As I write on a laptop exponentially more powerful than all the computers NASA used to put men on the moon, while listening to music beamed from a satellite in outer space to a pencil-thin marvel of engineering called a smartphone, I am warmed by the fact that there are still people who see the value in the heirlooms of the past. Please don’t get me wrong, old does not always equal good. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my dentist giving me whiskey as an anesthetic just before pumping a rusty, pedal-cranked drill. But then there are some things that stand the test of time: The Stones, muscle cars, a well-cut suit, Marilyn Monroe… So in the spirit of tradition, I’m pleased to say the folks at St. Francis Vineyards in Sonoma got it right with their 2008 Old Vines Zinfandel. Using vines ranging from 55 to 100 years old, they overcame a challenging year of weather extremes to produce a powerful wine that will have you longing to watch Turner Classic Movies.
Take a walk through any megaplex today and you’re sure to be bombarded by the gimmickry and spectacle of modern moviemaking. To be fair, I’ll watch any 3-D marvel that Jim Cameron throws my way. And no matter how hokey it is, I will watch any movie with Superman. But every now and again I long for the quiet, measured storytelling of a simple, well-made film. So go ahead and see the latest CGI extravaganza, but then reserve a couple of hours for a gem like The Cider House Rules. No explosions. No aliens. No 3-D glasses required. Just characters and story. And Michael Caine.
What to serve it with:
With autumn here, OVZ’s peppery nose, the hints of black cherry and chocolate, and its long finish call for something on the heartier side. After watching The Cider House Rules, expect a craving for apples, so try apple-glazed pork chops with roasted root vegetables.
Imbiber Rating: 89
Mount Nelson 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Let’s face it, moving sucks. It is, to the best of this admitted optimist’s knowledge, the one fundamental exception to the pie-sky notion that life is all “about the journey, and not the destination.” My experiences have proven that when moving, it’s better to blow right past the enjoying the ride part and concentrate fully on getting the hell to ones destination. Moving day is no time for lollygagging or sentimental gaping. Not with extorting landlords demanding spic-spanness, over-eager new tenants streaming in, asking to stash their ratty couches in the garage, the utility dogs gnawing at your heels, and the promise of a glorious fresh start awaiting on the other side.
It was in these keyed up circumstances that our mild-mannered mailman Enrico happened to arrive at the front door with box in hand. Typically, a late-arriving package is the last thing anyone wants to see at their stoop when defying the laws of spatial physics by way of shoehorning their junk into a rental truck, but this package was not just some misremembered EBay prize that we’d have to ferry along. No, it was a perfectly timed gift of liquid lubrication from the Lords of Relocation themselves: a refreshing bottle of Mount Nelson 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, sent along for a review which, in our haste to relocate back to our home in the mountains of Colorado after three years in the fallow flats of California, I had forgotten that I’d been assigned.
My wife, the Redhead, was quite excited about our random score, and insisted on chilling the bottle. Since our refrigerator had already been de-thawed, she set the bottle carefully in a rocky nook in the creek out back, which flowed heavy with spring runoff. A half hour later she returned excitedly. We were in business, albeit ingloriously, due to our having already packed away the wine glasses. Improvising on the fly, we each poured a glass into our last two remaining unpacked vessels – a pair of plastic “Carbondale Mountain Fair” beer cups that I’ve saved and reused.
I clutched the lip of the cup with my teeth, grabbed a box from the stacks in the kitchen, and wobbled off to the truck outside. The wine splashed up and wetted my whistle as I jostled along, giving me my first sweet, tart tastes of the Sav Blanc. Startled by it’s crisp hold on my mouth, I quickly chucked the box I was carrying into the maw of the Uhaul and sat down for a second to further study the interesting Mount Nelson flavor bouquet.
“Moving is so much better with wine!” the Redhead exclaimed, joining me on the tailgate. We compared tastes. I noticed a strong, lime or tangerine-like citrus note, heavy on tannins. The young wine was surprisingly, pleasing unbalanced, morphing from sweet to tart on its meandering journey across the landscape of my tongue. My wife thought that she caught the scent of strawberries in the bouquet, and strangely, the tang of freshly picked field greens.
Feeling guilty about sitting down on the job under such duress, we ran back to the kitchen, filled our cups, and continued shuttling our earthly possessions out to our steel camel. Soon enough, we were down to the last two cups, and had moved everything but the couch, most recently a place of great comfort in our home, but now a piggish thing seemingly made of anvils and rail ties. The doorbell rang. It was the new people, wanting in. We clunked our plasticized cups together, downed the last of the Mount Nelson, capping what was an entirely undignified, but well-appreciated tasting, and hefted the couch out to the moving truck.
