Archive for March, 2012

Will Bordeaux Be Fine Wine’s Benchmark In 100 Years? (A Candid Conversation With Eric Asimov)

Vinted on March 20, 2012 binned in commentary, interviews, wine news

Ah, Bordeaux… can’t live with its inflated prices… pass the peanuts!

The wine biz has been in a serious tizzy since Robert Parker released his scores for the 2009 Bordeaux offerings – and he was in a generous mood, with damn-near twenty wines garnering “perfect” 100 point scores, including the likes of Bellevue Mondotte, and Clos Fourtet, along with stalwarts such as Le Pin, Petrus, and Montrose. If the hubbub strikes you as much ado about little, you need to bear in mind that the Bordeaux wine market hardly seems able to wipe its own ass without a report on whether or not Parker used two-ply when evacuating.

Apparently, Parker’s website got so much attention when the scores were released that the site crashed (for which Parker apologized to his subscribers). Other long-time Bordeaux critics have been just as effusive (for example: James Suckling hailed 2009 as potentially Bordeaux’s best vintage, ever).

So, if you are under the delusion that the wine world still isn’t Bordeaux-crazy, then you are probably crazy. This is despite Bordeaux’s quality pyramid being almost totally inverted, and is despite the fact that wines from most of the top Bordeaux houses are now priced out the reach of what we would commonly call mortal human beings (I can remember when Chateau Margaux’s second wine, Pavillon Rouge de Chateau Margaux, was an excellent value at around $50 a bottle – the last ten years or so have seen about a 350% increase in that price).

But then again… as The Tick once said, maybe “you’re not going crazy… you’re going SANE in a CRAZY WOLD!” Has Bordeaux out-priced itself, and increased production so much that greed has overtaken good-old-fashioned capitalism? Are we in a Bordeaux backlash?  And will that backlash cause Bordeaux to lose its place as the benchmark for fine wine the world over?

To answer questions such as these, I like to turn to people who are much smarter than I am, and so I rang up the NY Times food and wine writer (and generally nice human) Eric Asimov to pick his noggin on all of this. If you want a cogent, educated, and measured take on the future of all of this Bordeaux madness, read on…

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Monday Mini Wine Reviews Round-Up For March 19, 2012

Vinted on March 19, 2012 binned in wine mini-reviews

Uhm, like what is this stuff?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine sample tasting notes via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be fun, quickly-and-easily-digestible reviews. Below is a wrap-up of the twitter reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find them so you can try them for yourself. Cheers!

  • 11 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Rich, but agile & fun; like if the Kool Aid Man was made out of grapefruits. Oh Yeah! $16 B >>find this wine>>
  • 11 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Passion for passion fruit & lip-smacking lemon will be rewarded (so will yer wallet) $13 B >>find this wine>>
  • 09 Andriano Pinot Bianco (Alto Adige): Tropical finish longer than the fishing line used to catch what you should be pairing it with. $17 B >>find this wine>>
  • 09 Wairau River Pinot Noir (Marlborough): Both delicate & gamey; which is much tastier in practice than it might sound in principle. $20 B >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Brancott Estate Pinot Noir (Marlborough): A shot of juicy, fruity love that’s tailor-made (& tailor-priced) for the picnic table. $12 B- >>find this wine>>
  • 08 Melka Metisse Jumping Goat Vineyard (Napa Valley): Classic structure sporting a grab-a-Snickers-we-R-not-going-anywhere-dude look $155 A- >>find this wine>>
  • 08 Melka Metisse La Mekerra Vineyard (Knights Valley): Muscular but feminine/young; an Olympic swimmer who hasn’t yet hit her prime. $125 A- >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Macchia Outrageous Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi): Will put hair on your chest; & probably on chests of those standing nearby as well. $24 B >>find this wine>>
  • 10 St. Amant Winery Marian’s Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi): Viscous but not vicious, big but not too bold, smokey but… smokey. $24 B >>find this wine>>
  • 09 Harney Lane Old Vine Lizzy Jane Zinfandel (Lodi): 100+ yr old vines, sporting more leather & asphalt than a Harley Davidson rally. $33 B+ >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Harney Lane Chardonnay (Lodi): Your friends who only ever drink creamy Chard will dig this; but the main thing is, so will *you*. $22 B >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Harney Lane Albarino (Lodi): Crowd-pleasingly worthy of a southern Spanish picnic outing; going tropical, & oh-so-proud of it. $19 B >>find this wine>>
  • 08 Melka Metisse Le Chatelet Grand Cru (Saint Emilion): Intriguing, graceful tension; ballet dancers trying a difficult move on stage $125 A >>find this wine>>
  • 08 Melka CJ Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Has bite, but also a lot of bark; in this case, a tasty, spicy, chocolate-anise bark. $52 B+ >>find this wine>>
  • 06 Vincent Girardin Volnay Vieilles Vignes (Volnay): Earthy, full of red cherry & already loves whatever fish you’re having for dinner $29 B >>find this wine>>



