The End of Wine Blah Blahgs

April 1 – DATELINE: ONLINE – The wine blahgosphere fell eerily silent today when William Zinsser emerged from the heavens and told wine blahggers that the world isn’t all about them and they can only write about wine from now on.

The Bible

The Bible

The revered author of “On Writing Well” left hundreds of the world’s most influential wine blahggers agape as they suddenly realized they had little if anything to say.

“Well that certainly sucks major donkey bong,” said 1WineDude Joe Roberts. “Wine is just a drink, after all, while I’m the Big Kahuna and all that brilliantastic shizz. I mean, its not like I wanna sell wine, or convince yaz to buy it just cuz I get a gigantuan boner off it, know what I mean?”

In New York City, Tyler Coleman, or “Dr. Vino,” stopped stirring his evil pot of brettanomyces, then gasped in horror and keeled over from the stench.

The Wine Blahggers Conference was canceled, because if they had to talk about wine instead of wine blahgging, well, what’s the point?

In Napa, Tom Wark of Fermentation wearily turned his high horse toward Safeway and said to his faithful sidekick, “Come on, Pancho, let’s get a box of generic chardonnay from the Southern portfolio and watch the sun set over the three-tier system.”

Throughout the afternoon, wine blahgs went inexorably blank as their authors realized they could no longer inflate their stats by cross-posting and commenting on each other’s blahgs about the rise of social media and the superiority of blahggers over “journalists” like Steve Heimoff and that Eric guy. They were left to wonder if the Gravy Train of free samples and luxury trips to the world’s most aspiring wine regions had been permanently shunted to a side track in wine’s railroad graveyard.

Terroirist.com founder David White shed a crocodile tear into his glass of Napa Valley ciliegiolo — fermented to precisely 12.8 percent in a concrete egg according to the Golden Mean and racked only when Mars was waxing over Jupiter but waning under Venus. He handed over the reins of his award-winning blahg to his colleague, Isaac Baker, saying,  “You’re the only one who actually writes about wine around here.”

As dusk settled, a virtual roar could be heard from Monkton, Maryland, where Robert M. Parker Jr. rattled his canes with mirth and yelled, “What? Nobody left to take potshots at me?? Shrivelled up by excess acid and left to wallow in the vapid flavors of grapes not even Jancis would catalogue, are you? Come on, cowards!! I dare’st ya! BWAHAHAHAAA!!”

Posted in Humor, Rants, Weblogs, Wine, Wine Humor, writers | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Wines to Defy Winter’s Last Blast

The calendar says Spring, but Ol’ Man Winter isn’t done with us yet. Tuesday’s forecast for the Washington, D.C., area calls for 1-2 more inches of the white stuff, timed not to give us a day off like that last storm, but to distract us into looking balefully out the window during the workday.

I keep chanting, “Opening Day is a week away!” but it’s still too damn cold. Anyway, I’m defying winter’s refusal to leave with some decidedly warm-weather wines, including some of the first crop of 2013 rosés.

These are from this week’s column in The Washington Post, which went online Friday. The stars express my overall enthusiasm for the wines, with one star for “very good,” two for “excellent” and three for “exceptional.”

Jean-Luc Colombo, Cape Bleue Rosé 2013

3 Stars GREAT VALUE

Mediterranée IGP, France, $15

Jean-Luc Colombo is a popular producer of syrah from the northern Rhone village of Cornas, but his rosé has been an annual favorite at my table. The new vintage is bracing and refreshing, with strawberry and watermelon flavors. Alcohol by volume: 12.5 percent.

Basa Bianco 2012

3 Stars GREAT VALUE

Rueda, Spain, $15

Star Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez has the Midas touch with his extensive line of wines. This delightful white is ideal for light seafood appetizers or entrees, or sipping by itself on the patio. In texture and flavor it most resembles a sauvignon blanc. ABV: 13 percent.

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2012

2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Dolomiti, Italy, $16

I often joke that “pinot grigio is Italian for boring,” but I love anything produced by this winery. The key is the mountains of northern Italy, skillful viticulture and careful winemaking. This is racy and refreshing, ideal by itself or with light appetizers or pastas. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Domaine du Pere Caboche “Le Petit Caboche” Rosé 2013

2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Vaucluse, France, $10

Sappy, fruity, strawberry flavors with a touch of mint and a splash of summer. ABV: 13 percent.

