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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rioja Uncorked: Roda Rioja Reserva 2006

"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." --- Sir Robert Scott Caywood

Join me as we take a trip over to the Iberian peninsula and grab some vino from Bodegas Roda. A gorgeous bodega located in northwestern extension of the Rioja region in Barrio de la Estación, at the town of Haro, in the sub-zone of Rioja Alta. Which sits on the the south bank of the Ebro River and is associated with some of the greatest wines of Rioja as well as some of its most venerated bodegas [wineries], many dating back a couple centuries.

For those of you not familiar with the Rioja region of Spain, it's a place guarded by mountains on all three sides, the region itself takes its ancestral name from a tributary of the Ebro, called the Rio Oja. For the history buffs in the audience, there has been vineyard activity in this region since the times of Roman occupation [talk about your ancient vines].

But it was during the French Phylloxera [vine destroying aphids] crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from France settled into northern Spain and brought with them many of the similar wine making practices we see in France today [like knowing a wine by its region and not its varietal].

For those you traveling outside the comfy confines of lets say California, you will find that the Rioja region is a lot different than what you may be use to here in California's wine-country, because much of the regions small growers sell their grapes to merchants or co-operative cellars instead of vinting and bottling their own juice. But this is a trend that is changing for many producers.

Fact-finders have indicated that a vast majority [75%] of the vino produced in this region is red wine, is produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. While some of the better wines will be composed of a blend of small amounts of Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo. Speaking of blending, many wines labeled Rioja that you encounter on wine store shelves today will be a blend of one of the Rioja's sub-regions, the Alavesa, Alta and Baja and the capital is La Rioja.

About Roda: Their objective was to create high expression wines in a modern style while still being reflective of the Rioja region’s micro-climatic [terroir] spectrum of soil, orientation, elevation, climate, vintage year and traditional indigenous varietals. Roda, has set the bar high [and a high-bar that is] with Bordeaux as their benchmark in regards to technique and quality.  

Hoping to evoke the fullest reflection of place in the wines, focused their efforts on old vine vineyards capable of best expressing the terroir of Rioja. They started Bodegas Roda in 1987, but they found that the 1992 vintage quality was far off the mark, so they sold off the first wines to the bulk market [like the former two-buck up-chuck].

Proving their commitment to quality and their goals of making high expression wines, it wasn't until 1996, that Roda's first release hit the market with 30,000 bottles of Roda I and Roda II.

2006 Roda Rioja Reserva: This wine is truly is expression of those stated lofty goals above and I want to salute them for a job well done in producing a wine with some substance, something sadly lacking in so much vino today. This wine is a blend of 94% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha and 2% Graciano, and was aged for 16 months in 50% new French Oak and spent 20 months in bottle before release and has a SRP of $45.

What are the pairing possibilities? I'd say endless really, but shorten that list some, it pairs well with a variety of grilled meats [I had it with Spanish seasoned grilled Pork-Chops] and sauteed veggies, a perfect wine-dinner with friends or family as this wine comes to dressed to impress.

Sniff, Swirl and Slurp: At first glance, a nearly opaque ripe-plum colored core. Sticking my fat half-Irish nose into the glass to get my first whiff, bright and intense aromas of sweet, ripe, dark-plum and black currants are married with notes of licorice, mocha and fresh Cubans in a cedar box .

A beautiful marriage of new and old world styles meld the dark fruit flavors, a nice slap of well integrated spicy oak all over my palate, finishing in a big and silky expression of minerality and a earthy elegance. I gave this wine a score of 92 points and a hearty buy recommendation. If you'd like to grab a few bottles of this wine for your own cellar, I know the folks who can make that happen for you and at the right price.

Other Voices: The Drink Hacker had this to say, "A rare Rioja: Fruit-forward, lush, and easily drinkable without requiring a big hunk of meat to back it up. Blackberry and fleeting Port-like characters play with hints of tar and tobacco. Moderate body, but smooth, and with a pleasing, rounded finish. Really lovely. I'm guessing that is a endorsement? But it's does seem a little vague, but at least you can see the folks at Drink-Hacker did at least think it was lovely.

