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Kick-ass Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 11

Posts Filed Under kick-ass wines

Bubbly At 150 (Schramsberg Recent Releases, And Why It’s Okay That California Is Not Champagne)

California sparkling wine has come a long way (baby) since German draft-dodger and later NYC barber Jacob Schram decided that the hot and sunny knolls of Calistoga in the 1860s looked like a suitable place to plant vines like those he’d left behind in his beloved Rhineland (after all, he’d seen hills far steeper – and a lot more difficult to farm – back in Germany).

Schram wasn’t making bubbly back then – that Calistoga climate barely managed the mostly German varietal still wines that he produced there, so much so that he hired Chinese laborers, fresh off work on the railway lines, to dig the site’s now-famous hillside caves in order to protect his wines from the heat (pickaxe marks are still clearly blazoned into the walls). So, Schram would probably be as surprised as anyone by the success that his namesake – Schramsberg – has had in the domestic sparklers department (though Schram was no slouch – by the time of his death due to complications from paralysis in 1905, his winemaking venture was quite successful, and he’d counted among his friends people like Robert Louis Stevenson).

Schram’s son Herman wasn’t so lucky; lacking his father’s passion for the business, he couldn’t overcome the double-fisted body-blows of phylloxera and Prohibition, and tax records form the time suggest that the winemaking family business stumbled mightily by the time it was sold in 1912.

That Schramsberg could again be firing on all winemaking cylinders 150 years later probably seemed just as unlikely in Shcram’s time as any California sparkling wine being able to stand toe-to-toe with some of the best that Champagne has to offer in our time; yet (based on my recent visit this past June), both are clearly happening at this Calistoga hamlet

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The Southern Hemisphere’s Best Chardonnay? (Tasting Leeuwin Art Series 2005)

Vinted on July 12, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

I know what a lot of you geeky-geeks (I use that as a term of endearment, by the way!) are already thinking after reading the title:

Dude, WTF?!? What about Yarra Yering?

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

Here’s the thing about Yarra Yering for me: that Chardonnay is the Moriarity to my Holmes; while I recognize it’s brilliance, I find it a deeply, funkily flawed wine. Yarra Yering posses a quality of greatness, for sure, but I simply cannot drink the stuff. I cannot get past the oddness of that combination (and this is coming from a guy who loves odd combinations). I feel as though I got into a (losing) fistfight with that wine.

And so maybe there’s too much personal bias coming to bear here, but Yarra Yering is not in the running for my vote on top Southern Hemisphere Chard. But on my recent sponsored jaunt to Western Australia, I did find a Chardonnay that has my current vote for top bragging rights in that department (for what hat’s worth), specifically south of Perth and a short hop inland from where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, at Leeuwin Estate

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Wined Down: Gulping With A Mastodon For Playboy.com

Vinted on June 21, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, wine review, Wined Down (Playboy.com)

In what’s become a surreal state of affairs, the list of California cult wines that I’ve yet to try in some way/shape/form is dwindling. Quickly.

The surreal part is that there is no way that I could afford these wines on my own, and in some cases I wouldn’t want to pay the money for them, anyway.

That’s not quite the case for one of the newest wines to join the cult cadre, the worst-kept-secret Napa Valley Cab that I featured in the latest Wined Down column over at Playboy.com: Tusk, a new partnership with what-a-surprise-okay-not-really Philippe Melka at the winemaking helm.

The story over at Playboy.com has the whole, well, story on my initiation into the Secret House Of Tusk, from the former movie mogul mansion they are converting into their annual party crash pad, to their play to be one of the first real “populist” cult wines by eschewing ratings and implementing a “two degrees of separation” member list policy; so I’m not going to repeat it here, and will instead urge you to go over there and read it, and then buy 700 subscriptions for all of your friends. I will provide you with a bit more on the tasting note front, though, in case you’ve got a serious amount of wine fund money burning a hole in your rich-ass pockets…

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The Other Side Of Oz (Beechworth’s Small Producers And The Heart Of Bareknuckled Australian Winemaking)

Vinted on May 24, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

It’s a brilliantly sunny day in Beechworth, a rural (even by Aussie wine region standards) area in eastern Victoria that sits just south of Rutherglen. The region was made famous by Giaconda, whose premium Chardonnays are in such high demand that they’re now offered en primeur.

But I’m not here to see Giaconda (okay, that mostly had to do with the fact that it was closed when I visited). I’m across the street, where Keppell Smith has set up shop for his Savaterre brand – and at seventeen years running, he’s just gotten around to building a modern winemaking facility. This is the other side of Oz, where handfuls of tiny producers are setting up garage-style winemaking efforts, using natural cork, and otherwise eschewing the penchants of ginormous Aussie wine conglomerates’ for squeaky-clean, screw-capped, and what many wine geeks often criticize as characterless wines.

Smith comments on what he’s trying to avoid, and his words, I come to learn later, more-or-less sum up the approach of producers throughout Beechworth: “Fuck me dead! There’s nothing worse than a ‘so what’ wine!

Ask Smith why he chose this spot to plant grapes, and his answer, similarly, will tell you everything; only this time, it’s everything about his approach to winemaking (and, I gathered, to life itself – Smith seems incapable of hiding his true feelings about anything… even by Aussie transparency standards).

“Because of this,” he says, picking up a handful of brownish, unforgiving, decomposed granite. “Because of this shitty, shitty, crappy, shitty soil!”…

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