yo, mama, now comes chateau time!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Yesterday’s New York Times carried an article that caught my roving eye. It was headlined “Marketing Wine as a Respite From Women’s Many Roles”.
link here
According to this piece, Chateau Ste. Michelle has developed a new ad campaign specifically targeting women – make that mothers – between the ages of 25 and 38. As I interpret it, the gist of this new initiative is to speak to the inner party girl that lurks inside the heart of every stressed-out mom, at least until she’s 39, at which point I guess she decides the hell with it and settles for a box of chocolates and a weepy soap opera or the latest episode of ‘Weeds.’

The illustration pictured here is one of the ads from the new campaign. I come from an advertising background myself, and Mrs. G spent the better part of her working life making ads, notably the legendary Rainier beer commercials, so we have an interest in these things.

wild yeasts – part two

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Returning to the discussion engendered by my earlier post (July 19) about so-called “wild” yeasts, I urge anyone interested to read through the illuminating comments that followed that post as a pre-amble to further discussion.

I did a consumer-friendly version of the blog post for the newspaper column this past weekend, and it brought some further comments from folks who seem to have the requisite background in fermentation sciences to have opinions solidly grounded in verifiable facts. That said, disagreements remain. Here are the comments made online:

Yakima Coug: Studies at UC-Davis of 'wild yeasts' from various wineries claiming this moniker indicate that they aren't so wild after all and seem to consist of those yeasts which the winery in question had been traditionally using in the recent past. Which to me indicates that wine still functions best in the ether of the more magical than scientific and to each there own, eh?

what am i drinking?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Monday morning brain teaser, just for fun. Here is a tasting note, unadulterated, from the label on the bottle in front of me.

“Aroma is characterized by a definite green fruity hint, vegetal notes of country grass, thistle and leaf. Bitterness and pungency are well-balanced and very intense, which confirms the olfactory green fruity hint. It finishes with a pleasant flavor of green almond."

Post up a guess and I’ll post up the correct answer on Tuesday.



gina gallo on honoring a legacy

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Gallo Signature Series was recently introduced – three small production wines bearing the signature of Gina Gallo. In the letter that accompanied the wines, Ms. Gallo noted that the wines were created “to celebrate the legacy of our founders and showcase my family’s vision for the future. These wines are a deeply personal passion for me, and I am delighted to share them with you.”

Being a cynical old fart, I am immediately suspicious when anyone talks about their passion. But as always, I look to see what’s in the bottle before jumping to conclusions. In this instance, what was in the bottle was surprisingly special.

I have followed the evolution of Gallo since before their first varietal wines were made, just 20 years ago. At about that time the family had made a huge commitment to acquiring vineyards, and vineyard land, especially in Sonoma. Those initiatives have blossomed over the years, to the point where these Signature Series wines seemed to be in danger of being lost in the shuffle. There are already Gallo Family single vineyard wines, reserve wines, etc. What makes these different, I wondered.

In a very pleasant phone call, Ms. Gallo ‘splained it to me, and laid out her vision for the future.

chasing the elusive butterfly of wine love

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Throughout my quarter century of writing about wine, I have been fortunate to be a member of several different tasting groups. All have been built around industry veterans – winemakers, distributors, retailers, media and a smattering of very knowledgeable consumers. And in every single encounter, with every single group, consensus about what wines are best has been rare to the point of non-existent.

We always taste blind. There is always a focused topic – generally a grape, a region, or both. And once the wines have been sniffed and swoozled and (occasionally) swallowed, the debate begins.

Last night the topic was Sancerre/Pouilly Fumé. There were 11 carefully-wrapped bottles, including one ringer, tasted in three flights of 4 – 4 – 3. After each flight a vote was taken, and the wines were ranked, the votes tallied, and the wines revealed.

men are from bars, women are vinous

Monday, August 20, 2012

Here’s an important bit of wine news that blew in over the weekend. Results of an annual Gallup poll have concluded that – wait for it – headline coming next...

US men prefer beer, women love wine

Damn! Did that blindside you the way it did me? Wine is a chick drink! What the hell have I been thinking all these years? And that’s not all. There’s still more startling news in this landmark survey!

“Wine,” says Gallup, “is the beverage of choice for women and older adults!!!“ (exclamation points inserted by me). That’s really great. That makes me a wimp AND a geezer.

More ground-breaking details followed. Wine drinkers, says Gallup, are mostly based on the East Coast. Beer drinkers live in the Midwest.

So I guess that here on the Left Coast we’re all too busy riding motorcycles and smoking pot to drink anything at all. Ice tea anyone?

The news just keeps on coming. Gallup also points out that drinking is commonplace in the United States! Two thirds – that’s 66.666 percent (whoa! da debbil!!) for those who failed math – of Americans say they actually consume alcohol. Gallup doesn’t say how much of that is cough syrup, cleaning fluid, or anti-freeze. But almost half of us (44 percent) claim to drink at least one alcoholic beverage a week. Party animals!

