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Signs Of Life: What It Takes To Make Wines Of True Character (With Matt Powell of Draconis)

Vinted on July 14, 2011 binned in interviews, overachiever wines, sexy wines, winemaking

What Is The Job Of The Winemaker Today?

Simple question, right?  “Duh! To make wine!” you might be answering to yourself.  What could be more simple than that?

But real wine lovers, and real winemakers, know better; they know that almost no other query could be more complicated, opinionated, difficult, thought-provoking, or (hopefully!)invigorating to answer.

Which is exactly what drove me to ask it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after visiting hundreds of winemaking outfits of all sizes all over the world, it’s that no two winemakers ply their craft in exactly the same way, or with exactly the same ends in mind, or exactly the same attitudes.  But one thing in that world is consistent: the majority of those same people invariably have passionate stances on both the How and the What of their jobs as winemakers.  Theirs are the kinds of viewpoints that make for fascinating reading – and even more fascinating discussion and debate.

I wanted a techy interview, but one with passion, soul, and life . – in the hopes that it would fascinate, entertain, educate and maybe even get your wine blood boiling. To that end, I’ve staked the decks significantly in favor of passionate discussion by posing it to Matt Powell, the force behind Lodi’s Draconis Vineyards. Matt’s wines are focused and powerful – just like his viewpoints. He’s active on social media, is a big fan of comics, and takes his wine very, very seriously; case in point – visitors to the Draconis Vineyards at one point were greeted with the following message:

“I have no lists, clubs, or membership bullshit.”

Matt’s take on the job of the winemaker today? It’s just as straightforward, opinionated, and fascinating as you’d expect form the person who authored that welcome message, and who told me this about a recent vintage: “I tossed the entire 2009′s; weren’t good enough.”  A review of one my faves of Matt’s wines follows our interview. Enjoy!…

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1WineDude Radio: MOVI-n’ On Up (Talking Artisanal Chilean Winemaking With MOVI’s Derek Mossman)

During my March jaunt to South America, I spent my birthday at the Santiago home of Derek Mossman, the man behind Chile’s Garage Wine Co. and iconoclastic director of MOVI (Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes, or “Movement of Independent Vintners”).

Think of them as the collective vinous mice, who are making tiny amounts of hand-crafted wines and are roaring at the Chile’s modern winemaking industrial lions in an area dominated by a (very) small amount of (very) big players who make (very) massive quantities of wine.  They count among their ranks a Swiss lawyer, a French photographer, a former submarine maker and a Scottish miner – not exactly your typical band of Chilean winemaking bothers (or sisters).

MOVI have been making a splash lately, releasing wines that are garnering increasing amounts of critical acclaim (guilty! – see my faves below after the jump) and news coverage.  In the long-overdue return of 1WineDude Radio podcasts, I talk to Derek about where MOVI sits in the grand scheme of the Chilean wine industry, the over-oaking to hell of wines generally, what makes truly authentic wine, and whether or not MOVI is achieving its vision of “effort and dreams put into the bottle.”  Trust me, this guys is good for a controversial quote… or two (or ten).  Enjoy!

1WineDude Radio Episode 7 – MOVI

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Biodynamics Hits Chile, Without the Controversy (At Least For Now): In the Vineyards at Emiliana

Vinted on April 28, 2011 binned in on the road, overachiever wines, sexy wines, wine review

In the morning fog of Casablanca, a stone’s-throw from Santiago, Chile – provided that you could throw that stone over the enormous mountain range that divides Casablanca and the city, that is – the world feels very, very small. At least, it did to me on my recent S. American jaunt.

The world feels small despite the fact that those fog-covered vineyards (cooled by the effects of the mountains, which dramaticly reduce the amount of sunlight and heat compared to the city) are owned by Emiliana, a company that collectively farms the largest source of estate-grown organic wines in the world.  It felt small despite the scale of how “all-in” Emiliana is when it comes to organic viticulture.

Part of the cozy feel comes from Emiliana’s Casablanca estate itself: home to wandering birds (especially the chickens, who eat the larvae of what are locally called “burrito spiders” but I took to be mites, who can damage vine roots), and alpaca (whose wool is sold by the vineyard workers).  Part of the feel also comes from how the workers are treated here – they are trained and then help manufacture olive oils, hats, and various other native crafts that are sold in the off-season to help maintain their income when not working the vineyards (many of them also have named plots in the organic gardens near the vineyards, which helps supply them with healthy food).

But mostly the world felt small to me in Emiliana because they kept talking about Biodynamics, a topic that got very hot recently here on the virtual pages of 1WD.  And they kept calling it… wait for it… the “science of Biodynamics.”

I can feel the collective shoulder-tightening ire of the wine geeks reading that last sentence.

And where did Emiliana get the BioD bug?  From a visit by consulting winemaker Álvaro Espinoza Durán to Sonoma’s Benziger, where I visited in the not-too-distant past, and talked BioD with head honcho and BioD cheerleader Mike Benziger – and then interviewed BioD viticultural consultant Alan York (whose clients include Benziger and rocker Sting) as part of a more in-depth pro/con BioD debate.

And to further the far-away-but-close-to-home experience, I found the vinous results of this Biodynamic work to be pretty similar to those I’ve encountered elsewhere in the wine world… namely, inconsistent

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Tall, Dark And Geeky: Is Vina Leyda Hinting At A Newfound Maturity in Chile’s Wine Industry?

Vinted on April 21, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, on the road, overachiever wines, sexy wines

Even though I’m a thoroughly-clueless heterosexual, it’s obvious even to me that Ignacio Casali – Viticulturist for Chile’s Viña Leyda – probably has had little trouble attracting the ladies. Ignacio possesses the kind of strong jaw and rugged, 5:00-shadow good looks that likely mean he has never had to struggle through hours of vivacious small-talk well-timed humor, and cajoling (the way that guys like me have) in an effort just to appear attractive when buying a girl a drink.

But before you eligible bachelorettes start emailing me for Ignacio’s number, you should know that if you ever do meet him it’s very unlikely that you’d be listening to Ignacio wax poetic about how your eyes resemble the nearby ocean (the Leyda Valley is located a mere 12 km east of the port area of San Antonio in central Chile).  No, no, no – you are far, far more likely to hear him wax poetic about the far, far less sexy topics of rootstocks and vineyard clones from U.C. Davis.

You see, Ignacio is a wine geek, tried-and-true, and he’s clearly most at home in Leyda’s vineyards, talking about their experimental half-circle / fan-shaped plantings of vineyard rows (those look pretty odd, by the way), or providing details on which rootstocks are planted where (and why) on the property, or expounding the subtle differences of UC Davis grape variety clones and their soil suitability.

Still want that number, ladies?

To understand why there’s such a geeky focus on clones, vineyard management, and a sense of experimentation at Viña Leyda – and to really get to know the details behind some of their crazily-overachieving wines – you need to understand the lay of the Leyda Valley land, and educate yourself on some details about the Chilean wine market…

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