Showing posts from September, 2008

Extreme Winemaking by Tandem's Greg La Follette

When it comes to winemaking, you can’t be an extremist without having two feet set firmly in the ground; or terroir, to use the all encompassing wine word for ecosystem specification.

Greg La Follette is cut from the same cloth as other extreme winemakers whose work is measured not only by what they put in the bottle, but also by the waves they generate while doing it. In France, I think of Lucien Peyraud, André Ostertag and the recently departed Didier Dagueneau as consummate extremists; casting shadows over even their more respected peers with their bold winemaking tactics.

The modern era of California winemaking was pushed along – willingly, and at times unwillingly – by the fighting spirit of Martin Ray, the prescience of Joseph Swan, and the energy of André Tchelistcheff (under whom La Follette studied at Beaulieu); and in recent years, by oft-times prickly icons like Randall Grahm, Jim Clendenen, David Ramey, and Manfred Krankl.

There are many more, of course, of varying degrees in…

Double-Blinded by Illuminating Pinots

Double-blind tastings are always so broadening. All prejudices, except for the ones that persist in your mind (or sensory memory), are thrown out the window. Let the chips fall where they will: if you taste something you like that you previously didn’t, or vice-versa, there you go…

Here’s a tasting of ten that I did with a group of hardened Denver oenophiles last week (09/19/2008). Granted, we all knew what wines we personally brought to the table, but not what each other brought (making this a 90% double-blind tasting). How the chips fell, in order of my preference:

1. 2005 Domaine Serene, Two Barns Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
Domaine Serene was always a producer I’ve always had mixed feelings about; and before the unveiling I “identified” this wine as Californian. Which goes to show how blurred the lines of distinction between contemporary Oregon and California Pinot Noirs have become – Oregon grown Pinots showing the deeper colored, riper, fuller bodied characteristics associated with C…

September Surprise - Shiny New California Gems

Just back from a wham-bam four day trip through the North Coast (Sept. 2-6), and uncovered some brand new gems -- always the best part of these visits! No necessarily in order of my preference, since each of the following absolutely bowled me over:

2004 Lang & Reed, Napa Valley Right Bank
I haven't been this excited about a new release since Van Morrison's Stoned Me (many moondances ago, as it were). If you've loved winemaker/proprietor John Skupny's Premier Étage Cabernet Francs -- and yes, the scrumptuous qualities of Saint-Émilions like La Mondotte and Canon-la-Gaffeliere -- you'll flip over this, too. Napa Valley sourced Cabernet Franc (53%), Merlot (30%), Petit Verdot (9%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%)... yada yada... the important thing is that Skupny has crafted a blend that is so tender, so dense yet soft, succulent and unerringly balanced, all you can think is wow... this is what Bordeaux style blending is all about. Aromas are of concentrated black cherry an…