Posts Filed Under California wine

Lucky Number 14 (Tasting 13 Appellations’ FOURTEEN)

Vinted on March 22, 2010 binned in California wine, wine review

At the 2010 Professional Wine Writers Symposium (yeah, I know… that topic again?!??), the Napa Valley Vintners (a non-profit trade organization that promotes its members wines and the region as a wine powerhouse generally) hooked us (the attendees) up with wines produced by their various association members.  A couple of random bottles of what-have-you in the SWAG bag, basically (I think mine contained a Cakebread Cab and Lieff Cab as well).

At one of the “Postprandial Hospitality” (read: “after-party”) tastings, a few attendees noticed a slew of goodie bags stacked in the corner of the room.  They were, apparently, extras, and we were encouraged to grab wines out of them as samples if we liked.

I used it as an opportunity to rummage for labels that I hadn’t had opportunity to taste yet – which is becoming more difficult for me when it comes to California wine – and managed to find a few intriguing bottles.  One of which was a wine named FOURTEEN from 13 Appellations.

Clever, I thought, probably mixes juice from all of the Napa AVAs.  Then it was back to the madness of the Symposium and Premier Napa Valley.  FOURTEEN was relegated to a bag, then a box, then to the OAK airport luggage system and the belly of at least two different Southwest airplanes before being shelved unscathed into my basement.

Of course, I’m late to the party (as usual) and it turns out that 13 Appellations has been doing this since 2002, dedicating the wine to the late husband of one of their partners, Kristi Seitz of Brookdale Vineyards.  Leave it to me to casually bump into a budding Napa Valley institution, as it were.

Whatever, I was just lookin’ for some tasty juice, alright?!??

Anyway… After retrieving the bottle of FOURTEEN several days later from its temporary cellar banishment, I became much more intrigued about the concept of this wine.  After all, this is something that could bring together some of the best aspects of Napa’s diverse soil and temperature profiles; or it could be something that tries so hard to be everything that it ends up being a nothing; instead of transmitting a sense of all Napa places, it might convey a sense of being from nowhere in particular.

So, which is it?  How is this wine?…

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Useless California Vintage Reports: A Template

Vinted on March 11, 2010 binned in best of, California wine, commentary

I get my fair share of wine samples, with a large proportion coming from California.  This is due mostly to proximity (regional wines), as well as the fact that the CA makes the vast majority of U.S. wine, hence the large number of CA samples stopping on my doorstep.

Most of those CA samples come with some form of wine information / tech sheets, and when they do, those tech sheets almost invariably contain a vintage report.

An utterly useless vintage report.

The vintage report is often utterly useless because no one ever says anything except that the grapes ended the vintage with optimal ripeness.

It’s become a joke for me, a game almost, to see if any of these press release vintage reports would ever admit that the grapes absolutely fried on the vine this year, or that they ended up greener than an under-ripe banana. It will probably never happen.

So I decided to do CA wine PR folks a favor, and I’ve created a template below that can freely be used as the vintage report for any CA wine! I’ve taken some minor liberties, primarily to make the choices sexier, because let’s face it, sex sells even when it comes to vintage reports.  If you’re in PR, you can simply circle the appropriate response and not have to bother with the rest!  Anyway, you can thank me later!…

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Red Wine, Purple Teeth & Silver Linings: Premiere Napa Valley 2010

Vinted on March 1, 2010 binned in California wine, wine industry events

Sometimes the best way to convey the essence of an event is via comparison.  Especially when that event might be too noisy and hectic to capture on video.  Or, when you’re video recorder isn’t fully charged, so all you have are pictures, words, and memories.

And teeth stains.

Honestly, I think that my dentist is about to have a windfall…

Such is the essence of Premiere Napa Valley, which recently took place (February 20th) at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, and is the spot where members of the Napa Valley Vintners Association hock ultra low-production amounts (often only one barrel / 5 cases worth) of (presumably) ultra-premium red wine.

Winning lot bidders obtain a unique product available nowhere else on the planet, specially bottled for their restaurant / merchants / stores / etc., along with (presumably) bragging rights at achieving the exclusivity.  In other words, it’s a (very stiff) competition, presenting (presumably) the best-of-the-best from 200 of Napa’s most storied and well-respected producers; a tooth-staining, mouth-puckering wine spectacle orgy of Cabernet-based California goodness.

As for the comparison: PNV is like a cross between Best In Show, the Superbowl, the Emmys, Calligula, and (with a lot of Japanese buyers thrown in for good measure) a Godzilla movie.

It will make sense, in a minute (or two)…

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Robert Parker’s Job Is Safe (A Tasting Perspective on Premiere Napa Valley’s Perspective Tasting)

Vinted on February 25, 2010 binned in California wine, commentary, wine tasting

You probably could have guessed that Robert Parker isn’t at high risk for becoming unemployed anytime soon without me explicitly stating it, but I thought I should clear up that I’m not after his job, in case there develops any rampant speculation on that topic in the future.

This is because I have never been, am not, and will never be a Wine Tasting Maven.

The point was driven home to me quite clearly and forcefully last week at the 2010 Premiere Napa Valley’s Perspective Tasting, held on two floors (Chardonnays on the top floor, Cabs on the bottom floor) in the meticulously kept sensory analysis classrooms at The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena.  To put it mildly, tasting three successive comparative vintages of Napa cabs and Chards, blind, lined up one after another in a mostly white, sterile environment was the equivalent of having a joy vacuum attached to my wine-loving soul and turned on full-blast.

Sterile. Quiet.  Introverted.  Not a drip of social aspect or drop of true enjoyment in sight.

I briefly contemplated the alternative activity of banging my head against the CIA’s gorgeous walls of earthtoned, irregular stones, until I bled and then passed out.  As it turned out, I tasted some wines instead (more on the specific wines in a minute. Or two.).  But I didn’t truly taste them – not the way I’d define ‘truly tasting’, anyway.

This isn’t the fault of the wines, vintners, CIA, or the other tasting participants – it’s my fault, without a single shred of doubt.  I am simply incapable of tasting wine – I mean, really tasting it – that analytically.  I’m sure that Parker could rip through that scenario in record time and then, just for shits and giggles, quiz himself on the merits of the 92-96 point scoring wines in the bunch 11 years later.  I watched friend and fellow symposium attendee and panelist Alder Yarrow sniff, spit, and scribble his way through every single one of the dozens of numbered carafes on display in the blind Cab tasting, as if he were a pleasant, well-poised, humanoid-shaped and purple-toothed machine.

I will never be that guy. 

And I never want to be that guy

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