Last week, I had the pleasure of having my name added to the impressive guest list of those who’ve been interviewed by Lynn Krielow Chamberlain on her iWineRadio podcast. The short (for my run-on mouth, anyway), and relatively safe for work (by my standards, which admittedly are rather loose) interview is embedded/linked below for your listening pleasure.
I’ve not much more to say about it, apart from the fact that the interview mostly covers my entrance into the wine world, about which I am almost always brutally honest. I always find it odd that people want to interview me, since I am a family man who has a relatively boring life most of the time, punctuated by band gigs and trips all over the world tasting wine. There seems to be a preoccupation in interviews on the fact that I bootstrapped my way into the wine biz by starting a website, rather than having been anointed by a traditional print masthead or some other gatekeeping body, which I suppose is interesting (but only just) in an of itself.
This is almost invariably followed by a question about how/why I feel in love with wine, to which I invariably want to answer: “what kind of moron wouldn’t fall in love with this stuff?!??”
For a moment, let’s remove the beguiling aspects of wine from the equation, and put aside its intriguing complexity; its coalescence of art, craft, and multiple sciences and related pursuits (such as chemistry, history, and geography); its ability to connect us to a moment in time, and almost magically transport us to us to a particular place on the earth. Forget all of that for just a minute or two.
What’s left? A hedonistic, pleasurable beverage that lubricates life, begs to be shared, draws us together, enhances moments, gets us buzzed an occasionally gets us laid. Where I come from, those last few points alone are worth the price of admission when it comes to wine; the other stuff is just a bonus!
And so that’s those are the reasons I got into wine; there was nothing noble about it. The consumer advocacy type of stuff, and the desire to try to change the wine media world for the better, and to offer interesting alternatives to sharing and telling stories about wine… all of that stuff could be argued as being a little bit noble, but that all came much later. I’m still the guy who wanted something to taste great, to be shared, to maybe get me lucky, to make me and others feel good about life by drinking it. And here’s hoping I’m always at least a little bit that guy, because I’d hate to get so wrapped up in the intellectual side of wine that I forget to have good time with it, which is, after all, the purpose for which it was designed!
So, like, what is this stuff, anyway? I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes with you via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be quirky, fun, and easily-digestible reviews of currently available wines. Below is a wrap-up of those twitter wine reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find these wines, so that you can try them for yourself. Cheers!
08 Theo Minges Riesling Sekt Brut (Pfalz): Sekt lovers of the woooooorld…. unite and take ooooooooover…. hand it ooooooover….! $31 B+ >>find this wine<<
09 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant Reserve (Santa Cruz): Taut, tasty, tightly wound, transparently authentic, and downright terrific. $79 A- >>find this wine<<
08 Rocca Sveva Amarone (Amarone Della Valpolicella): Sitting a bit timidly on the fence, not sure of where its allegiance should be. $60 B+ >>find this wine<<
07 Prinz von Hessen Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Erstes Gewachs (Rheingau): Still steely – and energetic – after all these years. $60 A- >>find this wine<<
13 McPherson Cellars Les Copains Rose (Texas): Eating strawberries while enjoying cooling tropical breezes in the thick Summer heat. $12 B >>find this wine<<
10 Frisson Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Quite beautifully stated, and in a manner that's refreshingly understated. $60 A- >>find this wine<<
08 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills): Still chomping at the bit, a bit made of red berries, sweet spices & silk $55 A- >>find this wine<<
12 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay (Dundee Hills): Peaches molding lovely modern art using earthenware pottery clay. $35 B+ >>find this wine<<
12 Penner-Ash Wine Cellars Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley): All amped up ith the power and promises of youthfulness. $65 A- >>find this wine<<
12 Prinz von Hessen Riesling Kabinett Royal (Rheingau): New World flirtatious on the outside, but inside? Steely as metal chains. $25 B+ >>find this wine<<
11 Montgras Quatro (Colchagua Valley): Starbuck's most alluring vanilla-chocolate-coffee concoctions have got nothing on this number. $16 B+ >>find this wine<<
10 Vall Llach Porrera Via De Vila (Priorat): Denser than white dwarf stars but there's light in all that Carignan tart red brightness $65 A- >>find this wine<<
At this point, I think that we’ve established that Bordeaux native Christine Barbe is at least a little bit crazy. Very talented, but a little crazy. Crazy enough to justify the namesake of her personal brand, Toquade, anyway.
She has, after all, devoted a significant portion of her current winemaking career to – egads! – Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a region/variety combo that is often either derided (justifiably, for the too-frequent examples that taste like melon-cream soda gone flat mixed with grain alcohol), or in the better cases (unjustifiably) pigeon-holed as always just-shy-of-greatness, the NV also-ran grape. It occurs to me now that NV SB is a bit like the Philadelphia Eagles of the wine world, only without the awesome fight song (seriously, it’s the best one in the NFL; yeah, the San Diego Super Chargers song has an awesome bassline, but otherwise it’s waaaay too disco for football).
NV SB is also the primary focus of Barbe’s other winemaking job, helming the juice at Clay and Brenda Cockerell’s Coquerelbrand. They make wine from other varieties, too (the Verdelho and Chardonnay are both well worth seeking out), but it’s that underdog NV SB that has captured Barbe’s heart.
That’s crazy in a good way, of course, and I wish more winemakers had Barbe’s brand of eccentricity, because she’s making the kind of wines – both intellectually and sensually pleasing – that I like to drink on my own time and my own dime.
On one of my recent sojourns to the Left Coast, I got to catch up with Barbe over dinner at San Francisco’s Farallon, a restaurant that sports a décor that I can best describe as “Alice goes scuba diving in Wonderland.” Fortunately, they specialize in seafood, which made a natural match for our little Sauvignon Blanc-fest…
Let’s just say this was not a quick route to publication, and I learned a valuable lesson in tenacity by pursuing this one. I was prepared to indulge myself in a litany recounting of the simple 4,422-step process constituting the in-between and en route, but I’ll spare you (you’re welcome).
The Cliff Notes version: I was originally “on assignment” with the Crete article for Sommelier Journal, after agreeing the concept with the then head honcho of the mag, during the 2012 Drink Local Wine conference (held that year in Colorado). Except about a year later, that that mag suddenly folded. Happily, Tasting Panel mag took it over, re-branded it as SOMM Journal, and was interested in the story…
The new SOMM Journal issue is worth checking out just for the map of Crete that Tasting Panel deputy editor Jonathan Cristaldi put together to include with my piece (see inset pic, which I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing, because it’s oozing with awesome).
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