try new things as any wine
country tourist because my colleagues are always doing new things.
CC: Do you think some California Pinot Noir gets tagged with
an unfair reputation for producing unbalanced, fruit bombs?
If wines are indeed unbalanced fruit bombs then it’s fair to
call them that, and there are certainly some out there, just like there are
unbalanced fruit bombs in just about all varietals and categories. It
seems to be a style some winemakers aspire to.
Pinot being a grape that is typically planted in the cooler
areas of California,
it’s odd to me to even put “unbalanced fruit bomb” and Pinot in the same
sentence. Compared to Cabernet, Zinfandel or even “red blends,” Pinot
Noir still remains the safest playground for those seeking something with
higher acid, less oak and less “fruit bomb” character.
The grape simply just won't go there as readily as other
varietals, which is one of the reasons I love it. There is no denying,
however, that the Sideways frenzy prompted vast plantings of Pinot Noir in
areas where it typicallyhas notbeen grown (like the southern Central Valley)
and these grapes are showing up in under $7 bottles that perhaps are more like
“red wines with Pinot Noir on the label for marketing purposes” than
expressions of the varietal I would hold up for someone’s education on varietal
CC: If you were offered to work outside the comfy confines
of domestic wine production, where would you go and why?
AC: I’m not sure how many of the struggling small farmers
and brand owners I know would call the domestic wine business “comfy” but I
think I get your question… if I were offered a job in the fragrance industry in
Europe, I would definitely be intrigued.
The world of perfume has been a lifelong love, and it’s
actually through exploring herbs and flowers, and how they have scented
aromatic compounds that perfumers try to capture in liquid form, much like a
winemaker does, that actually steered me toward wine in the first place.
I think I got into wine because I grew up in Santa
Barbara’s wine country; had I grown up in Provence I may have become a perfume-maker.
Additionally, I think someone in the wine business, with a
degree in winemaking, which essentially is an applied microbiology degree with
a healthy dose of biochem, agriculture and some marketing thrown in, would not
necessarily find themselves too out of place in the world of distillation,
brewing, cheese-making, the restaurant biz or small-scale farming. Remember
that winemaking is like glorified microbiological zoo-keeping.
It’s taking a perishable natural product, shepherding it
through a food processing plant (your winery) and turning it into something
more lasting and enjoyable. Planning, logistics, managing people, and managing
perishable agricultural products….You can see how many folks who are in the
restaurant business make very successful crossover winemakers too.
And never forget how turned on we all are by the cool
stories about who and what are behind the delicious and delightful jams,
pastas, beers, breads and cheeses we all enjoy so much. Storytelling,
communicating and sharing are an integral part of making our handicrafts live,
which is why I also writearticles about winemaking which was published in
"The Winemaker’s Answer Book" in 2007. I also just launched a blog
called Girl and the Grape. Wines and
words are my way of communicating my passion with the world!
CC:When it comes to Pinot Noir, where do you derive your
inspiration in the winemaking process?
AC:Foremost from the
vineyards and then secondly purely from hedonism. I am all about
pleasure. First you have to channel the vineyard and respect the fruit. You
have to let the fruit tell you what it can or can't do, you can't force it.
But once the lots have been aging separately for at least eight months,
you can start to blend based solely on the pleasure principle.
have my favorite barrels and oak types but I don't have “rules” as to what does
or doesn't go with something else, like “Francois Frres can never be blended
with a Tonnellerie Quintessence barrel,” for example.
I am simply trying to
make the most delicious bottle of wine possible. I do a lot of trial and
error and blind tasting, and I am constantly surprising myself. It’s
great to let your experience be your guide but it’s important to keep
challenging your assumptions.
CC:If there was just one wine type/style
left to drink in the world what would it be and why?
AC:Sparkling wines. I find endless interest,
and food pairing versatility, in a cold glass of tart, refreshing bubbly.
CC:Of all the many grapes
in the world which do you think is the least understood or respected?
Zinfandel. Just kidding, that’s a trick answer. There’s no such
grape variety as White Zinfandel, though it’s often a question new visitors to
wine country or wine newbie’s ask. “So where’s the White Zin grown?” It
starts out as red Zinfandel grapes and gets slightly squished to make the
familiar pink stuff.
even though so many of us would never touch White Zin, you have to respect it’s
place in winemaking history; starting in the 1970’s, it helped set the stage
for today’s rosé revolution and single-handedly introduced millions of people
to wine drinking for the first time.
of those folks have branched out and began to drink wines they never would've
thought of touching decades ago. It all happened before I was born and
certainly before I was legal to drink but, like Robert Mondavi’s pioneering of
marketing California wines in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the White Zin explosion
helped get us where we are today.
CC:It’s has been said, it takes a lot good
beer, to make great wine, thoughts?
AC:Beer or sparkling wine,
it all has bubbles, so it all counts! Many of us choose a martini, or gin
and tonic but I think the key is that it be refreshing, not too sweet, and yes,
effervescence does help. Basically after we've had our hands in red wine vats
all day, and its hot outside, do I really want a big glass of red? I don't
think so- bring on the Domaine Carneros!
Thanks again Alison it
was great chatting with you here, thanks for making the time. I hope everyone
has enjoyed this series; I have another winemaker interview in the pipeline,
one which I just completed, so I hope you check it out next week. Until next
time folks, remember life is short, make the most of it, sip long and prosper
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“No nation is drunk where wine is cheap; and none sober
where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.”
Happy Travel Tuesday everyone and welcome to part two of the Top Ten Wine-Travel Destinations. I trust everyone has their travel plans set for this week's Fourth of July festivities. Mrs. Cuvee and I off on another wine adventure, heading north from San Diego to spend some time in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
6.The Monticello Wine Trail: This newly emerging wine-destination in Virginia is not too be missed and the winery featured in the image above is in my view one of the best examples of "why" you need to get your buns over-there to see what is going on for yourself.Amy Zavattocommenting on the Virginia Wine Scene had this to say;"Nearly 240 years later, Virginia has becomeJefferson's land of the free-run, home of the grape" Wow, who doesn't like to have their dreams come true, even if those dreams and visions are not realized in your lifetime?
I had both the privilege and the pain of visiting this area on thee HOTTEST weekend of the year during the 2011 WBC in Charlottesville. While none of that diminished the beauty of this great area, or the wines I experienced. I'd say choosing to visit in late June, July or August would not be the best choice. Jefferson's Vineyardreview.If you'd like to visit this wine-tastic area and I recommend that you do, here's a handy-dandyguide.Key Varietals: Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Chardonnay.
