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On The Road | 1 Wine Dude

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Dispatch From Subterranean Hungarian Haunts (Tokaji Kereskedőház Zrt. 1972 Aszú 5 Puttonyos)

Vinted on October 2, 2014 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

I don’t want to say that every aspect of my life is firing high on all cylinders right now, because that’s not the case.

BUT

… when you get sent to one of the most beautiful places on the globe to try excellent wines, work hard, then play hard, and get paid well to be yourself, it’s hard to think that like is sucky.

And that’s exactly what happened to me for the latter two weeks or so of September, when I toured Hungary’s famed Tokaji (for which I was not paid), and then spent about seven consecutive days MC-ing a video series that will be used to help launch a campaign on the dry white Furmint wines of the region (for which I was paid).

Our final filming stop took place at Tokaj Kereskedőház Zrt., the state-run winemaking outfit that, at a few million bottles of production a year, dwarfs everything else in the region by a factor of, literally, about one thousand (and has not been without recent controversies). The film crew and I were asked to see if we could fit in an interview and tasting at the massive six-kilometer underground cellar and wine library of Tokaj Kereskedőház Zrt., hosted by Kiraly Eniko, the company’s General Deputy/CEO (who billed herself, quite rightly, as “Madame Tokaji”).

Now, I hesitated to write about that visit here, because technically I was paid to be there. However, given that none of my tasting comments were scripted, and that the producer and I had veto power over the wines if we felt that they weren’t up to snuff, and that there’s little chance of you getting your grubby little hands on the wine about which I am about to tell you, and that it was one of the seminal tasting experiences of my wine life… sorry, f-ck the minor conflict of interest here. You need to know about how I nearly lost my sh*t over the wine that we tasted in subterranean caverns beneath Tokaji that day…

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Turn Up The Piiiiiinot (IPNC 2014 Alfresco Tasting Highlights)

Vinted on September 18, 2014 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review

As you read this, I’ll be in Hungary, a trip of which half is a curated media tour, and half a working stint doing video interview stuff that I will discuss later, but about which I am particularly excited (not just because it’s a paying gig, but also because it involves one of my personal fave white wine grapes, one that is seriously underrated and underrepresented in the U.S. market at the moment; much more to come on all of that soon).

Today, I’m going to be talking about a different paying gig that I recently took on, and a previous media jaunt.

The gig is a monthly run over at Snooth.com, and in the first installment (for the September “edition”) I dish on some of my favorite wines from the the IPNC 2014 alfresco tasting, held in the pre-dinner hours on both days of that event (the next installment will be on Chablis… I know, life is hard, right?). I also photo-bomb Sokol Blosser’s vineyard view in that piece (sorry, guys!).

Now, the Snooth article is only so long, and I found myself with a smattering of other fine Pinots about which I wanted to pontificate, but for which we just didn’t have enough room in that first article. And since this is my blog and I can pretty much do whatever the hell I want here, today we’ll be pontificating on those leftovers, which are themselves totally capable of making a superb, captivating meal. Think of them as the post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich lunch of IPNC 2014 Pinots…

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A Quiet Resistance (Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Pinot Noir, In Retrospect)

Vinted on August 21, 2014 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine review

Generally speaking, when you’re attending a Pinot Noir masterclass-style tasting hosted by one of a wine region’s most historically significant properties, it’s not considered good form to giggle like an eight year-old girl.

Which, of course, didn’t stop me from doing it.

The trouble was, I just found the irony so damned funny, it was like being back in my Oblate grade school church, the nuns patrolling the church aisles, my buddies and I joking around and trying hard to suppress laughter that would most certainly get us into major trouble. Which just makes it funnier

Here’s the thing: when you’re tasting through a retrospective of the Pinots representing those produced by our host – The Eyrie Vineyard’s Original Vines Reserve Pinot Noir – in a masterclass session that’s supposed to highlight vintage variation, it’s just freakin’ funny.

Not that there isn’t vintage variation – there is, for sure, vintage variation in Eyrie’s Pinot. It’s just that when the style is (thankfully) one of the entire wine world’s most consistent, the irony of trying to highlight that variation is… well, it’s freakin’ funny.

So, I was giggling. Don’t judge me (I know, it’s probably already too late; fine, whatever).

Anyway, I now probably owe one to second generation vintner Jason Lett (who hosted that masterclass), so let’s talk about how freakin’ interesting these Pinots were, already…

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Same Old Song (Ridge Lytton Springs Recent Releases)

“We sing the same old song
Just like a vintage car,
You can look, but you won’t ever drive it.
We drink the same old wine
From a brand new jar,
We get hung-over, but we always survive it.”
- “New Song” by The Who

Some tasks are just… unenviable.

Take, for example, trying to say something new about iconic California producer Ridge that’s not already been said. Go ahead, give it a shot; it’s not easy, folks. Some people are adept at taking the same few chords or themes and churning out something that sounds totally new; The Kinks, The Who, John Grisham (okay, maybe not Grisham). I am not one of those people. The Ridge story has been told several times in print, and from a wine perspective equates to something like “these are excellent, potentially long-lived reds, go buy some; the end… why are you still here?”

And so in recapping my visit to Ridge Lytton Springs in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, I find myself entertaining a sense of dread that I’ve not felt since I’ve had to turn in a term paper in undergrad, the kind that you avoid for as long as possible because you know it’s going to be a bitch to write. I can offer at least one take on Ridge that is original, though, since it happened to me personally; so I suppose I’ll start there.

A couple of years ago, when interviewing the equally iconic California stalwart Kermit Lynch at his Berkley area shop, I noticed a shelf of old empty bottles on a wall in his office. I pointed out to him that only one of those bottles was from an American producer: Ridge. “Yeah!” he exclaimed, “and check this out!” taking the bottle from its display and showing me the back label, pointing to the small text that proclaimed its sub-14% alcohol by volume. I then tried (unsuccessfully, I think) to convince him that Ridge was still making elegant, long-lived, balanced wines that despite an uptick in abv, and that I’d had several aged examples over the years to prove it.

Interestingly, my host at Ridge’s DCV winery was winemaker John Olney (onboard at Lytton Springs since the 2003 vintage), who once worked for Lynch… see, I knew if I tried hard enough there’d be something new there…

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