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Feets Don’t Fail Me Now (A Look at Barefoot Bubbly)

Vinted on February 23, 2009 binned in wine review

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Attention wine elitists: Not everything has to be serious.

This includes wine.

Yes, it does.  No, really, it does.

You see, it’s a bit like the movie Snakes on a Plane.  With a title like that, you know exactly what you’re in for.  Snakes.  On a plane.  Eating people.  Good guys will beat the snakes, bad guys will get a nasty dose of their own medicine, and Samuel L. Jackson will be a total badass (and will deliver memorable, profanity-laden pithy dialog).  Have fun, and leave your brain at the door for an hour and a half.

200px-soap_poster

Some wines are the same way, minus the profanity (and the poisonous, people-eating  snakes).

With some wines, you should be able to take a break from thinking too hard, and just sit back, kick your shoes off, and enjoy them.  Not talk about them, taste them, or examine them.  Just drink them.

Barefoot Bubbly is one of those wines.

Founded by CA winemaker Davis Bynum in the `60s as a small-production adjunct to his pricier wines, then revived in the `80s by Michael Houlihan and partner Bonnie Harvey, Barefoot Wines is now a Gallo property since 2005, with annual production of something like a gazillion cases.

Barefoot is a big, big producer.  So it may strike you as a bit strange that they would reach out to bloggers to get thoughts on their new on-line presence.  But that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Barefoot reached out to me to get my thoughts on a new website – Barefoot Republic – that includes a brand blog and elements of social networking (videos, profiles, reviews, etc.).  They also sent me a few samples of Barefoot wine, one of which I’ll be waxing Dude-like on in a few moments.

woodstockfilmfestivalcom-barefootwinesIt’s both interesting and frightening that a brand as big as Barefoot is (albeit a bit later than many smaller wineries) including bloggers and social networking in their game plan.  Interesting in that they’re arguably big enough to not have to care (yet) about the influence of bloggers; frightening in that Barefoot’s entry into this space probably is death knell of social netorking platforms giving smaller wine brands an edge on-line.  The fact that the effectiveness of brand recommendations (for wine or anything else) is moving from away from one-way advertising to social-netwoking is a topic for another post (or, in fact, several).  The site is beautifully done, by the way (if a bit slow in terms of responsiveness).

So… back to the wine…

I’d heard that Barefoot’s sparklers were a good buy, but I’d never had opportunity to try them before.  I popped open a sample of their Brut Cuvee Bubbly.  I didn’t have high hopes for this wine, since it’s labeled as “California Champagne” – a legal designation in the U.S., but arguably one that unfairly plays off the reputation – and far superior quality – of France’s birthplace of fine sparklers.

2009-02-22_173254Anyway, Barefoot’s Bubbly is made using the Charmat method, which is the same method of sparkling production used for Prosecco.  Like Prosecco, the Barefoot is a refreshing quaffer.  The first thing I thought about this wine was that I’ve had plenty of Prosecco that cost more that wasn’t a good as this sucker.

The Barefoot is not a complex wine - it has refreshing acidity, fresh apple aromas, and that’s about it.   But at under $10 a bottle. it doesn’t have to be.

With a name like Barefoot Bubbly, you should know what you’re in for.  Simple.  Tasty.  Ready to have fun for an hour and a half (or more).

No snakes, though.

Cheers!

(images: 1winedude.com, wikimedia.org, woodstockfilmfestival.com, barefootwine.com)

‘Burgh Wine, By Way of Napa (An Encounter with Matthiasson’s Current Releases)

Vinted on February 2, 2009 binned in wine review

Whew!

We are now officially in the morning after what might have been not only the most stunning, but also possibye the greatest late-game comeback win in Superbowl history, by none other than Dude’s favorite team in all of professional sports: the 6-time world champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

So naturally after such a dramatic and entertaining Superbowl XLIII, I wanted to showcase some wine from the ‘Burgh.

Ok, it’s not really from Pittsburgh. But it’s close enough for government work!

Matthiasson wines are not from the ‘Burgh (they are from Napa), but winemaker Steve Matthiasson’s wife Jill Klein is originally from Pittsburgh, and their wines are made using the same general temperament that has made the city of three rivers famous – grit, determination, care, and hard work.

