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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Piedmonte Uncorked: 2008 Contratto Millesimato Brut

You have to put in many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile. - Brian Tracy
It was just last week I spent an afternoon with Giorgio Rivetti, who was kind enough to stop-by for a quick visit with the Protocol Wine Studio crew. I was lucky enough to also get an invite to this well thought-out shindig. 

The first wine in our glasses that afternoon was a stunning bubbly from Piedmonte. Millesimato, from Indigenous Selections, is an uncommon bottling from this area to be sure and may surprise more a few upon seeing it. Wow, what a delightful bubbly, boasting a delicious 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay blend. I'm told the wine spends almost four years on the yeasts before disgorgement and is finished with a dosage of 5g/l. 

Getting a quick splash of this beauty across my palate, I realized like the quote above that many tiny efforts that no one may have appreciated during this wines four year journey, was about to be shouted from the rooftops after it was uncorked. It's truly a bubbly worth-the-price of admission.

It was a truly tremendous wine, that coated every part of palate in sheer delight. And no I'm not kidding, I was quite sad to be using those red-solo-cups pictured above to eject the wine from my mouth [a sad affair]. Putting my nose in the glass, poof wonderful aromas of white fleshed fruits mingle quietly, while hints of almond playing bass in the corner of the room.

Splashing about on my palate I found this bubbly to be a smooth operator  One lead by a host of complex flavors, powerful minerality, near-ripe summer fruits, nectarines, white peach, and pear which find themselves nicely complemented by a fresh, elegant finish. You'll find this wine is ideal as an aperitif or just something cool and soothing to slurp upon while chilling on the deck, perhaps while doing some summer poolside lounging.

This wine sells most places for about $40 and can be purchased directly from the Protocol Wine Studio here in San Diego [and yes the can ship]. I scored this beauty 92 points, it's highly recommend. Full disclosure, I had access to these wines via a tasting hosted by the Protocol Wine Studio and the Henry Wine Group.

According to Giorgio, the winery has a long, distinguished history. Contratto is the oldest producer of sparkling wine in Italy. In fact the 1919 Contratto Extra Brut was the first vintage "Metodo Classico" sparkling wine ever made in the country!

Today, Contratto only produces traditional method sparkling wine under the watchful eye of Giorgio Rivetti, and his talented son, Andrea. [A very talented Father and Son winemaking team]. 

While La Spinetta has only owned the Estate for a short time [Spring 2011], Giorgio and Andrea have been secretly [shhh!] making the Metodo Classico wines since 2007 with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Oltrepo Pavese. 

I've not seen them for myself unfortunately, but I'm told [via our conversation with Giorgio] that the historical Estate has breathtaking cellars carved into the tufa limestone hillside which protect the small town of Canelli

He described them as cathedral cellars, which according to Giorgio are among the finest of their kind, excavated at a depth of 32 meters.Because of this, the cellars maintain a constant/ideal annual temperature of 12°C and sufficient natural humidity which provide the ideal environment for bottle fermentation and maturation. Apparently these caves which were excavated at great cost, really helping the Contratto label to craft wines of real soul and quiet complexity.

While it has been said that some can "see the stars and still not see the light" from my experience that afternoon with Giorgio, I would have to conclude that he and his son have seen the light of inspiration and have put in the perspiration to make their wine-making dreams come true. Passion sells, and it's contagious, cheers to Giorgio and his son! 

Until next time folks; please remember life is short, so continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2009 Paraiso West Terrace, Santa Lucia Highlands

After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. ~ John Steinbeck

Time for another wine of the week post, in today's review is an amazing bottle of Pinot Noir from Paraiso Vineyards. I discovered this gem while on a short road-trip to Monterey over the long Fourth of July weekend. Mrs. Cuvee and I had the great pleasure of visiting [SIP certified] Paraiso Vineyard's on a hot, dry, windy day in the Santa Lucia Highlands. 

Visiting the winery from the Monterey is the best way to experience their wines in my opinion. While it's quite the long drive down River Road to their tasting room, you become immediately immersed in this area's agriculture aspect. Everywhere you look, you can smell, see and [if you wanted to] touch the agriculture pulse of this gorgeous AVA. Heading south on River Road toward the winery, you have the mighty Pinnacles Range to your left and to the right rows and rows of vineyards snuggled against the highlands of the Santa Lucia Range. 

