Archive | August, 2016

#WBC16 – Serious Business? #SundaySips

21 Aug

The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference (#WBC16) was held last week. It’s a big deal where wine bloggers get to meet their virtual wine buddies in the flesh, drink wine together and talk wine and the art of the blog. This year it was held in Lodi. So, tastings, tours, etc. were of that region. Did I mention you drink wine together?

This shouldn’t be construed as indicating that wine bloggers have their shit together. Bloggers are a bit troubled and conflicted.

Let me explain. Most people practicing the genre (always wanted to use that word), started by enjoying wine, being interested in learning more about wine, educating themselves and/or taking some formal structured learning, perhaps getting into the trade, and then being encouraged by delusional loved ones and friends (in my case, imaginary) to write a blog.

UmBut, here’s the challenge that we face. Wine bloggers are needy. We mistakenly think that we want to be taken seriously. We really do want a lot of ‘follows’, daily stats, even if we deny it. We might write for ourselves (so, we say) but it’s nice to know that we’re not whistling in the wilderness, isn’t it? Did anyone out there follow my suggestion to buy some 2010 Chateau Obscure? Damn, didn’t think so. We want our opinion heard and weighed. And, yes, followed – at least once in awhile. But, there’s the rub. We want all that but we don’t want to be viewed as ‘them’. You know who I’m talking about.

I took an informal poll and discovered that there are 1 billion wine drinkers on the planet (survey results have a 95% confidence level plus or minus half a billion people). And wine isn’t any more important to most of them than having an aquarium, sorting their sock drawer, and/or Bob Ross’ Still Life with Apple.. Oh, we wine geeks would like to think that most people, if given the chance to experience a vintage DRC or Ch. Haut-Brion, would come over to the dark side and ‘get into wine big time’. They’d be like, “Yes, I love, love, luuuuuve, the finish on that d’Yquem.” They’d argue the benefits of Stelvin closures. I am not shitting you – there is a debate about closures. They’d be more like us. Validate our obsession. But, aah, I’m thinking that they really wouldn’t. They really, really don’t care that much.

So, that leaves bloggers talking to bloggers, casual wine drinkers who, remember, don’t really care, and friends who are too rude to unsubscribe.

awesomBut, how does that compare to serious wine scribes? You know the names: Parker, Molesworth? Well, most bloggers truly don’t care about having that kind of Klout score. And yet, we’d like just a little more than we currently have. What blogger wouldn’t like his/her name on a shelf talker. “Duffs Wines Recommended.” I used to think that I’d love to see that. Even better, a case of wine that I recommended in a friend’s cellar. Bloggers want people to value their experiences and opinions. Who wouldn’t?

But wait a minute my blogger friends. If we did – have that much power, that is. We would be forced to do the unthinkable. Get deadly serious about wine. I mean Sauternes versus Barsac serious. Be held accountable (I’m too old to be held accountable, BTW). We would be more obnoxious than we already are. We would spit more before noon than we drink before noon now. Speaking personally here, that’s a lot of spitting. We would be subjected to full eight hour days of tasting hundreds of wines – enjoying none of them. Plus, think about having to come up with new esoteric aroma and flavour descriptors. How else to explain Maduro tobacco and fig paste?

I’m not sure I could handle it. So, although saying this is totally unnecessary, “You don’t have to take me seriously”. I know that with a few exceptions………actually, without exception, I don’t take the bloggers I follow very seriously either. I just simply really enjoy them, thanks.

That brings us back to WBC 16. I wish I could have been there. I’d love to spend time with some of my social media and wine writing peeps. I’d like to be surprised by who they really are. I might surprise some of them with my substandard singing voice and misplaced sense of self-importance (hence, this self-indulgent ramble). And we would never be serious. Well, with the exception of the closure debate. Wouldn’t that be great?

Like a Leafs’ fan, I will just say, “Maybe next year.”

Cheers.

Bill

Hip’s Last Stand – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

18 Aug

A great version of this song. This Saturday marks the final concert of the Tragically Hip. It’s being streamed live from their home of Kingston, Ontario on CBC television, cbc.ca, CBC Music, and CBC Radio 1 & 2. I think locally they are playing it on a big screen in Victoria Park. Worth a watch with, I’m sure, hipa wet eye. And what better wine to get a bit blurry on than 2013 The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red #411595 $24.95 . This wine is made by Stoney Ridge Winery near Jordan with the help of the Hip. I’m getting a few just for keepers for down below. They may become those wines that you keep too long because you can’t bring yourself to open them. You never want to say good bye. Not really wanting to say goodbye to The Hip either.

