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Crowd Pleaser Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 16

Posts Filed Under crowd pleaser wines

Visiting Hestan: More Money Than God, And A Pretty Tasty Cabernet, Too

Vinted on March 31, 2011 binned in California wine, crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, on the road

The point when (or is that where… damn, I can never keep that straight) any normal person realizes that Stanley Cheng is loaded, and I mean God-calls-him-when-He-needs-a-loan loaded, probably comes pretty early during the course of meeting him; in my case, it came about ten minutes before I met him, while coasting up the lengthy, gated drive that marks the entrance to his newly-finished home and vineyard estate in the outskirts of Napa Valley.

It wasn’t the need for a security gate, the fact that he could actually afford a piece of land that spacious in Napa Valley, or even the fairy-tale mansion at the end of the drive that tipped me off to the Laurentian-abyss-level deep pockets; it turns out I’m too obtuse to pick up even those obvious clues.  In fact, at first I thought the house had to be a winery facility made up to look like a mansion, because it just seemed too big and gorgeous to really be someone’s home.

No, for me the moment came when I pulled up to the much sparser but still handsome building a little more than halfway between the gates and the mansion, thinking that it had to be Stanley’s house because it was about three times the size of my place.  Then I took a peep through the large glass doors and noticed that I wasn’t peering into an office building or a residence, but into a sort of garage / gymnasium.

That’s when it hit me that Stanley Cheng had more money than god…

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Movie Stars, Vineyard Maps And Dirty Undie Drawers: Chateau Montelena’s Winter Rebuilding Project

Vinted on March 24, 2011 binned in California wine, crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, on the road

“You’re actually the first journalist to see this.”

Loaded words spoken to me when walking down the back staircase at Chateau Montelena to the cellar room. And they’re not just fully-packed AK-47 words because I’ve received no formal training in journalism; it’s because there’s pressure when someone trusts you enough let you take a peek into the dirty underwear drawer of a movie star.

Ok, so it’s not actually a dirty undie drawer; but it’s the equivalent, anyway, when that movie star isn’t a recognizable pretty face plastered across billboards and silver screens worldwide, but is a winery.  And make no mistake about it, Chateau Montelena is, indeed, a movie star.

The steady stream of tourists and visitors arriving right on my heels at 9AM, popping photos of the Calistoga winery’s iconic stone castle exterior was evidence enough of that, considering that your average Napa Valley wine country tourist turns around once they hit downtown St. Helena on Route 29.  If you want to visit Montelena, you have to find Montelena, and to find Montelena you have to be going slightly out of your way; you have to be looking for it.

The recently-expanded parking lot is the best evidence of Chateau Montelena’s new-found popularity – where they previously got by with space for about eleven cars, they’ve had to expand to a new lot that can accommodate several times that number. It’s all part of the strange dichotomy that seems to have defined the image of Montelena in the minds of wine lovers over last few decades: a familiar name and yet not a familiar destination.  Even though its name became etched into the consciousness of U.S. wine lovers after Chateau Montelena’s then-unknown Chardonnay bested its more celebrated French counterparts in the famed 1976 “Judgement of Paris” tasting, real fame – movie star fame – didn’t come until 2008 when the movie Bottle Shock hit the theaters, giving the `76 Paris tasting the Hollywood treatment.

Too Hollywood, as it turns out.  Ask Montelena’s assistant winemaker, Matt Crafton – who as a lanky, tall, affable, laid-back-but-knowledgeable guy seems to fit like a glove into Montelena’s NorCal culture – how accurately Bottle Shock portrayed Montelena’s history, and you get a pause, followed by a smile and an answer that says everything by hardly saying anything:

“Well… There was a Paris tasting; the Barretts did exist; we did win.”

All the rest, as they say, is basically Hollywood bullsh*t…

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Wines Of Place (For Obligatory Valentine’s Day Proceedings)

Vinted on February 10, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, sexy wines, wine review

Let’s get the Valentine’s Day mention out of the way first thing – my views on this most Hallmark© of upcoming holidays are akin to those recently espoused by my friend W. Blake Gray. In summary: I’m not a huge fan, but I do love spending quality time with my wife.  For those of you who insist on having a V-Day wine tidbit, I will refer you to the study that I highlight every year at this time, which found that wine knowledge actually makes you makes you more attractive (and re-submit as supporting evidence the fact that my attractive wife actually decided to marry me).

For those who need a little more by way of wine recommendations for V-Day festivities, I am going to tackle that topic today because with V-Day falling on a Monday I’m guessing most people are going for their (obligatory) V-Day proceedings this weekend.  Anyway… I’d like to point you to a selection of wines from a recent press dinner at Philly’s fabulous restaurant XIX organized by the Center for Wine Origins (great dinner, by the way, in which I got to finally catch up with Philly wine personality Brian Freedman and Philly Wine Examiner’s Jeff Alexander, among others). They are wines about which (lucky for me) I was planning to write anyway that (lucky for me) just so happen to also have potentially significant V-Day appeal – provided that your pockets are deep enough to lay down the cash for them.

Please note: generally speaking, I’m NOT a fan of going for expensive wines just for the Hallmark© V-Day holiday – I’d rather save those for anniversaries with real significance – but I share the following because they can serve triple duty as 1) recommendations for special events that are actually special to you and aren’t special because some marketing machine told you they were special, 2) are really friggin’ good anyway and so wine geeks will want to try these and 3) can serve admirably in a pinch for those who can’t escape the marketing hype and/or just really need to impress someone on V-Day.

So, here goes…

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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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