We arrived in the early afternoon and were greeted by Mark behind the bar, who was enthusiastically chatting up another couple, who were enjoying their tasting experience. The tasting fee is a modest Abe Lincoln, one returned with a bottle purchase. It was quite the warm day in the valley, apparently uncharacteristically so. That warmth unfortunately crept into the tasting room, making it a bit difficult to get a sense of how the wines were tasting. 

But having some previous great experiences with their wines, I was quite comfortable with scoring a couple. I said to Mrs. Cuvee "pick out a couple, that you like" which she eagerly did. One of those she picked was the "West Terrace" seen in the picture below. 

As for me, I just wanted to get the wine back home to rest it in the cellar a bit before evaluating them further. Something which turned out to be a good move. I say that, because uncorking that wine just the other night revealed a wine of pure beauty and elegance. I couldn't believe it was the same wine we sampled in the tasting room, but there it was. 

Soon as you pop the cork, it jumps right up to meet and shake your hand. Seducing aromas draw you in again and again, a true Pinot Noir experience, even after the last drop has left the glass. A wonderfully style driven Pinot Noir, that will pair with many types of food and is great on its own.

A very generous Pinot Noir which comes dressed to impress, but one plumbed nicely with the right [Goldilocks] balance of fruit to acid ratio. Bam, vivid, complex flavors embrace the senses, while dark plums, raspberries, ripe black fruit, soft cola and vanilla spices meld effortlessly on the palate, in a word it’s plush. 

Expressive aromas and enticing flavors await your purchase and a wine which is de­finitely worth the price of admission. I wouldn't sit on it too long, this is a 2009 which is ready to go now and for the next year or two. My score 93 points. Price: $40. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Winemaker Profile: Alison Crowe, Garnet Vineyards [Part Two]

"A slight chill can focus aromas, tame the perception of alcohol and can make a red [wine] seem more refreshing, especially when the weather heats up."  ~ Alison Crowe

Here's part-two of a great conversation I had with the winemaker of Garnet Vineyards in Carneros. A Santa Barbara native and winemaking degree from UC Davis in her back-pocket she's lighting up the wine world. She is also the author of the Winemaker's Answer Book, which you can take a look at here. If you'd like to stay in touch with her many adventures, you can do so by following her via twitter.

In the photo above she is demonstrating the proper technique on how-to reinsert the bung back into the bunghole [oh-my]. If you didn't know, Alison has ventured into the world of wine-blogging, one she has dubbed the Girl and the Grape; you should check out when you have a chance. As an example; Alison queries in a recent blog post "so don't know your bung-hole from your wine thief?" so if you don't then grab the rest of the story here

There were so many questions, I had to break up this conversation into two parts. I know I promised I'd have it ready to go by Monday, but life-happened. That said, here is part-two and without any further ado here you go. 

Cuvee Corner: Being a winemaker in your region is tough, but what are some of the benefits and/or challenges?

Alison Crowe: Benefit: Every day is casual Friday. Challenge: Everybody thinks you just drink wine all day.

CC: It has been said "Writers about wine should, at least on occasion, be troublesome, irritating and critical.” ~ Andrew Jefford  what are your thoughts?

AC: I’m in an interesting position because I'm both a winemaker and a wine writer. Sometimes I have to wear my brand-owner hat, but I will tell you I am always wearing my journalist hat, which perhaps makes me a little more curious, skeptical and some would say outspoken than many of my winemaking colleagues.  

I believe constantly challenging our assumptions is important and I love writing about what’s happening in and what’s changing in the wine business. On the winemaking side, I believe in science and data but the first truth to which we must answer when making wine is pleasure- the truth of our senses. 

CC: It has been said, "No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land" ` Helen Keller how would you describe yourself?

AC: I’m curious, generous and skeptical workaholic hedonist who believes in the power of human relationships and in first giving others the benefit of the doubt. I love people. Winemaking begins with people.  

CC: It has been said,” The greatest wines are not forced, pushed or exaggerated,” [Italian Winemaker Bernabei]. And he went on to say “They maintain their sense of place" what your thoughts? 

AC: I always believe that you have to respect the fruit.  I've been writing this in articles and it’s in my book:  Sometimes all you have to do is get out of the way.  

CC: Has the profile of Pinot Noir in California changed in the past 10 years?  

