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1WineDude | A Serious Wine Blog for the Not-So-Serious Drinker - Page 323

Off the Beaten Path in Sonoma & Napa (or "KAZ & ACME Rock My Socks")

Vinted on November 3, 2008 binned in California wine
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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!

After finishing up at the first North American Wine Bloggers Conference last week in Santa Rosa, Mrs. Dudette and I took the Dude-le and hit the road for a few well-deserved appointments in Napa and Sonoma wine country.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the WBC, and had me a great time. Friendships were made. Wine was shared. Livers were… well, let’s not go there. But… after three days I was looking forward to spending some family QT and hopping around wine country in the sunshine.

It’s always a pleasure to visit such a beautiful area (though everything is still a bit too green out there for my tastes, and I missed the vibrant orange, yellow, and deep auburn hues of Autumn on the Right Coast), but we’ve been there… well… lots of times. So we needed something different to keep our relationship with Northern CA fresh.

Enter Kaz Winery and ACME Fine Wines to the rescue…

Kaz Winery (and its little brother, Bodega Bay Port Works) is the wine-making incubus of the irrepressible Richard Kasmier (a.k.a., “Kaz”) in Kenwood, about 10 miles outside of Santa Rosa.

Kaz has been making wine in his small, family-owned property for a long time, and he’s also the co-host of Wine Biz Radio, a somewhat-serious / somewhat-comedic and irreverent take on all things wine business related in Northern CA (it’s also available online as a weekly podcast of its KSVY 91.3 radio show).

The great thing about Kaz (the winery, not the man, though Kaz is a great and entertaining fellow) is that the wines are so different from what you normally find in Sonoma: tasty, high in refreshing acidity, long on approachability, and lower on the alcohol (typically between 13 and 14% abv). This was a nice change (for me) from a weekend full of Dry Creek Wines that: were tasty, low in refreshing acidity, short on approachability, and had so much alcohol that I wondered whether or not they were trying to kill me via alcohol blood poisoning. Anyway, Kaz is a bit off the beaten path in Sonoma, but well worth the side-trip.


The following day, we met up with a friend of 1WineDude.com in St. Helena, who was kind enough to show us around town (thanks, Kimberly!) and introduce us to another irrepressible character, Erin Sullivan over at ACME Fine Wines. Erin is a trained Sommelier and clearly knows her stuff about the local wine scene.

The great thing about ACME is that they have deep cuts of the local wine scene, and specialize in the tasty wine “side projects” of talented, well-known winemakers – usually limited quantity wines that are high on tastiness, and run anywhere from $20 to $200.

I was impressed with the wines on display, all hand-selected by the ACME staff, and spent a good deal of time picking Erin’s brain on some of the lesser known (to me, anyway) labels. If you’re looking for something different in the world of CA wine (and for a break off the beaten path in the Napa area), ACME is well worth the visit. You can check out the selection (and place some orders) at ACMEFineWines.com.

Cheers!
(images: 1winedude.com)

Portable vs Potable II: A Tetrapak Smackdown (or "Garbage In, Garbage Out")

Vinted on October 30, 2008 binned in Tales of the Purple Monkey, wine review


In this exciting edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey, Plumboo (that’s the monkey) and I take on some wine samples provided in Tetrapak packaging. And narrowly survive!

During the Wine Bloggers Conference earlier this week, one of the event sponsors, Tetra Pak, supplied us with samples of wines from wineries that are using their packaging for their products…

Specifically, Plumboo and I tried juice-carton portions of French rabbit‘s ‘petit’ Merlot/Cabernet blend, and Three Thieves‘ “Bandit” Chardonnay, assisted by Mrs. Dudette who was hankerin’ for some vino when I cracked them open. Er, I mean, popped them open. Or peeled them open, actually.

Before I pass judgment on the wines (warning: it won’t be pretty), I should bring some positive karma to this post by giving some attention to what Tetra Pak is all about.

I can really get bahind what Tetra Pak is all about, which is making coin in a green, sustainable way. Their manufacturing is officially carbon nuetral. The packaging that they produce (think milk cartons) requires less material and less weight than glass to hold the same amount of liquid – which also reduces the carbon footprint needed to ship whatever liquid is in the Tetra Pak container.

So… I do NOT blame Tetra Pak for what Plumboo and I had to endure, because their packaging is neutral and theoretically shouldn’t be imparting any flavor or odor qualities to the wine inside.

Qualities like an aroma of bug spray – which was in such prevalent quantity in the French Rabbit ‘petit’ red blend that I expected to find the words “Contains DEET” on the back of the carton.

As for the Bandit, we found it one-dimensional. And that dimension was astringency.

Green is Good. But it doesn’t change the time-tested rule of “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

Cheers!
(images: 1WineDude.com, quiktechsaz.com)

Some thoughts on Californian Wine (from Across the Pond – Guest Post)

Vinted on October 29, 2008 binned in California wine, commentary, guest posts


Following is a guest post from Andrew Barrow, the brains behind the venerable (and excellent) wine & food site Spittoon.biz in the U.K. While we North American wine bloggers were toiling (aka drinking) away and working hard this week at the first NA Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma, I asked Andrew to provide a different perspective on the California wine scene than what we typically experience (good or bad) here in NA. Check out Andrew’s thoughts bellow – it’s a much different, and enlightening, scene than you might be used to here in NA – and check out his excellent writing (and superb photography) at Spittoon.biz. Cheers!

As I write I’m sipping a glass of Californian red – a Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 to be precise…

It’s fairly typical of the type of Californian wine readily available in the UK. Following the 1WineDude’s request for some foreign thoughts on Californian wine, the Woodbrige is ‘research’. A day or so ago, more research, with a bottle of Zinfandel – the only interesting Californian red available in the UK’s largest high street chain of off-licences.

