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1WineDude | A Serious Wine Blog for the Not-So-Serious Drinker - Page 331

Twisted Wine for Twisted Times

Vinted on September 10, 2008 binned in wine review
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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!

Sit back, relax, and prepare for the unfolding of a twisted, Twisted Tale…

It was a dark and stormy night.

Actually, no, it wasn’t – it was one of those brilliant summer evenings when breeze is just strong and cool enough that it feels like a waft of heaven when you open up all the windows in the house. But that sounds a really lame start to a twisted tale… ah, forget it…

Anyway, I was recently contacted by Jeff Stai, head honcho of Twisted Oak winery in Calaveras County, CA, to see if I’d be interested in sampling their new limited-availability red, River of Skulls.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? River of Skulls. Especially when it’s in italics.

RIVER OF SKULLS!!! Mwah-hah-hah-HAH-HAAAAH!!!!!

Jeff is an eminently likable and very funny fellow, with a fondness for blogging and rubber chickens (you can follow Jeff at twitter to see what I mean). So, I was game to check out his wine.

Jeff did insist on one hideously vile and twisted condition, though: In exchange for receiving his new wine, I must henceforth from this day onward follow Satan!!!…


Now, at first I thought this would be difficult, seeing as how I don’t actually believe in Satan and all. But then I found this guy over at twitter, clicked the “Follow” button and – viola! – problem solved!

Actually, that’s not what happened. Jeff sent the wine with no strings attached. I know, kinda lame, right?

Anyway, the wine’s namesake is a bit twisted. From the bottle:

In 1805, Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga was ordered by the Spanish Governor of California to explore the Great Central Valley. displace the local Natives, and re-name everything he found. Well, one day Gabe and his horsemen came across a river the banks of which were littered with skulls. No one knows for sure how the skulls came to be on the banks of this river. Perhaps they were the remains of an ancient battle, or a terrible plague. Or perhaps it was a really great party that suddenly went horribly wrong.Whatever the case old Gabe, being a true master of the obvious, named this river “El Rio De Las Calaveras” or in English, “The River of Skulls.”

Freak-a-zoid!

Now, before we get into the River of Skulls (dum-DUM!) bottle, I need to give you some twisted background on the primary varietal in this sucker…

River of Skulls is 90% Mourvedre, a grape of Spanish origin (where it’s called monastrell or mataro, depending upon location), where it’s widely planted. It’s also found in Provence, the Southern Rhone, and with limited (spotty) success in California. Mourvedre ripens slowly, and it likes heat & wind (which help it against rotting). Its wines are not shy and tend to be used for blending because of their tannic, alcoholic spiciness.

Interestingly, Mourvedre is a true survivor. It was practically wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800s, and it wasn’t until after World War II that suitable rootstock was found on which Mourvedre could thrive without succumbing to the nasty little aphid.

Speaking of twisted tales, if you have time check out the life cycle of phylloxera – any species that produces a male with no mouth or digestive system is just, well, totally twisted!

Anyway, back to the wine: Twisted Oak provides a great deal of information about River of SKULLS (dum-DUM!) in the wine’s production notes (worth checking out if you’re feeling particuarly geeky). Interestingly (lots of interesting things going on in this twisted tale…), about 1/4 of the grapes were fermented uncrushed, in order to bring out more cherry fruit characteristics in the finished wine.

It worked. Here’s what I found – dried cherries galore, vanilla oakiness, and tobacco leaf spiciness. The palate was full of even more smokiness and spice – and booze. Nothing shy about the booze in this sucker, but I’m Ok with that because I expect it from this grape. It’s when I get 14.9% white wines and Bordeaux style red blends from CA that I start to get all, well, twisted inside. On the second day of tasting, I got more raspberry and blueberry than on Day 1 – still going strong. River of Skulls is a wine that’s worth the $28 price tag, especially if you’ve got some smoked or peppered meat to serve with it. Boo-yeah!

Well, there you have it. A wine tale that was quite twisted, though not in the ways we might have originally expected. For more twistedness, check out Twisted Oak winery’s blog.

