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Walla Walla Syrah QED? and “Days of WA Future Past”

Vinted on July 6, 2010 binned in commentary, on the road, wine review

Has the case for excellent Walla Walla Syrah been definitively demonstrated?  Q.E.D.?

I’m not going to go quite that far.  But I will say that they might be pretty damn close, especially in those cases where the balance beats out the brawn in their Syrah bottlings.

Two wine producers that I encountered recently in Walla Walla (while there for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference) in particular made good cases (ha-ha!) for Walla Walla Syrah being the wave of the future; one which officially took part in the WBC activities, and one that didn’t (in fact, their winemaker skipped town during the event).

The first of these was Rasa Vineyards, led by the Naravane brothers who have engineering backgrounds, and are fascinating folks to talk to, provided you can follow their scientific leanings.  They were part of a panel about WA wine at Three Rivers Winery (part of the WBC events), and certainly talked up the potential of Walla Walla Syrah when I asked the panel what they thought the future held given that Walla Walla is still a relatively young wine producing region.

The proof, fortunately, was in the juice, and their appropriately-titled 2007 QED wine, sourced from Walla Walla and Yakima fruit, is powerful, expressive, but balanced; it’s also expensive at $50 – but overall a decent value when compared to more expensive but not-quite-as-solid Syrah-based wines being made elsewhere on the Left Coast.

The second was pretty much the entire portfolio of wines from Rotie Cellars, who were kind enough to host a handful of us bloggers in their downtown Walla Walla tasting room while lunch activities took place during day one of the WBC.  Winemaker Sean Boyd is certainly playing with fire with their wine names (“VdP” for example), which I am sure the French would be none-too-happy about, but he has some Syrah-based wines with significant promise; they might have been some of the most deftly balanced WA reds that I’ve ever tasted.

But with all of this focus on the future going on, the WA wine scene, I quickly learned, would do well not to forget its past…

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Antithesis: A study in Extreme Serendipitous Winemaking

Vinted on June 30, 2010 binned in best of, California wine, wine review

I almost named the wine Serendipity because I discovered the technique which produces this wine by pure accident.”

This is a story that I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell for monthsIt’s the kind of story that makes you excited about the influx of talented, young winemakers in the Napa Valley, who are shaking things up with an attitude and passion that probably hasn’t been seen in the Valley since John Trefethen accidentally exploded a trash can full of fermenting juice in his basement in the `70s.

The quote that kicks off today’s article comes from Modus Operandi Cellars owner and winemaker Jason Moore.  And he is either a bit of a genius, a bit ingenious, or certifiably nuts (or some combination of the three), depending on whether or not you come from the traditional U.C. Davis school of California winemaking.  The story of the wine – called Antithesis – is the kind of stuff that is a bit stranger than fiction – in other words, you can’t make this kind of stuff up if you tried – which is why I’m excited to tell it.  Or, I should say, I’m excited to have Jason tell it, which he did via a recent e-mail exchange.  In that way, this article is part wine review, and part interview:

“In 2006 I had a little problem with one of my fermentations… the yeast stopped fermenting which left me with about two brix of sugar to ferment. I knew that the winemakers usual response to this issue is to prepare a new yeast build up and re-inoculate. I also knew that this is horrible for ultimate wine quality so I reeeeeally don’t like to do it… only as a last resort. So, I learned a trick from Phillippe Melka which has the ability to solve the fermentation problem while still retaining as much wine quality as possible.”

Before we talk about how Jason (quite creatively) overcame this little conundrum, I need to tell you a bit about the wine itself, which I first tried back in February during a get-together at Vintank HQ in downtown Napa.  Jason was pouring the `07 Antithesis (among some of his other M.O. wines).  I was struck by the quality and depth of the wine; I knew that it stood out as special, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why – that didn’t become totally clear until Jason described the strange history of the wine, which, as you will soon discover, is sort of like a twisted CA version of Valpolicella Ripasso.

Jason kindly agreed to send me a sample for review so that I could taste the wine under more controlled circumstances. And I enjoyed it just as much the second time around…

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Vintage of the Decade? (the 2007 Port Rampage)

Vinted on June 21, 2010 binned in wine review

First things first, we need to make it clear that I am not an authority on Port, fortified wines, or spirits.

This has everything to do with lack of tasting experience and nothing whatsoever to do with a lack of affection for those general libation categories.  In fact, I have a sweet-tooth and I never, ever turn away the opportunity to try fortified wines, especially when they have the potential of residual-sugariness.

Which is why I was more than happy to visit the tables pouring such libations at the recent Wine Enthusiast Toast of the Town event in D.C. (that’s the event I covered via video in a recent post that you probably didn’t watch, based on the comments and traffic numbers). 

Which is where I went ga-ga over a 2007 Port.  Which wasn’t the first 2007 vintage Port that I’ve tasted, but it was the best 2007 vintage Port that I’ve tasted. I went so ga-ga over it, that I bought a 6-bottle case of it, and it’s the first wine ever to garner an “A+” rating in my “mini-reviews” – meaning that I felt it was damn-near as perfect as perfect gets.

Based on my (admittedly limited) exposure to 2007 Ports, I’m growing increasingly more convinced that Roy Hersh over at For The Love of Port nailed it when he wrote (back in November):

From all accounts 2007 was something very special. As I mentioned, when visiting the Douro during the harvest in 2007, the energy was palpable and virtually everyone we came in contact with, was glowing and chatting us up about the quality of the grapes. Admittedly, there is always some hype surrounding the vintage time, but in 2007, it just “felt” different… I am still somewhat divided in my opinion of this vintage overall. There is no denying that there were many fantastic, well made vintage Ports in 2007. The upshot is that I found myself writing, “the greatest young ______ Port I have ever tasted” from a number of houses. With 2007, they seemed to raise the bar to a distinctly higher level than ever before. On the other hand, I believe that the percentage of truly great Vintage Ports is less than I would have expected from such an exalted vintage.

In other words, while there may not be as many stellar VPs from 2007 as you’d expect from a hyped vintage, the ones that are stellar are really stellar – like, mind-bogglingly stellar

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1WineDude TV Episode 13: Vintage Port of Will-Call (Toast of the Town D.C. Recap)

Vinted on June 14, 2010 binned in 1WineDude TV, wine industry events, wine review

The latest video edition of 1WineDude.com, in which I recap. my experience at the D.C. Toast of the Town event, and wax all googly-like about one of the most awesome Ports on the planet.

 

Mentioned in this episode:

 

Cheers!

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