With some crazy travel happening in the short term, I’m making the executive decision to go ahead and give you the September 2017 edition of the monthly wine product review roundup a bit on the early side (rather than scrambling to get my act together on it at the end of the month, which is my usual MO).
I have some reservations about both of the non-edible products from this month’s sample pool, so let’s begin with the item sporting the fewest of saidreservations:
The Winemakers of Paso Robles by Julia Perez & Paul Hodgins (328 pages, $119)
This impressive tome, almost equal parts gorgeous photographs and Paso Robles winemaker profile pieces, began as a Kickstarter project and has seen a recent surge in media and press (within the US fine wine sphere, anyway). And when I write “impressive,” I do mean impressive. As in, Darth-Vader-in-The-Empire-Strikes-Back levels of impressive.
Perez’s stunning photos are the focus of this coffee-table book, with Hodgins’s prose providing the support. The profiles, while not exactly fluff pieces, tend towards the lifestyle-magazine tone of prose; not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly not without leaving you with a good sense of what drives the winemakers of Paso to do what they do so well. But if it’s controversy that you’re after, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The reservation comes from the book’s size and price (and weight); all are pretty hefty. It’s not as though you’re getting ripped off – far from it – but this is a coffee table book that’s damn nearly the weight of a coffee table. In paging through it, I kept thinking that a) I can’t read this in bed, because it will crush my sternum, and b) it might behoove these guys to put out a smaller, less expensive (and lighter?) soft-back edition…
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“The most endangered species –
The honest man”
-Rush, Natural Science
In the great room of my house, there are two 5″x7″ framed prints in Chinese script, each of which represents one of the two “house rules” of the home shared by me and my daughter (it’s generally too big of a space for the two of us, but she understandably – and emphatically – did not want to move after I filed for divorce).
And yeah, there really are only two house rules at Chateau Dude. One represents Integrity, the other Honesty.
And yeah, we really do believe in and live by them. The fact that I feel compelled to write that last sentence is, I think, indicative of just how far through the looking glass we have come, socially speaking, in the USA, even in my relatively short lifetime.
And yeah, this will eventually get to the topic of wine, but that’s not the crux of this article (you have been warned). To get to that, we’ll need to review a couple of articles by W. Blake Gray that were recently published on Wine-Searcher.com [ full disclosure: I utilize their affiliate program ]. The first of these, Pay-to-Play Scandal Exposed, detailed the fallout from illegal bribes (including several thousand dollars spent on “adult entertainment”) offered by the likes of mega-distributor Southern Glazer’s to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to influence what alcoholic products were/weren’t carried on its state store shelves.
That story justifiably got a lot of traction. But it’s Gray’s follow-up story that, to me, is actually more important, and should have most of us outraged…
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- 16 Batan De Salas De Beroz Essencia de Gewurztraminer (Somontano): Flowers, apples, toast, texture, & a serious streak of seriousness $NA B+ >>find this wine<<
- 14 Fields Family Lodi Native Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel (Clements Hills): Grip, grit & gumption; lay it down, & thank me later… $35 A- >>find this wine<<
- 15 Mt. Beautiful Chardonnay (North Canterbury): Crisp? Check. Racy? Check. Mineral? Check. Wait a minute, this isn't from Chablis? $21 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 15 Donnafugata Sedara (Sicily): Nero blend that gets to kick its work shoes off, lean back in the recliner, and take a load off. $16 B >>find this wine<<
- 11 Donnafugata Mille e una Notte (Sicily): You'll wish that you had 1001 bottles after draining one of these; Nero d'Avola for lovers. $80 A >>find this wine<<
- 15 Gini La Frosca Soave Classico (Veneto): Trying to think of a reason not to buy this wonder by the case; sorry, coming up blank… $30 A- >>find this wine<<
- 12 Alessandro Rivetto Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d'Alba (Piedmont): Perky, energetic, & one of the more easy-going of the big Bs $48 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 14 Heinrich Spindler Musenhang Riesling Erste Lage (Pfalz): Stones and limes in its shoes, making its footing sturdy & step lively. $27 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 13 Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge La Paloma Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills): A funky dance attempt that stumbles a bit in finding the groove $35 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 10 Gloria Ferrer Anniversary Cuvee (Carneros): Textures that are richly constructed, interwoven, & layered; so, basically, a delight. $40 A- >>find this wine<<
For Riesling lovers, the last four years in particular have been a good time to be alive.
On one side of the shiny Riesling-fine-wine-world-market coin, Europe’s traditional flag-bearing regions of that grape been performing well; on the other side, we’ve seen the emergence of up-and-coming areas that, while far from wine-drinking household names, undoubtedly have potential.
In the middle of those extremes, we are witnessing the coming of age of what for years were Riesling-producing regions sometimes derided as being in “maybe they’re just also-rans?” category. Finger Lakes, I’m looking at you.
The best of the wines of New York’s Finger Lakes – both red and white – have almost certainly never crafted been better than they are now. Which isn’t to say that FLX Rieslings were always bad; we know that isn’t true, particularly for the standout producers on Seneca Lake. But until recently, there always seemed to be enough mediocre wines for many of the wine cognoscenti to feel that FLX deserved the fine wine participation trophy, rather than a European Cup.
Thankfully, that table setting seems now to have been turned, with either more FLX wine producers pulling their weight and meeting their high-quality Riesling potential, tastemakers developing enough open-mindedness and sophistication to entertain the Finger Lakes as a world-class Riesling producing region, wine critics catching up their perceptions to the reality of the quality wines being crafted in FLX, or (much more likely) a combination of all three.
The result is that the area is both retaining and attracting wine talent; as in today’s highlighted example from the sample pool, which was crafted by Robert Mondavi Winery alumnus (and Constellation Director of Winemaking) Nova Cadamatre, who (as of the time of this writing) crafts the releases for FLX’s 240 Days Wines…
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