Full Disclosure: This was sent as a press-sample [last year] for the review process.

The hopeful take-away from reviews like this; is to primarily is to encourage you to expand your own vinous horizons and the Spanish wine scene is a great place to make that happen. There's so much wine from unexplored regions of the world and Spain has so much to offer; to even the garden variety vino-sapien.

And no I'm not just talking about "bulk" Rioja, which you may see at places like Trader Joe's for example. Oh-no do yourself a favor, get yourself to a tasting or two, at your local wine store [and no grocery-stores don't count]. Speaking of tastings, I was just at a Italian portfolio [Vias] tasting in Beverly Hills, [wines from the Toro region] that made my face melt off [to borrow an expression] because the juice being slurped was flat-out winetastic [a technical term]. So until next sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Oregon Uncorked: Top Ten Pinot Noir Picks

“You don't have to be clinically insane to make Pinot, but it’s a distinct advantage.”  ~ Michael Hill Smith, co-owner Australia's Shaw & Smith winery

I recently read a well known blog [which will remain nameless] with a bit of amusement. Why, because it took their so-called panel of "experts" to come up with just five picks from the vast Oregon Wine Scene. I on the other hand, [brag alert] with only four days [the time I spent in Oregon just last month] I was able to come up with an overflowing list of top rated must-haves labels. 

By the way; these are all wines presently sitting in my own cellar, because as it's said, "there is nothing like putting your money where your mouth is" and this mouth has had bath-tub sized amounts of amazing Oregon Pinot swirling about in it recently. If you're keeping score, the answer is "yes, I do spit". Without any further ado, now is the time to spill the beans and name, names.

A few of the names you will see on the list below, are wines I've already reviewed recently and if you click the link to the right of the bulleted numbers below, you can read the full review. 

I thought compiling them all here in one nice tight list, may just be a bit more helpful for the thirsty vino-sapien in search of a shopping list. If you have any trouble finding any of these wines yourself, I know someone who can make your shopping experience so much easier, just ask via the comment section below. Enjoy! 

1. Youngberg Hill: 2008 Jordan Block Barrel Select 

4. Ken Wright Cellars: 2008 Savoya Yamhill-Carlton AVA
5. Bergstrom Wines: 2009 De Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir. A stunning example of Oregon PN from the Chehalem AVA, immediately accessible and supremely enjoyable. I know it may seem an impossible task, but wait, it will improve immensely with just another year in the bottle. 93 Points.

6. Bergstrom Wines: 2011 Shea Vineyard: At first blush, this wine is chock full of sweet baking spices, red currant, dried cherry and savory herb thing, wrapped around well integrated tannins. Definitely one for the cellar, hold. 92 Points.

7. Bergstrom Wines: 2009 Oregon Pinot Noir: Another amazing offer from this great producer; dark ruby colored in the glass, aromas of dark cherry and blackberry entice the first slurp. A quick swirl on the palate reveals sweet spice and fresh cherry baked pie-crust, I can still taste it. 90 Points.

8. 2009 Dukes Family Vineyards: Pinot Noir "Charlotte" Eola - Amity Hills AVA: Here's another very nice example of Oregon Pinot Noir, with a lot going on. I just uncorked this bad-boy the other night, wowsers [technical term] an intense, ripe youthful aromas of dark cherry, red raspberry draw you in for the first slurp, sweet spices, red-berry flavors, wrapped around the smooth rich tannins. Balance is excellent, length good and final impressions delicate, plus complex equal smiles all around. 90 Points.

9. 2009 Wahle Vineyards and Cellars Pinot Noir: Another Holme Hills gem from the Eola Hills. What else do you need, an immediately approachable wine boasting layers of ripe fruit, outstanding volume, vibrant acidity, and a lengthy, velvety finish. At a SRP of $36 it's a best buy. Score 91 points.
10. The Eyrie Vineyards 2010 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir: Mrs. Cuvee and I ran into this bottle over dinner at the very popular "Thistle" restaurant in McMinnville, OR. They had this fantastic, food-friendly Pinot that just screamed Oregon. A pioneering producer on the Oregon Wine Scene, long before everyone else hopped on the purple stained bandwagon. 

