Saturday, February 20, 2016

Premiere Napa Valley 2016

Today is the 2016 edition of the exceptional Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and auction.  I say exceptional for two reasons. First, Napa Valley's top wineries get together while producing unique wines as a way preview of the upcoming 2014 vintage releases. These wines tend to be the best that comes out of each of these estates. Tasting these wines is truly a unique experience and I am thankful to have been in attendance each of the last four years.  This year, however, I've taken a break from attending because of the birth of Beatrice three months ago.  Something about a jaunting off to Napa to taste very expensive wines for the weekend while leaving my wife at home with two young children didn't seem quite fair.  I am hopeful that I'll be back next year.

The second reason this event is exceptional is the mere fact that 225 wineries in one of the worlds most premier wine-producing regions get together in cooperating in the name of raising awareness for their region. Now this may not seem like a difficult task, but anyone that works with wineries will understand that getting more than a handful of wineries to cooperate on something is harder than corralling a drunken knife-wielding monkey.  Licensed wine retailers and wholesalers from around the world converge in Napa Valley this week call to bid on average $200 a bottle wine.  Media and high-profile consumers also fill the valley. I can't think of a better marketing technique to build the reputation of one region with the industry. I think all other wine regions should attempt to mimic this event as best they could. I know I've pushed for Colorado to try something similar, but alas I've been unsuccessful.

Without having the opportunity to have tasted the wines all day yesterday and this morning, I don't have as much to say about the auction as I have the past few years. I'd be willing to bet there are some exceptional wines being offer and some not so great wines. I will make one prediction. I am willing to bet your subscription fee to this blog that the top lot will be one of six producers: BRAND, Continuum Estate, Fairchild Napa Valley, Ovid Napa Valley, Shafer Vineyards, or Yao Family Wines.  I also predict that the winning bid on one of these five case lots will exceed $125,000. I know that may seem crazy, but this prediction is based on past results.

This year's auction looks like it will be full of surprises given how many first-time entries there seems to be (oh, how I could taste the Matthiasson lot). I will follow along via Twitter (#PNV16) to see how my favorite producers (and the new kids on the block) fair. As fun and informative as it would have been to taste the wines and talk with the producers, sitting on my couch, dictating this on my iPhone while holding a smiling baby was a pretty good way to spend the morning.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Lorenza Rosé Vertical

For the past few years my wife and I have hosted a Valentine's Day party for our friends and neighbors as a way to avoid the hassle of getting a restaurant reservation but still enjoying adult company (almost all guests have children). We usually open a few bottles of wine and play a variety of board games. Cards Against Humanity always makes an appearance and is usually the highlight (or most awkward depending on your disposition) of the evening. This year we also played Pie Face, Five Second Rule and Quelf. The only child invited was Beatrice, and she actually invited herself when she refused to be left alone in her room. As long as she was being held, she was a perfect little angel. I thank her for being my good luck charm when it was my turn on Pie Face.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Trio of Vall Llach

My love affair with wine started with Spanish wine - specifically Rioja. For this reason, Spanish wine  will always have a special place in my heart - especially Rioja. Rioja is a large, expansive region in north-central Spain home to over 600 wineries and is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify for the highest qualification level for a Spanish wine region, DOCa, along with the Priorat DOCa in Catalonia near Barcelona. Rioja is known primarily for Tempranillo, but Garnacha is a key component of many red Rioja wines. Despite its relative small size, Priorat has garnered a reputation for producing big, bold red wines primarily from Garnacha and Cariñena (Grenache and Carignan), along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Priorat, which usually appears on the labels, is the Catalan spelling, while the Castillian spell it as Priorato.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bodegas Ameztoi Rubentis

Being uncomfortable is an unavoidable part of life, but it still sucks. Watching someone be in the most discomfort they've ever encountered isn't fun. You and I know that getting shots at the doctor's office isn't the worse thing in the world, but to a 10-week old it is. Going from having no real knowledge of pain to getting stuck with a large needle three times was quite a big deal to my little girl. I knew she'd be fine, but in that instance she was feeling discomfort like she'd never known.

For some reason, some people feel the same way about wine. Put anything other than mass-produced Chardonnay or Merlot in front of them and they just don't know what to think. It's just wine and it's supposed to be fun, but it can stress people out. I find it interesting that this phenomenon doesn't exist to the same extent in the beer world. Yes, Budweiser is exceptionally uncomfortable with the growth of craft beer, but that's why they've been buying craft breweries like their lives depend on it (just a few weeks ago Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased Breckenridge Brewery - just a 2.1 mile bike ride from my front door). Yet, I don't see the same sort of discomfort when beer drinkers are confronted with the choice of a brown ale, IPA, stout or a pilsner. I think beer drinkers are even more willing to try a lambic, gose, or just about any type of flavored beer than your common wine drinker would be willing to knowingly put Teroldego, Mencía, Blaufränkisch or Chambourcin into their wine glass. I can only imagine the resistance is related to language barriers and excellent marketing by the big wine producers.

