Posts Filed Under on the road
Sweet Niblets! Helena Montana (image: Jackson Family Wines)
The gravelly, sandy soils of the Helena Montana vineyard sit about 950 feet above sea level in Knights Valley. It’s where we’ll be wrapping up the recent spate of California coverage her on 1WD (…and all the Europhiles rejoiced…).
When I visited said vineyard, I resisted the urge to shout “Sweet Niblets!” – which, I think we can both agree, was a substantial act of maturity on my part.
After tasting (twice) the results of that vineyard’s vines, in what, in my view, might be the best Cabernet Sauvignon yet produced from Knights Valley, I damn nearly went the “Sweet niblets!” route again (for the second tasting, held at home with a review sample, I’ll admit that the phrase might have escaped my lips… just once… ok, twice… whatever, just shut up about it!).
Of course, it makes perfect sense that former Armagnac guy Pierre Seillan crafted the wine that is on today’s 1WD radar, right? No?
Fine… it might make a bit more sense when we recall that Seillan is the guy behind Jackson Family Wine’s Château Lassègue in Saint-Émilion (for more on that, check out some previous coverage). Better? Ok, good.
Of course, why a seemingly sane Frenchman such as Pierre Seillan would move to the U.S. from France is a matter of debate; according to His wife Monique and their daughter Helene, Pierre was inticed by the combination of soil diversities in Knights Valley, and the freedom enjoyed within American winemaking regulations (compared to the more restrictive versions in his homeland).
In any case, fans of Knights Valley Cab ought to be glad he made the relocation…
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By now, the results of the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition should be available for your perusal. Once again I had the pleasure of being one of the hired hands on deck to judge at SFIWC, this being my second time donning the white lab coat for this famous event, celebrating its 35th (!) year.
SFIWC 2015’s cast of judging characters, flanking competition organizers Anthony Dias Blue & Chandler Moore (seated, center). Total slacker seated far left. (image: Charles Communications)
I have much love and praise for SFIWC, which has got to be one of the best-run wine competitions in North America (and, in my own personal experience, globally), thanks in no small part to the efforts of the tough, mighty, and inimitable Chandler Moore, who, behind the scenes, pretty much ensures that all runs smoothly, and makes the entire SFIWC “go” without a hitch.
This year, I felt a little more at home, a little more accomplished as a wine comp judge (having had quite a few more under my belt since last year’s event), and a little more of an “insider” (getting invited to the traditional local watering hole for beers after each day of “work” was, I thought, I sort of mini rite of passage… also, I fell compelled to point out that nothing – nothing – tastes better than a good beer after a full day of judging wine).
Because I am a geek, mental notes were taken on some of the blind-tasted wines that I found particularly interesting from my own panel’s days at the SFIWC “office,” so I’ve highlighted some of those Double Gold selections (receiving unanimous Gold medal awards from all of our panel members) below, after the jump. These are not necessarily the wines that performed the best in our panels or the comp. in general, but stood out to me as being particularly noteworthy / enjoyable / made me wanna get my buzz and swervy on, etc.
Let the reco’s commence!…
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Tuff Luv at Wine Conversations 2015
As I write this, I am dutifully heads down in the process of remaining woefully behind on the coverage I have planned for these virtual pages (a deep dive into some high-end Knights Valley action is currently simmering on that back-burner). Which I suppose will come as a surprise to exactly zero of the long-time readers here.
I am also, as I type this, fresh from delivering a talk at the 2015 DIAM Wine Conversations sessions in Petaluma and Portland, in the form of a presentation outlining why no one “needs” to buy the producer attendees’ wines (and how they might get some of their potential consumers interested anyway). That my talk was replete with “tuff luv” for the industry folks in the audience will also come as a total shocker to, I’m guessing, precisely none of those who are reading this.
Silver linings tempered the dark clouds of my tuff luv messages, however, in the form of the lineup of wines chosen by organizer Evan Goldstein for the blind tasting portion of the seminars. The common denominator (apart from them all consisting primarily of water, I mean) being that each of the chosen wines were closed with DIAM technical corks (also, given the event sponsorship, not a shocker).
Now, I’m not stumping for DIAM here, but as I mentioned during the seminar, in general I’m a fan of DIAM, in that I’m a fan of anything that lights a fire under the ass of the natural cork industry. Look at it this way: if staples such as milk or peanut butter had similar failure/contamination rates as wines sealed with natural cork, there’d be Walmarts in the Midwest getting stormed by angry, pitchfork-wielding mobs and engulfed in flames. No one would accept failure rates that high in other food products.
Anyway… All of the wines were also pretty damn interesting, in my not-so-humble opinion, as Evan characteristically went with some geeky surprises (including Okanagan Pinot Noir, Rivesaltes, and a single-vineyard California Viognier). Much entertaining stumping of the crowd (this participant included) thus ensued, and I don’t think that, given the quality of what we were testing, any of us would’ve cared if those wines had been sealed with natural cork, technical cork, or mud and cow dung.
One of the wines in the blind tasting lineup stood out as the clear ringer, however, and it’s the focus of our little virtual gathering of thirsty like minds today…
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