Krisses in Rioja: Lopez de Heredia y Gonzalo Gonzalo

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the LOVE barrel in Jerez

The Krisses took an early summer trip to Spain. tBoW has selected from their notes and fotos for your reading pleasure. As usual, Kris-B is el voz and Kris-A is la fotografera. We join them after visiting Jerez and the Sherry region, traveling as the seagulls fly to San Sebastian and Basque country, and having arrived in La Rioja.

Lopez de Heredia: Our last full day in Rioja took us to the town of Haro, where traditional Rioja wine royalty is based. Lopez de Heredia

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Lopez de Heredia cellars

is the granddaddy of them all, founded in the late 1800s. We had few qualms about paying for a tour because a bottle of wine from their top vineyard is included in the cost [ed. tBoW is fond of LdH Vina Gravonia, a white wine]. We saw all their old barrel fermenters, traditional filters made out of bundles of grape vine stems(!), large old blending barrels (which are truly massive), and the half mile or so of tunnels where they store their wines aging in old barrels and in bottle. Lots of penicillin mold to help regulate humidity and spider webs to catch moths that eat corks. Lopez de Heredia’s “young” wine is released after five or six years. The youngest WHITE wine is released after 10 years. The reds are kept even longer. I think the most recent release of the Gran Reserva is from ’94. The rosé is even kept for ten years!

Gonzalo Gonzalo: Today was the day we’d been looking forward to. The day we meet Gonzalo Gonzalo. The winemaker who signs all his emails with “hiiihaaw.” The guy who films himself harvesting his grapes alone (a whole vineyard he harvests by himself!) with a handlebar mustache, throwing a cowboy hat in the air, all while rocking out. He could not possibly live up to our expectations, could he? After meeting in the town square we stopped by his little old aunt’s house to “pick up money.” She gave him about 30 euros, so not very much, making the stop seem like a weird one to make. He showed us the basement of her apartment/house, telling us it was built over a Roman road. Old Roman columns had been incorporated into the room’s architecture, which used to be a taberna. A poem had been translated from Spanish to Latin and painted on the wall.

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Sherry bodega

It basically said to go to the country side and enjoy life there, instead of working in the city. Gonzalo is featured in Alice Feiring’s book Naked Wine. His bodega is a noted party stop for winemakers and the fortunate few.

We made a stop at his tiny warehouse at the end of the street to pick up some wines and a copy of the book he wrote on the wine industry before walking to the old bodega. We sat down at the long table and started to taste some wines. He was not exactly the carefree guy he portrayed in his emails and videos. In between discussing the wines, he told us how his father was ill and in a wheelchair because of all the chemicals he had used growing his grapes. Gonzalo is 100% organic with his own wines. It seemed like the wine business was kind of depressing for him, as he said he’s more into growing herbal medicines for people who are sick and then mailing them the plants for free. He made it seem like making wine was not easy at all from a commercial sense. He explained there is always a black sheep in the family. I think he was talking about himself. Gonzalo Gonzalo is one complicated dude.

His wines were quite good. We had an old wine he calls Orgullo, which is probably 100% Viura. It was ten-years-old, the first white wine he ever made.

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Krisses would never take this foto!

It was very good. We compared it to the current vintage of white yeti, which is the same wine as the Orgullo, just younger. The white yeti was a bit thin but will likely become like the relatively weighty Orgullo in a few years. He makes a fairly standard Rioja (“Gran Cerdo,” named after the bankers who gave him problems early on) , which is quite good. A very fruity, but tasty, rosé (“Pink Kong”), an amarone style, and some crazy late harvest dessert wines. He found some old tempranillo of his father’s that he thinks rocks even though it was made from “toxic vines”.  We tried another one of his dad’s old wines and an orange wine from Castilla Y Leon. He told us how he doesn’t drink that much anymore because his liver is in really bad condition. He loves jurançon dessert wine.

We then walked with him to the “new bodega”, built 30 years ago by his dad to house concrete wine vats. He quickly grabbed the wines we wanted to purchase from him. We asked him how much he wanted for the three wines and he deferred to us kind of sheepishly, saying he had no idea. We thought that 20 euros was a fair price given that he sells his wine wholesale for 1-2 euros and asked him for change for a fifty. He had exactly thirty euros on him (the money from his aunt), so it was meant to be.

tBoW here:What a lovely trip! Many thanks to Kris-B for sharing his travel notes. Many followup questions… to follow. tBoW recommends when traveling make it a wine tour. The only stops we like to add are castles which are often located in wine country. Let’s look at a Gonzalo Gonzalo video showing how he gets into the proper frame of mind for harvesting grapes. First job is to setup the turntable.

