Contracting a vicious intestinal bug (the kind that requires antibiotics… the kind that makes taking Imodium akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight) isn’t usually taken as a positive omen when it comes to starting a new career. So it’s with mixed emotions of relief and ominous portent that tell you I faced exactly that in the early part of my recent (sponsored) sojourn to South America. I took it as a good sign, actually, since it “cleansed” my system just prior to hoping over the Andes from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina – where the beef is barbequed perfectly and there is plenty of it being offered to you. So the cleansing was more than just symbolic.
Despite the less-than-auspicious start, my trip yielded a ton of potential material for these virtual pages, some of which you will start seeing as soon as… tomorrow (where I will feature what I considered the best wine of the trip – why not get right to the good stuff, eh?… did I just type “eh?”… what did I turn Canadian al of a sudden…?)! I thought I’d offer one more “teaser” piece, which is a set of some of the more stunning scenes I was able to capture from those southern hemisphere wine lands, where the vineyard terrain is varied but more-often-than-not finds you smack dab up against an enormous mountain – there’s nothing else quite like it in all the world. Words do little justice to the images, so – despite the fact that I am a far cry from being professional photographer – I’ll let the pictures do the talking after the jump.
In terms of offering this up in the Going Pro series: part of my “job” during the South American stint was to taste wines and offer what the organizers called “expert” feedback to the winemakers on the quality of the wines and their possible reception in the U.S. market (in my case, mostly concentrating on the East Coast market). It was… well… it was simultaneously odd and surprisingly easy.
What I mean is, it was easy to talk about the wines – I love doing that (duh) and it comes naturally to me, especially now that I’ve got thousands of wines under my palate’s belt. BUT…Having winemakers and PR folk hanging on some of my words was a very, very strange experience for me. I hope it helped them – I can’t tell you if they thought it was entirely valuable input, but I can tell you that those meetings didn’t impact how I plan to cover the wines here on 1WD; as always, some of those producers will come out looking great and others… not-so-great (hey, when you invite me you gotta know what your in for).
More to come, of course – for now, enjoy the images and I invite you to share your impressions of Chilean and Argentine wine (and your peanut-gallery comments on my unprofessionl photos) before the deeper coverage starts!…
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I’ve officially had it with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and their unparalleled ability to continually flip the legislative bird to U.S. taxpayers and American wine consumers.
Their latest ploy has been the introduction of HR 1161 – called, strangely enough, the “CARE” act (for Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2011″) but what I’d more accurately describe as the “SYFBWETBORA” act (for “Screwing You From Behind Without Even The Benefit Of a Reach-Around act of 2011”) – is, simply put, a colossal waste of legislative and taxpayer time and energy that could be spent on things slightly more important, such as reducing our national debt, helping to end starvation, fixing healthcare, or…
It’s tough to put into words how asinine this legislation really is, but I will try… for the impatient, I would describe HR 1161 as being the kind of legislation I would expect to be written by severely retarded monkeys, in so much as it promises to deliver a similar amount of potential “benefit” for U.S. consumers and taxpayers.
HR 1161 would basically amount to “exempting state alcohol laws from review under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.” Which would mean that state laws governing alcohol distribution – no matter how potentially unconstitutional, anti-consumer, pro-monopoly they are currently – couldn’t be challenged in court.
How bad is that? It’s bad enough that the National Association of Attorneys General have sent letters indicating that they do not support the bill. Basically, the case for HR 1161 being unconstitutional seems to be quite strong – which strongly suggests that a lot of time is being wasted in drafting, promoting, fighting, and discussing it, because it’s (probably… hopefully!) unlikely to pass.
As a commercial body, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America asking to be protected from Constitutional commerce law is sort of like the U.S. Military asking to be exempted from ever having any of its members be tried for war crimes under any circumstances – we don’t expect that kind of behavior, but the threat of legislation and subsequent legal action at least is a deterrent.
If you want to learn (much) more about how bad HR 1161 really is, check out the on-going coverage of the details over at Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog. What I will leave you with is this: the only logical conclusion I’ve been able to come to when thinking about why on our wine-lovin’-Earth any member of the U.S. legislative system would be in support of HR 1161 is that they are firmly entrenched in the pockets of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.
And we know what we should do with politicians who are too firmly entrenched in the pockets of any big business group:
VOTE THEM OUT.
You can get started by joining up the movement against HR 1161 on Facebook, and by writing your legislative reps to let them know that you’ll be voting for their resignations if they support the bill.
