Ode to a Wine Teacher

Vinted on July 1, 2010 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

I could tell that I wasn’t quite myself based on the number of business cards in my backpack.

There were dozens of those little cards left, staring back at me when I opened my pack.  Cards that I should have given away to friends old and new at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla.  The “normal” Joe would have been handing out those cards left and right. Instead, they were practically shouting their futility – after all, what good are they to me? I already know who I am.

It wasn’t the fact that I had been in a new place for the first time, seeing new faces (I’m well used to that scenario); it also wasn’t the fact that back home one of our 100+ year-old trees came down on our neighbors garage in a fierce storm, cleaving it nearly into two (no one was hurt, apart from the trees).  The reason I wasn’t myself was that my teacher was dying.

My teacher was my dog, Sam.  He passed away while I was at the conference (if you were in attendance and I appeared out of it or seemed dismissive, please understand that it wasn’t you, it was most definitely me).

Sam was pretty sprightly for a guy in his 80s (people years, of course), still weighing in at 85 lbs. of mostly muscle.  Still fairly strong, too (he had once accidentally broken my left hand when we were out for a run).  Stubborn, too – in fact, I used to joke that I could sum up Sam’s thoughts in one sentence (“Hey guys – this is what I want to do now”).

Our experience with Sam was more Marley and Me than Lassie – he had a penchant for stealing bread, licking the icing off of cakes on the kitchen counter, eating through metal cans of dog food, and practically destroying the house during thunderstorms.  BUT… he was one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known.

Sam taught me a lot about how to really appreciate wine (yes, I’m serious – read the post).  But his greatest lessons were in teaching me compassion and patience – the latter being something that I’ve often cited as the ‘secret sauce’ of wine blogging (and life in general, really; yes, I’m serious – watch the vid).

My only real regret is not that I wasn’t there to say goodbye when Sammy passed – it’s that I wasn’t the quickest study when it came to fully grasping all of those lessons in compassion and patience that Sammy tried to teach me.

Here’s to a friend, a sweet soul, an old teacher – long may his lessons be remembered.

Cheers!

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Antithesis: A study in Extreme Serendipitous Winemaking

Vinted on June 30, 2010 binned in best of, California wine, wine review

I almost named the wine Serendipity because I discovered the technique which produces this wine by pure accident.”

This is a story that I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell for monthsIt’s the kind of story that makes you excited about the influx of talented, young winemakers in the Napa Valley, who are shaking things up with an attitude and passion that probably hasn’t been seen in the Valley since John Trefethen accidentally exploded a trash can full of fermenting juice in his basement in the `70s.

The quote that kicks off today’s article comes from Modus Operandi Cellars owner and winemaker Jason Moore.  And he is either a bit of a genius, a bit ingenious, or certifiably nuts (or some combination of the three), depending on whether or not you come from the traditional U.C. Davis school of California winemaking.  The story of the wine – called Antithesis – is the kind of stuff that is a bit stranger than fiction – in other words, you can’t make this kind of stuff up if you tried – which is why I’m excited to tell it.  Or, I should say, I’m excited to have Jason tell it, which he did via a recent e-mail exchange.  In that way, this article is part wine review, and part interview:

“In 2006 I had a little problem with one of my fermentations… the yeast stopped fermenting which left me with about two brix of sugar to ferment. I knew that the winemakers usual response to this issue is to prepare a new yeast build up and re-inoculate. I also knew that this is horrible for ultimate wine quality so I reeeeeally don’t like to do it… only as a last resort. So, I learned a trick from Phillippe Melka which has the ability to solve the fermentation problem while still retaining as much wine quality as possible.”

Before we talk about how Jason (quite creatively) overcame this little conundrum, I need to tell you a bit about the wine itself, which I first tried back in February during a get-together at Vintank HQ in downtown Napa.  Jason was pouring the `07 Antithesis (among some of his other M.O. wines).  I was struck by the quality and depth of the wine; I knew that it stood out as special, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why – that didn’t become totally clear until Jason described the strange history of the wine, which, as you will soon discover, is sort of like a twisted CA version of Valpolicella Ripasso.

Jason kindly agreed to send me a sample for review so that I could taste the wine under more controlled circumstances. And I enjoyed it just as much the second time around…

Read the rest of this stuff »

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! (Brought to you by the Letter “W”)

Vinted on June 29, 2010 binned in about 1winedude blog

That about sums it up: THANK YOU!

I’ve just returned from Walla Walla, WA where I was both a panelist and attendee at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference.  As if that sentence didn’t contain enough Ws for you, I also was honored (and humbled) with the 2010 Wine Blog Award for Best Overall Wine Blog.

THANK YOU to all of those who nominated and voted for 1WineDude.com – and thanks especially the readers and frequent commenters who are the ones primarily responsible for making this blog as successful and fun as it is.  Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists – they are all great, great blogs that are well worth your time.

I also made a speech, for which I felt quite unprepared but it seemed to go over well enough. I met friends, old and new, and learned that when you wine a WBA and stand still for more than 2 minutes in a room with lots of PR folks, you will have some of those (less sensitive) PR people actively block your way to the bathroom in order to talk to you and get your business card.

I also got interviewed a lot (or at least it felt like a lot to me); a fun one with the Wine Biz Radio guys appears at the beginning of the embedded video below (followed by interesting interviews with lots of other bloggers, winemakers, and cool PR people).

I tasted some wines, of course, and visited some wineries, and hung out with some wine personalities, and I do plan to write about all of that; I also plan to write a tribute to my dog, Sam, who passed away while I was at the conference. But I need to decompress first, and process the whirlwind emotional roller-coaster of the weekend that was WBC and WBA.  And maybe remove the W key from my keyboards (not sure that last one is such a good idea, actually).  More to come; for now – there’s a ton of WBC coverage happening in the blog-o-world.

Thanks again; I will try to “do right” and reinforce the vote of confidence that you’ve been kind enough to give me!

(video after the jump)…

Read the rest of this stuff »

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