Lots of care in the vineyard, lots of attention to detail on site selection, probably lots of dirty clothes and shoes harmed in the process of making these unfiltered beauties.

Anyway, somehow I think Jill got wind that I was a STEELERS fan, and sent me a few samples of Matthiasson’s current releases. I was pleasantly surprised by these wines (and duly impressed).

One whiff of Matthiasson’s wines and I could tell that they were probably crafted with extreme care. More on that in a second. First, I wanted to find out more about the Pittsburgh connection and how Matthiasson got started. So I asked Steve.

My wife is from the Burgh. I was born in Winnipeg, and my family moved to Tucson when I was 8,” Steve responded. “I went to UC Davis to study international ag development, and did an internship in Modesto studying ways to reduce pesticides in orchards. I interned with a consulting company, and ended up staying on with them after school (after changing departments to viticulture). 15 years after that internship I’m still consulting – it’s what I learned how to do – but it has evolved into a focus on high-end estate vineyards in Napa. The winemaking started as a way to stay sane, to be able to do my own thing, while spending the rest of my time on other people’s projects, and, though the day job still pays the bills, and I enjoy it, the wine has become the central focus.

I think that focus is paying off. Matthiasson is making some very aromatic and intensely concentrated wines.

Their `07 Napa Valley White made my palate do a double-take head-fake. It’s a blend of Sauvignon blanc, Ribolla gialla, and Semillon. Yes, Ribolla gialla (even though I’m a Wine Century Club member, I still needed to look that one up). It’s a funky wine, in that it’s tropical, racy, and spicy all at once – I told Steve that it reminded me of the interesting white blends that were coming out of Australia a few years back, before they started sending us in the States boatloads of their plonk. It’s a bit early to call for entrants onto my list of the year’s most interesting wines, but I’m reserving a place for this just in case.

Matthiasson’s `05 Napa Valley Red Hen Vineyard Merlot is also well worth a look. It’s a huge wine. It tasted “old” to me – not old as in musty, but old the way that Zinfandel tastes when made from old, old vines in CA: boozy and massively concentrated. Not sure how much time or decanting (or even if time or decanting) will tame the alcohol, but the wine offers plenty of interesting complexity with intense blueberry and dark cherry fruit, along with cocoa and tea leaf aromas.

It’s the kind of Merlot that would give people absolute fits in a blind tasting, because you could easily pass it off as a Cab or a Bordeaux style red blend.

Not that you’d do that to your friends, right?

Anyway, a word of caution: Matthiasson is making wine in very limited quantities, so you’ll need to go the mailing list route on these.

Cheers!
(images: 1winedude.com, post-gazette.com)

Top 5 1WineDude Chateau Petrogasm Reviews of 2008

Vinted on January 9, 2009 binned in wine review

While I’m in the Cheesy End-of-Year recap mood (this is the last one on 2008, I swear), and enjoying the remainder of my holiday break with my family, I thought I’d offer up my Top 5 Chateau Petrogasm reviews of 2008.

If you’re not familiar with the Chateau, you can read my take on their back story. If you love wine, you need to be checking out Chateau Petrogasm from time to time.

Anyway, here are my top picks from my 2008 CP submissions:

5) `97 Chateau Leoville Barton


This wine was so refined and pleasant, it reminded me of a stately butler with impeccable manners. Ok, so I’m weird.

4) `04 Titus Chardonnay


Oak, oak and more oak. And maybe some more oak thrown in for good measure.

3) `00 Chateau de Sales


Well, this one generated quite a stir. I swear that I did not intend to portray a mouse humping berries. And yet, as we used to say in undergrad English Lit, “the subtext is there, man!” What I was trying to portray was that there was some brett lurking in all that berry fruit and… ah, just forget it…

2) `00 lo Zoccolaio Single Estate Barolo


Nothing says sexy girl in a dark smokey bar quite like Barolo. At least, that’s how I saw it, especially after drinking three glasses of said Barolo.