Color was hard to come-by, but a light cranberry color. Lovely nose, rich earthy aromas and bouncy red fruits, a nice pop of morello [a chef’s go-to] cherries on the palate, and spices, baked crust and wet forest floor playing in the back ground. Spread across a canvas of firm, yet silky tannins. Score 91 points. SRP on this wine is $36 another best-buy. 

Bonus: 2009 Hawks View Pinot Noir: Hello Chehalem Mountains AVA. You can see that review here.

If this list wet your appetite and you'd like to know about a few more fantastic sources for Pinot Noir, then please as they say, stay tuned! As I'm going back to the SLH Tasting once more, in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to let you know all the gems I'm sure to find there. Until next sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wine Studio Uncorked: Tardieu-Laurent 08 Guy Louis Blanc

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward,” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

We did a bit of crawling last night, as we got off to a rough start, and this was suppose to be the wine that would kick off the inaugural #WineStudio event last night, but because of its potential mass popularity, twitter decided to bump our event to next week, and in part because there was some other event going on yesterday, involving the President which seemed to take priority. 

But that, said as many of you may already know our very first Wine Studio 'live' will have to start next Monday, the 28th starting at 6PM [PST]. I hope to see as many of you there as possible, ready to get your Rhone on. As I've indicated this is going to be a five-week journey into this amazing region and you can expect us to stay right there in France, as we will be covering most of the major players and few unexpected regions.

First up in that regard, we are going to focus on the white wines of the Rhone. The kind of white wines that any vino-sapien would be happy to be sporting in their glass. It's time to say goodbye to wimpy white-wines and say HELLO to some of the amazing Rhone-Zone blends; like Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier #WineStudio Monday's 6PM PST via Protocol Wine Studio.

Typically, I don't drink a lot of white wines myself, but when it comes to white wines like the one pictured above, I'm all about it. This wine has the amazing structure and complexity and some nice weight to it as well. It has a great vein of acidity running through the ample fruit. The abv is a surprisingly low, but welcomed 12.5%, considering the blend 60% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne and 10% Grenache, produced from vines 50 years and older. 

The color as you can see is quite striking, grabbing you by the nose is just hint honeyed wet stones aromas and white peach, which don't really jump from the glass, but still gets your attention. This wine offers up an inviting lychee nut, a bite of almond, white-currant liqueur, bit of chalk, and apricot marmalade spread on toast. This wine is really stunning, honeyed, and a bit flamboyant [but without the open shirt and gold medallion].

This wine is very clean, and focused. It would pair nicely with many foods, but something like a delish white-sauce pasta dish would be a good match and I found one here that sounds fantastic. If you like get a bottle or two of this wine for yourself; you can do via Protocol Wine Studio they are selling it for $34 each. I scored this wine 91 points and highly recommend that you give it a swirl yourself very soon, until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oregon Uncorked: 2009 Manifest Destiny

"The wine cup is the little silver well, where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell" ~ William Shakespeare 

It's great to be in the right place at the right time. This is exactly how after scoring two bottles of the “Inaugural Release” of the Manifest Destiny label. It just so happened that Mrs. Cuvee and I were in the Carlton Winemakers Studio early last month, talking it over and thinking about which wines we might like to purchase, before leaving. As we were thinking, the gentlemen [Jeff Woodard] at the tasting bar recommended that we wait a bit as his winemaking sister Lindsay Woodard was on the way with her own wine, so we waited [we weren't in any hurry].
Once she arrived, we offered to help bring in what I think amounted to just about nine cases, but we were waved off. Now I'm pretty sure there is more at the winery, but if you're reading this now, don’t be hesitant another second about grabbing some for yourself. A bottle was quickly opened and Mrs. Cuvee and I chatted with Lindsay a moment, while the glasses were being poured. After a few swishes and me spitting, I was thinking wow this going to be good, but having not been bottled too long ago, it was a bit stiff. At this point I was not jumping up and down with excitement, but something told me, that I better grab a couple, and I'm so glad I listened to my gut. 

