Wine and the Stay Home and Swipe-Right Movement

My mom told me today that she read that young people aren’t going out as much any more because everything, even dates, come right to your home. It’s the swipe culture. See, my mom is a champion of both of her daughters’ dating lives, hoping that her work may result in us one day settling down. She sends my sister and I the latest New York Times’ social commentary about what’s happening in the technology and dating world. My sister has recently been liberated from the forwarded Times’ articles since she moved in with her boyfriend, the car czar.

boom

 

A few months ago my mom was convinced that meeting someone online was weird and creepy and she’d have me text her at the beginning, middle and end of a date to make sure I hadn’t been kidnapped. It was ironic since I used to go days without any contact with my parents when I lived abroad. Now going to get a glass of wine with a stranger down the street needed a play-by-play, but I oblige because she’s adorable.

But now my mom was convinced that “nobody meets in bars anymore, it’s all online” (the tech and dating scene is a quickly evolving beast according to the Times, or, er, my mom). Weeks ago I was browsing through one of those horrid early 2000s dating websites (workoutguypdx and ballzztothewallzz were early admirers) when up pops a forwarded Times’ article from cupid. No subject heading, no punctuation and certainly no shame. Placed just above the attachment she writes, “have you checked bumble? you just swipe. shake if you change your mind. good luck.”

So I checked it out. I swiped right (‘hot’) a couple of times and left (‘not’) many more. A couple of times I couldn’t remember which way was which, so I violently shook my phone and got a redo. Bumble is the one that only allows a texting conversation if the woman initiates after a match. Guys feel more assured that, yes, we are into you. We have 24 hours to decide if we want to initiate. There are only photos, a brief bio, and a note of any mutual Facebook friends. Including your height and your residency sequence is important. So my Bumble bio read something like this: Likes house music, aspiring winemaker, 5’8″, PDX –> MAD–> PDX –> MAD –> PDX. It’s genius and on my first try I got a date with a tall, gorgeous foreigner.

With said foreigner we double-tap for an Uber, scroll for a pizza, click for a Netflix, and text to set a meeting time. Sure, at some point we have to actually talk to each other, but it turns out that when you enjoy someone’s company, that’s effortless, too.

My mother’s opinion of dating continues to evolve. Currently, people don’t even use actual online sites (she actually snickered at my last mention of Match.com). Regarding Tinder, she warned, “People just go on there looking for sex!” This made me giggle. But, sure enough, the Times published an article about a series of attractive, college-educated couples who had met on Tinder and married. This almost made her head explode.

So why all the fuss over a swipe? Well, I’m convinced that the wine industry is the same. People choose wine based on the label. Some people come into the tasting room where I work looking to nerd out and talk Pinot clones, rootstocks, and vineyard spacing. I can nerd out with the best of them, but I get that they mostly just want to take home a nice-looking bottle of wine and get a buzz. All the better if they have an attractive right-swipe to look at.

 

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Tasting in Valladolid, Spain April 1, 2016

The suitcases came rolling out, plopping onto the baggage carrousel, disheveled, having just barely survived a trip across the Atlantic, some obviously more manhandled than others. Sad, but necessary, reminders of coach travel.

Of all the times I’d crossed the Pond, I had never lost a piece of luggage to Lost Luggage purgatory. I had a sneaking suspicion that this time I would not be so lucky. My connecting flight from Amsterdam to Madrid had me running through Schiphol and I just knew that the baggage crew could not have as much hustle as I did.

I was right.

As the kind man at the KLM desk handed me a complimentary overnight case from the airliner, I explained that I was not missing my toothbrush, but a case of wine I had hand picked for a tasting later that day in another Spanish town. “Compliments of KLM!” he reassured me. “We deliver your package later. How many zippers?!” “-No, no zippers, it is a box with wine and I need it for an event in Valladolid in a few hours,” I tried to clarify. He jotted down my hotel address in Madrid and he actually air high-fived me and yelled out ‘No zippers!’ as I slinked away. He said the box would be delivered on the next flight from Amsterdam via the airliner’s concierge service directly at my hotel. I thought that was pretty first-class service for a girl who had just flown economy. He must have been confused.

He was.