And my Number 1 pick from 2008:

1) `06 Yellowtail Shiraz/Grenache


This one also generated a lot of discussion. I won’t tell you here what I thought about this wine, as a picture is, after all, worth a thousand words. But I will say that, when poured during a practice blind tasting I took for one of my WSET exams, I barely picked out that it was a Shiraz. Just sayin’…

Cheers!
(images: ChateauPetrogasm.com)

Sean Minor Wines: A Wine "Speed Dating" Redux

Vinted on January 7, 2009 binned in wine bloggers conference, wine review

Hey, remember the recent Wine Bloggers Conference? Not that I haven’t mentioned it a gazillion times or anything.

Anyway… one of the more interesting experiments conducted on both bloggers and winery representatives was on day one of said conference, when we played a very large game of wine review “speed dating.”

In summary: bloggers were seated in a large conference room, about eight or so to a table; winery reps. rotated at set intervals between each table; each set of reps. had 5 minutes to present their wine to the blogger group, who then tasted and had 1 minute to record their thoughts on said wine, all live. More on the conference and the “speed dating” can be heard on WineBizRadio.com.

As you might imagine, it was a bit of organized chaos. In my live recap of the event, I basically had enough time to record gut reactions on each wine, and little else. Not that it wasn’t fun, it just wasn’t an ideal environment to really get to know any of the wines that were presented.

Which is why when I was offered a second chance to re-sample one of the producers represented at that speed dating event, I jumped at it.

Sean Minor Wines is a (very) small family outfit in Napa, making Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (the latter two under the 4 Bears label), all of them under $20. The backdrop story on 4 Bears (which I managed to capture in my brief speed-dating encounter during the WBC), is that Sean Minor and wife Nicole decided to create their winery after analyzing their finances and discovering that their second largest monthly expense was (you guessed it) wine (presumably, with four children – after whom the 4 Bears label takes it name – their largest expense was the kids?).

According to their press release:

Rather than taking his start-up capital and investing it in the bricks and mortar of a
winery, Minor decided to build his business as a negociant by sourcing out grapes and
some already fermented wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and California Central Coast appellations to create his wines. The wines themselves are made in a leased facility in Napa County where Minor ages, blends and bottles the wine under the Sean Minor label. “As a negociant I’ve been able to really center our efforts on making a top-quality wine,” said Minor. “My efforts are spent creating impeccable tasting wine and personally introducing it to people throughout the country.”

During the WBC speed-dating, I managed to capture this about their `06 Cabernet:

Four Bears - one guy and his wife are the total staff, who started making wine (via co-op) to offset their growing wine drinking budget! My kind of folks… 06 Cab Sauv. $17 (Napa Valley). Very accessible, but not without depth (the cedar element is a nice touch).

I guess the self-made family thing really struck a chord for me. Anyway, from what I recalled of the day, the wine was good, priced to move, and was more than just a one-trick-pony.

So… how do their wines stand up outside of the heated excitement of wine speed-dating?

Pretty well, it turns out.

At their best (as in the case of the Cab.), the wines offer a depth that I would consider slightly beyond their price point, making them a very good value. At worst, the wines are still very tasty and certainly priced fairly, really only lacking in the length of finish and the simplicity of their secondary aromas; otherwise, the fruit is all California and they deliver appropriately.

My mini-reviews on each of the 4 Bears wines:

06 Sean Minor 4 Bears Merlot (Napa Valley): No mistaking it’s from CA. A very good buy, especially if you like plums, plums & more plums.

05 4 Bears Chardonnay (Central Coast, CA): Tropical fruits balance with good oak, but you need to like butter (if so, you’ll like the price)

06 4 Bears Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County): Lime & tropic fruits abound. Good acidity & mouthfeel, & surprising finesse for the price point.

06 Sean Minor 4 Bears Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Red fruit & a little cedar/spice, & good acidity with refreshingly lower abv for CA!

For more happenings at 4 Bears, check out their blog at www.4bearswinery.com/blog. I will leave you with a shot of my own assistant “bear” sommelier:


Cheers!
(images: 1WineDude.com, www.4bearswinery.com, goodwineunder20.blogspot.com)

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