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On The Road | 1 Wine Dude - Page 30

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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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Visiting Hestan: More Money Than God, And A Pretty Tasty Cabernet, Too

Vinted on March 31, 2011 binned in California wine, crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, on the road

The point when (or is that where… damn, I can never keep that straight) any normal person realizes that Stanley Cheng is loaded, and I mean God-calls-him-when-He-needs-a-loan loaded, probably comes pretty early during the course of meeting him; in my case, it came about ten minutes before I met him, while coasting up the lengthy, gated drive that marks the entrance to his newly-finished home and vineyard estate in the outskirts of Napa Valley.

It wasn’t the need for a security gate, the fact that he could actually afford a piece of land that spacious in Napa Valley, or even the fairy-tale mansion at the end of the drive that tipped me off to the Laurentian-abyss-level deep pockets; it turns out I’m too obtuse to pick up even those obvious clues.  In fact, at first I thought the house had to be a winery facility made up to look like a mansion, because it just seemed too big and gorgeous to really be someone’s home.

No, for me the moment came when I pulled up to the much sparser but still handsome building a little more than halfway between the gates and the mansion, thinking that it had to be Stanley’s house because it was about three times the size of my place.  Then I took a peep through the large glass doors and noticed that I wasn’t peering into an office building or a residence, but into a sort of garage / gymnasium.

That’s when it hit me that Stanley Cheng had more money than god…

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1WineDude TV Episode 31: Postcard From South America

Vinted on March 28, 2011 binned in 1WineDude TV, on the road

A teaser vid from my recent jaunt to Chile and Argentina, including a polo match at Casa Silva in Chile, Finca Altamira Malbec harvest at Achaval Ferrer in Mendoza, and instruction on the proper (Argentine) methods for preparing Yerba Mate tea at Zuccardi.   Just another day at the office!

Cheers!

Movie Stars, Vineyard Maps And Dirty Undie Drawers: Chateau Montelena’s Winter Rebuilding Project

Vinted on March 24, 2011 binned in California wine, crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, on the road

“You’re actually the first journalist to see this.”

Loaded words spoken to me when walking down the back staircase at Chateau Montelena to the cellar room. And they’re not just fully-packed AK-47 words because I’ve received no formal training in journalism; it’s because there’s pressure when someone trusts you enough let you take a peek into the dirty underwear drawer of a movie star.

Ok, so it’s not actually a dirty undie drawer; but it’s the equivalent, anyway, when that movie star isn’t a recognizable pretty face plastered across billboards and silver screens worldwide, but is a winery.  And make no mistake about it, Chateau Montelena is, indeed, a movie star.

The steady stream of tourists and visitors arriving right on my heels at 9AM, popping photos of the Calistoga winery’s iconic stone castle exterior was evidence enough of that, considering that your average Napa Valley wine country tourist turns around once they hit downtown St. Helena on Route 29.  If you want to visit Montelena, you have to find Montelena, and to find Montelena you have to be going slightly out of your way; you have to be looking for it.

The recently-expanded parking lot is the best evidence of Chateau Montelena’s new-found popularity – where they previously got by with space for about eleven cars, they’ve had to expand to a new lot that can accommodate several times that number. It’s all part of the strange dichotomy that seems to have defined the image of Montelena in the minds of wine lovers over last few decades: a familiar name and yet not a familiar destination.  Even though its name became etched into the consciousness of U.S. wine lovers after Chateau Montelena’s then-unknown Chardonnay bested its more celebrated French counterparts in the famed 1976 “Judgement of Paris” tasting, real fame – movie star fame – didn’t come until 2008 when the movie Bottle Shock hit the theaters, giving the `76 Paris tasting the Hollywood treatment.

Too Hollywood, as it turns out.  Ask Montelena’s assistant winemaker, Matt Crafton – who as a lanky, tall, affable, laid-back-but-knowledgeable guy seems to fit like a glove into Montelena’s NorCal culture – how accurately Bottle Shock portrayed Montelena’s history, and you get a pause, followed by a smile and an answer that says everything by hardly saying anything:

“Well… There was a Paris tasting; the Barretts did exist; we did win.”

All the rest, as they say, is basically Hollywood bullsh*t…

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