Posts Filed Under California wine
“To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our souls.”
– Question, Moody Blues
My intention today is not shock you into your Monday morning with cheesy Moody Blues lyrics (though I’ll admit to jamming out the bass line to Question dozens of times when I was in high school and songs like Question seemed really, really deep and important), but to call your attention to a blog post today by my friend, Wine Enthusiast editor Steve Heimoff.
The more astute reader will immediately recognize that I refrained from calling Steve a colleague, since in my mind that would actually be insulting him, though now that I think about it maybe I should have done that and then asked him for a small fee to remove the reference… anyway…
In said blog post, Steve talks about a recent Napa tasting in which he tasted some big-ass Cabernet wines and walked away thinking that many were, on the whole, quite balanced despite their, uhm, generous sizes. In reflecting on the tasting, he hits on what I consider the king-among-princess of a wine’s better qualities:
“Among all these impressionistic words… I think the most important is balance. Balance is central to wine’s quality.”
On this point, Steve and I are, using a term of which one of my friends is particularly fond, in “violent agreement.”
For my money, nothing, and I mean nothing, in a wine’s lineup of admirable qualities – including things like place of origin and pedigree – trumps balance…
Read the rest of this stuff »
“Literally all my savings all went into the winery to keep it afloat… it was the most challenging time of my life.”
Winemaking, especially in these troubled economic times, is not for anyone whose skins might be thinner than your average Cabernet grape’s. Case in point: Volta Wines.
Longtime 1WineDude.com readers will no doubt recognize the name Volta – it’s one of the wines that more-or-less put me on the wine-reviewin’ map. I was the first person to ever critically review Volta’s inaugural Cabernet release publicly, and though the review predates my grading system for wine reviews, the rough equivalent I keep coming back to when I consider the balance of power, focus and suppleness in their first release is “A-” – in other words, an excellent wine and getting that right that early is a stellar achievement for a producer’s first try.
Lucky for me, my impression of the Volta 2005 Cab was by-and-large validated by others in the established wine media at the time, including my bro’ Gary Vaynerchuk – that’s the “puttin’ me on the map” part – and over the successive months I found myself often wondering How’s it going with the Volta guys? and Is Volta ever gonna release an `06?
The answers to those questions turned out to be “Not well” and “No,” respectively – a 2006 release never materialized because the entire Volta outfit almost tanked under the weight of the imploding economy.
Yikes. Turns out the blow wasn’t quite fatal, however.
It’s with great pleasure that I tell you that Volta is still alive and kicking – I am very pleased today to present not only the first critical review of Volta’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon release (is it appropriate to call this a “comeback” release already?), but also a limited-time discount on Volta wines for 1WineDude.com readers!
First, let’s talk about the 2007 release, and the journey it took to get there… then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the discount after the jump…
Read the rest of this stuff »
Remember how the Northern California 2010 vintage was kind of “difficult?”
Oh, right, it’s impossible to avoid that news lately… not that I’m complaining, mind you (it’s better to have a bit too much wine coverage than too little!), nor am I trying to minimize or make light of the plight and hardship faced by those in N. CA whose grapes didn’t fare the strange growing season well.
Further developments on the harvest have been trickling into my (poor, overworked and overburdened) e-mail Inbox,and one note in particular regarding the 2010 vintage situation caught my eye: that at Hidden Ridge, whose wines, you may remember, I quite enjoy.
The title of the email was “Sonoma County’s Hidden Ridge Vineyard Will Not Harvest This Year Due to Inconsistent Growing Season” which I suppose just about sums it up, but here’s an excerpt from the dispatch for the curious:
“Hidden Ridge Vineyard Proprietors Casidy Ward and Lynn Hofacket, along with Winemaking Team Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos, today announced that they will not harvest any fruit from the Hidden Ridge Vineyard in 2010 season because of this year’s inconsistent growing season… This year’s late season, followed by recent rains in Northern California, resulted in fruit that was not up to Ward and Hofacket’s standards for their vineyard’s eponymous wine label. While it was difficult decision to go without a 2010 vintage wine for Hidden Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $40, the choice is in keeping with the proprietors’ commitment to produce only the best wines possible from their vineyard.”
This got me wondering… since Hidden Ridge recently took the bold (but successful) maneuver of reducing their prices (without impacting quality one iota), are they in a good position to weather (sorry…) the financial storm of not producing a 2010 bottling? Given the limping state of the economy, is anyone?
I, for one, sure hope so.
But there’s a more insidious side to this crazy vintage coin. Actually, there’s three other sides (this is a very oddly-shaped coin):
- It’s a chilling indicator of the areas that didn’t fare well over the past growing season in Northern CA.
- It’s an obnoxiously powerful reminder from Mother Nature that she still rules the roost, and when she wants to take her ball and go home, well, dammit, she’s just gonna take her f*cking ball and go the f*ck home.
- It’s a timely warning to us consumers that while it’s very likely that there will be other N. CA producers who come to similar conclusions as HR about the state of their fruit, they just might decide to bottle it anyway…
In the immortal words of Mr. Mike Brady, “Caveat emptor…”
That’s the (apt) summary that winemaker and grower Steve Matthiasson gave me when I asked him how things were looking in Napa as they approached harvest of what has been one of the craziest growing seasons in recent memory.
There’s been much speculation in the wine press as to the impact that the bizarre Summer weather patterns would have on the quality of the fruit that will shortly be going into Napa’s wines, so I reached out to Steve for an update, because he’s probably the most passionate person I know when it comes to making great wine and growing great fruit in the Valley (since he does both, and does them both very well). A somewhat narrow view, arguably, but I’ll take a dispatch from the field over speculation, any day.
The short version of the Napa 2010 story is that it’s not all gloom-and-doom, but it does seem to be a case of feast-or-famine and a potential study in extremes.
While some varieties in particular, and some pockets of the Valley in general, are taking a nasty hit, others have fared pretty well – and some growers may actually be onto fruit that could result in extremely high-quality wines, despite the atypical weather…
Read the rest of this stuff »