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Posts Filed Under on the road

Righting Wine Award Wrongs (Merced del Estero 2012 Mil Vientos Torrontes)

Vinted on April 4, 2013 under on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

Merced del Estero, in the über-sunny San Juan region of Argentina, has been tending vineyards under the care of the familia Rodriguez  for three generations, since 1897.

But it took me just one iteration of the annual

Argentina Wine Awards to help screw them up a little bit.

MdE was one of the producer visit stops for a group of about half of AWA judges that followed the awards judging, seminar and winners’ gala in February. It was also one of the most unassuming – twelve hectares of estate vineyards, west of the Tulum Valley, close enough to the Andes to be impacted by the hot sonda winds, and sitting about 700 meters above sea level (which sounds impressive, but that’s about average for a lot of fine wine grapegrowing in the high elevation dessert of Argentina).

The first thing that you notice about the Rodriguez family vineyards – if you’re a geek like me, I mean – is that many of the vines are trained in pergolas, reaching fairly high off the ground. The second thing you’ll notice is that the Bonarda (planned to be introduced to the MdE lineup this year) on the sunnier, exposed areas of the pergola are practically… raisins.

Which you’d resemble, too, if you were openly exposed to that punishing sun for as long as they are…

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Results Of The 2013 Argentina Wine Awards

Vinted on March 21, 2013 under on the road, wine industry events, wine review

Last month, I was away in Mendoza playing Team America as an International judge in the 2013 Argentina Wine Awards. The AWAs were followed by a seminar that centered on the topic of how to reach “next generation” (Millennial) wine consumers. Today, I’m going to focus on the Trophy results of the AWAs – but believe me, a lot more is coming on the seminar and the topic of Millennial wine drinkers (including thoughts on the wines that my co-judges believed appealed to those next gen drinkers) later.

I’ve two main takeaways from the 2013 AWAs, which are organized by Wines of Argentina (who footed the bill for my participation) and Hunt & Cody (a UK-based team consisting of MW Jane Hunt and Tina Cody):

1) I was self-conscious just to be in the same room as the rest of the judges, all of whom I felt outranked me in terms of tasting prowess, winemaking knowledge and industry accomplishments (I feel privileged to have made fast friends with many of them), and

2) If you try to taste thirteen Gold Medal winning Malbecs in only a few minutes and rank them in order of preference so that a Trophy winner can be determined, you will destroy your palate’s ability to taste anything (including coffee, tea, air, water and, I suspect, crude oil) for several minutes afterward.

The entire process of judging was incredibly fun (despite being shut up in a large conference room in the Diplomatic hotel while the sun was raging all Summer-style outside our windows), and enjoyed seeing the different tolerances we all had as tasters. For example, the UK judges putting up with more Brett (having ben schooled on Old World / Western European wines), the Chinese judge having a higher tolerance for oxidation (because so much international wine reaches her only after it’s been impacted by oxygen), the Argentine winemaking judges almost universally accepting high levels of VA (sought after to smooth out the mouthfeel of those tersely tannic Malbecs).

As for yours truly, receiving boatloads of California samples has taken its toll: I clearly had higher tolerances for oak influences and riper fruits. Sigh

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Domaine De La Romanee-Conti 2010 (Yeah, We’re Actually Going There)

Vinted on March 14, 2013 under elegant wines, on the road, wine review

I’m interrupting all of the planned 1WD content to cave in and give you the low down on the 2010 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti event held at NYC’s A Voce Columbus earlier in March this year, to which I was invited (as just about any of you following my twitter feed already know).

I won’t be telling you the quirky about the that will appear, at some point in the near future, in all of its quirky… quirkiness in my Playboy.com Wined Down column. What I will tell you about is the stuff that didn’t make it into that piece: the geeky 2010 vintage details from Aubert de Villaine, and my expanded thoughts on each of the releases. You’ll have to go to PB later to get the other fun stuff; I’m also skipping the DRC preamble, since most of you are already familiar with it (short version: mostly monopole Pinot Noir that’s literally atop the Burgundian classification food chain, made in small quantities, widely touted to be the world’s greatest, and most definitely among its most expensive).

But I know that the geek-geek-geekiest among you want the scoop on these wines, and I know this because you’ve already tweeted, DM’d and emailed me about it.

Al lot. And not shyly.

So… fine, here it is, already!

First of all, there were a lot of friends familiar faces at that tasting: Elin McCoy, Mark Oldman, Andrea Robinson (whose stemware was chosen for the tasting, a nice coop for her), Jordan Mackay, and Eric Asimov, as well as quite a few NYC somms that I know who have high-end restaurant gigs (lucky bastards, all; I sat with them during the tasting, because let’s face it, somms are the most fun people in the wine biz). Former Wine Advocate critic Antonio Galloni was also in attendance; I didn’t get a chance to chat with him, though he did at one point give me a kind of odd look (which I took to be more a hey-am-I-supposed-to-know-you? glance than a what-the-f*ck-are-YOU-doing-here? glance). Hell, I’d have given myself an odd look at a DRC tasting, okay?

First, I’ll give you the bullet-point run-down of the gentlemanly Aubert’s take on the travails of the 2010 vintage for this tiny and elite spot in Burgundy, and then we’ll tackle the tasting notes for all of the releases, of which you’ll immediately notice two things…

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Churchill’s Vintage Port Recent (And Not So Recent) Releases

“You can beat the sh*t out of something, and all you get is powdered sh*t!”
- Johnny Graham

As part of some prep work for recently-published Playboy Port Primer (For Your Holiday Port-ing Pleasure), in November I was a guest of importer Frederick Wildman for a lunch/tasting and dinner/tasting with Johnny Graham, the force behind relative Port newcomer Churchill’s.

The F-W folks didn’t actually know that I was sort-of on assignment for my Port Primer, but it turned out that Johnny Graham – to whom I now owe a return on a much-needed pre-dinner beer that he bought me en route to the evening event – had so much Port worth talking about that I wanted to highlight him here. I think I also owe him a beer for providing the above quote, which slipped out when we were tasting through some of the Churchill’s lineup at F-W headquarters before our dinner, while we were discussing wines that exude finesse as well as natural concentration, versus those that simply display an overly-extracted sense of concentration (for an example of the former, try Churchill’s elegantly understated Ten Year Tawny Port, which I likened to Sancerre – seriously – in terms of its prettiness).

Anyway, the highlight of the visit was a trip to NYC’s Hearth restaurant, where I finally got to see/taste what all the (well-deserved) fuss was about when it comes to Paul Grieco (and his massive soul patch), who did an admirable job pairing an entire multi-course meal to vintage Port selections from Churchill’s (not an easy feat, even if the wines are quite good, since they’re also quite demanding, and in some cases quite sweet – in short, a culinary mine field).

Graham’s family Port biz started in the 1800s, and he told me that he was “fortunate, in my youth, I was able to taste vintages like the 1908s; Vintage Port can age 20, 50 years or more, and there just aren’t many wines that can do that.” To that end, given the sh*tload of non-sh*tty wines we tasted that evening, I hope you’ll forgive me the  list-and-review style format post, but I thought it worthwhile to give you the scoop on several past vintages of Churchill’s Vintages… including a sneak-peak at the yet-to-be-released 2011…

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