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Crowd Pleaser Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 7

Posts Filed Under crowd pleaser wines

Churchill’s Vintage Port Recent (And Not So Recent) Releases

“You can beat the sh*t out of something, and all you get is powdered sh*t!”
- Johnny Graham

As part of some prep work for recently-published Playboy Port Primer (For Your Holiday Port-ing Pleasure), in November I was a guest of importer Frederick Wildman for a lunch/tasting and dinner/tasting with Johnny Graham, the force behind relative Port newcomer Churchill’s.

The F-W folks didn’t actually know that I was sort-of on assignment for my Port Primer, but it turned out that Johnny Graham – to whom I now owe a return on a much-needed pre-dinner beer that he bought me en route to the evening event – had so much Port worth talking about that I wanted to highlight him here. I think I also owe him a beer for providing the above quote, which slipped out when we were tasting through some of the Churchill’s lineup at F-W headquarters before our dinner, while we were discussing wines that exude finesse as well as natural concentration, versus those that simply display an overly-extracted sense of concentration (for an example of the former, try Churchill’s elegantly understated Ten Year Tawny Port, which I likened to Sancerre – seriously – in terms of its prettiness).

Anyway, the highlight of the visit was a trip to NYC’s Hearth restaurant, where I finally got to see/taste what all the (well-deserved) fuss was about when it comes to Paul Grieco (and his massive soul patch), who did an admirable job pairing an entire multi-course meal to vintage Port selections from Churchill’s (not an easy feat, even if the wines are quite good, since they’re also quite demanding, and in some cases quite sweet – in short, a culinary mine field).

Graham’s family Port biz started in the 1800s, and he told me that he was “fortunate, in my youth, I was able to taste vintages like the 1908s; Vintage Port can age 20, 50 years or more, and there just aren’t many wines that can do that.” To that end, given the sh*tload of non-sh*tty wines we tasted that evening, I hope you’ll forgive me the  list-and-review style format post, but I thought it worthwhile to give you the scoop on several past vintages of Churchill’s Vintages… including a sneak-peak at the yet-to-be-released 2011…

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The Mysterious Madeira, The Submerged Cork, And The Rediscovery Of Christmas Magic

Vinted on December 13, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines

I’d love to kick this post off by somehow linking Madeira to the holidays, but that would be disingenuous of me; the truth is that I love the fortified Portuguese (mostly) dessert wine, and drink it pretty much any chance I get to wrap my grubby little hands around a bottle of the stuff.

For a guy like me, discovering a forgotten bottle of Madeira in a liquor cabinet of one’s house is kind of like a pothead finding a stash of Sativas weed and a stack of previously-unreleased, high-quality Grateful Dead live bootleg recordings in one of their bedroom dresser drawers. And so, with eyes wider than a nine-year-old’s on Christmas morning, I found myself face to face with (what I think was – more on that in a minute or two) either a 1967 or 1970  Manuel de Sousa Herdeiros Verdelho Madeira.

How I got to the confines of the liquor cabinet in the first place: Last week, Mrs. Dudette had cooked up a fine pasta-and-sausage meal for us; so fine that our little Dudettelete, for whom dinner typically lasts something like fourteen hours, had cleaned her plate in record time. I mentioned that I’d just received a sample shipment of spirits, and Mrs. Dudette exclaimed that she had never once had good quality Scotch. Much “egads!” ensued (okay, all the “egads!” were mine) and I sprinted to the long-neglected liquor cabinet (you’ve got to move a small toy store’s worth of toddler stuff to get at it now), with the intention of finding an equally long-neglected, unopened bottle of The Macallan 12 Year Old Single Malt.

I knew The Macallan was in there. I did not  know that the Manuel de Sousa Herdeiros Verdelho Madeira was in there. Queue the wide-eyed wonderment…

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Sex? Or Death? Oh, And Rare Monbazillac (Chateau Bonnet Recent Releases)

In high school, I had a math teacher who used to tease us when we were timid in class about providing an answer that should have been obvious. He would hold out his lanky arms in the fashion of scales, feigning the weighing of agonizing choices, while muttering, “Sex? Or… death? Sex… or death? I can’t decide!!”

So when I was in Bordeaux this past September (a media guest of Planet Bordeaux), and oenologist Vincent Cruège asked my group if we wanted to meet André Lurton, I had a flashback to those high school days. Now near 90, Lurton – apart from being a near-legend in Bordeaux winemaking – has been Mayor of Grézillac, a WWII soldier, a Military Cross recipient, member of the Legion of Honour, a Knight of the Agricultural Order of Merit, and a collector of… tanks (not steel tanks, though there are plenty of those on the property, but the kind of tanks that shoot explosive shell rounds).

“Sex? Or Death?”

Hell yeah, I wanted to meet Lurton. I’d want to meet him by virtue of the tank collection alone, actually.

And so it was that our tour of Chateau Bonnet, headed by Lurton’s daughter Denise Moulle (whose husband, Jean-Pierre, was head chef at Chez Panisse for more than twenty years, but as far as I’m aware didn’t cook for us during this visit… the audacity…!) was to conclude with a visit from the tank-collecting legend himself, who basically heard that we were a group of bloggers and wanted to meet the new blood in the wine biz. It would also conclude with the popping of the cork on one of Lurton’s rarer Monbazillacs – something I didn’t know when we toured the grounds on a chilly, wet Autumn mid-morning, but something else I certainly wouldn’t have turned down if it had been offered (talk about “Sex or Death?”)…

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A Tale Of Two Twomeys (Twomey Recent Releases)

Vinted on November 15, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines, wine review

Ask Silver Oak’s chief winemaker Daniel Baron to explain SO’s pet project, Twomey, and this is what he’s likely to tell you (at least, it’s what he told me when I spent the better part of two days with the SO staff during a press trip earlier this year):

“If someone’s gonna make the un-Silver Oak, it might as well be us.”

In many ways, Twomey is the anti-SO: single-varieties versus blending, French oak versus American, small production (about six thousand cases produced of each varietal bottling) versus large volumes, playing up single-vineyard and vintage expression versus aiming for consistency in flavor and quality year-on year.

On paper, anyway, Twomey certainly looks like the anti-matter particles to Silver Oak, the Bizarro Superman version of SO’s impressively well-run, large-scale red blend operations. But Twomey’s quiet success is actually now seen by SO as a key learning element to inject back into their namesake production. “The bigger we got at Silver Oak,” Baron told me, “the smaller we got in out approach.”

Wine geeks might be tempted to dismiss Twomey simply on the basis of it being founded by the behemoth Silver Oak, but my tasting experiene would show that to be a mistake.

A big mistake, actually.

Because Twomey is, as one Sonoma winemaker told me privately, “making some of the most damn interesting Merlot in all of California.” And in applying their approach to a handful of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs (in part to appease the Burgundy fans in the Duncan family who run SO), they’re well on their way to making some of the most exciting Pinots in CA, too…

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