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OPN: Wines Worth Drinking - Vina Tondonia

Date: Sat, Jun 13, 2009 Wine Tasting

1985 Lpez de Heredia Via Tondonia - a gorgeous nose of strawberry and underbrush immediately grabbed my attention. I had in my glass that magical thing, a wine you want to coddle and sniff for a long while before even sipping it. Such glorious aromatics. At last, though, I struck out to discover if it was going to be an interesting sip, to boot. Zounds. On the palate, it was even better than what its heady scents promised. Such death-defying complexity! Waves of silky, elegant fruit and earthiness, with a sudden twist of sap and bark right in the middle, and then playing out forever, until I was wide-eyed and shaking my head. Wow.

via Sharon’s Wine Blog


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OPN: Wines Worth Drinking - Puzelat Gamay

Date: Sat, Jun 13, 2009 Wine Tasting

Touraine Gamay “Pouill,” Thierry Puzelat 2006 $18. 13% alcohol. Cork. Louis/Dressner, New York, NY. Relative to “Le Tel Quel,” which I’ve written about here before, “Pouill” is arguably Thierry Puzelat’s more serious – perhaps substantial would be a better word – expression of Gamay. In this case, the fruit comes from Puzelat’s own vineyards, which he purchased from Michel Oger. Situated near Clos Roche Blanche in the commune of Pouill, the 65 year-old selection massale Gamay vines are planted in argilo-silex (clay and flint) soil that’s been farmed biodynamically for the past fifteen years. Following fermentation, the wine is aged in old oak casks until bottling, without filtration, in the summer following the harvest.

via McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail


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OPN: Wines Worth Drinking- Puffeney Poulsard

Date: Sat, Jun 13, 2009 Wine Tasting

Arbois Poulsard “M,” Jacques Puffeney 2005 $30. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York, NY. Puffeney’s wines may be a little pricey for a typical midweek repast, but I’ve been on vacation the last couple of days so I figured why not give myself a treat. Straight from the bottle, this is lean and firm in both acidic and tannic impact. Its color is a completely transparent, pale ruby, tinged green/orange at the rim. With a few moments to settle, aromas emerged of red tea, rose petals, teak and tart cherry fruit. Like its color, the wine’s flavors are delicate but intensely penetrating. If you’ve been looking for a “light” wine to serve with hearty fare – think duck, beef daube or, why not, pot pies – this may be your ticket.

via McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail


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Going to School 2

Date: Fri, Jun 12, 2009 Wine Tasting

When I first got into wine I spent as much time with my nose in a wine book as it did in a wine glass - come to think of it that’s still true. That was thirty years ago and wine books were serious things in those days - thick tomes by British writers that read like the textbooks they were. I learned a lot, but it was a rather dry experience, which seemed a bit of an oxymoron when the subject was wine. I balanced the books with a tasting group that was loaded with energy - we had a blast and learned a lot.

One of the most exciting things about the online wine community (bloggers, Twitter, Facebook etc.) is they have expanded the online wine world into one gigantic virtual tasting group. Not to say studying about wine is any less important, perhaps more so now there are so many more wines, but the amount you can learn about wine on the Internet is truly astounding.

One of the most charming aspects of the explosion of wine blogs is the large number of young wine drinkers who share their thrill of exploration with their readers. They’re not really critics, but more like the host of a wine tasting. Visiting their blog is like visiting their home for a wine tasting party. Yes, sometimes there may be some inaccurate technical information, but the energy and love of wine they share more than makes up for it. They’re learning along with you, not pontificating from up on high.

I love to visit these blogs as they recharge my batteries with their enthusiasm and make me remember my excitement of discovery when I first fell in love with the world of wine. We all should remember it’s less important to get the pH of a wine right than it is to feel its spirit - its soul. These writers are about soul not technical sheets and I love them for it. These are the writers that are giving birth to a new generation of wine drinkers that, while it will be a small percentage of them, will be drinking the wines that the writers in my previous post,“Going to School” are writing about now. This new generation will preserve those wines as my generation drops the wine list. They represent a passing of the torch even if they don’t yet know it or appreciate the beauties of Poulsard yet, but some of them will some day. Eventually they, and a sadly small percentage of their readers, will turn away from the obvious side of the force and learn to love finesse over sheer power. This is the way of the wine world and it will always be so. It’s a right of passage. I went through it too.

