Posts Filed Under wine review
I know I’m risking turning this blog into a South American wine coverage outlet recently (and there are at least two more posts yet to come from my recent jaunt there). BUT…
Just in case you’re not yet sick of hearing about the wines and wine-related stories I encountered in Chile and Argentina (or if you’re looking for a sort-of Cliff Notes version), I’ve got a featured article running up at PalatePress.com (with corresponding wine reviews) focusing on the off-the-beaten-path, outside-of-the-bargain-bin gems I found during my S. American travels (and travails).
The article also makes me feel good, mostly because it (hopefully?) resets the counter on keeping the “contributing” part of my “contributing editor” title at Palate Press. Anyway… here’s a run-down of the vinous S. American gems reviewed at PalatePress.com as part of the article:
In the morning fog of Casablanca, a stone’s-throw from Santiago, Chile – provided that you could throw that stone over the enormous mountain range that divides Casablanca and the city, that is – the world feels very, very small. At least, it did to me on my recent S. American jaunt.
The world feels small despite the fact that those fog-covered vineyards (cooled by the effects of the mountains, which dramaticly reduce the amount of sunlight and heat compared to the city) are owned by Emiliana, a company that collectively farms the largest source of estate-grown organic wines in the world. It felt small despite the scale of how “all-in” Emiliana is when it comes to organic viticulture.
Part of the cozy feel comes from Emiliana’s Casablanca estate itself: home to wandering birds (especially the chickens, who eat the larvae of what are locally called “burrito spiders” but I took to be mites, who can damage vine roots), and alpaca (whose wool is sold by the vineyard workers). Part of the feel also comes from how the workers are treated here – they are trained and then help manufacture olive oils, hats, and various other native crafts that are sold in the off-season to help maintain their income when not working the vineyards (many of them also have named plots in the organic gardens near the vineyards, which helps supply them with healthy food).
But mostly the world felt small to me in Emiliana because they kept talking about Biodynamics, a topic that got very hot recently here on the virtual pages of 1WD. And they kept calling it… wait for it… the “science of Biodynamics.”
I can feel the collective shoulder-tightening ire of the wine geeks reading that last sentence.
And where did Emiliana get the BioD bug? From a visit by consulting winemaker Álvaro Espinoza Durán to Sonoma’s Benziger, where I visited in the not-too-distant past, and talked BioD with head honcho and BioD cheerleader Mike Benziger – and then interviewed BioD viticultural consultant Alan York (whose clients include Benziger and rocker Sting) as part of a more in-depth pro/con BioD debate.
And to further the far-away-but-close-to-home experience, I found the vinous results of this Biodynamic work to be pretty similar to those I’ve encountered elsewhere in the wine world… namely, inconsistent…
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Doug Cook, founder of the amazing wine search engine AbleGrape, is smart guy. A really smart guy; as in, instantly-doubles-the-IQ-of-the-room-when-he-walks-in-no-matter-how-many-people-are-there smart. His intelligence level is matched only by his largesse, especially when it comes to sharing wines from his extensive and impressive cellar.
That generosity was on full display at the recent Pro Wine Writers Symposium in Napa, when Doug busted-out some vinous gems at one of the post-post-prandial (PPP?), informal gatherings (a.k.a., after-after-parties), the most brilliant and multi-faceted of which was a wine whose existence on Earth slightly predates my own, a 1971 J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese from the Mosel.
The wine was, in a word, amazing: honey, flowers, orange rind, nuts, beeswax (yes, I actually know what that smells / tastes like, not because I’m a beekeeper – though I think beekeepers totally rock – but because I play didgeridoo, which uses beeswax as a mouthpiece); basically, a delicate and pure example of everything that Mosel Riesling stands for and to which the best examples should aspire. Alder Yarrow, who was with me at the PPP, summed up the sensory experience of that wine recently on Vinogrpahy.com so I won’t repeat it here. By the way, it was fun to watch a normally poised Alder about lose his sh*t over some of those wines.
Anyway, what I do want to talk about here is why the wine was so glorious – and what was in the bottle is only partly responsible for that…
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Into the valley of Napa
Rode the six hundred (ok, maybe a few less than that)
Pinot to right of them,
Pinot to left of them,
Pinot in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell…
– with sincere apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson
In case the title of today’s article lacks clarity for some of you (presumably the wildly hungover among you), I should note that Napa Valley Pinot Noir and I seem to have come to a… disagreement.
Which is a shame, really, because NV PN, though never svelte, has several qualities that make it potentially likable company. Velvety mouthfeel. Bright red fruit. Heft that can be attractive when balanced with the right levels of food-friendly acidity.
But make no mistake about it, NV PN has mistreated me. My tongue might actually have bruises from the most recent fisticuffs between us.
Last week, the 2011 Professional Wine Writers Symposium in Napa Valley wrapped up with a blind perspective tasting of three vintages (2007 through 2009) of both Napa Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs at the Rudd Center of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. Since we had little over an hour to blind-taste our way through numbered beakers of samples of each of the three vintages from multiple wineries, I chose what I thought would be the more interesting route: skip the Cabs (ample samples of those back in the dancing waters of Philly, after all) and instead face off against the samples of Pinots (less of those anyway, 24 wines in all – 3 vintages from eight different wineries). The wines were a finalist list culled down from 100+ submissions back in December by members of the Vintage Perspective Tasting jury.
Anyway – go for the Pinot, maybe learn something new. Expand the horizons. Get out of the comfort zone. Can’t hurt, right?
Wrong. Turns out blind-tasting those NV Pinots was, for me, the sensory equivalent of taking a knife to a gun fight. I have since crawled shamefully back into the safety of my comfort zone, tending my wounds and muttering unintelligibly in pain. You win, Napa Pinots. Please don’t hurt me again…
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