Archive for March, 2012
Premiere Napa Valley – the annual auction event in which Napa Valley Vintners members create small-quantity, one-of-a-kind wine lots that are then bid on by wine industry/retailer types – is, basically, a total zoo.
And I love that it’s a zoo. It’s my kind of wine geek’s zoo: equal parts social event, fund-raiser, total chaos, and killer (but often big, thick, dense, tannic) juice. As I have for the past few years, I spent the last Saturday in February at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, tasting some of the NVV’s ultra-premium wares and watching the subsequent auction action (which becomes SRO rather quickly in the CIA’s top-floor conference area).
PNV is viewed as a bit of a bellwether for the U.S. fine wine biz’s economic outlook in general. I’ve seen it in lean years, when the parties are subdued and the auction results are pleasantly surprising when they’re decent. And I’ve seen it in years like 2012, when the parties were packed and everyone’s hopes were higher than the abv % in most of the Valley’s biggest Cab blends.
If PNV is a true wine biz litmus test, then the high-end of the market should feel pretty good, because the auction raked in $3.1M this year – a 31% increase over last year’s record take-away. The top lots went courtesy of Dana Estates, Kapcsandy, Ovid, Checkerboard Vineyards, Vine Hill Ranch, Joseph Phelps, Amuse Bouche, Duckhorn, Silver Oak, Levy and McClellan, and Shafer. And no, those were NOT necessarily my personal faves from the event, but I’m not bidding on any PNV lots so what the hell do I know. You can see who paid what for what by visiting www.premierenapawines.com (you know, in case you’re in the mood for spending $1000 on a bottle of Napa juice).
So… PNV’s results suggest sunny days ahead for the fine wine market, but how were the wines themselves? In short: big (but not always!), oaky (but pretty well balanced), tannic as all get-out (but not exclusively) and for the most part really friggin’ good. In fact, one of them may have been the best PNV wine I’ve ever had (and one of the greatest CA wines I’ve ever tried)…
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Actually, it’s not social media and wine that I’m going to be talking about here – it’s social media and engagement. Engagement with actual people who actually spend their actual hard-earned cash for the purpose of drinking actual wine…
It’s taken a while for me to respond to this plea for me to lighten up when it comes to social media’s place in the wine world. The delay is mostly due to me having been on the road, and otherwise waiting for the Universe to present a pertinent example of what I was talking about (it didn’t take long – more on that in a minute or two).
I’m not lightening up. If anything, I think we all should be making more of a fuss over this stuff, not less.
The best responses I can give to any challenge on the power of engagement in the wine world come from my own experiences. So let me talk to wine producers directly here for a minute or two (…or fifty), and share some of those experiences with them. It will sound harsh at times, but that’s because I keep hearing arguments that are the equivalent of telling me that my experiences didn’t happen, and I’m not a psychotic (at least, not yet) so there’s definitely something a bit screwed up here. And most of what I’m saying is not unique – it’s been said by others, I’m just culling many of the points together.
For those that don’t want to wade through the damn-near 1800 words that follow, the bottom line is this: if you are producing wine, and in this day and age you are letting someone like me (or any critic) dictate the majority of your brand message to current and potential customers in online engagement channels (twitter, facebook, etc.), then you need to audition for a Jim Henson Company project, because you’re acting like a Muppet…
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While I’m celebrating the 5th anniversary of 1WineDude.com this year, there’s a true living legend who is marking a much more meaningful – and impressive – milestone in 2012.
Importer, author, musician and iconoclast Kermit Lynch has been working in the wine biz for forty years (as long as I’ve been alive). And he’s managed to keep doing it successfully despite the big wine mags mostly labeling his wines “uncool” in favor of more bombastic, oak-infused, pedal-to-the-metal powerhouses.
Well, what goes around, comes around: wines of place, vibrancy, and context are cool again, and no one is cooler in the world of those wine than Kermit himself.
I caught up Kermit him in his Berkley, CA shop in February and geeked out with him over some delicious Corsican wine from Yves Leccia; the kind of wine that hits your palate like a life-force-giving tazer gun, inciting you with an immediate desire to finish the bottle (preferably over dinner and with friends). Kermit kindly agreed to a video interview – a rarity for this guy – which is posted below after the jump.
What does someone with forty years of against-the-grain vinous fortitude have to say about the most transformative moments in nearly half a century in the wine biz? What about the future of the wine world excites someone with that kind of perspective? And more importantly, will he let me play bass on his next album? Watch to find out!…
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- 08 Piña Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mountain): Holy cocoapowderblackteacassissmokedmeatredplumvanillabayleaf wow. $85 A- >>find this wine>>
- 10 Epilogue Chardonnay (North Coast): More poise than a plate spinner (save the plates ’cause you’ll want food with this lively juice) $14 B >>find this wine>>
- 11 Envolve Winery Rose (Sonoma Mountain): These young gun winemakers have a soft side, based on this bright, herbal, & lovely pink. $25 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 Cliff Lede Poetry (Napa Valley): Make yourself some black tea & get cozy because this one will take a looong time to come around. $150 A- >>find this wine>>
- 07 Matthiasson Red (Napa Valley): Might be too svelte for some, but should still be poised & pretty 10 years (or more) down the line. $75 A- >>find this wine>>
- 10 Matthiasson White (Napa Valley): Tapping into Napa’s vibrant, pithy life energy as if it had a 3-prong electrical socket. $35 A- >>find this wine>>
- 09 Vineyard 29 Estate Cabernet Franc (Napa Valley): Kind of like Chinon’s = & opposite; a brushy, chewy, spicy, opulent opposite. $140 A- >>find this wine>>
- 09 Vineyard 29 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): White dwarf star levels of dark-fruited, herbal, chocolaty density. $225 A >>find this wine>>
- 09 Vineyard 29 Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): Serious & seriously good, built for long haul w/ steel beam citric structure. $125 A- >>find this wine>>
- 09 Vineyard 29 CRU Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): ~15 different vineyards, but 1 pretty solid (& complex) steakhouse style wine. $54 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Vineyard 29 CRU Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): Like an aging soul singer; round/fleshy but still vibrant & sporting serious skills $54 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Emerson Brown Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville): Might be valley floor born, but it’s focused, brambly, mountain man brawn in spirit. $50 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Sonria Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley): A bright student but staying true to her earthy roots. Just wish there was more of her… $60 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Breggo Cellars Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley): Shes dark, complicated, meaty but not brooding. You’ll want her digits $55 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Breggo Cellars Gewurztraminer (Anderson Valley): A rose is a rose is splendor but there’s def. more splendor when U include ginger. $25 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 Breggo Cellars Riesling (Anderson Valley): Vinyl-wrapper pear, grapefruit & flowers, all starting to jump happily & gettin’ jiggy. $25 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 V. Sattui Quaglia Vineyard Zinfandel (Napa Valley): From old souls of vines that really love their bramble fruit – & their booze. $39 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 V. Sattui Crow Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel (Russian River Valley): Stick-to-your-ribs focus & power for stick-to-your-ribs cuisine. $37 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): A little big, but beautifully rendered; serious, complex and fit for the Bordelais. $48 B+ >>find this wine>>