Conde Villar Vinho Verde Rosé 2013

2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Portugal, $11

The pressed grapes were left on the skins for just 24 hours to make this vibrant rosé, then the juice was lightly carbonated to give it a satisfying spritz. It’s fresh and full of cherry and strawberry flavors, springtime in a glass. ABV: 11 percent.

Francis Coppola Winery, Coppola Rosso 2012

1-1/2 Stars

California, $10

The retro label signals a wine in the old California style, one where grape varieties in the blend and point scores don’t matter. The lifestyle on display here isn’t the luxury faux Tuscan villa of the wealthy and bored but the sweaty satisfaction of a good day’s work, the loving embrace of family, and a mutt under the dinner table. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Posted in California, France, Italy, Rosé, Spain, Washington Post, Wine | Tagged | Leave a comment

Thibaut-Janisson Xtra Brut – A New Can’t Miss Virginia Sparkler That Most People Will Miss

Claude Thibaut, the man who helped legitimize Virginia wine for restaurant sommeliers, today released a new cuvée called Thibaut-Janisson Xtra Brut. Like his popular Blanc de Chardonnay, the Xtra Brut is 100 percent Chardonnay grown in the Monticello AVA near Charlottesville. But this new wine is one-third oak aged Chardonnay, compared to 10 percent of the Blanc de Chardonnay. And it has only 4 grams of residual sugar per liter, compared to 8g/l for the other. Therefore it is drier, more full-bodied and oaky. And as you might expect from Thibaut, it’s delicious. It should appeal to fans of a classical, dry Champagne style.

You’d better hurry if you want to taste it, however. Thibaut made only 100 cases.

The law firm of Thibaut-Janisson. (Just kidding!) That's Claude Thibaut on the left, with Manuel Janisson.

The law firm of Thibaut-Janisson. (Just kidding!) That’s Claude Thibaut on the left, with Manuel Janisson.

I tasted the Xtra Brut at Cork & Fork in Washington’s Logan Circle neighborhood Saturday afternoon, where Thibaut and his business partner, Manuel Janisson, were pouring for about 40 customers of Cork & Fork owner Dominique Landragin. It was almost like being in a small wine shop in Champagne, as Landragin and Thibaut grew up in the same village there. Janisson flew to DC for the weekend from his home where he makes his Janisson & Fils line of grower Champagnes.

Claude told me he will be able to release about 200 cases next year, but he has a dilemma – the same one faced by many Virginia winemakers. There simply aren’t enough grapes. “There are too many wineries and not enough vineyards,” he said.

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Posted in Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Lessons from the Virginia Governor’s Case

This year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup was awarded last Thursday to The Williamsburg Winery for its 2010 Adagio, a Bordeaux-style red blend. And once again, the results of the competition show that Virginia wine’s strength lies with these blended wines rather than single-varietal wines such as Cabernet Franc. Frank Morgan has the view from the awards ceremony over on Drink What YOU Like.

The Governor’s Case, the top 12 scoring wines in the competition set aside to showcase what the Old Dominion is accomplishing in its vineyards, includes seven Bordeaux blends. No Cab Francs, once touted as Virginia’s most promising red grape, made the final 12, which included two Tannats, a Nebbiolo, a Chardonnay, and a dessert blend of Moscato Ottonel and Vidal. Here’s the list, in alphabetical order, courtesy of the Virginia Wine Marketing Board:

  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2008 Malvaxia Passito
  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Nebbiolo Reserve
  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Octagon
  • Barren Ridge Vineyard – 2009 Meritage
  • Fabbioli Cellars – 2011 Tannat
  • Horton Vineyards – 2010 Tannat
  • King Family Vineyards – 2011 Meritage
  • North Gate Vineyard – 2011 Meritage
  • Rockbridge Vineyard – 2008 Meritage, DeChiel Reserve, unfiltered
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic
  • The Williamsburg Winery – 2010 Adagio (CUP WINNER)
  • Two Twisted Post Winery – 2012 Chardonnay

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Posted in Cabernet Franc, Competitions, Eastern US, Virginia, Wine | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Take that, Virginia wine!