Now having got the two bottles home and nicely tucked away in the cellar for just over a month now, the Mrs. and I uncorked a bottle the other night. We paired this alongside a small slab of herb crusted [wild-caught] Sockeye Salmon [grilled] and a tasty mushroom risotto, infused with tiny bits of bacon, oh-my.
Wowsers this is superb Oregon Pinot Noir. The depth, rich earth, the pleasing bright cranberry, dark cherry and dusty baking spices aromas widened both our eyes as we both went in for the first slurp. In the body of this wine is a terrific core of energetic fruit, complexity, well integrated tannins and a very pretty finish.  

Bang, bang this wine is Oregon Pinot at its best, a wine produced with assistance from consulting winemaker Eric Hamacher and one any vino-sapien would be proud to have in the cellar. Well done, Lindsay, well done. What a great showing on your inaugural release, two thumbs all the way up and the awarding of 93 stellar points.

In my opinion this wine will put Manifest Destiny on the map of great Orgundian wines which need to be collected, cellared and properly consumed.  The wine sells in the CWS for $45, but if you get six, there’s incentive for 15% worth of savings, plus no sales tax as a bonus. Until next time folk remember sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Rhone Zone: 2007 Domaine du Grapillon D'Or Gigondas ~ 1806

“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem lightly. It is dearness which gives everything its value.” ~Thomas Paine
I know I've indicated that there was going to be some major spanning the globe stuff, to bring you the constant variety of vino, that the world has to offer. So with that in mind and the fact that just next week the brand spanking new #WineStudio is about to launch upon an unsuspecting world, here is just a taste of things to come. 

Perhaps, you're thinking and scratching your head over the fact that many of last years posts were centered on plenty of domestic juice, with the usual suspects. But as you know, all of that is about to change, so bam it's time for a visit to the Rhone Zone via #WineStudio.

That said, "you're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Rhone Zone. —Rod Serling

Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone, a timeless show which was way ahead of its time in many respects. A show that made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about this mortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic-license with the opening monologue [so sue me] but I did so for a very good reason.

That reason to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before, but one you may not have had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see as much vino from the Rhone Zone as I would like to see in the US wine market place, but when you have a chance explore, explore this vast  and luscious wine landscape.

The Rhone Zone:  This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. as the white wines from the RZ are every bit as fantastic as the reds. It's split up with south and north and each has its own climate and interesting topography. There's the sign post up ahead you are about to enter the Rhone-Zone.

The North: It's hilly, is influenced by a turbulent, strong wind, called the Mistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star [think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's finest vino, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.

It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness and silky tannins dominate the more value oriented red wines from the north.
The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands". It's much warmer and the vineyards rise out of land covered by some strange stones called "galets" which make a significant contribution to the "uniqueness" and great quality to Southern Rhone wines.

The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends, but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes, but Grenache is the king-pin grape here. This is the place you will find bottles brandishing a lavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.

The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's largest production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottle will typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.

Swirl, Slurp and Gulp: I brought home this beauty from the Rhone-Zone just a few weeks ago to let it nestle in my very cool, dark pantry [my cellar is maxed out]. Uncorked a few nights ago, I poured myself a nice two ounce pour, watching a plush dark ruby core fill my glass. I took the first sniffy, to find a wonderful bouquet of fresh-market strawberries, white pepper, lavender and cigar box draw you into this vibrant blend. After a good swish-about, I found this wonderful wine offering bright flavors of red raspberry, kirsch, and licorice filling out a fleshy mouth feel, supple tannins and a long lingering richness round out the plush finish.

