Posts Filed Under wine review

What’s In A Name, Anyway? (Recent Releases From Steven Mirassou’s Not-Quite-Family-Named Brands)

After six generations of pressing grapes in California, the Mirassou family has only one son left who owns a wine brand: Steven Mirassou.

But he can’t legally use his own name on his bottles, despite the fact that Mirassou’s have been making wine since the mid-1800s, probably longer than any other CA winemaking family. He cannot use the family name because Gallo picked up the Mirassou brand in 2003. David Mirassou now represents that brand for Gallo, but the San Jose winery where they once made their products is long gone.

The family-name-scooped-up-by-the-big-conglomerate story that seems to be rampant in the wine world (whether you’re a Mondavi in CA or a Taylor in NY) doesn’t seem to have slowed Steven Mirassou down much, though.

After setting up shop under the Steven Kent brand (which is as far as he can go legally in terms of sticking his name on the bottles) in Livermore, along with La Rochelle winemaker Tom Stutz he’s crafting some of the most stunning – and exciting – wines in all of California…

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Winners Of The DLW 2012 Colorado Wine Taste-Off (And Why CO Wine Might Already Have World-Class Potential)

The conclusion of the recent 2012 Drink Local Wine Conference in Denver was a “taste-off” competition of sorts in which twenty-plus Colorado wine producers each poured two of their offerings, with the media and attendees voting on which of those offerings were the “best” on hand (technically, one producer wasn’t pouring wine, in terms of grape wine, but showcased their Mead – Redstone Meadery, who took the “people’s choice” award for their intriguing Nectar Of The Hops).

As a competition, it was fun but given the levity and structure of the proceedings, it shouldn’t be taken as a be-all, end-all statement on CO wine hierarchy (we are talking about a competition with a quarter of the state’s producers, only pouring two wines each); but gems are gems no matter how or where you happen to uncover them.

I will get to my thoughts on the gems – the winners on the wine side of that taste-off – in just a minute (or three), but first I want to tell you about the clearest winner of the Taste-Off:

Colorado wine.

While I maintain my stance (firmly, I should add) that the region is a “nascent” producer in that Colorado has not fully cracked the code of what grapes to plant where to consistently produce world-class wines, and while the quality levels between (and even among the offerings within each of the) producers is still way too broad (there’s plenty of mediocre wine to be had), I can also tell you emphatically that there seems to be no ceiling for Colorado wine’s quality potential.

Colorado is already making world-class wines – it just happens to be in tiny quantities and can’t be made consistently enough (quite a bit of that being due to extreme vintage variation brought on by the intensity of its continental, high-elevation climate). And while you’re certainly likely to find some real clunkers in CO (its bad wines are epic in their terribleness), the best ones really are gems worth wading through the muck to unearth; in some cases – particularly in the case of one of the DLW Taste-Off winners – CO wine has already arrived

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In Pursuit Of (And Catching) Balance With Raj Parr’s Sandhi Wines in NYC

Vinted on May 3, 2012 binned in elegant wines, on the road, wine review

With the In Pursuit Of Balance tasting (which recently hit NYC), co-creators Parr and Jasmine Hirsch (of Hirsch Vineyards) have brought together some of the most exciting – and highest quality – producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California (many of which hail from the West Sonoma Coast, where those wines are rapidly reaching world-class status).

For me, their invitation to attend the NYC event was a chance to catch-up with some of the wines and producers I’d first been introduced to last year at the inaugural West Of West festival in Occidental, catch-up with Raj, and maybe get introduced to some new wines.

I expected to find some really (really!) good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the IPOB tasting recently at City Winery in NYC.

I just didn’t expect some of best of those wines to be Raj’s.

But there you have it – the wacky world of wine, in which a sommelier can team up with a California native (Sashi Moorman) and make better wines than some people who have been at it for decades longer. And I’m merely calling it as I see (er, taste) it – the juice is the juice, and in this case the juice is pretty damn good; in fact, it was some of the best offered in a room full of wines where sub-par offerings were hard to come by…

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