Minor pronunciation snafus aside, I had a blast introducing the trade to the grape varieties and wines on display at both events, and it’s exciting to see where Crete is taking things from a vinous quality perspective as they move out of their modern bulk wine phase, the irony of which is that Crete used to own the fine wine market in the Mediterranean for nearly 2000 years (much more on that when my feature on Crete hits the pages of the newly revamped SOMM Journal in the August issue; in the meantime, you can watch Nostos Wines’ Alexandra Manousakis – also in attendance at the tasting events – talk about Crete’s wine challenges).
Now that those gigs are behind us and the checks have been cashed (meaning I am off the payroll, so to speak, when it comes to Crete’s wines), I can give you a couple of quick-hit selections from those tastings, just in time for 4th of July outdoor grilling duty.
In this case, the recommendations are from bonna-fide Cretans, and not from a cretin (meaning me) as is usually the case here on 1WD (fine, whatever, I’ll cut it out); both hail from Heraklion, the center of winemaking on Crete (and just about the center of the island itself)…
No, you didn’t see one of these selections coming, okay?
Don’t even try it. No one, least of all me, would buy it for even a second.
This Summer, I once again had the pleasure of judging at the Critics Challenge in (stay classy) San Diego, my second stint as a judge there. A more well-executed U.S. wine competition you’re unlikely to encounter, and the judging panels boast some impressive collective credentials. Before I get into the two most memorable (for me) wines coming out of this year’s incarnation of the event (full results are here), I should give you a quick primer on how Critics Challenge works.
The judges are paid (well… duh), and for two days each is given a series of wine flights organized by category and tasted blind (residual sugar, grape variety, and category are known, in some cases vintage as well). The judges work in pairs, awarding (or denying) medals as they deem appropriate, and each wine is officially awarded the highest of the two medals determined by the pair of judges. The assumption, of course, is that as judges we all know what the hell we’re doing.
For 2014, I was fortunate enough to be paired of with writer and educator Deb Parker Wong, someone for whom the term “consummate professional” was invented, and a judge with a methodically brilliant tasting approach. I’ll stop here before this turns into a Deb valentine, but I feel compelled to add that Deb also possesses the rare and uncanny ability to double the elegance quotient of any room into which she walks (since I possess the equally rare and uncanny ability to halve a room’s elegance quotient, our judging table vicinity essentially remained elegance neutral)…
On a (very, very, monsoon-season-like) wet day in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, I spent some time in the basement of Philly’s Jet Wine Bar on South Street, being interviewed for a podcast by owner (and archeologist – she was about to embark on a multi-stop tour taking her to Italy, Scotland, and Iraq) Jill Weber and Brit-turned-PA-local Philip Silverstone.
We had a good time, recording two shows that you should now be able to check out now over at Phil’s website, talking wine and my first booze love, craft beer. The wine portion is embedded below for your listening convenience, peeps. The Time Out With Phillip Silverstone show can be heard anytime and anywhere worldwide via the free TuneIn Radio app or at TuneIn.com (search for Phillip Silverstone)
Jet is a freakin’ cool, cool place for a wine geek. Jill prides herself on championing the obscure, and it is for sure the obscure that gets championed at Jet. Let me put it this way: when I visited, some of the more recognizable grape variety names on her list were Ribolla Gialla, Trebbiano, and Bonarda. She had included selections from Morocco and Turkey. It was a wine geek’s wet dream, in multiple senses of the phrase. The food at Jet is also pretty tasty, so if you’re South Street bound and want a break from hoagies, beer and cheesesteaks, you’d do well to check it out.
Jill pulled out a few interesting selections for us to taste during recording that day, and I’d like to introduce you to each of those, all of which run about $15 a pop (suck it, you Joe-only-reviews-crazy-expensive-wines whiney-pants complainers!)…
You know you’re in a great neighborhood when what’s supposed to be a five minute stop-and-say-hello visit at a neighbor’s house while dog walking turns into a multi-hour, home-cooked dinner (with several wines imbibed, naturally).
Another blessing to count, and another reason why we love where we live (yeah, even if it’s in the North Korea of U.S. alcohol control states, and more or less the new ground zero for Lyme disease; whatever). The neighbors in this case were the Voutsakis clan, a Greek family whose hospitality know few boundaries when it comes to helping – and feeding – their family and friends. So after a few glasses of ouzo, extended playtime among the kids of both families became an invitation to dinner.
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