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Elegant Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 11

Posts Filed Under elegant wines

Hill Of Grace, Fifty Vintages On (Henschke Recent Releases, And Getting Schooled In Australia’s Greatest Vineyard)

Vinted on May 31, 2012 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine review

Fill a van with half a dozen Right Coast sommeliers traipsing through Australia’s Eden Valley en route to Henschke, and the on-road proceedings will take on the air of a group of pre-teens after a full night’s sleep and a breakfast of Sweettarts that were about to enter Disney World.

Initially, I didn’t “get” why this group (who, along with me, were visiting as guests of Wines of Australia) was so amped up for a winery visit. I knew Henschke made very, very god wine, but so what – a lot of producers make very, very good wine. There was, of course, that thing about Hill of Grace, clocking in at $600 or so a bottle, but I’d had plenty of expensive wine that didn’t live up to the billing on its price tag and so I was actually firmly in the “skeptically optimistic” territory about tasting it that day. What the hell was wrong with these people?

But here’s the thing about good Sommeliers, particularly those from the big drinks like Boston and New York: they have access to world’s most exclusive wines that far exceeds their pay grade levels. It’s more intimate access than most of us get, and often it means that they enjoy an understanding of the world’s best wines that few others can readily grasp for having simply lacked the experience – and I include in that unlucky majority most pro wine critics, because they don’t have wealthy patrons ordering the better vintages of the world’s most difficult-to-obtain juice several times per night, as the somms do (depending on what rich-and-famous clientele might be forking out the cash for the good stuff that night on the floor).

[ Editor’s note: My favorite such story doesn’t involve drinking wine at all: as one of my newfound somms told me, he once served a group that included Robert Downey, Jr. After offering Downey the wine list, before he could finish his opening sentence Downey cut him off: “Oh, no, no, no, no NOOOOOO... take that away... we would tear this place APART.” ]

And so it turns out that the somms were all justified to have been so giddy, because I was about to be schooled – big-time – in what it really meant to have sommelier-level access to one of the world’s finest fine wines…

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The Other Side Of Oz (Beechworth’s Small Producers And The Heart Of Bareknuckled Australian Winemaking)

Vinted on May 24, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

It’s a brilliantly sunny day in Beechworth, a rural (even by Aussie wine region standards) area in eastern Victoria that sits just south of Rutherglen. The region was made famous by Giaconda, whose premium Chardonnays are in such high demand that they’re now offered en primeur.

But I’m not here to see Giaconda (okay, that mostly had to do with the fact that it was closed when I visited). I’m across the street, where Keppell Smith has set up shop for his Savaterre brand – and at seventeen years running, he’s just gotten around to building a modern winemaking facility. This is the other side of Oz, where handfuls of tiny producers are setting up garage-style winemaking efforts, using natural cork, and otherwise eschewing the penchants of ginormous Aussie wine conglomerates’ for squeaky-clean, screw-capped, and what many wine geeks often criticize as characterless wines.

Smith comments on what he’s trying to avoid, and his words, I come to learn later, more-or-less sum up the approach of producers throughout Beechworth: “Fuck me dead! There’s nothing worse than a ‘so what’ wine!

Ask Smith why he chose this spot to plant grapes, and his answer, similarly, will tell you everything; only this time, it’s everything about his approach to winemaking (and, I gathered, to life itself – Smith seems incapable of hiding his true feelings about anything… even by Aussie transparency standards).

“Because of this,” he says, picking up a handful of brownish, unforgiving, decomposed granite. “Because of this shitty, shitty, crappy, shitty soil!”…

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What’s In A Name, Anyway? (Recent Releases From Steven Mirassou’s Not-Quite-Family-Named Brands)

After six generations of pressing grapes in California, the Mirassou family has only one son left who owns a wine brand: Steven Mirassou.

But he can’t legally use his own name on his bottles, despite the fact that Mirassou’s have been making wine since the mid-1800s, probably longer than any other CA winemaking family. He cannot use the family name because Gallo picked up the Mirassou brand in 2003. David Mirassou now represents that brand for Gallo, but the San Jose winery where they once made their products is long gone.

The family-name-scooped-up-by-the-big-conglomerate story that seems to be rampant in the wine world (whether you’re a Mondavi in CA or a Taylor in NY) doesn’t seem to have slowed Steven Mirassou down much, though.

After setting up shop under the Steven Kent brand (which is as far as he can go legally in terms of sticking his name on the bottles) in Livermore, along with La Rochelle winemaker Tom Stutz he’s crafting some of the most stunning – and exciting – wines in all of California…

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In Pursuit Of (And Catching) Balance With Raj Parr’s Sandhi Wines in NYC

Vinted on May 3, 2012 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine review

With the In Pursuit Of Balance tasting (which recently hit NYC), co-creators Parr and Jasmine Hirsch (of Hirsch Vineyards) have brought together some of the most exciting – and highest quality – producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California (many of which hail from the West Sonoma Coast, where those wines are rapidly reaching world-class status).

For me, their invitation to attend the NYC event was a chance to catch-up with some of the wines and producers I’d first been introduced to last year at the inaugural West Of West festival in Occidental, catch-up with Raj, and maybe get introduced to some new wines.

I expected to find some really (really!) good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the IPOB tasting recently at City Winery in NYC.

I just didn’t expect some of best of those wines to be Raj’s.

But there you have it – the wacky world of wine, in which a sommelier can team up with a California native (Sashi Moorman) and make better wines than some people who have been at it for decades longer. And I’m merely calling it as I see (er, taste) it – the juice is the juice, and in this case the juice is pretty damn good; in fact, it was some of the best offered in a room full of wines where sub-par offerings were hard to come by…

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