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Weekly Twitter Wine Mini-Reviews Round-up for 2009-05-02

Vinted on May 2, 2009 binned in twitter, wine mini-reviews
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HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!
  • 07 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc (Napa Valley): Granddaddy of modern CA wine going strong. More lemongrass & vanilla than a Vietnamese dinner. #
  • 07 Crane Lake Cabernet Sauvignon (CA): Cab?? Yeah, & I’m the Pope. Amazingly unbalanced for its low abv. To be served to your worst enemies. #
  • 05 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Blackberry & chocolate. Probably overdone, but with grilled steak you won’t mind one bit #
  • 04 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mtn. Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Sublime balance btw focused black fruit & silky tannic structure. Drool #
  • 08 MontGras Reserva Carmenère (Colchagua Valley): Black, spicy & peppery enough to stand up to blackened swordfish. Tasty, if not exciting. #
  • 06 Martin Codax Ergo (Rioja): New world in terms of forward berry fruit, old world in terms of acidity & raging, massive Rioja oakiness. #

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3 Easy Ways to Get to 100 (Wine Varieties, That Is)

Vinted on May 1, 2009 binned in learning wine, wine appreciation

Did we really tell lies
Letting in the sunshine
Did we really count to one hundred
?”

- Jon Anderson, Long Distance Runaround

If you’ve been on the “global interwebs” for any appreciable amount of time, and you like wine, you’ll already be familiar with the Wine Century Club.  If not, here’s a short primer: the WCC is an organization that seeks to promote wine appreciation by offering you bragging rights after you successfully taste 100 or more wine varieties.  Download the application, fill it in, send it to the WCC, and then you’re a member.

Of course, there is the matter of tasting the required 100 or more wine varieties. 

I’ve got a buddy who I’ve known for over 30 years (since I was five years old, actually) who is not a wine geek per se, but he does enjoy wine and he loves to learn, and he especially likes collecting categorical experiences.  He recently asked me about the Wine Century Club after seeing that I was a member, generally inquiring about how to go about tasting the 100 different wine grape varieties required to gain membership

My buddy is not the kind of guy to get daunted by a challenge like tasting 100 different wine grape varieties, but while being a fantastic idea and also clearly in the camp of spreading wine appreciation to the masses, the WCC doesn’t exactly do itself any favors in terms of encouraging membership when it publishes this sort of warning on its website:

“It’s a simple idea, but it’s not as easy to become a member as you may think. One Master Sommelier could only come up with 82. Of the thousands of applications downloaded, less than 3% are completed. If you feel up to the challenge, have a look at the application!”

With all due respect to the WCC founders, I’ve got to go ahead and disagree on that.  I think my buddy is exactly the kind of person that should be shooting for WCC membership.

In fact, it’s my belief that anyone who wants to learn more about wine should become a Wine Century Club member.

It’s not difficult at all to do this (hell, even I did it).  It just takes patience (I said it wasn’t difficult – I didn’t say it was quick).

If you’re someone who wants to learn about wine, you’d do far worse than seek out 100 different grape varieties to try – you’ve got nothing to lose except time (and a little bit of money), and you stand to gain an immeasurable amount of quality wine experience along the way.  There is no faster way to learn about wine, after all, than to taste it.

So I thought I’d offer some advice on how you can get to the 100 and join the WCC yourself.  The competitive among you (like me) won’t have any trouble motivating yourself (“I will get me 100 grape varieties, dammit!!!”), but if you need even more incentive, how about this: did you know that one of prog rock pioneers Yes’ greatest songs, Long Distance Runaround, from their landmark 1971 LP Fragile, was written about the Wine Century Club (even though the WCC wasn’t founded until decades after the album’s release)?*  How friggin’ cool is that?!??

* – This statement has not been verified by any reputable source and is probably totally false.  But Yes kicks ass, can we just agree on that?

 

Anyway, onto the advice…

3 Easy Ways to Get to 100 and Join the Wine Century Club

1) Take Stock

If you’ve been drinking wine for a while, likely you have tried more grape varieties than you realize (if you suffer from having a spouse / main squeeze that only drinks one style of wine… I feel for you but you need help if you’re gonna get crackin’ on the 100).  For WCC membership, blends count, so take a few minutes to think back on how many varieties you can check off from those blended wines.  If you’d had a Southern Rhone wine anytime in the recent past, look up that sucker on the web, because you may have tasted upwards of a dozen varieties in that one glass.

2) Take a Class

Wine classes are a great way to up your wine IQ (well… duh…), but they’re also the kind of setting where you often get to try wines that are off the beaten path.  If you don’t know much about a particular wine region, it’s a great excuse to get yourself to a wine class and get educated.  It’s also an opportunity to tick off a likely more than a few varieties on your way to the 100.

3) Take a Trip

When you travel, try wine – preferably local wine.  Tasting wine in its home region, paired with its “home” food, is really experiencing wine in its natural element, and it will seriously expand your wine knowledge.  Of course, traveling is also an opportunity to try funky local wines that might not otherwise be available to you.  Here’s an example: Italy has hundreds of wine grape varieties, so a short time in Italy would get you ticking off wine varieties on your WCC application like… well… like a thing that speedily checks stuff off applications.  Anyway, if you lived in Italy, you should be able to complete the WCC application before your twelfth birthday.

So there you have it – nothing difficult about it.  Well, nothing difficult apart from having the patience to let your wine journey unfold naturally so that you experience the wonderful world that it has to offer you…

 

 

Cheers!

(images: amazon.com ,1WineDude, melaman2.com)

TasteCamp Kicks Off in Long Island Tomorrow!

Vinted on April 30, 2009 binned in twitter

TasteCamp EAST is nigh upon us!