And be on the look out for Jeff, and for that Satan character…

Cheers!
(images: twistedoak.com, avenuevine.com, southparkstudios.com)

Wine Studies, Sex, and the Art of Anticipation

Vinted on September 8, 2008 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

Or maybe that should be the Science of Anticipation…

Back in January (yes, I am just now getting around to this – hey, I’ve got a newborn at the house; what’s your excuse?), findings were published from a study that measured participant’s brain reactions to tasting wine. The trick: it was the same wine, but they were told that the wine was either cheap, or relatively expensive. Guess what – participants enjoyed the wine more when they were told it had a higher price.

With all the duping going on in the wine industry the past few weeks (including an embarrassing gaff for Wine Spectator, and the claim that wine bloggers – Dude included! – were duped by winery marketers), I thought it would be fun to revisit this little ditty, and cast a different light on it in lieu of recent events.

According to one article on the study findings:
“Contrary to the basic assumptions of economics, several studies have provided behavioral evidence that marketing actions can successfully affect experienced pleasantness by manipulating nonintrinsic attributes of goods.”

[ My translation: instead of telling you that the wine is "an everyday guzzler" or "as close to sublime perfection as humans are likely to reach," they just upped or lowered the price. ]

This struck me as totally odd (in terms of this being contrary to economic assumptions). I mean, aren’t we talking about something that marketing types, hucksters, clever business folk, and seductresses have known for maybe hundreds of years? Not only does a higher price give you the cache factor of shelling out for “the best,” setting a higher price does something else just as important:

It gives your brain the opportunity to indulge in anticipation of experiencing “the best.” Which is, I’d argue, an essential element in making a “good” experience – a meal, a movie, a date, a wine, and (especially!) sex – “great.”…


What studies like this one don’t mean is that you can’t tell the difference between wine that is pure plonk and wine that is superb. Almost anyone can do that, provided that they are willing to do a little bit of learning beforehand.

The studies don’t mean that all wines are created equal. In a lot of ways, the current wine market does set prices fairly, and you tend (with some exceptions, of course) to get what you pay for.

The studies also don’t mean that you need fancy-schmancy wine certifications, or advanced study under your belt, to appreciate wine. For that, you only need an open mind, patience, and the willingness to learn. Incidentally, these are the same things that you need to better appreciate a good meal, a movie, a date, and (especially!) sex.

I’m not sure what enlightenment we’re hoping to reach with all of this wine duping afoot, but I can tell you this: You know what they say about sex? ” When it’s good, it’s great. And when it’s bad, well, it’s still pretty good!”

The same applies to wine (and other great experience-givers) because, fundamentally, wine gives us pleasure, connect us together, and provide us the opportunity to open our minds a bit further than they were a few minutes before.

And if we indulge in a bit of anticipation to heighten the experience? From what I can tell, the most harm it might cause us is to think that the experience is a bit better than someone else thought it was.

That’s a trade-off I’d take any day of the week.

Cheers!

(images: .geocities.com/SoHo/Nook, danielpadilla.com)


Calling All 1WineDude.com Gear Models!

Vinted on September 7, 2008 binned in wine products

Check out the big shirt on Brad!

Bradley Cooper, winemaker/consultant in British Columbia, is featured below sporting his new 1WineDude.com “Wine Rules!” tee. Sweet!


Thanks, Brad. I love Canada!

Cheers!

Bargain Wines from Wine Peeps

Vinted on September 6, 2008 binned in Uncategorized


Just wanted to drop you all a quick jimmy-jahn to highlight a way-cool article from my buds over at WinePeeps.com. They’ve put together their list of favorite budget wines (and in the current economy, who isn’t lookin’ for a bargain right now) – these are selections that cost about $10 a pop, and scored high (in their opinions) in QPR.

I’ve only tried three of these wines myself (the Hogue, Yalumba, and Penfolds – though they were likely different vintages, you’ll these producers will probably be very consistent year to year especially in this price range).

Worth a look if you’re scoping for everyday drinking.

http://winepeeps.com/2008/09/05/super-bargain-wines-for-tough-times/

Thanks, Wine Peeps!

Cheers!

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