Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blood Into Wine


For those of you who like to keep up with all the wine movies, here is a semi-interesting one for you.

Blood Into Wine is a poorly-made documentary about Maynard James Keenan, a rocker from Tool and Puscifer (??), who left music in the 1990s to start a vineyard and winery in the Sedona, AZ area.

The flick is primarily a paen to one man's arrogance and ego (the star tries to show us how wise and humble he is), but the film has worthwhile moments, including:

1. A visit by his friend James Suckling, from Wine Spectator, who tastes through the wines and we get a nice insight into Suckling;
2. A fantastic post-credits performance (be sure to keep watching, past the end, for it) by a guy humorously acting French and saying some terribly funny things, including "Bottles of wine are basically cork delivery systems, to allow the corks to vacation worldwide." and so on. Hilarious.

They had four successive winter-kills at their vineyard. You get the impression that the site is pretty unforgiving, but it is beautiful. They can't get enough water for their vines, and javelina ravage their vines, too. And Keenan knows very little about grapes and winemaking. His sidekick winemaker is also pretty green; it was painful to watch him suck up to Suckling, as if to put himself on par with one of the world's best palates. But I am too critical. Most of the film is fun to watch, and the personalities are interesting. We get glimpses of several interesting folks in the grape growing business, and you do get a sense of all the work and heartbreak that is involved. And I definitely have a soft spot for anyone who strikes out into new grape territory . . .

Overall grade: C+


Thursday, March 29, 2012

2011 Bordeaux


This was an uneven year (hot Spring, then cool and wet summer, followed by a saving warm, sunny Fall). Only a few wines will be worth laying down, but many will be good drinking wines. But the buyer will need to be careful, as potholes exist on this road.

As prices set a record with the '09 futures, only to be eclipsed by the '10 futures, look for the '11 future prices to take a welcome step down.

Futures will start going on sale soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Timing is everything


Imagine receiving, and, with much effort, translating a friendly message from some beings just around the corner in our galaxy. We quickly develop the technology to construct a "generation ship," we launch it with great fanfare, and several centuries later it arrives, only to find an empty planet, perhaps made unlivable by its former occupants who left without so much as a forwarding address.

Timing is everything.

That said, this is the second year in a row that I have lost in the "March Madness of Wine" competition, which has already become quite enthusiastically followed. Thanks to Don and Lisa for conceptualizing and running this event. Each time, my wine, despite having been decanted and left in the decanter for over an hour, just wasn't at peak when it was tasted and judged. Each time, it opened up later, and shone like the wine I knew it was, but only after the voting was long finished. Timing is indeed every thing.

Others suffered the same fate, and even more inexplicably than did I. Just look at two of the wines that lost their first rounds in this competition:

1. 2005 Domaine Drouhin "Louise" Pinot Noir: This is best barrel at Dom. Drouhin--their "Laurene" is super-great wine, and the Louise is the greatest of even the Laurene. But it was outvoted by a Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir (2008 Sonoma Coast).

2. 2006 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon: This is Q Creek's flagship cab--the super-cult winery's best wine, which has received no less than 100, 100, 99, 98, and 97 (or so-you get the idea) point scores by Parker over the past five years. But it lost to a 1997 Beringer Reserve Cab.

Format: 8 persons (or couples) bring a wine costing more than $50, in a category assigned to them. Our categories were 1. Pinot Noir (a California Pinot and an Oregon Pinot); 2. France (a Bordeaux and a Burgundy); 3. Cabernet (Washington and California); and 4. Italian vs any non-US wine. The wines are brought under cover, and decanted an hour before the event (while we eat dinner). Then the wines compete against each other, blind, and each person who brought a wine gets a vote. The loser wine is revealed, and the winner wine remains anonymous and competes in the next round. With up to 24 pours for the two finalist wines, the pours for each wine needs to be kept to 3/4 ounce (and a couple who brings one wine will share each taste); there are about 30-32 0.75-oz pours in a 750ml wine bottle (depending on ullage and sediment).

Besides bringing a great wine, the key to success in this event is knowing when your wine will peak after opening. The best wine in the world can't win if it is still shut down when it hits the judges' lips. For instance, that Louise needs perhaps 4-6 hours in decanter, to open up, and it had only 1.5 hours. The Quil Creek Cab shouldn't have been opened at all, for perhaps five more years (though it, as the Louise, was an extremely considerate gift), and neither, as it turns out, should my Bordeaux (2000 Clos Fortet, St. Emilion Grand Cru) have been opened yet (hey; I thought after 12 years it would be fine, and CellarTracker scorers give it 93 points right now, but perhaps my wine cellar is colder than most, thus slowing the wine's maturation).

(Photo is Salavadore Dali's "The Persistance of Memory")

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2010 not the year for Oregon Pinot?


Tasted a few 2010 Pinots the other day. Spoke to others who also tasted the wines, and the majority (including me) thought the wines were thin and sharp. French in style but not close to the "Oregon standard" for Pinot Noir.

I don't necessarily blame the winemaker. It was a brutal year for red anything in NW Oregon.

Interestingly, the 2010 NW Oregon whites are turning out delightful! Get some and see what I mean.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rocky France versus Fruity Wash


As I cruised up and down the tables (tableaux?) of various French wines at a large distributor's recent tasting, I found myself finding most of the wines too hard-edged and minerally. Not enough fruit. Suddenly, I realized the obvious: My palate has been forever molded by the excellent (and wonderfully-priced) wines of Washington! Talk about fruit forward, and balance! Many mid-range French wines just don't have it. I am sure it is the "correct" style for France to be sharp, thin, and minerally, but I don't care for it.

***Of course, I love aged Bordeaux and many other French wines; my above generalization is only that.

Funny thing, though, to see yourself for what you are, and to realize how much a sense of place, an understanding and appreciation of what is around you, means. And to think just how lucky we are, to live so near such a wonderful wine region (as Yakima, Tri Cities, and Walla Walla).