Fada Day, Birthday, Playboy Jazz, July 4th!! Must be SUMMER.

who yo fadaWEB wine grapes viognier vermouth sicily rousanne piemonte paso robles northern italy marsanne grenache blanc Summer just gets started and THEN… it just bombs forward with special days and celebrations. So many corks get pulled it takes concentration to keep up with the luxuriously warm evenings. No wonder Dotoré loses his mind. The water in SoCal is a delicious 70 degrees. Someone said it’s the precursor to an El Niño Winter. Yellow Tail running off Newport Beach and Great Whites are biting… poles and people. So we drink wine and hang with our homies. Here is what we been tasting.

vergano vermouth frontCROPW wine grapes viognier vermouth sicily rousanne piemonte paso robles northern italy marsanne grenache blanc Vergano Vermouth Bianco NV 500ML $43: LA Times wine tout SIrene V. wrote a blurb on Vermouths. As usual she’s a day late and a dollar short! The venerable critic covered domestic vermouths. For data more substantive try Goldun’s own prose: “Vermouth is the only fortified and aromatized wine with a precise historical origin. It was first concocted 1786 in Turin by Benedetto Carpano. Since then the Vermouth has become one of the most famous drinks in the world both as aperitif or as an ingredient in cocktails. Its name derives from the German word “Vermuth” which means Absinthe, one of its main components.” Absinthe? If you must have more info try here. A pot store opened behind tBoW’s favorite Mexican food palace. Back to SIrene V. We would bet dinner at Faith & Flower the real Vermouth wiener is this Piemonte effort. Who knew vermouth was an aperitif and not something to avoid in your ultra dry Martini. This Vergano drink brought to us by Eno Fine Wine is just perfect anytime anywhere. Some anise. Some Tonic. What balance. Over cubes. Dangerously delicious. 16%

Rami 09WEB wine grapes viognier vermouth sicily rousanne piemonte paso robles northern italy marsanne grenache blanc Azienda Agrocola COS Rami 12.5%: Orange wine from Sicily. This is really terrific wine. Southern Italy kicks booty one more time. This would work in Fall as well as Summer. Lovely orange color [ed. Goldun tells why, no? Si.] with delicate spicy flavor, acidic, ripe fruit but NOT citric. More like kiwi-lite. Even better next evening. We panned the COS red last week as too zin-like for tBoW’s palate. This shit is so good we want more. 12%

TC CT 2011WEB wine grapes viognier vermouth sicily rousanne piemonte paso robles northern italy marsanne grenache blanc 2011 Tablas Creek Cote de Tablas Blanc $24 (Fine Wine House): You MUST decant the reds if you MUST drink them. You should wait! Not one is at full potential even at 10 years. They need 15 or more. However, DO NOT FORGET THE WHITES from this top Paso estate. Creamy and lean at the same time. Light oak (we think). Almost one quarter each Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne. The contribution from each varietal is distinct and harmonious. The secret is out. Sit on the reds and drink the whites without hesitation or shame. A bravo for the 13.1% alcohol level.

As a great man once said “Keep the party hat on!” That would be Mungo Jerry’s lil’ bra’… the ole BeeDee.

Southern Italy in Southern Utah

mario balotelli headerCROPW wine grapes value value value u20 umbria southern italy sangiovese northern italy merlot Getting a decent martini in Utah is almost as tough as Mexico winning in the World Cup round of 16. Neither is gonna happen. While the World watched soccer, tBoW played five consecutive rounds of golf in St George Utah. Each course was more frightening than the previous. Each course was a thrill. The state of Utah is kind of unique too. Thrilling in its own poly-amoric way.

Forget about buying wine in Mormonia. We purchased a few bottles in Mesquite Nevada which is 40 minutes south of red canyon country. I guess you need to get outside a major metro center to find the really rare stuff. Sitting on the racks at Lees Discount Liquor were two special Tuscan wines, reviewed below. It is against Utah law to pull a cork in a Utah restaurant on a wine not purchased in Utah. Thankfully, the waiter asked us without winking to assure him that “these wines were purchased in Utah correct?”

