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Posts Filed Under kick-ass wines

Old House, Old Vines, New Styles (Tasting Izadi Recent Releases In Rioja)

Vinted on August 16, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, overachiever wines, wine review

To get a feel for how important the culture of the vine is in the tiny and picturesque hilltop town of Villabuena in Rioja Alavesa, consider this: Villabuena has roughly 317 inhabitants, and just over ten percent of them (about 40) are wineries; so the town hosts 1 winery for every 8 or so people.

Looking out from the back patio of an old house owned by one of those winemaking residents – Bodegas Izadi– and taking in the quaint images of hanging laundry, satellite dishes, and brick-colored rooftops in the shadow of the mountains, Villabuena proffers an odd locale for a winery. But there must be something to the nearby sloping hills that suits the vine – particularly Tempranillo – to explain the preponderance of wineries that call the town home.

Izadi was founded in the late 1980s by restaurateur Gonzalo Anton, following the dual urges of creating wine good enough that he could serve it to his friends, and wanting to produce wines in a more modern style – clean, and approachable – than those that being produced by other members of his members.

It’s ironic, then, that their most compelling wine (in my view, anyway) is the one that has the greatest nod towards Rioja tradition, and is made from the 100-year old vines planted so haphazardly a short drive from the old Villabuena residence that Izadi now calls home

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Freedom, Liberty And The Pursuit Of One Of Barossa’s Best Reds (Langmeil Recent Releases)

I have a confession to make. I hate the word “freedom.”

Rather, I hate the misuse of the word freedom; because, at the risk of sounding like an unpatriotic American, I’ve noticed that most of the time people use “freedom” when they really mean “liberty” (the latter of which, unlike the former, constitutes non-contradictory inherent states of being and is actually the idea most people have in mind when they talk about the principles upon which the USA was founded). Of course, I’m still red-blooded enough of an American to call myself “American” and laugh when the Canadians also call themselves “American” (Canadian: “Where are you from, eh?” Me: “I’m an American.” Canadian: “Well, I’m an American, too – a North American.” Me: “Awww… that is soooo cute!”).

Anyway, today I officially wrap up coverage of my two-week Australia jaunt earlier this year as a guest of Wines of Australia, recounting a visit to what must be one of the wine world’s most special places: what’s believed the oldest surviving shiraz vineyard in the world, first planted in 1843 by Christian Auricht, who emigrated his family to South Australia to escape religious persecution in Prussia.

And in that sense, the name of Aubricht’s 3.5 acre alluvial loam, red clay, limestone and ironstone Tanunda vineyard – now tended by Barossa producer Langmeil – is not only poignant but also apt (and, I’d add, technically correct!): The Freedom 1843 Shiraz Vineyard.

The wine produced from it shares the same name, and it just might reinvigorate your faith in Southern Hemisphere Shiraz from the persecution of overly-extracted, soda-pop, wanna-be Shiraz plonk

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Rare By Nature, Rare By Nurture (The Inside View Of Rutherglen Rare Topaque And Muscat)

Vinted on August 2, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review

Geographic isolation engenders resourcefulness. As well as entire rooms that smell like caramel and sultanas.

Let’s start with the resourcefulness.

When Scottish friends George Sutherland Smith and John Banks decided in the 1860s that they couldn’t wait for materials to be shipped in to them to build All Saints, a winemaking property on the bank of the Murray River in Rutherglen’s Wahgunyah, they did what any self-respecting Aussies would do; they did it al themselves. Smith and Banks went ahead and established their own brick kiln so they could make their materials; presumably in a hurry to finish, fingerprints can still be seen in the bricks where Chinese workers laid down the material that had just barely cooled.

The result of their ingenuity is a structure that was once believed to be the largest winery in the southern hemisphere, an imposing building modeled after the their home country’s Castle of Mey (All Saints Estate was purchased in 1992 by the Brown family of Milawa, and Brown descendants Eliza, Angela and Nicholas now run the show), and built “on the back of money made running paddle steamers up the Murray and selling dry goods to miners” according to their PR folks.

The surfeit of caramel and sultanas come to us by virtue of All Saints hosting a tasting of Rutherglen’s now most famous wine export: “stickies” in Aussie slang, fortified dessert wine to the rest of the wine world. For my visit, All Saints had poured, for a comparitive master-class tasting, glasses of nearly every Rutherglen producer’s Topaque offerings, from the simpler Rutherglen level all the way through to what are called “Rare” with good reason: they’re made in tiny quantities, and aged somewhere around thirty years in barrel.

It was the Rares in which I was most interested, because… well, because I’m not above that sort of thing but primarily to tell you what they taste like, even though the chances of finding them stateside are fairly… rare

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“Measured And Forceful”: Bodega Contador Recent Releases (And Whether Or Not A $400 Wine Should Evoke Place)

Vinted on July 26, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

“Lento y fuerte.”

This is how Benjamin Romeo – possibly Rioja’s most celebrated modern winemaker since his 2004 Contador red wine received a 100 point score from The Wine Advocate – described how he speaks.

Measured and forceful.

Which, it turns out, is a perfect descriptor for most of Romeo’s wines, as well as for his general approach to life.

To wit: when I met him at the delivery area of his state-of-the-art winery in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Bodega Contador, there was very little in the way of introduction, and literally nothing in the way of ascertaining what my group wanted to get out of our visit.

“Mira, mira,” he said, “es el plan,” while then launching into a description of what we’d be doing that day together. We would be touring his vineyards, hilltop church bell tower cellar, then back to the winery. Romeo even dictated when and where we’d be taking photos during the tour.

My Spanish isn’t great, but I garnered three things about Benjamin Romeo during our meeting: he curses (a lot – for example, roughly translated on the 2010 vintage: “2010 is f*cking incredible… it’s the bomb… the sh*t!… they’re very thick…”); he is fiercely proud of his wines (to the point where he seems to have trouble understanding why anyone wouldn’t like them); and he packs those wines with so much bombastic, hedonistic flavor that they’re just about bottled reflections of the man himself and are almost guaranteed to be… divisive

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