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On The Road | 1 Wine Dude - Page 15

Posts Filed Under on the road

Sending Wine Back For Playboy, Wondering If Auction Napa Valley Was Really A Spicy-Thai-Dinner-Induced Dream, And Other Surreal Experiences

Vinted on June 6, 2012 under going pro, on the road

If you’ve ever wondered how to handle the delicate matter of telling a hoity-toity sommelier or wait staff that the wine you ordered isn’t up to snuff, without making one or both of you look like a total douchebag, you’re in luck because we tackle that very topic over at my latest Wined Down column for Playboy.com.

For that article, I interviewed one of the sommeliers (a quality dude named Jeff Taylor, who also happens to be a true master of the “disco nap,” a skill which I witnessed first-hand having traveled a good bit of Australia with the guy) from NYC’s Eleven Madison Park – and in terms of hoity-toity restaurants, it doesn’t get much more hoity-toity than the award-winning EMP. So you’ll want to read what Jeff had to say about the right – and wrong! – ways of navigating that vinous territory.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how the Playboy.com gig is going, so I should probably offer a quick update on that. The important thing to remember when you read the following “status report” is that neither my recent jaunt through the wine worlds of Oz nor the Playboy.com gig are nowhere near the most surreal things that have transpired in my life lately (that honor belongs squarely to Auction Napa Valley)

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1WineDude TV Episode 47: Is Aussie Shiraz Poised For A Comeback In The U.S.? (The View From Penfolds)

Vinted on June 5, 2012 under 1WineDude TV, interviews, on the road

In this long (long) overdue addition to the episode list of 1WD TV, I report from a beautiful area of Barossa in Australia, & talk with Penfolds winemaker Stephanie Dutton. Is Aussie Shiraz poised for a comeback in the U.S.? Find out Penfolds’ view on the matter in today’s vid!

Watch it on YouTube.

Cheers!

Hill Of Grace, Fifty Vintages On (Henschke Recent Releases, And Getting Schooled In Australia’s Greatest Vineyard)

Vinted on May 31, 2012 under elegant wines, on the road, wine review

Fill a van with half a dozen Right Coast sommeliers traipsing through Australia’s Eden Valley en route to Henschke, and the on-road proceedings will take on the air of a group of pre-teens after a full night’s sleep and a breakfast of Sweettarts that were about to enter Disney World.

Initially, I didn’t “get” why this group (who, along with me, were visiting as guests of Wines of Australia) was so amped up for a winery visit. I knew Henschke made very, very god wine, but so what – a lot of producers make very, very good wine. There was, of course, that thing about Hill of Grace, clocking in at $600 or so a bottle, but I’d had plenty of expensive wine that didn’t live up to the billing on its price tag and so I was actually firmly in the “skeptically optimistic” territory about tasting it that day. What the hell was wrong with these people?

But here’s the thing about good Sommeliers, particularly those from the big drinks like Boston and New York: they have access to world’s most exclusive wines that far exceeds their pay grade levels. It’s more intimate access than most of us get, and often it means that they enjoy an understanding of the world’s best wines that few others can readily grasp for having simply lacked the experience – and I include in that unlucky majority most pro wine critics, because they don’t have wealthy patrons ordering the better vintages of the world’s most difficult-to-obtain juice several times per night, as the somms do (depending on what rich-and-famous clientele might be forking out the cash for the good stuff that night on the floor).

[ Editor’s note: My favorite such story doesn’t involve drinking wine at all: as one of my newfound somms told me, he once served a group that included Robert Downey, Jr. After offering Downey the wine list, before he could finish his opening sentence Downey cut him off: “Oh, no, no, no, no NOOOOOO... take that away... we would tear this place APART.” ]

And so it turns out that the somms were all justified to have been so giddy, because I was about to be schooled – big-time – in what it really meant to have sommelier-level access to one of the world’s finest fine wines…

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The Other Side Of Oz (Beechworth’s Small Producers And The Heart Of Bareknuckled Australian Winemaking)

Vinted on May 24, 2012 under elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

It’s a brilliantly sunny day in Beechworth, a rural (even by Aussie wine region standards) area in eastern Victoria that sits just south of Rutherglen. The region was made famous by Giaconda, whose premium Chardonnays are in such high demand that they’re now offered en primeur.

But I’m not here to see Giaconda (okay, that mostly had to do with the fact that it was closed when I visited). I’m across the street, where Keppell Smith has set up shop for his Savaterre brand – and at seventeen years running, he’s just gotten around to building a modern winemaking facility. This is the other side of Oz, where handfuls of tiny producers are setting up garage-style winemaking efforts, using natural cork, and otherwise eschewing the penchants of ginormous Aussie wine conglomerates’ for squeaky-clean, screw-capped, and what many wine geeks often criticize as characterless wines.

Smith comments on what he’s trying to avoid, and his words, I come to learn later, more-or-less sum up the approach of producers throughout Beechworth: “Fuck me dead! There’s nothing worse than a ‘so what’ wine!

Ask Smith why he chose this spot to plant grapes, and his answer, similarly, will tell you everything; only this time, it’s everything about his approach to winemaking (and, I gathered, to life itself – Smith seems incapable of hiding his true feelings about anything… even by Aussie transparency standards).

“Because of this,” he says, picking up a handful of brownish, unforgiving, decomposed granite. “Because of this shitty, shitty, crappy, shitty soil!”…

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