Posts Filed Under wine review

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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Thirty Days Of The Other (Tasty) Side Of Bordeaux

Vinted on October 17, 2012 binned in twitter, wine mini-reviews, wine review

I haven’t always been kind to Bordeaux. Okay, actually I’ve pretty much never been kind to Bordeaux.

But that’s because Bordeaux’s most visible stand-bearers – the classified growths at the high-end of the production spectrum, making wines that most of us 99%-ers cannot afford – hasn’t really been all that kind itself to the general wine marketplace, pricing its wines more in-line with rampant consumerist greed than with real value for money.

But that’s not the only Bordeaux story – it just happens to be the most prevalent one. There’s another side of Bordeaux, the side that produces something like ninety percent of its wine, priced in the budget ranges and made in volumes that make California look small-time. Put another way, in the words of Chateau Rauzan Despagne’s Thibault Despagne (who I met while touring Bordeaux in September as a media guest of Planet Bordeaux):

“We always hear that Bordeaux is arrogant and too expensive. And yes, I agree – but that isn’t the only story. The journalists are the problem.”

And I came to realize during my Bordeaux jaunt that Thibault isn’t wrong – we do spend an inordinate amount of time complaining talking about the upper-echelons of Bordeaux, and often don’t recognize the lower-end – the 99%-ers – of Bordeaux at all. But it’s not without some justification; there’s still a lot of bad low-end wine being made there.

But… having said that… I did get a bit of a crash course in non-sucky Bordelaise wine, and I can’t actually review it (at least, not conventionally – more on that in a minute), because I got that crash-course Bordelaise style…

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