7. Woodinville, WA: An amazing easy place to visit for anyone traveling to Seattle, as it's just a mere 30 miles outside of the Emerald City. So pack those picnic baskets, load-up the bicycles, the kids and dogs and go experience some the best wines being made in the state of Washington. I know, here we are back in Washington State, and for that reason alone you should take note. Here is the linkto discovering either the Warehouse district or the Tourist District and your key to uncovering some seriously good juice. Key Varietals, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc,Semillon and more.
One big-time recommendation for dining while in the area, don't miss theBarking Frog at Willows Lodge. A few favorite wineries, I'd put on your list DiStefano, Betz, Baer, and DeLille, just to name a few are not to be missed [real wines, real soul]. Need more recommendations? Email me!
8. Santa Cruz Mountains:Matthew Kramer longtime writer for the Wine Spectator
commenting on the Santa Cruz Mountains wine scene is quoted to have said, “It
remains one of California’s all-time underrated wine districts!”If the only criteria you have for traveling to a wine-destination is how much they tickle yourfancy,then this may not be a region you'd enjoy exploring. But that said, this is a great alternative for folks who live in the bay-area to explore a wine region which doesn't have either Napa or Sonoma on the label. Key Varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
If you're a bit more on the adventurous side and don't mind winding roads to the top to find great wineries like Ridge pictured above, then it's time to pack those picnic-baskets. Besides the fantastic views from this world-class winery, you'll also find a great place hang-out, uncork a bottle or two to share with friends and family. I've only been to this area once, but it was an unforgettable. Amazing views, great wine abounds and again if cycling is your thing, a visit to this area is not to be missed.
Walla, Washington: Good friends, Good Wine, Good Times. I was so glad to see this one on this list, a city so nice they named it twice. Mrs. Cuvee and I had an opportunity to visit this great town back in 2010 and it was unforgettable. The hospitality, and the spirit of generosity flow as easily as newly uncorked bottle of wine. If you'd like to get the complete 411 on this amazing wine-destination, please click on this linkhere.
And for a complete list of the wineries feel free to click through this e-zinehere.The B&B's in-town are amazingly comfortable, you may never want to leave. Now for a few recommendations winery-wise, L'Ecole [wowsers] Dunham Cellars and Waterbrook are not to be missed. Again if you want the complete list of recommendations, feel-free to email me.
Okay last and not the least by any stretch, number ten will be revealed here [next Travel Tuesday] once I get back from my next wine-travel-adventure. Until next time folks, enjoy your FOJ celebration with friends and family and as always remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!
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"I believe in respecting the fruit and letting the vineyards speak their particular truths. Sometimes all I have to do is get out of the way." ~Alison Crowe
I love meeting and talking with winemakers, the movers and shakers of the wine-world. They always have some of the most compelling tales to tell, but not all of them want to share those thoughts or stories with just anyone. But being in the public-eye as they're, it is somewhat expected, so some spill-it-all while others keep some of the information a bit closer the vest. I want to thank Alison [grab her bio here]for taking a moment to talk with me via this Q&A interview, I really appreciate her candor and willingness to share her keen insights about the business of wine.
I've not met Alison in person, butI'vegotten to know her so much better over the course of the last few weeks preparing via her appearance on #WineChat and even before that via a lively conversation on her FB page, regardingwine-blogs. In the process I've come to respect her greatly, even tho we don't agree on everything. She has an amazing energy and passion for the wine-biz, one you'll see in her answers below.
Frankly, I expect to see big things from her in the future,
her passion for life reminds me of the quote fromPaul Brandt who is
quoted to having said, "Don't tell me theskies the limitwhen
there are footprints on the moon.”Without anyfurther ado, let's
jump right into the conversation enjoy.
Cuvee Corner: Why is the term vegan-wine not on the label?
Alison Crowe:Wedon'tput “vegan” on the label because we
never saw it as a major selling point.We get asked the “vegan wine question” maybe once or twice a year, and
since most wine made in the world is vegan anyway, we thought it would be a bit
of a silly selling point.
Like, hey, buy
our water, it’s wet and will quench your thirst! If we put “vegan wine” on the label we would
probably get called out by our colleagues, and rightly so. Because most wine is vegan already, labeling
Garnet wines as “vegan” would smack ofgreenwashingto me, or trying to
distinguish ourselves from the pack undeservedly.ButI'mhappy to talk about it if people are
CC: You take to social-media like a duck-to-water, but
many folks wonder about the ROI, what are your thoughts?
AC: Like a duck, I just jumped
in and got wet! I’ll be the first to admit that I am learning all the time and
have to swim in these crazy waters every day to keep on top of all the changes
and developments that happen in the social technology sphere. I encourage other winemakers to jump into the
fray because it’s an amazing way to directly touch your audience and the people
who are out there enjoying your wines.
I'venever known any other way to so quickly get directly in touch with folks;I'vebeen able to develop relationships with customers, buyers, bloggers,
suppliers and journalists thatwould'vebeen difficult if not impossible to
achieve otherwise. This is a
relationship business and ifyou'rebuilding relationships,you'rebuilding ROI. Effectively utilizing social media can be
tough as a winemaker if youdon'thave the freedom to be yourself.I'mlucky because as a small independent winery, I do have that freedom, and am
very thankful for it.
CC: Do you have any tips on how to manage the work/life
AC: I have two small sons, a
two and a half year old and a three month old and the work-life balance is
something I’m figuring out every day. I
couldn’t do what I do without my great Assistant Winemaker Barbara, a
supportive and flexible husband, photographer and wine educator Chris Purdy, and our “support team” of
preschool teachers, great daycare and our nanny, Emily.
For all you aspiring super-parents out there,
never be too proud to order a pre-cut up veggie tray for the party, do a boxed
cake mix or heck, even buy the cupcakes.
Ask for help and accept it.
Adjust your lifestyle standards as necessary to get by but hold on to
what’s important to you. My husband
works in winery hospitality and wine education so we only get one day together
every weekend as a family. That’s our
day and it’s precious to us; we used to get a lot done on the weekends but we
do more on weekday evenings when the kids are asleep so we can just play and
hang out together on Sundays.
CC: What music if any plays in the crush pad during
AC:Los Straitjackets were
playing yesterday in the cellar. I also
am a huge classical music fan, something I picked up from my old boss the late,
great Monterey County Pinot Noir pioneer Don
CC: Bucket List Question: If you could be traveling
somewhere else right now, where would you be?
