Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Bailiwick Cabernet Franc

For those that aren't familiar with my Dr. Harry Oldman posts, they are satirical posts usually inspired by some curmudgeonly statement I saw elsewhere. I try to write blatantly tongue-in-cheek, but with a little bit of truth thrown in for good measure. Yesterday's post was inspired by a representative of a major winery criticizing wines without "classic" heritage. He started his article about differentiating character from flaws. I fully agree that a wine, regardless of its heritage, that has noticeable flaws can be less pleasant to drink or even be undrinkable. The writer then somehow got onto discussing eccentricity in wine and "being different just for the sake of being different." He suggested that such wines are bizarre and people only like them because they're told to like them by somms and "young tastemakers."

I know wine lovers and wine professionals who think wine should come from unexpected locations unless it is as good as "the classics." Why grow Cabernet Franc in California or - heaven forbid - Colorado when there is classic Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley? Why plant Nebbiolo anywhere but Piedmont in Italy? Why make sparkling wine from anything other than Chardonnay or Pinot noir? Such arguments come from ignorance. Now, I'm not saying that someone thinks Bruno Giacosa produces the finest Nebbiolo on the planet that any other Nebbiolo will change their mind. But, at the same time the preference to one wine region/style should not exclude the production elsewhere regardless if the "bizarre" interpretation bares no similarity to the "classic." I do not expect California wine to taste like French wine, and I also do not expect all California wine to taste alike. Now, what fun would wine be if it all tasted the same way?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dr. Harry Oldman on Andy Warhol Wines

Dr. Harry Oldman recently got back into town after spending the past few weeks in Florida to help knock on doors before the March 15 primary. He tells me he had a successful time and drank some fantastic wine, but something has been bothering him. He just had to get this off his chest.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Lightning Rosé

16" of snow...
I'm sure if you turned on your television in the past two days you saw that the Denver metro area was inundated by snow on Wednesday. You got to love Colorado weather; Monday and Tuesday both saw high temperatures of 70 °F and then we were graced with 16" of snow on Wednesday between 4 am and 4 pm. At the peak of the storm, with visibility down to a maybe 100 m and winds pushing 40 mph my whole family ventured to a nearby park to play in the snow. Bea was strapped to mom and took a nap in the blizzard while Ben and I had a good wrestling match in the snow. Yesterday, it was almost 50 °F and most of the snow on the roads melted away! Such is life in Colorado.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Derenoncourt Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery mailing lists are an unusual thing. Most people buy their wine at retail stores near their homes. Depending on the state one lives in, the retail venue may be a grocery store, a liquor store where all types of beverage alcohol are sold, or a wine specialty shop. Those wines find their way on to the retailers' shelves by means of wholesale middlemen who distribute their products only to retailers. This is known as the three-tier system and is the typical model the wine world has operated since the repeal of Prohibition. The direct-to-consumer model of the allocated mailing list is something of a holy grail in the wine world as it cuts out the middleman. Most wineries have a sales option on their website where consumers may purchase products directly from them. The winery then ships the wine directly to the consumer via a common carrier (FedEx or UPS are generally the two main carriers). This process allows the winery to collect the full retail price of the wine instead of selling it at wholesale cost to their distributor. It also allows consumers (depending on where they live) to have access to most of the wines they demand. I still cannot understand, in this day and age, how and why some winery websites still do not have this functionality and why some states restrict this type of commerce. But I digress as this post is not about the disfunctionality of the three-tier system and current alcohol laws.

Some wineries have taken this approach to a different level. Consumers may sign up to receive notification when they are allowed to purchase a set amount of a winery's wine (usually in increments of 3 bottles). Most wineries suggest this as a way to allow more customers access to the wine. In some cases, which continue to become rarer and rarer, there is a waiting list just to be added to the mailing list. For the most part, you can sign up and receive an offer right away for wineries that use allocation lists. Sometimes the amount of wine a winery will allow you to purchase is dependent on previous purchases; as you buy wine, more is offered to you in subsequent years.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bonny Doon Vineyard A Proper Pink

It has been a busy few weeks since the last rosé post, but I really don't have an excuse for missing two weeks. However, during that time I felt quite adventurous; I took Bea on a quick solo overnight trip to Florida to visit her great grandparents for the first time. The plane rides went well (though I don't understand why I didn't buy her a seat when the fare was $38 round trip!) and her Gigi and Big Papa were so excited to meet her. As luck would have it Bea got to meet her great aunt and cousin, once removed, who were also visiting. They even got to witness (maybe teach) her first roll. Apparently she's not an underachiever because she rolled both front-to-back and back-to-front! I think we are going to be in trouble with another early mover; big brother was walking at ten months!

