Chris and Kelly Sparkman have posted a kind remembrance this Memorial Day weekend, and are offering a hand of friendship to those vets still with us who are struggling. Here is what they sent in an e-mail:
Now that I’ve got your attention, it’s time to drink pink. Never mind that spring is on hold here on the west coast. The great rosés are rolling in, and here in Washington there are more than ever before. They come and go quickly – many wineries just make a few dozen cases – so now’s the time to jump in.
I’m jumping in with the help of my good friends at Randall PR in Seattle. They have invited me to host a live, online wine tasting, and I’ve chosen rosé as the topic. We’ll taste seven different Washington rosés, chatter on about them, welcome some of the winemakers, and take your tweets and comments live.
At the risk of inspiring further scorn from the Hosemaster, I’ve posted my “Finalist” logo and offer this link to voting for the upcoming Blogger Awards. To be perfectly candid, I’m not really an awards sort of a guy. The James Beard Awards have banned me for life, based on a little spat we got into some years back. Journalism awards? Book writing awards? Somehow they never seem to come my way (insert sad violin music here).
With apologies to George Jones… what can be done about the intense competition to be the first to print with “reviews” of wines (often unfinished) and vintages? The race is always on, as witnessed by the frenzy over the late winter Bordeaux barrel tastings of wines barely through malolactic. That may be the most egregious example, but it also serves the wineries with a more practical purpose – the opportunity to flag the vintage as [insert best of something here] and pump up the interest in buying futures.
One of the greatest attributes of the subject of wine is its inexhaustibility. No single lifetime can ever take you down every possible pathway, when every exploration of vine, vineyard, soil, cellar, grape, barrel, package and pitch seems to branch out indefinitely.
Missing from the ranks of prestigious Tuscan winemaking families who have projects in Washington (Antinori/Col Solare; Folonari/Saggi) is Frescobaldi. But maybe – just maybe – the groundwork is being laid for a collaboration to occur.
Young wineries face many challenges, but perhaps the most difficult of all is to stand out from the crowd. When the modern wine industry was just getting started, your mere existence was of interest. Then, as new AVAs were planted, developed, and designated, being in a unique location provided a hook for journalists in search of a story, and a destination for wine lovers in search of the next big thing.
These days, not so much.
Beginning today, I’ll do an occasional profile of a single Northwest wine that is especially deserving of your attention. This is a great bottle to begin with (if it ever stops raining around here!).
I did a search on the Wine Enthusiast database to see if I’d reviewed any other albariños from the Pacific Northwest over the years. Didn’t expect to find any, and none were there, except for previous vintages from Abacela.
Thirty years ago tomorrow, Washington’s Mt. St. Helens erupted. For those living in the Pacific Northwest, the event has locked in memories as irrevocably as a presidential assassination. Where were you when St. Helens blew? is a question I posed on Facebook, and the answers came streaming in.
Continuing an interview with Pierre Rovani, who was Robert Parker’s reviewer for Burgundy, the Pacific Northwest, and other major wine regions from 1996 to 2006. Rovani, now president of Remoissenet, was a guest of McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants and Seattle Wine Storage, where he orchestrated a tasting of 2007 Burgundies, just now being released into the U.S. market. This was the first Remoissenet vintage made under his supervision.
PG: Do you write a blog? Or follow any particular blogs? Your former boss has been rather sharply criticized by some of them.
Pierre Rovani, rotund, engaging and opinionated as ever, presided over a Seattle tasting of his 2007 Remoissenet Burgundies yesterday, and I had the opportunity to chat with him for awhile before the doors opened. The tasting was sponsored by McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants, and held at Seattle Wine Storage. I'll run tasting notes (and Rovani's comments) tomorrow.
For over a decade, Rovani was Robert Parker’s right hand man, responsible for reviewing the wines of Burgundy and the Pacific Northwest (among many others) for the Wine Advocate. He resigned in 2006 to become a partner in Remoissenet, which had just been acquired by new, deep pocket owners. Most of our discussion centered on his new career, and the excellent wines he brought to the table last night. But Rovani also spoke about his ongoing love for Washington cabernet, his past as a wine critic, and offered well-informed opinions about the opportunities and pitfalls of being a Burgundy producer. Today and tomorrow, I’ll run highlights of the interview.
