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Crowd Pleaser Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 6

Posts Filed Under crowd pleaser wines

Revisiting The Wine + Chocolate Pairing Mine Field

Vinted on March 28, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, going pro, overachiever wines

About a year ago, I unwittingly unleashed a minor sh*tstorm when I taste-tested some very good chocolates and paired them with some very good wine and found the match up to be not-so-very-good.

The main issue then was that the very good chocolates in question were designed specifically to pair with wines. And yet, time and time again I find myself coming back to a conclusion that is almost as certain in the wine and food pairing world as death and taxes are to the “real” world:

Most wine and chocolate pairings simply DO NOT work.

The vast majority of the time, the chocolate is too robust, and it clobbers the paired wine. This is because most still, dry wines – even hefty, hearty reds – just lack the jabs to counter chocolate’s overall lack of subtlety and bitter power-punch. The match-up might work for some people, but probably doesn’t work for most people.

There are, of course exceptions – more on those in a minute – but they are just that: exceptions. You’re usually far, far better served enjoying the wine and then later enjoying the chocolate, keeping them as far away from one another in the process, lest they start the palate equivalent of a Ballroom Blitz.

So you can imagine the pants-crapping emotions I experienced when I was recently hired to choose the wines for a wine and chocolate pairing corporate event held in Philly’s iconic Curtis Center. Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikeeeessssssssssssssssssssss!

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The Miljenko “Mike” Grgich Interview (And Recent Grgich Hills Releases)

Vinted on March 7, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, interviews

Closing in on the ninth decade, the beret and the smile are still unmistakable.

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, now a California winemaking legend, turns 90 this year. For those who aren’t familiar with the tale, Mike’s life story could make fitting fodder for a TV wine drama: one of eleven kids; stomped his first grapes at age three; fled communist Yugoslavia in the 1950s; hit the Napa Valley wine scene just as it first began to bud, studying under the master  André Tchelistcheff; for all intents and purposes, practically invented the sciences of controlling cold sterilization, malolactic fermentation, and the proper use of oak barrels for wine; eventually went on to establish well-regarded and successful wineries under his own name.

The biggest feather in the beret, though, was the triumph of one of his wines – a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay – at the 1976 Paris tasting, an event that put California (and, to a large extent, all U.S. wines) back on the global fine wine map for good (for a detailed account of that fabled tasting, check out George Tabor’s excellent Judgement Of Paris).

Mike has been sunning himself in Palm Desert, but I was invited to catch up with him over email to talk about his wines and his legacy. At 90, the guy is still a sharp as a tack. Here’s the conversation I had with Mike, which includes his advice for advancing your own tasting prowess, followed by a  few thoughts on some recent releases from the apple of his vinous eye, Napa Valley’s Grgich Hills

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Of Griffins, Protoceratops And Sonoma Syrah (Qualia’s Pavo 2009)

Vinted on January 31, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, wine review

While I cannot verify it via personal experience, I strongly suspect that apart from mining, graphic novels, porn (or maybe graphic novels about porn), the wine business is the only other industry in which you can start a story with the phrase “so I once met this guy in a cave…” without raising eyebrows in suspicion of your sanity.

It was, in fact, in a cave – during a dinner event at

Pine Ridge on Napa’s Silverado Trail – that I met San Franciscan Jordan Kivelstadt. Long-time 1WD readers might recall his name as the young winemaker behind Pavo Syrah, a wine that was featured here back in 2009 and one which I compared to the Balrog (but in a good way).

Jordan’s parents bought the vineyard in 2005, on ten acres of farmland at the intersection of three AVAs (Sonoma Valley, Bennett Valley and Sonoma Mountain), which for ten years provided fruit for Landmark’s Steel Plow, and now is the source of their Syrah and red blends. When sending some more recent incarnations of his family’s wines – now called Qualia (named after a sensory perception phenomenon that, interestingly, was also profiled in a post on wine ratings that caused a bit of a stir here last year) – Jordan included a letter to me in which he wrote “I have been busy playing with wine. I cannot wait to see… what mythical creature you associate with it.”

And so it’s in that spirit that I give you some thoughts on Sonoma Syrah, Grenache, the mythical Griffin, and the extinct-but-not-mythical Protoceratops. All of which will make sense in a minute or two. I hope…

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Hourglass Recent Releases (Or, “Reports Of Napa’s Vintage From Hell Might Be Overblown”)

Vinted on January 24, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

I, along with a small cadre of other wine media peeps, recently got invited to one of those on-line Q&A / sample tasting thangs highlighting recent releases from high-end Napa Valley producer Hourglass (so named due to the shape of their vineyard holdings, which form part of the narrowest spots in the North-South winegrowing continuum that makes up the Valley).

Hourglass founder and Napa native Jeff Smith is a bit of a friend, and it took me a lot of prodding over dinner last year to get him to talk for even brief periods about happenings at Hourglass (and spill the beans that he would be parting ways with longtime consulting winemaker Robert Foley, and bringing on Cade / Plumpjack alumnus Anthony Biagi).

I figured that I owed Jeff one from that dinner, and hadn’t done an on-line tasting in a while, so I thought, “what the hell, send me the half-bottle samples and let’s do this; also, Mrs. Dudette gets all googley-eyed when expensive reds show up at the door.” Of course, it’s always fun to watch winemakers and proprietors that you know personally grapple with the uncomfortable scenario of being left alone to fend for themselves live on camera (in this case, they fared pretty well, actually). And at the very least, I figured it would be a chance to see what Biagi did with the blends, and get a feel for how much negative impact the touted-as-epically-horrendous 2010 Napa vintage actually had.

If the 2010 Hourglass releases are any indication, turns out the answer to the question of how much gloom-and-doom is to be expected from Napa’s 2010 vintage is “not that much…”

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