*Corby Anderson is a freelance writer based out of Emma, a small valley in Colorado’s Western Slope inhabited only by livestock, a few hearty skiers, and the occasional curious coyote. His works have appeared in the Aspen Daily News, The Monterey County Weekly, Canyon Country Zephyr, and BEER Magazine. www.corbyanderson.wordpress.com
Eva Perón, the beloved former first lady of Argentina, famously asked her fellow countrymen not to cry for her. Considering the extraordinary quality of affordable Argentinean wines available today, one wonders why they should cry at all. Great weather, beautiful people and the best beef on earth (the average Argentinean eats over 140 lbs. of it every year) is a tough combination to beat. So imagine my delight in finding a bottle of Michel Rolland’s 2008 Clos de los Siete at my doorstep. This blend (56% Malbec) exemplifies the classic characteristics of the high-altitude Mendoza region: fruit-forward, well-structured tannins, good aging potential and a screaming desire to be drunk while tending the coals of a parrilla.
The above reference notwithstanding, I don’t have the heart to suggest you actually watch “Evita.” No one should be subjected to duets between Madonna and Antonio Banderas. Since my dear friend Dan “The Imbiber” Dunn is usually too blattered to notice anyway, there is no one to prevent me from indulging in a little self aggrandizement and suggesting you drink this wine while watching my debut film, “And Soon the Darkness.” This taut little thriller was filmed on location in Argentina and produced under the influence of tremendous amounts of beef, empanadas and wine.
What to serve it with:
Beef, lots of it.
Imbiber Rating: 89
That's right, fellow imbibers. Starting sometime Sunday, the tag-team investigative unit of The Imbiber will be blogging words and images in real time from the Big Apple, pursuing the Great Truth of Italian wines at Vino 2011. I've watched the entire "Rome" HBO series and those great History Channel shows while drinking only Italian vino, so I'm more than prepared.
You may recall The I-Team's work from previous East Coast adventures, including the Todd English tribute video and of course several of those final chapters in Dan's last book. We've matured since then, though. Really. Expect the resumption of the Spirited Places blog and other milestones of intoxicating literature.
Vino 2011 is actually one of the bigger wine trade shows, and this year it's Jan. 24 to 27 at the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC. So you New York readers should avoid that entire section of the city – you know how the crowds get when Dan appears in public without the mask. Otherwise, we're going to get the bottom of this Soave craze, believe you me.
No public D.D. appearances are planned (there's a NYC signing for the new book on Feb. 15th, but more on that later) but don't worry. I'll be letting you know how it goes until, you know, we go dark for any variety of reasons. And if Mr. English happens to read this, let me just say Danny's much better now. Next round is on us...
With election season thankfully behind us I thought it appropriate to drink a wine that in name at least reminds me of the beating my senses took from the 24-hour cable news punditry. Talk about a hangover the morning after the elections. With the dust settled I knew the time had come for a drink so I reached for the Sledgehammer Zinfandel, the kind of no-holds-barred, big and robust red that simply satisfies. And at about $14 a bottle you can’t go wrong. Strong on the blackberries and black pepper, and with a lingering spicy note, for a few minutes I was able to forget that over $4 billion was spent on campaigns this year. There’s only 728 days until the 2012 presidential election and it’s never too early to start drinking, so bottoms up!
In the spirit of election season I’d like to draw a parallel between wine and political films. Like wine, these movies can be easygoing (“Bulworth”), serious (“All The President’s Men”), or even quirky (“Election”). And then there are some that make you stand up and take notice, kind of like the Sledgehammer Zinfandel. It was a toss-up between two great movies, “Wag The Dog” and “The Candidate.” In the end Bill McKay, aka Robert Redford in “The Candidate” gets my vote.
What to serve it with:
The great thing about Zinfandel is that it’s a pretty versatile wine and the Sledgehammer is no exception. It’s fun to drink and its fruit-forward qualities would pair well with almost any meat, even lighter ones like chicken or pork, provided it’s liberally seasoned.
Imbiber Rating: 88
With Domaine Serene’s Wendy Heilmann leading the way, we sat down at BottleRock – Culver City. Glasses were brought, snacks were ordered and the wine began to flow.
We started with the Chardonnay.
2007 wasn’t a stand-out year for Oregon wine. (Or for me, either, which is why I know so much about alcohol. But I digress). The vintage is widely said to be good but not great; some people talk about lack of structure and flabbiness (see above). Tasting the “Etoile” puts all of those rumors to rest – and I’m not even a Chardonnay gal.
A perfect touch of bourbon vanilla/oaky/nuttiness from 50% new French oak and 15 months on lees. High acid and alcohol, balanced against cool melon and lime. A body full of earthy mineral that slips away for a minute and then returns on the finish.
If this is what can result from a bad year, than the past decade should totally start paying off for me. Especially if paired with oysters.
Sonoma Grape Camp is as educational or lazy as you make itI went to Sonoma County Grape Camp to prove something to myself.
I wanted to prove that I really did love picking grapes. Harvest time? Hell yes, that was all me. How could it not be? I was not some ascot-wearing dandy wiping spots from my Reidels. I was a guy who wanted dirt under my nails. I wanted to be a part of the process.
