Posts Filed Under on the road
A year later, and Mosel Riesling is still kicking ass. Only it took a blind tasting held in the Finger Lakes to remind me of that.
Back in August, I was asked to participate in a sensory analysis panel in Watkins Glen (Finger Lakes wine country, that is) related to a mobile wine app that has yet to hit the market. I am under a NDA, and so there’s actually not much I can tell you specifically about the event apart from the fact that I was paid for my work, and the relatively large panel also included oenologists, other bloggers like Vinesleuth, a few Finger Lakes winemakers, and some heavy-hitters in the wine judging circuit who I’ve admired for some time (it was a real trip meeting those folks). Also, the weather was f*cking incredible, which helped since my toddler daughter insisted on climbing all over the rocks of the jetty behind the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, which I think might have given my wife and I a few (mild) heart attacks.
The blind analysis did not include FLX wines, though I did manage to sneak in a (non-blind) tasting of a some recent Fox Run Vineyards releases with winemakers Peter Bell and Tricia Renshaw. That was a trip highlight for me; their wines continue to improve at a dramatic rate, and they have some very interesting things going on in their 2010 and 2011 Rieslings.
It’s a shame that there weren’t any FLX wines in the lineup, because the wines that I tasted blind over the few days of that sensory eval were, on the whole, not-so-hot. I’d have welcomed a few FLX stalwarts in those glasses, believe me. And once I figured out that we were tasting the wine flights in duplicate, I started to cringe… “Oh sh*t… this means I’m gonna have to taste through that funky-ass, over-oaked, buttery Syrah flight again!” Let’s just say it was good I was getting paid, otherwise I’d have been tempted to skip out to the jetty with my daughter.
A few notable exceptions did crop up through those flights, and I noted one particular white wine that tasted familiar to me, and was clearly a full head-and-shoulders quality level above the rest of the pack of dozens and dozens of budget-priced wines that we tasted (and I’m talking Kevin-Garnett-standing-next-to-me sized head-and-shoulders height difference, here)…
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“That was an interesting concept for me,” Jeff Slater, Nomacorc’s Marketing Director, told us as he presented research findings on alternative wine closures; “winemaking continuing after bottling.”
A few weeks ago, I and a small cadre of wine press toured Nomacorc’s Zebulon, North Carolina manufacturing facility as media guests, meeting with their upper brass and donning lab coats to see how their synthetic wine closures – the only ones in the business to offer specific oxygen transfer rates – are made.
And Slater (who has his own – quite engaging – personal blog, by the way), had gotten me thinking with that comment. When does a winemaker’s job end? If you believe Nomacorc, that job – at least when it comes to any particular wine release – doesn’t stop when the bottle gets sealed.
Nomacorc might not be a household wine geek name, but in terms of numbers the odds are good that you’ve had your corkscrew in at least one of their products at some point. As of 2011, Nomacorc had around 70% of the synthetic cork market, and were the second-largest closure manufacturer in the world, topping off 13% of all still wines globally by market share. Thanks to deals with mega-producers Kendall-Jackson, Cupcake and Barefoot, nine out of every ten Chardonnay bottles in the U.S. are stopped with a Nomacorc closure.
Put another way, recycling has become a major concern and big priority for Nomacorc (according to CEO Lars von Kantzow), because they produce two billion (yes, with a “b”) closures per year: 1 in 5 of every wine in France, 1 in 4 for Germany, 1 in 3 for the U.S., by volume. They’ve churned out something like two corks for every human on Earth since they entered the market in 1999, when their founder, Belgian Gert Noel, got fed up with having one too many corked wines and worked with his son to develop an alternative.
So, yeah, you’ve seen one of these closures. And chances are good that you’ve not thought much about them, either. As Slater put it when he summarized a 2011 Merrill Research survey of about 600 wine consumers: “it’s like the laces in your shoes; you don’t think about it unless it breaks”…
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Message to Sonoma: you’re no longer in your neighbor Napa Valley’s shadow.
You’re not the uncool kid at the dance, the next-to-last picked for the two-hand-touch football game during recess, or the slightly-less-talented and almost-as-comely sister when compared to Napa, at least not on the high-end of the vinous spectrum.
That bit of news flash will come as no surprise whatsoever to those producing and enjoying the best that Sonoma has to offer, many of whom I suspect will email me with encouraging (read: angry) words to let me know just how late I am to that party, but it might make those less familiar with Sonoma’s best wines reconsider their options when next given the opportunity to sample them. And reconsider they should, because Sonoma has probably never produced high-end wines quite as good as those that they’re making now.
That was the main takeaway for me when I attended the 2012 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend festivities as a media guest, a multi-event held across the Labor Day weekend and culminating in an Indian-themed (yeah, I didn’t get it, either) auction (their 20th) that raised over $1.6 million for Sonoma-area non-profits. Auction highlights for me included chatting about wines of character with real character viticulturalist Phil Coturri, talking with screenwriter-turned-proprietor Robert Kamen about penning The Professional (because that flik is just awesome), and drinking a bit too much of Joel Peterson’s gorgeously spicy 1997 Ravenswood Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel blend (spookily, Joel had near-perfect-detail recollection of our first meeting back in 2008…).
But I found my highest highlight (if you will) before the auction event, at the “Club Reserve” area of the 33rd annual Taste of Sonoma event (held at MacMurray Ranch)… because that’s where I got properly schooled in real high-end Sonoma juice…
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