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…

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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 – 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)…

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Brave New World (or “Do We Really Need Wine Experts Anymore?”)

Vinted on June 28, 2010 binned in commentary

Just over one month ago, I was quoted in an (excellent and well-written) article by Spencer Bailey of the Columbia Journalism Review, titled “Everyone’s the Wine Expert: Wine critics and bloggers, professional and amateur, are mixed up in a social media web.”

At the time, the CJR article was (rightfully) the subject of interesting and thought-provoking analysis by some very intelligent stewards of the wine world, most notably Tom Wark and Steve Heimoff.

I found myself quoted slightly out of context in the article, and somehow placed on opposite but connected poles of viewpoints with wine writer and educator Karen MacNeil, as if we were some sort of quantum-entangled pair of electrons in a physics experiment.  I’ll mention right now that I am not equating myself with Karen MacNeil in terms of wine writing – not even close; I’m simply pointing out the juxtaposition of our attributed viewpoints in the CJR article.

The article quotes Karen in raising an important viewpoint about wine writing; a concern discussed in detail at the Professional Wine Writers Symposium earlier this year, and one that I’ve pondered on many occasions myself:

“Maybe what blogging will do is undermine the whole idea that this is a subject that is rich and deep and requires some substantive thought and substantive knowledge,” says Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and one in a small stable of writers that wine critic Robert Parker has recruited to contribute to his Web site, “If everybody’s an expert,” she says, “nobody’s an expert.

This was followed immediately by the opposing viewpoint, which was attributed to me despite the fact that it’s not an entirely literal record of my take on the issue:

Do we really need expert critics anymore? Many bloggers don’t think so, arguing that credentials are merely one part of what makes a great wine writer. How you say something—not simply who says it, they argue—is what’s most important. “Readers today have got to feel like the experts connect with them in some way,” says Joe Roberts, who runs the blog “It’s not just, ‘Oh, this person’s got great credentials because they work for Wine Enthusiast.’”

So, over a month later, why am disturbing the tomb and (sort-of) resurrecting the discussion?  It’s the question “Do we really need expert critics anymore?” – the CRJ article proposes it, but then moves off of that topic rather quickly.  Which is a shame, because that’s where the real meat in this pie lies…

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