Here’s a woefully short list of these young leaders. It’s a dangerous thing to make such a list as there are so many talented wine bloggers out there. So my apologies to the majority that I leave out here as I include just a few I’ve had the pleasure to meet personally. I encourage you to visit my blog roll or the ones on Vinography or Fermentation to really experience the beautiful diversity of these new, new media wine writers, which interestingly are mostly female. Change is a good thing.


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Going to School

Date: Thu, Jun 11, 2009 Wine Tasting

My blogroll is getting overwhelmed on my Bloglines reader, which is also the basis of the wine and food blogroll on Wine Camp. I’ve tried to get every wine blogger and a lot of food bloggers on there, but I can’t keep up anymore. As much as I want to, I can’t read all those blogs on a daily basis or even get them all listed. On that note, if your blog doesn’t have a link on my blogroll page give me a break and let me know so I can get you listed. It’s my goal to be inclusive.

Without a doubt the volume of interesting wine writing out there there is both overwhelming and exciting. Never has the consumer had so many sources of information. Only so much of this flood can be digested so ultimately you have to pick - you can’t read it all. There is a small group of blogs I consider must reading. I read far more than that, but not a daily basis - there are just not enough hours in the day. Once a week I plough through Bloglines to read as much as I can of the wonderful writing out there, but on a daily basis I keep on eye on my core group of about fifteen or so compelling wine blogs.

What draws me to this group is that I actually learn something new from them almost every time the author posts. Not satisfied just to spew attitude, opinions and reviews, these writers dig deep and have a unique and passionate voice. What is interesting about these writers is that every last one of them is not obsessed with pumping up their stats. Each seems more concerned with saying what they feel rather than simply inflating Google Analytics. There’s not a carny hustler among them - they simply love wine and love writing about it. I’ve just moved this group into my NetNewsWire aggregator on their own so I can be far more focused on the education they offer me.

Here are my favorites:

Appellation Feiring - Alice Feiring is first and formost a writer and it is a pleasure to follow her quest for natural wines. I’m a fan of her book and admire her passion and integrity. Her voice is an important, if small, counterpoint to the mainstream wine media. Thank the wine gods that writers like this still exist. Listen and learn.

Besotting Ramblings and Other Drivel - Peter Leim’s blog is a marvel and an incredible souce of information mostly about Champange, which for me is reason enough to read it. Peter gives a real inside look at Champagne and introduces his readers to the wonders of small, grower producers. Peter has also launched ChampagneGuide.net, which is an indispensable resource for Champagne lovers - and I think that includes almost everyone.

Brooklynguy’s Wine and Food Blog - A food and wine lovers life in Brooklyn. This is what a blog should be all about as you really share their personal wine and food experiences. Most consumers will not have heard of many of the wines he writes about, but he writes about the real deal - wines that have distinctive character and meaning. Really a must read for American wine drinkers who think there may be something “more” out there than what the distribution system and big media wants them to drink. A current wine of the week was Tissot Arbois Poulsard…enough said.

Do Bianchi - Renaissance man Jeremy Parzen is a scholar of the Italian language, a wine and food connoisseur and a rock and roller in the band Nous Non Plus. He has a lot to say and says it well in a couple of languages. Reading Jeremy will teach you what real Italian wine, food and culture means, which is something very different than the Disney version you’ll get in the mainstream wine media. Jeremy is also a contributor to VinoWire, an important source for breaking Italian wine news along with the dynamic Italian wine writer and blogger, Franco Ziliani.

McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail - David McDuff lives in the wine hell of state controlled Pennsylvania, yet week after week writes about wonderful wines and food. We must assume that the state does not control food the same way they control wine. Despite the wine fascist state laws of Pennsylvania, David finds and writes about wines made with real passion and intensity and his love for them comes through beautifully in his writing. If David can get these wines in Pennsylvania not one of us has any excuse not to make the extra effort to find the beauties he writes about.

Rockss and Fruit - You’ll sometimes feel you’re watching NASCAR and waiting for the crash, but Lyle Fass is the go to guy for German and Austrian wines. His Burgundy commentary is worthwhile too, but Lyle is the definitive commentator on riesling and all things German. Lyle thinks acidity is beautiful and so do I.