What's in It: The 2007 Domaine du Grapillon D'Or Gigondas is a wonderful southern Rhone blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah and weighs in with a New World leaning 14.5% ABV [just my impression].

Price and Purchase Location: So you wanna know how you can get your hands on this bad-boy or something like, well stay tuned as I and the team from Protocol Wine Studio can help you fill that Rhone Zone craving you may be having at the moment and beyond.  

What's the Score: Hmmm, in thinking about how wonderful this wine is for the price I gave it 93 points. It's solid well made wine showing a good deal of generosity and richness, smooth tannins and a firm structure. A super star of value at the $25 price point, this wine drinks like a $45 to $60 westside Paso Robles red blend. This is a wine which is drinking so very nicely now, but I believe could improve with just a bit more time in the cellar if you can wait.

Other Voices: I found an abundant amount of other voices for this wine over at Cellar Tracker, whose average score had this wine weighing in at 91 points. Swill Power had this to say, "rocking from the first pour. Very up-front blue fruit, with a savory note and a full, delicious mouthfeel. After 2+ hours, this feels as much like a stylish zinfandel as anything, with great dark fruit, a touch of cedar, and a nice umami/soy note as well. Overall, a really enjoyable drink, and a sweet QPR at under $20. Blows away most Rhone players at twice the price. [ Btw, RP gave this wine 92 points.]

My Recommendation: If you have been getting notices from your favorite wineries about the upcoming spring shipments from your favorite Syrah-Moved providers, I would ask that you give some pause to the thought of jumping into an order, until you had the opportunity to give the Rhone-Zone a swirl,  I would say you may want to decant an hour or two before enjoying for maximum enjoyment, but will still impress greatly at first pour. Until next time, sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, January 14, 2013

What is Wine Studio?

 “All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own”. ~Johann von Goethe

For everyone who follows me on twitter, first thank you and second, I'm not sure why you do, but that said your Monday nights are about to get a boost! So as you may have heard, I and the brilliant pair [Dynamic Wine-Duo] from the Protocol Wine Studio Guy and Tina, will be joining forces this year, to present each vino-sapien with an unique twitter opportunity via #WineStudio to focus-in on wine regions, wine styles and hopefully take your palates to places they've only dreamed of going before. 

Instead of the typical shot-gun approach, Protocol Wine Studio and I will stay on a region for five weeks at time. The first thing coming up to bat in the rotation is going to be the mighty Rhone region of France. There's so much to see and do within this fabulous region, even a five week, one hour examination every Monday evening, will barely scratch the surface. 

Of course if all this wets your appetites for more, and you find yourself like the young Oliver Twist asking, "oh Please, sir, I want some more." There will be opportunities made available for you to do just that, so stay tuned.  

But it's our hope that as we discuss each region, you will perhaps seek wines out from the region before the discussion gets going, as a way to help broaden your understanding of the types and styles wine offered in this fantastic region. There will also be an opportunity available to those interested in acquiring some classical styles of wine from these regions, a sampler-pack [for purchase], designed to give the everyday vino-sapien a better grasp of the region and the wines made there.  

Logistically speaking; #WineStudio will be hosted each and every Monday, by either Tina, Guy or myself. Always starting at 6PM PST and ending approximately one hour later. The official launch is going to be January 21, 2012, I look forward to seeing you all there.

The three of us will be gathering at their Protocol Wine Studio here in San Diego for the fun and informative discussions. The role of moderator will change week to week, so that way there's an unique opportunity to get many different perspectives on the same topic. A calendar will be posted here on my blog [I will make a new page] so everyone can be prepared head of time, to know what to expect from each session. 

Now of course with me involved their will be a degree of irreverent commentary now and again, but the main focus will really be about not only increasing our head knowledge, which is a great thing, but at the same time giving some needed depth to our palates. And I say "ours" because as they say it's about the journey, not the destination that counts. There will be no pontificating from our Purple Wine Tower, just lots of sharing and having fun, after-all this is just a beverage.  