The last rosé we open was a very unique one. The Bonny Doon Vineyard 2015 'A Proper Pink' (13% abv, Sample $16) is an interesting blend of 69% Tannat and 31% Cabernet Franc. I can't say I've ever had a wine quite like this. The dark translucent red color isn't something you see every day, but it's not uncommon. Yet, this wine's DNA is closer to red than pink. It is rich and complex, but it's also weird. It is full of contrasting aromas and flavors. There's cherry tart, pie spices and black raspberries. But bay leaf, radish, beetroot and unripe guava characteristics are present, too. It's lush and savory. Taking my biases and preferences in account, this is anything but a proper pink; but I kind like it at the same time I dislike it. It's a contradiction in a glass. Maybe A Defiant Pink would be a better name.
Bonny Doon 2015 A Proper Pink

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Two From Donnafugata

2014 'Sur Sur' Grillo
By pure coincidence we opened two wines by the same Italian producer this week. The first, the Donnafugata Sur Sur 2014 Grillo (12.73% abv, Sample $23), was my choice to pair with a pasta dish I had made for dinner. I don't believe I had ever had a wine made from the Grillo grape before. Grillo is a Sicilian  cultivar that withstands really high temperatures and drought. However, this wine didn't taste like a wine that was produced from a hot region. I suppose this was because 2014 in Sicily was marked by a relatively mild winter, a cool spring and the summer passed without excess heat. The nose was subtle, and revealed some timid aromas of peaches and citrus. There was a distinct grapefruit flavor on the palate that, when combined with slight herbal tone made me think this would be a good substitute for a Sauvignon blanc. The wine showed very bright acidity in the mouth, but also had hint of creaminess that fooled me in thinking this saw a bit of oak when it in fact did not. Overall, this is a lovely wine and I look forward to trying more Grillo in the future.

2014 'Lighea' Zibibbo
The second wine, the Donnafugata Lighea 2014 Zibibbo (12.34% abv, Sample $23), was chosen by my wife and served to me blind in a decanter. My first guess based on the nose was Riesling because it was so aromatic with notes of flowers, peaches, honey, and limes. However, it didn't taste like Riesling, but more like Viognier. There were more flavors of apricot and pineapple and it didn't have acidity I would expect in Riesling. It seemed as if it were some kind of blend of Riesling, Viognier and Portuguese Vinho Verde. I looked at my wife puzzled and I told her I had given up guessing what it might be. Well, turns out what's on the label - Zibibbo - is a synonym for Muscat of Alexandria. All those aromas and flavors make sense for Muscat! Interestingly enough, Muscat of Alexandria is believed to be one of the oldest genetically unmodified grape cultivars.  Jeremy Parzen posted an interesting article on the origins of the name Zibibbo on his site Do Bianchi. It is often made into fortified wines - Rutherglen in Australia, Málaga in Spain, and off the coast of Marsala on the island of Pantelleria. It is also distilled into Pisco in Chile and Peru. It also happens to make a lovely dry, still wine from Sicily.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Blind Motley Crew

Two weeks ago I added a new twist to our wine consumption: blind tasting. Now, I wish I had the means to taste wines in blind flights regularly, but I don't really have the time or supply of wine to do so. My tasting regiment is like that of most people; I'll open a bottle of for dinner and have a glass or two with food and maybe another after dinner. I enjoy experiencing how wines can change over the course a few hours and how they may complement food.

Last week I decided to change it up a bit by having my wife go grab a bottle and pour it into a decanter without me knowing what it was. I still have to try to get over the bias of guessing based on knowing what wines are in the cellar, but it has been a fun modification to having wine with dinner. Since I missed last week's post, there is a variety of notes today.