Bodegas Ameztoi 2014 Rubentis
If accents and umlauts are enough to get people's panties in a bunch just imagine what kind of discomfort a completely unique language could cause. While the Bodegas Ameztoi Rubentis (11% abv, Purchased $23) is Spanish by law, it is Basque at heart. This lovely rosé hails from the Getariako Txakolina - gesundheit - region in northern Spain from the grapes Hondarrabi Zuri (50%) and Hondarrabi Beltza (50%). With all that information on the label the average wine consumer is sure to be 100% confused. If you focus on only what's in the glass, this wine is a pretty pastel pink color and slightly effervescent - just a touch more than you might find in your average Portuguese Vinho Verde. Prominent aromas of citrus and a hint of mint entice the nose. The palate is awakened by the bubbles to greet bright flavors of lemons, grapefruit, strawberries and sea salt. The Rubentis is an exceptionally refreshing wine that pairs well with anything from seafood to barbeque, or just as lovely on its own. This wine is the perfect example of why unfamiliar grapes should cause you discomfort, but may actually bring pleasure.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

This past weekend a new Colorado wine event was born: Winter Wine Fest. The event was brought about by the Two Parts (formerly Imbibe) event planners and Grand Junction Visitors and Convention Bureau to provide Denver with a Colorado-themed wine event. The slow winter months just happen to be the best time for wineries to attend such an event in Denver. For a first-year event it was very successful - over 400 guests attended to taste wine from 17 different wineries. Through my position with the CO Wine Board, I attended to pour a selection of wines from the 2015 Governor's Cup Case for VIP guests. The feedback from both consumers and wineries was positive. I will be interested to see how it grows in the future.

Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the wines we poured was the Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (13.9% abv, Sample $35). There was bit more than half a bottle remaining, so instead of dumping it I brought it home to have during the Super Bowl. This Cabernet is rather light for Cabernet - in both color and body. More than one person at the Winter Wine Fest asked if it was Pinot noir when I poured it for them. It's not anything like Pinot, but I can understand their confusion with what comes in some of the more popular Cabernet bottles from California. In fact, we pour this one before the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot we also poured. It is a lovely translucent red color and is quite aromatic. On the nose there are aromas of flowers, spices and dark fruit. This wine is all about finesse and not power, but still shows a lot of complexity. The smooth tannins complement the clove, leather, herbs, cherry and blackberry flavors that caress the palate. The combination of flavors and brightness of the acidity harken to an old-school style of Cabernet Sauvignon not afraid of embracing the grape's savoriness. It is a lovely wine that will probably disappoint those looking for the upfront fruit and concentration that hijack so many Cabernet Sauvignon.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Garbó Rosat

We had a mini-milestone this week on the baby front. Beatrice laughed for the first time! She has been smiling for awhile now, but she combined that with a chuckle the other day. A few funny faces and odd noises from mom and dad were just to much for her to contain herself anymore. She really is starting to show her personality and before we know it, she will demand her independence from her parents.

Garbó 2014 Rosat

This week's rosé comes from a region that has been trying gain its independence for quite some time. Montsant is a Catalan wine region in northeast Spain - near the esteemed Priorat region. Just a few months ago, the Catalan parliament voted to begin secession from Spain. Spain of course isn't on board, but this movement will definitely be interesting to follow in the future. The independent streak is apparent in the label with the Catalan word for rosé, rosat, instead of the Spanish rosado. The  Garbó 2014 Rosat (13.66% abv, Sample $19) is part of the Ferrer Family of wines - think Freixenet or Gloria Ferrer Winery in California. This beautiful bright pink wine is a blend of Garnacha (Grenache for you francophones) and Syrah. Delicate floral and fruit aromas can be found on the rather subdued nose. Flavors of raspberry and tart cherry combine with a lot of spice and some hints of herbs on the palate. It is not especially complex or exceptionally interesting, but it pairs nicely with homemade paella. It is a decent wine, but there is a lot other rosé that might be a better value for close to $20.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Scherrer Winery

One of my favorite things about the French wine industry is the use of controlled designations of origin. Not only does the AOP/AOC system guarantee the source of the grapes, but also the grape cultivars themselves. When you buy a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin you know it is made from Pinot noir. When you buy a bottle of Sancerre you know it is Sauvignon blanc. This system is great for providing a plethora of information to a savvy customer by only using a geographic on a label. This system is also great for stifling producer creativity. You will never find a bottle of Bordeaux made with Syrah. Ah, Château Palmer's Historical XIX Century Wine is an exception to that rule, you say! Yes, but this blend of Bordeaux and Syrah from the northern Rhône Valley is labeled as Vin de Table Français, or lowly French Table Wine. Though it occasionally happens, French wine producers produce wine from restricted cultivars, or by restricted methods, and then label the wine with the less prestigious Vin de Table Français designation.