Here’s where it gets even more interesting...

a pair of gems from the 2000 vintage

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Following my personal mantra that it is the wine that makes the occasion special, I popped open a pair of wines from the Millennium vintage last night. Both had been acquired upon release, and apart from the vagaries of travel, had lain in my cellar(s) ever since. They proved to be in excellent condition.

The first was a Robert Mondavi 2000 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a special bottle for me for many reasons. In June of that year I attended the Napa Valley Wine Auction and dined at the winery. It was the last time I chatted with Mr. Mondavi, and a memorable dinner it was (somewhere I still have the hand-illustrated menu).

Of course this wine was still just grapes hanging on the vine, but later that same year it became the first wine vinted in the new To Kalon cellar, which we toured during the event. Here is what winemaker Tim Mondavi wrote on the back label: “This is a very important wine to me. As the inaugural vintage from our winery’s new To Kalon Cellar, this wine represents our finest vineyards, our respect for both tradition and innovation, and our commitment to excellence.

“For more than 35 years, our family’s goal has been to produce wines that belong in the company of the world’s finest. It is my hope that in this wine you find depth of character, balance and complexity. May it bring grace to your table and zest to your life.”

it only got a 98 – what’s wrong with this wine?

Monday, August 13, 2012

My friend Christopher Chan, who runs the estimable Seattle Wine Awards and whose family owns a vineyard out here in Wallyworld, wrote the following query on my Facebong page:

“Paul - I read your latest reviews of QC & Figgins... curious as to what you think was missing from the two wines that you only gave them 98 pt reviews. What more could have made them ‘perfect’ scores / wines?”

My quick reply was this: “Christopher - That is an unanswerable question. Both were absolutely brilliant wines. Are you implying that anything lower than 100 means the wine is missing something? I can't agree with that.”

But upon further reflection, it’s a good and fair question, and it deserves a more thoughtful answer. So here goes...

deciphering consumer preferences

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mrs. G and I have been hosting friends and family over the past weeks, and I always enjoy the opportunity to taste through wines with interested visitors who are not connected professionally with the wine industry.

Generally I will complete my own tasting, scoring, and note taking, and then set out the bottles and invite our guests to taste through and comment. Predictably, they always ask “what should we taste first?” or “what’s the best wine?” and just as predictably, I tell them I’m keeping my mouth shut until they weigh in with their own opinions.

I understand that few people outside of the business have much if any experience tasting through a dozen or wines at a time, so I encourage spitting (with only partial success) and prod them for comments as they taste. I’m looking for a number of things. First of all, I want to see if I can “map” the individual palate preferences of whomever it is I happen to be tasting with.

Second, I want to see if there is any general trend that emerges in terms of the types of wines that speak to the every day consumer.

Third, I want to make sure that, however firm and specific my own opinions may be – and believe me, at this stage of the game, they are solidly anchored in decades of experience and tens of thousands of wines tasted, scored and reviewed – nonetheless I want to maintain a connection to my reader that he/she still finds valuable.

one more time – which side of the potomac are those grapes from?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

It’s been a standard joke among Washington winemakers for years, based on a true story from Bob Betz. While doing a presentation on Washington wines back east, at least 20 years ago, Betz wrapped up his account of the vineyards, the desert climate, the irrigation, the terroir, etc. and asked if there were any questions. A hand shot up. “Yessir, you have a question?” “Just this. Tell me again – on which side of the Potomac are those vineyards planted?”

Well, many chuckles (and decades) later, one would hope that Washington vintners have made it clear that the vineyards are about 3000 miles west of the Potomac. But that simple message has yet to make it across the Atlantic.

Here’s a review of Washington Hills Merlot from the Burnley and Pendle Citizen that appeared in that British newspaper just yesterday:

a tip of the hat to adelsheim’s elegant pinots

Monday, August 06, 2012

I am just back from IPNC, the annual celebration of all things Pinot on the campus of Linfield College in McMinnville. As always, it was a marvelous event, beautifully organized, and so crammed with enticing tastings, seminars, meals and educational activities that it always seems to end too soon.

The majority of the new releases being poured this year were from 2010, an extra-cool year in the Willamette valley. The wines I tasted reflected this in lower alcohol levels, a good thing as far as I am concerned. And where I have had the opportunity to do direct comparisons with wines from 2009 – a much warmer and riper year – I have found that the 2010s are every bit as good, but in a different way.

To generalize, the 2009s are rich, forward and fruit-loaded. They can take a bit more new oak without giving up their balance. The alcohol levels are a point or so higher on average. But in 2010 the lower alcohol and extended hang time has resulted in wines of elegance and detail. They express an Oregon style that I have long admired and that I hope will become the norm. Call it the de-Californification of the Willamette.