Do you drink wine without eating food? At the same time, I mean. Of course you eat food. And of course you don’t actually drink wine at exactly the same time that you eat food, as that is physiologically impossible… ah, forget it, you know what I mean!
Anyway… Chances are, increasingly, that your answer to that question is “well…duh!” At least, that’s the story from a recent Wine Opinions market-research survey, which was the subject of a New York Times piece by my compadre Eric Asimov.
I was quoted in Eric’s write-up, mostly on the topic of whether or not this trend away from wine and food meal pairing consumption should surprise anyone, especially with the advent of the Millennial wine-buyers coming of age into the market for fine wine (to save you some reading time, my answer was basically “No, we shouldn’t be surprised”).
For some reason I seem to have been anointed as someone with a direct line into the Millennial wine-buying hive-brain, which seems strange to me because, while I’m very, very humbled and grateful that so many in the Millennial set seem to enjoy this blog, the first thing that anyone who knows Millennials will tell you is that you should ask them (the Millennials, that is) about their buying habits directly, because they are probably more willing to speak about them than any previous generation. So if you’re in the wine marketing biz and you’re not talking directly with Millennial wine buyers, then you are not Charlie-Sheen-winning, my friends…
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During my most recent jaunt to Napa, I had the pleasure of visiting a few producers in the Valley to get a feel for just how the hellish 2010 vintage (remember that?) was coming along in barrel (well, for those fortunate enough to get fruit picked and crushed from 2010, that is).
So after that totally loaded intro., you’re probably already thinking “okay, spill it, WTF is going on with the 2010s,” right?
Not so fast, buck-o!
Let’s prolong the agony… and give you a little bit of (important!) context. You see, I didn’t taste every friggin’ barrel of aging 2010 red in the Valley, and to get a firm grip on a vintage, you need to taste a sh*tload more of wines from that vintage than I managed to do that week. In fact, I only hit up three high-end producers during the trip (Chimney Rock in Stag’s Leap; Hourglass’ Blueline estate, where they were aging juice from there and from their mid-Valley estate vineyard; and Cornerstone Cellars, who are aging 2010 wines made from fruit sourced all over the Valley, including St. Helena, Oakville, and Howell Mountain) – so my assessments should be taken with the proverbial grain of vinous salt. One brief assessment does not a vintage chart make.
Having said that… few elements stood out as consistent throughout all of those barrel samples, and so we can wax some preliminary geekiness about what we might expect out of the Valley’s upper-fine-wine-tier in the 2010s (once they get into bottle)…
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- 06 Dry Creek Vineyard "The Mariner" Meritage (Dry Creek Valley): A black currant, chocolate & spice sea that sails as smooth as silk. $40 B+ #
- 09 Smith-Madrone Riesling (Napa Valley): Dear Germany – enjoying Napa; showing off my green fruits; think I’ll stay; Luv U! -Rheingau $27 B #
- 10 Casa Silva Pinot Noir Reserva (Colchagua): Tart, chewy & short on finish, but long on velvety red berry fruit (& on value). $12 B- #
- 09 Casa Silva Pinot Noir Reserva (Colchagua): Way too much green matched w/ those red fruits, & it sure ain’t X-mas time yet! $12 C #
- 06 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): The fruit is beautifully complex, but they’re playing w/ boozy fire here $135 B+ #
- 09 Volpi Gavi (Gavi): Starts a little austere, but flashes just enough of the citrusy, tropical leggings to make things enticing. $13 B- #
- 07 Banfi Belnero (Toscana): Ripe, plush, structured & serious Sangiovese, but the oak flag might have been flown just a bit too long. $39 B #
- 08 Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve (Valle de Aconcagua): Red/black, viscous/tannic, savory/vibrant high-tension-wire balancing act. $100 A- #
- 07 Seña (Valle de Aconcagua): Starts too green, but is saved by the power of crazy amounts of blue, black & red fruited complexity. $110 A- #
- 09 Errazuriz Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Valle de Aconcagua): Starts tangy & pruney, but give it a chance if U dig on tobacco. $25 B #
- 09 Arboleda Carmenere (Colchagua): Green, lean & peppery; but once it’s in your mouth the vibrant fruit might just make U a believer. $25 B #
- 10 Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay (Casablanca): Get past the cream & toastiness & it kicks all kinds of complex Chard ass 4 the $. $20 B+ #
- 10 Errazuriz Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca): Lemongrass, starfruit, chili, limes, minerals – a damn, bit of everything! $20 B #
- 07 Kinien Don Raul (Mendoza): Like chocolate mint & chocolate-covered cherries; it celebrates its own uniqueness (or "eccentricity"). $65 B+ #
- 08 Kinien Malbec (Mendoza): Black, vibrant, meaty, densely-packed & so concentrated that it demands, well, *concentration*, dammit! $44 B+ #
- 09 Ruca Malen Petit Verdot (Mendoza): Like a cup of spicy Mexican hot cocoa comin’ right off of being heated by an aromatic wood fire $18 B- #
- 08 Ruca Malen Malbec (Mednoza): Dark, spicy, savory & S. American in presentation; elegantly floral & (very) French in spirit. $18 B #
- 10 Yauquén Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza): Those nice cherries feel kinda trapped in a stemmy, herbal & tightly-tannic cage. $12 C+ #
- 10 Ruca Malen Chardonnay (Uco Valley): More tropical than a coconut drink on Caribbean holiday vacation (and probably less expensive). $18 B #
- 08 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): So rich, so fruity, so flowery, so velvety, so tasty; but so friggin’ BIG. $40 B+ #
Travel to the province of San Juan, in the Cuyo region of the Tulúm Valley in Argentina – past the shitty old cars routinely running red lights, past the modest houses that are little more than shacks with water tanks atop, past the dogs whose limps attest to how rough life here can get, past the motor bikes unsafely carrying four people simultaneously, past the more-bucolic-but-still-trash-laden parks with statuary odes to cycling (a favorite pastime in these parts) – and you will find, nestled among the starkly gorgeous landscape of the surrounding mountains…
Yes, seriously. A whale. A life-size reproduction of a whale, that is, constructed by artist Adrian Villar Rojas as a tribute to the site upon which it sits – now upwards of 800 meters above sea level, but which used to be a submerged seabed in ancient times. If that’s not odd enough for you, you’ll also find llamas and some miniature ostrich. Along with the main attractions of the spot: olive oil, and some pretty good wine being made from Syrah. Yes, Syrah. Yes, in Argentina.
The whale (you’re probably still thinking about the whale, right?) was commissioned by Ezequiel Eskenazi, the down-to-earth, animal-loving, olive-oil-producing owner of the site and the founder of XumeK. As Ezequiel puts it, he is, in some ways, just a guy trying to find an interesting way of spending some of his father’s money (a fortune made in the caning business during the the budding days of the Napa, CA wine industry):
“I don’t have a romantic story, but I always had a dream to build a vineyard.”…
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