Posts Filed Under California wine
I know what you’re thinking:
Man, I really hope that today’s 1WineDude post somehow combines the Acura Integra, InfoTech department payroll practices, farm animals, Lord of the Rings, marijuana, and estate-grown California Syrah!
What can I say? Who loves ya, baby?!?
On second thought, I might have painted myself into a serious blogging corner here… let’s just push on and see how all of this pans out, shall we?
You see, Pavo Wines Syrah is not my first run-in with a wild turkey (though this wine is no “turkey” – more on that in a minute or two; or three). No, not that Wild Turkey, either. No, what I’m talking about are the large and sometimes colorful birds that tend to roam on farmland across much of North America.
A little over 10 years ago, I was speeding through the backroads of southeastern PA on my way to work, just after dawn on a gorgeous morning, zipping through twisting, winding roads that bisected local farms. When I say “speeding” I mean speeding. As in, the kind of speeding that not only breaks local traffic laws, it borders on violating county moral and ethical standards as well. I was flirting with being late for work, and at that time my InfoTech day job had a punch-card policy – we ‘clocked-in’ for work just like anyone else on the site (which consisted mostly of factory floor workers). This policy managed to promote a few interesting behaviors, like creating a feeling of equity among the entire site staff, and also allowed the company to offer a ‘punctuality bonus’ if you showed up on time (which is a nice way of saying that if you are late, you’ll be docked a percentage of that day’s pay). In my case, it helped create unsafe roadways, since I was hell-bent that day on not missing out on some pay, if you catch my drift.
Hugging the road, I had but one stretch of farmland to cross before I’d be out of the woods (literally and figuratively). I took the final turn (blind, of course, as most of these turns are in PA) on the bisecting lane at ridiculous speed, steering for the apex and finding directly in front of me, just as I cleared the corner, two very large and very unsuspecting wild turkeys, making their leisurely way across the road. They couldn’t have been more directly in front of my oncoming road hazard.
SCREEEEEECH went the brakes. The car stopped so suddenly, and jerked forward so roughly, that I wasn’t sure if I’d hit anything or not. I peeked over the steering wheel. Nothing. A pregnant moment passed that couldn’t have been more than a few seconds but felt like a lifetime. A head appeared above the windshield. A turkey head. It was bobbing, clearly perturbed, offering up a “Beeatch – I’m gonna f—k you UP!” look, but it was a head that was otherwise unharmed. I leaned forward and saw its mate follow suit, but she appeared less agitated at the whole affair. They couldn’t have been more than 16 inches in front of my car.
To recap: that’s the Acura, IT payroll, and farm animals. Now, it’s time to talk about the wine (yeah, yeah, and Lord of the Rings – I didn’t forget); a wine that takes its logo from a wild turkey, and like a turkey is tasty, colorful, and dense (just not that meaning of dense)…
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At a new, small California winery, an ethnically diverse pair are making low production Cabernet Sauvignon. Very, very good Cabernet, that is.
For those of you who are playing along at home, I’m going to introduce this article with a bit of background, because it’s several months in the making. Also, if I don’t start out with some preliminaries, it’s going to confuse the hell out of me.
Also, since we’re going to end up connecting Oaxaca (that’s in Mexico), Napa Valley, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Opus One, Mario Bazán Cellars, and ethnic diversity, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page before we start.
Bear with me, you’re probably smarter than I am, ok? Here’s the recap:
- During a recent Twitter Taste Live event featuring St. Supery wines, I railed a bit on my overall disappointment with Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. This led to a challenge of sorts from Opus One winemaker and friend-of-the-Dude Michael Silacci, who dared me to compare Napa SB wines like Toquade against their counterparts from France or New Zealand, or at least to try Toquade.
- During a recent jaunt to the Left Coast for the American Wine Bloggers Conference, I did just that (tried Toquade, I mean, not just jaunted), along with some other great Napa wines (more on that in a few minutes) when I visited Michael for dinner (he didn’t pour any Opus, by the way… jerk…!).
