Weekly Twitter Wine Mini Reviews Round-Up For August 13, 2011

Vinted on August 13, 2011 binned in wine mini-reviews

Uhm, like what is this stuff?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine sample tasting notes via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be fun, quickly-and-easily-digestible reviews. Below is a wrap-up of the twitter reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find them so you can try them for yourself. Cheers!

  • 07 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico (Chianti): Lots of pretty fruit, lots of lithe balance, & a bit of (slightly distracting) funk. $20 B >>find this wine>>
  • 08 Georg Breuer Riesling Terra Montosa (Rheingau): Who can refuse candied ginger & flowers? Especially when they go so well w/ dinner $40 B+ >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Fred Loimer Lois Gruner Veltliner (Niederosterreich): Zesty. As in, “possessing lime zest” zesty. Tailor-made for Summer nights. $15 B- >>find this wine>>
  • 07 Spring Mountain vineyard Syrah (Napa Valley): Meaty, blue-fruited, spicy, has a rough edge – & sure as hell isn’t messing around. $55 B+ >>find this wine>>
  • 96 Williams Selyem Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): Big, earthy, dark & smokey. Won’t beguile you, but *will* own you. $120 A- >>find this wine>>
  • 96 Williams Selyem Riverblock Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): Rarely can one use “liltingly gorgeous” & actually mean it. $100 A >>find this wine>>
  • 09 Lincourt Courtney’s Chardonnay (Santa Rita Hills): Elegance, riding in on stoney minerals, trumps tropical buttery-ness (our hero!) $25 B >>find this wine>>
  • 08 Lincourt la Cuesta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Ynez): Ok there’s the oak thing. But there’s the leather/licorice thing too. $35 B+ >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc (Awatere Valley): Sort of like ‘death by lime, lemongrass, pink grapefruit & chalk.’ But in a good way. $15 B >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Clifford Bay Pinot Noir (Marlborough): Raging baking spices. Raging, juicy red berry fruit. Raging, racy structure. Raging bargain. $15 B >>find this wine>>
  • 10 Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Clean as a whistle, crisp as fresh grapefruit, & cheaper than a latte at Peet’s in SFO $10 B- >>find this wine>>
  • 09 Joseph Drouhin Brouilly (Brouilly): A serious pepper & red berry Beaujolais show. But might be suffering from a case of Morgon envy $18 B >>find this wine>>
  • 09 Joseph Drouhin Rully Blanc (Rully): Carries apple, spice, citrus, a good deal of charm, and probably a slightly elevated price tag $20 B- >>find this wine>>



Boozy Bargains Best Big Boys. Sort Of. (Inside The 2011 Lake County Wine Awards, Part Two)

Vinted on August 11, 2011 binned in crowd pleaser wines, overachiever wines, wine review

Sensationalist headline, for sure – and not all of the wines I’m going to talk about today were boozy. And they didn’t really best the biggest boys, if by big boy we (and by “we” I really mean “me”) are talking about the best wines of the Lake County Wine Awards (more on those next week) . But certainly consonance counts (see what I did there?) for something, right?

For those of you who, like me, basically had zero clue as to how a professional wine competition operates, I offer the following “insider” thoughts on what I found to be a peculiar aspect during my judging of the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards in July – namely, the Sweepstakes Round that pitted the Best Of Class winners against each other in a battle for LC bragging rights.  Sounds like something Bob Barker would introduce, doesn’t it… Hey Lake County BOCs… Come ON DOWN!!


Let’s talk about how these wine judging competitions work, what the Sweepstakes stuff actually means, and the (very!) surprising results of the clash between the Best Of Class LCWA competitors…

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What I Learned At Summer Wine Judging Camp (Inside The 2011 Lake County Wine Awards, Part One)

Vinted on August 10, 2011 binned in going pro, on the road, wine industry events

A little over a week ago I helped to judge the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition, which was held at Brassfield Estate Winery in the ludicrously-beautiful Clearlake Oaks area.  Over 180 wines carrying the Lake County AVA on their labels were submitted to the competition.

While I’m well-past the “cutting teeth” stage of judging when it comes to wine writing competitions, before the Lake County event I’d never judged wine in that professional of a setting before.  Here’s the quick-take on the LCWA event, in the form of the top five things I learned after taking the judging plunge:

1) Organizing wine writers, critics, winemakers, and wine educators at an event held at a winery is like herding hungry cats with attention-deficit disorders at a tuna processing plant. But somehow Ray Johnson, our panel director, the Lake County Wine Assoc. and Brassfield managed to do it with nary a hiccup. Made props to those peeps.

2) Lake County wines are very good, but not yet quite All-That-And-A-Bag-Of-Chips. I was especially pleasantly surprised by the whites in the competition, and there’s certainly no shortage of tasty wines providing great QPR in Lake County.  But the big reds, the Cabernet flights in particular, were a bit of a let-down after the heights to which my hopes had climbed coming into this competition of Wines With Altitude.  Yes, there are some amazing Cab blends being made there, and a ton of value to be had, but a high number of duds were in there, too – some downright flawed and others just downright dull. There’s serious red wine potential to be capitalized on out in Lake County, I just hope more producers get the lead out on making it happen for the reds.  Speaking of reds…

3) Much like trying to convince people that the word varietal is not a noun, judging big reds poured right out of bottle is an exercise is frustration.  These wines needed time (in some cases, probably several hours in a decanter) to properly show their stuff – pouring the big reds right out of the bottle is not being fair to the producers who entered their wines into the competition.  Yes, I know it’s totally impractical to decant dozens and dozens of wines for hours before a competition – but producers of big, complex red wines need to know that they’re setting themselves up for lower competition scores.

4) Much love, respect and good vibes are due my panel-mates : Randy Caparoso, Deborah Parker Wong, Marc Hinton, Tina Caputo, and Martha Dunne.  You should be checking out the work being done by each of these people, if you’re not already familiar with their writing. The event was divided into two panels, and luck of the draw had me paired up with this group.  I upped my wine tasting IQ by about sixty points just watching these people, all of whom have some tenure on the wine judging circuit, and all of whom were so damn fun that I found myself wishing the event would go on longer than two days.  On the not-at-all-related-to-wine front, it’s just awesome to hang out with people like Deborah (who exudes approachable elegance), and Randy (who has seen just about everything in the wine and food business, and to whom I owe a big-time favor for driving my ass to the Sacramento airport at the crack of dawn… on second though, I bought him dinner so f*ck that, we’re even!).  The whole crew was great, and they also put up gracefully with my disruptive behavior, god bless ’em.

5) Expect wild inconsistencies in how wines are scored.  I doubt many of you out there haven’t caught on to this already, but just in case: one person’s “No Award” is another person’s Silver Medal.  We all taste differently, and no one at that level of tasting experience is totally right or wrong.  In the end, if you can support the why of your decision, you have the basis for solid discussion and will reach a point where none of you are losing sleep because you didn’t ‘do right’ by a wine you were judging. As Randy put it, “we all respect each other as tasters” (to be fully honest, I’m still kind of blushing from that remark!). And that’s not even getting into how differently the same wines might show across multiple days.  If you ever needed proof positive that wine appreciation is at least partially a subjective art, and/or that no wine critic can ever capture the essence of a wine in a single snapshot judgment, I recommend that you volunteer for the humbling assignment of being a wine competition judge!

Much more to come soon on the process behind the competition, and the wines that took top honors (some of which are probably going to surprise you).  For now, I offer some event pics below (after the jump).


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