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On The Road | 1 Wine Dude - Page 29

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Whales, Syrah And Intuition: The Making of Argentina’s XumeK

Vinted on April 14, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, on the road, overachiever wines

 

Travel to the province of San Juan, in the Cuyo region of the Tulúm Valley in Argentina – past the shitty old cars routinely running red lights, past the modest houses that are little more than shacks with water tanks atop, past the dogs whose limps attest to how rough life here can get, past the motor bikes unsafely carrying four people simultaneously, past the more-bucolic-but-still-trash-laden parks with statuary odes to cycling (a favorite pastime in these parts) – and you will find, nestled among the starkly gorgeous landscape of the surrounding mountains…

A whale.

Yes, seriously.  A whale.  A life-size reproduction of a whale, that is, constructed by artist Adrian Villar Rojas as a tribute to the site upon which it sits – now upwards of 800 meters above sea level, but which used to be a submerged seabed in ancient times. If that’s not odd enough for you, you’ll also find llamas and some miniature ostrich.  Along with the main attractions of the spot: olive oil, and some pretty good wine being made from Syrah. Yes, Syrah.  Yes, in Argentina.

The whale (you’re probably still thinking about the whale, right?) was commissioned by Ezequiel Eskenazi, the down-to-earth, animal-loving, olive-oil-producing owner of the site and the founder of XumeK.  As Ezequiel puts it, he is, in some ways, just a guy trying to find an interesting way of spending some of his father’s money (a fortune made in the caning business during the the budding days of the Napa, CA wine industry):

I don’t have a romantic story, but I always had a dream to build a vineyard.”…

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1WineDude TV Episode 32: Things The Wine Industry Needs To Hear (The Gary Vaynerchuk Interview And Keynote Highlights From #NomWineConf 2011)

In today’s episode, you get highlights from wine personality and social media / business guru Gary Vaynerchuk‘s keynote speech at the synthetic cork producer Nomacorc-sponsored "Marketing to the Next Generation of Wine Consumers" conference that took place in Napa last week (at the beautiful Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena). They are things the wine industry probably doesn’t want to hear – but they desperately need to hear them. 

I was part of panel at the event, in which we riffed on the main themes espoused by Gary in his fantastic keynote speech (which delivered some much-needed stern messages to the Napa wine industry – for a distillation of some of those messages, check out my article later this week on the Wines.com blog).  If anyone who attended still thinks that Gary isn’t the real deal after his keynote, then they have their heads shoved into a part of their anatomy that requires a belly-button-window installation for them to see what’s really going on.  Most importantly, Gary also finally admits that I am a handsome man (though I refrained from asking him to sign my chest as one male attendee did – thankfully I did NOT get that on video).

In today’s vid (at the 10:10 mark) I interview Gary about his new book, The Thank You Economy (a book that, well, crushes his previous release Crush It! and is Seth-Godin-level good – and will certainly further brighten his already-nearly-blindingly-brilliant star in the social media space). I also get his take on how different wine regions of the world are performing in terms of engaging their customers (hint: not well).

Enjoy (and make sure to get Gary’s new app at DailyGrape.com while you’re at it)!

 
 
By the way… Nomacorc makes a synthetic wine bottle closure that you can actually extract pretty easily with a corkscrew, so if I were a natural cork producer I’d be worried right now(although in that case I’d already be worried, having lost gobs of market share in the last few years because my product has something like a 2% failure rate… whatever…).
 
Cheers!

Risk Is The Business: Earthquakes, Amphorae and the Quest For Terroir at De Martino

“It’s not really very safe.”

Hearing those words, from winemaker Marcelo Retamal in a barrel area that is little more than a small warehouse on the Isla De Maipo estate of De Martino, surrounded by support beams that have been twisted and broken like so many toothpicks, and overshadowed by a ceiling that looks as though parts of it could drop on top of our heads at any moment without warning… well, let’s just say I was hoping that whatever gods dole out the karma points were forgiving me for my initial reaction of “Well… f*cking DUH!

