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Posts Filed Under wine review

No Reservations (Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva 1964)

Vinted on May 15, 2014 binned in going pro, kick-ass wines, wine industry events, wine review

Despite the simple title, I did, in fact, have serious reservations about the subject of today’s featured juice. After all, technically I tasted it while being “on the clock” for a paying gig with Wines of Rioja (now ended), which had me wondering just how impartial of a judgment I could make about it.

But there are tasting moments so formative, so elemental, that sometimes you have to go with your gut and trust in the intelligence and goodwill of the Global Interwebs to forgive you if you stray into a gray-ish, conflict-of-interest no-man’s land. Also, now that the gig is several weeks behind me, I felt we had enough “distance” to give this thing a proper airing here.

The vino causing me such temporary consternation was the clean-up hitter of the trade panel tasting I moderated as part of the recent sold-out series of Rioja Week events in New York. We had a great group of winemaker panelists, and tasted some fascinating juice (including a rare look at a nearly extinct Spanish grape, Maturana, given a bold, modern treatment by Dinastia Vivanco). I think most of you appreciate the fact that I call things as I see them, and would tell you (despite the paycheck) if the wines were under-performing, but in this case we had easy jobs on the stage that day; everything in the tasting lineup was showing nicely.

Including that clean-up hitter, which happened to be a spry fifty years young…

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What We Drank With The Greeks When We Had Greek (And Italian) Wine

Vinted on May 8, 2014 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, wine review

You know you’re in a great neighborhood when what’s supposed to be a five minute stop-and-say-hello visit at a neighbor’s house while dog walking turns into a multi-hour, home-cooked dinner (with several wines imbibed, naturally).

Another blessing to count, and another reason why we love where we live (yeah, even if it’s in the North Korea of U.S. alcohol control states, and more or less the new ground zero for Lyme disease; whatever). The neighbors in this case were the Voutsakis clan, a Greek family whose hospitality know few boundaries when it comes to helping – and feeding – their family and friends. So after a few glasses of ouzo, extended playtime among the kids of both families became an invitation to dinner.

The last time this happened, I was totally unprepared in terms of having zero Greek wines on hand in the sample pool (not that we suffered by any measure, but it would’ve been nice to pair the ethnic cuisine with its spiritual wine accompaniment, right?).

But this time… this time the sample pool was ready. This time, we had a bit of vinous Greek love to spread around…

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Working At Too Perfect? (Michael Mondavi Recent – And Not So Recent – Releases)

Vinted on May 1, 2014 binned in crowd pleaser wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

“See, this pisses me off…”

Rob Mondavi, Jr. is upset. Moderately. It’s almost difficult to imagine why, given the sunny day, and the subsequently stunning Napa Valley view from his family’s Animo vineyard on Atlas Peak. But moderately upset he is.

The trigger for Mondavi’s small bit of angst? The spacing of the pruning cuts on some of the vines isn’t uniform. One is reminded of the scene in The Aviator, when Leonardo DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes is running his hand down the side of an airplane hull, testing to see if all of the rivets are totally smooth.

Rob Mondavi, Jr. is, it seems, a bit of a perfectionist, particularly when it comes to viticulture (as he remarked to me during our vineyard lunch, “the biggest challenge in Napa is that we’ve become complacent in farming”). An amiable perfectionist, with the Mondavi flair for gab and working the crowd, but a perfectionist nonetheless.

As it turns out, Rob’s excellent high-end wines can almost be too perfect, polished smooth to a such an glistening, art deco metallic sheen that one might start to pine for a blemish of any kind; not that the wines lack soul, it’s just that you want to see and feel more of that soul.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Back to the vineyard, where the view is lovely and the scenery, apart from vines, is of liberally strewn about rocks, rocks, and more rocks on this volcanic soil…

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Old School Cool (Casa Nuestra Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 24, 2014 binned in crowd pleaser wines, overachiever wines, wine review

A conversation I had at the tail end of the 2014 Premiere Napa Valley Auction:

Alder Yarrow: “So, where are you visiting when you’re in town?”

Me: “I’ve got appointments at Stony Hill, Kapcsandy, Casa Nuestra…”

Alder: “Casa Nuestra! Oh, yeeeah!”

Me: “Did you just squeal?”

And so there you have it, one of the best ways to summarize the Old School coolness of Casa Nuestra: they made the grand-pappy of wine blogging, Alder Yarrow, squeal happily like an eight-year-old girl at a princess party.

And they are, for sure, Old School cool: funky tasting room, tiny production, “unhip” grape varieties (Chenin Blanc was planted on their Silverado trail vineyards in 1979), and a winery website straight out of 1999. The only way that owner Gene Kirkham could further transcend the trappings of the modern Napa Valley would be by physically teleporting his entire operation to some other part of the globe entirely.

And the wines? Well, they’re straight out of 1979 or 1989. And in this case, that’s a very, very good thing…

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