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Overachiever Wines | 1 Wine Dude

Posts Filed Under overachiever wines

Yesterday’s Wines, Tomorrow (Stony Hill Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 3, 2014 under elegant wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

Peabody’s Wayback Machine has got nothing on the steep, two mile drive from Napa Valley’s Bale Grist Mill State Park up to Stony Hill Vineyard. Brave that vertical, moss-covered tree-lined climb between St. Helena and Calistoga, and in many ways you’re transported at least forty years back in Napa time, and to what seems an entire world away from the Disney-fied scene of the opulent temples of vino-ness that pervade Route 29.

Feel free to insert your own clichés about technology being the only indication we’re living in a modern age when touring this winery’s weathered but functional buildings and it’s gnarled old Riesling vines. They’re pabulum, sure, but in this case also apt (I was warned to plan on no cell phone coverage when I reached the top of their road; the Wayback machine renders that inoperative, I suppose).

“This is the land that Napa Valley Time forgot,” mused Sarah McCrea, the former corporate marketing brand director who, in 2012, stopped fighting the inevitably baladromic call of becoming Stony Hill’s third generation proprietor. “And we like it that way.”

McCrea’s grandparents, Fred and Eleanor McCrea, bought this little chunk of Spring Mountain in 1943, when it was a former goat ranch that “nobody seemed to want.” The first plantings happened “in `48, `49, after the war,” according to McCrea. Some Riesling vines from that era still remain on the property. A small winery was completed in 1953, and trust me when I tell you that, while charming and unquestionably setup in a beautiful place with a beautiful valley view, it would hardly qualify as garage-sized for some of the polished-with-gobs-of-cash winery façades just a few miles farther south on Route 29. Since that time in the fifties, almost nothing (thankfully, blessedly, miraculously) seems to have changed here. Case in point: in sixty years, Stony Hill has employed fewer winemakers than the venerable Pittsburgh Steelers have head coaches.

To put Stony Hill in perspective, one has to understand that when they started in the wine business in Napa, there was no perspective. There wasn’t even much of a Napa fine wine business. There’s is a tale that, as Morrissey sang, starts “from before the beginning…”

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Welcome To The Icebox (Warre’s Otima 10 Year Tawny, Chilled Old School)

Vinted on February 6, 2014 under overachiever wines, wine review

The icebox in the title has several meanings (in undergrad literature class fashion). First, it’s a reference to my neck of the woods, currently blanketed in ice, and with > 500,000 homes sans power. Including 1WD HQ.

Then, there’s a coy reference to the internal temperature of my house, which, after two days of no heat and sub-freezing external temperatures, is starting to feel more like home-sweet-meat-locker than home-sweet-home. Incidentally, I’m also without Internet access, and Swype-typing this on my cell phone after enough of you complained when I mentioned on Twitter and The Book of Face that 1WD would probably be going dark since I couldn’t really get online to write (a service for which you complainy lushes pay $0.00, I might add; you’re welcome!).

Finally, in terms of symbolic references, there’s the makeshift “ice box” we’re using to chill a sample of one of my fallback / favorite winter warmers…

 

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Hey, Nice Spicerack! (Punchdown’s Cool-Climate Syrah Goodness)

Vinted on November 21, 2013 under overachiever wines, wine review

“Joe, Enjoy!

- Cool-climate Syrah – touch of Viognier

- neutral oak – low alc

Best – Jonathan Pey”

It’s always nice to get something – anything – that isn’t formulaic when you open something up from the wine sample pool. So much juice comes into 1WD central sometimes, accompanied with letters that begin impersonally (not an auspicious start when you’re trying to stand out among a deluge) with “Dear wine writer,” “Editor,” or – directly from-letter-mail-merge-misfire-embarrassment hell – “Dear [blank].”

So… Jonathan Pey’s personalized note stood out when I yanked it out of the shipping box, along with a bottle of Pey’s 2011 Spicerack “Punchdown” Syrah. When I read the hand-written addition (reproduced – and pictured – above), I got a chuckle out of it. I mean, I try not to pigeon-hole myself in terms of stylistic preferences, but it’s true that I am often giving high ratings to extremely well-crafted, complex, age-worthy wines that I personally wouldn’t want to drink (my personal drinking preferences, in my view, should have little to do with the “grade” a wine might get, given that your preferences might be different). I quite happily drink a crap-ton of “B+” wines, ecstatic that I’ve received them for free (and probably more ecstatic than the producers receiving less than an “A”), and happy there’s enough juice left over in that bottle to share with Mrs. Dudette during dinner after I’m done reviewing it.

But it got me thinking… am I that easily transparent, even after all of my careful work (careful by my lazy standards, anyway)? I mean, I smiled at Pey’s note, but I also wanted to crumple it up and toss it in the fireplace, because it seemed so… smug… as if he was thinking “I’ll bet this guy is like those hipster East Coast Somms, all up into under-ripe 13% abv wines that smell like bush stems and taste of battery acid!”

Turns out I am that transparent, after all, but Pey’s not that smug, and his small production wine (15 barrels) tastes nothing like tea made from green vine stems…

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Finally, Someone Here Who Speaks English (Luigi Bosca And The Changing Tastes Of The World’s Wine Consumers)

By now, many of you reading this will have come across a handful of articles on the Global Interwebs proffering the idea that the current style of high-scoring, high-end fine wines (prominently oaky, complex, high on the alcohol and low on the acidity) will always reign supreme in fine wine sales, and that it’s only a matter of time before Millennial consumers “grow up” and stop buying higher acid, inexpensive imports and trade up to the “real” stuff.

Many of these arguments are well-written and intelligently presented. But to me, they don’t read like the Queen’s English; they look more like this: “Blah blah, blah-blah-blah, BLAH-BLAH!!!”

Some of the crystal ball gazing has been done by those with a vested interest in prolonging the reign of the current style of high-scoring, high-end fine wines, but I don’t really have any issue with that potential conflict of interest. Also, I’m willing to ignore the fact that one of the key pillars of their arguments – that an entire generation will “grow up” to fundamentally change how they interact with brands – has no previous viable example in the entire history of luxury goods consumption on planet Earth.

The real nail in the coffin of these arguments is that no data are ever offered in support of them.

Meanwhile, we have examples of exactly the opposite happening; younger consumers buying fresher, higher acid wines, because that’s what they can afford and therefore it’s the style on which they’re cutting their wine loving teeth, informing their future purchases and tastes from this point onward.

What examples, you ask? How about roughly eight million bottles, is that a good enough example for you?

8 million is the annual bottle production of Mednoza’s Luigi Bosca, a producer I visited during my stint earlier this year judging the 2013 Argentina Wine Awards. The results of that visit – aside from yielding a handful of tasty recommendations for you (more on those in a few minutes) – underscored nearly every aspect of the speeches I and my fellow judges gave to the Argentine winemaking community during the AWAs, and yielded one of the most telling illustrations of the changing tastes of younger wine consumers I’ve yet encountered…

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