Posts Filed Under on the road

Seaside Rendezvous, Part Deux (Highlights From Riesling Rendezvous 2016)

Riesling Rendezvous seaside

Seaside rendezvous, anyone?

I, along with three or four other people (ok, it’s not that bad, it just feels that bad), profess to love Riesling, so much so that I actually purchase it with my own hard-earned cash. So I’m not the kind of wine writer to turn down a media invite to the Seattle-hosted Riesling Rendezvous event when it rotates back stateside (alternating in other years with Europe and Australia).

This is my second stint attending RR, and between the 2013 incarnation and this one, held in mid-July 2016, I can give you a rough idea of what positive and negative trends have emerged in Riesling-world.

Winners:

  1. The state of Riesling, in general. The quality of Riesling fine wines, overall, has rarely been as high as it is right now. Emerging Riesling regions, such as Canada and the U.S. Midwest, are really starting to hold their own with the likes Austria, the Finger Lakes, and even Germany.
  2. The standard-bearers. Alsace, Germany, and Austria – probably the holy trinity of Riesling in terms of what we consider as fine wine standards – showed up and showed off big time at RR 2016. More to come on Alsace in particular in a separate post.

Losers:

  1. Terroir. Seriously. RR 2016 repeated the panel format of RR 2013, when several dry Rieslings were tasted blind by a panel of experts, as well as a room full of wine media, producers, industry folk, and avid consumers. This format was then repeated for off-dry/sweet Rieslings from around the globe. There were many excellent wines in the lineups, but the trouble came whenever the expert panelists (and the the very knowledgeable audience members) attempted to guess where each wine originated.Our success rates? Maybe 30%. And that’s being generous. The majority of the time, winemakers couldn’t successfully identify their own wines.To me, that suggests that a) several dozen people who do wine (and in some cases, Riesling) for a living don’t know what they’re doing, which seems incredibly unlikely, or b) the quality of Riesling winemaking in general is one the rise, causing a bit of non-threatening conformity, which does seem extremely likely, and c) the common notion among wine peeps that Riesling is a lightning rod grape for the expression of terroir has been significantly overstated. Discuss among yourselves…

Following are what I considered several highlights (about 15 wines, if I’m still able to count correctly) from those panel tastings, so start paying close attention, you Riesling warrior acid-freaks…

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And Then, There Was Mojo (Highlights From Sonoma County Barrel Auction 2016)

Vinted on August 3, 2016 binned in on the road, wine industry events, wine review

Sonoma County Barrel Auction 1

Personally, I didn’t need any more evidence that Sonoma generally has its mojo working and is making some of the best wines ever to come out of the region. But I got a thoroughly inundating reminder of that when I visited the second (2016) incarnation of the Sonoma County Barrel Auction as a media guest this past April (and yes, I’m just getting around to writing about it now).

Auction-wise, it seems to me t hat most of the initial kinks have been worked out; the event was entertaining, and the group of MSs and MWs (several of which I’m happy to call friends… which shows you just how crazy the wine biz really is… Doug, I owe you for sharing your liquor, buddy!) that they brought in to the vet the one-of-a-kind entries did a stellar job in teasing out the region’s best.

Sonoma County Barrel Auction preview tasting

I suppose that the SoCoBA is the Sonoma counterpoint to Premiere Napa Valley. And in many ways, it compares favorably to PNV, though it does so in Sonoma’s more down-home, farmer-centric style. In my view, there were so many excellent wines on offer over the two days of tastings held at the event, that I’m going to have to keep the descriptions short-and-sweet. Hopefully these highlights will clue you in on a producer or two (or four) that hadn’t been on your California wine radar, but probably ought to be.

And, yeah, it’s mostly Pinot (get over it), but there are a handful of nice surprises in here…

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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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