Posts Filed Under sexy wines

“Tough To Spit” (Dispatch From 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

Vinted on July 10, 2014 binned in elegant wines, going pro, sexy wines, wine industry events, wine review

Every once in a while, you get a gig that is so good, you just have to pinch yourself to test if it’s all real and you’re actually getting paid to have so much fun.

Such was the case at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, which wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and recently announced its results. Over 30 countries and 26 U.S. states compete in this competition, which is billed as America’s largest such international vinous battle royale. The pinch-inducing vibe came courtesy of my lucky draw in amazing wine competition panel-mates, which included cult winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett (small tidbit of advice: do not get between her and shoe shopping!) and competition organizer Anthony Dias Blue. The latter meant, of course, that at some point our panel would probably be getting some of the better wines entered into the comp, and that indeed did come to pass when we kicked off the second day of judging and were greeted with the wine lover’s breakfast of champions: a stellar flight of mostly vintage bubbly.

Did I mention that I love my “job?” Well, I do.

As for the specifics: the judges were divvied up about 3-4 at a table, tasting several related flights blind, knowing basically only the residual sugar, grapes, and price points of each wine. A splendid time was had by all (at least as far as I could tell), and I was happy to have leant my judging palate to a competition that was so well-organized, well-run, and that represented such a stellar group of wine-biz-insider-type judges. As always, I felt that I was bringing the overall class levels down a few notches by my attendance, though I think I made up for it in humor (we laughed a lot at our table…).

Anyway, here are a few of the stellar picks from that stellar bubbly lineup that had my table more-or-less swooning..

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Vying For Napa’s Best Reds, By Way Of Hungary… Oh, And Bordeaux, Too (Kapcsandy Family Winery Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 17, 2014 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review

“Our competition isn’t Napa Valley; it’s Bordeaux.”

That’s how Lou Kapcsandy sums up the goal of his 3,000 (ish) case production winery, a building that nestles up to about 15 acres of vineyard land that formerly went into Beringer’s `75 Private Reserve (“we purchased it in 2000 without them knowing anything about it,” he told me), and which might best be described as ‘polished-industrial.’

But that kind of upscale nondescript casing is fitting for the no-nonsense Kapcsandy, particularly when you consider that he’s a former chemical engineer and wine importer (not much use for flash in those endeavors).

But just wait until you get a load of what Hungarian-born Kapcsandy has going on in the vineyard and inside that Napa Valley production facility; you engineering types are gonna get a slice of geek heaven out of this.

Let’s start with the land: the Kapcsandy’s had 34 (!) pits dug into the vineyard for analysis, concluding that “literally within fifty yards, the growing conditions are different” on the heavy clay-ladden former riverbed. “At one point,” according to Kapcsandy, “it was 118.5F in the vineyard; the next morning, the same spot was 50F.” NASA-style satellite imagery was employed, convincing them to plant the vineyard along a magnetic north-south orientation, and dense plantings. Fruit is dropped, pesticides are avoided when possible, and generally Lou Kapcsandy frowns a lot when talking about “”what he calls “vineyard gymnastics.”

The results are mostly red blends that, in my experience, stand up to Napa’s best (and particularly shine come Premiere Napa Valley time – those tastings are what prompted my visit to the Kapcsandy’s in the first place). Expensive, for sure, but ludicrously good. Which is why I am waxing poetic about them here in the first place, of course.

So… yeah, let’s geek out on the in-winery stuff now…

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Paving The Off-The-Beaten Southern California Wine Path (Four Brix Recent Releases)

Vinted on January 16, 2014 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review

Depending on who you are, California’s Ventura County will spark up a number of mental images: beach stay-cations; Tony Stark’s mansion; a place to refill the gas tank en route to wine country in Northern California.

But there are a host of urban wineries (now numbering over a dozen) that are attempting to carve out a wine trail in Ventura, buoyed by the success of kosher powerhouse Herzog and critical darling The Ojai Vineyard, and sourcing grapes from their more famous Northern Cali cousin regions.

I’ll be talking more about all of this in a feature (I’ve yet to write…!) for PalatePress.com, based on press trip I took to the region last year. The short version of the tale is that I admired the gumption of those urban, bootstrapped wineries, most of which have been established by former hobbyists who went totally off the deep end and graduated their production into rented winemaking spaces, tasting rooms, and in some cases full-time gigs (can’t say they’re not courageous…).

Has Ventura arrived, wine-speaking? Not yet. Are they doing better than we ought to reasonably expect from such a ragtag group of independent upstarts? Yeah. Mini-reviews will be coming forthwith,  but a brief highlight of some of my faves is up now at Answers.com.  More of that trip will be put to light in the prospective Palate Press piece (only with less consonance… probably…).

Anyway, one of those upstart standouts is Four Brix Winery, a play on the U.S. grape ripeness measurement, and the number in the name represents four of the wine regions that got the founding partners (the Noonan, Simonsgaard and Stewart families) into this whole wine mess in the first place: Spain, Italy, France, and (naturally) California. If you find that a bit kitschy, just wait until you see how they name their wines…

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