AC: Paris and Grasse (home to
the agricultural side of France’s
perfume industry-where all the roses and jasmine are grown), France.
CC: Why did you choose the stelvin closure [screw-caps] instead of cork?
AC: This will be a major ongoing topic on my blog, Girl and the Grape, I’m sure, but let me briefly address why I use twist-offs (AKA screw-caps, etc) for Garnet Monterey Pinot Noir ($14) Carneros Pinot ($20) and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($17). First of all, Garnet Carneros has always been in a screw cap.
Especially since I’ve been experienced using Stelvins since my days at Bonny Doon when Randall staged “The Death of the Cork” and so am very comfortable with the closure and know how it affects wine and aging wine. Stelvins and VinPerfect (which I’d like to do some trials on, they were recently developed by an MBA colleague of mine from UC Davis) closures are simply more consistent than corks and plastic cork-type closures. They let in a predictable amount of oxygen and of coursewon'tcontribute to TCA “corked” defects, which is so much better for the wine and the wine-enjoyer!
They cost about the same as corks, so its’ not like they provide any cost savings. Rodger’s Creek, our single vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot which retails for $30 is bottled under cork; I make a few hundred cases of that soI'mless worried about it going out to the mass market and having a major rejection of cork quality.
Because I can do tight QC on that small number of corks (I make a combined ~17,000 cases of the other wines) and because, as a new small SKU wedidn'twant to develop a customscrew-capfor that very small number of cases, we went with cork there. If that SKU grows, we would go to screw cap there too.
As far as consumer and winery acceptance, it’s skyrocketing even though we are way behind the curve compared to Australia and New Zealand, where just about every wine is bottled under twist-off. In the US, 38% of wineries use screw caps on their wines, which is up from about 5% in 2004. For more on this issue, I can do no better than to point everyone to one of the very best pieces of wine journalism that really gets into the issue: the chapter on corks and screwcaps in Jamie Goode’sThe Science of Wine.
CC: When it comes to Pinot Noir, where do you derive
your inspiration in the winemaking process?
AC: Foremost from the vineyards
and then secondly pure from hedonism. I
am all about pleasure. First you have to
channel the vineyard and respect the fruit. You have to let the fruit tell you
what it can or can’t do, you can’t force it.
But once the lots have been aging separately for at least eight months,
you can start to blend based solely on the pleasure principle.
I have my favorite barrels and oak types but
I don’t have “rules” as to what does or doesn’t go with something else, like “Francois Frres can never be blended with
a Tonnellerie Quintessence barrel,”
for example. I am simply trying to make
the most delicious bottle of wine possible.
I do a lot of trial and error and blind tasting, and I am constantly
surprising myself. It’s great to let
your experience be your guide but it’s important to keep challenging your
Okay folks here's where part one ends, but please come back next Monday for the 2nd half of the interview, as it already hot-off-the-presses and ready to go, so you can readily count the next slice being served-up next Monday. This will be the next to last post until after I come back from Monterey. I'm sure I'll have boat-load of perspectives to share with you from the Santa Lucia Highlands and more than a few images. Once again big-time thanks to Alison for sharing her insights with the entire wine-community. Okay folks that is it, have a fun, yet safe Fourth of July celebration and until next remember life is short so sip long and prosper cheers!
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good wine with good food in good company is one of life's most civilized
pleasures." - Michael Broadbent
Seeing anotherlistrecently featuring what readers [sometravelers] believed were the top destinations here in the U.S for wine loving vino-sapiens, I was inspired to write my own. Especially in light of the fact, that two of them had me wondering where and a third closer to where I live had me wondering why?
Please don't get me wrong, I'm in complete agreement with seven of the ten and I've been to all but three of those listed in that article. But I think the criteria for making the selections seen on that "list" were made from an entirely different perspective than the list I'll be compiling below. And yes, unlike many otherwritersI've been to each one of these areas, more than once.
My main criteria is going to be related to wine-regions which Ibelieveare making some serious juice [wines with soul] and no not the wines you'll typically find crowding the shelves of your local grocery store aisle either.
Slow your roll. The numerical order below has zerocorrelationto any
idea of which region I think is the best or not the best and is purely coincidental. Forpurelypracticalpurposes the numbering
is useful for maintaining orderly article. So, without any further ado, let me
jump right into it.
1. Red Mountain: Benton County, WA: I've been to this area more than a few times, the wines here are more than exceptional, they're a true testament to following your dreams and the desire to make wines with soul. I've never had a bottle from this area, where I thought "ewww" I never want to try that again. I still have bottles of Red Mountain tucked-away in my cellar. To this day, I still purchase [for myself] and recommend this region at my day-job.
You'll find getting there; is quite simple really, via a quick flight from Seattle.White Earth.Blue Skies.Red Mountain. On the list below is many of my favorite vineyard sites. But if you want great value, please see my friends at Terra Blanca who make everything from the pop-and-pour Tuesday evening wine, to the more sophisticated wines to lay-down and enjoy later.Key Varietals:Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
2.Paso Robles, California: For those living in either San Diego and or Los Angeles, Paso is a very easy wine-destination to access. Staying downtown is my preferred and recommend option. There are many delicious off-the-beaten-path white wines [Rhone Zone] and rock-star red wines, based on Syrah [plus others] andCabernet Sauvignon.
Staying downtown, [which I recommend] you have walking-distance access to world-class restaurants and other more affordable but equally good dining choices. From downtown you can be in the vineyards within 10 to 15 minutes or feel free to access many of great choices for tasting via the plethora of tasting room there. Key Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone Zone faves.
3. McMinnville, OR: Some of you may be wondering
why I chose what is known as the sub-appellation of the greater Willamette
Valley AVA. The answer is simple, because for me it makes a great jumping off
spot to visit a majority of the other sub-appellation in the area. Once you
land at the airport in Portland,
it’s a quick hour to drive the 40 miles to McMinnville. It’s a city that rocks
a small-town vibe, but still has plenty of upscale restaurants to tempt you. And
with an abundance of B&B’s in the area finding a comfy place to stay is all
too easy. Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris.
4.Sonoma County, California: In Sonoma, you'll find a less hurried pace, than in the neighboring Napa Valley. I don't look at one being better the other, only different. Both offer the thirsty vino-sapien vastly different wine experiences, while there make sure you make the drive out to coast. The scenery is gorgeous, you can follow the Russian River, if the adventurous type, maybe even bust-out the kayak.