The package did not arrive at said time, zippers or no zippers. I went back to the aiport. It did arrive on the next flight. I grabbed that box, inspected the contents and ran out to get my ride to Valladolid. My tasting was delayed by over two hours, starting at close to 11 p.m. on Friday, April 1, but I thought ‘well, in Spain things start late’. My host and the attendees were very gracious and understood my plight as I tore off the TSA inspection stickers. I had carefully selected the wines I wanted to bring to my winemaker friends in Spain. Check out the list below:

Argyle 2011 Knudsen Vineyard Brut Artisan Series

Argyle 2011 Brut Rose Artisan Series

Argyle 2013 Nuthouse Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills

Adelsheim 2013 Ribbon Springs Pinot Noir

Bergstrom 2013 Old Stones Oregon Chardonnay Willamette Valley AVA

The Eyrie Vineyards 2013 Oregon Pinot Noir

The Eyrie Vineyards 2014 Oregon Pinot Gris Dundee Hills

Adelsheim 2013 Calkins Lane Pinot Noir

Adelsheim 2014 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay

Ayres 2014 Lewis Rogers Lane Ribbon Ridge Estate Pinot Noir

Ayres 2014 Oregon Red Wine

They were somewhat shocked by the price of the bottles, but the favorites seemed to be the Adelsheim Calkin’s Lane and the Argyle Nuthouse. Oregon Pinot is much lighter in body than the wines that the attendees were used to in Spain. Tempranillo is medium to full bodied. I think KLM did well to further a small group of Spaniard’s appreciation for Oregon pinot noir, pinor gris and sparkling wine. I hope to bring a bigger selection for distribution in the future.

Thank you to Julio and Majuelos Singulares for your patience and in helping organize the event. I look forward to a larger venue next time to accommodate those who were not able to attend. ¡Muchísimas gracias!

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A partial line-up and the damage done

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Enjoying a single vineyard Adelsheim Vineyards

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Group shot of tasting in Valladolid, Spain

Keeping My Mind Occupied, One Wine At A Time

Upon hearing of my predicament, a male friend of mine said, “Oh, we’ll get you back out there, don’t worry.” I latched onto his enthusiasm immediately and thought I’d ride the wave of opportunity.

My friend was quite amused that he was able to play matchmaker to such an eligible bachelorette. “Never married?” “No kids?” “Career?!” Correct, correct correct. Then he started telling me, “Oh yea, so-and-so is going to text you, you should totally go out with him.” That is a little informal I thought, but I’ve been out of the country and out of the dating game for almost 10 years. So-and-so did not text me. “Oh, he is probably still seeing so-and-so girl.” my sister added. Then I went so far so to fear that he had done a complete Google search of me and thought otherwise about texting me. Then I stopped. I thought. And I rationalized. Some guy I do not know, at all, may text me, or not, may be dating another girl, or not, or may have done a search of me, or not? No thank you. Call off cupid, I am not interested.

But friend was relentless. The next day he flipped out his phone and showed me a photo of a nice-looking guy I had seen at a recent party. “Yea, I guess he’s pretty cute.” “He’s totally going to text you.” “How does he have my number?” “I gave it to him along with your photo, thinks you’re hot.” Sure enough, later that day I receive a text from New Guy. It was so weird seeing a text come up from a person who was not my mother, father, sister, or ex. It made me very uncomfortable straightaway. Crushing sorrow just about hit me over the head and I could feel my fingers and toes go cold. I had to fight back tears then just as I do now. But I was on! I was being texted to!

While I was away in Spain, my first-kissed friends started having their second children. Woman, and I think to some extent men too, hit that age and start noticing things like different styles of baby strollers. We traveled for work and play jetting to London, Ibiza or France and talking endlessly about all the export markets we’d open. I knew that lifestyle couldn’t continue with a child, so I wanted to get as much travel in as possible in the moment.

I texted New Guy back and accepted a glass of wine with him. I was full of the enthusiasm that my matchmaker friend had contaminated me with.  I was content with my life in Spain. But one of the few things I missed was being able to sit down and have a conversation with someone without discretely questioning a verb conjugation. When you are speaking your own language there is no internal monologue about grammar. ‘Yea, I think the present perfect was a good call there, or the past subjunctive might have come across like I was showing off, like I studied a little too much’. So yes, I would have a glass of wine with New Guy, not worry about my conjugations and just have a good time.

And we did. We sat and had three glasses of wine and even moved to a table closer to the fire to continue chatting. It probably sounded like I had 10 years of conversation that was just waiting to come out. He walked me to my car and there was that weird exchange like he might kiss me. I was not sure what had happened, but my dopamine was raging! New Guy sent a text back to my matchmaker friend that date was great. I had performed well! My first date with a real American in more than 10 years. Hallelujah. More text invites followed. I kindly declined for some reason, unsure exactly what to conclude. I felt conflicted.

