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Posts Filed Under overachiever wines

The Greatest California Vineyard You Don’t Know About (Communing – And Drinking! – With Old Souls In Lodi)

Vinted on March 27, 2012 binned in elegant wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

Well, you may actually know about it, but that would certainly put you in better shape than I was when my friend and sommelier legend Randy Caparoso kidnapped me from Premiere Napa Valley in February, insisting that I spend some time in Lodi to see some down-home, old school wine farming.

What I wasn’t entirely prepared for was just how old that old school was going to be.

As in, going on 126 years old, old. Think about that the next time you read the words “old vines” printed on a wine label; you know, right before you think “well, hell, I know some really old vines, suckah!.

What Randy insisted on showing me first was Lodi’s Bechthold Vineyard, nestled in the Mokelumne River area and home of Cinsault vines planted in 1886 on their own roots (on which they remain, thanks to sandy soils and a deep root system preventing the vine-killer phylloxera from picking them off) by German immigrant Joseph Spenker; the place has been continuously dry-farmed – and family-owned – ever since.

And the place is nothing short of magical, if you’re a real wine geek. Because older souls you are not likely to encounter in California, unless your house is haunted or you live among the redwoods. And when you’re done reading this, you hopefully won’t wonder why I went ga-ga over the Single Vineyard concept for WBW75 (and be thirsting for some Cinsault, or Lodi wine, at least)…

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Minerals And Mustachios (Can Muscadet Be Aged For The Long Haul)?

The short answer to the question posed in the title, for the impatient among you, is “Yes.”

At least 35 years, in fact (maybe more).

The long answer is considerably, well, longer… and a lot more complicated, but those who choose to brave its circuitous path will be rewarded with tidbits of French wine family history, geographical trivia, a short-list of ridiculously overachieving wine bargains from two of the Loire valley’s best Muscadet producers (who have chosen to go beyond the region’s simple-and-saline oyster-pairing quaffers), and a mustache that has to be seen to be believed.

Your call.

But if you’re feeling adventurous…

The tale begins with a tasting of Domaine De La Louvetrie (and said mustache) at the 2012 Salon des Vins de Loire (that region’s annual over-the-top exposé of more than 600 producers, who pour their wares for the media and trade in elaborate booths in a convention center that spans the area of several Manhattan city blocks), and ends with a Luneau-Papin Muscadet from 1976 that showed no signs of slowing down any time soon

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Stop Hating On Pinotage, Already

Vinted on January 19, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, overachiever wines, wine review

Seriously. Stop hating on Pinotage.

Why? Because there’s nothing “wrong” with it.

I am here today to tell you that Pinotage is not bad; it is simply different. And if you don’t like this oft-maligned but more-oft-misunderstood South African cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut, that’s your prerogative. Just stop drinking it and shut about it, already, then. I mean, Pinotage has some high-profile wine critics who are haters right now – for Pete’s sake, Lettie Teague expresses disdain for it on her friggin’ homepage.

Yes, the worst of them (Pinotages, I mean, not wine critics) smell too much like overly-aged smoked meat wrapped in bananas and dipped into a vat of acetone that’s being bioled over a tire fire. I fully acknowledge that, okay?

But riddle me this, Wine Man: what bargain-basement version of any variety doesn’t have its fair share of sh*tty-tasting bottlings? Ever had really bad Cab? Terrible Pinot? Of course you have. Pinotage is no different than any other fine wine grape (yes, I meant to put the “fine” part in there), in that bad fruit in incapable winemaking hands results in a terrible wine, overemphasizing the worst qualities of any grape. It just so happens that Pinotage has more ammunition with which to work than most in the off-odors department.

That doesn’t mean that Pinotage cannot be beguiling when the right fruit gets into the right winemaking hands. It just means that there’s a little more of a deft balancing act to be attained when dealing with Pinotage.

But I know it can be done, and done well, because I’ve tasted some first-hand…

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A Tawny Bargain And A Tawdry Pecan Pie

Vinted on January 9, 2012 binned in overachiever wines, wine review

Occasionally, I actually agree with Robert Parker’s reviews.

Yes, really.

Such as in this case, when it comes to a 10 Year Tawny Port to which RMP Jr. dolled out 94 points, in sharp contrast to many other long-established critical voices who deigned to bestow it a high-80s score, probably because it retails for $33 (and usually less) for a 500 ml bottle.

And at over $25 a bottle, it’s a total bargain.

Yes, really.

This is a Tawny to which you need to devote some time, because it takes a good long while for it to totally unfurl (disrobe?) in your glass, after which it’s gorgeous to behold; gorgeous enough that it’s nearly as good as 30 Year Tawnies I’ve had which cost nearly three time as much.

So, yeah, I’d call that a bargain, even at a price tag over $25.

In another example of extreme positive wine pairing serendipity, I reached into the sample pool and grabbed the Churchills 10 Year Tawny Port on a whim over the holidays, in the hopes that it would match well with pecan pie.

This wine rocked the shizz out of that pecan pie. This wine owned the pecan pie. Hell, this wine is a pecan pie – toasted nuts, sweet dried fruits, spices, a slight sherried note and beautiful balance…

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