Posts Filed Under elegant wines

Powers Of Two: Blending Cultures, Countries, Vineyards And Varieties With The Hottest Winemaker In Napa Valley

Vinted on March 15, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review, winemaking

It’s not a stretch to say that Philippe Melka is, right now, the hottest winemaker in all of the Napa Valley (hottest as in “most in-demand,” and not as in “most hunky,” though admittedly I’d be a pretty poor judge of the latter). He’s got a 100-point Wine Advocate review under his belt with Dana Estates (no denying the power of that, no matter what your take on wine scores might be), and is now riding high on Dana’s stunning 2012 Premiere Napa Valley auction lot, which took the top-grossing slot at $70K.

So it’s interesting, in retrospect, that he was… let’s just say cautiously optimistic about Californian winemaking potential when coming to Napa from France with Dominus in the early 1990s. Being skeptical is part of the French culture, of course; and being skeptical about Napa wine is probably even more understandable when you’ve cut your winemaking teeth at Bordeaux stalwarts Haut Brion and Pomerol darling Chateau Petrus.

“In France I kept hearing, ‘in California they make good wine, but they have no sense of terroir’” he told me over lunch in the trailer that now marks the entrance to what will become the Napa Valley tasting room for Melka Wines, the only brand to which he’s attached his now-famous (in winemaking terms, anyway) surname. “And to some extent, they were right. I mean, everyone was planting Cabernet Sauvignon no matter what – regardless of the soil, the sunlight, everything. I was looking for limestone in Napa. I am still looking for limestone in Napa!”

Fast forward twenty-some-odd years from those cautiously-optimistic days, and through the thoroughly French exterior, you find someone that seems thoroughly Northern Californian at heart – a laid-back, down-to-earth surfer-dude of a winemaker. Philippe now consults on wines from the elegantly powerful (Vineyard 29, Parallel Wines, Entre Nous) to the sometimes-just-too-damn-powerful (Gemstone and Moone-Tsai), and he’s involved in at least one worst-kept-secret “cult wine” Napa project that I’ve tasted (if you’re wondering if that last one is worth the ton of money it would cost to try it, I’ll say this: I’ve had few wines that were bigger, but also few big wines that were better, and it’s got the purest black licorice and dark chocolate aromas I’ve ever encountered in a wine, period)…

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Cuckoo For Pou-Fu (“Zen” Sauvignon Blanc From Salon des Vins de Loire 2012)

Vinted on March 1, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, sexy wines, zen wine

Readers here could be forgiven – what with all of the French wine mini-review action, and the Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Loire features running here lately – for thinking that 1WineDude.com has gone totally Francophile. But then, after I start pumping out the coverage from my recent Napa jaunt, you’ll probably start calling me a CA-o-phile… whatever…

I like to think in more Zen terms, in that swinging the pendulum one way, followed by a full-on go-for-broke swing in the other direction, maintains (ironically) a sense of centeredness to our vinous proceedings here.

And so it’s in that Zen vein (Zein?) that I top off the Salon des Vins de Loire feature-style coverage by going back to where my Loire wine journey started in the first place, many moons before I’d ever dreamed of actually going there.  After tasting a enough Loire valley wines (most of them new to me) to probably fill the region’s river, I’m coming full circle. I’m going to delve into what have long been my two favorite regions in all of its river’s serpentine 600+ mile length: Sancerre and  Pouilly-Fumé. Sooooo predictable…

Prior to my press trip to a very chilly and snowy Angers, I was a sucker for the almost-hypnotic flinty, lilting qualities of what might be the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc from those areas on the far eastern side of the Loire. And hundreds of Loire wines later, I’m still a sucker for the almost-hypnotically flinty, lilting qualities of what might just be the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.

So it’s with a warm spot in my ticker and notes of papaya and grapefruit on my tongue that I give you my thoughts on two family-run outfits that are making near-heart-stoppingly good Loire Sauvignon Blanc, but the whole thing is even more Zen precisely because they aren’t at all in-your-face about it: Domaine Vacheron and Chateau de Tracy

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Minerals And Mustachios (Can Muscadet Be Aged For The Long Haul)?

Vinted on February 23, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

The short answer to the question posed in the title, for the impatient among you, is “Yes.”

At least 35 years, in fact (maybe more).

The long answer is considerably, well, longer… and a lot more complicated, but those who choose to brave its circuitous path will be rewarded with tidbits of French wine family history, geographical trivia, a short-list of ridiculously overachieving wine bargains from two of the Loire valley’s best Muscadet producers (who have chosen to go beyond the region’s simple-and-saline oyster-pairing quaffers), and a mustache that has to be seen to be believed.

Your call.

But if you’re feeling adventurous…

The tale begins with a tasting of Domaine De La Louvetrie (and said mustache) at the 2012 Salon des Vins de Loire (that region’s annual over-the-top exposé of more than 600 producers, who pour their wares for the media and trade in elaborate booths in a convention center that spans the area of several Manhattan city blocks), and ends with a Luneau-Papin Muscadet from 1976 that showed no signs of slowing down any time soon

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If You Give A Wine Geek A Savennières…

Vinted on February 16, 2012 binned in elegant wines, on the road

If you give a wine geek a Savennières, eventually he’ll want to take a trip to Savennières.

If he takes a press trip to Savennières, he’s probably going to want to visit a Chateau.  Even if it snows and it’s bitterly cold. Even if that area of the Loire valley hasn’t seen snow in a damn long while and he didn’t bring his snow boots.

When you take him to the Chateau (in this case, Chateau des Vaults at Domaine du Closel), he’ll want to tour the vineyard, so you’ll have to lend him some galoshes so he can walk around in the snow and take pictures.

After he’s been walking around the vineyards taking pictures, he feet will get (really, really) cold because the galoshes have no lining. If his feet get cold, they’ll go numb and he’ll start walking around like a duck having a rare viral attack on its nervous system while everyone else on the vineyard tour is trying to pay attention to what the vigneronne (in this case, Evelyne de Pontbriand) is telling them about the vines and the special plot of land.

When he starts walking around like a duck having a strange and rare viral attack on its nervous system, everyone else will start to feel sorry for him, so one of them will give him those little chemical hand warmer packs and tell him they’re great for warming up your hands when tasting wine in cold Burgundian wine cellars.

If someone gives him hand warmers, the little wine geek will stick those hand warmers in his galoshes, where they’ll lodge themselves at the ankles, blocking his feet from moving properly and causing him to walk like a 1950s B-horror film alien robot in the snow (when he’s not falling down, that is)…

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