Finally, he invited me to a dinner party at his house with friends. Perfect; low key and low pressure. Only, when I showed up it was just us and another established couple. The dinner was superb. He was a talented cook and had great taste in wine. He introduced me to an Entre-deux-Mers producer I did not know. We talked about the trend of prolonging marriage and children. He told me about his life’s framework and how marriage might not fit into his framework. I am very direct with people that I immediately feel comfortable around, plus wine makes me feel comfortable around people. I asked him if he ever wanted to get married. He said yes-ish, but again with the framework and that marriage might not fit, and then I was just confused and started thinking about when all the townspeople raise the framework of a barn together. I realized we were not raising a barn or anything else here at this dinner party.

The night ended with a hug and I piled into an Uber. I woke up the next morning with entre-deux-mers swimming through my head and a pit in my stomach. I was alone.  As much as I want to move forward with my life and get back to that point I was at with my ex, I am not ready to date. Something good came out of that weekend though: I’d be starting work at a great winery in the Willamette Valley. I’d ‘start Monday and we’d see where it went’, they said. I have worked three shifts now and absolutely love it. I get to talk about wine all day and they pay me for it.

The adventure continues.

Falling Out of Love, Moving On With Wine

I was recently heartbroken. Like, heart.broken. And by a man no less. Not by a cellared Barolo that turned out to be corked or a life-long family pet that passed. But by the man who I thought was really The One. I opened the door to the guest room to greet him on Christmas Eve morning and he had gone. Just. like. that. Four years of frustration, despair, sorrow, and relief rushed out all at once. But then young Leonardo DiCaprio’s one-liner, “I could go at any time” which he says honestly, blankly as he gazes over at Juliette Lewis in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, started replaying over in my head.

Of course, poor Arnie had a real condition while with my guy I was referring to the sudden starts and stops that marked our relationship. Like one of us could get cold feet and disappear in the middle of the night without a whisper. I never could have gone out like that but you only really learn about people when they’re presented with a desperate situation. I guess the back country of Oregon can really strike fear into the hearts of men. Or was it something I said? When one chooses a dramatic exit, it is usually the build up of many things said and unsaid over a long period of time; a lack of agreement. I cannot blame him. I have many, many good memories; the good certainly outweigh the bad. But sometimes both parties do everything they can and still it is not enough. And I certainly don’t have any regrets.

Now, it is true that I cannot listen to any Adele and I change the station when “Photograph” comes on. But I don’t drown my sorrows in La Marca or sop up tears with a box of Kleenex while watching Prince of Tides. Chocolate is not being indulged in nor is drunk texting an option. I am 32 after all, come on. (Hah.) What I am doing is working, writing, and letting my mind wander to new possibilities that were not previously considered, like, for one, backpacking through wine country in eastern Europe or South America. Even the small luxury of having large periods of time to study for the UC Davis certificate or the WSET Diploma can now be considered since now there is no one to cook for, make plans with, spend time with, care for and love.

What-Wine-Pairs-With-a-Breakup

So, my 2016 has started with a major shift. I did not know how to kick off a fresh year in blogging, but I think now I have found my narrative: local Oregon girl comes home after many adventures abroad to knuckle down and dominate wine before it dominates her.  There are many projects on the horizon and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by people who love me. I assume with time the nightmares will subside. You know the ones, where you are looking for someone and you literally cannot find your way without them. You are searching and calling their name and asking friends and strangers, but nobody even knows who you are talking about. They’re like a ghost.

It may be uncouth to share something so personal in such a public place, but I once saw a blurred-out image that came from Anthony Weiner’s phone on the national news so I think you all can deal with a little light introspection. So, with that, cheers to 2016. Cheers to triumphing over Diploma and Davis. Cheers to family, friends and grandparents. Cheers to a new job. Cheers to a new President who I hope does not eat pizza with a fork and knife. For I am sure that 2016 is going to be a wild, wild ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Struggle Is Real: A Review of First Episode of Esquire TV’s “Uncorked”

I am seeing more and more what I like to call the slow democratization of wine. Thomas Friedman said the world is flat because a tech guy in India can do data processing for a company in California. I say the world is flat because I can get all kinds of wine by the glass at my local wine bar. Bartenders and servers are now as likely to be knowledgeable of the wine list as the sourcing of the chicken. I can go online and pick from thousands of bottles from small producers across the globe and make price comparisons across sites. Anyone can participate. This is what made the first episode of “Uncorked” hard to watch.

If anyone can be a wine expert anymore then why do I need to watch a few self-centered young New Yorkers traverse the city to meet up for tastings at 8 a.m.? And, I don’t really need to know that you are swishing and spitting to get rid of the toothpaste taste. We were already told that you life’s work is so time consuming that you had closed at 1 or 2 a.m. and then had to run to make your tasting on only a few hours’ sleep. Let’s hear about the wines! Or at least some gossip about the girl you picked up at a bar last night who only drank lager (oh, the tension it would create for you, the sommelier!).

