- 09 Masút Pinot Noir (Mendocino): Seems the Fetzer bros. off to a slightly-jammy but lively, enticing & complex start. Stay tuned. $40 B+ #
- 08 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): Kinda like sniffing a fab red berry parfait & then downing a shot of grain alcohol. $35 B- #
- 09 Gunderloch "Jean Baptiste" Riesling Kabinett (Rheinhessen): Vibrant, tasty but seems a bit too tropical for the castle-strewn Rhine $18 B #
- 06 Vall Llach Embruix Priorat (Catalunya): Lluís Llach’s complex brew would be music to yer nose if not for the cacophony of booziness $25 B #
- 08 Loosen Bros. "Dr.L" Riesling (Mosel): Trying to find a cleaner, tangier, livelier Riesling for the $? Yeah good luck with that one. $12 B #
- 07 Chimney Rock Elevage (Napa Valley): Savory red & black plums writing their names on silk using chalky tannins. Whatever -it works! $79 B+ #
- 08 Chimney Rock "Tomahawk" Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Not as showy as prev vintages but still decked out in some sexy wampum. $115 B+ #
- 05 Chimney Rock Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Vally): A damn fine testament to SLD’s silky mouthfeel & firm structure. $62 B+ #
- 08 Duckhorn Decoy Merlot (Napa Valley): With easy-going blackberry, dried herbs & vanilla, it won’t quack out on you at the steakhouse $25 B #
- 06 Ferrero Brunello di Montalcino: Dried cherry that ain’t too funkay. Very good Brunello primer that dents but won’t break the bank. $50 B+ #
- 08 Chimney Rock "Clone 7" Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): One classy, gorgeous mouthfeel, but many concentrated dark red fruits. $75 B+ #
- 08 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Like the Cab version of "Dark and Lovely"; floral, focused & just fantastic. $155 A- #
- 08 Hourglass "Blueline" Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Fruit’s a tad dry, but the herbs & licorice are expressive (& impressive). $130 A- #
- 10 Stepping Stone Riesling (Napa Valley): Aromatic & focused? Yep. Tropical? Bring on the Hawaiian shirts. Svelte? Uhmm…. No. $18 B- #
- 10 Stepping Stone "Corallina" Rosé (Napa Valley): Built ground-up as rosé & it shows from the great color thru the elegant red berries $18 B #
- 10 Santi Montedoro Moscato (Dolomiti): Peachy, grapey & like Perez Hilton it’s cloying but also sort of charming at the same time. $11 B- #
- 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 #
Even though I’m a thoroughly-clueless heterosexual, it’s obvious even to me that Ignacio Casali – Viticulturist for Chile’s Viña Leyda – probably has had little trouble attracting the ladies. Ignacio possesses the kind of strong jaw and rugged, 5:00-shadow good looks that likely mean he has never had to struggle through hours of vivacious small-talk well-timed humor, and cajoling (the way that guys like me have) in an effort just to appear attractive when buying a girl a drink.
But before you eligible bachelorettes start emailing me for Ignacio’s number, you should know that if you ever do meet him it’s very unlikely that you’d be listening to Ignacio wax poetic about how your eyes resemble the nearby ocean (the Leyda Valley is located a mere 12 km east of the port area of San Antonio in central Chile). No, no, no – you are far, far more likely to hear him wax poetic about the far, far less sexy topics of rootstocks and vineyard clones from U.C. Davis.
You see, Ignacio is a wine geek, tried-and-true, and he’s clearly most at home in Leyda’s vineyards, talking about their experimental half-circle / fan-shaped plantings of vineyard rows (those look pretty odd, by the way), or providing details on which rootstocks are planted where (and why) on the property, or expounding the subtle differences of UC Davis grape variety clones and their soil suitability.
Still want that number, ladies?
To understand why there’s such a geeky focus on clones, vineyard management, and a sense of experimentation at Viña Leyda – and to really get to know the details behind some of their crazily-overachieving wines – you need to understand the lay of the Leyda Valley land, and educate yourself on some details about the Chilean wine market…
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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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