Sharon’s Wine Blog - We can all hate Sharon because she gets to live in Paris and drink a lot of great French wine, but in spite of our jealously we can live her life vicariously by reading her blog. Sharon digs out real wines made by real people. It may take some work to get the wines she writes about, but it’s worth the search.

Reflections on Wine - Writer Tom Hyland loves and, more importantly, understands Italian wine. Few writers out there tell the stories of the Italian producers and their wines with more sensitivity and accuracy. Tom gets it and you will too if you read his blog. Tom does us all a service by debunking the myopic view of Italian wine you get from the big American wine magazines. If you want to drink wonderful, authentic Italian wines - read this blog.

La Gramiere - Hands down the best winery blog in existence. Passionate and educational, Amy Lillard recounts in wonderful detail their struggles and pleasures on their Cotes du Rhone estate. On top of it they make a damn good wine. Every winery that wants to blog should admire the honesty and personality that Amy brings to her blogging - they’re the real thing. No PR schmalz here.

Pinotblogger - Josh Hermsmeyer should be the poster boy for American winery bloggers. He has involved his readers in the birth of his Russian River Winery, Capozzi Vineyards, and made them partners in his project. Passionate and open, Josh has truly shared his voyage of creation with us. It’s hard to think of a more anticipated wine. Best of all, Josh delivers the real nuts and bolts of what it takes to bring a winery to life - spreadsheets graphs and all. (Pictured above is the Capozzi Vineyard)

This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, nor exclusive, as there are many wonderful wine blogs, but these writers really speak to me and best of all, almost always teach me something. One thing about wine, the more you learn, the more you understand how much you don’t know. Each of these writers is helping me in my ongoing and never ending education on the world of wine.


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French Laundry Wildflowers

Date: Mon, Jun 8, 2009 Wine Tasting

Just next to the garden of The French Laundry is a lovely garden of wildflowers.

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Here Come The Grapes!

Date: Sun, Jun 7, 2009 Wine Tasting

Relatively good weather marked the flowering in Napa this year and the fruit set looks good. Here some first grapes are forming.

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Leaf Pulling Time in Napa

Date: Thu, Jun 4, 2009 Wine Tasting

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Mobile Blogging from here.

Workers pull leaves from around the new grape bunches to promote air circulation.

[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]


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Stain Free

Date: Fri, May 29, 2009 Wine Tasting

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I’ve been drinking some California chardonnay lately - believe me it surprises me as much as it does you. It’s not that I wasn’t drinking any chardonnay as Chablis, Macon Villages, St. Veran and Pouilly Fuisse have always been some of my favorite wines. California Chardonnay was another matter with its heavy oak and more than a little residual sugar. The cheaper the California chardonnay the sweeter it seemed to be. For my taste, sweet and oaky does not go very well with food.

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So why am a drinking chardonnay again? Here and there there are emerging a few chardonnays that see no oak aging or fermentation. They spend their time before bottling only in stainless steel. Best of all, the California wines in this category are usually fermented to dryness. Often referred to as “unoaked” they are the exception to the rule as the vast majority of California Chardonnay is either aged in oak barrels or “oak alternatives” (oak chips, oak dust and so on) are added to give that sweet, vanilla oak characteristic that has replaced chardonnay varietal character as the defining characteristic of chardonnay for most wine drinkers. Not that there are not many exceptional wines produced from chardonnay aged in oak barrels (no exceptional ones come from wines made with “oak alternatives”), but the fact that most consumers think that the taste of oak is the taste of chardonnay few producers choose the “unoaked” path.

These “unoaked” wines are everything their oaky siblings are not. They are fresh and bright with clean, firm mineral flavors that are lightly laced with touches of white peaches and key limes. With a touch of refreshing tartness to balance their beautiful California fruit, they are perfect food wines. As another plus they tend to be cheaper than their more rotund oaky counterparts.

Two of my favorite “unoaked” California Chardonnays are:

2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay, Sonoma County-Green Valley - Firm and bright with a lovely, lively freshness throughout you can tell as you drink this wine that the Sterling family cut their teeth on French wines. While having a lot in common with a fine Chablis or Pouilly Fuisse, the California personality of this wine shows through in the fresh hints of ripe tropical fruit that rides on a firm backbone of acidity and minerality. What a wonderful thing to do with chardonnay grown in the cool Green Valley.