In another scene they are gathered at an apartment deducing a red that must come from Burgundy, or was it Beaujolais?  It felt too exclusive, when wine consumption should be inclusive. The fraternity of the main characters in cult classic Somm did not compare to the awkward chumminess of very different personalities in “Uncorked”. Maybe the cast just hasn’t gelled yet.

The show starts in the restaurant of one of the Master Sommelier candidates. They run through a flight of wines as the camera pans around and gives brief bios as the person appears on the screen a la MTV’s “The Real World”. One guy had taken the MS exam three times, another nine. But he’s persevering. No judgment.

The premise is set: we will follow the six Master Sommelier candidates through their daily rituals and see which cracks under pressure. Will the fissure be big enough for the MS judges to detect, or will they keep their composure and make it through the incredibly difficult service, blind tasting, and theory portions of the highly rigorous MS exam? I want them to succeed. As someone who would like to one day sit for the Master of Wine exam, my hat is off to them. I can relate to the tedious tracing of maps, the late night flash cards and endless blind tastings.  I felt empathy for the one candidate with shaky hands who spilled part of an $800 bottle of red while decanting. The show seems not to have found its groove yet.

The most cringe-worthy moment came as they crossed over into Brooklyn. One of the worst things about wine today is the hipster sommelier who only wants to talk about Jura or sherry. And, here we go into the heart of Jura-dom. The overly exuberant and the unpolished sit down at a trendy Williamsburg bar. They are debating between a spatlese and an auslese. The climate is so cool in the region of Germany where these two white wines come from that winemakers often have a problem with too much acidity and not enough sugar to convert to alcohol. These particular wines are some of the few wines in the world that are legally classed by their must, or sugar, weight, which is so very cool! They legally have to have x grams of sugar to be able to be called spatlese or auslese! It was totally lost on them when the girls next to them asked why they’d ordered white wine with pork. The overly exuberant one spouted off some flippant remark comparing their choice to the commoner’s beer, because it’s easy. Or something.  The girl was not impressed.

The two more likable characters are a girl from New York and a kid from Texas. She is self-effacing and enthusiast. He is totally out of place with his disarming laughter and unforced, charming demeanor in the bustling NYC restaurant scene. But neither is any match for the formidable judges that await them at the Eleven Madison Park “taste off”.

The second part of the first episode introduces the real stars: four Master Sommeliers at the top of their game. They are polite and restrained throughout the contest and we get a chance to see which of the candidates really shines.

I’ll certainly tune in to the next episodes of “Uncorked”, but I hope they tone down the condescension and play up the enthusiasm that initially drew them to this career. Wine should be for everybody to enjoy and those that know more should educate, not exasperate.

Savory Syrah and Weighty Whites in Hermitage, St.-Joseph, Cornas and St.-Péray

By Saturday morning at 10 a.m. the temperature had reached 90° in Tournon-sur-Rhône. In our hot stupor we fumbled around looking for iced coffee and something substantial to eat. Croissants were located and we scooted down the road to Mauves in less than five minutes to meet with Domaine Coursodon.
Mauves is a small town with one church, one bar, one boulangerie and one charcuterie shop. The wine from the area had been called Vins de Mauves until the Jesuits changed the name to the current Saint-Joseph in the 17th century. The syrah produced here is opulent, spicy and arguably more elegant than its inky neighbor Cornas. This AOC, established in 1956, is a long, narrow stretch of 1,082 hectares that connects Saint-Péray and Cornas to the south with Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie in the north.
Noemi Coursodon could only offer us a taste of their St.-Joseph Silice as they were sold out of everything else. Her brother Jérome is winemaker. She showed us the steep granitic slopes above Mauves where they pick their 50+ years grapes. Their Silice was deep garnet with notes of dark berries and plum and the telltale signs of a terroir-driven syrah: peppery aromatics, power and elegance; very dry. We chatted about her upcoming nuptials for which she was quite nervous. It was looking more and more like the uncharacteristically early harvest could mean that the winery would be in full production mode at the same time she needed it for the reception. I wished her all the best as she sent us on our way to Domaine Bernard Gripa.
Mauves, AOC Saint-Joseph
¨Ésta es una peña!¨Miguel said as we drove in. A peña is an old, usually abandoned, locale in the villages in Spain where young people go after hours to drink and socialize for free. Alas Monsieur Bernard´s wines were not free. In fact, they were more expensive than the other places we visited. As we approached, three finely dressed men in brightly colored salmon and blue pressed trousers were arranging cases of Gripa wine in a car trunk. They were from Paris, Belgium and the south of France, respectively. One said that I must try the Saint-Péray Les Figuiers. I took note.
Monsieur Gripa, a soft-spoken man, could finally inquire as to our presence when the last salmon trouser man shuffled out. Miguel was already poking around in places where he shouldn´t, imposing camera in tow with its wide strap slapping about. We made the international wine tasting gesture and Gripa escorted us downstairs, not yet sure about Miguel. With ever step, the temperature decreased 3°. Ten paces later we stepped into the cool dampness of serious old-school winemaking. The light was dim, the smell musty and the atmosphere damp.
Monsieur Gripa and I

