The Fiendish Plot (And Fiendishly Good Wine) of Dr. O. Fournier

Vinted on April 1, 2016 binned in on the road

[ Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for my old Playboy.com gig, was purchased, but due (I think) to staff turnover there, was never published. I’ve attempted multiple times to buy this back from PB, because I really liked how it turned out, but never heard back from them. So… I’m reprinting it here, because it seemed appropriate for April Fools’ Day, and it was fun to write so I really wanted it so see the light of day at some point. Enjoy! ]

O. Fournier

O. Fournier, Bond Villain Lair

When you’re standing at the bottom of the hill upon which the ultra-modern winery of O. Fournier is perched, as the base of the mountains in La Consulta, two explanations for the elaborate construction spring immediately to mind.

1)    The O. Fournier building is actually an extra-terrestrial scouting ship that landed in Argentina, got sidetracked by asado barbeques, half-naked girls and soccer, thus abandoning its mission deciding to stay and make wine.

2)    O. Fournier founder, Spaniard José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier, is actually a Bond super-villain, the Argentine winery being a front for his fiendish plans to hold the planet hostage to his whims. Clearly the huge hollow columns supporting the winery house some sort of missile silos?

It’s easier to daydream like this when you’re standing in the dusk half-light as the sun sets behind the mountains, and you’ve already had multiple asados and wine tastings that same day.

Ortega, a stout man with a slightly ominous beard and small, round glasses, looks every bit the part of potential international evil mastermind bent on world domination when he greets me at the winery. He’s impeccably polite, but slightly self-absorbed and there’s no mistaking the undercurrent of agitation he feels at me being a bit (okay, more like several hours) delayed due to my lunch asado, which means the diner asado will be even later than planned (note: do not visit Argentina if you dislike eating the equivalent of several cows’ worth of meat in a week).

Ortega speaks in grand terms as we tour the O. Fournier complex. “It doesn’t make sense to talk about ‘Argentina’ wine now,” he says defiantly, “it’s too broad. The ‘New World’ of wine is old enough now.” The passion shows in his eyes when he says it; do I detect the air of malignant narcissism that could serve as back story for a Bond bad guy’s motivations? Better be careful with this guy…

Ortega’s a former bank exec who then got into winemaking, so we know that he probably had some serous cash to get the winery going.  “The money-printing machine broke in 2007,” he quips, “so everyday now I check if the banks own the winery, or I own it.” Ah, more motivation? Revenge on the world’s banks? This guy’s definitely an evil mastermind. From here on out, we’re calling him Dr. O (Fournier)…

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A Near Miss And A Potent Hit (March 2016 Wine Product Roundup)

Vinted on March 30, 2016 binned in wine products

Forthwith, I present the March 2016 wine product roundup, this time on time, but only juuuuust!

This month, I’ve got two items from the sample pool to present, one of them a bit of a miss, the other potentially a hit (in both the it-totally-works and the painful-punch-to-the-gut senses of the word, which will make more sense in a minute or two).

sponti catalyst

Dialing it up? (image: sponti.com)

In terms of the near-miss, we have Sponti’s Catalyst Ultimate Wine Server, which as far as I can discern is not yet available for purchase. The idea behind the Catalyst is a combination of wine pourer and aerator, only the aeration is adjustable thanks to a nifty little dial on the back of the pourer.

As a pourer, the Catalyst works as well as any similar in-bottle-pourer, minimizing post-pouring-action dripping. As an aerator, I get decidedly mixed results from the thing. The adjustment of the dial is easy, but I had two issues with that: 1) the lower settings seemed to do very little in terms of actually impacting the aromas and flavors of the wines on which I tried it, and 2) it’s easy to go a bit wild and end up turning the dial so far that you loosen it entirely (adding a simple plastic notch in the design might prevent this, but might complicate cleaning the unit if it prevented the dial from being removed).

It’s easy to clean, but its plastic design also feels a bit on the cheap side. I’d have to wait and see the final price, but generally speaking I think more works needs to be done to tweak this item.

Now, onto the Potent Hit portion of this month’s round-up…

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Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For March 28, 2016

Vinted on March 28, 2016 binned in wine mini-reviews

So, like, what is this stuff, anyway?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes with you via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be quirky, fun, and easily-digestible reviews of currently available wines. Below is a wrap-up of those twitter wine reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find these wines, so that you can try them for yourself. Cheers!

  • 11 Castello di Uviglie San Bastiano Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese (Piedmont):  This featherweight can hit with some serious jabs. $NA B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Gaudio Bricco Mondalino Gaudio Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese (Piedmont): Pleasant palate hip-check, delivered by rosehips. $NA B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Tenuta la Tenaglia Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese (Piedmont): Roses are red, cherry is ripe, this is pithy… can I have more? $NA B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Wente Eric’s Chardonnay Small Lot (Livermore Valley-San Francisco Bay): Bring forth the thirsty crowds, for they shall be pleased. $28 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Riverbench Cork Jumper Rose Brut (Santa Maria Valley): Floral, lovely, & capable, and maybe just a little too sure of itself. $42 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Trefethen Oak Knoll District Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Flashy, but seriously skilled, and fitting the NV profile to a T. $60 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Biblia Chora Ovilos White Assyrtico-Semillon (Pangeon): Oil & water don’t mix, but oily & piquant sure as hell do, based on this. $40 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Wakefield The Pioneer Exceptional Parcel Release Shiraz (Clare Valley): Like inhaling the entire finals of a barbecue competition. $200 A >>find this wine<<
  • 10 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva (Rioja): Spicy, plummy, & juicy waves that hit quickly, but slowly ebb on sweet mocha currents. $25 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • NV Henriques & Henriques 20 Years Old Malmsey (Madeira): If you can’t stand this fresh heat, you surely don’t belong in the kitchen. $95 A- >>find this wine<<
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