Southern Utah has beautiful terrain. St George is very near Zion and two hours from Bryce Canyon. St George has its own red rock spectacle Snow Canyon. This is terrific place to visit if you like hiking or golfing. Or you just like to turn in by 10:00 PM. Here are the wines.

tenutadelterre12WEB wine grapes value value value u20 umbria southern italy sangiovese northern italy merlot 2012 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso $19: Dark and powerful like Mario Balotelli [ed. see above]. Plenty of life left in this brooder. Here is what Steve Goldun says on his Eno Fine Wine website: “Etna’s magic is all about embracing the local terroir and indigenous varieties planted here thousands of years ago by the islands Greek conquerors. Terre Nere’s founders and present owners, Marco De Grazia and his brother Iano, first came to Etna 30 years ago and are credited as being the first to discover the potential of these vineyards and producing the first commercial release of Terre Nere (Italian for black earth) in 2002. Farming is organic and yields are kept at around 35 hectolitres per hectare.” Etna has attracted notable winemakers like Frank Cornelissen whose wine has been reviewed on this site. There is plenty to read about on Etna wines.Falanghina 2010WEB1 wine grapes value value value u20 umbria southern italy sangiovese northern italy merlot Here is another report from Food and Wine. This is an exciting region that is a likely travel destination for Mr. and Mrs. tBoW. U20. 14%

2010 Beneventano IGT Falanghina “Flora” I Pentri $20: Fleshy exotic white wine from Campania near Napoli, made organistically sans oak. Marzipan flavors. Unusual, old vine wine. Big enough to complement plenty of foods. Yummy. Very good value. 14%

COS 2011WEB wine grapes value value value u20 umbria southern italy sangiovese northern italy merlot 2009 COS Terasuolo $24: Another Eno pick. Another tremendous Southern Italy value. This makes the Etna wine seem like a Rosé. This Sicilian hot blooded drink is a bit too zin-like for tBoW but others love it. The O in COS refers to Occhipinti and you know how we feel about her. 14%

2004 Lamborghini Campoleone Rosso $25: This is one of the bottles purchased in Mesquite. Fortunately, we were able to locate it in Los Angeles at our local hang Woodland Hills Wine Co. Half Sangiovese and half Merlot from Umbria (not in the south). The wine is earthy with cherry flavors. A tres bicchieri rating from Gambero Rosso which is the Italian premium rating source. Wine Spectator could learn a lot from these guys. 14%

Whether you like futbol or not… this Ronaldo tribute is worth a view [ed. the Brit announcer prefers ray-naaal-doe].

FANTASIA Wows the Playboy Jazz Festival

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Tina Turner II

Remember that skinny single mom who won the American Idol competition back when the artist was more important than the judges? That was a decade ago. She headlined Sunday night at Playboy Jazz and knocked out the rest of the day’s lineup. Poor George Benson – who is a perennial crowd favorite – had to follow her.

We did not know what to expect from her. We figured George Benson would play Masquerade as he worked his way through a playlist that hasn’t changed much over time. But what would Fantasia bring?

She hit the stage running. An amalgam of Tina Turner and James Brown, she did not stop until the stage rotated away from a crowd that was almost as drenched as she in love and sweat. When she moved to the cat walk between the super boxes and garden boxes she brought so much energy the local security had to move in… much to everyone’s disappointment. Is she a Diva? Has to be doesn’t she, even though she presented herself as a charged up woman who loves to serve the mob. Work ‘em up and leave ‘em soaking.

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proud ‘n loud

Midway through her performance she handed the mike to some dude at the edge of the stage while she rocked her body to the band’s locomotion. Just as she reached for it the guy says, in time, “Fantasia got a big old butt!” She smiled broadly and went on rocking. Between songs she walked back to the exact spot to say “Hey. You think I got a big butt.” You be the judge. If you get a chance to see her on a big stage like the Bowl, where she can take over the place like she did Sunday, do it. Best end-of-day-start-of-evening act we have seen at the Bowl in 20 years.

Playboy Jazz is a great way to check in on the city, how people are doing and feeling, what they’re eating, drinking and smoking. PBJ is a place to see a mix of jazz and pop performers. We always look for the trending acts along with the grizzled vets. George Lopez is a fine MC marking a new era. We hope he sticks around a while.

Jazz sax beauty wine grapes Juan de Marcos and his Afro Cuban All Stars were pumping at methedrine cha cha speed as we arrived. Buena Vista Social Club pedigree hopped up to get the blood moving. We had high expectations for Jon Batiste who came around next. His Stay Human group needs musical focus. His big finish had on and his melodica prowling the cat walk with his sax playing pal. Meh.

