Posts Filed Under wine review

Hand Picked, Horse Drawn (Illahe Vineyards And Pinot For Pinot’s Sake)

Vinted on November 8, 2012 binned in overachiever wines, wine review

Today, I could be writing any number of travel-related wine pieces from the large number of jaunts I took in the first three quarters of 2012 (how large is that number? let’s just say I’ve had to visit the doctor to treat complications from my ass having spent so much time sitting in airplane seats).

But I’m not going to do that. Not today. Those stories can wait.

Instead, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, and give some long-overdue attention back to a long-time friend of 1WD. Of course, if his wine sucked he wouldn’t be getting the attention here; but it doesn’t, so he will.

Gabe Jagle is a long-time commenter on these virtual pages, often adding insightful points and taking the conversation in the comments field into fascinating wine geek territory, areas that we might not otherwise have explored even on posts that see dozens of interesting comments. Gabe doesn’t just do that here – he also does it on several other wine blogs, and he generally seems to enjoy the geeky discourse. In fact, he’s prolific enough and so imbued with the power wine-geeky that it was several months in to our blogger/commenter relationship before I even knew that he was an assistant winemaker to Brad Ford at a small Oregon producer, Illahe Vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

That genuine love for the grape and for its discourse is what lead me to finally meet Gabe in “real” life earlier this year, after the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland. Gabe is a likeable guy, mild-mannered and with a lanky appearance that to city-slickers like me just screams “Pacific NW Farmer” – kind of Shaggy meets lumberjack (he’s probably going to hate that, but it’s the best I could come up with between writing interruptions from my toddler daughter).

I was interested enough in Illahe’s wines after tasting one of the Pinots during my Portland visit that Gabe and I loosely agreed to try to get me samples, which arrived recently. And while they’re not going to set any concentration-loving palates on their ears, those Illahe wines are in possession of a quality that seems to come along rarely in wines these days: authenticity

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Aging Potential: 3 To 5 Years, Give Or Take 10 (A 40 Year Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel Retrospective)

Vinted on November 1, 2012 binned in crowd pleaser wines, wine review

2012 may very well be remembered as the year of 40 when it comes to California wine.

Aside from Kermit Lynch celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Berkley area wine shop this year (okay, no CA wine there really, but I know for a fact that Kermit has enjoyed some old Ridge from time to time), three venerable CA producers are also celebrating their 40th business birthdays (just as I did in 2012… notice the grey…): Silver Oak, Jordan and Dry Creek Vineyard.

The similarities between the all three of those wine operations is striking. Each has some aspect of generational family ownership with some personally very nice people behind the scenes, each employ fairly distinctive, recognizable winemaking styles, and all are (mostly) successfully navigating their brand waters to appeal to younger consumers (and not just their parents).

And while I’ve enjoyed wine from all three, given the choice on the QPR front I’d have to give the edge to Dry Creek Vineyard. It’s tough to argue with their pedigree (they claim to be the first to use the terms “Old vine Zinfandel” and “Meritage,” and they’re certainly the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek area), their commitment to the Dry Creek Valley in general, and the consistent improvement in their wines, some of which are ridiculously low cost when you consider the quality of what you’re getting.

So it seems a bit stupid that I was surprised that DCV’s relatively pedestrian-priced Zinfandel could age well and still be tasty after 20 or so years. And yet, unlike DCV’s die-hard fans, I was surprised that I was enjoying one of their Zins that was bottled when I was about seven. But I can now tell you that while the current Heritage Zin price point (about $17) doesn’t suggest a long shelf-life, the crate of samples of DCV Heritage Zinfandel that they recently sent me as samples – with selections extending back through each decade of DCV’s existence – certainly did…

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Winemaking, Sashimi Style (Melville Estate Recent Releases)

Vinted on October 18, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

“We don’t make wine. We grow wine. We’re more like ‘sashimi style’ winemaking.”

On a cool morning that will later turn into a blustering day in the midst of a small August heat wave, Chad Melville seemed to be feeding me what ought to be a standard marketing line about winemaking. The kind that end in phrases like “optimal ripeness.”

Suuuure, you don’t make wine; it’s all about the special land upon which your grapes grow… the one that is kissed by col fog in the morning, and bathed in sunlight and warmth during the day. And he is the sales director for his family’s Lompoc, CA wine business, after all (businessman father Ron Melville founded Melville after getting bit by the wine bug in undergrad, and then setting up a grape growing operation in Knight’s Valley; brother Brent is the vineyard manager).

But there was a problem with Chad’s sales pitch about their by-hand fifteen thousand case production: it didn’t come off as a pitch. No references to optimal ripeness, no rococo-esque flourishes of over-endorsement or self-aggrandizement. Chad’s non-pitch was interjected with the firsthand knowledge of a guy who helped to establish and develop the vineyards and business that his family owns, and who previously assisted in winemaking at the estate (winemaker duties are now headed up by Greg Brewer).

In other words, I bought it, because my bullsh*t meter was barely registering a tick. And after I tasted through Chad’s family’s wines – which are high quality while also being almost fiercely unadorned – I’d say the BS meter had some hard evidence to back up its initial assessment…

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