“When minds are dripping color, And there’s liquid on the brain
They laugh to one another, And politely go insane”
– Primus, The Dream
Last month, I had the pleasure of (once again) checking out the funky, entertaining, and technically dazzling band Primus, as they rolled through Philly on their Ambushing the Storm tour. Primus are currently playing with fellow prog-influenced band Mastodon in support of The Desaturating Seven, an at turns raucous, pretty, trippy, and virtuosic concept album based on Ul de Rico’s also trippy, gorgeous, and all-too-allegorically-topical-and-relevant-today (hey, one of the goblins is Orange… just sayin’…) children’s book The Rainbow Goblins. The album is played in its entirety during the show, with vibrant and also trippily-fantastic visual accompaniment that, I can tell you from personal experience, goes down even better with a wine-altered state of consciousness.
As was the case last year, I got to tag along with the VIP Package ticket-holders as a guest of Chaney Claypool, wife of Primus front-man Les Claypool and (along with Les), proprietor of Sonoma-based Claypool Cellars, who have been mentioned on these virtual pages for over eight years (holy crap!) at this point. The current tour VIP package offers a Q&A session with the band, and a tasting of some of the more recent Claypool Cellars releases; given my penchant for awesome prog-y type tunes, and my pinch-me wine-thing day job, and my music-thing side-gig, you can probably guess that I was pretty pumped to spend an early-summer-ish evening watching my various worlds collide…
The central theme of my `16 VP roundup was that we all need to slow the f*ck down and accept the fact that Vintage Port not only takes a looooooong time to come around, and that a) many of us might be dead before newly-released VPs are fully developed, but we should buy them for future generations, and b) your patience regarding waiting on the slow maturation of VP will be well rewarded.
It’s time for us to get to the “b)” part, as we take a trip back through roughly thirty years of time, beginning with 2007 (when we were lamenting the state of our 401k balances) and ending with 1980 (when we were wearing JAMs, listening to disco, and some of you were probably snorting cocaine). We’re going to walk through a tasting of some of the world’s best “recent” Port vintages (with an average price per bottle of a staggering $367), from a tasting at which I was a media guest in NYC because, well, my life totally rocks (for more on the background of the various Port houses and their respective VP styles, see this post).
Alrighty then, wipe your nose and let’s get to it…
Recently, I was invited for a media-lunch-tasting-type-thingy in Philly with the affably hippie-ish-appearing Greg Morthole, who has been making wines for the Davis Bynum label since 2010. Davis Bynum wa purchased by Rodney Strong in 2007, and before that was a bit of a Sonoma-area legend, based on its eponymous founder.
That Davis Bynum (who passed away in 2017) is literally the daddy of Russian River Valley single-vineyard Pinot Noir, having harvested the first ever such varietal wine in 1973. Bynum got his start as a home winemaker in the 1950s, went pro in the 1960s, and at times had vineyard land in Napa and handshake grape deals with the Rochioli clan. And those last two sentences are a gross oversimplification of why Bynum’s name is well-regarded in the vinous world; I mean, this is also the former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who famously bought a box of grapes from Robert Mondavi for less than $2, once employed the about-as-legendary winemaker Gary Farrell, and used to haul grapes to his Albany winery in a 1946 Studebaker flatbed.
Morthole speaks fondly of Bynum, and if he’s suffering from any pressure-related performance anxiety related to making wines under Bynum’s name, he doesn’t betray an iota of it in his laid-back, California dude demeanor. Here’s what we tasted together over bites of Zama Sushi in Philly (and, yeah, Pinot works with sushi, depending on how earthy a cut you order, and how reserved your application of wasabi is…)…
I recently received the kind of media invite that one doesn’t turn down, unless one doesn’t have a choice: join a bunch of wine peeps in NYC to taste through a preview of the new 2016 Port vintage, led by representatives from several of the major Port houses. Uhm… yeah, we are definitely going to that. We also tasted some quite older vintages of Port, about which I plan to tell you later, in the hopes that – like all good Port lovers – you can learnt o exercise a wee bit of patience. Also, I’m kind of a dick sometimes.
Regarding the 2016 vintage in Porto: after a seemingly endless string of vintage Port declarations in the 2000s, 2016 marks the first time in a handful of years (since 2011) that a vintage there was deemed worthy enough for a vintage to be declared. The theme, as you will see from my tasting notes of about fifteen (!) of the upcoming releases, is a sense of balance, in which both power and finesse are on display. The vintage was marked by a wet Spring, which was actually needed due to drought conditions from 2015, followed by a hot Summer. The result was a year marked by low yields; in other words, allocations are gonna be tight.
To get a deeper sense of the 2016 vintage, I also include for your listening enjoyment a brief interview that I did with Rupert Symington (part of the family that makes/owns revered Port brands Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Warre’s, and Quinta do Vesúvio), who gave me his thoughts on the first Port vintage in five-or-so years, why we mere mortals need to be both patient and maybe even a little selfless when it comes to buying a wine that takes decades to fully develop, and what he imbibes when he’s not drinking Port.
It’ll make for decent listening as you peruse the (rather longish) list of my foray into 2016 Port land…
This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.