AC: “California Pinot Noir” is a big category and since Sideways has expanded greatly in volume.  See my answers to “unbalanced fruit bombs” for more insight- There are indeed more bottles of what I would call “value” California Pinots out there, say $7.00/bottle and under, built largely on mass plantings of Central Valley Pinot Noir.  

But most Pinot-lovers aren't drinking these wines and are sticking to their tried and true Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Monterey Pinot Noirs.  Have these wines changed?  I think in exciting new ways.  I love how the popularity of the varietal has prompted it to keep being planted in abundance in cool climate areas like the Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast and the Russian River.  

We keep loving our Pinot and keep nurturing it, and as our vineyards mature we learn more about how best to grow it and make it.  I love the variety in style and approaches I see in Pinot Noirs and I think as a varietal class, it really offers so much for the curiosity seeker.  Few other varietals lend themselves to such different clones, yeast regimens, fermentation schemes, oak and aging approaches.  

Try finding that same scale of sheer variety in something like Napa Cabernet; that is a very narrowly-proscribed winemaking recipe viz a viz ripeness levels, maceration, barrels, etc. I make Pinot Noir and when I go to a big Pinot Noir tasting, I'm as excited to try new things as any wine country tourist because my colleagues are always doing new things.  

CC: Do you think some California Pinot Noir gets tagged with an unfair reputation for producing unbalanced, fruit bombs? 

If wines are indeed unbalanced fruit bombs then it’s fair to call them that, and there are certainly some out there, just like there are unbalanced fruit bombs in just about all varietals and categories.  It seems to be a style some winemakers aspire to.  

Pinot being a grape that is typically planted in the cooler areas of California, it’s odd to me to even put “unbalanced fruit bomb” and Pinot in the same sentence.  Compared to Cabernet, Zinfandel or even “red blends,” Pinot Noir still remains the safest playground for those seeking something with higher acid, less oak and less “fruit bomb” character.  

The grape simply just won't go there as readily as other varietals, which is one of the reasons I love it.  There is no denying, however, that the Sideways frenzy prompted vast plantings of Pinot Noir in areas where it typically has not been grown (like the southern Central Valley) and these grapes are showing up in under $7 bottles that perhaps are more like “red wines with Pinot Noir on the label for marketing purposes” than expressions of the varietal I would hold up for someone’s education on varietal typicity.  

CC: If you were offered to work outside the comfy confines of domestic wine production, where would you go and why? 

AC: I’m not sure how many of the struggling small farmers and brand owners I know would call the domestic wine business “comfy” but I think I get your question… if I were offered a job in the fragrance industry in Europe, I would definitely be intrigued. 

The world of perfume has been a lifelong love, and it’s actually through exploring herbs and flowers, and how they have scented aromatic compounds that perfumers try to capture in liquid form, much like a winemaker does, that actually steered me toward wine in the first place.  I think I got into wine because I grew up in Santa Barbara’s wine country; had I grown up in Provence I may have become a perfume-maker.  

Additionally, I think someone in the wine business, with a degree in winemaking, which essentially is an applied microbiology degree with a healthy dose of biochem, agriculture and some marketing thrown in, would not necessarily find themselves too out of place in the world of distillation, brewing, cheese-making, the restaurant biz or small-scale farming. Remember that winemaking is like glorified microbiological zoo-keeping.  

It’s taking a perishable natural product, shepherding it through a food processing plant (your winery) and turning it into something more lasting and enjoyable. Planning, logistics, managing people, and managing perishable agricultural products….You can see how many folks who are in the restaurant business make very successful crossover winemakers too.   

And never forget how turned on we all are by the cool stories about who and what are behind the delicious and delightful jams, pastas, beers, breads and cheeses we all enjoy so much.  Storytelling, communicating and sharing are an integral part of making our handicrafts live, which is why I also write articles about winemaking which was published in "The Winemaker’s Answer Book" in 2007. I also just launched a blog called Girl and the Grape. Wines and words are my way of communicating my passion with the world!

CC: When it comes to Pinot Noir, where do you derive your inspiration in the winemaking process?

AC: Foremost from the vineyards and then secondly purely from hedonism.  I am all about pleasure. First you have to channel the vineyard and respect the fruit. You have to let the fruit tell you what it can or can't do, you can't force it.  But once the lots have been aging separately for at least eight months, you can start to blend based solely on the pleasure principle.  

