Some of you asked for it, so here it is: our panel on how the pros taste wine from the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, CA. Or most of our panel, anyway; as much of it as could be recorded before my video camera lost its juice.
More thoughts on the wines that we tasted during that panel, as well as on WBC14 itself, later this week. In the meantime, you now have about 50 minutes of vid to peruse if you’re curious as to how Steve Heimoff, Patrick Comiskey, and I suck the joy out of wine by tasting it critically!
1WineDude.com TV Episode 61: How The Pros Taste From WBC14
Ask Quivira winemaker (sorry, winegrower, as they prefer to call him) Hugh Chappelle for the Cliff Notes version of their style, and this is what you’ll get:
“One foot Old World, one foot New World.”
That’s a pretty darned good summation, based on my recent visit to their Dry Creek Valley winery. I should give you a similar Cliff Notes version of the entire Quivira story, before we get into the wines: A corporate drug company executive (Henry Wendt) gets attracted to a spot in Dry Creek Valley in the `80s, and as a avid fisherman gets upset at the decline in fish population in the nearby creek. Conventional farming is blamed, and a move to sustainable farming and Biodynamics ensues in the mid 2000s, after which Pete and Terri Kight purchase the place. Now they have 93 acres planted primarily to Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, along with a smattering of Rhone varieties such as Viognier, Grenache, and Mourvedre.
Quivira makes about 13,000 cases a year, using fruit from three estate vineyards, with a modest, restrained style that typically garners modest, restrained scores from mainstream wine critics.
Which, I think, means that those critics are missing the point of Quivira’s wines, which isn’t about conforming to a preconceived notion of how certain varieties – like Zinfandel – ought to be crafted (presumably into the highest bombast style wines possible). Maybe they’re taking the wild boar on Quivira’s label (a depiction of an adopted pet named Ruby who “died fat and happy” according to the Quivira staff) too literally, and assuming that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Whatever…
Much of what Quivira seems to be about is turning those conventional notions of Californian Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel on their (sow’s) ears…
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No, you didn’t see one of these selections coming, okay?
Don’t even try it. No one, least of all me, would buy it for even a second.
This Summer, I once again had the pleasure of judging at the Critics Challenge in (stay classy) San Diego, my second stint as a judge there. A more well-executed U.S. wine competition you’re unlikely to encounter, and the judging panels boast some impressive collective credentials. Before I get into the two most memorable (for me) wines coming out of this year’s incarnation of the event (full results are here), I should give you a quick primer on how Critics Challenge works.
The judges are paid (well… duh), and for two days each is given a series of wine flights organized by category and tasted blind (residual sugar, grape variety, and category are known, in some cases vintage as well). The judges work in pairs, awarding (or denying) medals as they deem appropriate, and each wine is officially awarded the highest of the two medals determined by the pair of judges. The assumption, of course, is that as judges we all know what the hell we’re doing.
For 2014, I was fortunate enough to be paired of with writer and educator Deb Parker Wong, someone for whom the term “consummate professional” was invented, and a judge with a methodically brilliant tasting approach. I’ll stop here before this turns into a Deb valentine, but I feel compelled to add that Deb also possesses the rare and uncanny ability to double the elegance quotient of any room into which she walks (since I possess the equally rare and uncanny ability to halve a room’s elegance quotient, our judging table vicinity essentially remained elegance neutral)…
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