Posts Filed Under on the road

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Carricante (Highlights From Sicilia En Primeur 2015)

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 Etna

Message to Etna: No devastating explosions while I’m visiting, ok?

It’s somewhat ironic, as I kick off a series of posts about my press jaunt to Sicily earlier this year, that the wine region I often cite as a source of reasonably-priced wines made from international varieties will now be compressed into a highlight reel focusing primarily on one indigenous variety.

But hey, we gotta keep it real, so my take on the 2015 Sicilia en Primeur event (in its twelfth year, showcasing the wares of some of the island’s best producers) will orbit like a satellite around my new-found vinous luuuurv, the Carricante grape.

Much more from my Sicily jaunt is coming (and there’s been a teaser of sorts published last month via one of my final pieces) but today is a cross-cut from the walk-around tasting at en Primeur, with my takes on some of the juice that I found particularly intriguing.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 Etna

Sicily is entering an interesting time (interesting in both the American and British senses of the word).

It continues to produce a fairly substantial amount of wine, though plantings have decreased by about fifty percent in just over fifteen years (a combination of economic realities and a renewed quality focus). There might never be a better time for Sicily to try to capitalize on its entrenched U.S. market opportunities (hello? how many Italian restaurants are there in Manhattan alone?), with the 2014 vintage being hailed as “la vendemmia perfetta.” There’s serious potential there, if they can get ti together and get some of these wines into the mouths of importers/buyers/consumers. But since we’re talking about Italian politics here, there’s certainly a non-zero chance that they’ll squander it.

Speaking of the wines, best that we get to those before I get myself into trouble (and/or before this all starts reading like the lyrics to a Soronprfbs song)

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Sweet Niblets! (2010 Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet)

Vinted on August 5, 2015 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review
Helena Montana

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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Why Yes, I Think I Will Have That Beer (Dispatch From The 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

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 judges

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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