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Wine Pleasure Through The Whining Pain (Foxen Recent Releases)

Excruciating pain has a way of giving you additional focus.

I’m learning this the hard way, courtesy of a degenerated L5-S1 lumbar disk which is causing a bulge that my spinal cord finds disagreeable (“disagreeable” as in “excruciating sciatica that is more painful than when I broke a bone in my hand and is now at the point of nearly debilitating me”).

I mention this as framing only, because when you’re on the road (in this case, a paying gig handling social media ambassador duties for the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium) dealing with this kind of pain, it takes something special for you to bother expending the energy required to really focus on it. You’ve got to seriously want it, and it has to be seriously worth it.

That’s the best way I can sum up my time tasting a handful of the twenty nine (!) different wines offered by Foxen’s vintner Dick Doré and winemaker Bill Wathen during a brief trek through Santa Maria a few weeks ago; that they’re worth your focus.

Doré was scruffily unshaven (not judging – so was I!), down to earth and amicable, touring me with the occasional waves of his long and lanky arms through their new winery that sites a short distance down the road from the barn in which Foxen had been making wine for about twenty-five years. Foxen is one of those unassuming producers that sits under the radar, but gets a knowning nod when discussed among wine geeks. I got the impression from Doré that they like it that way, and that they’ve yet to fully grow into the skin of a three-year-old facility that would be modest by most California Disneyworld-like tasting room standards…

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Who’s Buying Ultra Premium Wines? Not Millionaires (Tasting The 2011 Cloudburst Chardonnay)

Vinted on July 25, 2013 binned in kick-ass wines, wine review

I was recently contacted by a PR person who didn’t want to send me samples, but instead wanted to interview me about a wine.

That probably sounds odd (it certainly feels odd to type it). I suppose that it is kind of odd. But it’s not freakishly walk-away-and-phone-the-authorities-because-this-person-is-totally-psycho odd, when you consider what the PR person told me: “from what I can tell, you’re one of the only people in the Northern Hemisphere who have actually tasted this wine!”

The wine on her mind was the 2011 Cloudburst Chardonnay from Margaret River. It retails for about $150 USD, assuming you can find it. The PR person wanted to get my thoughts on the wine, and if/how it could be marketed in the States. There have only been a handful of vintages of the wine to date, so the pedigree isn’t their (yet – more on that in a few minutes), but it’s (obviously) the kind of wine that carries an exclusive price tag, which means that for maximum payoff, Cloudburst ought to be marketing the wine to… you.

Yes, you. The non-millionaire reading this.

You see, from what I can tell, you’re actually the target market for this wine.

Sure, we wine geeks like to jokingly moan that wines priced in this Cloudburst-ing cateogry are purchased by the case-load by trust-fund-baby, yacht-racing, endagered-species-cabob-eating richie-rich types who got thirsty when racing their yacht against their trained great white sharks, and so decided to swing by Margaret River for a quaff of some Chardonnay en route to spending the Summer on their own private islands. But while those jokes are funny in a gather-around-the-water-cooler kind of way, they bear little resemblance to wine-buying reality.

That reality suggests that you and I – the wine geeks – are the ones most likely to buy the type of exclusive, very good, and rather expensive wine like the Chardonnay on offer from Cloudburst. Not millionaires; you and me…

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Brett May Not Be The Enemy (Talking Brett With MW Christy Canterbury, And Tasting WineSmith’s Crucible)

Vinted on July 18, 2013 binned in going pro, kick-ass wines, wine review

I’ve long waged a sort of mini-war (no height jokes!) on brettanomyces.

Equating it to barnyard, horse sweat, and Band-Aid stinkiness in vino, as someone who’d personally rather go for the naked, unabashed, nowhere-to-hide purity of wines like Mosel Riesling over the bombast of overdone modern red wines, I hated how Brett buried wines in its heinous off aromas.

Or so I thought.

It turns out that I actually like Brett aromas, and that my previous stance on Brett equated to blinkered, philistine, pig-ignorance on my part. That’s the conclusion to which I’ve come after chatting with Master of Wine and all-around vino bad-ass Christy Canterbury.

After watching a replay of Canterbury’s webcast on Brett for the French Wine Society, I was so shocked-and-awed that I asked to feature her in a quick introduction to Brett for my Answers.com gig (graciously, she agreed).

It turns out that Brett is not only responsible for much, much more than Band-Aid, horse sweat, and sheep excrement (which I hate) in wine, but also in some cases imparts several other more pleasant aromas like  bacon (which, of course, I like, because everyone likes bacon).

Now, I knew that already, but what I didn’t previously know turned out to be downright revelatory for my future wine enjoyment. [ Editor's note: I am quite sure that some of you geeks are going to laugh heartily at the fact that I didn’t know this already. Cut me some slack, I’m not a winemaker, nor am I a chemist (my PhD-holding older sister is, though). For those geeks among you who do not want to cut me the requisite slack, I’ve got a middle finger to which you need to be introduced.]…

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(Surprising) Results Of The 2013 Critics Challenge

Late last month, I wrapped up a stint at the fourth and final wine competition in which I’d be judging in 2013, the 10th Annual Critics Challenge in (Stay Classy) San Diego.

The results of that comp. have been announced. Following are some thoughts on the Critics Challenge itself, and notes on some of the winning wines.

All hyperbole aside, I loved judging at the Critics Challenge with a passion that burns like the core of a million undiscovered stars [ Editor’s Note: not all hyperbole has been taken aside ]. And so, this might turn out to be a love letter of sorts to the CC.

The only CC cavil I’ve got is that the location, a bit outside of downtown (Stay Classy) San Diego isn’t the most convenient or picturesque of spots (unless you really enjoy close-up views of twelve-lane highways and strip malls). Otherwise, the CC is the kind of wine comp. in which almost any judge wishes he could take part: high-caliber judges who aren’t douchebags, a volunteer staff that keeps pace with any (I’ve yet encountered) worldwide, a well-organized agenda, generally very-good-to-excellent wines being entered, and a total dismissal of what has become a meaningless award given in American wine comps. (the Bronze Medal). I can’t even fault them for giving me that Petit Sirah flight, since a) many of them were good, and b) they gave us Sensodyne whitening toothpaste.

Each of the CC judges is paired up, with each pair getting a volunteer captain to coordinate logistics, and the highest medal awarded between the pair for any given wine becomes the final award chosen (predicated on the idea that if you only invite judges who know what the hell they’re doing, this system should turn out to be fair to the wines and to consumers). In what I can only conclude was a fit of insanity, head honcho Robert Whitley paired me with ThirstyGirl.com founder and all-around-awesome-girl Leslie Sbrocco; we beat the oddsmakers, though, in that neither of us was either kicked out of the comp. or arrested by the (Stay Classy) San Diego police…

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