Posts Filed Under kick-ass wines
Tim Mondavi’s eyes betray almost everything in their expressiveness; probably more than he realizes.
One moment, when recalling some memory or detail of spearheading the development of Opus One, they might be bright, almost dancing, even though his demeanor is serious and workmanlike – as if there’s something fond and comforting about revisiting the time for him. The next, they’re sharp and piercing despite his relaxed posture and polite phrases (in this case, when I mentioned someone in the CA wine industry with whom I suspect Tim doesn’t see eye-to-eye).
Occasionally eyes, words, and demeanor align like stars in a constellation: for instance, when Tim recounts – using a rather damn good Godfather impersonation – his frustration in once having to hold up a large canvas over a series of days in Mondavi’s famed To Kalon vineyard so that his daughter, Chiara, could finish painting the image (titled “Light of the vine”) that would grace the label for his budding high-end red wine project, Continuum.
I spent the better part of five hours picking Tim Mondavi’s brain on a sunny day in late February, when visiting Continuum’s Pritchard Hill estate as a lunch guest; as far as Tim knew, I was coming to get a taste of the 2008 vintage of a wine brand that I’ve already publicly praised as being well-worth seeking out even if it is pricey. But as far as I was concerned, class was in session, the topic was the history of Napa winemaking, and I was the student. I just had to convince Tim – who has been around since the earliest days of the development of Napa’s modern fine wine industry – to start teaching. Not easy – but turns out it was well worth the effort.
Lesson one: the only living things in the Valley with more wine-related history than the Mondavis probably have wood for arms and grapes for children; that history doesn’t guarantee great wine, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt your chances any.
Sunny days on Pritchard Hill, in Napa’s eastern ridge, provide for a glorious view (Oakville and Lake Hennessey are a stone’s throw away, and on a good day you can pick out buildings in downtown San Francisco), so we took to a 4×4 and toured the forty-odd acres of Continuum’s vineyard plantings, on land that once belonged to a former marine biologist. Stopped for a moment at a spot that overlooks the estate’s farmhouse, Tim recalled how his father reacted to the site.
“In 2008, just before my father left for the great vineyard in the sky, we took him up here to see the vineyard, right before we purchased it,” he said, pointing directly to the spot where he helped an ailing Robert Mondavi take in the view. “He was in a wheelchair by then, and he couldn’t talk much. But when he saw this vineyard, his eyes lit up.”
That explains the eyes, right?…
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Ok, so after all my talk of Valentine’s Day and the unauthentic splurges it generates like so many embers from a fire of burning love letters after a bitter break-up, I thought I’d go the total hypocrite route and (finally) detail the samples I cracked open on V-Day. So sue me. Whatever.
NV Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne ($100)
I’m going to ignore Bollinger’s PR push to promote their affiliation to the royal family in the UK (who have awarded Bollinger with the Royal Warrant since 1884, and which is now reached a fever-pitch of hype with the recent royal engagement), because I now find the whole thing too annoying, in stark contrast to this very sexy but possibly-overpriced sparkler. It’s predominantly Pinot Noir, with the Chardonnay and Pinot Munier playing more supporting roles, and the results are quite Pinot-ish as you’d expect, with the initial impressions being tart cherry fruit and a sizeable mouthfeel despite a relatively modest 12% abv. This might explain why it got low-90s scores from most of the established wine mags, who might have been too quick to pronounce judgment – it takes a good 45 minutes in the glass for the Bollinger Brut Rose to open up, but when it does you will get some incredible baked red apple coming at you, and a great match for appetizers of almost any stripe.
More after the jump…
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In the latest video installment on 1WD TV, I channel my inner Colonel Hannibal Smith and taste a sample of Emblem’s 2006 Rutherford Cab in order to try out another sample: one of the latest wine aerators to hit the market, the cigar-shaped Nuance Wine Finer aerator – all with some surprising results. Many 80s brain cells are damaged in the ensuing antics. It will all make more sense when you watch the vid. Sort of. I think.
Oh, yeah – there’s a wine involved here as well, of course:
2006 Emblem Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, $50)
On twitter, I called this wine a “dark fruit, spice & black licorice savings bond that hasn’t quite yet come due,” meaning that I think it will need 4 to 5 more years to integrate and soften up. But as noted in the above vid, if you’re the impatient type you can still find a lot to love here, though decanting this kick-ass, beautiful monster from the 4th generation Mondavi clan is a must. For me, the best part about this wine is that it’s kind of deceptive: the fruit comes off all dark on the nose, but opens up to a lovely, pure, juciy red currant on the palate, like eating a big ol’ handful of the stuff right off the plant. Enough acidity to pair with meaty dishes, but proceed with some caution.
Seventh Lombardi trophy, that is.
See, I’ve been a Steelers fan for over 30 years, which places the activity in rare company when it comes to my lifetime activities, bested only by things such as breathing, sleeping and enjoying birthday cake. And for those of you sick of hearing about my NFL alliances (basically everyone but me), I offer this tidbit only as backdrop to a duo of 2007 California wine recommendations, so don’t get your jock straps into too much of a bunch just yet.
When the Steelers won their sixth championship title I was writing a piece about a Napa Valley wine while watching the game bleary-eyed in the middle of the night GMT in England. This year, I’ll be in Portugal (more on that next week) watching the Superbowl bleary-eyed in the middle of the night GMT. So I figured I’d better write about some Napa Valley wine again, because we all know what happened the last time all of those totally unrelated elements came together, right?
Not that I’m superstitious. But I might be planning on wearing the same pair of underwear I had on during Superbowl XLIII. And I’m not gonna say if that pair of undies been washed since SB XLIII. Let’s just not go there, okay?
Fortuna smiled and samples of two Napa wines well-worth your time have recently made their way to my sample stash (“recently” for me, that is, not “recently” in normal people time – which means these wines have done a bit of cellar-aging by virtue of my total failure at personal time management).
And the odd thing is, they were wines I had fully expected to hate…
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