Posts Filed Under overachiever wines
“I can’t review your wines, they have too much acid.”
Those were words that a reviewer at one of the U.S. wine glossies told Aussie Yarra Valley producer’s Giant Steps head honcho Phil Sexton (according to Phil, anyway).
To which Phil’s reaction was, apparently, something to the effect of “but that’s the whole point!” Linear acidity, mineral liveliness, longevity – those are clearly what Yarra Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are all about, if you taste enough of the stuff to be able to formulate an educated opinion on them. So Phil’s response to that unnamed critic was certainly more… diplomatic than mine would have been.
Intrepid 1WD readers will know that Giant Steps Chardonnay has done very well on the virtual pages here, so when I traveled to the Yarra Valley to visit Giant Steps (also purveyors of Innocent Bystander wines and Little Creatures beer, as well as a bistro in the Yarra). So I was pretty keen to see how Phil’s single-vineyard wines were doing in the U.S. market.
“We’re likely to pull out of the U.S., actually,” Sexton told me over dinner. The running joke of the evening was that I might have helped to sell the other case of Giant Steps in the U.S. with my previous high praise for their Chard. That was small beer consolation, though, and I ‘m not talking Little Creatures; I was genuinely disheartened to hear that GS wines get little critical play, and few sales, in my home country, while the seemingly much (much) smarter Aussies are buying the hell out of them…
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After six generations of pressing grapes in California, the Mirassou family has only one son left who owns a wine brand: Steven Mirassou.
But he can’t legally use his own name on his bottles, despite the fact that Mirassou’s have been making wine since the mid-1800s, probably longer than any other CA winemaking family. He cannot use the family name because Gallo picked up the Mirassou brand in 2003. David Mirassou now represents that brand for Gallo, but the San Jose winery where they once made their products is long gone.
The family-name-scooped-up-by-the-big-conglomerate story that seems to be rampant in the wine world (whether you’re a Mondavi in CA or a Taylor in NY) doesn’t seem to have slowed Steven Mirassou down much, though.
After setting up shop under the Steven Kent brand (which is as far as he can go legally in terms of sticking his name on the bottles) in Livermore, along with La Rochelle winemaker Tom Stutz he’s crafting some of the most stunning – and exciting – wines in all of California…
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The conclusion of the recent 2012 Drink Local Wine Conference in Denver was a “taste-off” competition of sorts in which twenty-plus Colorado wine producers each poured two of their offerings, with the media and attendees voting on which of those offerings were the “best” on hand (technically, one producer wasn’t pouring wine, in terms of grape wine, but showcased their Mead – Redstone Meadery, who took the “people’s choice” award for their intriguing Nectar Of The Hops).
As a competition, it was fun but given the levity and structure of the proceedings, it shouldn’t be taken as a be-all, end-all statement on CO wine hierarchy (we are talking about a competition with a quarter of the state’s producers, only pouring two wines each); but gems are gems no matter how or where you happen to uncover them.
I will get to my thoughts on the gems – the winners on the wine side of that taste-off – in just a minute (or three), but first I want to tell you about the clearest winner of the Taste-Off:
While I maintain my stance (firmly, I should add) that the region is a “nascent” producer in that Colorado has not fully cracked the code of what grapes to plant where to consistently produce world-class wines, and while the quality levels between (and even among the offerings within each of the) producers is still way too broad (there’s plenty of mediocre wine to be had), I can also tell you emphatically that there seems to be no ceiling for Colorado wine’s quality potential.
Colorado is already making world-class wines – it just happens to be in tiny quantities and can’t be made consistently enough (quite a bit of that being due to extreme vintage variation brought on by the intensity of its continental, high-elevation climate). And while you’re certainly likely to find some real clunkers in CO (its bad wines are epic in their terribleness), the best ones really are gems worth wading through the muck to unearth; in some cases – particularly in the case of one of the DLW Taste-Off winners – CO wine has already arrived…
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Okay, so there are a couple of reasons behind my pronouncement that people ought to be drinking rosé wine all year long and not just during the flowery, blooming, highly-allergenic (I really should have bought stock in a tissue paper company) months of Spring.
First is that a good rosé is often one of the most versatile, food-friendly wines that can possibly adorn your dinner table. The other is that… well… rosé will probably get you laid. So naturally that became the logical choice as the topic for the first article I submitted for my new column at Playboy.com (but for scheduling reasons became the second in the series to be published). For those offended by the nature of that theme, I apologize; for the other 99.8% of you reading this, I’ll accept your thanks for saying what was on your mind already (you’re welcome, by the way…).
I loved writing that article (which was penned a couple of months ago, and posted last week at the re-launched, safe-for work – but only just! – Playboy.com). It’s fun (sometimes, anyway) to face into a widely-held perception, especially an edgy one, but then sort-of turn it on its ear (in this case, building an argument for rosé that actually speaks to female empowerment and compromise in a relationship), hopefully without it all ending up either too trite or too stodgy. You’ll have to let me know if I came close to the intended goal on that one.
I mention in the article one of my personal favorite rosé wines, and one that I’ve found myself recommending often over the course of the last few years:
2010 Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Rose (Cotes du Rhone)
Price: Around $12
My “mini-review” for this wine consisted of the following note: “Bring on the Provençal fare any time. And bring on the the dancing girls, too;” which just about sums up the two major thematic points I was trying to drive home about a good rosé in the Playboy.com article. Red berries, flowers, even a tiny hint of meat dazzle like a well-rehearsed Kenjutsu display, and then tangy red fruits unleash palate kung-fu for a close-in,hand-to-hand bout with your food. If we take fighting as more of a kick-ass dance between equals in the martial arts sense, I mean, and not in the awkward-battle-inside-your-mouth sense. Okay, you’re right, that comparison totally doesn’t work… I should have stuck to the sensual stuff…