Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Accidental Wine Blogger

NOTE: I cut this section below from my post on the Wines of Burgundy because it did not seem relevant to the story. But then this morning I awoke to see twitter all a twitter about the latest wine blogger bashing. So I thought I’d include it here separate from the original post:

I guess this goes without saying that I write these posts for my own enjoyment and don’t expect to influence anyone about anything, but I think any journey worth taking is also one worth sharing. I say this because I got a “Who do I think I am?” response from a person at the Burgundy event when I told them I have a wine blog. I responded to them by saying --“Why do you care what I write unless you believe it in some way diminishes what you do? I don’t let anyone define me so why would you?” The person just stared at me.

It’s not like anyone but my friends and family are reading this? Right? Anyway I thought it was funny and I suggested they actually read my blog so they could rest assured I was not someone to fear, nor was I corrupting or influencing the wine buying public. Hey, we’ve got Wine Spectator for that. Just kidding. I subscribe to WS and find it very entertaining and informative. I’m not dissing them. Cue Rodney King—”Can’t we all get along…?”

Full Disclosure: Last year I moved to Sonoma County and decided to learn about the vineyards that are all around me. Through twitter I met some local people and attended a live twitter tasting at Estate in Sonoma. I had a great time and became friends with many of the people I met there. Although I am mostly a travel writer, I started my “wine blog” a year ago because I wanted to attend the Wine Blogger Conference in Santa Rosa and you had to have a blog to register. So overnight I became a wine blogger. The title of my blog, Come for the Wine, is actually taken from the title of my book about my adventures (and major misadventures) when I lived in Italy and the full title is Come for the Wine, Stay for the Surgery. (Although it might as well be titled: Eat Red Meat. Drink Red Wine.)

After I started the blog I really embraced the oppourtunity to learn all about all aspects of wine in the area I live. In the process I’ve met some life long friends and had more fun than I could imagine thanks to the generosity of the local wine blogging community. I don’t write reviews really, I just write about what I find interesting and fun. But it never ceases to amaze me how hopped up people can get over wine bloggers. My experience noted above was kind of a shocker. I don’t take my self that seriously so I was surprised anyone else would. But I do take learning seriously and I learned a tremendous amount in the last year because of my blog. In one year I’ve been to tastings both live and on twitter, picked grapes at crush, visited crush pads at the peak of harvest, toured wineries and vineyards, blended a bottle of Cabernet, learned about the scents in wine and wine barrels, tested different types of wine glasses, met winemakers and sampled a lot of great wine. Having a blog gives me a chance to filter and distill what I experience and an outlet to share it with anyone who is interested.

So am I a wine blogger? I don’t know. I think of myself as a writer (a travel writer mostly) with a blog, and right now it happens to be about wine. But if I keep this up I might have to admit that yes I am a wine blogger --The Accidental Wine Blogger. Hey maybe that should be the new name for my blog!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 Diageo Chateau & Estate Burgundy Tour

Recently I was invited to attend the 2010 Wines of Burgundy Tour held at the St. Francis in San Francisco. Outside the weather was dark and stormy, but inside, once the tasting commenced, things instantly became warm and cozy.
This event was for the trade, so most everyone there was well acquainted with the wines and the growing regions, but it was all new to me. I found it helpful that each table had a map indicating where the wine was from and I loved the big map at the entrance that showed the entire Burgundy region. I subsequently learned that the wines of Burgundy are classified by the vineyard location not the winery name or producer’s name.

I really appreciated the lower alcohol level of the wines. The majority were in the range of 13 to 13.5 % and I found it a huge difference, a good difference, compared to the wines of California that I normally drink. I became interested in wine when I lived in Italy and most of my wine experience is with Italian wines that have lower alcohol levels as well. Overall I found the wines of Burgundy to be true food lovers wines and more in line to my tastes. I recently completed my third Wine Sensory Experience class and believe it has deepened my ability to appreciate wine and understand the complexity of what I taste.