Virginia wine took a slap in the face Thursday, in this article in The Washington Post. The article described how newly inaugurated Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is trying to establish good relations with legislators from both parties by hosting daily cocktail hours at the governor’s mansion with pretty good hootch he springs for himself.

McAuliffe is wealthy, you see, and can afford the best. He also has no experience in Virginia politics so has every incentive to establish good relationships on both sides of the aisle. And of course he has every right to serve whatever beverages he wants during his schmooze fests.

Some context is important: The previous governor, Robert McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife Maureen were tireless champions of the Virginia wine industry and much beloved by winemakers for their advocacy. They are also under federal indictment for allegedly accepting gifts from a pharmaceutical company executive seeking state approval for a nutritional supplement. Not much is known about McAuliffe’s preferences in wine, though winemakers were relieved when the new governor retained McDonnell’s agriculture secretary, Todd Haymore, who is also a fierce champion of Virginia’s wine industry.

So back to the Post article, which is about politics, not wine. (It was written by Laura Vozzella, who covers Virginia politics and used to be a food writer for the Baltimore Sun.) Buried within is this quote from state Senator Thomas A. Garrett Jr., a Republican from the 22nd senate district, which zigs and zags across central Virginia from the western suburbs of Richmond up towards Louisa and then back down and across to Lynchburg:

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Posted in California, Current Affairs, Local Wine, Virginia, Washington Post, Wine | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Happy Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! This is the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac, which has to be better than the Year of the Rat, just ended. (But enough about politics.) Having married into a Chinese family, we usually celebrate with a hot pot meal with way too much food and wine (not an unusual thing at our house). That will be Friday night this year for personal scheduling reasons. Tonight, to mark New Year’s Eve, I decided to open the Canoe Ridge Vineyards “The Expedition” Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from the Horse Heaven Hills in Washington state’s Columbia Valley. It’s an excellent wine, with ripe dark fruit flavors and a hint of mocha from the oak.

Of course, we could have opened any number of horse-themed wines. Iron Horse sparkling wines would be a perfect celebration. Wild Horse. Cheval des Andes. Firesteed. I’ll probably think of several more after posting this – Which are your favorite horse wines?

 

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Bordeaux recommendations

Exorbitant prices for the top chateaux give a false impression that Bordeaux is out of reach for most wine consumers. But most Bordeaux is actually priced more down to earth and can be a terrific value, especially in strong vintages such as 2009 and 2010. So there’s a good reason to listen to vintage hype: Great vintages mean good wines can be found at all price ranges.

Chateau Larose-Trintaudon Cru Bourgeois 2009

2.5 Stars GREAT VALUE

Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France $23

This blend of 60 percent cabernet sauvignon and the rest merlot is textbook, and should be anyone’s introduction to Bordeaux. It features flavors of blackberry and plum, spiced with what Bordeaux lovers call “pencil shavings.” Yes, that sounds weird, but if you’ve ever felt a writer’s satisfaction honing a No. 2 to a fine point, you’ll know what I mean. Alcohol by volume: 13.7 percent. 

Chateau la Cardonne Cru Bourgeois 2009

2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Medoc, Bordeaux, $20

Give this beauty some time to open up – by decanting two hours or so before dinner or even by “letting it breathe” on the counter for a few hours. This wine is rich and supple, ripe with soft tannins that grip your palate and lift the wine up, like a gymnast on a balance beam.

Chateau Cantelaudette 2010

1-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE

Graves-de-Vayres, Bordeaux, France, $16

Bright red berry flavors and a nice balance of fruit and oak give this Bordeaux structure and balance. It’s nice enough to drink by itself but prefers to play with comfort foods such as burgers or even roast chicken. ABV: 13.5 percent.

(Wines are rated on a 3-star scale, with 1 star = Very Good, 2=Excellent, and 3=Exceptional. This is a subjective rating meant to convey my enthusiasm for the wine. If I recommend it, I believe it is a good wine for the price, whatever the rating. GREAT VALUE means the wine especially over-performs for its price.)

Posted in Bordeaux, Wine | Tagged , | 1 Comment