Hidden Ridge Vineyard is technically in Sonoma County, though it’s a stone’s throw from Pride Mountain Winery and is pretty close to Napa, as the crow flies.
But in order to actually get to Hidden Ridge’s insanely, almost Mosel-esque steep vineyards in any reasonable amount of time, you’d need to travel as the crow flies. As in, by helicopter (not that I’ve seen any crows flying helicopters… but it could happen, right?). Or, you can do what I did on a recent press trip, which is visit Hidden Ridge Vineyards by way of Lynn Hofacket’s four-wheel-drive truck.
Which is to say, you can be tossed around like a rag doll in the back seat of Lynn Hofacket’s four-wheel-drive truck while traversing the rocky, twisting and winding “roads” that lead you to the vineyard owned by Lynn & Casidy Ward. I’d love to provide directions, but I’m pretty sure my memory of the trip was compromised by the multiple concussions I endured during the drive.
The vineyards at Hidden Ridge might be elevated (some as high as 1700 feet), but the winemaking approach of consulting winemakers Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos is fairly down to earth. Several years ago, Lynn was advised to “throw that damn thing away” when he tried to produce a refractometer in the vineyard to measure grape ripeness. Now, he and the winemaking team simply taste the grapes to determine the best time to pick. “Brix aren’t measured until the wine is in the tank” Timothy told me when we toured the ridiculously steep (on up to 55 degree slopes) rows of vines on the Hidden Ridge property.
Lynn is fond of telling stories, most of which are about California wine industry types and aren’t really fit for “printing” here, but the most interesting story when it comes to Hidden Ridge, for me, is the wine itself – most notably, it’s price. Or I should say, its prices…
Read the rest of this stuff »
Last night, the Dudelette and I tried out a relatively new family-dining-style BYO Italian bistro in our area. Just about everything at this new-ish joint was very, very good – from the friendly service right on through to the tasty, looks-like-it-just-came-out-of-grandma’s-kitchen pasta.
I say “just about everything” because, as you will see in the inset pic (with apologies from me including crappy-ass cellphone shots here), when I pulled out out BYO wines, the restaurant handed me a nice metal “waiter’s friend” style corkscrew (I want one!), along with two wine “glasses” that looked as though they’d serve better duty as flower vases.
Are those glasses pretty? You bet. Are they decent glasses for drinking wine? No way.
I’m not trying to be a wine snob here (it comes naturally after a while!) – you’re reading the words of someone who regularly tries wines out of small plastic cups at outdoor events (you can take the kid out of Elsmere, but you’ll never take the Elsmere out of the kid, baby!) – but trying to get a sense of a wine and really enjoy it out of these things was just about impossible. Even our potentially kick-ass dinner wine selections (Matthiasson releases – and we all know those folks know what they’re doing because they’re getting mentioned here on an almost weekly basis now) tasted downright pedestrian from those things. We probably would have had better luck tasting them from our daughter’s sippy-cup (seen in the background).
For my tastes, those vase-glasses have a rim that’s way to wide and so thick that it dumps the wine into your mouth at a strange angle. All that pretty carving action? No way to really dig on the wine’s color and clarity through that stuff. The goblet style shape? More suitable to specialty beer brews than wine – give me a tulip-shaped glass any day.
Think the Dude doth protest too much? Had a head-on run-in with restaurant wine glasses? Shout it out in the comments!
Lately I’ve found myself at (what I’d consider to be) a lot of (what I would call) professional (or, at least, semi-professional) environments in which I am expected (or at least it seems that way) to taste wine in the hopes that I might critically evaluate it (but with fewer parenthetical interruptions if I do).
I’m rarely alone at those moments – I’m usually part of a small group of bloggers, traditional press, or some mixture thereof. But I am usually alone in at least one respect at those tastings: I’m the one asking for a spit bucket.
Or the one looking around for an open outside door, empty unused glass, drainage grate, or random patch of grass so that I can spit. More often than not, I feel as though I’ve got to explain myself, and/or am left wondering why a winery or event coordinator hasn’t thought to at least provide a plastic cup for spitting purposes.
More concerning to me is that the majority of my peers at these tastings don’t seem to feel the slightest need to spit.
Now, I’m not about to tell someone how they should evaluate wine, and I’m certainly in the "wine tasting is more subjective than objective" camp – but I’m baffled as to how someone can taste several wines without spitting and think that they can remain cogent enough to provide an ounce of objective viewpoint about it all later…
Read the rest of this stuff »