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There’s A Wild Man In My Head (Cayuse Recent Releases)

Vinted on June 5, 2014 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review
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HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!

“And I’m
Not sorry for
The things I’ve said
There’s a wild man in my head
There’s a wild man
In my head”

Morrissey, “I’m Not Sorry”

Christophe Baron, the short, edgy, high-energy force behind Walla Walla’s controversial Cayuse, is sniffing dirt. And – in a very thick French accent that betrays his Charly-sur-Marne heritage and belies his nearly twenty-year stint in the Pacific Northwest – he’s imploring me to do the same.

“C’mon! You’ve come all this way to Cayuse! You’ve got to SMELL IT!!!”

Just moments before, a burly and beautiful Belgian draft horse was turning over this soil (in a vineyard named, for obvious reasons, “Horse Power”), so I am less than totally enthusiastic about the possibility of getting horse shit up my nostrils. But this guy’s energy is such that he makes me seem calm, so I acquiesce (as if I had a choice). These newer plantings were “designed for the horse,” Baron explains, with three-feet between the rows. “With the horse, you can’t rush it, you can’t force it. But the texture of the soil is like couscous… This is the reason why I’m here.”

Spend any appreciable time with Baron and you will not only sniff horse-powered dirt, you will hear impassioned proclamations such as “I am not a winemaker;” “Let’s all take off our clothes and get naked;” “There are a lot of things about Biodynamics you cannot quantify… you cannot quantify the smile on a beautiful woman;” “I’m like a dealer, I sell pleasure… liquid pleeeeeasuuuuuure;” and “no pictures on Facebook!” not all of which you might fully understand or be able to distinguish as serious or jovial.

But there’s one thing that is easy to understand: why Baron’s wines are controversial. Garnering stratospheric scores from The Wine Advocate and skyrocketing in secondary market prices after release, Cayuse offerings can be stunning, odd takes on Rhone-styled reds; often demanding, beguiling, and off-putting all at the same time. If you’ve ever watched a movie – or read a novel – that seems brilliant but has disturbing scenes in it, the kind of scenes that haunt you later but without which the central themes of the work wouldn’t be nearly as powerful, then you’ve got an idea of what it’s like to come face to face with Cayuse’s juice.

To understand these take-no-prisoners wines, you need to understand the background of the take-no-prisoners Baron, and Walla Walla’s take-no-prisoners geographical landscape…

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Going Native (In NYC, D.C. And Glossy) With Wines Of Crete

Vinted on June 3, 2014 binned in wine industry events

This Summer, I’ll once again become an honorary Cretan.

For starters, next week I’ll be working with Wines of Crete in leading two trade and media educational seminars and tastings on the native grape varieties of the twelve recognized PDO and PGI designations of one of Greece’s largest and most dynamic (and challenged!) winemaking regions. The tastings will be blind, and will focus almost entirely on the varieties themselves, most of which will be totally unfamiliar even to the geekiest of wine geeks. fro that perspective alone, it ought to get very interesting, particularly at the lunches and tastings that will follow the seminars. Anyway, those events are invitation-only, so if you can go, you already know about it, and I look forward to you heckling me in NYC or D.C.!

I am fairly sure I got that gig because I’m one of the few U.S.-based wine people who’ve actually been to Crete and then said anything about it. As some of you reading this might recall, when I first visited the island in 2012, it was on assignment for an article idea I’d agreed with the now-defunct glossy Sommelier Journal. After SJ went belly-up, I’d briefly contemplated posting that article here on 1WD, but the voice and tone was tailored for SJ’s glossy style, and just didn’t fit the frenetic psychosis of my normal style of writing on these virtual pages.

So instead I reached out to the new SOMM Journal, and I’m happy to report that the Crete feature will appear in the August issue of that newly revitalized masthead (assuming they don’t also go belly-up this Summer; it’s not likely with their much expanded readership base, but hey, anything’s possible in the print world right now).

