Posts Filed Under on the road
When you’re dealing with the wine biz on a consistent basis, there’s one thing you get to see a whole lot of (besides wine, Styrofoam, and cardboard, I mean):
Stainless steel tanks.
Everybody who produces wine wants to show you their steel tanks. Wine people are obsessed with their steel tanks; they basically have total hard-ons for their steel tanks. There might actually be a support group for wine industry folk who have steel tank fetishes… I’m not sure, but I’m also not in any hurry to research that one. Anyway, they don’t just want to show you their steel tanks, they want to talk at length about their steel tanks – their capacity, how many they have, how big they are, and how they use them in special, careful, meticulous ways for separate vinifications of Wine X versus Wine Y. They want you to really understand their steel tanks. They want you to love their steel tanks.
The trouble with all this steel tank love is that there are only really two kinds of people that actually give a rat’s ass at all about steel tanks:
1) Wine producers who use steel tanks, and 2) Companies that manufacture steel tanks.
I’ve yet to meet anyone (anyone!) else in the Universe that cares about steel tanks – including me, and (very, very likely) including you who are reading me talking about the wine biz’s hard-on for steel tanks.
So when you find yourself in a situation where steel tanks are actually, truly, 100%-certified cool – like when they’re hidden in the bowels of churches from the Middle Ages in Chianti’s Volpaia, for example – well, let’s just say you get real interested, real fast. Which is exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago as I whiled away my time under the Tuscan sun in the heart of Italy’s ancient, beautiful and storied Chianti Classico region…
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In this episode, I take a break from my busy schedule of eating, napping and playing Infinity Blade during my Tuscany vacation to field test a sample of the VinniBag, a unique inflatable travel bag meant to protect wine bottle from damage and temperature fluctuations.
How did my Tuscan Vin Santo fare in the VinniBag after being left out in the car in Chianti and Volterra, getting dragged in my luggage through the bumpy streets of Siena, and then subjected to multiple British Airways flights and the formidable Terminal 5 in London Heathrow airport? Watch the vid to find out!
Apologies in advance for the low volume during the first part of the vid (screw it, I was on vacation!) and for the jumpiness in the second stanza (the 100+ lb dog was trying to play a bit too friskily with the camerawoman at the time…).
Burt Williams might speak softly and have a relatively unassuming appearance, but when it comes to age-worthy, elegant Pinot Noir he is one hundred percent deadly Jedi Knight.
That much was clear during the recent West Of West festival in Occidental, CA (I attended as a media guest), where Littorai’s Ted Lemon interviewed Williams to kick things off. It was tough for me to pay attention, because a) there were Sonoma Coast Pinots sitting in front of me ranging from `96 to `01, and I was ready to geek out, and b) I found the entire event confusing, because I’m an anal Right Coast guy who requires exposition and purpose stated clearly up-front, and the WoW Fest proceedings launched without much detail on either.
Fortunately, possessing a formal plan is not a prerequisite for making great wine. In fact, to hear Williams tell it, very little about Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was planned in the early days when he first starting making Williams Selyem wine in his ‘spare’ time. “We got a call from an ATFA agent,” he mentioned, “who basically told us that we should get bonded before we got arrested; so, we got bonded.”
Williams also told us that “if the wine is balanced… if you pick the fruit before it’s really ripe… I know Sonoma Coast [Pinot Noir] can age!” Proof is in the vinous pudding: the 1996 Williams Selyem Riverblock Pinot Noir (about $100 if you can find it, and an ‘A’ rated wine if I’ve ever had one) is delicate, earthy and svelte, with cherries, plums, spices and hints of game meat. The finish could accurately be described as gorgeous; it’s a wine that doesn’t smack you over the head, but seduces you.
And it’s in drinking wines like that 1996 Pinot – wines which seem to be made at a more-than-expected frequency in the West Sonoma Coast area – that you say to yourself (if you’re me, anyway): “F*ck Napa Valley Pinot – this is where it’s AT!”…
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