Let’s get the Valentine’s Day mention out of the way first thing – my views on this most Hallmark© of upcoming holidays are akin to those recently espoused by my friend W. Blake Gray. In summary: I’m not a huge fan, but I do love spending quality time with women. For those of you who insist on having a V-Day wine tidbit, I will refer you to the news that I highlight every year at this time, which found that wine knowledge actually makes you makes you more attractive.
For those who need a little more by way of wine recommendations for V-Day festivities, I am going to tackle that topic today because with V-Day falling on a Monday I’m guessing most people are going for their (obligatory) V-Day proceedings this weekend. Anyway… I’d like to point you to a selection of wines from a recent press dinner at Philly’s fabulous restaurant XIX organized by the Center for Wine Origins (great dinner, by the way, in which I got to finally catch up with Philly wine personality Brian Freedman and Philly Wine Examiner’s Jeff Alexander, among others). They are wines about which (lucky for me) I was planning to write anyway that (lucky for me) just so happen to also have potentially significant V-Day appeal – provided that your pockets are deep enough to lay down the cash for them.
Please note: generally speaking, I’m NOT a fan of going for expensive wines just for the Hallmark© V-Day holiday – I’d rather save those for anniversaries with real significance – but I share the following because they can serve triple duty as 1) recommendations for special events that are actually special to you and aren’t special because some marketing machine told you they were special, 2) are really friggin’ good anyway and so wine geeks will want to try these and 3) can serve admirably in a pinch for those who can’t escape the marketing hype and/or just really need to impress someone on V-Day.
So, here goes…
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There are worse places to be than where I’m camped out this week – Portugal (again, and I feel blessed to be back), where this time I’ll get to spend some time in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Lisbon, as well as getting back to the insanely gorgeous Douro and the lovely city of Porto.
The reason I’m back in this diverse winemaking region is that I’m being hired by a (rather large) Portuguese wine producer – well, technically I’m being hired by their PR agency – to pen posts for their U.S. blog. That blog (of course) will have no affiliation with 1WineDude.com apart from the guy writing the articles (me) and is going to be hosted separately. I actually don’t even have a log-in for the site yet, but the Portuguese approach things in a manner that is… well… let’s just a bit more laid back than what we Type-A, anal-retentive, uptight East Coasters are used to seeing.
Since I’ve been totally transparent since day one on this blog, and within the Going Pro series of articles in particular, I wanted to give you all the skinny on this gig of mine.
Let’s start by telling you that for the duration of my contract with said producer, there are two aspects of the contract that I hold as supremely important in governing how this deal is gonna go down:
- I’m not allowed to enter into any similar contracts with any other Portuguese wine producers (makes sense, but let’s just say there isn’t exactly a long line of Portuguese-speaking PR types knocking down my door), and
- The producer has agreed not to be mentioned in any context whatsoever (name, reference to wines, etc.) on 1WineDude.com (or my facebook and twitter accounts) for the duration of the contract.
That last condition was mine, and it serves as the “firewall” between what I’ll be doing specifically for their blog and the independent coverage of wine that I provide here…
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It’s been months since the most recent “official” book review on the virtual pages of 1WineDude.com. This hasn’t been due to a paucity of book samples coming my way – I’ve just sadly had little time to devote to them, because my time management skills are on par with Chad Ochocinco’s ability to stay out of the public eye.
Fortunately for me – and, I think, for many of you – William Widmaier’s A Feast At The Beach hit my mailbox. It clocks in at less than 150 pages, with most chapters – vignettes of Widmaier’s late `60s childhood in Provence, centered around wine, food, and the family kitchen – short enough to be enjoyed while taking care of quick business (on the toilet… c’mon, you know you were thinking it). The book is interspersed with recipes that look simple and delicious (but I wouldn’t recommend combining them with the toilet-reading).
Anyway, delving into A Feast At The Beach has the feel of exploring the back-catalog of posts from a supremely well-written blog. The first few sentences of just about every chapter draw you in, connect you with Widmaier’s Provencal childhood memories, but in their disarming terseness remain blessedly free of any hint of cloying, saccharine wistfulness. Exhibit A – his take on pesto (when comparing it to the French pistou):
“I am addicted to fresh homemade pesto. Forget the manufactured, preserved concoctions in jars. They compare to fresh homemade pesto like motor oil compares to Normandy butter.”
You’ve just gotta love that. And as a wine lover, you’ve got to admire Widmaier’s take on the wines of Provence, which are prevalent throughout the book and often show that he knows of what he vinously speaks: “A huge part of the joy of wine, at least in my view, is having a sense of place that goes with the wine. Wine is more than the taste on the palate; it is place, memories, history and art. This is why with wine, taste is such a personal thing – it includes one’s romantic notions.” Bingo, dude.
Personally, I’m pleased to have stumbled upon a memoir that is well-written enough to be romantically reflective without losing its edginess. Which makes A Feast At The Beach such a rare book – it’s one that can be equally at home on your grandmother’s beach house coffee table as well as your own nightstand. $14.95-ish (cheaper at Amazon.com).
- 08 90+ Cellars Lot 15 Pinot Noir (Carneros): Bright cherry fruit survives the oak attack w/out getting overblown about the achievement $16 B #
- 07 90+ Cellars Lot 4 Shiraz/Viognier (McLaren Vale): Starts near the evil dark-cherry-soda border, finishes w/ spicy, leathery balance $15 B #
- 06 La Jota Heritage Release Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Cassis, spice, blackberry – just focused, pure, & brilliant. $90 A #
- 08 Hanna Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): Hazelnut, honeydew & apricot meld with tight, lemony acidity. And (wow!) it totally works. $22 B #
- 08 Sanford La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills): Get past the sizable heft & spicy raspberry/cherry & earthiness awaits $50 B+ #
- 09 Dry Creek Vineyard Wilson Ranch Dry Chenin Blanc (Clarksburg): As tropical, refreshing & overachieving you’ll get for the price. $12 B #
- 08 Rodney Strong Reserve Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): French oak dukes it out with bright red fruit & spice. Oak wins by TKO. $40 B #
- 09 Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): Want some red fruit & flower action with all that smokey oak? $20 B- #
- 08 J Keverson Haas Family Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Mountain): Brutally big (as in "some of my fruit got brutally murdered!"). $32 C+ #
- 08 Santa Ana Reserve Malbec-Shiraz (Mendoza): Pepper & Plum have a happy marriage, then give birth to velvety, easy-going offspring. $13 B- #
- 08 Hugel "Cuvee Les Amours" Pinot Blanc (Alsace): Living up to its namesake with flowers when you meet & a citrusy kiss when you part. $15 B #