Posts Filed Under kick-ass wines

Winemaking, Sashimi Style (Melville Estate Recent Releases)

Vinted on October 18, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

“We don’t make wine. We grow wine. We’re more like ‘sashimi style’ winemaking.”

On a cool morning that will later turn into a blustering day in the midst of a small August heat wave, Chad Melville seemed to be feeding me what ought to be a standard marketing line about winemaking. The kind that end in phrases like “optimal ripeness.”

Suuuure, you don’t make wine; it’s all about the special land upon which your grapes grow… the one that is kissed by col fog in the morning, and bathed in sunlight and warmth during the day. And he is the sales director for his family’s Lompoc, CA wine business, after all (businessman father Ron Melville founded Melville after getting bit by the wine bug in undergrad, and then setting up a grape growing operation in Knight’s Valley; brother Brent is the vineyard manager).

But there was a problem with Chad’s sales pitch about their by-hand fifteen thousand case production: it didn’t come off as a pitch. No references to optimal ripeness, no rococo-esque flourishes of over-endorsement or self-aggrandizement. Chad’s non-pitch was interjected with the firsthand knowledge of a guy who helped to establish and develop the vineyards and business that his family owns, and who previously assisted in winemaking at the estate (winemaker duties are now headed up by Greg Brewer).

In other words, I bought it, because my bullsh*t meter was barely registering a tick. And after I tasted through Chad’s family’s wines – which are high quality while also being almost fiercely unadorned – I’d say the BS meter had some hard evidence to back up its initial assessment…

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Out From Napa’s Shadow (High End Wines Shine At Taste Of Sonoma 2012)

Vinted on October 4, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

Message to Sonoma: you’re no longer in your neighbor Napa Valley’s shadow.

You’re not the uncool kid at the dance, the next-to-last picked for the two-hand-touch football game during recess, or the slightly-less-talented and almost-as-comely sister when compared to Napa, at least not on the high-end of the vinous spectrum.

That bit of news flash will come as no surprise whatsoever to those producing and enjoying the best that Sonoma has to offer, many of whom I suspect will email me with encouraging (read: angry) words to let me know just how late I am to that party, but it might make those less familiar with Sonoma’s best wines reconsider their options when next given the opportunity to sample them. And reconsider they should, because Sonoma has probably never produced high-end wines quite as good as those that they’re making now.

That was the main takeaway for me when I attended the 2012 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend festivities as a media guest, a multi-event held across the Labor Day weekend and culminating in an Indian-themed (yeah, I didn’t get it, either) auction (their 20th) that raised over $1.6 million for Sonoma-area non-profits. Auction highlights for me included chatting about wines of character with real character viticulturalist Phil Coturri, talking with screenwriter-turned-proprietor Robert Kamen about penning The Professional (because that flik is just awesome), and drinking a bit too much of Joel Peterson’s gorgeously spicy 1997 Ravenswood Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel blend (spookily, Joel had near-perfect-detail recollection of our first meeting back in 2008…).

But I found my highest highlight (if you will) before the auction event, at the “Club Reserve” area of the 33rd annual Taste of Sonoma event (held at MacMurray Ranch)… because that’s where I got properly schooled in real high-end Sonoma juice…

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Getting Hip At The Washington Post, And Raiding The Wine Expense Account With Ornellaia At Playboy.com

Vinted on September 20, 2012 binned in commentary, kick-ass wines, Wined Down (Playboy.com)

A couple of weeks ago, I cropped up in two totally unrelated places on the “Global Interwebs” – Playboy.com (which you expected, right?) and The Washington Post (which, admit it, you didn’t expect).

The Washington Post article, titled Some wineries adding a little hip to swirl, sniff and sip routine, was one of those rare instances where I was interviewed for a wine piece and then was actually quoted in the finished work. The quotes I’ve given to reporters have been so… well, probably so damned odd that my contribution to most wine-related article interviews seem to hit the cutting room floor more often than they do any column space. [ UPDATE: the original WP article link is DOA, but looks like Yahoo! News also picked it up so changed links to point to that version. Sorry! ]

I thought it worth mentioning because this particular AP article focused on wineries that were bucking the status quo in order to make trips to their tasting rooms more fun (imagine! the audacity!); the author had nice things to say about recent efforts in that space by Raymond Vineyards, Judd’s Hill and Brooklyn Winery, and at one point quotes me:

“The wine world’s about eight years behind everything with the exception of bottling lines and production techniques,” he says with a laugh.

The thing is, I don’t really recall laughing about it (at least not on the inside); if I did, it was I-work-in-an-office-and-this-Dilbert-strip-is-funny-but-it-also-really-hurts-because-life-in-my-office-is-really-like-that funny. I honestly believe that the wine world generally functions that far behind most other industries, and as amazing as the wine biz is, that lag is one of the most painful things about trying to get anything moving in the biz.

Anyway… on to happier topics…

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