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Elegant Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 16

Posts Filed Under elegant wines

What We Drank When Our Neighbors Betrayed Us

Vinted on September 8, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, wine review

Okay… so technically our neighbors didn’t betray us. It just feels that way.

By any conservative measurement, we (my family at “Chateau Dude,” that is) have the greatest neighbors on the face of the planet. Correction: had. Our neighbors are moving away from us, those backstabbers!

Okay… so technically they’re not backstabbers, and we’re just fiercely disappointed that they will be moving to the Midwest, where an impossible-to-pass-up dream job opportunity awaits their primary bread-winner. These are people who we see nearly every day, and enjoy seeing nearly every day. Think about that for a second, and just how rare that situation is in our modern lives. Hell, some people never even see their neighbors or learn their names… And the number of significant disagreements we’ve had as neighbors over the last several years? Just about Zero.

When Stephanie and Natalie moved in next door, I was floored at how cool they were. It got to the point where my wife was tired of hearing about how cool I thought they were. And for a few short weeks initially after the moved in, I deliberately avoided long spans of contact with them so they wouldn’t think I was some weirdo stalker type (I’m weird, just not stalker-weird). Over the years, we’ve shared a lot more than each others’ power tools – there have been dinners, great conversations, big parties, small parties, shoveling driveways after blizzards, and countless beers consumed together on our porches and decks. Most significantly, though, we’ve supported and cheered each other on through the early stages of parenthood, and our kids (who are about the same age) play together often, having so far known each other their entire short little lives.

So when you head out to dinner to celebrate a major life milestone with people like that, what do you pop open to celebrate? Even if they’re betraying you, I mean…

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Best Of The West: Has Pinot Noir Found A New Spiritual Home In West Sonoma Coast?

Vinted on August 25, 2011 binned in California wine, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road

Burt Williams might speak softly and have a relatively unassuming appearance, but when it comes to age-worthy, elegant Pinot Noir he is one hundred percent deadly Jedi Knight.

That much was clear during the recent West Of West festival in Occidental, CA (I attended as a media guest), where Littorai’s Ted Lemon interviewed Williams to kick things off.  It was tough for me to pay attention, because a) there were Sonoma Coast Pinots sitting in front of me ranging from `96 to `01, and I was ready to geek out, and b) I found the entire event confusing, because I’m an anal Right Coast guy who requires exposition and purpose stated clearly up-front, and the WoW Fest proceedings launched without much detail on either.

Fortunately, possessing a formal plan is not a prerequisite for making great wine.  In fact, to hear Williams tell it, very little about Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was planned in the early days when he first starting making Williams Selyem wine in his ‘spare’ time. “We got a call from an ATFA agent,” he mentioned, “who basically told us that we should get bonded before we got arrested; so, we got bonded.”

Williams also told us that “if the wine is balanced… if you pick the fruit before it’s really ripe… I know Sonoma Coast [Pinot Noir] can age!”  Proof is in the vinous pudding: the 1996 Williams Selyem Riverblock Pinot Noir (about $100 if you can find it, and an ‘A’ rated wine if I’ve ever had one) is delicate, earthy and svelte, with cherries, plums, spices and hints of game meat. The finish could accurately be described as gorgeous; it’s a wine that doesn’t smack you over the head, but seduces you.

And it’s in drinking wines like that 1996 Pinot – wines which seem to be made at a more-than-expected frequency in the West Sonoma Coast area – that you say to yourself (if you’re me, anyway): F*ck Napa Valley Pinot – this is where it’s AT!”

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Foley, Food Porn, And A West Coast Wine Geek-out

At the end of July, I wound up at the top of Chalk Hill in Healdsburg.  It was one of those events that I should be used to by now but that make me slightly uncomfortable anyway because they a) are held in lavish settings that seem to cost a billion dollars, b) usually end three and half hours late with an over-the-top, impeccably prepared/served lunch cooked by a French chef (and likely weighing in somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion calories – food porn coming in a minute or two, I promise), and c) have winemakers who’ve been flown-in from all over the place, any of whom may or may not be all that interested in making small-talk with you.

Events unfolded pretty much exactly to that plan during my visit to The Hill, though thankfully the folks who make up the winemaking crew of Foley Family Wines, whose portfolio we were tasting through, proved an amicable bunch.

Far and away the most exciting thing for me at these events is not the lavish stuff – and there was no shortage of that shizz: Chalk Hill’s pavilion, where we tasted and then lunched, has a 21-foot limestone fireplace, a panoramic view of the estate, and an Olympic-sized dressage riding arena made of Alaskan golden cedar that required a highway shutdown to transport, in which the horses ride (I am not making this up) on imitation dustless “dirt.”  Not that the setting is intimidating or anything…

Anyway… for me, the most exciting bit is always tasting the wine.  Is it any good? Is it worth the price?  Does it have a story it’s trying to convey?  Having the winemakers there just adds exponentially to the geek-out factor, and so eventually my nose gets in the glass, the surroundings get tuned out, and I enter geek-the-hell-out mode.  And it turns out, in a rare convergence of high incomes and good tastes, that the Foley portfolio has a lot in it that’s worth geeking-out over…

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Focus, Focus, Focus: Zeroing In On Wines For Now At Virginia’s Blenheim Vineyards

Vinted on August 4, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, wine review

I am not a fan of small producers in emerging wine regions bottling and selling a large array of varietal wines; almost everyone loves having choices, but too often the cumulative result in this case ends up feeling like a Zinfandel that’s been watered-down in a feeble attempt to get it under 16% abv – a diluted mess with a lack of focus (with even the worst results being pawned off at inflated prices to unsuspecting tasting room visitors).

Which is why meeting winemakers like Kirsty Harmon is more refreshing than a chilled Monticello Viognier on a steamy Virginia Summer Sunday.  She’s the kind of person who, through their laser-like determination, make me eat my own virtual words!

Harmon is the driving force behind the wines of Virginia producer Blenheim Vineyards – a short, wavy-haired whirling dervish of a woman whose freckles belie a winemaking stance that is supremely mature in its simplicity: make wines for now, that are true to place, and make them as delicious as possible.

“I’m not a very patient person,” she told me when I (and several other wine bloggers) visited Blenheim as during the producer visits that were part of the recent 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville. “I try to make wines that are balanced and ready to go right out of the bottle.”

Focus is the friend of the emerging-region winemaker, as is talent.  Harmon has both, and Right Coast wine producers would do well to focus on her… well, her focus. “Yummy” is usually a terrible descriptor to bandy about when you’re trying to relay the essence of a wine to someone else, but in the case of Blenheim’s bottlings the word just fits. Harmon makes yummy wines, and she makes them from several varieties – Syrah (peppery and bright), Chardonnay (peachy and solid), Viognier (floral and elegant), Merlot (herbal and hefty) and Cabernet Sauvignon (tangy and minty), to name a few – without any of them sucking

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