Weekly Wine Quiz: Oh, Captain! Mercaptan! (And #WBW75 Is Nigh!)

Vinted on March 16, 2012 binned in wine appreciation, wine quiz

Welcome to the Weekly Wine Quiz!

Based on feedback from ever-so-vocal-and-intelligent peeps like you, I do not supply the quiz answer directly in the post – you will need to tune back in later in the comments section for the answer. Blah, blah, blah – you know all this already…

Anyway, this week we’re continuing the WWQ theme of stinky wine faults! Enjoy!

Also: don’t forget, Wine Blogging Wednesday #75 is next week on March 21st! Get your single vineyard wines ready, peoples!!!

Okay, now back to WWQ, already in progress:

Oh, Captain! Mercaptan!

Sometimes good wines just go… bad! Meaning, of course, that chemical faults can often ruin an otherwise perfectly good bottle of vino. Organic compounds known as mercaptans can cause what kind of off-putting stench in a wine?

  • A. Onions and cabbage
  • B. Rotten eggs
  • C. Potted plants
  • D. Burnt matches

Cheers, good luck, and happy (and safe!) St. Paddy’s Day!




Powers Of Two: Blending Cultures, Countries, Vineyards And Varieties With The Hottest Winemaker In Napa Valley

Vinted on March 15, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review, winemaking

It’s not a stretch to say that Philippe Melka is, right now, the hottest winemaker in all of the Napa Valley (hottest as in “most in-demand,” and not as in “most hunky,” though admittedly I’d be a pretty poor judge of the latter). He’s got a 100-point Wine Advocate review under his belt with Dana Estates (no denying the power of that, no matter what your take on wine scores might be), and is now riding high on Dana’s stunning 2012 Premiere Napa Valley auction lot, which took the top-grossing slot at $70K.

So it’s interesting, in retrospect, that he was… let’s just say cautiously optimistic about Californian winemaking potential when coming to Napa from France with Dominus in the early 1990s. Being skeptical is part of the French culture, of course; and being skeptical about Napa wine is probably even more understandable when you’ve cut your winemaking teeth at Bordeaux stalwarts Haut Brion and Pomerol darling Chateau Petrus.

“In France I kept hearing, ‘in California they make good wine, but they have no sense of terroir’” he told me over lunch in the trailer that now marks the entrance to what will become the Napa Valley tasting room for Melka Wines, the only brand to which he’s attached his now-famous (in winemaking terms, anyway) surname. “And to some extent, they were right. I mean, everyone was planting Cabernet Sauvignon no matter what – regardless of the soil, the sunlight, everything. I was looking for limestone in Napa. I am still looking for limestone in Napa!”

Fast forward twenty-some-odd years from those cautiously-optimistic days, and through the thoroughly French exterior, you find someone that seems thoroughly Northern Californian at heart – a laid-back, down-to-earth surfer-dude of a winemaker. Philippe now consults on wines from the elegantly powerful (Vineyard 29, Parallel Wines, Entre Nous) to the sometimes-just-too-damn-powerful (Gemstone and Moone-Tsai), and he’s involved in at least one worst-kept-secret “cult wine” Napa project that I’ve tasted (if you’re wondering if that last one is worth the ton of money it would cost to try it, I’ll say this: I’ve had few wines that were bigger, but also few big wines that were better, and it’s got the purest black licorice and dark chocolate aromas I’ve ever encountered in a wine, period)…

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