Perhaps you're already there, you've arrived, then this conversation may not be for you and that is okay, that's why there's #sommchat a great place for those who are already mightily in the know to talk among their selves. But if you find, that like Tina, Guy and I, that you'd strike out on the voyage of discovery and you weren't sure which way to set your sail, then I'd say #winestudio is going to be the place for you. This is the place to ask questions and get serious answers, without the dismissive attitude. We don't have all the answers of course, but let's take this journey together and see where it goes. Until next remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What's the Score?

 Life is too short not to make the best and the most of everything that comes your way everyday. - Sasha Azevedo

So you want to know the score huh? Most folks want do want to know the score, especially when it comes to their favorite team, but we as vino-sapiens like to know the score on lots of things besides wine. We rate or score every thing from cars to coffee, so should it be any surprise to find scores attached to wine. But for some when it comes to scoring wine; some folks begin to get a little squeamish and will loudly voice their opinions about how 'unfair' it's. The say, "well one man's perfectly ripe green apple, is another man's tart and bitter experience'.

Of course there's one thing we can all agree with; when it comes to 'scoring' something like wine it's partially subjective and to many it's imprecise at best. While I may find some agreement with that statement and with a few of the "points" haters positions, I don't find any of their arguments compelling enough to not use the 100 point scale. But I have altered some of its meanings and changed a few of the definitions to make it a bit more fun. 

After all we’re talking about a 'sensory' experiences and not everyone has the same experiences that we do. Even Mrs. Cuvee and I can differ on some wines to my surprise, because mostly we are aligned. But still there are those outliers which defy my understanding and hers. But that said, let us take chocolate for example everyone [nearly] loves and appreciates it, some have no interest in it at all, but those folks are what we call the exception. You can't make a set of rules for the exceptions, you simply must discount their interpretation.

So when you take the odd exceptions out of the scoring equation, you'll find that the points really start to make sense and that they become a good barometer. The scoring system in place [the 100 point scale], used by the major publications works for everyday folks who don't taste hundreds of wines each and every year. The best advice about the whole point’s scheme [yes, it's a scheme oh-my] is to find someone who closely matches their own preferences in wine, [yes, mentioned before] especially when in doubt about a certain producer or region of unfamiliarity.

For example; I was in Oregon last year for the Wine Bloggers Conference, I went to what I've dubbed as a "Blending Camp" at R. Stuart and Co. When it came time to make a team to for what would be the final blend of Pinot Noir, we chose teammates that we knew had a similar palate to our own. Having done that, we came to a quick and ready blend [by comparison], which I thought was superior to the other tables. The name of our teams wine was, “Reverence” a fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir.  

Now, if you have ever wondered how I come up the scores for the wines that I review, well then you are in luck. Because today, I'm going to spill the beans, as it were. Perhaps you may have been wondering what a certain score means. If you've ever had either of those questions, but some how never made your way over to my "about the review process" page, I've decided to put it out here, front and center. That way, there's no question about what the points mean and what they will mean to you, if you happen to be silly enough to follow my recommendations.

The score: Yes, I use the 100 point scale, if this makes you unhappy or you disagree with that method, well that’s unfortunate. Sorry to say, there will be no smiley faces, stars, cartoon wine glasses, or A,B, C grades, nope just cold hard numbers [ouch]. The score of wine will break down this way; I give every wine a base point score of 50 points and then I add the following:
Color: Up to 5 points

Aroma: Up to 10 points

Flavor: Up to 10 points

Texture: Up to 10 points

Overall: Up to 10 points

Finally I also use QPR [the quality, price, ratio] score of up to 5 points.

What the scores mean:

95-100 Epic: Will you marry me? Let's run off to Vegas together!

90-94 Wine-tastic Juice: Wanna meet my folks?

85-89 Very Good: Hey, can I call you tomorrow?

80-84 Okay: Oops, looks like I lost your number.