In California, I’d have had to sign a 37-page waiver just to look at this building, and here we were traipsing about inside of it without even wearing hardhats. But this dark-haired, olive-skinned, brown-eyed winemaking guy had me totally at ease despite the less-than-secure surroundings.  Marcelo carries an almost ego-less assurance in his laid-back manner, no doubt a side effect of his fifteen-year tenure at De Martino (one of the longest stretches in the modern history of a country where most winemaking staff turnover is closer to 15 months than it is to 15 years).

De Martino’s current barrel aging area is, of course, a victim of the February 27, 2010 8.8-magnitude earthquake that in other regions of this long, thin country, had squashed enormous stainless steel tanks of wine as if they were empty beer cans at a college fraternity party. Our visit trails the devastating March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan by only a few days, and the resilient Chileans feel a kinship to the Japanese quake victims that is mostly unspoken but still palpable whenever the topic of The Quake comes up (though it doesn’t take a shared disaster for one to feel the emotional impacts of the devastation near Tokyo: one report, which told of parents finding the bodies of a class of Ishinomaki kindergarteners huddled together after their school bus was engulfed in flames triggered by the recent earthquake’s resultant tsunami, had me privately shaken and withdrawn). Chileans are a forward-looking bunch, and are quick to talk about The Quake, a situation in almost polar opposition to the way that they seem to avoid direct talk about their political past, referencing it only in the abstract (Augusto Pinochet is never mentioned by name, sort of like how Hitler never ever comes up in conversations in Germany).

We’re not here to look at barrels or taste aging samples, though.  We are here to look at Marcelo’s clay amphorae.  The ones in which he (almost crazily) plans to ferment and age País (the grape of low-end boxed wines) from the cooler Itata region in the south, using carbonic maceration and adding as little sulfur as possible, burying them in the ground à la how they used to do things in the Jura in Spain…

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The Stunning Views, Intestinal Flora And Strange Consultation Of South America’s Wine Lands

Vinted on April 6, 2011 binned in going pro, on the road

Contracting a vicious intestinal bug (the kind that requires antibiotics… the kind that makes taking Imodium akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight) isn’t usually taken as a positive omen when it comes to starting a new career. So it’s with mixed emotions of relief and ominous portent that tell you I faced exactly that in the early part of my recent (sponsored) sojourn to South America. I took it as a good sign, actually, since it “cleansed” my system just prior to hoping over the Andes from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina – where the beef is barbequed perfectly and there is plenty of it being offered to you. So the cleansing was more than just symbolic.

Despite the less-than-auspicious start, my trip yielded a ton of potential material for these virtual pages, some of which you will start seeing as soon as… tomorrow (where I will feature what I considered the best wine of the trip – why not get right to the good stuff, eh?…  did I just type “eh?”… what did I turn Canadian al of a sudden…?)!  I thought I’d offer one more “teaser” piece, which is a set of some of the more stunning scenes I was able to capture from those southern hemisphere wine lands, where the vineyard terrain is varied but more-often-than-not finds you smack dab up against an enormous mountain – there’s nothing else quite like it in all the world.  Words do little justice to the images, so – despite the fact that I am a far cry from being professional photographer – I’ll let the pictures do the talking after the jump.

In terms of offering this up in the Going Pro series: part of my “job” during the South American stint was to taste wines and offer what the organizers called “expert” feedback to the winemakers on the quality of the wines and their possible reception in the U.S. market (in my case, mostly concentrating on the East Coast market).  It was… well… it was simultaneously odd and surprisingly easy.

What I mean is, it was easy to talk about the wines – I love doing that (duh) and it comes naturally to me, especially now that I’ve got thousands of wines under my palate’s belt.  BUT…Having winemakers and PR folk hanging on some of my words was a very, very strange experience for me.  I hope it helped them – I can’t tell you if they thought it was entirely valuable input, but I can tell you that those meetings didn’t impact how I plan to cover the wines here on 1WD; as always, some of those producers will come out looking great and others… not-so-great (hey, when you invite me you gotta know what your in for).

More to come, of course – for now, enjoy the images and I invite you to share your impressions of Chilean and Argentine wine (and your peanut-gallery comments on my unprofessionl photos) before the deeper coverage starts!…

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