Posts Filed Under on the road

Why Yes, I Think I Will Have That Beer (Dispatch From The 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

By now, the results of the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition should be available for your perusal. Once again I had the pleasure of being one of the hired hands on deck to judge at SFIWC, this being my second time donning the white lab coat for this famous event, celebrating its 35th (!) year.

sfiwc 2015 judges

SFIWC 2015’s cast of judging characters, flanking competition organizers Anthony Dias Blue & Chandler Moore (seated, center). Total slacker seated far left. (image: Charles Communications)

I have much love and praise for SFIWC, which has got to be one of the best-run wine competitions in North America (and, in my own personal experience, globally), thanks in no small part to the efforts of the tough, mighty, and inimitable Chandler Moore, who, behind the scenes, pretty much ensures that all runs smoothly, and makes the entire SFIWC “go” without a hitch.

This year, I felt a little more at home, a little more accomplished as a wine comp judge (having had quite a few more under my belt since last year’s event), and a little more of an “insider” (getting invited to the traditional local watering hole for beers after each day of “work” was, I thought, I sort of mini rite of passage… also, I fell compelled to point out that nothing – nothing – tastes better than a good beer after a full day of judging wine).

Because I am a geek, mental notes were taken on some of the blind-tasted wines that I found particularly interesting from my own panel’s days at the SFIWC “office,” so I’ve highlighted some of those Double Gold selections (receiving unanimous Gold medal awards from all of our panel members) below, after the jump. These are not necessarily the wines that performed the best in our panels or the comp. in general, but stood out to me as being particularly noteworthy / enjoyable / made me wanna get my buzz and swervy on, etc.

Let the reco’s commence!…

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Tenderness Among The Tuff Luv (Tasting The 2012 Jadot Les Demoiselles Montrachet)

Vinted on June 10, 2015 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine review
Tuff Luv at Wine Conversations 2015

Tuff Luv at Wine Conversations 2015

As I write this, I am dutifully heads down in the process of remaining woefully behind on the coverage I have planned for these virtual pages (a deep dive into some high-end Knights Valley action is currently simmering on that back-burner). Which I suppose will come as a surprise to exactly zero of the long-time readers here.

I am also, as I type this, fresh from delivering a talk at the 2015 DIAM Wine Conversations sessions in Petaluma and Portland, in the form of a presentation outlining why no one “needs” to buy the producer attendees’ wines (and how they might get some of their potential consumers interested anyway). That my talk was replete with “tuff luv” for the industry folks in the audience will also come as a total shocker to, I’m guessing, precisely none of those who are reading this.

Silver linings tempered the dark clouds of my tuff luv messages, however, in the form of the lineup of wines chosen by organizer Evan Goldstein for the blind tasting portion of the seminars. The common denominator (apart from them all consisting primarily of water, I mean) being that each of the chosen wines were closed with DIAM technical corks (also, given the event sponsorship, not a shocker).

Wine Conversations 2015 tasting lineupNow, I’m not stumping for DIAM here, but as I mentioned during the seminar, in general I’m a fan of DIAM, in that I’m a fan of anything that lights a fire under the ass of the natural cork industry. Look at it this way: if staples such as milk or peanut butter had similar failure/contamination rates as wines sealed with natural cork, there’d be Walmarts in the Midwest getting stormed by angry, pitchfork-wielding mobs and engulfed in flames. No one would accept failure rates that high in other food products.

Anyway… All of the wines were also pretty damn interesting, in my not-so-humble opinion, as Evan characteristically went with some geeky surprises (including Okanagan Pinot Noir, Rivesaltes, and a single-vineyard California Viognier). Much entertaining stumping of the crowd (this participant included) thus ensued, and I don’t think that, given the quality of what we were testing, any of us would’ve cared if those wines had been sealed with natural cork, technical cork, or mud and cow dung.

One of the wines in the blind tasting lineup stood out as the clear ringer, however, and it’s the focus of our little virtual gathering of thirsty like minds today…

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A Winemakers’ Winery (Amici Recent Releases)

Amici's John Harris & Joel Aiken

Amici’s John Harris & Joel Aiken

“This is a winemakers’ winery.”

That Amici’s Associate Winemaker Bobby Donnell was speaking truth to me – and not just laying out the typical wine country cliché – was evidenced by the total lack of anything resembling Napa Valley “Why, yes I DID!” pomposity in Amici’s vinous Calistoga hamlet.

Maybe it’s due to owner John Harris’ down-to-earth influence, consulting winemaker Joel Aiken’s humility, or the winery’s somewhat-off-the-beaten-path location (or all three), but the Adult Wine Disneyland factor is pretty much approaching the zero line when it comes to graphing the esprit of Amici’s Cabernet production. Their reds are certainly Napa-esque fruity and powerful, but they’re also often tinged with energy, depth, and nuance. They wear lace in all the right places. And based on the asking prices, they got the laces at a discount (by Napa standards, anyway).

Amici trailer

Trailer, but not trash

But the above is also a nice way of saying that when you visit Amici, you’ll see… trailers. With barrels and space heaters in them. That’s where Aiken and Donnell house “a whopping ten tons” of production using whole berry fermentation, mostly for experimentation (though some portion now makes it into the Napa Valley Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet production). The reason? Outside trailers are the only room that they have left.

As Donnell put it, “the nickel tour involves bathroom, too!”

For my dinero, though, that’s all just fine. A lack of showcase winery adornment is more than made up in the experience that you’ll have in the bottle of typical Amici Cab, which offers the better aspects of NV red with a number on the price tag that’s about 33% lower than what we ought to expect from something that has Napa printed prominently on its label.

Yearning for lofty marble columns, classical music, and pomp and circumstance? You’ll have to look elsewhere. Fancy classic rock music playing while a smoker servers up BBQ fare out back beyond the trailers? Then Amici is your place, and these just might be your wines…

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