Either way do yourself a favor and get out to see all you can of Sonoma, it's far more than just a grape wine-destination. If you fancy yourself a cycling enthusiast, then this is definitely the place for you. Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
5. The Napa Valley:Now some folks generically think of Napa, as just being about one thing or another like big-brawny Cabernet Sauvignon. And while there's more than a grain of truth to that notion, from my many experiences Napa is so much more than big-gun Cabernets. Napa has so many different characteristics to-it via its many sub-appellations, it can be a little like trying to catch the wind.
So slow, take your timeand remember the road to exploration can be found beyond highway 29, the corridor which runs length and breadth of the valley floor. I like to take my tasting adventures appellation-by-appellation. If it has been some-time since you've been here, don't forget to check-out the newly revived downtown Napa, it has nicely re-developed, re-energized and has a great vibe. Key Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir via Los Carneros.
Barbara County: How in world was this amazing wine producing area left off
the list in favor of moreobscureplaces is really perplexing, to say
the least. A sad-fact which still has me scratchingmy head inamazement.But that said;
hey Los Angeles and San Diego this wine-travel destinationis even closer
than a trip to Paso and there's even aquaintDanish
Villagelike a step out of time to explore, great-golf, an abundance of
amazing wineries to visit; like Foxen,Melville,Stolpman
more. If you need my complete recommendation list, just email me.
Remember folks this is the same wine producing region where Miles and Jack gotSidewaysin
more ways than one. If you plan to visit this region, I'd recommend staying in
Solvang, instead of the city of SantaBarbara
itself. Solvang in my opinion makes for the perfect jumping-off spot to hit a
majority of the wineries and, with amazing Los Olivos, where great dining and
many tasting-bars abound. It's sonearbyyou'll wonder why you've not
made the trek before. Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Rhone Zone
Whites and Reds.
Check back here on Travel Tuesday for the complete updated list via Part Two.
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"We needed to recognize that convenience is an
important factor in the fast turn-around bottled [wine] segment."~
Carlos de Jesus
Convenience is one of the biggest factors driving many
consumers to make the choices they do each day. Whether it's wine or cheese,
convenience will be part of the equation. Think aboutAmerican cheese for
a moment, aswe'vecome to iconically understand it, bright yellow,
and often comes wrapped in an odd type of cellophane.
While it may conveniently lie across a freshly grilled
burger or a sandwich, neat, no-fuss and no-muss. However, if you want to dial-it-up a finer cheese experience,to serve guest, then you're probably
not thinking of convenience or commodity cheese.
It's a safe-bet that fromagefraiswill be on the
shopping list. Many commodity wines also fit nicely into the convenience
category; they're simple, ordinary, monolithic and sadly formulaic.
Many of you know Jamie Goode [who pronounced the death of
wine-blogs] writing for theWine
Anorak, has introduced a new multi-part series tracing "The Rise of
the Wine Brands" oh-my another vast red-wine conspiracy.
He states; "There aretwo genresof wine. On
the one hand we have wine as a commodity: grapes are grown, crushed and made
into wine, which is then sold cheaply andconsumed uncritically. In this
case, theconsumerviews wine in much the same way as they would
treat flour, milk, fruit juice or instant coffee."and on the other
A sad but true commentary on what makes up the largest
segment of the wine industry, commodity wines.When attempting to
understand the difference betweencommoditywines
andfinewines; the following answer to awine-searcher.comQ
& A makes the point in spades.
"Several years ago, when I was very young, I was in theU.S.and
pouring wines in a wine shop. One guy came up to me and said, 'Is your wine
better thanLambrusco?' I said, 'I hope so.' He tasted the wine and before
he was leaving he said: 'Believe me,Lambruscois better.'
~ Marilisa Allegrini is a sixth-generation member of top
Valpolicella wine producer Allegrini Estates"
While it may be useful to remember that the vast majority of
wine drinkers here in states are drinking bulk juice or commodity wines, it's
also important to understand that those same folks arenotreading
wine-blogs or any other wine related publication for the most part. They don't
know or care who Robert Parker is and they only have a slight understanding of
the 100 point scale.
As you read through some of the articles, you can kind-of
start to see a dividing-line. On one hand you have the "bulk-wine
[commodity/value] drinkers and the other side of the equationthe
"interest" or "terrior" drinkers" [Mr. Goode]
Here's another article [via the Drinks Business] confirming the desire of many to consume commodity/value styles of wine.Read More:
“Americans can't get enough ofmoscato,
and there’s a rosé renaissance is in full flow, and the red blends boom is big
news in 2013, according to the latest U.S. sales analysis.”And yet the highly homogenized styles of Chardonnay is still riding a growing wave of consumer demand.
A report compiled from a 2011 Top Ten [value] Wine Brands [even tho two years old, the only thing that may have changed is the position of the pieces on the chess-board] confirms that's there is definitely a rise in the preference forcommodity wines.
So did you think commodity wines are done pushing the limits of absurdity? Nope, it appears they're just getting started, so move-over beer in a can and wine-bag in a box, here comes Winestar. The place where commodity wines meet vending machine convenience.
“We are targeting a specific market and season: young
French consumers who are bypassing wine shelves and instead plucking off cans of
fizzy drinks and juices to wash down their picnic meals.”wine-searcher.com
But so what?Honestly, for me personally I'm not really
panicked or even remotely worried by these trends. Like some sporting tight-fitting tin-foil hats who see a vast red-wine conspiracy to limit the choices of the average vino-sapien on the vinous
super-highway. To that notion, I say balderdash! From what I've seen [with eyes wide open] there are so many
choices out there for the adventurous vino-sapien, it would take a lifetime or
more to explore them all.
It's my contention that good food and good wine should not be the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we strive to live-by. Sadly tho, very few vino-sapiens, will ever want or desire to live their life that way.And I'm perfectly fine with that, please by all means "drink what you like" but expect a bit of [unbeknownst] friendly mockery in regards to your choice to consume jug-wines.
While many wine drinkers/consumers like you [dear reader] and I are the exception, yet I still don't see my choices for discovering wines with soul being limited in anyway. No instead, I actually continue to discover new and exciting regions which produce amazingly affordable wines, which are not produced like a cheap commodity, but are still wonderfully convenient to purchase.So again remember life is short, live well and drink well. Until next time sit back, relax and continue to sip long and prosper cheers!
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"There's nothing serious in mortality. All is but toys; renown and grace is dead, The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees is left this vault to brag of. "~ William Shakespeare
Once the wine bug has bit, it's difficult, if not impossible to want to start collecting different wines. You want to explore, you [hopefully] want to try new things, but you're just not quite sure where to start. If that is you, then I've got some great news for you.
