Posts Filed Under wine industry events
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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Tasting Nobilo, Kim Crawford, Monkey Bay and Drylands new releases Or “Big Acid in The Big Apple”
Last week, I was the guest of Constellation Brands (good sports that they are!) who trotted me up to New York city for a media tasting of the new releases from their New Zealand portfolio. A lot of “new” going on in general there.
On deck were winemakers Darryl Wooley and a jet-lag-battling Dave Edmunds to walk me and a few other wine-writing-types through a handful of tastings at the Institute of Culinary Education. Afterward, we donned aprons and threw back a heap of wine as the ICE staff walked us through cooking our own dinners. Or, I should say, walked most everybody else through cooking dinner, while I mulled about and chatted up everyone and generally avoided poisoning the food with my sub-par culinary skills. To be fair, I did pat down a rack of lamb; not only do they need to be dried off a bit before cooking, but it’s NYC and so you never know, that lamb might have been packing heat.
Apologies if this post has a bit too much “weeeee! I was there! check out my blurry cell phone pix!” factor to it – but the approach felt right for recapping the event (and the cell was the only available photographic equipment I had at the time…).
Anyway, highlights for me included catching up with Tish (who was working an event in an adjacent room), and finally meeting the World Wine Guys. Oh, and watching Constellation’s Rebecca Hopkins perform the most perfect oyster shuck that I’ve ever witnessed (see inset pic).
While not all of the 2010 Kiwi SBs floated my boat, the style is more “me” than the heavier take on SB so prevalent on the U.S. Left Coast, and the 2010 Marlborough harvest has yielded some interesting fruits worthy of note.
The yields in Marlborough were down seven percent vs. 2009, thanks to a slightly cooler end of Summer and a dry harvest that ran three weeks late in some places. This had the effect of raising abv levels to some of their highest points ever, though you’d be hard-pressed to tell when it comes to Constellation’s NZ brands, as the wines on the whole were very well-balanced. There were a few badge-worthy standouts from the festivities, and I found Nobilo generally to be the best brand of the bunch – particularly their Pinot Noir, a grape that, after a rocky-but-promising start in Kiwi land seems to be coming more and more into its own. PN clone selection has been an ongoing experiment, but Marlborough seems to have found the right matches now, and plantings are up 930% since 1996 (no, that’s not a typo).
Badges and the full run of the wines sampled are after the jump…
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“Doing for Forgotten Grapes what Dancing With the Stars does for forgotten celebrities.”
Thus reads the tag line of Chris Kern’s website ForgottenGrapes.com, the purpose of which should hopefully at this point be glaringly obvious to you.
You’ve got to like a tag line like that.
Chris contacted me to invite me to one of his upcoming events in Arlington, VA, during which five different off-the-beaten-path wine varieties will be poured while Chris will “tell stories, cracks jokes, sings songs, dress up in costume, and relate each varietal [sic] to a pop culture icon as a way to introduce D.C. wine lovers to these exceptional wines that they really should be drinking.”
I don’t promote local events often enough here on 1WD – mostly because as the blog has become more successful, the chances of you not being in my general neck of the woods have increased. But it feels good to “go local” once in a while.
I can’t make the event, but I really dig what Chris is trying to do in highlighting some of the more unsung grape varieties. On his website, Chris pulls together fun info. about each grape including trivia and food pairing recommendations from chefs, and thoughts on the wine grape from winemakers (see an example).
According to Chris, “We’ll be pouring a dry Semillon, a Gruner Veltliner, a Carmenere, a Mourvedre/Monastrell, and a Brachetto d’Acqui. A pretty eclectic mix, to be sure, and something I really think the DC wine lovers’ community will enjoy.”
Vital details on the event are below. If you go, I’d love to hear about the experience!
“First pour for “Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes” will be at 6:30 p.m. sharp Wednesday, August 18th, and the cost of the event is only $35 per person, which includes the two-hour show, generous pours of each of the five Forgotten Grape wines, and a cheese plate paired with the wine. Reservations can be made by calling Twisted Vines directly at (571) 482-8581, but please note that seating for the event is very limited and it is expected to sell out, so if you are interested in attending, call Twisted Vines as soon as you can to make your advanced reservation. Twisted Vines is located at 2803 Columbia Pike in Arlington.”
All this got me thinking about “unsung” grape varieties – the “ABC: Anything But Chardonnay/Cabernet” set. What are YOUR fave “unsung” varieties? Shout ’em out in the comments!