Posts Filed Under overachiever wines
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…
Standing in between fifth generation Livermore wine producer Karl Wente (who is light, with executive-style, thick brown hair, and built like an NCAA basketball player) and his best friend (who is dark, soft-spoken, and built like an NCAA basketball player) is a bit like what I imagine standing at the bottom of a well might feel like.
It didn’t help that, as Karl and his buddy played small acoustic instruments (guitar and viola, respectively) that in their long, lanky arms looked not unlike undersized toys, all 5’5” of my frame was manning a large upright bass and fumbling my way through a jam of Karl’s laid-back, folk-inspired tunes (what he calls “Porch Rock”).
So while I certainly enjoyed performing in the impromptu concert inside Karl’s probably-in-constant-state-of-semi-renovation living room, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, when I’d been invited to Karl’s home to taste through the modern Wente portfolio, I’d actually been invited to taste a lineup of wines made in Brobdingnag (what, you’ve never read Gulliver’s Travels? As my late grandmother used to say, “what the hell AILS YOU?!??”)…
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In Spain’s La Mancha winegrowing region, there is a saying (and no, it’s not “Don Quixote slept here,” though that’s a reasonable guess):
“Nueve meses de invierno y tres meses de infierno.”
Which means, “nine months of Winter, and three months of hell.”
This is how the locals describe the climate of La Mancha, where it can go as low as 10F in the coldest months, and in the low 100sF in the hottest. Rainfall is ridiculously scant in the region (about 14 inches per year), and so vines are planted on average about eight feet from one another in order to maximize the amount of that scarce resource that does manage to hit the ground.
The result of such low planting density is that La Mancha has nearly half a million hectares under vine, making it not just the largest winegrowing area in Spain, but the largest winegrowing area worldwide.
And the grape that lays claim to the majority of that space?
Meet the lowly Airén – a white wine grape that most folks know nothing about, but which, by far, dominates the statistic (trivia alert!) of most-planted grape (in terms of area under vine) in the world…
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