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Posts Filed Under elegant wines

Back From The Dead: Casca Wines Battles To Save Ramisco

Vinted on April 11, 2013 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine industry events, wine review

It’s not often that you hear a winemaker say things like this about one of their wines:

“We don’t care if people like it or not; if not, I’ll drink it!”

And yet, that’s exactly what Casa Wines’ Helder Cunha said to me earlier this year in New York City, when I worked my way through a tasting of the 50 Great Wines of Portugal as selected by MW/MS Doug Frost. Cunha was talking about a wine he makes from the grape Ramisco; and he feels passionately about the wine, because its made from a grape that is a “dying variety, even in Portugal.”

It’s a rare grape, even in a country known for its small plantings of nearly-extinct grape varieties, and one of which few wine geeks have ever heard. But Cunha seems determined not to let Ramisco go gently into the dark night.

Casa Wines sources its Ramisco fifteen hectares of a vineyard on Portugal’s west coast, a cool and foggy area known as Colares on the southwestern edge of Lisboa. You could, apparently, just about spit into the ocean from the vineyard. These old vines, literally on the beach, aren’t even head-trained. Cunha knew he wouldn’t get much out of them, but viewed them as special and was determined not to let them get grubbed up even as Ramisco became a footnote in a country known for grape variety footnotes.

“Instead of ripping this up,” he told me, “we said, ‘let’s see what happens’…”

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Domaine De La Romanee-Conti 2010 (Yeah, We’re Actually Going There)

Vinted on March 14, 2013 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine review

I’m interrupting all of the planned 1WD content to cave in and give you the low down on the 2010 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti event held at NYC’s A Voce Columbus earlier in March this year, to which I was invited (as just about any of you following my twitter feed already know).

I won’t be telling you the quirky about the that will appear, at some point in the near future, in all of its quirky… quirkiness in my Playboy.com Wined Down column. What I will tell you about is the stuff that didn’t make it into that piece: the geeky 2010 vintage details from Aubert de Villaine, and my expanded thoughts on each of the releases. You’ll have to go to PB later to get the other fun stuff; I’m also skipping the DRC preamble, since most of you are already familiar with it (short version: mostly monopole Pinot Noir that’s literally atop the Burgundian classification food chain, made in small quantities, widely touted to be the world’s greatest, and most definitely among its most expensive).

But I know that the geek-geek-geekiest among you want the scoop on these wines, and I know this because you’ve already tweeted, DM’d and emailed me about it.

Al lot. And not shyly.

So… fine, here it is, already!

First of all, there were a lot of friends familiar faces at that tasting: Elin McCoy, Mark Oldman, Andrea Robinson (whose stemware was chosen for the tasting, a nice coop for her), Jordan Mackay, and Eric Asimov, as well as quite a few NYC somms that I know who have high-end restaurant gigs (lucky bastards, all; I sat with them during the tasting, because let’s face it, somms are the most fun people in the wine biz). Former Wine Advocate critic Antonio Galloni was also in attendance; I didn’t get a chance to chat with him, though he did at one point give me a kind of odd look (which I took to be more a hey-am-I-supposed-to-know-you? glance than a what-the-f*ck-are-YOU-doing-here? glance). Hell, I’d have given myself an odd look at a DRC tasting, okay?

First, I’ll give you the bullet-point run-down of the gentlemanly Aubert’s take on the travails of the 2010 vintage for this tiny and elite spot in Burgundy, and then we’ll tackle the tasting notes for all of the releases, of which you’ll immediately notice two things…

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Still Yummy After All These Years (Marques de Riscal Crianza 1979)

Vinted on January 17, 2013 binned in elegant wines, wine review

In between bites of grilled chicken pita BLT at Four Dogs Tavern a few weeks ago, I looked up across the table at fellow PA wine educator Bob Trimble. Chew, chew, chew. Swallow. Lift of the glass, sip, gulp. Smile.

“The thing about this wine,” I said, “is that it probably tasted yummy when it was bottled… and it still tastes yummy… and it probably tasted yummy at every point along the way; that’s thirty-four years of yummy!”

Those of you who hate the descriptor “yummy” when it comes to describing a wine can bite me; this was was f*cking yummy.

Y-U-M-M-Y.

We were drinking what Bob called “Joan’s wine” – a thank you gift to him for helping a friend sort through some older items in her wine collection. Our yummy lunchtime still treat was pulled out of its original cardboard box (remember when bottled wines came in those?), and was “kept under the drapes!” and away from sunlight for a long time, according to Bob.

The most interesting thing about the wine, to me, was that our 1979 Marqués de Riscal probably had no right to be drinking as well as it did – this was a Crianza, the lowest man on the Rioja aging totem pole. But at our lunch, it was kicking the shiz out of several younger Reserva and Gran Reserva wines I had from other producers when I visited Rioja last year

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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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