Posts Filed Under kick-ass wines

“There’s Liquid On The Brain” (Checking In With Primus And Claypool Cellars, 2018)

Vinted on June 21, 2018 binned in crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

Primus Philly 2018

“When minds are dripping color, And there’s liquid on the brain
They laugh to one another, And politely go insane”

– Primus, The Dream

Last month, I had the pleasure of (once again) checking out the funky, entertaining, and technically dazzling band Primus, as they rolled through Philly on their Ambushing the Storm tour. Primus are currently playing with fellow prog-influenced band Mastodon in support of The Desaturating Seven, an at turns raucous, pretty, trippy, and virtuosic concept album based on Ul de Rico’s also trippy, gorgeous, and all-too-allegorically-topical-and-relevant-today (hey, one of the goblins is Orange… just sayin’…) children’s book The Rainbow Goblins. The album is played in its entirety during the show, with vibrant and also trippily-fantastic visual accompaniment that, I can tell you from personal experience, goes down even better with a wine-altered state of consciousness.

Primus Philly 2018 posterAs was the case last year, I got to tag along with the VIP Package ticket-holders as a guest of Chaney Claypool, wife of Primus front-man Les Claypool and (along with Les), proprietor of Sonoma-based Claypool Cellars, who have been mentioned on these virtual pages for over eight years (holy crap!) at this point. The current tour VIP package offers a Q&A session with the band, and a tasting of some of the more recent Claypool Cellars releases; given my penchant for awesome prog-y type tunes, and my pinch-me wine-thing day job, and my music-thing side-gig, you can probably guess that I was pretty pumped to spend an early-summer-ish evening watching my various worlds collide…

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Who’s Your Daddy… Of RRV Single Vineyard Pinot? (Davis Bynum Recent Releases)

Vinted on June 6, 2018 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review
Zama Sushi

sushi – it’s not just for Pinot anymore

Recently, I was invited for a media-lunch-tasting-type-thingy in Philly with the affably hippie-ish-appearing Greg Morthole, who has been making wines for the Davis Bynum label since 2010. Davis Bynum wa purchased by Rodney Strong in 2007, and before that was a bit of a Sonoma-area legend, based on its eponymous founder.

That Davis Bynum (who passed away in 2017) is literally the daddy of Russian River Valley single-vineyard Pinot Noir, having harvested the first ever such varietal wine in 1973. Bynum got his start as a home winemaker in the 1950s, went pro in the 1960s, and at times had vineyard land in Napa and handshake grape deals with the Rochioli clan. And those last two sentences are a gross oversimplification of why Bynum’s name is well-regarded in the vinous world; I mean, this is also the former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who famously bought a box of grapes from Robert Mondavi for less than $2, once employed the about-as-legendary winemaker Gary Farrell, and used to haul grapes to his Albany winery in a 1946 Studebaker flatbed.

Morthole speaks fondly of Bynum, and if he’s suffering from any pressure-related performance anxiety related to making wines under Bynum’s name, he doesn’t betray an iota of it in his laid-back, California dude demeanor. Here’s what we tasted together over bites of Zama Sushi in Philly (and, yeah, Pinot works with sushi, depending on how earthy a cut you order, and how reserved your application of wasabi is…)…

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An “Unplugged” Spanish Quartet (Acustic Cellar Recent Releases)

Vinted on May 16, 2018 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines, sexy wines, wine review

Acústic old vines 1

Albert Jané knows how to work a wine media crowd.

Albert Jané

Acústic’s Albert Jané, who is *not* actually pretending to play bongos on an old barrel

If you want to quickly win over such a group of wine geeks and influencers, you would have had access to a minor clinic in such powers of persuasion had you tagged along during my recent media tour visit to Jané’s Acústic Cellar, in the Montsant town of Marçà.

The script went something like this:

Take them to your gorgeous vineyard, replete with panoramic views of the mountainous Catalan countryside; show off your small two hectare lot of 40- to 80-year-old bush-trained Garnatxa and Samsó (a.k.a. Carignan) vines; say things like “the best barrel is the one you don’t taste,” and “the best winemakers here are the vineyards;” and gleefully pour your vinous wares, which happen to be excellent. Oh, and also serve delicious Spanish cheese.

Anyway…

Jané describes his wines as “unplugged” (hence the yeah-yeah-I-get-it cleverness of his company moniker), and it’s a fitting term for a winemaking style that seeks to showcase the concentrated, small clusters/berries of the organic fruit that Acústic’s old vines produce. Jané’s approach is relatively old school, favoring hand-harvesting and minimal oak treatment; which seems fitting, considering that his grandfather was a winemaker, his cellar is an old textile factory, and much of the exclusively indigenous vines in his vineyard were planted in the 1930s. Here’s a look at the latest quartet playing the Acústic Cellars tune…

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Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)

Perticaia plow

The name Perticaia is familiar to lovers of big Italian reds, but its meaning – “plow” in the local dialect – likely isn’t as well-known. It is, however, an apt description of how Azienda Agraria Perticaia has forced its way through to the top of the critical food chain when it comes to Montefalco Sagrantino wines.

For that, Perticaia can thank both timing and focus. The brand was founded by Guido Guardigli towards the end 1990s, when Montefalco began a quality boon and a production boom, during which the number of wineries in the region nearly quadrupled. They now farm some sixteen hectares of vines, with not an International grape variety to be found among them, and more or less focus on yields that take produce about one 750ml bottle of wine per plant. Of their 125,000 bottle annual production, a whopping seventy percent gets exported, which means that their oenologist Alessandro Meniconi (working with consultant Emiliano Falsin) is a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, handling (among other things) some export management duties, as well.

Perticaia view

Among Montefalco Sagrantino producers, Perticaia is one of the more fastidious when it comes to production techniques, and understanding those is key to getting a full grasp of why their Sagrantino releases are so appealing at such young ages. Only about fifteen percent new French oak is used, with the remainder in some cases being as old as six years, which is kind of like the dotage period in French oak barrel terms (they’re making a push to move towards higher use of older, larger barriques, too).

The big key, however, might be in their seemingly non-intuitive, ass-backwards decision to let their Sagrantino undergo longer than normal maceration. One would think that this would make those reds tougher-than-nails when it comes to Sagrantino’s already rough tannins, but one would be wrong, because Chemistry. The longer maceration actually polymerizes the tannins, making them more approachable at the expense of color (which, as Meniconi emphasized to me during a media visit, “Sagrantino has plenty of, anyway)…

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