I had decided that grape-picking was not for me in Barolo, the fabled town in the Piedmont region of Italy, where the fabled “king of Italian wines,” Barolo, is produced. The winemaker Gian Luca Viberti had invited me to his place during harvest and I practically begged him for a set of shears. Out I went on my first morning in Barolo, armed with a pair of gloves, a set of sheers and miles of rolling hills ripe with bunches of nebbiolo grapes hanging heavy on their vines. Earlier at least a couple of hours before I made it outside, a small tractor fired its engine beneath my window. It was idling its way up and down the rows, towing a tub that was filling up with grapes, when I arrived in the vineyard.
The workers—the real workers—gave me a nod. They did not know me, and probably did not know that I was coming. They went on working with little regard for me, as it to say, If you want to help us do our job it’s fine with us, knock yourself out. I bent and snipped for 10 minutes in the autumn sun of northern Italy. I took a break. I bent and snipped for 10 more minutes and took another break. Was this it? Bending and snipping on steep hillsides in silence as the sun continued to rise and bake? After an hour it occurred to me that yes, this was it—that harvest was not for me. Lunch and dinner were for me.
Cinema Vino's own Marcos Efron joined me in the studio during my most recent appearance on The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis. We discussed some of the standout wines we tried on our research junket to the third annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival. And those wines are...
Dutton Ranch—Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
2008 Landy Estate Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
Blackbird Vineyards Arriviste Napa Valley Rose
Orin Swift Cellars 2007 Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
EnRoute Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley
Thomas George Estates Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley
Gemstone 2006 “Ten” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Sequana Pinot Noir 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands
Hidden Ridge Cabernet 55% slope 2005
Pfendler Pinot Noir 2008, Sonoma Coast
Brazin Monte Rosso Zinfandel 2007, Sonoma Valley
Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage 2006, Alexander Valley
Davis Family Vineyards Rapport Dessert Wine 2007
I’m one of those people who likes to believe that everything happens for a reason. Of course, life and experience offer a mixed bag in terms of support for the premise, but I figure that if I’m going to remain open and optimistic during my time on this planet, it’s probably worth it to look for ways to support the theory.
At 3:34am on February 27, a colossal 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South American country of Chile. When an earthquake strikes a poor country, killing almost 300 people and causing an estimated $15B-$30B in damages, it’s hard to read the headlines wearing rose-colored glasses.
But I’ve been trying to put a positive spin on the situation (if such a thing is actually possible). And the positive spin is this: Maybe the earthquake will bring more awareness of the country, and – with increased awareness - more people will discover their delicious wine.
According to a recent article in DiscoveryNews, “Chile is the primary worldwide exporter of grapes, with control over 24 percent of the global grape market…Chile is fourth in the world for wine exports.”
Rare is the double feature in today’s megaplexes. They are a throwback to the days of the studio system when the likes of MGM and Warner Bros. actually owned the movie theaters and frequently paired releases. Times have changed but going out to the “pictures” can still be a special occasion, so imagine my delight in discovering two extraordinary wines at the recent Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival that epitomize what it means to truly be special.
Pretty much for time immemorial the grand dame of sauterne was the hugely expensive Chateau d’Yquem, but that all changed in 1985 when the forward thinkers at Far Niente Winery decided it was time California showed the world it knew how to do dessert wine right. The result is liquid heaven called Dolce, a lush and seriously good wine that explodes with flavor. Ripe pears, honey, creamy vanilla and an insanely silky smooth mouthfeel resolve into a one-of-a-kind finish.
Davis Family Vineyard’s Rapport was for me the surprise of the festival. I like my ports and have tried enough to reasonably know what to expect (including a ‘34 Montepulciano that made my head spin it was so good). My preconceptions thus went out the window when I sampled Rapport and finally knew what it would taste like if one were to distill the essence of a cigar humidor. Believe me, this is a very good thing. Imagine cedar steeped in a smoky broth of dark cherries and clove. I know, it sounds strange but you’ve got to trust me on this one.
The best double features find some thematic element between the two movies to tie the experience together. In the case of these wines, it’s all about character. Dolce should be enjoyed while watching an icon like Humphrey Bogart in a timeless classic like “Casablanca,” preferrably in a lovingly restored Art Deco theater with your best girl or guy at your side. If you can think of a better way to enjoy life, I’d like to hear it. On the other side of the coin, the ballsy, audacious Rapport begs to be paired with a midnight showing of “Layer Cake,” a supremely cool British gangster flick featuring an edgy but cool-as-hell pre-007 Daniel Craig.
What to serve it with:
While at Pebble Beach I was treated to a pairing of Dolce and an assortment of desserts by legendary chef Hubert Keller but it was a banana milkshake of all things that lit up the senses. So skip the chocolate and go for lighter sweets that won't overpower the sublimity of the Dolce. While I have no doubt Rapport would pair nicely with a strong cheese or even a peppery steak, I want mine with a Macanudo Hyde Park Cafe cigar. Cubans like Cohiba or Montecristo tend to be a bit too full-bodied whereas the smoothness of Macanudo complements the Rapport just right.
Price: $85 Dolce, $30 Rapport (375ml bottles)
Imbiber Rating: 95 Dolce, 94 Rapport