- In the meantime, I’d opened up a fairly sizeable barrique of worms when I highlighted the fact that there is an incredible lack of ethnic diversity in winery ownership and in winemaking in general, and discussed with you fine readers the value of writing about very small-production wines (like Toquade).
Right… that’s Twitter, TasteLive, Napa Valley SB, Opus One, the Wine Bloggers Conference, Toquade, ethnic diversity in winemaking, and my coverage of small-production wines. Crystal clear, right?
Anyway… at that same dinner with Michael, I was introduced to another (very) small-production wine. A red this time, from a winery owned by a Mexican-born immigrant who employs a young African-American female winemaker.
In other words, I’d hit the serendipity synchronicity jackpot. Which means that this is the one chance I may have to piss off everybody in a single post… I cannot screw this up!
[ Editor’s note: for those who are humorless, the preceding statement is a joke; in fact, those who are humorless are probably reading the wrong blog and should leave immediately for the sake of preserving their own sanity. ]
Background setup complete – now, let’s get talking about the wine…
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If you want to understand the changing palates of the California wine consumer (that’s consumers of CA wine, not wine consumers from CA… although those two populations can certainly overlap… ok, whatever), you need to understand peaches.
That’s right. Peaches.
Jill & Steve, the owners and winemakers at Matthiasson in Napa, are also growers and sellers of peaches. And they can explain how tastes have changed by observing the people that buy different varieties of their peaches.
“It seems to be generational,” noted Steve when I visited the Matthiasson farm in Napa last week. “Older consumers prefer a more mild, balanced, pure peach flavor. You can eat those peaches all day long and feel refreshed every time. Younger people buy peaches that are like an explosion of fruit. They’re high in flavor, high in acid, high in sugar, high everything – it’s tough to eat more than one of those.”
I’d argue that the same thing could be said of Napa, CA Sauvignon Blanc wines – and I basically have said that, on numerous occasions. The majority of SB wines (in my experience, that is) being produced out of Napa are too big, too oaky, to overblown, and lack the pure SB characteristics that are the hallmark of SB fruit (grass, citrus, high acidity, minerals…).
What I learned last week in Napa was that not all Napa SB is trying to be Chardonnay in disguise. There is some SB being produced that is excellent, well-balanced, and surprisingly refreshing. It just happens to be a big pain in the ass to make it that way, because according to the Napa winemakers that seem to be getting SB right, by and large Napa growers are habitually picking SB way too late…
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By all accounts, the is past Saturday’s Twitter Taste Live! event, featuring selections from Napa Valley stalwart St. Supery, was a big success. Some estimates on the event put the number of twitter event posts at greater than 700 (I’ve not seen any definitive statistics yet), which would likely make it the biggest TTL event to date in terms of raw participation. Undoubtedly the wide availability of St. Supery wines helped to send this event over the top, in twitter terms.
No matter how you look at it, 700 tweets is a lot of exposure for St. Supery – especially when you consider that the participants needed to have the St. Supery wines in order to get the full TTL experience.
During the event, I was pleasantly surprised by St. Supery’s Sauvignon Blanc-based wines. This is because I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Which is to say, I almost love to hate Napa Valley SB because in my experience they’re way too bloated and flabby to compare with the best efforts from New Zealand and France. I was beginning to wonder if NV SB was a fad that needed to die, sort of like Napa’s questionable experimentation with Sangiovese-based wines. Wine geeks often refer to SB’s pungent aromas as “Cat pee,” a term I tend to avoid when describing any wine that other humans might actually want to try, but I made reference to the term during Saturday’s TTL event, when I expressed surprise at how enjoyable the St. Supery SB’s were:
I suppose I expected some measure of challenge to that statement. I just didn’t expect it to come less than 24 hours after I’d made it…
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