- 07 Phifer Pavitt “Date Night” Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Very good, but your date had better like really, *really* ripe fruit. $75 B+ #
- 10 Chasing Venus Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Bolder than a tattooed Kiwi sunbather on a tropical (and herbal) nudist beach. $16 B #
- NV J Wineyards & Winery Brut Rose (Russian River Valley): Prepare for a full-on red apple, blood orange and red cherry palate hug. $35 B+ #
- 07 Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County): He’s packin an overachieving, balanced sweet plum & cherry punch $11 B- #
- NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad (Cava): Hideous pewter bottle, but a crisp, bready bubbly w/ great dried fruit (& some petrol!) $22 B #
- 08 Pey-Marin “Trois-Filles” Pinot Noir (Marin County): It might be Low on flash, but it’s high on structured, firm red-berry finesse. $39 B+ #
- 08 Bonizio Sangiovese Di Maremma (Toscana): I dig those cherries, but it smells like they were dried a bit too close to a tire fire. $9 C- #
- 09 San Angelo Pinot Grigio (Toscana): Starts simple but stick w/ it; the apple & tropical fruits get livelier & livelier as you go on $17 B- #
- 07 Anatomy Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): The red berries must have been injured, ’cause they got a bit too many band-aids on ’em. $28 B- #
- 05 Casa Silva ALTURA (Colchagua): That’s a spicy meatball! And a leathery, earthy, chocolaty, sweet-figgy, sexy & complex one, too. $65 A- #
- 08 Casa Silva Petit Verdot Gran Reserva (Colchagua): Earth/plums, stemmy/chewy, supple/gripping; fun (if acquired) study in contrasts. $19 B #
- 09 Casa Silva Carmenere Reserva (Colchagua): Lush, structured dark fruit, but some of that structure is built with some green stems! $12 B- #
- 10 Casa Silva Sauvignon Blanc “Cool Coast” (Colchagua): Jumps out like NZ, spices it up at the end, and over-delivers throughout. $23 B+ #
- 10 Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris (Colchagua): Ready to rock the shellfish. Why don’t we see more steely lime beauties like this in the US? $19 B #
- 10 Casa Silva Sauvignon Blanc Reserva (Colchagua): The green apple & underripe grapefruit are austere. Maybe a bit *too* austere. $12 C+ #
- 08 De Martino “Alto Los Toros” Single Vineyard Syrah (Elquí Valley): Smoky meat BBQ prepared by chef in a stunning cocktail dress. $40 A- #
- 07 De Martino “Las Cruces” Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines (Cachapoal): Beguling combo of deep, dark plummy fruit & silky drinkability $40 A- #
- 08 De Martino “Limávida” Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines (Maule): Maybe the most stunning terroir achievement you’ll taste for the $. $40 A #
- 07 De Martino “El Leon” Single Vineyard Carignan (Maule): Like Darth Vader if he was made of black cherry, tannin & baking spices. $40 B+ #
- 09 De Martino “Alto De Piedras” Carmenere (Isla de Maipo): Dark, herbal, violet-filled beauty could pass for a kick-ass Petite Verdot $40 B+ #
- 09 De Martino “Legado” Chardonnay (Limarí): Chablis-like focus w/ hint of cream & toast thrown in for good measure. Screamin’ value. $14 B #
The point when (or is that where… damn, I can never keep that straight) any normal person realizes that Stanley Cheng is loaded, and I mean God-calls-him-when-He-needs-a-loan loaded, probably comes pretty early during the course of meeting him; in my case, it came about ten minutes before I met him, while coasting up the lengthy, gated drive that marks the entrance to his newly-finished home and vineyard estate in the outskirts of Napa Valley.
It wasn’t the need for a security gate, the fact that he could actually afford a piece of land that spacious in Napa Valley, or even the fairy-tale mansion at the end of the drive that tipped me off to the Laurentian-abyss-level deep pockets; it turns out I’m too obtuse to pick up even those obvious clues. In fact, at first I thought the house had to be a winery facility made up to look like a mansion, because it just seemed too big and gorgeous to really be someone’s home.
No, for me the moment came when I pulled up to the much sparser but still handsome building a little more than halfway between the gates and the mansion, thinking that it had to be Stanley’s house because it was about three times the size of my place. Then I took a peep through the large glass doors and noticed that I wasn’t peering into an office building or a residence, but into a sort of garage / gymnasium.
That’s when it hit me that Stanley Cheng had more money than god…
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