The vintages we tasted were mainly Grand Cru or Premier Cru from 2007 and 2008. Of the 35+ wines I tasted here are my top three whites and reds:

#1 Domaine Philippe Colin
The 2007 Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes was a delight-- a virtual vanilla cream peach puff of pleasure.
But it was the Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet 2007 that gob-smacked me. I am still thinking about it five days later. It was classic and elegant like a signature scent. If Chanel No. 5 was a wine this might be it. Despite being14% alcohol it had a food friendly demeanor with a long loving embrace of a finish. It was the essence of ambrosia. I was completely captivated by this wine. It made me smile and I burst into an impromptu song inspired by Maurice Chevalier singing ‘Thank Heavens for Little Girls’ in the movie Gigi--
“Thank heavens for white burgundy
The grapes ripen in the most delightful ways!!”
The gentleman pouring thought my song was hilarious and agreed it was the kind of wine that can possess people. So I guess my response was not all that unusual. (Thea Dwell was there too and she can vouch for this exchange.)

# 2 Domaine Jean-Louis Chavy
Puligny Montrachet Cru Les Perrieres 2007
Ooh La La – I liked this one very much. It was a harmonic convergence of wild honey and spicy tropical fruit, with a good balance of acidity and oak. It reminded me of a light flakey croissant with a creamy butterscotch finish. All breakfast pastries should be this good.

# 3 Domaine Alain Chavy
Grand Vin de Bourgogne Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres 2007-- Honestly, I don’t know what all the designations on the labels meant, but the wine needed no translation--It was full of flavor, bright citrus and crisp apple with a tiny hint of musk scent. This was a wine that begged you to order room service and spend the day getting to know one another.

# 1 Domaine Georges Roumier
Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru - Clos de la Bussiere 2007
Amazing. I wanted to run-away with this wine. I found hints of chocolate and leather and what I wrote in my notes as “warm puppy belly”. And that was it. It had that happy scent of warmth and pure joy a puppy has that makes you want to just to snuggle up to it. Okay, so maybe I should have been spitting more before I came up with that description. But a restaurant owner I met tasting at the same table agreed that warm puppy belly summed up that wine most succinctly, so don’t be surprised if you see that as a tasting note somewhere soon, paired with pork belly or something like that. But remember, you heard it here first.

#2 Domaine Jean Grivot
Nuits-St. Georges 1Er Cru “Aux Boudots” 2007
This wine was the epitome of French to me: Pepper and spice and everything nice with light tannins and a bouquet to take me away. Catherine Deneuve in a glass.

#3 Domaine De Courcel
Pommard Les Rugiens Premier Cru 2007
In my notes I wrote: “Wow!” Honest and bold. It smelled like French teen spirit and it rocked in a most delightful way!

Can your palate change in an afternoon? Probably not, but you can certainly be awakened. Later that same evening I tried a Cabernet with a 14.5% alcohol level and it was like drinking syrup or Smuckers jam straight from the jar. Ugh! In the past I liked this heavy style of wine, but suddenly I was put off by it. I also tried a Pinot Noir made in Dry Creek I’d recently bought, but now it seemed way too harsh and it just made me sad to drink it.

I longed for the refined and delicate French wines I’d had that afternoon. There was something ethereal, transcendent about them. I wanted to experience more. So thank you France for the wake up call. It was a truly educational and palate expanding. And thank you to Marie Griffin and Jill Deaver for extending me an invitation. Next stop France!

After I posted this I saw an article that stated this would be the last year Diageo would be the importer of he wines. So that’s sad news, but now I feel even more fortunate that I was able to taste and experience these exceptional wines that for the most part are well out of my price range.

CORRECTION: Although Diageo has chosen not to participate in the 2008 or 2009 Bordeaux futures, they WILL continue bringing these fine Burgundies into the States.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wine, Women, and Italy

A few weeks a go I attended a book event at Book Passage featuring Susan Van Allen and her new book 100 Paces In Italy Every Woman Should Go. Susan gave great slide presentation on the goddesses in Italian art and tips for women traveling to Italy. The event included a wine tasting of Ruvei Barbara d’Alba made by Marchesi di Barolo, one of the women owned wineries mentioned in the book. Marchesi di Barolo located in the Piedmont region is run by Anna Abbona whose family has owned the winery in the city of Barolo since 1929. The estate of Cantine dei Marchesi includes some of the finest vineyards in the district.

In honor of International Women’s Day which is (today) Monday March 8th I am going to open a bottle and toast the special women in my life past and present.

So here’s to you ladies. Enjoy a wine from a woman run winery or winemaker today, and get yourself a copy of 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go by Susan Van Allen.


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