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Rocks, (PhD) Papers, Capybara (Bouza Winery Recent Releases, Uruguay)

Bouza Winery is small even by Uruguay’s petite wine production standards. 25 hectares of vineyards spread out between two plantings, in the Melilla and Las Violetas regions near Montevideo, yielding about 120 thousand bottles a year. But you wouldn’t know it tasting their wines, which are bold, modernly stylized (okay, and in a few cases too modernly stylized on the aggressive oak treatment), and bigger than some of California’s heftiest reds.

But while you might justifiably dismiss Bouza’s in floral, plummy and spicy experimental 2011 single-parcel “A6 ” Tannat as being too, well, boozy, you’ve got to admire the gumption undertaken in trying to bring it to life. The vines are trained low to the ground, a ground covered with local stones red stones brought in specifically because their wavelength provides maximum light reflection, the better to ripen up that tricky Tannat with less need for leaf thinning and with fewer of that grape’s often punishing tannins.

Bouza has a bit of a secret weapon, and it’s not Pincho, their local male capybara who is friendly and fond of having his rough fur petted (by the way, capybaras purr when they’re happy; who knew!??). No, the secret weapon isn’t a dog-sized rodent that acts like a cat (although that admittedly is very cool), or the fact that Bouza’s renovated 1940s-era property and excellent restaurant have them set up better for receiving tourists than just about any other winemaking outfit in Uruguay. [ Editor’s note: as far as I’m aware, Pincho is a relatively rare case among capybaras, who are pensive in the wild; do NOT get hosed on Bouza wine and the go to the zoo trying to pet one, unless you want to possibly lose your hand! ]

The weapon is mild-mannered, be-speckled and willy-haired former physics teacher and chemical engineering PhD Eduardo Boido; the kind of head winemaker whose doctoral thesis centered on oenology, and just the kind of guy that you’d expect to think up an idea like trucking in wavelength reflective-wavelength red rocks and dumping them in an experimental vineyard…

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Pence In The Sta. Rita Hills Cross Hairs, But How’s The Wine?

Vinted on May 2, 2013 binned in overachiever wines, wine news, wine review

Central Coast-ish California’s Pence Ranch, and its charismatic owner, Blair Pence (who, with toothy grin and cowboy hat looks every bit the part of a rancher) have been making the wine scene headlines so far in 2013, and not in a good way.

To bring you up to speed on what has become the U.S. wine biz equivalent of tossing flaming poop bags about AVA boundaries, let’s quote a few spots and then we can talk about what no one else seems to be getting at in this battle, which is Pence’s wine itself.

To the tape, from Independent.com (emphasis mine):

Vintner Blair Pence filed with the federal government this February to expand the borders of the increasingly renowned Sta. Rita Hills wine-grape-growing appellation to the east to include his vineyard, which he planted in 2006 outside of Buellton… USC-educated developer-turned-farmer has been dealing with the wrath of his winemaking neighbors, and their terroir tussle is now making headlines in the international wine press. “If you look at the history, you look at the geology, you look at the weather, it belongs in the appellation,” said Pence, who built Los Angeles office buildings and industrial parks before growing grapes, ranching cattle, and raising avocados. “The science is so clear-cut.”

And the opposition summary, via WineSpectator.com (emphasis mine):

The board of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrower Alliance (SRHWA) disagreed with Pence’s arguments, however, and voted unanimously to oppose expansion. Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe, the original petitioner who crafted the AVA boundaries, is against the expansion, saying the new border would extend into a distinct landmass called the Buellton Flats, which has a north-south orientation, while the current AVA has an east-west orientation. According to Hagen, the areas Pence wants included also lack the maritime influence that growers insist make the region ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “We’ve spent $25 million and 20 years promoting the area,” said Hagen. “We don’t want to be catty, but we want to protect what we’ve built.”

