Posts Filed Under on the road

Dredging Up Wine History In Lewes, DE

Vinted on July 28, 2016 binned in on the road, wine news

Constantia Lewes DE

One of the wine world’s more interesting artifacts was found quite by accident. Off the shoreline of humble little Lewes, Delaware. Man, it feels really odd to write that.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to take an annual trek south to the Lewes area, courtesy of some of Earth’s Greatest Neighbors, who allow me to haul some of my family to their condo there during the Summer months. And it’s there (in Lewes, not in the condo) that said small but über-geeky wine artifact is on display, at the charming Zwaanendael Museum.

Constantia cellar 2013

Suggestive shot from my visit to Constantia in 2013

Zwaanendae’s focus is not wine, of course; it’s primarily the history of an ill-fated Dutch settlement, Swanendael, one of the first to such settlements to touch North American shores back in 1631 (they gave up on the spot not too much later, as the Native American population didn’t exactly receive the Dutch trespassers with open arms). Fortunately for us, it also focuses on displaying artifacts from nearby shipwrecks.

In 2004, dredging in the Roosevelt Inlet unearthed (and, ok, probably more or less destroyed) a shipwreck of a British merchant vessel loaded with international cargo bound for the then-colony of Philadelphia (the ship was almost undoubtedly British, given that it contained cargo from China, Europe, and South Africa, and all such legal commerce bound for the colonies had to go through Britain at the time).

Among the (literal) tidbits found from that wreck was a bottle fragment bearing the inscription “Constantia Wyn;” in other words, a seal of wine from South Africa’s Groot Constantia. As it turns out, the oldest such seal yet discovered…

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Clang, Clang, Clang Went The Trolley! (Results From The 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

SFIWC 2016 view

Ah, San Francisco… sourdough, trolley cars, wine competitions…

If you’re so inclined, you can now browse the medal-winning results from the 2016 San Fransisco International Wine Competition in which I was fortunate enough to have taken part once again (for more details, see the 2014 and 2015 results write-ups).

Judging in that event has become one of my favorite weekends of the year, thanks in no small part to the competition’s excellent staff, its professional organization, the ever-increasing quality of its wine submissions, and (primarily) the caliber and dispositions of the other judges. The judges list (present company excluded) reads like a Who’s Who compendium of the people who totally rock the judging circuit in the wine biz.

Over the past few years, wine competitions in the U.S. have taken hits from their share of critical salvos. I’m happy to report that fire seems to have abated a bit. I suppose that, at this point, I could be considered a veteran of the American wine competition judging scene, and while I understand that competition circumstances are likely to encourage some inconsistency in results, I’m confident that the best competitions (in which SFIWC should undoubtedly be included) take great pains to maximize the professionalism involved, and give each wine the fairest shake possible.

SFIWC Usual Suspects 2016

Some of the SFIWC’s Usual Suspects…

As to the usefulness of such competitions, I’m like a broken record on that topic for the last few years: differentiation is important, and wine competition medals potentially differentiate you from the competition. Interestingly, I’m actually quoted on the same topic in the SFIWC 2016 results press release:

“Wine is an extremely competitive product, and being judged by industry tastemakers and receiving a top award here at the San Francisco Wine Competition can help a wine stand out amongst its peers,” says wine writer, blogger and competition judge Joe Roberts.

Which begs the question: did I really use the word “amongst?” I must have, because Jarvis Communications’s Sam Dependahl was using a voice recorded when he asked me for a quote about it. Dang it!…

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Golden Years (Tasting Fifty Harvests Of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet)

Vinted on July 6, 2016 binned in California wine, on the road, wine review

Robert Mondavi Winery

Know how to get a cavalcade of seasoned (read: potentially jaded) wine writers, winemakers, wine growers, and wine industry insiders to go as quiet as mice (I’m talking pin-drop-sounds-like-a-jet-engine-on-fire quiet), and as stupefied as deer in the headlights?

I do.

I saw Robert Mondavi Winery pull it off a few weeks ago in Napa Valley.

You tell the crowd that you’ve just tapped the keg on the remaining bottles of the winery’s inaugural Reserve-level Cabernet Sauvignon bottling (in this case, the 1966), and that wine is now in everyone’s glasses. Oh, yeah, then you have the creator of that wine stand up and say “I’m Warren Winiarski, and I made this wine.”

As once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting events go, that one ranks pretty highly, even for those of us who have already had outsized amounts of once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting event opportunities (this was helped by the genuine combination of pride, awe, and shock in Winarski’s voice as he described that he never expected to be speaking about the 1966 Cab fifty years later).

During the course of the multi-day Mondavi event at the Napa Valley winery (which I attended as a media guest), we ended up going through a sizeable portion of the last fifty vintages of Robert Mondavi Winery’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

What became clear as we were lead through the various tasting proceedings and events by RMW educator Mark de Vere, and winemaking team Genevieve Janssens, Joe Harden, and Megan Schofield, was that this iconic wine is impossible to separate from its equally iconic winery, and its arguably much more iconic namesake.

I half expected the ghost of Robert Mondavi to waltz in on us like a whirling dervish at some point during our tastings, and I don’t at all mean that flippantly; at this point, his presence and influence is as firmly embedded in the superstructure of RMW as the material in its literal foundation…

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