Archive for October, 2012
“We don’t make wine. We grow wine. We’re more like ‘sashimi style’ winemaking.”
On a cool morning that will later turn into a blustering day in the midst of a small August heat wave, Chad Melville seemed to be feeding me what ought to be a standard marketing line about winemaking. The kind that end in phrases like “optimal ripeness.”
Suuuure, you don’t make wine; it’s all about the special land upon which your grapes grow… the one that is kissed by col fog in the morning, and bathed in sunlight and warmth during the day. And he is the sales director for his family’s Lompoc, CA wine business, after all (businessman father Ron Melville founded Melville after getting bit by the wine bug in undergrad, and then setting up a grape growing operation in Knight’s Valley; brother Brent is the vineyard manager).
But there was a problem with Chad’s sales pitch about their by-hand fifteen thousand case production: it didn’t come off as a pitch. No references to optimal ripeness, no rococo-esque flourishes of over-endorsement or self-aggrandizement. Chad’s non-pitch was interjected with the firsthand knowledge of a guy who helped to establish and develop the vineyards and business that his family owns, and who previously assisted in winemaking at the estate (winemaker duties are now headed up by Greg Brewer).
In other words, I bought it, because my bullsh*t meter was barely registering a tick. And after I tasted through Chad’s family’s wines – which are high quality while also being almost fiercely unadorned – I’d say the BS meter had some hard evidence to back up its initial assessment…
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I haven’t always been kind to Bordeaux. Okay, actually I’ve pretty much never been kind to Bordeaux.
But that’s because Bordeaux’s most visible stand-bearers – the classified growths at the high-end of the production spectrum, making wines that most of us 99%-ers cannot afford – hasn’t really been all that kind itself to the general wine marketplace, pricing its wines more in-line with rampant consumerist greed than with real value for money.
But that’s not the only Bordeaux story – it just happens to be the most prevalent one. There’s another side of Bordeaux, the side that produces something like ninety percent of its wine, priced in the budget ranges and made in volumes that make California look small-time. Put another way, in the words of Chateau Rauzan Despagne’s Thibault Despagne (who I met while touring Bordeaux in September as a media guest of Planet Bordeaux):
“We always hear that Bordeaux is arrogant and too expensive. And yes, I agree – but that isn’t the only story. The journalists are the problem.”
And I came to realize during my Bordeaux jaunt that Thibault isn’t wrong – we do spend an inordinate amount of time complaining talking about the upper-echelons of Bordeaux, and often don’t recognize the lower-end – the 99%-ers – of Bordeaux at all. But it’s not without some justification; there’s still a lot of bad low-end wine being made there.
But… having said that… I did get a bit of a crash course in non-sucky Bordelaise wine, and I can’t actually review it (at least, not conventionally – more on that in a minute), because I got that crash-course Bordelaise style…
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My friends the World Wine Guys (aka Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen) have been busy lately, it seems.
First, they publish the Fire Island Cookbook just in time for Summer, and now that Summer is coming to a close they’re already back on the shelves with another well-executed tome, Wines Of The Southern Hemisphere (Sterling Publishing, about $24).
I’m not sure how they did all of this, but I am starting to strongly suspect that illegal human cloning is involved, because the work that seems to have gone into these releases is bordering on astonishing.
I like the book, and since I received two sample copies (not sure how or why that happened), I’ve decided that we’ll give away TWO copies to two (separate!) lucky 1WD readers…
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- 09 Clos de los Siete (Mendoza): Smoother than Don Draper
at the bar, & probably the most elegant & darkly sophisticated Siete yet. $20 B+ >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 DiamAndes de Uco Viognier (Valle de Uco): It’s going for high viscosity, but it’s also going for a high volume of flower bunches. $20 B >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 DiamAndes de Uco Chardonnay (Valle de Uco): Peach, pineapple, & a penchant for the unctuous; go creamy or go home, apparently. $20 B >>find it at snooth<<
- 09 J. Wilkes Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley): Come take a spot of black raspberry tea, to introduce you to what SMV is all about. $24 B >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 Paul Lato Il Padrino Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley): Power in a velvet glove, indeed; silk, spice, verve to spare $90 A- >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 Paul Lato Suerte Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley): Sometimes very, very big can also be very, very beautiful $70 A- >>find it at snooth<<
- 07 Qupe Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah (Santa Maria Valley): Perfumey, funky, meaty, plummy, chocolaty & just downright brilliant. $40 A- >>find it at snooth<<
- 09 La Fenetre Bien Nacido Z Block Syrah (Santa Maria Valley): Juicy red plums, pepper & gravely minerals that co-starred in True Grit $50 B+ >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 The Ojai Vineyard Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley): Peppery herbs sporting spotlight-bright red berry fruit. $35 B+ >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 Deovlet Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley): Flinty, succulent, deep, focused, pithy & possessing of inner beauty $45 A- >>find it at snooth<<
- 09 Deovlet Solomon Hills Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley): Apple nut bread, flashy but delivers the acid goods B4 it’s done. $35 B+ >>find it at snooth<<
- 07 Kenneth Volk Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley): Cherry cola, spice, flowers & herbs, but in perfume form. $48 B+ >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 Au Bon Climat Historic Vineyards Collection Bien Nacido Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley): Gorgeously mouth-filling, & draw-dropping $30 A- >>find it at snooth<<
- 10 Foxen Block UU Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley): Burnt caramel for starters, gets more compelling from there. $32 B+ >>find it at snooth<<
- 09 Stephen Ross Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley): For the times when you want your toast done juuuuuuust right. $30 B+ >>find it at snooth<<