I have my favorite barrels and oak types but I don't have “rules” as to what does or doesn't go with something else, like “Francois Frres can never be blended with a Tonnellerie Quintessence barrel,” for example.

I am simply trying to make the most delicious bottle of wine possible.  I do a lot of trial and error and blind tasting, and I am constantly surprising myself.  It’s great to let your experience be your guide but it’s important to keep challenging your assumptions.  

CC: If there was just one wine type/style left to drink in the world what would it be and why?

AC: Sparkling wines. I find endless interest, and food pairing versatility, in a cold glass of tart, refreshing bubbly.  

CC: Of all the many grapes in the world which do you think is the least understood or respected? 

White Zinfandel.  Just kidding, that’s a trick answer.  There’s no such grape variety as White Zinfandel, though it’s often a question new visitors to wine country or wine newbie’s ask.  “So where’s the White Zin grown?” It starts out as red Zinfandel grapes and gets slightly squished to make the familiar pink stuff. 

But even though so many of us would never touch White Zin, you have to respect it’s place in winemaking history; starting in the 1970’s, it helped set the stage for today’s rosé revolution and single-handedly introduced millions of people to wine drinking for the first time.  

Many of those folks have branched out and began to drink wines they never would've thought of touching decades ago. It all happened before I was born and certainly before I was legal to drink but, like Robert Mondavi’s pioneering of marketing California wines in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the White Zin explosion helped get us where we are today.  

CC: It’s has been said, it takes a lot good beer, to make great wine, thoughts?

AC: Beer or sparkling wine, it all has bubbles, so it all counts!  Many of us choose a martini, or gin and tonic but I think the key is that it be refreshing, not too sweet, and yes, effervescence does help. Basically after we've had our hands in red wine vats all day, and its hot outside, do I really want a big glass of red? I don't think so- bring on the Domaine Carneros!

Thanks again Alison it was great chatting with you here, thanks for making the time. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series; I have another winemaker interview in the pipeline, one which I just completed, so I hope you check it out next week. Until next time folks, remember life is short, make the most of it, sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The U.S. Uncorked: Top 10 Wine-Travel Destinations [Part Two]

“No nation is drunk where wine is cheap; and none sober where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone and welcome to part two of the Top Ten Wine-Travel Destinations. I trust everyone has their travel plans set for this week's Fourth of July festivities. Mrs. Cuvee and I off on another wine adventure, heading north from San Diego to spend some time in the Santa Lucia Highlands. 

6. The Monticello Wine Trail: This newly emerging wine-destination in Virginia is not too be missed and the winery featured in the image above is in my view one of the best examples of "why" you need to get your buns over-there to see what is going on for yourself. Amy Zavatto commenting on the Virginia Wine Scene had this to say; "Nearly 240 years later, Virginia has become Jefferson's land of the free-run, home of the grape"   Wow, who doesn't like to have their dreams come true, even if those dreams and visions are not realized in your lifetime? 

I had both the privilege and the pain of visiting this area on thee HOTTEST weekend of the year during the 2011 WBC in Charlottesville. While none of that diminished the beauty of this great area, or the wines I experienced. I'd say choosing to visit in late June, July or August would not be the best choice. Jefferson's Vineyard review. If you'd like to visit this wine-tastic area and I recommend that you do, here's a handy-dandy guide. Key Varietals: Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Chardonnay. 

7. Woodinville, WA: An amazing easy place to visit for anyone traveling to Seattle, as it's just a mere 30 miles outside of the Emerald City. So pack those picnic baskets, load-up the bicycles, the kids and dogs and  go experience some the best wines being made in the state of Washington. I know, here we are back in Washington State, and for that reason alone you should take note. Here is the link to discovering either the Warehouse district or the Tourist District and your key to uncovering some seriously good juice. Key Varietals, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and more.  

One big-time recommendation for dining while in the area, don't miss the Barking Frog at Willows Lodge. A few favorite wineries, I'd put on your list DiStefano, Betz, Baer, and DeLille, just to name a few are not to be missed [real wines, real soul]. Need more recommendations? Email me!