2006 Elisabeth Spencer, Chardonnay Napa Valley, Special Cuve - Deeper and more powerful than the Iron Horse, but still crisp and firm. Creamy with bright fresh citrus on the nose with and those characteristics flow through the entire wine. Firm mineral flavors are balanced by round pure apple and pear fruit flavors, which are all lifted by the crisp acidity. Very long on the finish, here is proof positive you don’t have to age chardonnay in oak to get complexity.

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Treading Lightly Upon the Palate

Date: Fri, May 29, 2009 Wine Tasting

Treading lightly upon the earth is fashionable these days, but what about treading lightly upon the palate. There is a time and place for big wines, but on a regular basis something a bit more restrained and thoughtful is good for the soul - and the dinner table. It doesn't hurt if they cost under 20 bucks either. These two gems should not be missed:200905282256.jpg

2007 Moulin--Vent, Cuve Vielles Vignes, Domaine Diochon - Gloriously bright and fragrant, it's hard to think of a prettier wine. Graceful, delicate yet full flavored and incredibly long on the finish a better match for the chicken we roasted on the Weber you'll not find. Best served on the cool side to highlight the incredibly pure fruit. This is simply a wonderful wine.

2007 Valpolicella, Nanfr, Tenuta Sant'Antonio - Like the Beaujolais above, Valpolicella is a name damaged by the ocean of mediocre wine sold under its name. It doesn't seem quite fair to pick on these place names as the majority of wines produced under more revered names like Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa are just as mundane. In Valpolicella, like all the worl200905282255.jpgd's fine wine regions, only a small percentage of the producers make top notch wines. Tenuta Sant'Antonio is one of those producers and this bargain is something to grab by the case. Fragrant and expansive with brilliant fruit and that wonderful Italian earthiness, which makes them so perfect with food. This wine is not only delicious, but very interesting to drink.

It's worth noting that both of these wines clock in at 13% alcohol. For me that's the sweet spot for red wine as it's substantial enough have real texture and depth, but balanced and restrained enough to have more than one glass. Which, as you may not be surprised to learn, I like to do.


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Krug Grande Cuvee Is Very Good

Date: Tue, May 19, 2009 Wine Tasting

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Krug Grande Cuve Champagne is very good. In fact it is very, very good. You could even say excellent. In the case of Krug I guess you could say that is damning with faint praise. For Krug mere excellence is a failure. By reputation and price it should be sublime. It is not. The real problem for me, is that I really believe it once was.

I thoroughly enjoyed Alice Feiring’s book, The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization, and in particular was moved by her chapter on Champagne. It moved me because I am old enough to know what Champagne was and my palate is aware enough to know what it has become. The big name Champagne brands, with a few notable exceptions like Gosset or Bollinger, have all sold out. Today they are led by accountants and marketers instead of winemakers. All the big Champagne brands are run by corporate ownership that implements and believes in the marketing strategies so successfully employed by the perfume companies - that is image is more important than substance. What the bottle looks like and what’s on the label is everything, while what’s inside is an afterthought.

In her book Alice talks about what Krug once was and the empty symbol of conspicuous consumption it has become and it’s a very sad story. Perhaps one of the most offensive things about Krug Champagne these days is the environmental assault their packaging represents. Each bottle is packaged in a heavy, pretentious presentation box. It’s hard to believe that a company could be so unaware of the world around them. On top of the excessive price, anyone concerned at all with the environment should be offended by the packaging of Krug and refuse to buy it on that level alone. Anything that is so sumptuously packaged should automatically set off your internal alarms. If it was so good, why would they have to waste so much money (and so many trees) on the package.

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A real litmus test for spotting someone not in the know about wine is that they’redrinking Krug, Dom Perignon, Cristal or anything from Veuve Cliquot. Savvy bubbly buyers are drinking grower Champagne selections from Terry Theise, Becky Wasserman or other sharp importers. In the topsy turvy world of Champagne the less famous the brand the better chance you have of getting both a good wine and a fair price.

According to wine-searcher.com, the average price for NV Krug Grande Cuve is $179. Here’s a wine IQ test: Do you buy three bottles of excellent Champagne from the explosion of wonderful grower bottled Champagnes on the market or one bottle of excellent famous Champagne in a fancy box?

Krug used to be the best, now it’s just one of the pack.

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Sunday Balloon Traffic Jam

Date: Sun, May 17, 2009 Wine Tasting

Three balloons crowd a parking lot in Yountville as they prepare for their dawn lift offs.

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