Wine Review Four-Pack (And Thoughts on 2010’s Most Interesting Wines)

Four badges to hand out from the latest in the flow of near-never-ending samples coming to my door, so let’s get to it!

[ By the way, the reference to the never-ending sample stream is, quite honestly, not meant as a vehicle of self-aggrandizement in any way, but is in fact more a lament of both how woefully (and unprofessionally) behind I am in my tastings, and in the volume of technically-correct-but-fairly-uninspiring wines of which that stream is comprised! ]

2009 Paso a Paso Tempranillo (La Mancha): Plumy, floral & spicy proof that La Mancha is getting its fine wine shiz together. A bargain. $11 B

It’s such a pleasure to enjoy a bold, uncomplicated and fun wine like this, one that seems tailor-made for a plateful of hearty paella or chorizo.  Spain’s La Mancha region is mostly known for two famously insipid characters: 1) Don Quixote, and 2) the innocuous wines made from the Airén grape variety (though to be fair, not all of them suck). La Mancha’s reputation for cheap Airén can mean big bargains for the better wines made in the region, and Paso a Paso is a great example.

2004 Azul Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec (Mendoza): A tad heavy-handed but U might like that from someone this complex, dark & sexy. $32 B+

During an on-line / twitter tasting hosted by Vines of Mendoza, the word “sexy” appeared in description of this wine about ten million times (give or take a few million). At least, it seemed that way to me. Heed these words: when enough women say that a wine is sexy, then the only logical conclusion is that it is, in fact, sexy.

2009 Toquade Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): NZ passion fruit comes to Napa, with a French twist of lemon & herbs. In a word: Fantastic. $20 B+

Last year, Opus One winemaker Mike Silacci dared me to try Toquade after I went on a tirade about how too much Napa Sauv Blanc tastes like Chardonnay on a diet.  I’m grateful to Mike for that introduction, and I’m happy to report that Toquade winemaker Christine Barbe is still on top of her game – in fact, the 2009 might be better than her `08 and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the insane 2010 vintage.

2006 Hesperian Harry’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Go west young man, & find tannin chains long as the Alaskan pipeline. $60 A-

Christine sent along some of Hesperian’s wines to me, and I suppose I’m now also grateful to her for this introduction. It’s not that smoothness is the only thing going for Hesperian’s Coombsville Cab – far from it; it’s packed with currants and aromatic, woody spiciness. It’s just that the smoothness is the thing that will stick with you the most, the silkiness of it – it’s simply drinking beautifully right now.

Speaking of CA wines, if you feel that CA is getting a lot of positive coverage here, it’s probably not your imagination…

In my preparation for my annual list of the year’s Most Interesting Wines (which so far I’ve narrowed down from a couple of thousand to roughly two hundred – which is the easy part… the difficult bit is now whittling the couple hundred down to ten), I’ve noticed that CA is showing very well in my list of potential “finalists.”

Now, I’m not one to be apologetic for enjoying CA wines, but my gut reaction was “holy crap there is a lot of CA wine in that list!”

What does this mean, in the grand scheme of things?

First, while it means that I probably taste a disproportionate amount of CA wines, I’d offer the following piece of advice to non-CA wine regions:

Get with the f*cking program and start sending samples to bloggers if you’re not already; we aren’t going anywhere and the collective influence of the wine blogging wave is going to grow for some time to come before it crests.

Next, I’d posit this little ditty when it comes to CA:

Yes, tons of bland and uninteresting wines are coming out of CA. But that doesn’t mean that all CA wines are bland and uninteresting.

By my reckoning and experience in 2010, some of those CA regions might just be hitting a New Renaissance period.

In any case, it should be, well, most interesting to see where the “Most Interesting” list goes from here.  Just as in previous years, you will see the final list posted mid December (this year, the week of December 12).






  • 1WineDude

    I should note that since posting the above, a friend of mine (in wine sales) has told me that he considers the Azul wines to be Brett bombs. Now, I didn't get off-putting amounts of Brett in the Azul I mentioned – only notes of smokey game meat which **might** be attributable to Brett. So… I will retaste the Azul anon (as soon as I get back home) to see what a few days open has done to the Bretty-ness factor…

    • 1WineDude

      OK – tasting after three days, and still NOT getting Brett on the Azul. And I consider my Brett tolerance to be fairly low…

  • RichardA

    Or heaven forbid you could buy some non-California wine. :)

    It is a problem that if you basically rely only on samples, then your coverage might be skewed toward certain regions, and you might not then cover other regions. California is certainly at the forefront of sending samples to bloggers so it then often gets the most coverage. For me, as I enjoy many different niche wines, I often have to purchase such wines as it is unlikely samples will come anytime soon. I don't want the majority of my blog to center on California so I do what I must to infuse diversity into the wines I cover. Wine store tastings help, giving me some idea of whether I might like a niche wine or not. And then if I think I will, I can buy it for a later, lengthier analysis. And sometimes I just take a chance, and hope for the best, though sometimes getting the worst. But every blogger is different.

    • 1WineDude

      Good advice, as always, Richard. And my personal purchases are most definitely not towards CA, for exactly those reasons.

      I suppose my statements were meant to stir thing sup a bit, in that wine producers and wine regions need to understand that CA, Argentina, Chile, and others are flooding bloggers with samples and they're going to reap benefits from that, benefits that those other regions aren't going to see unless they get their act together and stop thinking the wine world is going to continue to come to them.

  • Jeff V.


    Is the open solicitation for samples from non-CA wine regions a joke? Really, what metrics can you supply to producers and or entire wine regions that don't "Get with the f*cking program"? Honestly, are you moving mountains of California, Argentinian, and Chilean wine? I'm guessing no. I realize that you live in PA and your access to wine is probably limited given your states archaic liquor laws. But an open solicitation for samples seems, well……desperate.

    At this point, the 'influence' of wine bloggers is miniscule. Will it ever replace the WS, WA, W&S, WE, or Decanter magazines? That remains to be seen. Will there ever be 1Winedude shelf talkers? Maybe. Until the influence can be proven (via sales $$) your UPS man isn't going to be making too many deliveries to your house..

    Change will not come from you scoring (excuse me, badging) of wines. It is going to take something a bit more revolutionary.

  • Todd Wernstrom

    1Dude, Hesperian and Toquade are dynamite! I know because I bring them into to NYC to sell. They've done quite nicely. In fact, I got to know Christine through an introduction arranged by Philippe. Nice reciprocity on their part. Just shows you what a bit of French sensibility can do with Napa Valley terroir.

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