Posts Filed Under commentary

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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Size Matters (Tackling A Faust 2006 Double Magnum)

Vinted on March 10, 2010 binned in commentary, learning wine, wine tips

Just when you think that the topic of wine is starting to make sense and really come together for you, you’ll probably encounter the convention of naming large format wine bottles.

That should put you firmly back in your lowly place, since the convention of naming bottle sizes carries on the storied wine tradition of utilizing differing standards in order to confuse the living hell out of you.

I’ve been “thinking big,” as in large format bottles, since I recently won a 3L bottle of Faust 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet via the Palate Press Wine For Haiti auction.

The bottle is gorgeous (see inset pic).  The trouble is, I don’t know what to call it.

Before we get into that, I should tell you a bit about Faust itself, I suppose.

Faust is the brainchild of Napa legend Agustin Huneeus, who started up Quintessa, owns Veramonte, and had a hand in making other stalwart Napa wines like Franciscan.  It’s a big wine, but balanced and tight as a drum early on due to it’s massive, dark structure.  It’s like the Darth Vader of Napa Cabs, and is (more or less) Quintessa’s more-affordable-but-still-pretty-damned-good “second wine.” Damned-good… Get it?  Faust… damned… Ok, I’ll stop now…

As far as the 2006 goes, it’s 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 3% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc – all from Agustin’s family vineyards in Rutherford and Atlas Peak.  As far as Hunees goes, according to the Faust website, “He also believes that numerical ratings, as they are used today, are an aberration.”  Strong words.

Interestingly (as far as the bottle size discussion goes), I first tried this Faust vintage (via sample) in a 375 ml half-bottle.  I’ve yet to have the wine from a “normal” 750 ml.

Anyway, on to the good and the ugly of this situation…

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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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