Archive for June, 2013
While I was in Portugal in May judging at the 2013 Wines of Portugal Challenge, I met a well-spoken and well-studied former Luftwaffe pilot named Axel Probst, who now provides one-on-one Port consultations (seriously, there’s a business for this in Europe, apparently).
Axel looks every inch like an air force pilot: well-mannered, calm, fit, nice hair, strong chin – the works (see pic in the list of judges from the competition). Like me, at forty-ish he’s semi-retired into the wine biz. I took to referring to him Axel as Herr Port (get it…? Mr. Port… Airport… former pilot… okay, you know what, go screw yourself!).
The reason I’m mentioning Herr Port today: in getting to know Axel and talking about his odd landing (ha!… sorry…) into the wine biz during my recent week in Portugal, is due to a realization on my part. Axel’s story is similar to many of those who have made up the list of finalists in the Best Single Subject Subject Wine Blog category of the wine blog awards through the last few years (though none of them are former Luftwaffe pilots, as far as I’m aware). It was the radiation that what all those just-mentioned souls have in common is actually the key thing when it comes to building authority on the topic of wine from the ground up. And it amazes me that so few people who say that they are interested in turning their self-published forays into wine coverage into something more serious are doing it.
These things are, for sure, more marathon (insert awesome `80s prog rock soundtrack here) than sprint, but if I were starting up in the wine world online tomorrow, and wanted to build an authoritative brand in as short amount of time as possible, here’s exactly how I’d go about it…
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- 11 Coppo La Rocca Gavi (Gavi): Warning, objects in bottle are fresher & tastier than they appear. Particularly during the Summer. $17 B >>find this wine<<
- 10 Two Hands Max's Garden Shiraz (Heathcote): For those who jam on tart black cherry jam, but also have minerality as their jam. $60 A- >>find this wine<<
- 10 Two Hands Harry & Edward's Garden Shiraz (Langhorne Creek): Decadent as a Death By Licorice (& huge, sweet fruit) dessert offering $60 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Two Hands Sophie's Garden Shiraz (Padthaway): A bear hug from a eucalyptus Ent, after he's devoured huge handfuls of blackberries. $60 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Two Hands Samantha's Garden Shiraz (Clare Valley): If big Aussie Shiraz can be called classic, here's a standard-bearer candidate. $60 A- >>find this wine<<
- 10 Two Hands Lilly's Garden Shiraz (McLaren Vale): Don't say she never gave you anything, 'cause the black cherries flow non-stop. $60 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz (Barossa Valley): The lady likes to eat meat. And wear silk. And she likes it a little hot, too. $60 A- >>find this wine<<
- 11 Plantagenet Mount Barker Riesling (Mount Barker): Delivers like a fleet of UPS trucks, only with less diesel & a lot more limes. $21 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Sbragia Ginos Vineyard Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley): Well now, *that's* a spicy – & rich, & dark, & fleshy, & lush – meatball! $25 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Sbragia La Promessa Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley): This Zin is Godzilla, and your liver is Japan. Prepare for destruction, mortal! $35 B >>find this wine<<
- 11 Weingut Wittmann Riesling Trocken (Rheinhessen): Riesling buffs up, gets a tan, hits the beach and generally impresses the ladies. $25 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 11 Uproot Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): He ain't heavy, he's my tropical-fruit-brother. Ok, maybe he is actually a little bit heavy. $42 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Vina Amalia Reserva Single Vineyard Malbec (Valle de Uco): What freshness awaits at the end of this earthy, floral valley? A lot. $19 B+ >>find this wine<<
Ideally, this article would begin with a preamble about visiting the historic property at Rioja’s R. Lopez de Heredia, telling you about how I ran my hands through the cobwebs and dust covering the old bottles in their “Cemetery” cellar museum, strolling in the half-light through the corridors of barrels in the late-1800s El Calado Cellar, finally taking in the sunset at the Viña Tondonia vineyards on the river Ebro.
But none of that has ever happened, so I’d be lying about all of it (unless you don’t count dreams as lying as a matter of technicality).
R. Lopez de Heredia remains the most iconic producer I’ve not visited while touring a wine region. The fact that I made it to Rioja and didn’t sneak away to see these guys is something that will haunt my days until I return there, and is a serious contender for number one on the list of reasons why I suck and should be destroyed.
While it wasn’t on the itinerary during my jaunt to Rioja last year, I did manage to order and drink the stuff that Heredia churns out every chance that I could get as we tapas-crawled our way through the narrow streets of the older towns there. And that’s because Heredia, along with La Rioja Alta, S.A. (which I did happen to visit), remains the class of act of Rioja, having established their vineyards in the early 1900s and progressively kicking higher and higher volumes of ass in the ensuing decades.
Now, this is the part in the feature where I’m supposed to tell you some history about Heredia, sprinkled with a few quotes from their winemaking or vineyard staff, setting the scene for the tasting notes on the wines that will follow. But we already know that I haven’t been to the place, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to regurgitate a bunch of text on their history that you could easily go and read on their website (hey, since you’re here reading this we can safely presume that you already know how to use the Internet, right?).
Instead, I will tell you that the time between when I received these Heredia samples – a ten day minimum that I normally wait before opening any wines, in order to allow the wines to recover from any shipping-induced bottle shock – and when I opened them can best be described as bitter, gnashing-of-teeth agony. And that all you really need to know about Heredia’s approach to making wine is that the white and red they sent me are just under ten and twenty years old, respectively, and are the current releases…
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As you read this, I’ll be missing the after-after-after parties at the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference (insert your preferred sad face emoticon here) so that I can… work. Sort-of.
This week, I’ll be undermining the previously stellar reputation of the commercial wine competition portion of the California State Fair, acting as one of the judges. This is my first time judging at the event, and I’m stoked because the list of judges contains the names of several people I’m happy to be able to call friends, and many more that I deeply respect. I’ll try not to piss too many of them off as I drag their reputations in the mud with my presence.
While we’re here, I thought I’d also point out that you might be able to tell whether or not some people wear underwear based on the wines that they like. So sayeth Master of Wine Tim Hanni, anyway, in his recently-released book Why You Like The Wines You Like (about $20 on Amazon.com – full disclosure, I received a sample copy of the book, and Tim mentions me favorable on one of its pages), and my latest published piece for Playboy.com is an interview I conducted with the iconoclastic figure. We chat about the implications of his research on relationships, wine buying, and wine criticism; go check it out (and try not to get too distracted by the pictures…).
Finally, I wanted to officially announce the long-overdue guest for Episode Five of The Punch Down! Get ready, this one is gonna be a bit off the rails…
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