8. Santa Cruz Mountains: Matthew Kramer longtime writer for the Wine Spectator commenting on the Santa Cruz Mountains wine scene is quoted to have said, “It remains one of California’s all-time underrated wine districts!” If the only criteria you have for traveling to a wine-destination is how much they tickle your fancy, then this may not be a region you'd enjoy exploring. But that said, this is a great alternative for folks who live in the bay-area to explore a wine region which doesn't have either Napa or Sonoma on the label. Key Varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

If you're a bit more on the adventurous side and don't mind winding roads to the top to find great wineries like Ridge pictured above, then it's time to pack those picnic-baskets. Besides the fantastic views from this world-class winery, you'll also find a great place hang-out, uncork a bottle or two to share with friends and family. I've only been to this area once, but it was an unforgettable. Amazing views, great wine abounds and again if cycling is your thing, a visit to this area is not to be missed. 

9. Walla Walla, Washington: Good friends, Good Wine, Good Times. I was so glad to see this one on this list, a city so nice they named it twice. Mrs. Cuvee and I had an opportunity to visit this great town back in 2010 and it was unforgettable. The hospitality, and the spirit of generosity flow as easily as newly uncorked bottle of wine. If you'd like to get the complete 411 on this amazing wine-destination, please click on this link here. 

And for a complete list of the wineries feel free to click through this e-zine here. The B&B's in-town are amazingly comfortable, you may never want to leave. Now for a few recommendations winery-wise, L'Ecole [wowsers] Dunham Cellars and Waterbrook are not to be missed. Again if you want the complete list of recommendations, feel-free to email me. 

Okay last and not the least by any stretch, number ten will be revealed here [next Travel Tuesday] once I get back from my next wine-travel-adventure. Until next time folks, enjoy your FOJ celebration with friends and family and as always remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Winemaker Profile: Alison Crowe, Garnet Vineyards [Part One]

"I believe in respecting the fruit and letting the vineyards speak their particular truths. Sometimes all I have to do is get out of the way."  ~Alison Crowe

I love meeting and talking with winemakers, the movers and shakers of the wine-world. They always have some of the most compelling tales to tell, but not all of them want to share those thoughts or stories with just anyone. But being in the public-eye as they're, it is somewhat expected, so some spill-it-all while others keep some of the information a bit closer the vest. I want to thank Alison [grab her bio here] for taking a moment to talk with me via this Q&A interview, I really appreciate her candor and willingness to share her keen insights about the business of wine. 

I've not met Alison in person, but I've gotten to know her so much better over the course of the last few weeks preparing via her appearance on #WineChat and even before that via a lively conversation on her FB page, regarding wine-blogs. In the process I've come to respect her greatly, even tho we don't agree on everything. She has an amazing energy and passion for the wine-biz, one you'll see in her answers below.

Frankly, I expect to see big things from her in the future, her passion for life reminds me of the quote from Paul Brandt who is quoted to having said, "Don't tell me the skies the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” Without any further ado, let's jump right into the conversation enjoy. 

Cuvee Corner: Why is the term vegan-wine not on the label? 

Alison Crowe: We don't put “vegan” on the label because we never saw it as a major selling point. We get asked the “vegan wine question” maybe once or twice a year, and since most wine made in the world is vegan anyway, we thought it would be a bit of a silly selling point.  

Like, hey, buy our water, it’s wet and will quench your thirst!  If we put “vegan wine” on the label we would probably get called out by our colleagues, and rightly so.  Because most wine is vegan already, labeling Garnet wines as “vegan” would smack of greenwashing to me, or trying to distinguish ourselves from the pack undeservedly. But I'm happy to talk about it if people are curious. 

CC: You take to social-media like a duck-to-water, but many folks wonder about the ROI, what are your thoughts?

AC: Like a duck, I just jumped in and got wet! I’ll be the first to admit that I am learning all the time and have to swim in these crazy waters every day to keep on top of all the changes and developments that happen in the social technology sphere.  I encourage other winemakers to jump into the fray because it’s an amazing way to directly touch your audience and the people who are out there enjoying your wines.  

I've never known any other way to so quickly get directly in touch with folks; I've been able to develop relationships with customers, buyers, bloggers, suppliers and journalists that would've been difficult if not impossible to achieve otherwise.  This is a relationship business and if you're building relationships, you're building ROI.  Effectively utilizing social media can be tough as a winemaker if you don't have the freedom to be yourself. I'm lucky because as a small independent winery, I do have that freedom, and am very thankful for it. 

CC: Do you have any tips on how to manage the work/life equation?