The latest notes from the organizers of next month’s Wine Bloggers Conference, headquartered in Walla Walla June 25 – 27, indicate a sold-out event. There are eight breakout sessions, devoted to topics suggested and voted upon by attendees. There will also be vineyard/winery tours, and plenty of opportunities to socialize.
Despite the event’s location, in the heart of Washington’s premier wine touring region, there is just a single breakout session that actually focuses on Washington wines. (Agenda)
A couple of fascinating wines showed up last week. Winegrower Dan Lee, who makes wines for Morgan Winery in Salinas, sent along a pair of his own, very limited Lee Family Farm releases. Both were sourced from Silvaspoons Vineyard (Alta Mesa, Lodi AVA) fruit. There was a very nice, fruity, Beaujo-like Rio Tinto blend, made entirely with Portuguese grapes. And an even better (to my taste) 2009 Verdelho.
I’ve had very few New World verdelhos, mostly from Australia, and often blended. This California version was a revelation. Of course, almost any reviewer who tastes thousands of wines annually will be more inclined to take notice of a rare varietal from an unknown producer. But that’s just the starting gate. This wine impressed all the way to the finish line.
In the Monday mail comes this message from Med Grow Cannabis College. Headline: Detroit Sees Economic Stimulus with Medical Marijuana. “It’s no secret,” it begins; “the economic climate in Metro Detroit is in the worst shape it has been since the great depression. However, there is one gleaming ray of hope left, medical marijuana.”
No one likes a gleaming ray of hope more than yours truly. So now I’m “hooked.” (oops – maybe a bad word choice).
I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of extremely talented winemakers over the years, but none more interesting and outspoken than the late David Lett of the Eyrie Vineyards. I often think of an extended interview I did with him in the summer of 2003, in preparation for a magazine profile. Lett flew up to Seattle specifically to do the interview, and the photo you see here was taken in our garden. We covered a lot of diverse topics that day, but one of the comments he made that has stuck in my mind came late in the interview. We were talking about vintage variation in Oregon. I noted that for many critics, it had been a problem, and asked Lett how he felt about it.
I’m going to ask a straightforward question, and try to keep my own feelings out of the picture for the moment (I’ll happily comment on your comments). For many years, in many newspaper columns and on this blog, I’ve paid close attention to wine marketing trends. Apart from tasting and reviewing wines, visiting vineyards, meeting with winemakers, assessing all that goes into the production of fine wines, I am especially interested in how wines are marketed. What are effective tricks of the trade, and what are merely silly attempts at differentiation in a crowded market?
Rant: Enough with the big, heavy, deeply-punted bottles! A massively heavy bottle that wouldn’t be out of place in a Russell Crowe gladiator flick (kill minotaur, kill!) does not make your wine look more impressive. It makes you, the winery owner, look like an egotistic spendthrift with no interest in the environment.
I hate to use the word jaded, so I won’t. But in the spirit of true confessions, let’s just say that palate fatigue can get to be a real issue when you taste thousands of wines annually, as I do. Though many in the trade taste as many wines as I do, and some taste far more, they are usually looking for wines to purchase, or wineries to add to their portfolio, or judging at some slam-bam competition.
It’s different when you are writing detailed tasting notes and putting scores on wines. The right note, even without a score, can make a big difference to a winery, as the Garagiste offerings of the J. Bookwalter wines (written up on this blog last week) has shown. The point is, I spend a lot of time tasting and trying to come up with the right note and an accurate score for every wine I review.
At the end of the day, my palate is searching for a wine I can simply drink and enjoy, without having to critique it. That’s easier said than done.
It’s a travel day for me so this will be brief, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to give a shout out to all the wineries who so graciously and generously opened their doors this Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla.
Since I live nearby, I have the opportunity to enjoy this annual rite of spring, although most of the time I prefer to visit wineries on quieter days so as to have a better opportunity to interview and taste. But it’s fun to show friends around and just be a tourist myself, as I was this past weekend.
Too many highlights to list, but the last stop was certainly as memorable as any.