Reaction has not been kind, probably because this seems like a bit of a money grab for Pence, who stands to gain higher grape prices if his AVA expansion bid is successful. Since I visited Pence Ranch and talked about this with Blair Pence last August, I thought I’d chime in on the debate/debacle; mostly because I find it very odd that little has been said about whether or not the Pence Ranch wine itself seems to fit what one might call the Sta. Rita Hills Pinot profile…

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What We Drank When Shelby Left Us

Vinted on April 25, 2013 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, kick-ass wines, wine review

Last month, I had the sad duty of bidding farewell to Shelby Vittek, who most of you know as “The Young Unpaid Shelby,” the 1WD intern. Shelby’s official internship (the actually-earning-university-credits part) concluded at the end of March. Everyone in Roberts HQ has been sad to see her go, most palpably my daughter who literally hung herself around Shelby’s right leg, mockingly begging her not to leave.

Only a few weeks removed from having Shelby around to help out, and I can say that I wish I’d grabbed the other leg and begged her to stay. From cataloging samples and finally making sense out of the sample pool mess that had taken over my basement, to working directly with Google on performing the technical legwork required for setting up The Punch Down show, to performing research that made its way into several articles across all my various gigs, Shelby totally crushed it as an intern. So much so that we’re discussing opportunities to keep her on in some (hopefully paying) capacity, along with the occasional guest post.

Which is, I think, where Shelby really shone during her 1WD tenure: behind the keyboard. Her guest posts were stellar, her writing chops are impressive, and I can tell you that she’s bright when it comes to yielding knowledge of the wine world (so much so that her smarties outshine some people that I know who involved in the business and are twice her age).

All of which is another way of saying that if you’re in the biz and are reading this, you ought to seriously consider this young woman if you’ve got a job opening requiring great communication skills combined with practical wine knowledge and a drive to continuously improve on both.

Now that I’ve given you my commercial for Shelby’s professional value-add, we can talk about the fun stuff: namely, wines that she picked to serve during her send-off dinner…

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What The New Generation Wants From A Wine (A View From The Argentina Wine Awards Global Seminar)

Vinted on April 18, 2013 binned in on the road, wine review

One of the interesting things to which the Wines of Argentina folks subject you as a judge in the Argentina Wine Awards (aside from tasting enough tannic Malbecs in one blind awards flight that you can no longer feel your gums, or taking you horse-wrangling in the Andes) is a seminar in which you’re one of the featured speakers.

For the 2013 AWAs, the seminar topic was “Wines for the Next Generation” (speaking largely about Millennials, in this case), and our group of international judges was asked to choose a wine that we felt represented what the next gen wine consumers are drinking in our respective markets. And so we sat on stage in panels of two or three judges, with an Argentine winemaker chairing the discussion as we talked about the wines, and our markets.

I want to tell you about each of the wines that my fellow judges and I picked (a task with which some of you helped me, by the way!). But before I do that, I want to tell you what the majority of our group of judges said about wines that appeal to Millennials.

And it’s easy to do, despite the fact that as judges we hailed from a somewhat dizzying array of backgrounds (new and traditional media, wine service, winemaking, and other fields), and despite the fact that as an ensemble we hailed from Italy, Brazil, the UK, Australia, Spain, Korea, China, Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and Switzerland. Not exactly people all cut from the same cloth – wine had brought us together, and the love of it was the only common denominator between we hailed (aside form us all being humans, I mean).

It’s easy to do because we almost all said exactly the same thing. When the last of us to speak at the seminar, UK Master Sommelier Laura Rhys, presented a summary slide titled “What The New Generation Wants From A Wine” it echoed so closely the previous sentiments of 90% of our collective speeches and presentations that I later asked her if she’d authored it on the fly after seeing the rest of us speak (only because that’s precisely what I would’ve done myself). “No!” she exclaimed, I think taking my question incorrectly at first as an accusation instead of an expression of how impressed I was by her slide deck. “I wrote that up ages ago!”

If accomplished professionals in an area of business, hailing from totally different backgrounds, separately converge to similar conclusions on a topic, then you probably ought to listen to what they have to say if you’re at all interested in that same business (in this case, selling vino)…

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