AC: I have two small sons, a two and a half year old and a three month old and the work-life balance is something I’m figuring out every day.  I couldn’t do what I do without my great Assistant Winemaker Barbara, a supportive and flexible husband, photographer and wine educator Chris Purdy, and our “support team” of preschool teachers, great daycare and our nanny, Emily. 

For all you aspiring super-parents out there, never be too proud to order a pre-cut up veggie tray for the party, do a boxed cake mix or heck, even buy the cupcakes.  

Ask for help and accept it.  Adjust your lifestyle standards as necessary to get by but hold on to what’s important to you.  My husband works in winery hospitality and wine education so we only get one day together every weekend as a family.  That’s our day and it’s precious to us; we used to get a lot done on the weekends but we do more on weekday evenings when the kids are asleep so we can just play and hang out together on Sundays. 

CC: What music if any plays in the crush pad during harvest? 

AC: Los Straitjackets were playing yesterday in the cellar.  I also am a huge classical music fan, something I picked up from my old boss the late, great Monterey County Pinot Noir pioneer Don Blackburn

CC: Bucket List Question: If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? 

AC: Paris and Grasse (home to the agricultural side of France’s perfume industry-where all the roses and jasmine are grown), France.

CC: Why did you choose the stelvin closure [screw-caps] instead of cork?

AC: This will be a major ongoing topic on my blog, Girl and the Grape, I’m sure, but let me briefly address why I use twist-offs (AKA screw-caps, etc) for Garnet Monterey Pinot Noir ($14) Carneros Pinot ($20) and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($17).  First of all, Garnet Carneros has always been in a screw cap. 

Especially since I’ve been experienced using Stelvins since my days at Bonny Doon when Randall staged “The Death of the Cork” and so am very comfortable with the closure and know how it affects wine and aging wine.  Stelvins and VinPerfect (which I’d like to do some trials on, they were recently developed by an MBA colleague of mine from UC Davis) closures are simply more consistent than corks and plastic cork-type closures. They let in a predictable amount of oxygen and of course won't contribute to TCA “corked” defects, which is so much better for the wine and the wine-enjoyer!  

They cost about the same as corks, so its’ not like they provide any cost savings. Rodger’s Creek, our single vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot which retails for $30 is bottled under cork; I make a few hundred cases of that so I'm less worried about it going out to the mass market and having a major rejection of cork quality.  

Because I can do tight QC on that small number of corks (I make a combined ~17,000 cases of the other wines) and because, as a new small SKU we didn't want to develop a custom screw-cap for that very small number of cases, we went with cork there.  If that SKU grows, we would go to screw cap there too.  

As far as consumer and winery acceptance, it’s skyrocketing even though we are way behind the curve compared to Australia and New Zealand, where just about every wine is bottled under twist-off.  In the US, 38% of wineries use screw caps on their wines, which is up from about 5% in 2004.  For more on this issue, I can do no better than to point everyone to one of the very best pieces of wine journalism that really gets into the issue:  the chapter on corks and screwcaps in Jamie Goode’s The Science of Wine

CC: When it comes to Pinot Noir, where do you derive your inspiration in the winemaking process?

AC: Foremost from the vineyards and then secondly pure from hedonism.  I am all about pleasure.  First you have to channel the vineyard and respect the fruit. You have to let the fruit tell you what it can or can’t do, you can’t force it.  But once the lots have been aging separately for at least eight months, you can start to blend based solely on the pleasure principle.  

I have my favorite barrels and oak types but I don’t have “rules” as to what does or doesn’t go with something else, like “Francois Frres can never be blended with a Tonnellerie Quintessence barrel,” for example.  I am simply trying to make the most delicious bottle of wine possible.  I do a lot of trial and error and blind tasting, and I am constantly surprising myself.  It’s great to let your experience be your guide but it’s important to keep challenging your assumptions.  

Okay folks here's where part one ends, but please come back next Monday for the 2nd half of the interview, as it already hot-off-the-presses and ready to go, so you can readily count the next slice being served-up next Monday. This will be the next to last post until after I come back from Monterey. I'm sure I'll have boat-load of perspectives to share with you from the Santa Lucia Highlands and more than a few images. Once again big-time thanks to Alison for sharing her insights with the entire wine-community. Okay folks that is it, have a fun, yet safe Fourth of July celebration and until next remember life is short so sip long and prosper cheers!

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