I had a pleasant visit at the award-winning French Creek Ridge Vineyards yesterday, checking out their annual sparkling wine tasting event. While there, I had a nice conversation with Janet Maki, co-owner and the winemaker at their J. Maki winery, discussing the most recent harvest (which by PA standards was just about perfect – warm weather, almost no hail or frost, short rains, and abundant sunshine). Their 2007’s should be interesting wines and could end up becoming their most balanced ever.
As for their more recent offerings, I thought they hit a homerun with their elegant Viognier, which has beautiful and fragrant nose. Their latest Gewürztraminer was also quite nice. If you had told me either of these wines had hailed from WA state, and not PA, I would have believed you.
The sparklers were a bit on the ‘leesy’ side for my taste, but opened up a bit given a few hours of air. (As for the Chardonnay – let’s just say they should have been paying me to sample it.)
An interesting wine tidbit that has been getting some good press lately (e.g., see this article at the Washington Post), is The Wine Century Club. The club doesn’t have many members (somewhere in the low hundreds), and it hasn’t been around that long (about a year and a half). But it’s got spirit, boy! And it’s the kind of venture that sums up everything I love about wine.
There are 1,000+ different grape varieties being made into wine, and that is in one country (Italy) alone. The full list is probably not known. And though most of the grapes being made into wine these days are thought to come from one progenitor (the Muscat of Alexandria grape), you could taste wine for a lifetime and never get bored.
The fine folks at The Wine Century Club understand this, and their group is devoted to exploring the fun of trying wines made from uncommon varietals. To become a member, you download their application and mark which wine varietals you’ve tried; when you reach 100, you’re in. Simple as that.
But it’s not really that simple – a staggeringly low percentage of those who have downloaded the application actually send in a completed copy. It’s not that easy to try 100+ wine varietals – thank god that blends count (so one blended wine means you’ve tried all of the wines in that blend – congratulations).
Between all of the formal and informal tastings I’ve been part of, my own penchant for trying new things and new wines over the years, and my prep. work for the WSET exam, I’ve been able to reach 100 (over actually, but I stopped at 100 because the piles of tasting notes I needed to reference to check which varietals I’ve tried were beginning to overwhelm my desk). I faxed my application in today, baby!
I’m not sure what I’ll get once my application has been accepted – except for bragging rights, of course. But you could spend your time in many worse ways than downloading the Wine Century Club application and starting to work your way through the varied and fun world of really uncommon wine.
And though it will usually get you two checks on the application, I recommend against trying Retsina… :-P
The September 3/10 issue of The New Yorker has a fascinating article penned by Patrick Radden Keefe (who frequently writes articles for the magazine, most dealing with the dark underbelly of commercialism in terms of con artists, fakes, etc.). This time, the focus is turned on the market for ultra-premium, rare fine wine.
Now, it’s a (relatively) well-known fact that forgery is rampant in some areas of the wine world (much more Georgian wine is consumed in Russia, for example, than could ever realistically be produced). This article explores the impact that fakes have on the highest end of the wine market, and raises some interesting questions about the authenticity of some of the rarest wines and most expensive wines in the world. Among the items in the cross-hairs:
- The most expensive bottle of wine ever sold could be a fake (a 1787 Lafite believed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson in Paris while serving as America’s Minister to France).
- Intricate fakes of rare and older vintages of some of the top Bordeaux chateaus may have duped esteemed wine critic Robert Parker, as well as Michael Broadbent (who heads Christie’s wine department, is a Master of Wine, and the author of a fantastic treatise on wine tasting).
So – do we need to worry about buying fakes at our local wine stores?
Probably not. Unless you own your own island, you’re not likely to purchase any of these rare wines – and you’d have a difficult time finding them even if you did have the bankroll to support that kind of habit.
But – many of us who love wine will splurge from time to time (if you’re like me, you may splurge more times than you should…). It is highly unlikely that you will encounter a fake if you are searching for recent vintages of the top stuff. When you do feel the urge to go for that shiny bottle of grand cru or first growth to celebrate, it can’t hurt to start with a reputable local dealer, and it certainly is in your best interests to ask them how the wine has been stored and to ask about the sources where they get their premium wines. Any wine retailer that wants the few-hundred bucks you’ll drop on one of these bottles (and cares about your return business) should be willing to entertain those questions, and give you a decent answer (not to mention the requisite amount of confidence to drop the cash). If you don’t like the answers or still have suspicions after speaking with them, don’t make a big deal about it – walk away and explore another store or (if you’re lucky enough to not live in PA) on-line retailer.
Raise your glass of Belgian beer and have a moment of silence to remember the venerable Michael Jackson, esteemed English journalist, author, and critic of all things related to beer.
Michael was a frequent contributer to beer periodicals and to his Beer Hunter website, and he was the author of several successful beer tomes, including the long-running Pocket Guide to Beer and the thorough and excellent Beer Companion. It is not hyperbole to say that Michael was a key figure in ushering in the ‘new beer renaissance’, the effects of which are still being felt in the U.S. in its continued proliferation of excellent micro breweries and small craft-beer brewpubs.
My friends and I viewed Michael as a bit of a legend. As English Literature majors in undergrad, who also brewed beer… well, it doesn’t take a large stretch of the imagination to envision how important an influence this guy was on us.