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On The Road | 1 Wine Dude - Page 15

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Bubbly At 150 (Schramsberg Recent Releases, And Why It’s Okay That California Is Not Champagne)

California sparkling wine has come a long way (baby) since German draft-dodger and later NYC barber Jacob Schram decided that the hot and sunny knolls of Calistoga in the 1860s looked like a suitable place to plant vines like those he’d left behind in his beloved Rhineland (after all, he’d seen hills far steeper – and a lot more difficult to farm – back in Germany).

Schram wasn’t making bubbly back then – that Calistoga climate barely managed the mostly German varietal still wines that he produced there, so much so that he hired Chinese laborers, fresh off work on the railway lines, to dig the site’s now-famous hillside caves in order to protect his wines from the heat (pickaxe marks are still clearly blazoned into the walls). So, Schram would probably be as surprised as anyone by the success that his namesake – Schramsberg – has had in the domestic sparklers department (though Schram was no slouch – by the time of his death due to complications from paralysis in 1905, his winemaking venture was quite successful, and he’d counted among his friends people like Robert Louis Stevenson).

Schram’s son Herman wasn’t so lucky; lacking his father’s passion for the business, he couldn’t overcome the double-fisted body-blows of phylloxera and Prohibition, and tax records form the time suggest that the winemaking family business stumbled mightily by the time it was sold in 1912.

That Schramsberg could again be firing on all winemaking cylinders 150 years later probably seemed just as unlikely in Shcram’s time as any California sparkling wine being able to stand toe-to-toe with some of the best that Champagne has to offer in our time; yet (based on my recent visit this past June), both are clearly happening at this Calistoga hamlet

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Nickel & Nickel Provides More Than A Dime’s Worth In Unexpected Napa Valley Cabernet Terroir Masterclass

Vinted on July 17, 2012 binned in on the road, wine appreciation, wine review

One of the ancillary benefits of being hosted at Auction Napa Valley are the winery-sponsored dinners that take place during the evenings preceding the big auction event.The food is usually fantastic, the wine is flowing (often a bit too) freely, and it’s hard to beat the locations.

For example, when I attended a few weeks ago, I joined bidders on one evening at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville for dinner and wines provided by Ma(i)sonry and Blackbird Vineyards owner Michael Polenske (where I finally met Blackbird’s winemaker Aaron Pott, whose humorous personality matches exactly what’s been described in the media published about him over the last few years).

The dinners aren’t exactly my scene – the people, food, and beverages are all top-notch, don’t get me wrong, but I’m nowhere near fitting the ascot-wearing-rich-white-guy mold, and while most of the guests are affable, welcoming, and only fit that mold peripherally, I still feel mostly out of place at those things.

So when I showed up for the second dinner on my itinerary, at Nickel & Nickel in Rutherford, I expected to feel the odd-man-out (which I did) but to be welcomed warmly (which I was, by proprietress Beth Nickel), and to be served over-the-top steakhouse food, probably in the cellar (which we were).

What I didn’t expect, though, was to get a sort of masterclass in Napa Valley Cabernet terroir.

Which I did

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The Southern Hemisphere’s Best Chardonnay? (Tasting Leeuwin Art Series 2005)

Vinted on July 12, 2012 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

I know what a lot of you geeky-geeks (I use that as a term of endearment, by the way!) are already thinking after reading the title:

Dude, WTF?!? What about Yarra Yering?

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

Here’s the thing about Yarra Yering for me: that Chardonnay is the Moriarity to my Holmes; while I recognize it’s brilliance, I find it a deeply, funkily flawed wine. Yarra Yering posses a quality of greatness, for sure, but I simply cannot drink the stuff. I cannot get past the oddness of that combination (and this is coming from a guy who loves odd combinations). I feel as though I got into a (losing) fistfight with that wine.

And so maybe there’s too much personal bias coming to bear here, but Yarra Yering is not in the running for my vote on top Southern Hemisphere Chard. But on my recent sponsored jaunt to Western Australia, I did find a Chardonnay that has my current vote for top bragging rights in that department (for what hat’s worth), specifically south of Perth and a short hop inland from where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, at Leeuwin Estate

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1WineDude.com TV Episode 50: When You Turn Purple (Go Inside The Haro Wine Battle 2012!)

Vinted on July 10, 2012 binned in 1WineDude TV, on the road

In this (the fiftieth!) episode of 1WineDude TV, I take a few hundred years of bizarre Rioja wine tradition head-on, and live to tell about it (though my clothes clearly get the worst of things), as part of my recent jaunt to the Rioja winemaking region with Vibrant Rioja.

Herein, you will witness a great deal of wine (don’t worry, it wasn’t Gran Reserva, trust me) being spilled on (probably drunken and/or quite hungover) Spaniards, a little bit of questionable behavior by said Spaniards (sorry, couldn’t resist including that moment, because I’m just not nice enough of a guy), and a whole lot of fun being had by all.

And yes, I know the video is crazy, shaky (it was a wine wartime correspondence, after all) and hazy (the camera was wrapped in a hotel shower cap for its protection – and yours, I think – for reasons that will become very obvious once you start watching). So… go easy on the camera-people, and enjoy!

1WineDude.com TV Episode 50: Haro Wine Battle 2012!

Cheers!

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