Because I've [and the @1WineDude]contributed to an article recently about building a wine collection and how to avoid some common pitfalls. A fun and informative read; which I believe answers many of the questions that a young novice wine-drinker may have about the in and outs of starting a wine collection. The funny thing is tho, I don't believe neither Joenormyself realized we were answering very similar questions that would appear in the same piece. But that said, this is honestly the kind of advice I wish I had, back when I got started.
Below are some of the types of questions you'll see answered with blunt honesty, acquired from years of experience, trial and error.
So whether your ambitions are just for a couple of cases that you wish to keep on hand or something a bit more serious like actually collecting and storing wines to age; I think the advice contained in this article will help you get moving in the right direction.
- What are some of the basics I should have in a well-balanced wine collection?
- How can I tell if an expensive wine is worth the price?
- When I find a wine I like, what do I need to know to find other wines like it?
- How can I try new wines without spending a lot of money?
What is better than one golden rule, how about fifteen? Because you don't want to be tied-down [see above] to any particular formula or method when you start building a wine collection, I've found one morearticlethat I know will provide [similar] sage advice. Until next time folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!
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"Pinot Noir is a wonderful varietal that produces intriguing wines of great complexity.” ~ Veteran Winemaker Joel Aiken
As Spring has been sprung, summer vacation planning is in full swing for many of us. I'm no exception, so I'll be packing the blog-up to take on the road with me to the wonderful Santa Lucia Highlands. One of California's premier wine-destinationsthat I've always talked about visiting, but hadsomehownever made the time.
So I'm about toscratchthis one area off my list with a short visit coming up in a couple of weeks. I couldn't be more excited. I'm busy lining up a few places I'd like to stop during my stay, but with so much to see and really only enough time to plumb the depths, I'll have to plan wisely.
Over the years, I've written about many of the great wines to be found here. But the one varietal which seems to excel here is Pinot Noir, unfortunately for many this AVA flies under-the-proverbial-radar. I know many folks wine-geeks like myself are excited about this region already. But I was hoping to shine a new light on it for the everyday gardenvarietyvino-sapiens who may be looking for something new.
The video above gives just a small taste of the sights and sounds I'llbeseeing shortly and I hope you enjoy it. And just below is a video about the Mer Soleil VineyardsI'll be visiting first-hand myself. Until then I still have ten days or so of planning left and a few other posts to write before hitting the wine-trail once again. So as always remember "life is short" so sip long and prosper cheers!
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Consumers don't need—or
want—centralized gatekeepers telling them what they should or shouldn't
According to Mr. White, [if you believe his statement] none of you should be reading this review. But according to my own tracking numbers, there's is at least 5 or 6 vino-sapiens out there reading [well let's just say perusing] this blog. So to Mr. White and everyone else reading this I say Kia-Ora!
Now to the reason I'm featuring the Pinot Noir as my Wine of the Week, well it's simple really. It's because for the price point, a wine of this quality will be hard to beat. It's no block-buster, but it's not meant to be. This wine is however the answer to the question about which wine to uncork on a perhaps oh-so nothing special Tuesday evening.
This wine even saves you need of a cork-screw because it comes sealed via a drink-now and drink-often screw-cap. And for an easy quaffer like that, it makes for the perfect convenience factor. A pop and pour selling for a SRP of $10 to $12 most places leaves little to think about, when wondering whether to stock up or not.
If you'd like to know more about this wine, the winery and the great folks behind the label, then I would invite you to drop by the brilliantBrancott Estateweb-site. From the map located on the back-label you can easily get a quickglimpse of where the grapes come from and just how far this wine traveled before finding its way to a wine-store shelf near you.
“Wines from New Zealand, and in particular wines from Marlborough, will always be a rare commodity,” Ollie Davidson
You can also whip out yoursmart-phone, scan the QR code to be easily transported to unlocking more fun facts about the wine you're drinking.Btw, for anyone who may be keeping score this bottle was sent as a sample.
Now for the tasting note part of the article, I know, I know just hold onto your horses here it's. But again remember Mr. White's dire warning above you don't need me or anyone else telling you what to drink. So without telling you, I'm telling you drink this, you won't bedisappointed. That's of course if you have reasonable expectations.
Now that said, once I got the bottle opened via a quickflick-of-the-wrist, poured a few ounces, Iimmediatelynoticed the bright [but very lightly colored] cherry, raspberry core. On the nose a light perfume of crisp summer fruits, strawberries, cherries and cranberries dancing around, black-tea and rich earth. Taking out my deluxe tasting straw from a recent boxed-wine, I sampled this delightful Pinot Noir.
Again a nice, light current of fresh summer fruit washed over my palate, inviting the next slurp. The baskets of ripe strawberries, raspberries, cherries and a note of cola delighted me again and again. The right tannin and acid balance played nicely with fruit, making for a fun Tuesday evening wine experience, paired against the roasted chicken, herbedpotatoes and steamedbroccoli.My score for this wine is 88 points.
For anyone thinking about this years coming harvest in New Zealand; there's quite a bit of "buzz" how amazing it potentially will be. The only problem as they see it; is that the continued consumer
demand for New Zealand
wines continues to outpace supply. Something which could possibly raise the cost of acquiring the 2013 vintage.
“There’s a lot of speculation that this year’s  dry and sunny growing season will result in the vintage of the century here in New Zealand because wehaven'tseen a weather pattern like this in 70 years,” ~ Darryl Woolley
Now on the other hand, is a Sauvignon Blanc [see above] from the same producer and yes a sample like the other. Many of you know, I'm not a fan ofaggressivestyles of Sauvignon Blanc, this one in my opinion could be this year's poster-boy. But the year is still young and there are still many other candidates I'll be considering.
If you're a fan of big, new-cut grass, lemon/lime/grapefruitand varying degrees of sweet ripe to over-ripe tropical fruits, then this just may be the wine for you. Putting my nose in the glass was bad enough, but giving it a slurp or two was very off-putting for me. I just can't getpastthe level of perceptible sweetness either, or the odd bell-pepper thing in the background. These are the types of aromas and flavors which send me running [scrambling really] for a great Sancerre.
I know some you folks love this style of Sauvignon blanc, but this vino-sapien want no part of it. Thankfully there's a great big wine world and we all have many different wines to choose from, unfortunately this is not a wine I can recommend. My score 83 points. It sells for a SPR of $10 most places.
Now one last quote to put the entire wine industry of New Zealand in a clear easilyunderstandablelight.
