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The Wines of Afros: Vinho Verde Gets Serious

Vinted on January 13, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, wine review

The words “Vinho Verde” conjure up a particular image in the minds of wine lovers: usually that of a tall green bottle of spritzy, refreshing and (usually very) inexpensive Portuguese white wine that rarely speaks to the soul but sure as hell speaks to a parched throat on a hot Summer’s day. It’s the kind of wine you buy by the case (and with some very good examples to be found well under $10 a bottle, you can afford it), toss into a cooler, and lug out for hot, sunny day picnics.

In essence, Vinho Verde can have a soft spot in the hearts of wine geeks (this one included), specifically because they’re wines for imbibing and not wines for contemplating.

Just across the border from Portugal’s Vinho Verde region – in Spain – however, you will find whites made from the same varieties (Verdehlo, Loureiro, etc.), made in similar climates, but that cost several times the price as a typical Vinho Verde. The message? The Spanish versions of wines from those grapes are just more… graves than their Portuguese counterparts.

It’s a situation that’s often left wine geeks like me wondering why the Portuguese don’t get a bit more serious themselves when it comes to Vinho Verde.  Nothing against simple Vinho Verde of course (in fact I’d personally be pretty pissed off if those inexpensive quaffers dropped out of the marketplace), but why not add a few bottlings that take  Alvarinho or Lourerio to a more thought-provoking level?

Why not get all graves on us?

Turns out that finding serious Vinho Verde is not a question of Portuguese desire or capability, but of production and distribution.

Because Vinho Verde is, in fact, trying to raise the profile of their wines to heights lofty enough to match the vines that grow up (and up, and up) the high trellises that dot the area (actually, the vines can be found growing up just about anything in Vinho Verde, the better to protect them from mold and mildew in the wet weather). And it’s not just still whites that are in their crosshairs – they’re also targeting reds and sparklers (of both color persuasions) – and if the wines of Afros are any indication, they’re on to something…

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Blood Into Wine Into Badge (Reviewing Arizona Wines)

Vinted on November 12, 2010 binned in crowd pleaser wines, wine review

I know this end-of-week segment has tentatively been reserved for wines of the week, but so far I’ve featured wines not actually reviewed during the week in question, and in this case I’m giving a badge to just one wine and not multiple wines… so let’s just agree that some re-branding might be in order, ok?

The thing is, I keep encountering cool and interesting wine shiz that I want to share, like last week’s T.A.S.T.E. mini-bottle craze and the wines of Paul Dolan, so let’s also just agree that we’ve started an anti-segment and get on with it, ok?  Ok!  Excellent!

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk Arizona.  As in, Yes, Arizona is making wine, just like the rest of the states in the U.S.

Of course, when you tell someone that you just tasted some (samples of) AZ wine, and just watched a (review copy) of the film Blood Into Wine (which chronicles in vastly-entertaining-but-sometimes-too-advertisement-like-fashion the work of rocker Maynard James Keenan and winemaker Eric Glomski to put AZ on the fine wine map), invariably this is the response that you will get:

“Maynard Keenan? Isn’t that the dude from Tool and Puscifer? Arizona makes wine?  WTF?”

At least, that’s been my experience.

Based on the similar befuddled reactions of my friends, I can only imagine what the AZ wine industry has to endure every day when asked about their efforts to bring fine wine recognition to the state. My guess is that Napa makes fun of them, all isn’t-that-cute-little-brother style, like the way that we treat Canada most of the time. As my friend Alder Yarrow said during his cameo in Blood Into Wine (paraphrased): I taste a sh*tload of wines every year “and 99.9% of them are not from Arizona.”

Based on what Glomski and Keenan are doing, however, I am wondering if that situation may change in the not-too-distant future…

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Wines of the Week: Paul Dolan T.A.S.T.E-ing Edition

Vinted on November 5, 2010 binned in crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, overachiever wines, wine review

Ok, technically they were wines from last week.  So sue me.

[Editor’s note: please do NOT actually sue me.]

Last week, I had another run-in with those tiny T.A.S.T.E. 50ml bottles, taking part in an on-line UStream live tasting with winemaker Paul Dolan, going through the majority of his portfolio.  Paul has the advantage of exuding a calm and commanding presence even over a tiny video window (I credit his kick-ass mustache), and he also happens to make some compelling wines.