75-79 Marginal: Um what was your name again? [will not be reviewed]

50-74 Dreadful: Um, why was this bottled? Not even recommended for Vinegar. [will not be reviewed] After all life is too short to review bad wine.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Oregon Uncorked: Ken Wright 2008 Savoya Pinot Noir

  “I like stepping into the future, therefore, I look for doorknobs.”~ Unknown

As many of you know I spent four fantastic days last December exploring Oregon Wine Country. Most of those travels took me really no further than an hour to hour an half depending on traffic away from downtown Portland. It would seem that our trip occurred during the very last of the fall weather, as it began to snow at Youngberg Hill the very next day after we left.

While many folks will normally associate Oregon with ‘rain’ and boy did we see plenty of it while we were there; but in reality it only qualified as drizzle for most part. Oregon is about far more than rainy damp weather, there's a whole other-side just waiting to be explored. But it did seem like we brought some of that cold wet-weather back with us [Mrs. Cuvee and I] to San Diego, needed yes, but unexpected none-the-less. In fact the rainy wet-stuff here just cleared away, leaving us with crisp, clear blue-skies [I know you’re jealous].

Second if you ask most vino-sapiens what Oregon is well known for, they would most ultimately say Pinot Noir. What you may not know is that Oregon also has a vast, growing foodie-culture, there’s a food revolution sprouting up everywhere, collectively putting them on the gastronomical globe. A fact to which I could easily attest to, coming home a few pounds heavier, than when I left.

If bourbon or beer is your thing, you’re in luck because there are numerous distilleries and breweries [really too many to count] located in the environs of downtown Portland, situated just minutes away from their well organized airport.

But for the vino-sapiens in the audience, Oregon is known for its rich wine-making tradition. But what many folks may not realize is that no-one really started making wine until the 19th century, when cherries, apples and pears were the mainstay. Then keeping with Oregon’s pioneering spirit in the early 20th century, the modern wine-making industry we know today, sprang to life around the grape we all know and love, Pinot Noir.

One of the places I didn’t get to visit the last time I was in Oregon; is Ken Wright Cellars in downtown Carlton. Their tasting room is located in an old train-depot; the winery itself is located about a block away. Mr. Wright previously only offered visits by appointment only and purchasing of his wine was done through a futures program.

And now if you’d like to purchase any of his current release outside of the 2010 KWC PN Willamette Valley, it will have to be done by the six-pack.  And no it can’t be a mixed half-case either; you’ll need to show some commitment to your favorite wine in the tasting or go home empty handed. Now you can find single bottles of Ken Wright Cellars PN in a few retail stores, but you may not find the one you recently sampled. You can also easily find his wines online at the Oregon Wine Merchants, where they can be purchased in singles, mix and match, coupled with a reasonable shipping charge.

But unfortunately you can’t taste them first; you’ll just have to take your chances. I tasted through four of his Pinot’s and ended up favoring the 2008 Savoya Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which is now sold out. I also tasted the 2008 Carter, Canary Hill and the 2009 Guadalupe, which were good, but not $60 a bottle good in my estimation. Be sure to sample their relatively new Tyrus Evan label [seen above], there's a 2007 Ciel Du Cheval Claret [$35], not to be missed.

The 08 Savoya offered up power, grace and elegance. A substantial wine, red cherry and baking spice dominate, while dried herbs and forest floor flavors play in the background. Fine grained tannins are well integrated and wrap this wine up in a pretty bow, suitable for gift giving or for spoiling yourself.  This wine sold for $65 in the tasting room and new vintages can be found online for $48. I scored the wine I ended up taking home, 93 points, it’s pretty amazing juice really. Until next time folks, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wine Critic or Wine Writer?

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not is the illusion of knowledge" ~Stephen Hawkins

Well, well welcome to the brave new world of 2013, I hope everyone had a brilliant holiday season and are now ready to face the New Year. With all the new hopes, dreams and aspirations, whatever they may be and where ever they may take you, I wish you all a prosperous New Year.

Opening my twitter account today; really for first time since the beginning of the New Year, I came upon a conversation via #sommchat [which you should read]with the well-known NYT Wine Critic Eric Asimov. I missed the opportunity to interact in the conversation, but was still able to take a look at how it unfolded.

