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2009 Bordeaux To Wine World: “Surprise! We’re Overpriced!” (Thoughts From The Union des Grand Crus NYC Tasting)

This is how I imagine many top-tier Bordeaux Chateaux owners end their day:

They put down their small glasses of aged Sauturnes (which have been chilled by Winter fairies blowing ice crystals at them), and are lifted out of their easy chairs on large red ribbons made of the finest silk, held aloft by cherubs singing a lullaby from the music of the spheres, and on the way through their marble hallways to their lavish canopy beds they are heralded by smiling, talking statues who repeatedly exclaim how blessed those owners are to be themselves, and how lucky the world’s mortal wine drinkers are to have their glasses graced by even the tiniest drops from the nectar aging in their chai’s barrels.

I imagine this because living in a fantasy land is one of the few logical explanations for how the 2009 Bordeaux wine prices are shaping up. At least, that’s the conclusion I reached after attending the recent Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux 2009 vintage tasting in NYC.

For sure there were some amazing wines being poured (more on my faves after the jump), but a higher density under one roof of “pretty good” to “errr… uhmmm… not-so-great” wines for $50 and up you are not likely to find anywhere else on the planet. I interviewed Robert Parker a couple of years ago, and in that conversation he told me that Bordeaux wines were dramatically overpriced – the situation appears to have gotten a sight worse since then. As one salesman I met at the NYC tasting told me, when it comes to 2009 Bordeaux prices, “whatever you think it is, add… A LOT!” (that same person hinted that a recent vintage of one of the First Growths was rumored to be $22,000 a case).

But before you start shouting foul play on the part of the Asian wine market being responsible for putting Bordeaux prices out of reach of non-cherub-owning humans, bear in mind that it takes a certain amount of avarice (and probably arrogance) to charge a ton of money for a product that cannot be said be at all a rarity…

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Song Of The Happily Depleted Burgundian Bank Account (Domaine Chanson’s 2009 Grand Crus Hit High Notes, And High Prices)

It’s not often that a wine guy avoids a wine region by choice.

Yet that’s more-or-less where I’ve found myself when it comes to France’s Burgundy, home of both ethereally-exquisite, mind-blowingly-good wines and overpriced, cabbage-in-the-bathwater bad swill, with little to guide the consumer from choosing one over the other apart from painstakingly acquired detailed knowledge of the region’s négociants… and we’ve all go those guys’ details committed firmly to memory, right?!??

Ahem

And so, when you get invited to a vintage tasting in NYC for a Burgundian producer with whom you have no prior experience, even as a critic-of-sorts you steel yourself for what is surely to be the inevitable dropping of the other shoe; as in, having to taste wines that smell like the other shoe dipped in someone’s droppings.

And then, when you’re not only pleasantly surprised by the outcome – as I was at Blue Fin last week, after going through the 2009 lineup from Père & Fils’ Domaine Chanson – you’re practically blown away… Well, then you have to endure the odd-paired painful pleasure of watching your personal assessment of both that producer’s abilities and your own douchebag rating simultaneously skyrocket. [ Editor's note: This pain was salved slightly by the fact that Père & Fils’ was pouring bubbly from Champagne producer Bollinger, which they also own, and which I can now tell you from personal experience washes down the taste of crow with elegant, floral appeal. ]

Much of Domaine Chanson’s rise to within-spitting-distance of Burgundy’s upper-echelon (and therefore arguably the wine world’s upper-echelon) can be attributed to the hard work of its President, Gilles de Courcel – an amicable guy with thinning brown hair, a quick smile and eyes that light up when he gets a chance to exercise his borderline-obsessive passion for describing the tiny geography from which Chanson’s top-tier, tiny production Grand Cru wines originate…

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Surprising Stars From Aussie Wine’s “A+” NYC Event

Vinted on January 26, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, sexy wines, wine review

Considering that I’ve been so surprised by the high quality of some Aussie white wines in the last several months, it seems surprising that I should be surprised at all when Aussie wine surprises me these days.

And yet, my mind is simple enough (and apparently entrenched enough in its own little preconceived notions) that the Aussie wine surprises keep coming (good and bad, but probably much more good than bad right now).

Such was the case at last week’s A+ Aussie Wine public tasting event at Espace in NYC, called “Around Australia In 80 Sips” and organized jointly by Bottlenotes and Wines of Australia (of whom I was a media guest). [ By the way, the "A+" thing is their marketing label, not mine. ]

The Aussie’s in the biz who attended refer to this sort of public tasting event as a “swim through” – I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks on what that means, but let’s just say I had to fight to make my way to poorly-placed spit buckets, and I was by far in the minority in terms of actually using them.

The volume of imbibing aside, it was great to see so many people (a few hundred NYCers) – and predominantly young people, who apparently haven’t heard (or are just ignoring) the misinformation that Aussie wine is dead – coming out to get a crash-course in what Aussie wine has to offer the U.S. market.  Something like forty wineries participated – mostly the big ones, which very likely isn’t a true representation of the diversity of the Aussie wine market, but was certainly an accurate representation of the Aussie producers most people are likely to find available on our shores.

The surprises for me this time? The reds

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On Demand Reviews: Dashe Cellars Recent Releases

Vinted on January 12, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, sexy wines, wine review

Today… well, today is all about downtown Oakland’s vinous urban success story, Dashe Cellars – because YOU demanded it.

Well, technically not YOU exactly, unless you’re Martin Dredmond. Martin was one of two winners of the 1WD ZAP 2012 Zinfandel Festival tickets giveaway, in which the ticket winners also determined which Zinfandels I would be reviewing next.

And if you are Martin Dredmond, I owe you a bit of an apology, because I was unable to get my hands on your exact Zin review choice, husband and wife winemaking team Michael and Anne Dashe’s Les Enfants Terribles McFadden Farm Zin. But I did manage to get my hands on samples of four of Dashe’s other (low-production) wines, two of them being (very, very good) Zins – which I am gonna consider close-enough-for-government-work and declare my review debt paid in full (and which I think is more than fair, since Martin picked a Zin made in quantities under 200 cases a year!).

Anyway, Dashe Cellars itself is an interesting case regardless of ZAP ticket connections: Michael Dashe cut his wine teeth at CA’s Ridge, Bordeaux’s Lafite-Rothschild and New Zeland’s Cloudy Bay (I wonder what his frequent flier miles totals look like…), and Brittany-native Anne studied oenology at the University of Bordeaux, going on to work at Chateau La Dominique and Chappellet. There’s something like forty years of wine-related experience between the two of them, which doesn’t explain why they settled to place a winery just off of Jack London Square in Oakland, but does help explain why their wines are so damn… tasty…

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