Every once in a while, you get a gig that is so good, you just have to pinch yourself to test if it’s all real and you’re actually getting paid to have so much fun.
Such was the case at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, which wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and recently announced its results. Over 30 countries and 26 U.S. states compete in this competition, which is billed as America’s largest such international vinous battle royale. The pinch-inducing vibe came courtesy of my lucky draw in amazing wine competition panel-mates, which included cult winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett (small tidbit of advice: do not get between her and shoe shopping!) and competition organizer Anthony Dias Blue. The latter meant, of course, that at some point our panel would probably be getting some of the better wines entered into the comp, and that indeed did come to pass when we kicked off the second day of judging and were greeted with the wine lover’s breakfast of champions: a stellar flight of mostly vintage bubbly.
Did I mention that I love my “job?” Well, I do.
As for the specifics: the judges were divvied up about 3-4 at a table, tasting several related flights blind, knowing basically only the residual sugar, grapes, and price points of each wine. A splendid time was had by all (at least as far as I could tell), and I was happy to have leant my judging palate to a competition that was so well-organized, well-run, and that represented such a stellar group of wine-biz-insider-type judges. As always, I felt that I was bringing the overall class levels down a few notches by my attendance, though I think I made up for it in humor (we laughed a lot at our table…).
Anyway, here are a few of the stellar picks from that stellar bubbly lineup that had my table more-or-less swooning..
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Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking about the native varieties of Crete at tastings in both NYC and D.C., organized by The Connected Table and Wines of Crete.
Minor pronunciation snafus aside, I had a blast introducing the trade to the grape varieties and wines on display at both events, and it’s exciting to see where Crete is taking things from a vinous quality perspective as they move out of their modern bulk wine phase, the irony of which is that Crete used to own the fine wine market in the Mediterranean for nearly 2000 years (much more on that when my feature on Crete hits the pages of the newly revamped SOMM Journal in the August issue; in the meantime, you can watch Nostos Wines’ Alexandra Manousakis – also in attendance at the tasting events – talk about Crete’s wine challenges).
Now that those gigs are behind us and the checks have been cashed (meaning I am off the payroll, so to speak, when it comes to Crete’s wines), I can give you a couple of quick-hit selections from those tastings, just in time for 4th of July outdoor grilling duty.
In this case, the recommendations are from bonna-fide Cretans, and not from a cretin (meaning me) as is usually the case here on 1WD (fine, whatever, I’ll cut it out); both hail from Heraklion, the center of winemaking on Crete (and just about the center of the island itself)…
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This month over at Wine.Answers.com, the following tidbits ensued for your wine reading/learning/geeking pleasure. While several numbers are involved, math is not, so if you find math mind-numbingly boring as I do, you can proceed to the following articles without fear:
The 411 on DCV:
I recently took a junket jaunt to Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, more about which may unfold on these virtual pages later, but was impressed enough with some of the visits during that trip to offer up a quick take on 5 producers to watch in the area. Go forth, and Zin!
Bookish on 21 Wines:
In which I review yet another friggin’ coffee table style book about vino, “21 Wines.”This one has photos that are worth the admission price, though, and it’s a visual delight that manages to overcome the scattershot format of the text behind the Italian wine/producer recommendations (offered by the foodie authors).
The Surprisingly-Not-So-Weighty Power of 33:
Our product review this month comes via a sample of Angle 33’s concrete (yeah, that kind of concrete) wine bottle coaster. The summarized version is that I really dug this thing, which actually manages not to be too weighty, has a good deal of stylish options (provided you like Spartan, modern designs, which I do), and proves to be handy at ensuring your opened wine bottle doesn’t leave an irremovable stain from your furniture.
3 Things You Didn’t Know About Rioja:
Some of the tidbits that made it into my speeches during a recent gig in NYC with Wines of Rioja were just too geeky good to leave to the pages of my panel notes. So they made it to the virtual pages of Answers.com, in the form of three tidbits about the region of which you (most likely) were not aware.
Cheers – and enjoy!
It’s that time of month again, when we get all wrapped-up in the wrap-ups. This month over at Wine.Answers.com, I dealt in the rare (and long-overdue), the weird (two kinds, actually), and the wonderful:
- The Weird also comes to us by way of reviewing a sample of what I found to be rather odd wine accessory, CulVino’s Air Carafe. I just didn’t quite “get” this one, though I could appreciate where some (primarily those dealing with a lot of fruit flies buzzing around) might find it useful. I’m quite happy to be convinced of the Air Carafe’s usefulness, but I struggled to find a reason to pick one up unless you spend a lot of time drinking vino outside.