Tag Archives: Santorini

Paying For Amy – Value and Wine #MWWC10

25 Jun

There’s a self-abusive, yet strangely entertaining, monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Last month the challenge was won by The Sybarite. And, as is the custom, he got to choose the theme for this month’s challenge – Value.

MWWCWe hear all the time about ‘value wines’. Wine Spectator and the other trade publications have an annual “Value Wines” edition. Frankly it’s a tall order for anyone to land on what wines might provide value for others. I used to studiously pour over the lists and compare to my local availability. Sure, it’s how I twigged to some of the wines that I’ve come to love in most vintages. So, it is a start to finding wines that taste good and within their definition don’t cost as much as they deliver. But I believe that’s a narrow definition of ‘value’. How does anyone, expert or not, determine what wine is of ‘value’ to me? And, does it have anything to do with price? I’m sure other bloggers will talk about this very thing in their value discussions. It’s not possible to set a value on a wine for me or anyone else – in monetary terms or otherwise. Each of us gets to decide a wine’s ‘value.’ And, how would we do that?

It’s kind of like paying for Amy. Wait, that came out wrong – it’s kind of like ‘paying’ Amy –that’s better.

galway pubLet me explain. We were recently in Galway, Ireland. One of the coolest cities I’ve visited in the last while – vibrant, youthful, pubs and music everywhere, great food, and loads of opportunities to experience what the city had to offer – few barriers to enjoyment. One of the things that we did was take a walking tour of the city. Amy, our guide, introduced us to a new concept – Free Tours! The way this works is that you take the tour and at the end, pay what you think the tour was worth to you. Sounds pretty simple – but think about it. How many times in your life have you been afforded the opportunity to set the tariff for a service or product that you receive? It isn’t easy to determine what to pay. Do you pay what you imagine Amy believes she should net for her efforts? I mean Amy has had to master the skills of storytelling, learn all the things that might be needed on the history of Galway and spent 2 hours of her time wandering you around. Or, do you pay based on what you learned against a previously determined schedule of objectives developed in concert with your annual personal growth plan? Sorry, couldn’t help myself, I used to be a bureaucrat. How about based on how many times you turned to your significant other and said, “Man, this is good?” What is the value of the tour to you – just you – because you have to attempt to translate that value into a dollar, or in this case, Euro figure. And you’re the one to reach in your pocket or man-purse.

Back to wine. We can’t drink a bottle of wine, say, take the figurative tour of a California Pinot Noir, and then, like in Galway finally determine what we think we should pay for it. I get that. Let’s just admit that the relationship between quality and cost QPR (Quality Price Ratio) is just one way to measure ‘value’. Maybe cost is the least of your considerations when asking yourself, “Do I highly value that wine?” So if it’s not cost that determines a wine’s value, what is it?

Good question, le Professeur Grand Fromage. Maybe the best way to explain my muddied thinking is by discussing some of the wines that hold my highest value ratings ever and trying to figure out why that is so.

In no particular order:

Morellino di Scansano (vintage and producer forgotten)

We enter a small ristorante in Rome – basement kind of place, staff in cool suits and none under the age of 50, passing a pile of the made-that-day mozzarella as we drift by the kitchen to our table. Once seated, I order a plate of ravioli with butter and sage. The wine? A Morellino di Scansano – maybe the third least expensive red on the wine list. Let’s just say, “I loved this wine.” The ravioli was superb – the best pasta I’ve ever had. I mean the situation was top drawer. Did the wine hold great value to me? You bet. But, why? Along with the meal (I’m not sure this wine was a match in any accepted matching paradigm) and the ambience, it held very high value for me. So, great food and ambience for me can contribute to the subjective value of a wine.

1999 Ch. Leoville-Barton, 2002 Ch. Montelena Napa Estate

We have a place in what we call God’s Country. It’s 300 feet of lakeshore on a Muskoka lake – surrounded by trees. You’re immersed in nature and family memories. So, one of our great pleasures is having friends visit us and share our favourite space. And, should one of those friends love wine too, there’s a bit of a pressure placed on them and me to deliver a good to great wine experience while on the lake. Last year we had a great day with friends. I can’t even remember the meal. The wine, however – 1999 Ch. Leoville Barton and 2002 Ch. Montelena Napa Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, I remember. Now, both these wines carry a bit of a price tag in my circle. I mean that they are more expensive than we usually drink. But, really. I mean, REALLY. There are moments that tell you seeking, finding, splurging on, and drinking wine is a very good thing. Very good. This was one of them. These wines held disproportionate value too. But why? Well, they were exquisite, beautiful, and that beauty was enhanced with friends. So, we have meal (accompaniment), ambience, the subjective experience of the wine itself, and friends all creating value in wine.

Last one: Assyrtiko

While in Santorini, we visited a winery whose name I can’t remember that perched high on the edge of the cauldera. If you’ve been to Santorini you’ll know what magic that place carries. As we sat by the edge (and, I’m not big on edges), sipping a glass of Assyrtiko, it all made sense. In my view, there are few, if any, wines that tell you where they come from more than Assyrtiko. It couldn’t come from, say California, south of France – maybe Sicily – nope not Sicily either. Assyrtiko is pure Santorini in a glass. Wine geeks call it terroir. Not sure what I’d call it. But, this wine provided such a connection between what we were experiencing at the edge of the cauldera and the swish, sip, and swallow. After all, winemaking is agriculture and when a glass of wine connects you to the land from which it comes it is an experience brimming with value for me.

