Posts Filed Under California wine

1WineDude TV Episode 10: Go Forth, And Blend! (An Interview with Franciscan’s Janet Myers)

Vinted on February 24, 2010 binned in 1WineDude TV, California wine, winemaking

Most 1WineDude.com readers will already be aware that my fellowship to last week’s 2010 Professional Wine Writers Symposium was underwritten by Franciscan.  As part of the fellowship award, Franciscan invited me to a private tasting and interview with Janet Myers, the wine director who also handles winemaking duties at Mt. Veeder.

Janet is a geek, in every positive sense of the word.  We got to know each other a bit the night before the interview, at a dinner held for the fellowship recipients and their underwriting wineries, and I got enjoy Janet’s down-to-earth approach – which belies an almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things related to Franciscan, Mt. Veeder, and especially how their respective terroirs translate into their finished wines.  She’s especially geeky about yeasts – and when you produce one of the more expensive Napa Chardonnays based on native yeasts (Cuvee Sauvage – the 2006 of which wowed the diners at our table with its balanced marriage of stone fruits, rich mouthfeel and acidic, refreshing finish) , it’s probably an enormous benefit to have a passionate geek making your wine.

Janet also has a passion for blending that was evident when tasting the Franciscan and Mt. Veeder portfolio; all of the wines under her care are clearly well-crafted.  And while Franciscan’s best-known wine (the 2006 Napa cabernet) felt out of balance to me, I was floored by the 2006 Napa Merlot, which Janet indicated gets a lot of focus at Franciscan in general because Merlot is such an important part of the blend that goes into their flagship Meritage (“Magnificat”).  The Merlot is textbook Oakville – plump, ripe, full of plums and smoky tobacco – but is extremely well-balanced and supple.  For $22 bones – it’s an impressive feat of winemaking and a hell of a wine for the price tag.

Janet kindly agreed to have some of our discussion on her approach to blending captured on video, which is embedded below.  You might be surprised to learn (as I was) that there isn’t a set “recipe” for blending the Magnificat.  “We’re in the ‘blend late’ camp,” Janet told me, meaning that individual varieties are vinified separately and then blended together to make the final wine later.  “I want to see how they develop before they get ‘nominated’ to go into the final blend – because they can surprise you.  We’re not making Coca-Cola here; we’re keeping within a theme.”  More on that in the vid.

While the first thing that you may notice in the vid is my annoyingly rampant use of the dumbass’ anthemic “uhhhmmmm…” (due mostly to my state of exhaustion after having tasted dozens of wines at Pre-Premiere Napa events, some of it in soul-suckingly sterile environments – more on that in a later post), the first person who comments correctly identifying the MAJOR gaffe that I toss out in this video will win a fabulous prize (not kidding). Good luck!

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Whence Cometh Napa Cabernet?

Vinted on February 15, 2010 binned in California wine, commentary, wine publications

Today I’ll be starting my week-long Napa excursion (the itinerary of which I’d hoped to have posted today, but since all those West Coast hippies are so damn laid back, as of the time of this writing my schedule still isn’t totally finalized… if I’d been dealing with uptight, anally-retentive East Coast types I would have had this all nailed down within 15 minute intervals weeks ago).

This got me thinking about Napa Cabernet, of which I plan to have tasted so much by the time I leave Napa that I will probably need emergency dental work to deal with the teeth stains as soon as I land back in Philly.

And since I’m heading out there for a writers symposium, it got me thinking about the origin of “Napa Cabernet” – not in terms of the wine, but in terms of the words.  I’m a sucker for words and I own more than my fair share of dictionaries and etymological resources.  I’m geeky that way.

You’d think that this would be pretty easy, right?  A bit of Google searching, or a trip to the handy-dandy unabridged dictionary, and we’d be all set, right?  Surely there isn’t much to the origin of such words, the kind that are so nearly ubiquitous that they instantly call up various mental and sensory images for wine lovers worldwide, right?

Not so fast, Buck-O.  As it turns out, the etymology of both “Napa” and “Cabernet” is far from being etched indelibly in stone…

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Men Should Not Wear Cowboy Hats, and A Vision of Thomas Keller as A Psychopath (Tasting Rocca Vineyards Cab)

Vinted on February 9, 2010 binned in California wine, wine review

I’m sorry, but someone had to say it.

Men should not wear cowboy hats.  Well, most men shouldn’t wear cowboy hats.

They’re not cool.  Cowboy hats look cool on approximately 0.002% of the U.S. population, and most of those are women, so sorry guys – chances are you are not in that population subset.

As evidence, I submit two photos from the Rocca Family Vineyards website.  As is evident in the following examples, Patrick Swayze-style hair appears infinitely cooler than covering that same hair underneath a cowboy hat:

There is wine involved in this, of course – happily, Rocca Cabernet, from Napa’s Yountville area, is a darn sight tastier than Rocca’s cowboy hat-sportin’ fashion sense…

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Little Sister Is Serious (Wallis Family Estate’s New Parker-Friendly Cab Release)

Vinted on January 27, 2010 binned in California wine, wine review

This may be the first time that anyone has compared a high-end inaugural Napa Cabernet with a creepy video game. Probably because no one has been quite foolhardy cavalier enough to try it before, right?

The wine in question is a sample of Wallis Family Estate’s “Little Sister” Cabernet Sauvignon, which is seeing its first release with the bottling of the 2006 vintage; only 300 cases were made.  Wallis produces a (much) more expensive Diamond Mountain District Cab, hence the “Little Sister” moniker for the new release, a lower-priced (but still pretty expensive at $40) version that shares estate fruit with fruit from the wider Napa Valley.

And it was the “Little Sister” moniker that got me free-associating with the creepy video game.

The game in question is the award-winning Bioshock, which I stopped playing because, well, it’s creepy. The game is beautifully rendered, and the play is fantastic, but… it was just so damn serious.

Let’s see, for those unfamiliar with the plot of Bioshock, this ain’t gonna be easy…

Bioshock takes place in the 1960s in an enclosed underwater world called Rapture where society has completely broken down. The survivors of Rapture are genetically-enhanced, murderous psychopaths who are addicted to the substances that allow them to control their genetic powers.  Spooky school-aged girls called (wait for it…) Little Sisters (with sea slugs embedded in their stomachs – yeah, I know, just go with it) roam the halls of the underwater world, protected by huge, explosives-tossing zombies in antique dive suits, wielding large needles which they (this is the Little Sisters now, not the huge dive suit guys) use to extract the genetic super-substance from any dead psychopaths they come across.  Whew.

I told you it was creepy!

Anyway…

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