asoresI know nothing about rugby other than the Super Seven rugby at the Olympics was fast and a little scary, actually. Those guys from Fiji are massive and wicked fast! One of France’s rugby heroes is Gérard Betrand. I understand that rugby is yuuuuge in France and this guy was one of its national stars. Now, he owns a substantial winery in Languedoc. I’m always recommending his stuff. I feel so safe in picking up a bottle of his juice – never had a bad one. His 2013 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Aspres Grenache/Mourvédre/Syrah #413245 $18.95 is still available in most locations. It’s surprisingly light in mouthfeel. This makes it a perfect red for the summer with apps or lightish BBQ – chicken, fish. Look for his Corbieres and his rosé which hit Vintages shelves Saturday. If I remember, I’ll talk about them next time.

ghmOpened a bottle of the 2008 Hacienda Molleda GHM Garnacha #442756 $19.25 the other night and had to send out emails to friends telling them to run out and get a couple bottles. This is a red from Cariñena in Spain – an under appreciated and underrepresented wine region on these shores. You’d think with a hot climate, this wine would be over ripe and bearing some heat from the alcohol (14.5% ABV). But, nope. It’s smooth, cool, and has a great sandalwood finish that I love. If you dig Iberian reds, this is a must try. Plus, take a good look at the label. The words Garnacha in the form of a cross emblem, an arrow on the neck of the bottle, silver lettering, three simple letters representing the Latin phrase grapus holium magi. Cryptic? I believe that I could craft a novel based on a religious puzzle on a bottle of wine that leads through a complex web of intrigue featuring ancient winemakers, a little known monastic order of killer priests, a cathedral connected to ancient texts, and a simple wine blogger turned unwilling hero. Yeah, I think that might work. But who will play me? Stay tuned.

oatleyI don’t recommend a lot of Aussie wine. I think because I don’t drink as much as I used to. And, I think that I’ve lost touch with who the players are, what the flavour profile trends are, etc. and just pick up other stuff. But, when I see Robert Oatley’s name on a label, I instinctively grab it. In particular, their Signature Series is consistently great value. The 2014 Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz #460907 $19.95 is no exception. Although I like my Shiraz (see Zonte’s Footsteps) a little more reserved than most, this Barossa take is fine with me. The reason? It’s got loads that front the weight. It isn’t just big for big’s sake. Dark stuff, including a meaty thing, very balanced, herbal and lip smacking finish. Beautiful. The Signature Series Chardonnay is special as well.

Here we go again. I’m pimping Tawse. The 2014 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling #089029 $18.20 is a mid-weight off-dry Riesling that has enough acid to get you to forget any lingering sweetness. It’s citrus, mouth-watering and perfect for swilling on a hot late summer night under the Perseid meteor shower or, in the case of city folk, under the ubiquitous halogen glow of streetlights. Tasty.

zuccardiZuccardi makes the scorned, yet, hugely successful Fuzion. They also make other labels which make you forget Fuzion – good stuff. The Serie A is one of those. This 2014 Zuccardi Serie A Chardonnay/Viognier #262097 $16.95 is fresh with tropical fruit all the way through to a puckery finish. Not ‘bad’ puckery – as in, “Man, that pure lemon juice is puckery!” but ‘good’ puckery, as in ………..well, I don’t have a good puckery quote but maybe you get the idea. Oak if you really look for it.

Cheers.

Bill

 

 

Back Home and Unsettled

3 Aug

Love, love, love this song. It sums up my return home from the lake – needing a rest. Saw a great documentary called Spirit Unforgettable (on HBO Canada) about John Mann, the head writer, guitarist, and singer for Spirit of The West, and his early onset Alzheimers diagnosis – in his early 50’s for God’s sake. If you can stream it, watch – it’s gut wrenching and inspiring.

I’m back from the lake. It’s challenging to be cut off from everything except Toronto sports radio (making Leafs shit up to talk about) and my small screen iPhone. No internet, unless I drive half an hour to the local library – which I did but once in three weeks. Oh, I would wander to the woefully inadequate ‘general’ store for a copy of the Toronto Star once in awhile (New York Times crossword and Sudoku needs). And you won’t believe this – I didn’t hear the word ‘Trump’ once – which is, after returning home, impossible to conceive, yeah?

I was completely out of touch on world affairs. While up at the lake, my youngest informed me by email that there was a coup going on in Turkey and that he was, in fact, there in Istanbul right then. A coup? How’d I miss that?He’d be fine – now home safe and sound in Providence. But, the important thing?

How much wine did I have left? Could I make it to the end without a time sucking trip to the Gravenhurst mother ship. I didn’t. And, that wasn’t because I drank too much. Rather I hadn’t planned to drink that much, you see. It was the planning that was wrong. It’s always the planning.

Let me review a small sample of the beverages we had while away:

2015 Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé #450767 $24.95 Yeah, it is more expensive than many great rosés that I’ve recommended this year. But, you see it’s Bandol and that means structure and bang. This was chilled to perfection and served pre-dinner with junk food (children were involved – hence the junk – the little buggers loved the wine too). These guys (H&B) make loads of labels from the south of France and I’ve never been disappointed. This is primarily Mourvedre with some Grenache and Cinsault thrown in to perhaps soften the profile. Lip-smacking good.

