blogger web statistics/a>
Winemaking | 1 Wine Dude

Posts Filed Under winemaking

Powers Of Two: Blending Cultures, Countries, Vineyards And Varieties With The Hottest Winemaker In Napa Valley

Vinted on March 15, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review, winemaking

It’s not a stretch to say that Philippe Melka is, right now, the hottest winemaker in all of the Napa Valley (hottest as in “most in-demand,” and not as in “most hunky,” though admittedly I’d be a pretty poor judge of the latter). He’s got a 100-point Wine Advocate review under his belt with Dana Estates (no denying the power of that, no matter what your take on wine scores might be), and is now riding high on Dana’s stunning 2012 Premiere Napa Valley auction lot, which took the top-grossing slot at $70K.

So it’s interesting, in retrospect, that he was… let’s just say cautiously optimistic about Californian winemaking potential when coming to Napa from France with Dominus in the early 1990s. Being skeptical is part of the French culture, of course; and being skeptical about Napa wine is probably even more understandable when you’ve cut your winemaking teeth at Bordeaux stalwarts Haut Brion and Pomerol darling Chateau Petrus.

“In France I kept hearing, ‘in California they make good wine, but they have no sense of terroir’” he told me over lunch in the trailer that now marks the entrance to what will become the Napa Valley tasting room for Melka Wines, the only brand to which he’s attached his now-famous (in winemaking terms, anyway) surname. “And to some extent, they were right. I mean, everyone was planting Cabernet Sauvignon no matter what – regardless of the soil, the sunlight, everything. I was looking for limestone in Napa. I am still looking for limestone in Napa!”

Fast forward twenty-some-odd years from those cautiously-optimistic days, and through the thoroughly French exterior, you find someone that seems thoroughly Northern Californian at heart – a laid-back, down-to-earth surfer-dude of a winemaker. Philippe now consults on wines from the elegantly powerful (Vineyard 29, Parallel Wines, Entre Nous) to the sometimes-just-too-damn-powerful (Gemstone and Moone-Tsai), and he’s involved in at least one worst-kept-secret “cult wine” Napa project that I’ve tasted (if you’re wondering if that last one is worth the ton of money it would cost to try it, I’ll say this: I’ve had few wines that were bigger, but also few big wines that were better, and it’s got the purest black licorice and dark chocolate aromas I’ve ever encountered in a wine, period)…

Read the rest of this stuff »

Square Strawberries: Distilling The Natural Wine Message From The New Film “Wines From Here” (Score A Discount To The L.A. Screening!)

Vinted on September 19, 2011 binned in commentary, winemaking

“We don’t want a square strawberry.”

So opines Ridge’s Paul Draper in the first half of Wine From Here, a documentary about (and at points a bit of a commercial for) the budding natural winemaking movement in California (I got a sneak peak by invitation from one of the filmmakers, Martin Carel of Wino Brothers Inc.). The trailer is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

The film will be screened in L.A. in a couple of days, followed by a tasting of natural wines with winemakers featured in the film at BUZZ Wine / Beer Shop – and if you buy tix to the event online you’ll get 1/3 off the full price by using discount code “1WD” at checkout!

Draper’s comment above is in reference to (what I think is) the strongest selling point behind natural winemaking: consumers ought to know what they are getting when they buy a product, and in the case of wine sometimes they are getting a lot more than just fermented grape juice, primarily in the form of various additives (for more on that topic, and for a rough definition of natural winemaking itself, see my review of Alice Feiring’s new book – she makes several appearances in the film, by the way). And as we know well, consumer sentiment is king, and will play a large part in whether or not the natural winemaking movement gains any serious traction in the wine biz and becomes the vinous equivalent of the organic / slow food phenomena.

Based on the film (which is well-made, and is highly recommended watching for wine geeks), the natural winemaking movement sorely needs to emphasize its strong points, because it’s still touting a few tenets that hold less water than well-drained gravelly vineyard soils…

Read the rest of this stuff »

Signs Of Life: What It Takes To Make Wines Of True Character (With Matt Powell of Draconis)

Vinted on July 14, 2011 binned in interviews, overachiever wines, sexy wines, winemaking

What Is The Job Of The Winemaker Today?

Simple question, right?  “Duh! To make wine!” you might be answering to yourself.  What could be more simple than that?

But real wine lovers, and real winemakers, know better; they know that almost no other query could be more complicated, opinionated, difficult, thought-provoking, or (hopefully!)invigorating to answer.

Which is exactly what drove me to ask it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after visiting hundreds of winemaking outfits of all sizes all over the world, it’s that no two winemakers ply their craft in exactly the same way, or with exactly the same ends in mind, or exactly the same attitudes.  But one thing in that world is consistent: the majority of those same people invariably have passionate stances on both the How and the What of their jobs as winemakers.  Theirs are the kinds of viewpoints that make for fascinating reading – and even more fascinating discussion and debate.

I wanted a techy interview, but one with passion, soul, and life . – in the hopes that it would fascinate, entertain, educate and maybe even get your wine blood boiling. To that end, I’ve staked the decks significantly in favor of passionate discussion by posing it to Matt Powell, the force behind Lodi’s Draconis Vineyards. Matt’s wines are focused and powerful – just like his viewpoints. He’s active on social media, is a big fan of comics, and takes his wine very, very seriously; case in point – visitors to the Draconis Vineyards at one point were greeted with the following message:

“I have no lists, clubs, or membership bullshit.”

Matt’s take on the job of the winemaker today? It’s just as straightforward, opinionated, and fascinating as you’d expect form the person who authored that welcome message, and who told me this about a recent vintage: “I tossed the entire 2009’s; weren’t good enough.”  A review of one my faves of Matt’s wines follows our interview. Enjoy!…

Read the rest of this stuff »

Want Some Wine With That Booze? (The “Parker Effect” And Rising CA Wine Alcohol Levels)

Vinted on May 24, 2011 binned in California wine, commentary, wine news, winemaking

The Center for Wine Economics released a report of a recent study on the sugar levels of wine grapes in California, titled “Too Much of a Good Thing?  Causes and Consequences of Increases in Sugar Content of California Wine Grapes.”  Not sure how new this news is, but it was new to me so I’m yappin’ about it!

While that title of the report doesn’t sound particularly fascinating, the report’s conclusions are – if you’re a wine geek, that is, and if you’re a fan of California fine wine and have ever wondered why alcohol levels seem to be kind of high in the premium vino coming out of that state.  According to the report, it’s not just your imagination – wine grapes in CA have indeed been getting riper over the last twenty years, which translates into higher booze levels, with white grapes bearing the brunt of the increase:

“The data show that the average alcohol percentage increased by 0.30 percent, with a larger increase for white wine (0.38 percent) than for red wine (0.25 percent).  This increase in alcohol percentage is consistent with an increase in the sugar content of the grapes used to make that wine of 0.55 degrees Brix, on average.”

That sugar measurement might look small, but according to the report it’s a “substantial” increase, and it’s that rise in sugar levels that is making CA wines a bit more… busty than they’ve been in the past (I imagine if you were used to drinking CA wine from 20 years ago, drank too much, passed out and pulled a Rip Van Winkle, upon waking up in 2011 you’d be forgiven for thinking that during your extended slumber your fave CA Cab had undergone the vinous equivalent of a boob job).  What this study does that is so fascinating is this: it puts data and critical thinking behind something that many CA wine drinkers may have already suspected… CA fine wines are getting boozier, and it might be the result of the fine wine market

Read the rest of this stuff »

The Fine Print

This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.

Play nice! Code of Ethics and Privacy.

Contact: joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com

Google+

Labels

Vintage

Find