Has it really been twenty years since ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) first held their modest gathering, spearheaded by Ravenswood founder and Sonoma wine icon Joel Peterson (for a glimpse into Joel’s head, check out our interview from Dec. 2008)?
Believe it or not, ZAP’s 20th Annual Zinfandel Festival is, indeed, taking place Thursday-Saturday, January 27-29, and tickets are now on sale. Like most wine events that have grown to become ginormous in size, folks tend to have mixed reviews of the event (or, put more accurately, mixed reviews of the attendees of the event) but some of the positive press comes by way of people for whom I have a great deal of respect, such as my adopted papa Charlie Olken – so there is certainly some fun to be had, and of course the opportunity to taste a sh*tload of Zinfandel from dozens of producers.
It’s in that spirit that we’ve giving away 2 sets of 5 tickets each to two of the 20th Zinfandel Festival events – the Good Eats & Zin Pairing on Thursday, Jan. 27, and the Grand Zin Tasting on Saturday, Jan. 29 – and you can win just by leaving a comment on this post!
Details on how to win are after the jump. Just be forewarned that I’m not independently wealthy and so rather than transport winners from any worldwide destination to San Fran. via my 70-foot yacht staffed by vestal virgins, the winning peeps are on their own for any travel and expenses and the giveaway is open to U.S. readers only (sorry, loyal Estonian readers!).
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Ok, so I probably need to explain the (relatively) recent twitter update by VisitPortugal.com involving an interview with me focusing on my take on Portuguese wines.
Below is the tweet in question, which takes you to the Facebook Notes page of We Love Portuguese Wines. [ Warning: The Portugal promotion connections get a lot more complicated from here, so if you’re already as confused reading this as I was typing it, you might just want to pour yourself a glass of tasty vino and stop reading now. ]
The most interesting aspect of this interview (for me) was that I didn’t know it was an interview. I therefore had no idea that it would be published; my answers were part of an on-going conversation with Vini Portugal regarding my participation in the upcoming 2010 Wines of Portugal International Conference in Oporto this December. For those of you who are counting, this brings the number of seemingly-related Portuguese-promoting on-line properties to (at least) four.
I don’t mind at all that the questions I answered for Vini Portugal were used by VisitPortugal.com on the Facebook property We Love Portuguese Wines to help promote the WoPIC. Or, I don’t think I’d mind if I could keep track of all of this.
I need a beer!…
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Last week, I had the pleasure of “attending” a tasting meeting with a handful of Chilean winemakers. “Attending” meaning I followed along via video while tasting a handful of samples (all red blends) made by that handful of talented winemakers – me and a handful of other wine bloggers, at the invitation of Wines of Chile for their fourth Blogger Tasting / Q&A to promote wines from the region – roughly a year after the last such event that I was able to attend with the Wines of Chile crowd.
The wines, though quite good, were not really the highlight of the evening; nor was being able to see, and (sort of) chat with, the Chilean winemakers via video during the event. The highlight, for me, was that during the tasting the last of the 33 trapped Chilean miners was rescued. That news brought cheers and high-fives from the winemakers, but their actions belied something much bigger and more emotional. It was a bit strange and wonderful to be connected (even if virtually) to the country of Chile while that long-awaited moment was taking place – the country of Chile is wearing badges of honor, relief, and well-deserved pride after the rescue, and it was great and touching to have had some (even minor) direct exposure to that.
Not that the wines were totally out-shadowed by the news – the Wines of Chile selections, for the most part, showed a continuing upward trend in the level of winemaking artistry of which Chile is capable. Chile still has its red wine detractors, and I for one seemed to be in the minority of those who found the level of pyrazines (nettle and green bell pepper aromas) still more distracting than appealing.
But… where Chile is getting the balance right, they’re getting it soooo right. There were three standouts from the tasting for me that I wanted to highlight, two of which can be had for prices that make them real bargains:
08 Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol (Colchagua Valley): 140 chars don’t really do this elegant & refined red blend beauty due justice. $23 B+ –>
Araucano’s head winemaker Luca Hodgkinson was a hit with the lady bloggers during the tasting, but it was his wine that was a hit with me and from a personal-preference standpoint was my fave of the night. Luca cut his winemaking teeth in Bordeaux, Toulouse, and the Rhone, and the French influence is remarkably clear in the wine (a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenere), which goes for elegant subtlety (and achieves it, despite a 14.2% abv). Tomato leaf, supple blackberry fruit, and a hand-in-hand balance of black and white pepper that might as well have been singing “Ebony & Ivory.”
07 Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Private Reserve (Casablanca Valley): If the nose were more complex it’d be a quantum physics equation $50 A- ->
The most expensive wine of the tasting (another Syrah-based blend, with Merlot and Pinot Noir – yes, really, Pinot as a blending grape) was also the most complex and best-constructed. While it was a bigger wine than I prefer, the nose alone was enough for me to consider it Kick-Ass material: dark chocolate, herbs, pepper, smoke, cedar, toast… you could write a dissertation on the complexity of this wine. The mouthfeel was silky-smooth and if this wine could actually speak it might well have said “me honran, porque yo soy impecablemente hecho.”
08 Montes Ltd Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (Colchagua Valley): At this $ it’s like hitting a tobacco & black fruit lottery. $15 B –>
The lowest-priced wine of the night was easily the biggest bargain for those who like their Cabs to be like Shaft – bad-ass, serious and black (there’s a 30% smattering of Carmenere in here, too to keep things interesting). Black fruits abound, but there dense rather than in-your-face, followed by leather, tobacco and oak. If not a “big” wine, it’s certainly a “big-ish” wine and certainly could fool many a blind taster into thinking it was more expensive.
Full list of wines and reviews after the jump…
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