Posts Filed Under on the road
Has the case for excellent Walla Walla Syrah been definitively demonstrated? Q.E.D.?
I’m not going to go quite that far. But I will say that they might be pretty damn close, especially in those cases where the balance beats out the brawn in their Syrah bottlings.
Two wine producers that I encountered recently in Walla Walla (while there for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference) in particular made good cases (ha-ha!) for Walla Walla Syrah being the wave of the future; one which officially took part in the WBC activities, and one that didn’t (in fact, their winemaker skipped town during the event).
The first of these was Rasa Vineyards, led by the Naravane brothers who have engineering backgrounds, and are fascinating folks to talk to, provided you can follow their scientific leanings. They were part of a panel about WA wine at Three Rivers Winery (part of the WBC events), and certainly talked up the potential of Walla Walla Syrah when I asked the panel what they thought the future held given that Walla Walla is still a relatively young wine producing region.
The proof, fortunately, was in the juice, and their appropriately-titled 2007 QED wine, sourced from Walla Walla and Yakima fruit, is powerful, expressive, but balanced; it’s also expensive at $50 – but overall a decent value when compared to more expensive but not-quite-as-solid Syrah-based wines being made elsewhere on the Left Coast.
The second was pretty much the entire portfolio of wines from Rotie Cellars, who were kind enough to host a handful of us bloggers in their downtown Walla Walla tasting room while lunch activities took place during day one of the WBC. Winemaker Sean Boyd is certainly playing with fire with their wine names (“VdP” for example), which I am sure the French would be none-too-happy about, but he has some Syrah-based wines with significant promise; they might have been some of the most deftly balanced WA reds that I’ve ever tasted.
But with all of this focus on the future going on, the WA wine scene, I quickly learned, would do well not to forget its past…
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By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on the Greek island of Santorini (press junket via Wines of Santorini and the Brand Action Team) to get a first-hand view of Greek wines, Greek wine history and winemaking, and seeing if I can vigorously outrun anyone offering me a glass of Retsina.
The Greeks have, of course, been making wine since ancient times, not that you’d know it from any recent marketing pushes (or lack thereof) made by Greek winemakers and/or the region in general. In fact, at first blush I’d say that Greek wine generally (and wines from Santorini in particular) has a very rough and very long marketing road ahead of it if it wants to wine over the American market. Look at it this way:
- There has been little-to-no effort to exploit the amazing history, breathtaking winegrowing landscapes, and food-friendliness of Greek wines.
- Most wine stores in the U.S. treat Greek wine as an afterthought, giving it little shelf-space likely due to the fact that it doesn’t sell like hotcakes because…
- …consumers are scared to death when they see grape names like Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano and Nykteri that a) they can’t pronounce, b) most wine pros can’t pronounce, either, and c) they have no idea how they taste because so few restaurants offer them.
- Adding insult to injury, regions like Santorini sell the majority of production and therefore have little incentive overall to compete on price, which is usually $5-$10 more than comparable wines on the shelf made from grapes that consumers in the U.S. can pronounce and are familiar with.
Yeah – not quite as rosy a picture as those photos of the Santorini sunsets, is it?
We’ll see soon enough, I suppose – more reporting to come! In the meantime, we’ve got Walla Walla coverage and an amazing interview coming up this week here on 1WineDude.com. Enjoy!
The International Malbec Days Festival (May 20th-23rd, 2010 in Cahors, France) is now behind us. Let’s take the Good, Bad and (in some cases, the very) Ugly of the festival, in reverse order:
The Ugly: Event Coordination and “Wines that Smell of Donkey Poop”
Organizing and executing a wine industry event the size of the International Malbec Days Festival, one that lasts several days and brings together well over 150 people from a dozen or so countries, is undoubtedly a Herculean undertaking, and one in which the organizers almost failed miserably. The 2010 version, at turns, bordered on chaos.
This wasn’t great for the wines, either, as Tannic and high-alcohol Malbecs were served in a meeting space that was easily over 80F, depriving even the best from showing themselves gracefully. The execution against our schedule was poor enough that it became a distraction, as essential personnel (e.g., those organizing the various groups of participants from hotels to the various events) by and large were given little (and in some cases, no) information needed to do their jobs. At one point, our bus driver got lost in the 2km distance between the airport and our hotel for the final evening – and he was using a GPS system.
Score one for French logistics – that is, if the purpose is to distract you from being able to adequately work and instead is trying to break your will. I felt bad for our handlers, who were trying to do an impossible job with almost no help from their superiors (I encouraged them to totally dookie sock their bosses, but they didn’t seem too keen on the idea) .
Speaking of dookie: as for the Ugly when it comes to the wines, a not-insubstantial portion of the Cahors Malbecs on display at the event were quite bretty – and not in a “smells kind of like bacon” charming way; they were bretty in a “did I just step in some donkey poop?” way. Which leads us to…
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A very brief intro. into the 2010 International Malbec Days Festival.
As for the event – great intro. to Cahors and its wines; confusing marketing strategy / message; terrible, terrible, terrible organization of events and logistics overall. More to come (on all three fronts)!