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Postcard from Porto (Legends Edition)

Vinted on December 10, 2010 binned in on the road, wine review

Greetings from Porto, where I’m a guest of the Wines of Portugal international Conference 2010 speaking later today on the topic of the importance of the Internet in the promotion and future of Portuguese wines.

I’m quite happy to be here, and staying at what must be on the world’s most gorgeous hotels (The Yeatman – see inset slightly-blurry-low-light-morning-panoramic pics of the view from my room’s balcony) – which I’ll argue was at least somewhat deserved after the 24+ hour travel day I experienced to get here, in which a 90-minute-connection in Frankfurt turned into a near seven-hour-endurance-test-layover (apparently Germany – a northerly country that experiences frigid Winters – was unprepared for snow… in December…).  But the views (as you can see) are making up for it!

Highlights so far, aside from the mere act of successfully arriving, include meeting Jancis Robinson and watching her tweet during dinner, catching up with old friends, and sampling a bevy of the now-legendary 1994 vintage Ports, three of which were awarded 100-point scores from Wine Spectator (I know… but when a heavy-hitting pub awards heavy-hitting scores, it does merit some attention) – the real focus of the “legends” of this post’s title and one in which I found myself surprisingly in the minority…

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Volta Wine Discount (Comeback Kid Edition)!

Vinted on December 3, 2010 binned in California wine, kick-ass wines, wine review

“Literally all my savings all went into the winery to keep it afloat… it was the most challenging time of my life.”

Winemaking, especially in these troubled economic times, is not for anyone whose skins might be thinner than your average Cabernet grape’s. Case in point: Volta Wines.

Longtime 1WineDude.com readers will no doubt recognize the name Volta – it’s one of the wines that more-or-less put me on the wine-reviewin’ map. I was the first person to ever critically review Volta’s inaugural Cabernet release publicly, and though the review predates my grading system for wine reviews, the rough equivalent I keep coming back to when I consider the balance of power, focus and suppleness in their first release is “A-” – in other words, an excellent wine and getting that right that early is a stellar achievement for a producer’s first try.

Lucky for me, my impression of the Volta 2005 Cab was by-and-large validated by others in the established wine media at the time, including my bro’ Gary Vaynerchuk – that’s the “puttin’ me on the map” part -  and over the successive months I found myself often wondering  How’s it going with the Volta guys? and Is Volta ever gonna release an `06?

The answers to those questions turned out to be “Not well” and “No,” respectively – a 2006 release never materialized because the entire Volta outfit almost tanked under the weight of the imploding economy.

Yikes.  Turns out the blow wasn’t quite fatal, however.

It’s with great pleasure that I tell you that Volta is still alive and kicking – I am very pleased today to present not only the first critical review of Volta’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon release (is it appropriate to call this a “comeback” release already?), but also a limited-time discount on Volta wines for 1WineDude.com readers!

First, let’s talk about the 2007 release, and the journey it took to get there… then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the discount after the jump…

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Wine Review Four-Pack (And Thoughts on 2010’s Most Interesting Wines)

Four badges to hand out from the latest in the flow of near-never-ending samples coming to my door, so let’s get to it!

[ By the way, the reference to the never-ending sample stream is, quite honestly, not meant as a vehicle of self-aggrandizement in any way, but is in fact more a lament of both how woefully (and unprofessionally) behind I am in my tastings, and in the volume of technically-correct-but-fairly-uninspiring wines of which that stream is comprised! ]

2009 Paso a Paso Tempranillo (La Mancha): Plumy, floral & spicy proof that La Mancha is getting its fine wine shiz together. A bargain. $11 B

It’s such a pleasure to enjoy a bold, uncomplicated and fun wine like this, one that seems tailor-made for a plateful of hearty paella or chorizo.  Spain’s La Mancha region is mostly known for two famously insipid characters: 1) Don Quixote, and 2) the innocuous wines made from the Airén grape variety (though to be fair, not all of them suck). La Mancha’s reputation for cheap Airén can mean big bargains for the better wines made in the region, and Paso a Paso is a great example.

2004 Azul Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec (Mendoza): A tad heavy-handed but U might like that from someone this complex, dark & sexy. $32 B+

During an on-line / twitter tasting hosted by Vines of Mendoza, the word “sexy” appeared in description of this wine about ten million times (give or take a few million). At least, it seemed that way to me. Heed these words: when enough women say that a wine is sexy, then the only logical conclusion is that it is, in fact, sexy.

2009 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): NZ passion fruit comes to Napa, with a French twist of lemon & herbs. In a word: Fantastic. $20 B+

Last year, Opus One winemaker Mike Silacci dared me to try Toquade after I went on a tirade about how too much Napa Sauv Blanc tastes like Chardonnay on a diet.  I’m grateful to Mike for that introduction, and I’m happy to report that Toquade winemaker Christine Barbe is still on top of her game – in fact, the 2009 might be better than her `08 and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the insane 2010 vintage.

2006 Hesperian Harry’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Go west young man, & find tannin chains long as the Alaskan pipeline. $60 A-

Christine sent along some of Hesperian’s wines to me, and I suppose I’m now also grateful to her for this introduction. It’s not that smoothness is the only thing going for Hesperian’s Coombsville Cab – far from it; it’s packed with currants and aromatic, woody spiciness. It’s just that the smoothness is the thing that will stick with you the most, the silkiness of it – it’s simply drinking beautifully right now.

Speaking of CA wines, if you feel that CA is getting a lot of positive coverage here, it’s probably not your imagination…

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Blood Into Wine Into Badge (Reviewing Arizona Wines)

Vinted on November 12, 2010 binned in crowd pleaser wines, wine review

I know this end-of-week segment has tentatively been reserved for wines of the week, but so far I’ve featured wines not actually reviewed during the week in question, and in this case I’m giving a badge to just one wine and not multiple wines… so let’s just agree that some re-branding might be in order, ok?

The thing is, I keep encountering cool and interesting wine shiz that I want to share, like last week’s T.A.S.T.E. mini-bottle craze and the wines of Paul Dolan, so let’s also just agree that we’ve started an anti-segment and get on with it, ok?  Ok!  Excellent!

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk Arizona.  As in, Yes, Arizona is making wine, just like the rest of the states in the U.S.

Of course, when you tell someone that you just tasted some (samples of) AZ wine, and just watched a (review copy) of the film Blood Into Wine (which chronicles in vastly-entertaining-but-sometimes-too-advertisement-like-fashion the work of rocker Maynard James Keenan and winemaker Eric Glomski to put AZ on the fine wine map), invariably this is the response that you will get:

“Maynard Keenan? Isn’t that the dude from Tool and Puscifer? Arizona makes wine?  WTF?”

At least, that’s been my experience.

Based on the similar befuddled reactions of my friends, I can only imagine what the AZ wine industry has to endure every day when asked about their efforts to bring fine wine recognition to the state. My guess is that Napa makes fun of them, all isn’t-that-cute-little-brother style, like the way that we treat Canada most of the time. As my friend Alder Yarrow said during his cameo in Blood Into Wine (paraphrased): I taste a sh*tload of wines every year “and 99.9% of them are not from Arizona.”

Based on what Glomski and Keenan are doing, however, I am wondering if that situation may change in the not-too-distant future…

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