Monsieur Gripa and I

Gripa peered at us from behind his thick glasses now less cautious and more entertained. I could tell we were not his usual clientele. Miguel certainly was not I thought, as camera flashes suddenly ricocheted from the wet stony walls. I could hear him cursing himself ´No flash! No flash!´as he struggled with the len´s settings. Meanwhile, back at the barrique, Gripa slides me a glass. There were giant thumb prints and stains in the glass that could only have come from a Parisian in bright trousers. It did not matter. Gripa tasted with me, which I always appreciate. He scribbled figures on the back of my tasting notes. 60,000 bottles are produced annually. The family has farmed the land for six generations, but only vinified their own wine since 1974. The head winemaker is now his son, Fabrice.
The Photographer

The Photographer

Sure enough, I walked away with the Saint Péray and enjoyed it over lunch with country pate and salmon quiche. It had a racy acidity to match the wide, round ripe stone fruit and plenty of granitic minerality to go around. Very rich and full-bodied. A serious find from a man in serious pink pants. I too would have filled my trunk with this wine.
Later that night we had reservations at Comako restaurant in Tournon. We walked in and sure enough Monsieur Gripa was there just sitting down to eat with his wife. We told the server that we´d drink what he´s having. It was a Domaine des Remizières Cuvee Christophe White (Crozes-Hermitage), rich and viscous, high alcohol and acid with huge stone fruit and melon.
There is a very different culture in Spain surrounding winemaking than in the northern Rhône. Excluding the small, traditional winemakers in Spain, the Spanish wineries strive to be big and glamorous and sell relatively inexpensive wine (less than €8 ex-cellar). Here in this corner of the world, the wineries were peñas and you´d be hard-pressed to find a bottle of wine for less than €18 ex-cellar.
So where are all the Bernard Gripas of the world? I guess you really have to go looking for them. And bring a glass.

Tasted at Vineum, Tain l’Hermitage on August 8, 2015: 

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2011 Grenache Blanc and Clairette (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) 14.5% abv. Thick legs and a medium lemon color. Bouquet of lemon, oak, soft honeydew with vanilla ice cream. On the palate it is full bodied with medium plus acidity, waxy, textured like a finely woven silk scarf.

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2013 Domaine de Grands Amandiers Viognier (Condrieu) 14% abv is described by Guillaume as fresh, to be enjoyed young (less than two years) and with goat cheese. It was vinified in stainless steel and been untouched by oak. This is obviously a more modern winemaking style employed to highlight the freshness and roundness of the viognier fruit. It is barely a medium yellow with orange hues. At first whiff it smells oddly like a college dorm room with strong floral notes of dandelion and sticky marijuana. There is also some savory richness that I could only describe as duck or guinea fowl fat. Too much country pate in the air perhaps. There as an even minerality throughout the wine and a medium acidity. Enters sweet and smooth and coats the palate.

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2012 Le Chavalier de Sterimberg Marsanne and Roussanne (Hermitage) 13.5% abv can be drunk young but will keep for 10 years and over time will develop notes of nuts and honey. The wine was vinified in cement and clarified with egg before it spent eight months in 15% new oak and 85% second cycle barrels and then goes through élevage. It is a medium yellow color with green glints. Bouquet is ripe yellow and orange citrus, peach with a lot of structure and minerality. Acidity is medium.

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2007 Domaine Raymond Roure Syrah (Croze-Hermitage) 13% abv from hilly part of Crozes. Medium garnet with with orange glints. Brick. Bouquet of berry, kernel, cranberry, cinnamon, warm sweet baking spices and slight vegetal like tinned tomatoes. On the palate cherry and pomegranate. 12 months in oak. Will improve over 10 years. Only 3.5 hectares of vines between 40-60 years old on very steep granitic south facing slope. Purchased from the Roure family in 1996. Monsieur Roure was the plot’s prolific winemaker for many years and so the Jaboulet house, upon purchasing the plot decided not to mess with a good thing and retained the original name.

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2010 Domaine de la Croix du Vigne Syrah (Saint-Joseph) 13.5% abv is a deep ruby with dark berry, savoury, kernel, baking spices, oregano, crackling BBQ sauce, skewers with fat drippings into open flame, opulent and lush. High acid with sweet velvety tannins.

Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2010 Domaine des Pierrelles Syrah [(Côte-Rôtie, (Côte Blonde)] 13.5% is a medium garnet syrah so elegant in its weight and finesse that it reminded me more of a Sonoma Pinot. There was red cherry fruit tightly interwoven with kirsch, fresh prune, tinned tomatoes, fatty protein, savory spice and fire and campfire smoke.

Route through the Northern Rhône Valley

It would not be a European getaway without an airport under construction, a hot walk across the tarmac and a surprise extra baggage charge from a “low-cost” airliner. And yet our trip down the northern Rhône Valley had to have some beginning, so hot and now over budget it would be.

As most young couples depart for sandy beaches or to sweat the night away dancing in clubs, Miguel dutifully loaded our camera while I printed off PDFs of Rhône crus and we headed to the stifling heat of a landlocked valley. Even the vignerons were mostly out of town as I discovered when trying to book cave visits. We checked into our first Airbnb rental in Condrieu and greeted our hosts, a lovely middle-aged French couple  that seemed more accustomed to having a slightly older, French crowd stay in their flat. “So, how many other Americans and Spanish have you hosted?” I asked inquisitively. She gave a polite pause and eyed her husband to see if he might jog her memory. “One American, maybe, and no, no Spanish.” “That’s right! Normally we go to the beach!” my Spaniard quipped.

With Condrieu at our backs

We spent our first day on a wild goose chase looking for viognier. We found it first in its raw, unfermented form hanging on the vines above Condrieu where the vines enjoy granitic (high acidity) and arzelle (stone fruit-forwardness) soils. The gradient is extremely steep, reaching 60° in some places. We were just 10 km south of the medieval town of Vienne and a 40-minute drive from downtown Lyon. From here we could see the river Rhone winding down toward Valence and on to Arles where it would empty into the Med.

By 8 p.m. the sun was nearly down and we were scrambling to find a place to eat.  We found the only still-open possibility in a bar of questionable business practices. Several men came to greet others sitting on the terrace before passing around the back, returning minutes later and departing. Eyes burned into me as I went inside asking which viognier they had by the glass. She offered something out of box. Miguel, seeking a beer with lemon (beer on tap with a splash of lemon Kas or Fanta or Spanish caña con limón), was handed a bottle of beer, a bottle of Orangina and a glass. Bottoms up!

Miguel's comment: "Why don't they make some new signs?!"

Our first stop the next day was to Domaine Yves Cuilleron in Chavanay, recommended and organized by our Airbnb friends in Condrieu. We were invited to taste by Axel, a fresh-faced graduate who had recently been to Hong Kong and knew the proprietors of Bodegas Resalte in Peñafiel. Though I struggled to make the connection between the two facts because he kept pouring these outstanding incarnations of the viognier and marsanne grapes that were causing me to lose my mind. The 2014 “La Petite Cote” was pale yellow viognier with some yellowing from nine months in oak. Showed notes of light oak, glycerol, very expressive, honeydew melon, and peach.

AOC Saint-Joseph 2014 “Le Lombard” 13% abv was nine months in oak, marsanne 100%, dried white flowers, and waxy with tangy stone fruit (white peach) and bitter almond on the palate. The AOC Saint-Joseph 2014 rousanne “Saint Pierre”  glycerol, thick tears, dried potpourri, not fruit forward, very dry. Crozes-Hermitage is a new cuvee for them this year. It is their first white Crozes. “Les Rousses” is more perfumed than above with more yellow hints and medium acidity.The 2013 “Les Chaillets”  13.5% was a rich yellow with gold glints, an aroma of fresh pineapple with macerated apples, and candied lemon peel palate. The 2011 “Vertige”, from a single plot in Vernon, spent 18 months in oak, and had vegetal aromas layered with fresh stone fruit, paint, turpentine, day lilies, and a complex, rich, and powerful texture with a long finish that included damp straw/hay.

Next we tried the 2014 “Ayguets” Doux 13% abv made from botrytized grapes and smelled of orange peel and honey. Three passes through the vineyard take place. It was same style as a Sauternes but more floral and lots of wet straw. 2012 ripa sinistra from the IGP Collines Rhodaniennes is a local wine that the Romans pulled out ages ago. They are hoping that in 10 years or so they can develop their own AOC. 18 months in oak with notes of blueberry, boysenberry, toast, and kernel with silky tannins though very dry.

Menu. We thought we ordered beef and got fish! Beautiful lunch nonetheless.

For lunch we drove back up the D386 to Bistrot de Serine in Ampuis, the heart of Côte-Rôtie and wilted under the shaded terraces next to Chapoutier and Guigal plots. Here you eat local with the locals but with some worldly combinations like a citrus ceviche of local whitefish. Highly recommended. A fine wine list and by-the-glass selection.

