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Elegant Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 9

Posts Filed Under elegant wines

Winemaking, Sashimi Style (Melville Estate Recent Releases)

Vinted on October 18, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

“We don’t make wine. We grow wine. We’re more like ‘sashimi style’ winemaking.”

On a cool morning that will later turn into a blustering day in the midst of a small August heat wave, Chad Melville seemed to be feeding me what ought to be a standard marketing line about winemaking. The kind that end in phrases like “optimal ripeness.”

Suuuure, you don’t make wine; it’s all about the special land upon which your grapes grow… the one that is kissed by col fog in the morning, and bathed in sunlight and warmth during the day. And he is the sales director for his family’s Lompoc, CA wine business, after all (businessman father Ron Melville founded Melville after getting bit by the wine bug in undergrad, and then setting up a grape growing operation in Knight’s Valley; brother Brent is the vineyard manager).

But there was a problem with Chad’s sales pitch about their by-hand fifteen thousand case production: it didn’t come off as a pitch. No references to optimal ripeness, no rococo-esque flourishes of over-endorsement or self-aggrandizement. Chad’s non-pitch was interjected with the firsthand knowledge of a guy who helped to establish and develop the vineyards and business that his family owns, and who previously assisted in winemaking at the estate (winemaker duties are now headed up by Greg Brewer).

In other words, I bought it, because my bullsh*t meter was barely registering a tick. And after I tasted through Chad’s family’s wines – which are high quality while also being almost fiercely unadorned – I’d say the BS meter had some hard evidence to back up its initial assessment…

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Out From Napa’s Shadow (High End Wines Shine At Taste Of Sonoma 2012)

Message to Sonoma: you’re no longer in your neighbor Napa Valley’s shadow.

You’re not the uncool kid at the dance, the next-to-last picked for the two-hand-touch football game during recess, or the slightly-less-talented and almost-as-comely sister when compared to Napa, at least not on the high-end of the vinous spectrum.

That bit of news flash will come as no surprise whatsoever to those producing and enjoying the best that Sonoma has to offer, many of whom I suspect will email me with encouraging (read: angry) words to let me know just how late I am to that party, but it might make those less familiar with Sonoma’s best wines reconsider their options when next given the opportunity to sample them. And reconsider they should, because Sonoma has probably never produced high-end wines quite as good as those that they’re making now.

That was the main takeaway for me when I attended the 2012 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend festivities as a media guest, a multi-event held across the Labor Day weekend and culminating in an Indian-themed (yeah, I didn’t get it, either) auction (their 20th) that raised over $1.6 million for Sonoma-area non-profits. Auction highlights for me included chatting about wines of character with real character viticulturalist Phil Coturri, talking with screenwriter-turned-proprietor Robert Kamen about penning The Professional (because that flik is just awesome), and drinking a bit too much of Joel Peterson’s gorgeously spicy 1997 Ravenswood Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel blend (spookily, Joel had near-perfect-detail recollection of our first meeting back in 2008…).

But I found my highest highlight (if you will) before the auction event, at the “Club Reserve” area of the 33rd annual Taste of Sonoma event (held at MacMurray Ranch)… because that’s where I got properly schooled in real high-end Sonoma juice…

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Raiders Of The Lost Art (Tasting Not-So-Recent Releases At La Rioja Alta, S.A.)

Vinted on September 6, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

There’s a scene at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (please don’t tell me you haven’t seen it… it’s only the greatest action/adventure flick yet made by humans) where an unnamed warehouse worker wheels a large box, presumably containing the Lost Ark of the Covenant (which turns out to be a WOMD) into a massive storage complex, through what appears to be miles of boxes stacked dozens of feet high.

Walking through the enormous barrel storage rooms at venerable Haro producer La Rioja Alta, S.A., anyone who remembers that closing scene from Raiders is bound to experience an eerie sense of déjà vu. Same goes for those strolling through LRA’s underground walkways and barrel storage areas – there are literally millions of bottles of wine slumbering in that quiet earth.

In fact, just about everything at LRA’s Haro location, aside from the tasting room (one of the few Rioja producers who even have one, and one which demonstrates a clear design love affair with high-gloss surfaces at that), feels oversized; from their display cases and production museums, down to the cask rooms and wooden casks themselves. Even their private tasting area has a huge open space smack dab in the center of it, as if a god with a magic iPhone had grabbed the corners of a normally-proportioned conference room and pinched-and-slid it to expand it to three times its normal size.

All of which makes it all the more interesting to a wine geek, weaned on the notion that truly great wine is only made in tiny quantities, that LRA’s large (okay, ginormous) production volume doesn’t get in the way whatsoever of the quality of their wines.

In fact, in tasting the wines from La Rioja Alta, one gets the sense that every hour of their near 125 years of winemaking experience has somehow been put to good use; the lineup includes not only some of Spain’s most long-lived and elegantly complex (and expensive) reds, but also one of Europe’s most stunning red wines bargains

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Modern Wines, Old School Humility, And… Tank Hosing (Tasting Miguel Merino Recent Releases in Rioja Alta)

Vinted on August 30, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines

“In Spain, when you’re fifteen, sixteen years old, you have to decide what you want to study: Science or Humanities,” joked Rioja’s Miguel Merino.

“I chose Humanities… so I can’t let the wine go wrong, otherwise I won’t know what to do to make money!”

The diminutive Merino, who spent twenty years in various aspects of the wine business before deciding to try his hand at his own wines, is like a breath of air that’s fresher than the scent of the roses that line the experimental vineyards in front of his winemaking facility in the Rioja Alta area of Briones. While medieval town and its Moorish architectural influences are thoroughly traditional for this area of Spain, Merino’s wines are made with a decidedly modernist stylistic twist.

But these are not the boorish, overly-extracted oak-monsters that have come to symbolize Rioja’s modern red wine bent – they carry the charmingly poised sense of reverently balancing on the shoulders of Rioja’s best traditions when it comes to winemaking; and their acclaim (Merino now exports to over thirty countries) is, as you will shortly come to read, well-deserved. And it helps that Merino himself is just about as humble, and about as far removed from the overblown, removed sense of self that marks some of Rioja’s biggest modern winemaking stars, as one can get

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