Those wines happen to be made from biodynamic grapes, which is a veritable conversation powder-keg when thrown into any gathering of two or more wine lovers these days.  And we all know what I think about BioD, which is that I don’t know what to think about it yet.

I’ll admit, whenever Paul got to talking about BioD during the tasting, I found myself wondering if I should go looking for some weed and a bong to put my mind in the proper perspective, you know, to really understand what he was on about, man!

The BioD conversation did yield this fantastic tweet during our tasting, though:

“@PaulDolanWine: Some call it voodoo, we like to call Biodynamics Moo-Do.”

That is just sooooo good…

Anyway, while I found the whites a bit to rough-around-the-edges, the reds from Paul Dolan for the most part were very, very good, and in at lest one case offered what I felt was a downright amazing bargain…

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Old Vines, Old Families, New Recommendations (Three Reds Worth Your Time and Money)

Vinted on October 4, 2010 binned in crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, overachiever wines, wine review

Today, we’re talking wine recommendations, simply because over the last week I had the pleasure of tasting samples of three very different but very badge-worthy Reds that I wanted to share with you. The first comes from old vines; the remainder from old winemaking families. Also, in reviewing these I’ve just noticed that each “review” has a sh*t-load of links, which is either “adding value” or “annoying as hell” depending on your viewpoint (which I’m sure many of you will share with me :-) …

1WD_Badge_Overachiever_thumb1_thumb[1] 09 Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorees L’Ancien (Beaujolais): As good as many of the Beaujolais Crus out there & a few $ cheaper! $15 B #

I’ve got a soft-spot for Cru Beaujolais, which I find to be some of the most food-worthy wine in the world for usually not a lot of cash.  So it’s really cool for me when I take part in a tasting (in this case, a TasteLive.com Discover Beaujolais round-up) and find a Beaujolais that thinks it’s a Cru but actually is an even-more-approachable and slightly-less-expensive-but-just-as-good general Beaujolais appellation offering, with the added bonus of being made from old vines. Brambly, deep red berry fruit (possibly courtesy of those Vieilles Vignes), pepper, and a hint of game, and generally just really f*cking yummy.

1WD_Badge_KickAss_thumb[1] 07 Continuum Red (Oakville): Graphite & fig did it for me, but w/ complexity like this you can find 20 other things to float yer boat $129 A #

Last week, I joined Philly’s First Lady of Wine, Marnie Old, at Osteria for dinner with Continuum Estate’s H. Stuart Harrison (who, interestingly, was also Opus One’s first employee) and Carissa Mondavi (you will have heard of her granddad). I know that sounds all NY-Times-name-dropping but hear me out, okay?

During dinner, we sampled the `07 Continuum which, aside from sharing the same name as one of the most kick-ass pieces of jazz bass proficiency ever conceived, also happens to kick ass in its own right. The oddest thing about this endeavor is that Tim Mondavi launched it only a few years ago, at what should have been the worst possible time for anything new and expensive. That is, of course, a blip on the radar when it comes to the viewpoint of the Mondavis, who seem to start every venture with the belief that it will last 100+ years.

Now in its third vintage, Continuum wine is extraordinarily good, seamlessly merging the focused power of Pritchard Hill fruit with the more lush, velvety and “open” components from fruit on the Valley floor – and with a healthy dose (18%) of Petit Verdot that is, somehow, not at all obnoxious. I’m kind of amazed that they got it right so quickly, even with fruit that good and several generations of Napa winemaking DNA at their disposal. Pricey, for sure, but worth every penny of it and I hope I get to taste some of this ten or twelve years from now.

1WD_Badge_Crowd_Pleaser_thumb11_thumb[1] 06 Louis M. Martini Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Heck of a crowd-pleasing, velvety, tobacco-infused ride for the price. $25 B #

Going to the other side of the Napa Cabernet spectrum, Martini – another (very) long-standing Napa wine family – has been pumping out some consistently tasty wines lately that lean decidedly towards the velvety-smooth-drink-me-now-baby side of said spectrometer sampling.  Bottom line  on this wine is that I’ve had far less interesting, less complex, and less tasty examples of Napa Cab that cost a lot more to one’s bottom line. Very good wine, very good price, and very good conversation piece for the winos at your next dinner par-tay.

That’s it – short (for me, anyway) and sweet!

Cheers!

(images: 1winedude.com, continuumestate.com)

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