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Friday, February 27, 2015

Gary Vaynerchuk gets back into the wine game...

The 2015 edition of Premiere Napa Valley saw a fundraising record for the Napa Valley Vintners. PNV15 also saw the return of Gary Vaynerchuk to Napa on the ninth anniversary of the first episode of WineLibraryTV. Gary helped his father successfully bid on 11 lots (840 bottles) to a tune of $377,000 ($449 per bottle). Gary energetically tasted with vintners during the barrel tasting prior to the auction and frequently posted selfies to Twitter (without the aid of a selfie-stick). I caught up with Gary briefly after the auction to discuss WineLibary's purchases and the possible return of WineLibraryTV.

Wine Library's Gary and Sasha Vaynerchuk at Premiere Napa Valley 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Initial thoughts on Premiere Napa Valley 2015

Premiere Napa Valley 2015
Last week's Premiere Napa Valley (PNV), the fundraising auction for the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), brought in a record $6.05 million, just surpassing last year's previous record of $5.9 million. Napa Valley wineries donated five-, 10-, or 20-case lots that were then exclusively auctioned off to the trade. The barrel tasting and auction at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena capped off a bacchanalian week in the Napa Valley just as the vines were beginning to spring back to life for the 2015 vintage. The average wholesale price per bottle sold was an astounding $286. The top bidder was Total Wine & More, who purchased 25 lots of the futures for a total of $836,000.

The most expensive lot, which also happened to be one of my favorites, was the 2013 BRAND Napa Valley "Double Barrel Elevation 1588" Cabernet Sauvignon. Sixty bottles of this cabernet sauvignon from Pritchard Hill sold for $115,000 to a corporate finance firm based in Zurich, Switzerland. The frenzied bidding brought BRAND proprietor Ed Fitts to tears when it was all said and done. Two other lots earned $100,000 for a mere 5 cases of wine. Only six lots failed to sell for more than $100 per bottle, three of which were white wines, including a very interesting sweet Scuppernong from Spiriterra Vineyards. Even though I enjoyed it, the unusual wine made from Vitis rotundifolia grapes was a peculiar addition to the cabernet sauvignon-dominated field.

Thursday and Friday were filled with various preview parties around the valley. After missing it last year, I was able to make it to Vintage Perspective Tasting of 2010, 2011, and 2012 cabernets as well as the 2003-2009 library tasting. I also went to preview receptions for Chateau Boswell (a random group of "most celebrated winemakers"), Coombsville Vintners & GrowersPritchard Hill Wineries, Women WinemakersOakville Winegrowers Association, FlyWine (bottles premium wine in 100 mL TSA-friendly bottles), and Winemakers of Brokenrock Vineyard. I had planned on attending a few other receptions, but time and wine just got in the way.


The barrel tasting portion of the auction on Saturday morning showcased wines mostly from the 2013 vintage and the attendance was quite a big smaller than last year. Cate Conniff, the communications manager for NVV, told me that invitations to media, trade, and wineries were cut across the board because too many people were packed into the venue last year. It was refreshing not feeling like a canned sardine this year. Compared to the similar 2012 vintage offered at the previous auction, the 2013s were successful across the board. Ripeness and concentration were not a problem for Napa producers in 2013. To my palate, the wines were marked by good fruit flavors and strong tannins. The 2013 wines tended to be less opulent than those from 2012 and more restrained. As goes with saying for any barrel tasting, the wines were not finished products, so no final assessment can be made. That being said, the wines that really impressed me did so with their aromas, balance, and refinement as opposed to power and density.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ben's Blush: Matthiasson

2013 Matthiasson Rosé
The weather in Colorado this winter has been beautiful. 60° and sunny has happened more often than not. Finally, Last week we got our first good snow in about two months. We got almost a foot in Littleton where we live. My wife and Ben had a four-day weekend, so we were able to enjoy the snow at home. The hens have not been pleased eithr return to arctic conditions. It took some convincing to get Ben to go outside to play, but when he finally decided to enjoy the snow it was hard to get him to back inside. I built an igloo- well, a wall of snow with a cardboard box on top of it - for him to play in. He really liked it, but was the only person able to fit inside of it. I'm in California this weekend for premiere Napa Valley. I might be staying a bit longer than intended because the forecast for Sunday when I'm supposed to go home is for another 12 to 18 inches of snow to blanket the Denver area. I'm hoping my flight will be able to sneak in through that weather. I'll report back about the PNV tastings next week, but I'm looking forward to picking up a few bottles of the new release of this week's Ben's blush to replenish the rosé stock.

2013 Matthiasson Rosé, California

Steve Matthiasson has been nominated yet again for the James Beard award for his throwback wines he produces from Napa and elsewhere in Northern California. This blend of Rhône cultivars clocks in at eight paltry 11% alcohol. In fact, after we finish the bottle we were able to open a second bottle and drink some of that as well. I felt better after those two bottles of the many full throttle California wines. This is not a rosé to knock your socks off, but it is a lovely, delicate wine. What it lacks in depth, it makes up with zip and brightness. The underripe white peach, pomegranate, sea salt, chalk, and lime rind flavors make it go down way too quickly... 11.2% abv. Purchased $23. Good/Very Good

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2012 tasting and what will Premiere Napa Valley bring this weekend?

As I noted a few weeks ago, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) was in Denver showing off the 2012 vintage.  Though the organization represents 133 wineries, both classified and non-classified producers, only about 60 producers were in Denver at the fundraising event for the Denver Public Schools Foundation, with the rest of the group splitting off to Las Vegas. Just tasting the wine from these 60 was more than enough to gain some perspective on the 2012 vintage.