"To put things in perspective, New Zealand’s total vineyard acreage—North and South Islands combined—is less than a tenth of the acreage planted in California, and just a bit more than the vineyard acreage in California’s Sonoma County." ~Darryl Woolley
Rock on New Zealand, who says great things don't come in small packages? Just knowing that one small factoid, at least in my book makes meappreciate NZ all the more. There are so many different wine/vine growing regions found around the world and this is one I can't wait to visit for myself someday, it's definitely a destination which on my bucket list. Perhaps I'll even find a Sauvignon Blanc to my liking, until then folks remember life is short. So sip long and prosper cheers!
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"Drinking good wine
with good food, in good company is one of life's most civilized pleasures."
- Michael Broadbent #Wine
And meeting these three
last year was one of highlights from my trip to Rioja last year. Their passion,
their dedication and their desire was evident in everything they told us,
everything I seen while I was there and each wine I sniffed, spilled, swirled and
eventually slurped down with reckless abandon.
If you ever wanted
abundant authenticity in a bottle, this is the place to find it. There's no
clever or slick marketing going on here, no cutesy animals on the label, and no
failed attempts to be overly clever with the label verbiage. Is authenticity a
big deal to you when it comes to wine? If not, maybe you're not far enough
along the path to notice, but if you keep going I think it will become a priority for you.
Some on the cynical side
of the equation may just scoff at my pursuit for authenticity in regards to
wine. Perhaps you’re thinking; "oh it [authenticity] has just become another brand to be
sold and packed to an unsuspecting group of slack-jawed vino-sapiens
whowouldn'tknow better anyway".
Wait a minute folks, just
slow your roll for second, I’m just as skeptical and cynical as the next guy; the rose colored glasses had been slapped off my face by
the hard-cold realitiesof life long ago. Nay I say, the wines of
Rioja offer the customer something far more than a vain spectral performance, attempting to hold its self up as the paragon of wine virtue.
Did I have to go all the
way to Rioja to find this kind of authenticity? The quick answer is no, it can
be found here domestically. But in my opinion there's something far more
"real" here than what meets the eye, something generations old, pumping the blood [Tempranillo] in the heart oftradition.
I'm not sure my words can adequately
describe the sense of place I found during my visit, not only in the wines, but also in the
folks behind the label, the people who call Rioja home.In the picture
above you can see the Peciña's, three generations with
PedroSenior in the middle and Junior, on the left.
Okay I hope I've some how tempted you to stick around for part two of this Travel Tuesday tale, where I'll get into the tasting notes and the great food, [the cook I wanted to take back with me to the U.S.] so stick around the next installment will appear here tomorrow cheers!
The stair-way to heaven? Hmmm, perhaps?
See what happens when wine-bloggers think they've seen it all?
Shhhh, be very, very quiet the Gran Reserva wines are sleeping.
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"Too much of anything is bad,
but too much Champagne
is just right" Mark Twain
deserve Champagne, in defeat, you
need it." -- Napoleon Bonaparte.
"Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it."-- Madame De Pompadour
if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a
man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to
tell lies successfully."-- Graham Greene
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"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me." ~ Jim Valvano
As we all know Father's day is right around the corner, as for me I plan to just hang out with my dad in the afternoon, take him out to lunch for some Philly-Steak sandwiches. I'll be tuning out my phone, looking, listening and smiling as he tells me the same stories over and over. But for that afternoon the stage will be all his and he'll have my wrapped attention, because in that moment there will be no other place I want to be. And to my Son, I want to say for the whole world to know, even though you're not near-by, I'm very proud of the man you've become. Rock-on!
Okay so the bottle of wine you see pictured above arrived early yesterday morning, all the way from Connecticut of all places to my door step here in San Diego. It did rest comfortably up until about 7PM, when I popped its cork, oh-my. If the wine had arrived earlier [like last week] maybe it would have shown better in the review, who knows really. For everyone looking to check theenvironmental-sensitivity box Banfi has it covered, cheers to that!
As you may have guessed already, yes this is a sample. It comes from one of my favorite producers Castello Banfi, known for their readily approachable, yet authentic Italian wines. A producer who makes everything from value-oriented Chianti to highly sought after Brunello Riservas. Now I was hoping to receive the Brunello for this review, but as I've learned on more than one occasion you have to roll with the punches [or even punch-downs] in the wine-biz.
In the bottle is a blend of four different grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah. Each individually vinified and then blended together before bottling, where the wine rested for six months before being released. In my opinion this highly-honored cuvee, could have gone in a slight more authentic direction with Sangiovese playing a larger role.
I also say that because as the back-label indicates this wine spent 12 months in French oak barriques, this is not traditional. It's a wine made for the California palate and I get that. Now that said, this is a wine which I would highly recommend decanting for an hour or more to help it loosen up a bit. It's the style of wine which should pair nicely with this weekend's possible back-yard barbecue plans and especially so if those plans include one of your favorite cuts of steak.
It's the perfect Father's day style of wine, broad shouldered and definitely masculine in style. A bit of a diamond in the rough tho, you have to give this wine a chance to open up to see its full potential unfold. It's not a wine to be gulped down, like your sons and/or daughters in the school-yard during lunch, sucking down those juice boxes like there's no tomorrow. So no put away those straws, this a wine to be slowly sipped and enjoyed with a fat-prime-time T-Bone or maybe even a Porter House, maybe even a fat Philly Steak Sub?
Okay folks the moment you've all been waiting for, the tasting notes: In the glass, you'll find a beaming crimsoncore inviting the first splash across the gums. The aromas attempting to escape from the glass are more like bunglers attempting to escape the loony-bin, none-the-less you still get a vibrant black/blue-berry compote wrapped around some cedar and a faint whiff of wet-earth.
The tannin structure is immediately stiff [right from the bottle] but after some decanting, they mellow considerably and meld into the background. This wine shows off its balance with vibrant acidity and while the red/dark fruits are abundant, they don't over-stay their welcome. This wine weighs in at 14.5% on the ABV scale, sells for a SRP of $35 and is widely available. Score 89.
That's all I've got for you today folks, I hope you all enjoy your weekend. And for crying-out-loud go spend some time with your Father, quit all the navel-gazing belly-aching I hear going on so much. Give him a hug, tell him you know he's not perfect be neither are you. Pop some corks, share a meal and try to remember all the good times. Until next time folks remember life is short, we have few chances/opportunities to get things right, so as always sip long and prosper cheers!
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"We are geographically agnostic, just because we can't grow it doesn't mean we shouldn't produce it" ~ AJ KempHawks View Cellars.
