Posts Filed Under wine tasting
Today we will speak of current NFL coaches, former baseball catching stars, and Jedi Master Yoda. And wine – almost forgot about the wine…
See, I’ve been getting a little bit of flak over how publicly I’ve worn my NFL team allegiance colors on 1WD. And so, true to form, I’m going to go deeper into that forest today. Because at heart, I am a stinker.
For days now I’ve been rubbing the almost-scabbed-over wounds of the Steelers dismal showing of a season opener against the hard-hitting Baltimore Ravens, because part of the healing process for sports fans after such a loss is wallowing in your pain and misery as long as reasonably possible, taking in as much about the heart-wrenching as you can, before letting it all (ok, most of it) go. Real fans know what I am talking about here – sure, the Steelers romping all over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday salved the aching a bit, but c’mon – it was the Seahawks.
And so it was in that wallowing-mode capacity that I came across this little ditty of a quote by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, when asked about the dreadful day one loss:
“I think the people that know and compete in this league understand that there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes. Obviously, last weekend we were grape-squashers.”
Ah, the sanctimonious pleasure of shared pain! Tomlin’s it-makes-sense-until-you-reread-it, Yogi-Berra-worthy reference to vino got me thinking about the difference between drinking wine – really drinking it and appreciating it, I mean – and throwing it down our gullets the same way we in the U.S. do with most of our food; which is to say, devouring it so quickly that it looks as if we’re worried someone will come along and snatch up our plates if we don’t clean them off within 4.2 nanoseconds…
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“They already got themselves a woodchuck today.”
Sam Argetsinger was leading a slow but determined downhill walking pace, flanked by his two dogs who had done the woodchuck hunting before we’d arrived. He is stout, and affable, and his wide smile accentuates a face of weathered features. Sam’s vineyard is small, relatively steep, and on the morning of May 8 it was playing host to a series of alternating bursts of warming sunshine from above, and strong cold breezes off of New York’s Seneca Lake.
A group of thirty-odd wine writers and bloggers descended onto the area as part of TasteCamp East; I was part of a dozen-or-so who were taking a morning tour of Sam’s vineyard on the second day of our trip. We had already, in a mere half-day, tasted dozens and dozens of Finger Lakes wines, some of which have been sourced from Sam’s vineyard.
“The other thing about woodchucks,” added Sam, stopping briefly and turning to face a small number of our group walking closest to him, and uttering the words without a modicum of sarcasm, “is that they’re delicious.” We laugh, of course – most of us aren’t farmers and none of us has ever tasted woodchuck.
“Must taste like chicken!” one of us says. Sam’s response – again without hesitation and appearing completely genuine: “Naw – it tastes like muskrat, mostly.” Sam then briefly explains how woodchuck gut can be employed to create a fine-sounding drum skin.
Welcome to the Finger Lakes, folks, where the water – carved out of the land like the claw marks of angry gods by retreating glaciers eons ago – runs long, narrow, and deep, like the traditions and views of the region’s people.
It would have been easy to joke that a Fingers Lake red is the best thing to pair with that woodchuck (or muskrat), given the past history of red wines from the region. And there certainly is nothing about Sam’s vineyard that would suggest anything other than the belief that This Is Riesling Country: from the steep plantings facing the water, to the heightened amplification of every nuance of viticulture – aspect, elevation, light exposure, ripening… we might as well be in the Mosel, right?
Exactly what you’d expect of the Finger Lakes.
That is, until you taste the wines that aren’t Riesling. Until you taste the region’s new reds…
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“A bottle of good wine, like a good act, shines ever in the retrospect.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson had it right about special wines being eminently memorable, though he forgot to add the part about how wine tasting, like a hot date, owes so much to anticipation.
And as much as I like to think that I am inching ever closer to the Zen mystery, it’s really difficult not to put expectations on a tasting in which magnums of 1995 Champagne and Graham’s Vintage Port (1977), as well as bottles of 1981 Vieux Chateau Certan, take second billing.
Which is exactly what happens when you have a bottle of (genuine) 1929 Haut-Brion in the lineup.
That’s because the 1929 Haut-Brion is one of those extremely rare triple threats: world-class producer, renowned vintage (before every other release was deemed “vintages of the century” in Bordeaux) and rare old wine (in decent condition).
Or so we had hoped, anyway.
As it turns out, that fabled bottle that had me (and several other guests at the Columbia Firehouse restaurant in old town Alexandria, VA) buzzing with anticipation last week had apparently leaked at some point in it’s 81-year history.
We (a group of about 15 people) were assembled as the hand-picked guests of my buddy Jason Whiteside, DWS (Washington Wine Academy instructor, friend of the Dude and frequent guest poster here) to celebrate the achievement of his WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits (a pre-req for entrance into the Masters of Wine program). It’s a difficult and hard-earned achievement, well-worthy of opening some special bottles. As our generous host put it after inspecting the most special of that night’s bottles, “this wine could be deader than Lincoln”…
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I recently took part in a fun experiment, in which a group of wine bloggers were sent four Austrian Gruner Veltliner wines to face-off against one another in a head-to-head tasting.
The event was billed The Grü V Olympics, the idea being that each blogger scored the wines according to a predefined system with points awarded for color, clarity, aroma, and so on. The culmination of all of the scoring across all of the wine blogger judges would then result in the declaration of a ‘gold medal’ winner.
I dig Gruner Veltliner, because it’s capable of startling complexity in its aromas and often includes spice, citrus and exotic vegetable notes. But I really dig Gruner because it pairs extremely well with the large and complicated salads that so many U.S. restaurants serve as entrees these days. Too bad most of those same establishments almost never carry Gruner on their wine lists…
Anyway, like all gold medal style competitions, the Grü V Olympics results should be taken with a grain of salt, because the field was limited in both the wine and judge selections. I should note that none of the wines in the Grü V Olympics really floated my palate boat, but my fave of the bunch did make ‘gold’ in this case. Having said that, there are definitely better Gruners to be had out there, though the gold medal winner here will treat you well enough and is a good introduction to what the variety has to offer.
You can check out the official Grü V Olympics results here.