Jose James has a voice and singing style reminiscent of Bill Withers. He is a pop performer playing and singing his own R&B compositions. We liked the selections and the performance but it lacked something. James had the hottest nameless woman singing backup, too. jose james1WEB wine grapes Even though she stood next to him through the set she was never introduced or given a solo. Moody elevator R&B jazz tunes perhaps worth a chase. The day’s veteran jazz potboiler group PRISM followed featuring Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks. Holland played with Miles and everyone wants to play with Eubanks. Three songs comprised their set. No vocals. Just old school serious jazz: bass, guitar, drums, piano.

Lonnie Smith cane 1WEB wine grapes Dr. Lonnie Smith the Legend, who like Holland has also been playing 50 years, turned in a decent set of ho hum songs. The capper got the crowd involved when he pulled what appeared to be a steel cane; maybe a two iron, and proceed to pound it rhythmically. The device is for real and can be sampled here. He was obviously having a good time… and so did the Bowl.

Invention / Convention and Personal Taste

conveninvent3WEB wine grapes Whenever you host a tasting party do you assemble a play list of music chosen to enhance the experience? How do you choose your music: fit it to the tastes of the imagined guests, or fit it to what the host enjoys?

This choice is faced by wine snobs so often that we must develop a resolve and thickness of skin like a rutting rhino. It goes right along with which wines to open and the banishment of perfumes and colognes for guests. In the world of commerce and revenue generation the owner of the enterprise faces the same choice; personal taste versus broader appeal. It has been widely recognized that Robert Parker and his acolyte Michelle Roland changed the taste of wines in much of the world by awarding high scores to heavily oaked heavyweight reds. Rolland made a career as an internationally coveted advisor to Old and New World wineries. Let me get to my point. The  popular choice will almost always be in conflict with the right choice. Wait! Too much independence in that choice?

Case in point for you to decide.

Eberhard Weber is a jazz musician who was dissatisfied with the quality of sound he could coax out of a conventional standup bass. So he invented his own electric upright bass which produced a “sustained tone.” He has stuck with this instrument since the 1970s. He also likes to drum on his bass enjoying the rich sound [ed. you lifted most of this from wikipedia, didn't you?].

Compare to the following press release…

“Kathie Lee Gifford has launched her own wine line. She says the wines are not acid, or bitter, or have an aftertaste, or are ‘interesting.’ They are just easy to drink. There is Gifft Chardonnay and Gifft Red Blend. Both wines sell for $20 and are produced by Sheid Family Wines in Monterey County. She says 10% of the profit will be donated to charity.”

Ten percent to charity? I suppose that is the normal standard. She is not interested in a wine that is interesting or that has what we would call an acidic spine. Kathie Lee and Hoda suggest they throw down a glass of wine while unearthing deeply seeded cultural poo. The Sheid operation is the best choice for this since they have the mega-production facility that can bottle millions of Gifft wines and they also have no issues with P-L-O-N-K.

Here are some interesting wines recently tasted.

via roseCROPWEB wine grapes 2013 Vie Vite $15 (Whole Foods): Provencal blend of 30% Cinsault, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% and Carignan. Tasty, Serve chilled. Go to the website and see the hot chix you can meet if you drink this wine. 12.5%

TC Dianthus 2013WEB wine grapes 2012 Tablas Creek Dianthus $22: The TC profile of serious wines, even Rose. Blend of majority Mourvedre, Grenache, and Counoise from oldest plantings on site. Shows the quality of what are now 20 year old vines. Formidable. Bracing. Lovely. 14.5%

2011 arpegeWEB wine grapes 2011 Domaine du Val de Saône Arpege $23: Garagiste buy. Blending Chardonnay and Aligote. The Aligote firms up the Chard adding the mineral quality. Wine by Guy Bussière whoever that is. Dude on Cellar Tracker says “Smells like saison after opening- opens up beautifully. Tart green apple, honey, smoke, yeast. Very tart- needs food. Really liked this.” We also liked it.

2011 defaix vaillonsWEB wine grapes 2011 Defaix Vaillons $22 (Eno Fine Wine): Superb Premier Cru Chablis. All the steel fermentation with a firm bottom and upright pillaring. Yeh, makes no sense. Trying to capture the firmness of this wine. Like the great Belzoni the early 19th century plunderer of Egypt. 13%

Eberhard Weber’s Electric Upright Bass would be too far out for Kathy Lee. However, his contribution to modern jazz certainly is a gifft.