One of the best indicators I have when confirming what I think is a superb bottle of wine; is having a bit of tussle with Mrs. Cuvee over who gets the last pour from the bottle, she often wins that contest. Her and I pop the cork on more than a few bottles each week [not disclosing the actual number] and this one was a special treat.
This is the second or third time [sorry I've lost count] I've encountered this wine. I grabbed [and when I say "grabbed" I mean paid cold-hard cash] a couple of these beauties before departing from last year's Wine Blogger Conference, I'm so glad I did.
While staying with the great folks at Youngberg Hill [what, you haven't booked a stay there yet?] a grape-wine-destination found just 10-15 minutes outside of fun-in-the Oregon-SunMcMinnville. I took that opportunityto catch-up with them again last year, to see how things our shaping for the coming harvest. And yes because I do this little blogger thang here, they waived the normal tasting feesassociatedwith sharing their wines with fellow vino-sapiens.
Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed, that this coming year's harvest will arrive early, like the first part of September and I hope [dear reader] you'll will do the same on my behalf. The reason has a bit of a selfish-motive, I'd like to take them up [Hawks View Cellar] on their generous offer to work as part of this years 'Harvest' crew. I know it's back-breaking hard-work but that has never scared me off, I think it's great idea for bloggers/writers to refresh their sense of wonder every now and then and this is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Now that said, it's time to dive back into the nitty-gritty details of the review, the reason you all [talking like five people] stopped by here today right? So here we go.
2010 WashingtonCabernet-Sauvignon:The grapes were harvested from theDouble
Canyonvineyard found just across the Oregon
border, [see above] an 88 acresitelocated in Alderdale, Washington.
It's quite an amazing vineyard site, one which falls within the Horse Heaven
Hills American Viticulture Area [AVA]. I hear the vine rows are two miles longs
and hang precariously above the Columbia Gorge.
At the time of purchase
[yes, I put my money where my mouth is] this wine had not been released, but they
were generous enough to sell me a bottle [or two] at thetasting room SRP of$40. The first time I tasted this wine it had only been in the bottle for just 75
days. In the glass, you'll find it's big, bold, and brooding, leaning toward a
[petit sirah] PS in color.
I knew back then, [yes,
boasting] this wine was going to be a freaking monster of finesse, flavor and
fun to uncork at a later time. I recommended it immediately to anyone who would
hear me, but sadly my praise [which may have sounded more like adulation] fell
upon deaf-ears [crickets].
So once more here I am
again beating the drum, attempting to bring attention to what I know you'll
find is an amazing bottle of wine. Soon as you pop the cork, you'll find
truck-loads of blackberry, dark rich-ripe plum; crèmedecassis [not kidding either] which pulsates on the
palate, making you wish you had another bottle or two on stand-by. Theplush,
well integrated tannin and the judicious use of oak combine their wonder-twin
powers for asilkylong finish.
It does still have a bit
more Washington-State Merlot style to me, a bit sweeter and softer then a Napa
Valley Cab-Sauv. But for the average vino-sapien, this wine is every bit as
approachable as you'd hope any domestic wine would/could be. Grab some for
yourself that is if there is any left, I stand by previous score of92points
and highly recommend it to you. So until next time folks remember life is
short, sip long and prosper cheers!
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We shall not cease from
exploration and, at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we
started and know the place for the first time.- T.S. Elliot
Good morning everyone,
another mid-week Wine Wednesday is upon us, but what will you pop the cork on
today? I hope it will be something new and novel, something as yet unexplored.
Explorers, where have they
all gone? It's a thought on my mind these days; as I quietly sit behind this
computer screen recalling the fond memories of last summer's travel adventure
to Rioja. Just think about it with me for a second; our history is replete with
explorers [some of fame and others ofinfamy]. But instead of looking outward, many are focused within, what some call navel-gazing. It dose beg the question tho, where has the spirit of
exploration gone? Have we all given in collectively to subtle clamor of our
routines, careers and the demands of daily life?
Coco Chanel is quoted to
have once said, "There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony!" She is right, franklyI
couldn't agree more, life is too short to settle for less. Which is why it’s important [IMO] to continuing exploring, even if that exploration comes via the purchase of a bottle of wine you've never tried before.
Yes, yes you agree to this notion, but you may be asking yourself what is left to
Before I started writing this
wine-blog, sadly I didn'tgive much thought to travel or exploration of any kind. I was caught up in the monotony of daily life, which is easy to do. But as I began to discover new wines from different regions of world, I was not
content to just pop the cork and enjoy its contents. No I wanted to visit these
regions directly and see for myself where the grapes are grown, and meet the great folks behind the label. One of whom I will be introducing to you very soon.
To answer the question I posed above; c'mon really? There’s a whole world just waiting for us all to explore and it’s my
hope that some-how my story may inspire you to do the same.
As you can see from the
picture above [no not theGuggenheim doggie]that is the beautiful plaza which I could see from the window of my room, right outside the Hotel Carlton. Located in a beautiful Spanish
city called Bilbao.
If I had to choose a city to retire in, it would be this one. It’s so close to
many exciting regions and fun destinations, but at the same time has a small
town look and feel. I never felt like a tourist here, I just one of many
welcomed and appreciated visitors traipsing through the city.
I told you this was going to be a long post, now you see why I've broken it up in parts. It's going to be like the oldadageabout, "How to eat an Elephant" blah-blah. So after a wonderful 24 hours in Bilbao [eating, drinking, merriment] it was time for our journey to begin. We had the opportunity to visit many wineries, while we were there, a week longodyssey on the Rioja wine trail.
One of the visits which
really grabbed my attention was the time we spent with Miguel Merino [see
below], who met us outside his Bodegasituated in the small town of
Briones, Rioja Alta. He had just come from the vineyards, still clutching hispruning
shears, his shirt rumpled and yet beaming with gracious hospitality.
If a man could be
described of not just having a dream; but actually pursuing it with passion, it
would be Miguel Merino. After spending what some would call a "career"as
export director for several wineries in the area, instead of taking a break [retirement] he decided it was time to
make wines with soul.
If you've ever run into someone who has a knack for throwing together amazing results, but looking at how it was doneperplexes you by the apparent lack of modern top-of-the-line equipment/facilities then prepare to be amazed, because these wines are block-busters of true Riojan style.
Their vineyard sites can
be found in Briones in the heart of the Rioja Alta, chock full of old-vine Tempranillo grapes just waiting to have their potential unlocked. It's an area renown for its chalky soil and ideal climate marked
by an Atlantic influence, one which leaves a stamp of authentic Riojan style on
each of the wines bottled at their less than modern facility.
