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Posts Filed Under wine tasting

Not Just Riesling Country: The Finger Lakes’ Case for Cool Climate Reds

Vinted on May 13, 2010 binned in on the road, wine tasting

“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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Tasting A Legend: Going to Head-to-Head with Haut-Brion 1929

Vinted on May 5, 2010 binned in wine appreciation, wine review, wine tasting

“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.

Uh-oh.

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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Final Results Are IN for the Grü V Olympics

Vinted on March 17, 2010 binned in wine review, wine tasting

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.

Cheers!

Premiere Napa Valley: One Dude’s Tasting Notes

Vinted on March 2, 2010 binned in wine industry events, wine tasting

We know that I’m not terribly fond of massive tastings.  I did thoroughly enjoy myself at Premiere Napa Valley, however, even if I didn’t get to try all 200 of the wines, mostly because the experience, with lots of people in close proximity to wine and to each other, is uber-social.  For a gadfly like me, it’s like social crack, only with ultra-premium wines and the opportunity to catch up with friends, chill with industry folk, and ask geeky questions of winemakers.

In other words, it’s like super wine crack for me.

I’ve decided not to rate any of the wines I tasted at PNV, because a) you’re unlikely to find them, and b) we are talking some of the best-of-the-best in CA winemaking here, and the scores on my cheesy A-F scale for are in the A- to A+ range for all of these wines; there’s no real point in sharing those subtle shades of differing scores, now is there?  I mean, I’m not getting into a 94 vs 96 points discussion, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, following are some of my favorites among a field of very, very impeccably made wines (in PNV auction lot order):

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