The entire Dude clan (minus the dog) will be en route to Long Island wine country tomorrow to spend the weekend celebrating the 5th wedding anniversary of Dude & Mrs. Dudette… oh, yeah, and also taking part in TasteCamp, a regionally-focused spin-off of the North American Wine Bloggers Conference

I’m trying very hard to figure out something better to do for celebrating my anniversary than visiting a regional wine area and tasting their wares… hmm… sorry, drawing a blank here… 

Anyway, Lenn Thompson has done a great job so far in pulling together the first-ever TasteCamp event, and I and some of my fellow Right Coast wine bloggers will be reporting (probably sporadically) from the event.  Here’s a quick list of the wineries and sponsors that will be part of the event:

I’m pretty stoked, especially to be kicking off what will hopefully be many, many more years of married bliss with Mrs. Dudette, and also to be meeting up with my wine blogging compadres in New York. More to come, but you can follow the TasteCamp happenings as reported via twitter by checking out the widget embedded below on this post.

 

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Grazr

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Cheers (and snoochie-boochies)!

I’m Such a Fool For You (Reflections on Howell Mountain Cabernet)

Vinted on April 29, 2009 binned in California wine, wine review

Search for “Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet 2004” via Google, and you will quickly notice a few things:

  1. Apparently, if you post any information about Cornerstone on the web, you’re contractually obligated to use a few of the same well-produced photos of Cornerstone wine.  Sort of like how any mention of Australia in textbooks is accompanied by a picture of the Sydney Opera House.  Anyway, I’ve used the same ones in this post just in case, so I don’t get in trouble.
  2. The reviews are glowing (here’s a well-written example).

So now I’m thinking, great, who needs to contribute another favorable review of this thing?  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  But this is not a post about Cornerstone, as much as it is a post about me being a Fool, and about the subjectivity of wine tasting in general.

You see, I realized that it was important that I write about my experience with this wine, because tasting the Cornerstone made me realize just how biased I am when I’m tasting, and how much my personal tastes influence my wine recommendations and (mini) reviews.

First, let’s talk about the wine, which comes to me as a sample via Craig Camp, general manager of Cornerstone and is a fine blogger in his own right, and who I think is a good guy despite the fact that he only gave me one bottle of this wine.  Anyway, my thoughts on the 2004:

At first I got a little smoked meat on the nose, like how you might smell after eating a Bacon Explosion.  Dark, ultra-concentrated fruit.  The fruit is massive but it’s friendly, and you can smell the structure in this wine.  It comes to you like a friendly fat guy in a perfectly-tailored 3-piece suit.  This is Santa Claus on his day off, hosting a dinner party – that kind of friendly.  There is dried plum / prune action all over the place, but there’s so much else going on it’ll make your head spin.  Concentrate on one aspect, and it goes deep – like the black pepper; really hone in on it, and I swear to god it will practically make you sneeze there is so much pepper.  Hone in on the licorice and you’ll feel like you just popped open a bag of some kind of high-end black Twizzlers at the Cineplex… you get the idea.

And this is before I’ve even tasted it.

In your mouth, it’s dense.  The black fruit carries itself all the way through to the finish, which is plenty long, and it’s approachable now because the tannins are grilled-fig-wrapped-in-bacon chewy.  But they (the tannins, not the figs) give you just enough kick at the end, which reveals the whole point, unfolding in front of you like a treasure map that finally points you exactly where you need to dig: the balance of structure and intensity of fruit.  It’s almost a mind-f*ck, those last few seconds just get you right into the brain of the winemaking staff at Cornerstone.

That’s how I saw it, anyway.

So the interesting thing (for me) is, in tasting this wine, I had a fundamental realization, a small milestone in my personal wine-journey, similar to the first time I paired a buttery Chardonnay with lobster and thought, “OK, this is what everyone was talking about when they said that the right food & wine pairing makes all the difference.”

I realized that I’ve tasted that same balance of intense, focused berry fruit and velvety-chewy tannin structure before.  It’s a hallmark of Howell Mountain, which for me is the best site for growing Cabernet outside of Bordeaux.

Period.  End of discussion.  Check, please.

I’m a total fool for Howell Mountain Cab. fruit.  It’s kind of sad how much I’m Howell Mountain’s fruit bitch.  In my mind’s eye, I can imagine walking among some of the Cabernet vines of Howell Mountain, stopping to peruse a ripe cluster still on the vine, and the cluster begins to speak to me.

In this mental vision, the Howell Mountain Cab. fruit has the voice of Mr. T.:

Howell Mountain Cab Fruit: Hey. Suckah!  What kind a fool are you?

Me: <Looks around, fearing for my own sanity>.  Uhm… what?

HMCF: I asked you a question.  What kind of fool are you, suckah?!?

Me: <Leaning in closer to examine the grapes, which vaguely resemble the head of Mr. T.>.  Uhm… I dunno… why are you talking to me?  Am I drunk?

HMCF: I’ll give you the answer right now.  You a DAMN fool.

Me: Dude, that is soooo not cool…

HMCF: What other kind of fool are you?

Me: Uhm… I dunno… the drunk kind?

HMCF: WRONG, Suckah!  You MY fool!!!

Me: <collapses into fetal position; weeps>

Guess you had to be there.

Anyway…

How biased is that?  Pretty biased, probably.

If a Howell Mountain wine sucks and I review, I’m pretty sure I will say that it sucks, even if it is from Howell Mountain.  But I’m also guessing that when I taste a good Howell Mountain Cab, it’s already getting a leg up on other Cabs I might be trying around that same time.

Consider me squarely in the “wine tasting is subjective” camp.  My palate has its preferences, just like everybody else’s.  And they will probably make themselves known in my write-ups, articles, and reviews, whether I like it or not – just like every other wine writing dude and dudette out there.

Cheers, fools!

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