I know this story could have been so much more exciting if only our group of purple-stained-grinnedwriters had been doing a 30-day Yoga-challenge [navel gazing] whilst on this trip to palate-provoking Rioja, but we did have our moments of intrigue at the wine-fortress of Ben-ja-min Romero [but that's another story and yes knives were involved].
The tasting room built into the bottom floor of a newly restored 19th century castle, was quite intimate as was the table crowded with the many different wines we encountered that afternoon. Did I have a favorite? Of course I did, and we were generously offered to take one of our favorites back home with us. My choice, the 2004 Miguel Merino Gran Reserva, a wine you can still acquire from the folks at K&L, who are selling this gem for a stupid-low price of $40.
What you experience after uncorking wine from Miguel Merino is a unique, traditional Riojan wine experience; one which can not simply be duplicated by planting a few cuttings here domestically. Miguel's use of wild-yeast in the fermentation process, his use ofnewAmerican, French and even Hungarian oak and farming practices keep the wines true and may I even say wildlyauthentic. If you'd like to know more about the process, you can read morehere.
Okay here comes the tasting note and scoring part of the article. If you're anti-score just imagine the numerical scores are words like good, very good and yummy. For everyone else who's not going to wince over seeing a 'score'associatedwith a wine review, then please take note. These wines scored some high praise from me, enjoy. My general impressions of his wines ranged from very good to great and I recommend that you grab a few to fill your cellar.
2004 Miguel Merino Rioja Reserva Vitola:In the glass, a brilliant
garnet color beams from the glass. Initial tart, tight, chewy tannins. A rustic
wine, still boasting of nearly ripe strawberry, cherry, plums and herbals, licorice. A wine I’d lay down to approach later. Dried herbal notes on the nose and bright earth. SRP $40 Score: 91
2004 Miguel Merino Rioja Gran Reserva:A wine with a big-bright future. At the time, I thought that this wine will need more time to develop. I was right, but the time frame for its maturation was less than a year. Back then, I wrote "very tight, but tasty tart cherry/plum flavors,
herbal [cigars] tobacco, leather and dark mocha looming in the background. Today, this wine isa block-buster of flavor and finesse.My score 95 points and ready to rock! SRP $40
2005 Miguel Merino Rioja Reserva:Elegant smoothness on the palate, plush plum, black-berry and leather. The nose is very inviting and enticing. A wine brimming with complexity and polish. The
finish is very pleasing, sports good grip and I'm loving the finally integrated tannins. SPR $30 Score: 92
Merino Rioja Unnum:This wine is
a project Miguel's son has put together using 100% French oak, and is a wine
which sports a new world vibe right out of the gate. Finely
groundespresso, spicy tobacco, licorice and tightly wound dried dark fruits.
This wine had the silkiest mouth feel, still drying tannins on end. Boat loads
of red and dark fruits, brighter and definitely much flashier. Much better if
you lay it down for the long term before approaching. SRP of $45 Score: 91
My visit to Rioja was an amazing adventure, one I will never forget. It still makes an impact on my wine point of view with each and every wine I encounter today. I know some wine-blogs want you to believe you can get that same exactexperiencefrom bottles of wine which sell for far less [have the same place names], but the truth is that advice is simply misguided.
Most us understand you get what you pay for, but some vino-sapiens unfortunately still don't subscribe to that idea, thinking all wines are created equal. If you have a chance/opportunity to experienceauthenticwine culture for yourself, go for the gusto and never look back. Until next time folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!
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“Traveling; first it leaves you speechless, then
turns you into a storyteller” Ibn Battuta
Never has a statement been proven to be more true as the one I've shared above. After my trip the Rioja Wine region last year, I had so many great stories which I've only now felt compelled to tell to all of you.
It was in June of last year, that I went Rioja for a week-plus, I was part of a contingent of other bloggers, many of whom you know and love [some more and some less]. That said, those joining me on this auspicious trip to one of thee most exciting wine regions in the world were;Joe Roberts,Richard Jennings,Wine Harlots, andGregory Dal Piaz.
What a great group, I've only known the others from social-media [Twitter, FB]interactions, save the Harlot who has had the good fortune of traveling with me on other trips [ha-ha]. Good times were had getting to know each other over many plates of Jamon, slurping down countless bottles of Gran Riservas and of course who could forget the wee-fee enabled Rioja Car [who knew it had four-wheel drive?].
I did have a busy travel calendar last year, that's safe to say. My passport was nearly worn-out, mostly because it spent a considerable amount of time in my back-pocket [not a wise-move]. But those be the facts Jack. Now speaking of facts, the [fulldisclosure speaking for myself] trip was sponsored by the folks at Vibrant Rioja.
But the other part of the story not shared by the rest of the group came via my request to arrive one day early, so I could acclimate a bit better to the time change. But what I didn't see coming was because my connection times were so close together landing at CDG, that I had would have to sprint [not a pretty sight either] several concourses, take elevators, escalators, rides buses and ultimately beat [via more sprinting] several other passengers onto the last plane departing for Bilbao.
I arrived on the airplane [the very last one] after some very cleverpersuadingof young Air-France employee, who I'm sure didn't understand nearly a word I said. But none-the-less I made my connection; tho sweating like the proverbial stuck-pig, we're talking profuse [ewww, I know]. And unbeknownstto me without my luggage [ugh, not again]. But I have to give the flight-attendants mad-props, they let me have the first seat right up-front, handed me wet-towelettes and were fanning me with magazines [sigh indeed].
I thought about all those other folks I beat to the punch, with a small twinge of guilt, but hell it was every-man for himself. I was not going to let anything spoil a beautiful evening in Bilbao, along with my favorite room at theHotel Carltonwhich has a [free wee-fee] great view of the plaza and is just a block or two away from the famousGuggenheim. But when I landed at the tiny airport in Bilbao, my luggage was no where to be found [ugh].
But, I didn't worry to long as I was met my a very kind young-lady [from Ground Force] who knew all about my situation and even knew my name. I caught a cab from the airport [20 euros] and while I was out on the town, my luggage arrived on a later flight [whew].
This post is already getting long, so I'm going to finish it up via a part-two post and if you're left wondering about the wine pictured above [spoiler-alert] which I will get to later in part-two. Uh let me just say in word, WOW! A true wine with soul, that beats with the heart of traditional Rioja. But stay tuned the story about Miguel and his wonderfully authentic winery will be well worth the read.
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