2006 Marcarini Barolo Brunate (no record of cost but it is a true splurge) All the Piedmonte purists will he shouting at the screen now. Yes, I know it was a bit young to open. But, it was my birthday and I threw caution to the wind. And that didn’t mean that it didn’t eventually open up beautifully. Intense in the extreme with herbal and earthy sniffs, spicy tobacco in the mouth and some vanilla from the barrel, I assume, on the finish. A real privilege to drink this wine. This is why I love Barolo. Can’t afford a lot of it but…
lucente

2013 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 Talking to a friend the other day and he said that he could sniff out Merlot from a mile away and he never truly appreciated it. I suggested that he try some Right Bank Bordeaux before he kicks poor old Merlot to the curb. And, this Italian Merlot blend might change his mind too. This is a joint enterprise of Mondavi and Frescobaldi located in Montalcino. This wine defines the term ‘smooth’. I mean if you look up the word ‘smooth’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this label. Seriously good Tuscan juice. Good news? I have more down below. Yahoo!
cambria

2012 Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir #980482 $29.95 If you visit here often, you’d notice that there isn’t a whole lot about California Pinot Noir. I’ve been disappointed so many times that I don’t trust myself – “Do some f**ing research, Bill! Try some better CPN’s FCOL!” I know that would help me pick the winners. So, why this wine? ‘Cause, I get it all the time and really,really appreciate it. Sour cherry but like you’d taste in a pie – softened a bit but still the bite, the acid. Earthy but not dirty. Spicy but not hot. Almost a sin to have by itself but thats just what I did. No regrets. And, if there are any California PN freaks out there, give me a few suggestions. I just love research.
sancerre2014 Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 Love this wine! Perfect for pre-dinner which in this case was BBQ’d fish with mango salsa. Not appreciated by all, I’m afraid. Not the wine but the fish. This is the counterpoint to SB from NZ, like Kim Crawford or Stoneleigh’s stuff. Subtle with great acidity. Gooseberry. Lovely wine and usually available at the mother ship.

2012 Seven Falls Wahluke Slope Chardonnay #385773 $19.95 A well balanced, light Chardonnay. Great sipper. Beginning to think that Washington State does all varieties very well.
blaignan

2010 Château Blaignan #416727 $25.95 It’s damn hard to find a solid Bordeaux under $30 or, to be truly honest, $50. This is a great Bordeaux for sipping or for a meal of something a little less fatty and sturdy than steak. Tannins integrated and supportive rather than front and centre. Fruit a little muted but lots going on to create enough stuff to enjoy fully.

lugnyCaves de Lugny Brut Rosé Cremant de Bourgogne #297846 $19.95 What’s a summer day without bubbly. We had a few Proseccos and Cavas too but this rosé was the beast that we kept coming back to. What an ethereal, tasty treat. Look at that colour. If you are tired of the same old cheap Proseccos and Cavas step up a notch to this classically made wine. Huge value!

 

pommiesPommies Dry Cider #244897 $12.95 (4 pack) I have a cider freak in my family. When we travelled England, he tried every local cider while I stayed with the lovely ales and porters. I never really liked cider. But, I was at my local – The Morrissey House last month and they had the Pommies Dry Cider on tap. Gave it a try and now I’m a convert. This is made in Caledon from Ontario heritage apples, whatever the hell that means. Regardless of the provenance, it’s damn tasty. Perfect for an early afternoon, pre-nap, sip. or, you could end the evening with it. Dry as a popcorn fart.

 

That’s enough for now. Suffice it to say, we had a few more good bottles than that. Well, a way lot more.

This week at the mother ship there’s a few to pick up. I’ve wasted enough of your time already so I’ll just list them here instead of providing a description.
2010 Cims del Monsanto Garnatxa/Carinyena #311894 $15.95 Visited this winery when I was in Priorat. You can read about my visit here Monsanto provides a glimpse into the style and power of Priorate reds.
2009 Hacienda López de Haro Reserva #357335 $17.95 – a Reserva for $17.95!
2013 Fattoria le Pupille Morellino di Scansano #455659 $16.95 – maybe I’m just a Morellino slut (maybe?). I like this stuff always – Italian to the core
2011 Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva #357079 $19.95 – an Umbrian classic like Monica Bellucci (who just happens to have been born in Città di Castello in Umbria)
2013 Brancaia Tre #164715 $23.95 if I’m repeating myself on this one, forgive me. I know that I’ve fussed over this before but it’s a beaut and worth every penny.

One more Spirit song before we go. ““Cause beauty’s religion and it’s christened me with wonder.” Love that line.

Cheers
Bill

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