Posts Filed Under on the road

The Fiendish Plot (And Fiendishly Good Wine) of Dr. O. Fournier

Vinted on April 1, 2016 binned in on the road

[ Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for my old Playboy.com gig, was purchased, but due (I think) to staff turnover there, was never published. I’ve attempted multiple times to buy this back from PB, because I really liked how it turned out, but never heard back from them. So… I’m reprinting it here, because it seemed appropriate for April Fools’ Day, and it was fun to write so I really wanted it so see the light of day at some point. Enjoy! ]

O. Fournier

O. Fournier, Bond Villain Lair

When you’re standing at the bottom of the hill upon which the ultra-modern winery of O. Fournier is perched, as the base of the mountains in La Consulta, two explanations for the elaborate construction spring immediately to mind.

1)    The O. Fournier building is actually an extra-terrestrial scouting ship that landed in Argentina, got sidetracked by asado barbeques, half-naked girls and soccer, thus abandoning its mission deciding to stay and make wine.

2)    O. Fournier founder, Spaniard José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier, is actually a Bond super-villain, the Argentine winery being a front for his fiendish plans to hold the planet hostage to his whims. Clearly the huge hollow columns supporting the winery house some sort of missile silos?

It’s easier to daydream like this when you’re standing in the dusk half-light as the sun sets behind the mountains, and you’ve already had multiple asados and wine tastings that same day.

Ortega, a stout man with a slightly ominous beard and small, round glasses, looks every bit the part of potential international evil mastermind bent on world domination when he greets me at the winery. He’s impeccably polite, but slightly self-absorbed and there’s no mistaking the undercurrent of agitation he feels at me being a bit (okay, more like several hours) delayed due to my lunch asado, which means the diner asado will be even later than planned (note: do not visit Argentina if you dislike eating the equivalent of several cows’ worth of meat in a week).

Ortega speaks in grand terms as we tour the O. Fournier complex. “It doesn’t make sense to talk about ‘Argentina’ wine now,” he says defiantly, “it’s too broad. The ‘New World’ of wine is old enough now.” The passion shows in his eyes when he says it; do I detect the air of malignant narcissism that could serve as back story for a Bond bad guy’s motivations? Better be careful with this guy…

Ortega’s a former bank exec who then got into winemaking, so we know that he probably had some serous cash to get the winery going.  “The money-printing machine broke in 2007,” he quips, “so everyday now I check if the banks own the winery, or I own it.” Ah, more motivation? Revenge on the world’s banks? This guy’s definitely an evil mastermind. From here on out, we’re calling him Dr. O (Fournier)…

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Big Hat, Big Cattle (Highlights From The 2016 TexSom International Wine Awards)

Vinted on March 25, 2016 binned in on the road, wine industry events
TexSom 2016

image: Texas Monthly

Ahhh, Dallas, where the rain is big, the convention center is even bigger, and the wine competitions are downright huuuuuuge.

I had such a splendid time judging alongside the consummate professionals at the 2016 TexSom International Wine Awards that I didn’t even mind that Dallas is totally dirty with Cowboys fans (Go Steelers!). Hell, I even had a date while I was in town (because, well, we are talking about my crazy life here).

The results of the 2016 TexSom competition have now been published in their entirety, so I am happy to share with you some of the highlights from my panels there. First, here’s the skinny on the results, as worded by the TexSom crew:

“Entries in the TEXSOM International Wine Awards were blind-tasted and judged by 67 internationally renowned industry influencers from 10 countries. Of these entries, the judges awarded 2,133 medals: 273 Gold medals, 798 Silver medals, and 1062 Bronze medals. Suggested retail pricing of medal-winning entries ranged from US $2.99 to US $770.00. Vintages spanned 75 years, with the oldest being 1941. All winners have been announced, and the winning wines are listed on the Texas Monthly website at http://www.texasmonthly.com/article/tiwa2016/.”

Told ya it was big, pardner!…

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Puny Mortal! (Madeira Wine, 1976 To 1850 For Palate Press)

Vinted on March 15, 2016 binned in on the road, wine review
Madeira group photo

image: Madeira Wine Institute

I think I’m still a bit in shock.

In a good way.

My recent press trip to Madeira was an amazing experience; pretty much exactly what a long-time Madeira wine geek (remember, I once compared Madeira to Iron Man) would have hoped it would be. And while my palate, brain, and soul are all still trying to wrap that jaunt up into something that puny morals like me can understand, I did manage to get it together juuuuuust enough to pen an introductory piece on the experience for Palate Press.

The premise for the feature, titled Tasting immortality, was to begin the article ‘s tasting notes with offerings that are at an age where most normal wines would be long dead (30 years). We would then travel back in time, via the older blends and vintage Madeira wines that I tasted on that trip, eventually working our way through all six of the island’s producers who currently export to the U.S.

Oh, yeah; and working our way through the 1950s, 1940s, 1920s… ending up at 1850. Without any hesitation or hyperbole, I can tell you that among those wines were some of the finest that I have ever tasted, of any style of fine wine, anywhere.

F*cking surreal (for more background on what makes Madeira special, beyond the near-constant influx of senior citizen tourists from much of Western Europe, see the previous post “The Worst Place in the World to Make Wine”). I’m pretty sure that I lost more than a few friends after posting envy-inducing images during my visit…

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