For Condrieu, the 2015 vintage will be hot like 2003, but quantity is low and there is more concentration. In 1970 the Condrieu AOC was close to dying out and had to be built up again. AOC currently has 178 hectares of vineyard planted.

Tomorrow more and better, as they say in Spain. And, we are going to Hermitage to Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné and on to Airbnb adventures in Cornas and Saint-Peray.

It’s Hot And We’re Tasting Wines

Spring is trade fair season when many, many new wines are combed through and discovered. Entering summer, the sifting begins. Samples are catalogued and orders are placed to ready for the long road into fall when the majority of retail wine sales happen.

We have to find a way to pass the time in this heat. Last night we sat outside at midnight in 95°F weather trying to hold our heads up over the straw that was our lifeline to the cool tinto de verano we were sipping.

Heat Wave, Valladolid, Spain June 30, 2015

We started with some samples of solera wines this morning. We discovered Pérez Barquero at FENAVIN, the Spanish National Wine Fair in early May. They’ve been written up by Eric Asimov in the Times and have loads of Parker and other points, but are little known outside of Spain, probably because they are not within the boundaries of sherry production. Their appellation, D.O. Montilla-Moriles, is much further inland than the manzanilla-dominated coastal sherry triangle that includes Sanlúcar de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera.  Here in Montilla, just south of Córdoba, the pedro ximénez grape thrives on super chalky soils. It passes through neutral barrels at various levels of criadera on its way to making Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado, and Dulce versions of itself.

We also embraced a house-style vermouth casero full of clove and cardamon. We embraced it right into a home-brewed Moroccan spearmint iced tea I made with honey. The combination was divine on a day where highs will reach into the low 100s F.

Here we can see that PX can be enjoyed with canned peaches and aged Zamoran sheep's cheese. I would like to stress can. Although I think Miguel was on to something.

Here we can see that PX can be enjoyed with canned peaches and aged Zamoran sheep’s cheese. I would like to stress can be. Although I think Miguel was on to something.

We are also drinking–

Vivaz Prieto Picudo

Vivaz Prieto Picudo 2014. Have two glasses and then say that three times fast. The indigenous grape varietal from the D.O. Tierra de León, I can only ever get various versions of strawberry(macerated, baked with cream, fresh-picked, dried, candied, etc.) in the bouquet. The zippy acidity and freshness makes it an obvious summer drinking wine that I’ve enjoyed, but profile is a bit limited. It won’t get me to switch from my Cigales tempranillo rosados.

Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne 2014Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne 2014

Harmonie de Gascogne 2014. It was raining cats and dogs on our way into Villandraut on the D-824 so we stopped in Mont-de-Marsan and ducked into a pizzeria close to midnight. The guy was cranking out homemade pizzas and listening to great electro. He had the above wine by the glass. It was a deep purple color with thick tears and plum and blackberry on the nose. The tannins were nice and present but soft and had a long finish –not bad wonderful for a local IGP wine by the glass. It went nicely with the veggie pizza. I’ll be ordering from them. It seems they are best known for their Armagnac. €11, 12.5% abv

Baloiro godello, doña blanca, jerez

Baloiro Blanco 2014. If you needed more of a reason to drink godello, it is godello with a splash of the more obvious doña blanca, and much more obvious jerez, or palomino. You might think muscat but here in this part of Spain, there are 17% plantings of jerez and 2,4% of the doña. Muscat is not permitted in the D.O. Bierzo. White blossoms and stone fruit dominate and the godello contributes to traces of minerality and the medium finish. Very nice, easy drinking wine from Bodega Luzdivina Amigo. €13

Sete Bois Albariño 2013

Sete Bois 2013 Albariño. Stone fruit, med+ acidity. Classic summer quaffer. €7.70, 12.5% abv

Los Pedregales Godello 2014, D.O. Bierzo

 

Los Pedregales 2014. Nice structured godello from D.O. Bierzo. Hand-picked vines at 550 meter above sea level. Top yield is around 1,500 kg/hectare (very, very low). €10

 

Genio Y Figura Albariño 2013

 

Genio y Figura 2014 Albariño. An excellent example of a slightly more serious albariño. A lot of stone fruit, melon even. €14

What I Learned at Vinexpo in Bordeaux

It has been hard to keep my head on straight lately. I’ve been a blocked blogger, avoiding my WordPress account. It remains unclear whether I live in Portland or Valladolid and seems more and more that time will have to be carefully split between both. It also remains unclear if I am a wine importer or a student of wine. My studies for WSET Level 4 are starting in August and my first Davis Winemaking Certificate class will begin in September. I have also initiated a series of video tastings that we’ll broadcast across our small companies’ platforms both in Europe and the U.S. Yikes.