More to come on all of that that when the article (which focuses on the island’s most progressive producers, and the ironies in Crete’s battle to get its fine wines – which once ruled the Mediterranean commerce world – onto the modern global marketplace) finally sees the light of day, a year later than originally planned. Welcome to the wine biz, right?

Cheers!

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For June 2, 2014

Vinted on June 2, 2014 binned in wine mini-reviews

So, like, what is this stuff, anyway?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes with you via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be quirky, fun, and easily-digestible reviews of currently available wines. Below is a wrap-up of those twitter wine reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find these wines, so that you can try them for yourself. Cheers!

  • 10 Doyenne Grand Ciel Vineyard Syrah (Red Mountain): Smooth leather, modern silkiness, and revving an engine that's a little hot. $65 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 10 Delille Cellars Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain): The fruit is deeper than a canyon, with modern, sexy adornments. $150 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 10 Betz Family Winery Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon (columbia Valley): All that scaffolding? It's holding a ton of dried herbs. $85 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 11 Betz Family Winery La Cote Patriarche Syrah (Yakima Valley): Tale of 2 cities; one peppery & bright, the other brooding & dark. $70 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 11 Betz Family Winery Besoleil Red (Columbia Valley): Somehow, the kitchen sink red blend just got insanely, spicily interesting. $45 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 10 Delille Cellars D2 Red (Columbia Valley): Big, sexy, sexy, sexy, sexy, sexy, sexy ass Merlot; did we mention sexy? Well, it's sexy $40 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 12 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc (Columbia Valley): Don't mistake subdued entry as standoffish; it's more stately than snobby. $37 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 11 Doyenne Winemaker’s Select Roussanne (Red Mountain): Silky, fruity heft that's also, paradoxically, floral, lively and lithe. $40 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 11 Col Solare Red (Red Mountain): Wound up like a clock spring, but should uncoil slowly – & nicely – given the requisite patience. $75 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Tamarack Counoise (Red Mountain): Proudly – & maybe even defiantly – sporting its rustic threads in a tasty and structured manner. $24 B >>find this wine<<
  • 09 Tamarack Cellars Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Reserve Red (Red Mountain): Tart, tannic, and taking you out for some high-end soy sauce. $50 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 09 Tamarack Cellars Reserve Syrah (Red Mountain): Meaty, mineral, & mad about saline; odd, for sure, but undeniably authentic, too. $40 B+ >>find this wine<<

Enthralled With Pinot Noir (Thralls Family Cellars Recent Releases)

Vinted on May 29, 2014 binned in elegant wines, overachiever wines, wine review

It’s funny (as in “refreshingly interesting,” and not as in “ha-ha, I almost peed my pants!” or “ewww, well… that’s weird) how success in the wine business keeps getting redefined and reinvented.

To wit: by now, we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re seeing wine lovers migrate from the online wine world into viable writing and winemaking careers, but for whatever reason the Hardy-Wallace-type stories still seem oddly out of place in the wine biz. Oh, wait, it’s for “whatever” reason; the reason is that the wine world is still woefully behind on understanding that the online world is populated by actual human beings with actual passions, talents, and funding. Okay, whatever.

We can add another online-wine-wonk-to-promising-offline-wine-producer story to that growing lineup: that of Ed Thralls, who recently sent me samples of his personal project, Thralls Family Cellars.

A refugee from the east-coast (Atlanta) financial tech industry, Thralls was blogging and tweeting at the handle @WineTonite for some time, all the while building up real-world wine chops through an internship at Holdredge Wines, a stint in the Viticulture & Enology program at UC-Davis, and completion of the Certified Specialist of Wine qualification.

The result of Ed’s foray into personal wine branding is tiny quantities of Pinot Noir juice crafted from grapes purchased from interesting spots in Northern California, with an eye towards clonal selection, light use of new French oak, dollops of whole cluster and unfiltered processing, and generally trying to get the results under 14% abv. It’s Pinot that is promising – and elegant – enough that Thralls’ efforts probably ought to be considered for a seat at the “cool kids” table of In Pursuit Of Balance (and similar modern temples to the anti-largeness Pinot crowd; hey, I’m not complaining, I dig both styles)…

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