Posts Filed Under wine review

And Then, There Was Mojo (Highlights From Sonoma County Barrel Auction 2016)

Vinted on August 3, 2016 binned in on the road, wine industry events, wine review

Sonoma County Barrel Auction 1

Personally, I didn’t need any more evidence that Sonoma generally has its mojo working and is making some of the best wines ever to come out of the region. But I got a thoroughly inundating reminder of that when I visited the second (2016) incarnation of the Sonoma County Barrel Auction as a media guest this past April (and yes, I’m just getting around to writing about it now).

Auction-wise, it seems to me t hat most of the initial kinks have been worked out; the event was entertaining, and the group of MSs and MWs (several of which I’m happy to call friends… which shows you just how crazy the wine biz really is… Doug, I owe you for sharing your liquor, buddy!) that they brought in to the vet the one-of-a-kind entries did a stellar job in teasing out the region’s best.

Sonoma County Barrel Auction preview tasting

I suppose that the SoCoBA is the Sonoma counterpoint to Premiere Napa Valley. And in many ways, it compares favorably to PNV, though it does so in Sonoma’s more down-home, farmer-centric style. In my view, there were so many excellent wines on offer over the two days of tastings held at the event, that I’m going to have to keep the descriptions short-and-sweet. Hopefully these highlights will clue you in on a producer or two (or four) that hadn’t been on your California wine radar, but probably ought to be.

And, yeah, it’s mostly Pinot (get over it), but there are a handful of nice surprises in here…

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Clang, Clang, Clang Went The Trolley! (Results From The 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

SFIWC 2016 view

Ah, San Francisco… sourdough, trolley cars, wine competitions…

If you’re so inclined, you can now browse the medal-winning results from the 2016 San Fransisco International Wine Competition in which I was fortunate enough to have taken part once again (for more details, see the 2014 and 2015 results write-ups).

Judging in that event has become one of my favorite weekends of the year, thanks in no small part to the competition’s excellent staff, its professional organization, the ever-increasing quality of its wine submissions, and (primarily) the caliber and dispositions of the other judges. The judges list (present company excluded) reads like a Who’s Who compendium of the people who totally rock the judging circuit in the wine biz.

Over the past few years, wine competitions in the U.S. have taken hits from their share of critical salvos. I’m happy to report that fire seems to have abated a bit. I suppose that, at this point, I could be considered a veteran of the American wine competition judging scene, and while I understand that competition circumstances are likely to encourage some inconsistency in results, I’m confident that the best competitions (in which SFIWC should undoubtedly be included) take great pains to maximize the professionalism involved, and give each wine the fairest shake possible.

SFIWC Usual Suspects 2016

Some of the SFIWC’s Usual Suspects…

As to the usefulness of such competitions, I’m like a broken record on that topic for the last few years: differentiation is important, and wine competition medals potentially differentiate you from the competition. Interestingly, I’m actually quoted on the same topic in the SFIWC 2016 results press release:

“Wine is an extremely competitive product, and being judged by industry tastemakers and receiving a top award here at the San Francisco Wine Competition can help a wine stand out amongst its peers,” says wine writer, blogger and competition judge Joe Roberts.

Which begs the question: did I really use the word “amongst?” I must have, because Jarvis Communications’s Sam Dependahl was using a voice recorded when he asked me for a quote about it. Dang it!…

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Golden Years (Tasting Fifty Harvests Of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet)

Vinted on July 6, 2016 binned in California wine, on the road, wine review

Robert Mondavi Winery

Know how to get a cavalcade of seasoned (read: potentially jaded) wine writers, winemakers, wine growers, and wine industry insiders to go as quiet as mice (I’m talking pin-drop-sounds-like-a-jet-engine-on-fire quiet), and as stupefied as deer in the headlights?

I do.

I saw Robert Mondavi Winery pull it off a few weeks ago in Napa Valley.

You tell the crowd that you’ve just tapped the keg on the remaining bottles of the winery’s inaugural Reserve-level Cabernet Sauvignon bottling (in this case, the 1966), and that wine is now in everyone’s glasses. Oh, yeah, then you have the creator of that wine stand up and say “I’m Warren Winiarski, and I made this wine.”

As once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting events go, that one ranks pretty highly, even for those of us who have already had outsized amounts of once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting event opportunities (this was helped by the genuine combination of pride, awe, and shock in Winarski’s voice as he described that he never expected to be speaking about the 1966 Cab fifty years later).

During the course of the multi-day Mondavi event at the Napa Valley winery (which I attended as a media guest), we ended up going through a sizeable portion of the last fifty vintages of Robert Mondavi Winery’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

What became clear as we were lead through the various tasting proceedings and events by RMW educator Mark de Vere, and winemaking team Genevieve Janssens, Joe Harden, and Megan Schofield, was that this iconic wine is impossible to separate from its equally iconic winery, and its arguably much more iconic namesake.

I half expected the ghost of Robert Mondavi to waltz in on us like a whirling dervish at some point during our tastings, and I don’t at all mean that flippantly; at this point, his presence and influence is as firmly embedded in the superstructure of RMW as the material in its literal foundation…

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