Both wines display a certain richness, demonstrate varietal characters and are both very drinkable on their own.

“I look at many blogs – most are American – they talk of making hit wines, of boutique vineyards, limited edition bottlings and so on – names that get the writer (and their readers) excited and lustful. The same names mean nothing to me. The wine just do not make it across to the UK.”

I don’t know what the sales figures are on these wines but they will certainly be eclipsed by the likes of Gallo White Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc etc. There is no escaping these critic-derided wines. They sell at basic prices by the case load. The vast majority of Gallo drinkers wouldn’t know and wouldn’t care where they come from. How ever much we deride them, they are the bedrock of California wine in the UK – both in terms of style and in sales. Drinkers of these are highly unlikely to trade up to the Mondavi or the Zinfandel.

I look at many blogs – most are American – they talk of making hit wines, of boutique vineyards, limited edition bottlings and so on – names that get the writer (and their readers) excited and lustful. The same names mean nothing to me. The wine just do not make it across to the UK.

We are blessed with a multitude of specialist wine merchants in the UK – many are holding their own against the supermarkets and the high street chains. Only a couple though offer a decent range from California. And don’t even begin to look for Arizona or Long Island, although a smattering of wines from Oregon and Washington have found their way to these little islands. But those specialists are offering the wines at eye-wateringly high prices. You have to ask why would anyone bother – the range of wines readily available from across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa often provide much better value for money [in the U.K.].

“[The CA wines available in the U.K. lack] texture and perhaps a little complexity that similarly priced wines from say the South of France or Italy, so readily available here, provide in spades.

With my evening meal I switched to the Mondavi Woodbridge Chardonnay 2006. This retails at about £7.50 [roughly $12 USD]; the average price of a bottle of wine is half this. The wine is lightly oaked, again highly drinkable but lacks texture and perhaps a little complexity that similarly priced wines from say the South of France or Italy, so readily available here, provide in spades.

And that about sums it up really – you CAN get various Californian wines in the UK but they come at a price that doesn’t often stack up well against similar wines from elsewhere. And those Gallo wines, at the cheap end of the scale, must be enjoyed by someone. You can’t really be saying they are brought solely on price can you?

Garden Party: How To Keep Wine Blogging From Going Mainstream

Vinted on October 27, 2008 binned in commentary, wine bloggers conference, wine blogging

So… I’m “freshly pressed,” so to speak (specifically in terms of palate fatigue and possible liver damage), from the first North American wine bloggers conference in Sonoma. Overall it was a fantastic event, about which I could pen a great number of virtual pages in covering. But that’s not what I’m going to write about.

Not exactly, anyway.

I’m also, as I type this, just returned from a visit to C. Donatiello winery in Healdsburg. I could write a lengthy amount (what else is new, right?) about how nice owner Chris Donatiello is (he’s quite pleasant, and generous), how beautiful the aroma garden grounds were (very), or the quality of their wines (extremely promising for a first vintage, but unfortunately not yet widely available – anyway, more on those upcoming on my twitter wine review feed).

But that’s not what I’m going to write about. Not exactly, anyway.

Instead, I’m going to write about how the face of wine media is changing, and why that’s dangerous for wine bloggers. Because I just spent the better part of three days at a conference where I and my fellow wine bloggers were being at times courted by the Sonoma wine industry, which helped to sponsor the event.

The congregation of 150+ wine bloggers at the WBC, whose individual influence in the world of wine could by-and-large be considered modest (at best), or insignificant (at worst), has amassed the collective power and reach of this new(ish) arm of the wine media – one that is now drawing a larger and larger amount of wine marketing attention. Gary Vaynerchuk underscored this during his WBC keynote speech, when he provided the energetic NJ businessman’s view of the opportunities available now that the ‘old guard’ is no longer the all-dominant force in wine media. The attention given to bloggers by PR departments is a natural progression – and now this is happening for the world of wine.


This is a dramatic turn of events compared to how wine blogging was viewed (more or less as a fad) a little more than three years ago. The winemakers, PR, and the Sonoma wine industry in general “get it” – and it’s all happening rather quickly thanks to the immediacy of the Internet.

Which means that wine blogging has the potential to completely screw itself now.

First, I need to make one thing very clear: there is nothing wrong with what the PR departments in Sonoma are doing by sponsoring the WBC and courting the wine blog-o-world. It’s their job – one that they’ve been doing for years with the traditional wine media.

In a way, wine blogging has arrived. The danger is that, as guest panelist Tracy Rickman told us during one of the conference breakout sessions, outside factors (such as the potential influence of the courting PR) can influence us to become more and more mainstream. At the moment we actually become mainstream, we have lost our edge (and might as well be ‘overtaken’ by the next phase of wine media, whatever that may be).

Uh-ohhhhhh…

In the same breakout session, Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff cautioned that winery PR would no doubt attempt to “use” us, and that we needed to be prepared – and cautious about to whom we lend our trust. Keynote speaker Alice Feiring (yes, she actually entered CA wine country for this…) added (among some very inspiring dialog), “Trust no one.”

What’s a wine blogger to do?

Go on blogging, of course!

I’m not saying that bloggers need to become prudes who completely shut down at the very thought of having to walk a tightrope line of credibility just because they’ve been invited to an industry event, or a personal winery tour, or the like. Heaven knows I’ve got no problem whatsoever being courted by winemakers, PR contacts, or the wine media in general (in fact, my view is that it’s about time this has happened).

The trick is maintaining the willpower to keep a unique, individual, and (hopefully) credibly opinionated voice as a blogger while the “courting” ramps up.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I’m looking forward to the ride…

Cheers (and “Organic Flow” forever)!
(images: 1WineDude.com)

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