Is the holiday wine pairing idea totally over-and-done? Did it, in fact, jump the shark full-on in Arthur Fonzarelli leather jacket and scarf? Is it deader than Aunt Martha’s Christmas fruitcake?
You’re probably thinking “Why dredge up this topic when we’re between holidays?” Great question, sir (or madam… or whatever…). I mean, I’m sure as hell not going into a St. Patrick’s Day wine pairing here (that’s my birthday anyway, so for me the pairing will be “the best and most exclusive vino I can get my grubby little hands on, and if at all possible in large quantities and preferably on someone else’s tab.”).
You see, it is precisely because we’re between holidays – removed from the craziness, glass in hand (hopefully), and welcoming (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway) the onset of Spring – that I want to breach this topic. We are chill right now. We are rational. We don’t have the specter of holiday stress and deadlines looming over our heads like a f*cking Sword of Damocles. We put on the relaxation tape, take a sip, and chill out. Feel ze tension leeeeving yer boudee…
That was nice. Ok – I’m an anal-retentive East Coaster so the 30 seconds of relaxation I’ve allowed everyone is officially over. Now that we’re chill… let’s get all riled up again, shall we?
Seems to me that one of the trendiest things for wine geeks to do over the last couple of years is to declare the death of many a stalwart wine practice, and the wine + holiday pairing is one of the items in the wine geek sniper cross-hairs.
Where do you stand on holiday wine pairing recommendations? Shout it out in the comments – and on March 22 I will randomly select a commenter to win a Wine Soiree aerator (about a $25 value)! To learn more about the Wine Soiree, check out my review from 2008. Please note that Wine Soiree has no affiliation with this post idea, I just happen to have an extra one and feel like having another giveaway!
But before you get commentin’, let’s look at both sides of the story…
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- 10 Vina Leyda “Lot 21” Pinot Noir (Leyda Valley): Amazingly fresh & textbook red-berry PN. Beats the pants off more pricey CA stuff $38 B+ #
- 10 Los Vascos Rose (Colchagua): Wow, a Cab-based Rose that actually is fruity and refreshing & doesn’t go down harsh. Sign me up. $10 B- #
- 09 Morande Pinot Noir (Casablanca): Talk about overachieving. Vibrant with red berry, rose petals & a little grit. And a lot to like. $11 B #
- 10 Emiliana “Eco Balance” Sauvignon Blanc (Bio-Bio): Crazy bargain for starfruit lovers. Cut grass & lime make a nice appearance, too. $7 B- #
- 06 Casa Silva “Microterroir” De Los Lingues Carmenere (Colchagua): Excellent stuff, but you’d better love Carmenere big-time! $50 B+ #
- 09 Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Carmenere (Apalta): Seamless transition from red to blue to black fruits. Killer structure, too (age it) $26 B #
- 09 Vina Vik red (Millahue): Stunning debut for French-inspired Chilean super-premium Bord’x blend. Looking fwd to what they do in 10 $100 A- #
- 06 Hall “Bergfeld” Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena): Tense structure belies some seriously delicious, velvety, fruity complexity. $100 A- #
- 07 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Never mix your reds (bright, dark cherry fruit) & your greens (too much herbal action). $40 B #
- 07 Trinchero Haystack Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Atlas Peak): The structure and focus scream “take me to the steakhouse, beeeach!” $50 A- #
- 07 Trinchero Mario’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): There’s chalk-sprinkled violets growing out of those tasty dark plums $50 B+ #
- 08 Trinchero Chicken Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford): “Overachiever” written all over it in its mineral-driven dust. $40 B+ #
- 08 Trinchero Chicken Ranch Vineyard Merlot (Rutherford): Soft finish to an otherwise full-driving race of ripe red fruits & olive. $40 B #
Tim Mondavi’s eyes betray almost everything in their expressiveness; probably more than he realizes.
One moment, when recalling some memory or detail of spearheading the development of Opus One, they might be bright, almost dancing, even though his demeanor is serious and workmanlike – as if there’s something fond and comforting about revisiting the time for him. The next, they’re sharp and piercing despite his relaxed posture and polite phrases (in this case, when I mentioned someone in the CA wine industry with whom I suspect Tim doesn’t see eye-to-eye).
Occasionally eyes, words, and demeanor align like stars in a constellation: for instance, when Tim recounts – using a rather damn good Godfather impersonation – his frustration in once having to hold up a large canvas over a series of days in Mondavi’s famed To Kalon vineyard so that his daughter, Chiara, could finish painting the image (titled “Light of the vine”) that would grace the label for his budding high-end red wine project, Continuum.
I spent the better part of five hours picking Tim Mondavi’s brain on a sunny day in late February, when visiting Continuum’s Pritchard Hill estate as a lunch guest; as far as Tim knew, I was coming to get a taste of the 2008 vintage of a wine brand that I’ve already publicly praised as being well-worth seeking out even if it is pricey. But as far as I was concerned, class was in session, the topic was the history of Napa winemaking, and I was the student. I just had to convince Tim – who has been around since the earliest days of the development of Napa’s modern fine wine industry – to start teaching. Not easy – but turns out it was well worth the effort.
Lesson one: the only living things in the Valley with more wine-related history than the Mondavis probably have wood for arms and grapes for children; that history doesn’t guarantee great wine, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt your chances any.
Sunny days on Pritchard Hill, in Napa’s eastern ridge, provide for a glorious view (Oakville and Lake Hennessey are a stone’s throw away, and on a good day you can pick out buildings in downtown San Francisco), so we took to a 4×4 and toured the forty-odd acres of Continuum’s vineyard plantings, on land that once belonged to a former marine biologist. Stopped for a moment at a spot that overlooks the estate’s farmhouse, Tim recalled how his father reacted to the site.
“In 2008, just before my father left for the great vineyard in the sky, we took him up here to see the vineyard, right before we purchased it,” he said, pointing directly to the spot where he helped an ailing Robert Mondavi take in the view. “He was in a wheelchair by then, and he couldn’t talk much. But when he saw this vineyard, his eyes lit up.”
That explains the eyes, right?…
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Vintank is a wine and tech industry think tank group based in downtown Napa, full of folks for whom I hold a great deal of respect (so much so that when they asked me to partner with them on trying out the concept of using badges for wine reviews, I jumped at the chance).
As think tanks do, they periodically release reports on the industry, for the most part in Vintank’s case concentrating on the intersections of wine and technology (predominantly on-line and social media tech). Their latest report, titled To-And-Fro, was recently released and provides synopses of their 2010 work and the major developments in the on-line wine world over the last year. Most interestingly, however, is that To-And-Fro also makes some bold predictions about what we’ll see in 2011 in the culminations of wine and tech. If you’re interested in the wine biz, it’s well worth a read (and the 150+ slides in this deck go by quickly), and you’ll find it embedded below after the jump.
But I should note that I had a strange, nagging ennui when reading To-And-Fro. It’s not that I think the predictions espoused in the report are incorrect (I agree with nearly all of them), it’s just that I can’t shake the feeling that the report is too optimistic. If To-And-Fro has a flaw, it’s its pesky optimism: it seems to assume that the wine biz operates rationally and does so at the speed of normal businesses that have an on-line component – neither of which I’ve found to be true…
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