Fitting squarely into the “Well, Now This Is Interesting” Department (I just made that department up, because it’s my blog and I can do that sort of thing, after all), I recently received a PR-style email about a new wine search engine called VinoMatch.
VinoMatch is not an all-things-wine-related search engine (good thing, too, since it’s likely that nothing can compare to AbleGrape.com in that department – and no, that’s not a new official department here at 1WD, okay?).
No, what’s interesting is that VinoMatch is a search engine that’s meant to connect the average wine consumer with wines that they like based on flavor profile. I.e., you navigate flavors and styles that you’re looking for, and VinoMatch presents you with wines that fit your criteria – theoretically linking you up with a wine you’re more likely to enjoy than a recommendation based on points from a small number of critics.
I love this idea, because I love the idea of people educating themselves about their own wine preferences and getting to the point where they can make comfortable wine-buying decisions on their own (sh*t, I wrote a short book entirely about how to do that!). But I don’t hold out a ton of hope for VinoMatch – at least, not just yet.
Why not? Well, the details behind answer to that question are even more interesting, I think…
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Being wine country (and one of the fastest-growing in all of Cali. at that – they’ve well over 200 wineries now), Paso Robles can be visually stunning. You’d probably have guessed that already, since, well, it’s wine country and there’s a damn good reason why even people like me visit wine country when they go on vacation (even when, as in my case, they’re going on vacation from wine!) – it’s usually breath-takingly gorgeous.
What you might not have known about Paso is that it’s starting to (rightfully) fancy itself a gourmand’s small-town paradise. Restaurants like Artisan, Farmstand 46, and Villa Creek are testament to the culinary prowess being drawn to the area (those I got to witness first-hand on my recent Paso jaunt). But there’s also a bevvy of businesses that supply the high-end foodstuffs that go into those local culinary delights, including two spots I had the pleasure of visiting: The Abalone Farm (pricey seaward stuff is cultivated there by laid-back owner Brad Buckley, but it’s an amazing grilled match for Paso’s white Rhone blends), and organic produce producer Thomas Hill Farms (generous owner Joe Thomas will probably let you eat all the pears, figs and jujubes you can stomach, but I can assure you from personal experience that you will pay for it dearly the following day).
I managed a few pictures of all of the above, in-between all the eating a drinking in Paso – check ‘em out after the jump. Coming soon: more mini-reviews of Paso wines, and my take on what’s right (and not-so-right) in Paso Robles viniculture (you know, like, when I get around to it, man). Enjoy!…
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- NV Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port (Porto): Recent Symington makeover suits this Ruby well; offering plum, fig, date & peppery spice. $18 B >>find this wine>>
- NV Perrot-Batteux Cuvée Helixe Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs (Champagne): Lemony verve, sexy, nervy energy & all with a side of bread. $45 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 08 Davis Family Vineyards Guyzer Block Syrah (Russian River Valley): From the blue fruits aisle straight to the cured meats section. $38 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Davis Family Vineyards Soul Patch Estate Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): RRV native takes an earthy, elegant trip to Burgundy. $42 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Davis Family Vineyards Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): Berry compote with a finish longer than most cross-country bus rides. $40 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Davis Family Vineyards Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): Might lack some uniqueness, but certainly not charm (or age-worthy acid) $36 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Weingut Baron Knyphausen Erbacher Michelmark Riesling Erste Lage (Rheingau): Floral, spiced beauty; tense, nervy citric brawn. $57 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Treana White (Central Coast): Tropics, florals, vivacity, versatility & just crazy amounts of joy (& aging potential) for the coin $23 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Eberle Estate Chardonnay (Paso Robles): Crème brûlée that was kind enough to bring the acidity. Wish it had also brought scallops. $20 B >>find this wine>>
- 08 Cass Winery Syrah (Paso Robles): From herbs to jammy fruit to beef to coffee; kind of like a microcosm of an entire dinner here. $42 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 09 Cass Winery Grenache (Paso Robles): Fire-starting strawberry & meat that will pepper (in both senses of the word) your tongue. $28 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 Cass Winery Rockin One White (Paso Robles): Acidity, butterscotch & apples in an oak cloak. Will probably shed it for seafood stew. $32 B >>find this wine>>
- 10 Cass Winery Roussanne (Paso Robles): Kinda like a lemon boulder – there’s a ton of heft, but a there’s a ton of minerality, too. $26 B >>find this wine>>
- 08 Adelaida Version (Paso Robles): Smoky, meaty, earthy red fruits dominate, & they really, really want some smoked sausage. $34 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 08 Adelaida HMR Estate Pinot Noir (Paso Robles): Rustic, authentic & juicy red berries ridin’ right outta the hills of ol’ Paso. $35 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 Adelaida HMR Estate Chardonnay (Paso Robles): Peach & citrus that are hand-delivering minerals, & shooting star-like vivacity. $40 B+ >>find this wine>>
Spending an hour of so over lunch with Cypher Winery’s self-proclaimed “Winemaker, Troublemaker, and Firestarter” Christian Tietje is a bit like experiencing a small vinous indoor dust devil. In the wake of this whirling dervish of a man, you are left with remnants of well-crafted comfort food, open bottles and empty, stained glasses strewn about, and a lingering sense of bewilderment at the bold (some might say egotistical) pronouncements such as “yeah man, this is totally gonna be a 95, 96-point wine when the press gets a hold of it.”
Yeah, man – and this article is totally gonna win me some James Beard awards, you know, after they judges all wise up and stuff.
My whirlwind tour through Christian’s wines took place last week at Paso Robles’ Farmstand 46, a restaurant partnership between Tom Fundaro and the owners of Four Vines Winery. Christian is probably best-known as the principal winemaker behind Four Vines’ high-octane, high-scoring releases. But his new venture, Cypher, has Tietje stretching out a bit and – dare we say it – maturing. Certainly the single varietal Cypher bottlings have a lot of promise, which you’d probably expect from a talented winemaking team – but what you might not expect is that they also display a good deal of craftsmanship and… restraint…
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