So, I took a step away from the commitment pressure cooker and accepted a quick trip up to Bordeaux for Vinexpo. If you are even a semi-serious student of wine, your first trip to Bordeaux is like traveling to Mecca. Suddenly all the villages that appeared on one side or another of flashcards are jumping off denizens tongues like eating a puffed gourgères, consuming consonants and caressing vowels as they go. You think you know the grape makeup of a bottle of Sauternes until you hear it described by a Sauternais winemaker and then you go did he say sauvignon blanc or its time for lunch? Oh, moos-koo-de, and here I always thought it was mus-ka-tel.

Our guide at Château Filhot told us that none of the wineries in Sauternes were built with subterranean cellars because of the sandy soils. In addition, to protect the fermenting and aging wines from overheating in the late-afternoon sun, the walls on the west side of Sauternes’ wineries are built thicker than the east-facing walls. The harvest consists of up to six passes through the vineyard when trained workers skillfully comb through bunches looking for the perfectly botrytised grapes. An average harvest will only yield 10-20 hectoliters making Sauternes a very costly beverage before it even starts fermenting. I picked up two 375 ml 2009s; one for drinking with my Dad the next time I see him and one to cellar.

We stayed in a village 40 miles south of Bordeaux called Villandraut, near Bazas. It was typically French picturesque, enough to make Amelie swoon. I went running early the first morning past the castle in anticipation of the butter croissants and canelets I’d be ingesting uncontrollably. I stepped out and realized through the heavy humid air why grapes can grow botrytis here, in the heart of Sauternes wine country. It also smelled quite different than Spain; less bleach and sandalwood cologne, more rosewater and dairy -all that butter for my croissants.

There are striking resemblances between a people and their wines. I noticed this immediately after crossing over the border into France. These are generalizations of course, and putting diplomacy aside, Spanish wines tend to be heavy handed with bold strokes of fruit and oak, a reflection of their strong will and animated character. I found the French wines I tasted to be more perfumed with finesse and elegance and most of the wine happening in the nose rather than on the palate. Maybe this is why Vega Sicilia has had so much success in incorporating a bit of cabernet sauvignon into its tempranillo blends and why now Alvaro Palacios’ perfumed wines are dominating lists across the U.S.

Their temples to wine, the châteaux, are legendary and aristocratic. Miguel suggested we try to sneak into the Château Margaux/Wine Spectator opening of a new wing of the winery. Thankfully I had left my waiter’s black and whites at home. So we drove on as the black-tie crowd arrived. It was too late to make any winery visits, so we admired the famed houses as we wound around Cantenac and Pauillac.

A few short notes…

Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault from the parishes in and around Chablis: Lignorelles, Beines, Fyé and Villy. Possess 18 hectares in total and pick 6,000-7,000 plants per hectare. Older vines avg. age 35-years-old. Petit Chablis 2014 barrel sample. Sampled with hand-shucked oysters. Pale lemon color. Fresh, high minerality.

Chablis Les Venerables 2010. Medium lemon color. Straw, meadow, alfalfa on the nose.

Manoir du Capucin Lovely proprietor Chloé Bayon allowed to taste through her selections. She is a member of the Femmes et Vins de Bourgonge orgnazition that seems to seek to promote female winemakers in the region. She was equal parts charm and ambition and eager to talk about her climats Clos de la Maison and Aux Morlays. Mâcon Solutré Pouilly “Délices” 2014 was fresh, lots of juicy white stone fruit, easy drinking, €5-€10. Pouilly Fuissé “Sensations” 2014 shows nice richness, viscosity and green apple and unripe melon on the palate. Medium acidity. Pouilly Fuissé Aux Morlays 2012 showed roundness, rich complexity and structure, open, straw, caramel, rose, and apricot on the nose and palate.

Brune el Blonde de Vidal-Fleury (Côte-Rôtie) 2010 showed black cherry, dried oregano and a smattering of savory notes like smoked meats.

Cave de Tain L’Hermitage La Grace (Croze-Hermitage) 2013 from winemaker Murielle Chardin-Frouin showed big and strong on the nose of crushed red flower petals, more savory and a bit of stinkiness (SO2 blow off?)

Rocca Maura Terra Encestra (Lirac) 2012 by winemaker Emmanuelle Daverat Perkins showed some oak with vanilla notes on the nose, a deep purple color, warm, but soft, round tannin. Reminded me of a Priorat.

Rocca Maura Terra Encestra (Lirac) 2013 showed more heat than warmth, wonderful smokiness and smoked charcuterie.