Here's one of the more interesting exchanges I saw today, Megmaker asked via Twitter, "Do you prefer to be called a "wine writer" or a "wine critic and why? Mr. Asimov's reply, "Honestly don't care. Way too much energy spent on that question. Critic has specific NYT meaning, so am proud of title"

Wine Critic or Wine Writer hmm, it’s a good question, but to be honest not one I think about too often. I just don't take myself all too serious and neither should you. I write from my heart, I use my instincts and couple those insights with my experience, to give what I think are solid, fact based recommendations. The only real caveat here is; you need to have a similar palate to my own. I tend to follow reviewers advice who I've tasted with before, compared notes and found we tend to like similar styles of wine. That said, if you read this blog, you would do well to do the same.

There was another comment in that same thread which stated [not sure who it was attributable to] "Writer" connotes a more open mind and palate, which I believe is essential to conveying passion". A statement to which finds me nodding in complete agreement. Take a look at my new logo for example, the one on my twitter profile [and biz-cards], you'll see it says 'wine-writer'. After all I do write and it's about wine, what else should the title be? I think it is sufficient, after all this is just a hobby.
But in reading this blog, you will come to one immediate conclusion; I'm NOT a classically trained writer by any stretch of the imagination. So for the purist out there, this blog is NOT for you. But if you want the scoop, on what I think are some the best wines available today, please stay tuned, you'll be glad you did. Has my blog become more readable than it was it 2008, well I'll let my stats do the talking for me, you can find them just to the right and below if you're truly interested.
Here was another question ask by Megmaker, "Please say more about your view of wine tasting notes, and how best to achieve "context-sensitive" wine writing" and Eric Asimov's answer, "Hard to account for context in notes. I think general stylistic characteristics are better than overly precise".

Again, here I find myself in agreement with Mr. Asimov's point regarding wine writing in general. I think some folks try way too hard to impress others with their wine-knowledge [aka, geekiness] and end up coming off as the garden variety snob. Honestly folks, who even thinks of things like "context-sensitive" wine writing? I had to chuckle a bit to myself seeing that and winced a bit reading it, breathing an "oh-brother" out loud.

C'mon folks let us all just get over ourselves, write about what you are passionate about [whether it's wine or Frisbees] and keep writing to improve how you communicate about that passion. And like Mr.Asimov tweeted today; "Write, write, write! If you want to be a writer, that's what you must do, regardless of pay". And to that I say a hearty amen brother! I know my writing in November and December has been far less productive than normal, but look for it to return in the coming months.

For me personally, I'm more of a spectator. I seldom get my hands dirty [little grape picking], on my journey of wine discovery, oh perhaps the splash back from the spit bucket and the occasional sporting of the glaring purple grin now and then. But there's no actual sweat on my brow, as I bang on the keyboard. So whether you think me a wine writer, critic or just the garden variety run of the mill opinionated vino-sapien, my only goal is the help you drink better and for a whole lot less when possible.

With that said, there are going to be some changes this year regarding my wine-blog. Number one, I will no longer accept samples for review; I'm done with that scene [If a wine was submitted for review last year, there's still a review pending]. Number two, I will no longer accept advertising of any kind, I'm done with that scene as well. And number three, look to see some [not saying how many] tweet-up events that will not be sponsored by anyone, but perhaps hosted by a San Diego group who will remain nameless for the moment.

My blog will be one of the very few which will be completely 'independent' and that my fellow vino-sapiens is really something to think about, as we move forward. So until next time remember life is too short to drink bad wine and too short to drink wines with no real sense of place. Just say to no to "Cheap, Homogenized, Lifeless Commodities" found on the bottom shelves of places like your local wally-world. Instead say yes, to exploring and keeping an open-mind, open heart and above all an open-palate, there's a world of wine waiting for you to explore, so get busy and as always remember to slurp long and prosper cheers!
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