As you probably have read, Bordeaux had three less-than-stellar vintages in a row. 2011, 2012 and 2013 have been met with critical disdain and falling prices, especially since the esteemed 2009 and 2010 vintages caused prices to skyrocket. Of the producers I spoke with, they claimed that 2012 was the best of these three off years and certainly meant for early consumption while the venerated vintages rest in the cellar. 2014 was discussed as a favorable vintage and a welcome reprieve from the trio of disappointments, but still not up to the standard set by 2010 - the greatest ever vintage in Bordeaux, as claimed by one producer.

I left the tasting with three conclusions about the wines.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ben's Blush: 2012 Arnot-Roberts Rosé

Having a young child can make dining out an infrequent occurrence. Just getting out the door can be a battle in its own right. Though Ben is usually well behaved and a great eater at restaurants, there is always a chance of a tantrum and we have to bring something to keep him occupied while we wait for the food to arrive. A few days ago, we decided to go to The Wooden Table on the spur of the moment. We asked Ben if he wanted to put some "fancy" clothes on to go out. He eagerly replied that he wanted to wear his dress. Well, his dress is just a tie-died adult t-shirt that my wife made for him, but still probably not the most appropriate attire for fine dining. We gently redirected his fashion instincts towards wearing his Bruce Wayne bow tie. After the brief battle, we set out for a very nice evening at the restaurant with out dapper little gentleman.

However, we felt a little bad that he really wanted to wear his dress at a fancy dinner. So, the next night we brought the restaurant experience home. I printed up a menu with a variety of choices for Ben to choose. I acted as the waiter and took his order (I was also the chef and made a pretty tasty butternut squash and pumpkin sausage risotto). Dinner was served over three separate courses. And, best of all, Ben got to wear his fancy dress (and some impressive Frozen slippers). Mom and Dad shared a bottle of Arnot-Roberts Rosé.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ben's Blush: Kessler-Haak

Three-year olds don't miss much. The other day someone asked Ben how old he was, and he told them he was three and a half. I quietly interjected that it is a good thing he doesn't know fractions because he is really three and three-quarters. Well, since that moment Ben's new answer to a question about his age is of course, "I'm three and three-quarters!"

I guess the time when your child is right around his or her fourth birthday is when you start looking for pre-kindergarten. We were lucky to not have to think much about what Ben did for daycare, as my wife's school has excellent employee daycare on site. However, pre-k is a different story. The process for Ben to stay at this school is quite involved. We have to write a parent statement, get a teacher recommendation, have a parent interview, and Ben had to attend an assessed playdate. The school is great and the convenience of Ben going to school with his mom makes it that much more attractive of an option.

To do our due diligence, we also are looking at the neighbor elementary school just a few blocks from our home. Information about the program and registration process has been harder to come by. Last night, we attended the open house at the school. Rather than a structured program where administrators and teachers explain things, we just kind of walked around getting a feel for the school and the pre-k room. We did get a chance to speak with the lead pre-k teacher (but who will be retiring at year's end) about the program. It definitely is less structured and rigorous than the private school option, but both seemed relatively similar.

We haven't decided where he is going to go next year. We will have to wait to hear if Ben even gets admitted to mom's school. Maybe the decision will be made for us! Either way, it will be fun to watch Ben continue growing up and expanding his world.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is in Denver this week

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) is an organization formed in 1973 by a group of Bordeaux wineries that is something of a marketing program that puts on tasting and educational events in France and abroad. The organization now represents 133 wineries, both classified and non-classified producers. Every year, winery representatives tour the U.S. with their wines, but usually only visit New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Last year was the first time the tour found its way to Colorado.

This year, half of the group will be in Denver on Thursday, January 29 (the the other half is in Las Vegas that night). The Châteaux owners and winemakers from over 60 of the most prestigious Bordeaux producers (sadly, no First Growths...) will pour and discuss their wines. I can't think of another opportunity in Colorado to taste such a collection of historic and respected wines. As an added benefit (and because of Colorado liquor law) the event is a fundraiser for the Denver Public Schools Foundation, but hosted by Applejack Wine & Spirits. For a full list of the participating producers and to buy tickets, click here.

The 2012 vintage will be featured at the tasting, though I would hope some producers bring some examples properly aged Bordeaux wine. 2012 is the second in a trio of less-than-ideal vintages for Bordeaux. The vintage started cool and wet, and finished with heavy rains around harvest time. Though I haven't tasted much 2012 Bordeaux, I've read that merlot from the Right Bank produced more favorable wines when compared to the later-ripening cabernet sauvignon from the Left Bank. Many of the top sweet-wine producers even declared that they would not produce any wine in 2012, but instead sell-off their wine in bulk to less prominent producers.

I don't drink much Bordeaux, frankly because the price of admission is so steep. Many of the wines that will be poured at the UGCB tasting cost between $50 and $300 per bottle. The First Growth producers, who will not be in attendance, sell their wines for around $1000 per bottle. Prices have come down some since consumer demand (especially in China) of the heralded 2009 and 2010 vintages caused prices to skyrocket. Still, with three lower-quality vintages currently languishing in the market since the critically acclaimed 2010, supply and demand are still out of sync when it comes to general pricing for the region. Nevertheless, I will be quite interested to see what is in the glass on Thursday night to see if there is some value to be had. I hope to see you there!