So, there you have it IMHO. Food, ambience, objective experience of the wine, friends, and connection to its source, for me, all contribute to the value of a wine. And, even better in combination. And, unless, I’m not paying attention, none of those include a sterile evaluation of the wine against cost in the midst of a tasting room full of a hundred or so other wines. How much would I pay for those valu’able’ wines? If I took the “tour” in advance, it might have been expensive. But, alas, we can’t experience the wine first then determine, like with Amy, how much we will pay. So, instead, I pay attention to the when, with whom, with what, where from, and where of a wine that I’m thinking of buying or pulling from the basement. And, hopefully, the value takes care of itself.

BTW, Amy was great. Fun, informed and personable. Highly recommend both Galway and Amy. What did we pay? That’s a secret.

 

Feeling Good – The White Daily Slosh

28 Aug

kellyleeA few weeks ago, I said that I would get back to my music links and I gave you JJ Cale earlier this week. I wanted to continue by mentioning the best concert I attended in the last three years or so (at least back to the Leonard Cohen night which I’ll leave for another time),  KellyLee Evans. Thought I’d promote her a bit – click here to hear this exceptional performer. So genuine, so generous, so much fun, so talented. If you ever get a chance to see her live at a jazz festival near you – don’t miss it. A disclaimer – she gave me a hug at her concert!

Now to the White Daily Slosh – with an interloping sparkler.

laileychardMy first brush with Lailey was hearing about it from Arlene. She had attended a cooking class at Kiss the Cook and Tanya Lailey (and I may have the first name wrong) poured their wines while Chris Squires hammed it up and made something spectacular, as always. So, I made it a point to get myself to Niagara and see what the fuss was about. I did, and it has remained one of my always-go-to wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I even make sure to recommend it to people who ask me what wineries to drop in on. The people are great, it’s more like a cellar door than many of the others – informal, understated. The wines are some of the most consistent performers year-in-year-out (for me the pinots, cab blends and chardonnays). They have mid-term cellaring potential in many cases (we still have a 2008 Brickyard Chardonnay that’s got some time to go, I suspect). They also try innovative things like using Canadian oak to age their pinots. So, if you’re heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake to catch some wineries, dinner and a play, drop in to Lailey along the Niagara Parkway. Say, hi from me, someone that they have never heard of. This week, the 2011 Lailey Chardonnay #193482 $19.95 graces our shelves. I’m not sure it isn’t always there but I guess the LCBO has taken some time to highlight it – good thing. This chardonnay has some acidity to carry what the Vintages Panel calls ‘ripeness’. I’m not sure I understand that term as I taste the wine itself. It seems like it’s trying to be Californian (a bit buttery) but knows it’s really cool climate and doesn’t give in to the temptation of being all about the fruit (more stony and appley, which is a fruit, I admit). I think just the right balance to please the big chard hounds but subtle and structured enough to please the rest of us. Simple. Nice finish too.

santoNow, when wine wankers (apologies to the real Wine Wankers) talk about terroirs they many times mention the soils of Santorini and Assyrtiko wines. To quote Wine & Spirits magazine – “Santorini is a rugged, sun-baked half-ring of tufa – the remains of a volcano responsible for one of the largest eruptions in the history of the earth”. Now admit it, none of us knows what tufa really is (Hell, spellchecker says it isn’t a word) – but I think we get the gist. If you’ve been, and I see a few nods out there, you’ll agree that Santorini is one of the most spectacular places on this earth. For the grapes, the vines are trained in a tight circle on the ground and it’s hard to believe that they could manage to survive let alone provide any fruit clusters. So, from this stark and challenging climate – you get a wine that sings to us about its home. Sounding a bit philosophical here but then again, I’ve had two glasses of Aglianico and if I want to philosophize and cry a little, I will. 2011 Santo Assyrtiko #627760 $16.95 – get it every year – with memories of overlooking the cauldera – minerally, but with loads of fruit and flavour. Bigger than I remember most Assyrtikos to be. It is a foundational hot weather wine. Serve cold with seafood, simple tomatoes and eggplant and/or saganaki – OPA!

A wine that I’m going to pick up but haven’t had is the 2011 Finca la Emperatriz Viura #342766 $15.95. I have had only a handful of Viura wines. But have had the same grape under it’s French name, Macabeo, in white wines from the Roussillon area. It’s light, can be fruity and usually dry and crisp. Why don’t we all enjoy a bottle and talk amongst ourselves next week?

auntsfieldSometimes, I hear people say that they have a ‘go to’ wine. When pressed, it sounds more like the only wine. Is it because it’s safe? Hell, all wine is safe! Now, in our house, I have to make sure that there’s some oaky chardonnay hiding somewhere in a cool spot. But, it isn’t always the same label. So, when I heard about a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc fixation, I felt compelled to respond and provide some type of gooseberry Nicoderm to wean this person from her addiction. I mean Kim might be her entry level drug but she needs to move on! I thought it best to just try sauvignon blanc from someone else.  So, let’s start with one of my favourite, usually available, kiwi sauvignon blancs – 2012 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc #663286 $19.95.  This is such a complete wine. It’s pretty dramatic in the glass, swirling around and providing great aromas of citrus and gooseberry – maybe a little tropical thing too. Full in your mouth and what I’ve come to know as New Zealand’s stamp of freshness and flavour – too good. But, I discovered someone who might be better equipped to tell her about New Zealand wines and that’s a blog called What’s In The Glass Tonight. I’ve provided a link here to her great blog and review of Marlborough wineries.

malvoltiI’d think that most of us are ambivalent towards prosecco. It’s alright and suits a situation – but we can live with it or without it – no biggee. The first time that I had a prosecco that was more than that was when I visited Jennifer and Andrew and he served Carpenè Malvolti Cuvée Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $15.95. This is a dry prosecco. Now, by that I mean – dry. But that doesn’t mean that it’s uninteresting. I’d say that it brings enough soft flesh (or stone) fruit to keep you quaffing. The biggest compliment I can bestow is that it’s a two glass Prosecco.

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