The Stupid Bore was OK; Mondo Vino is better

super-bowl-ring.jpgWRONG!!! The Jints won. The Pats lost. If you love dee-fence you were on the edge of your seat. If you hate the hype (guess who) you kept nodding off (like me). At least the wines were excellent.
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2004 Ojai Vineyard Westerly Sauvignon Blanc
~$20 (at 2003 Wine Cask tasting): Grassy, lively acid, pretty well balanced. Complemented the salsa and chips and roasted peppers. 13% alcohol.
1995 Frederic Esmonin Mazy Chambertin $40 way back when: Such a disappointment from what coulda shoulda mighta been. Brown red color. Not a nice nose. Tired flavors. Un-quaffable. Went back twice and it was even closer to le morte. Esmonin-Mazy.jpegMazy – or Mazis – is the legendary Gran Cru vineyard. You can keep La Tache and the other DRC slopes. This is the one. Unfortunately, Frederic Esmonin is not the producer. I purchased a mixed case of 1995 and 1996 burgs by Esmonin and a couple other vignerons reviewed in an earlier blog entry. Only the 1996 Esmonin Ruchottes has been memorable [ed. see preceding link]. This was so far over the hill not even Randy Moss could have caught it. It is wines like this that drive me back to Becky Wasserman!
WilliamsSelyem97PNRBk.jpg1997 Williams Selyem Riverblock Pinot Noir probably $50 on release, north of $200 today: God bless Dotore’ and his bulging wine cave. He bagged this bottle forcing me and the missus to guess. We agreed right away on New World. The smoky nose and flavors were so brawny that I leaned towards a rustic and somewhat silky Carneros pinot, producer unknown. Big Lou nailed it. Is it Williams Selyem? Yes it is. She also called a pretty good game as guest analyst noting that the TV timeout allowed Belichick to thoroughly preview his challenge to Giants having 12 men on the field question during the ridiculously long and endless commercial break. The Cheater challenged and won. Not that it made a difference. Back to the W/S wine. Once again this shows W/S pinot noir wines age wonderfully and rank right at the top. Of course, Riverblock is the best Rochioli grapes W/S gets these days.
…and a couple more in the preceding and following days…

2005 Tablas Creek Bergeron ~$25
: It is Rousanne. It is delicious. Middle weight with an orange and lemon peel nose. Fresh and high acid. I guess they do not make it in this style – of the Savoie – that often. I really enjoyed this wine. Please suh can I have summah? 13.5%. Now how hard was that?
crios06.jpg2006 Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec $10: Young red wine probably produced by tens of thousands cases. Middle weight. Tastes like Syrah and/or Carignane. I do not know what to expect from Argentine Malbec. I know the Argentine vintners are making moves to export more so they must Parker-ize their wines. Here is an example. The good news is it is not so ripe as to be undrinkable (like a couple of Paso/Napa wines I can think of). 13.5%
MONDO VINO…directed by Jonathan Nossiter, released 2004.
I missed this the first time around and there are numerous posts on the featured “players” and film reviews online. I wrote mine before reading the others. I remember the hubub in the press but never saw the film. I certainly enjoyed it in 2008. Can’t say much has changed except the Mondavis, who are portrayed as wine Gods with all the powers of Zeus and company (a role they all seem to relish on camera). They are no longer the Mondavi Winery Mondavis. They are now the former “international imperialists” who “secretly” investigated three Italian wine families, two of whom were the Antinoris and the Frescobaldis, to decide which would be their lucky partner in Luce.
Of course, we all know now that these kinds of theatrical exercises in corporate and personal excess will never be repeated again under this name. Here Tim Mondavi explains away the bad blood that spilled out of the Ornellaia deal and James Suckling avoids claiming creation of the term Super-Tuscan. Stay to the end and an Italian wine merchant tells what he really thinks about wine globalization and all this deep pockets whoop-de-doo.
We also see how the Mondavis found their tipping point in the Languedoc. The project they had proposed to undertake, apparently under the guidance of Michel Rolland, failed fabulously as French democracy prevailed and the rich Americans were sent packing by the new Communist mayor who fulfilled his most important campaign promise…preserving the indigenous wine industry from outside interlopers. Near the end of the film we learn Mondavi friend and consultant Rolland is the new partner with a Bordelaise in a new mega-wine-development in the same area.
Politics plays an odd role in this film on wine. The French director Jonathan Nossiter (who is American born but internationally educated) lets the viewer know that the Antinoris and the Frescobaldis were ardent Fascistas in WWII. The scenes are almost comic as the younger the family member is on camera the stronger the historical truth is acknowledged. The older folks downplay Grandpa’s support for the fascists as simply going with the flow. The grandkids leave no doubt the old man loved Mussolini. The director must have thought he hit a vein. saluto_al_duce.jpgHe juxtaposes the unfortunately fascist Italian patricians with an unfortunately prejudiced Argentine family (it is the world of wine). Isn’t it always just a little creepy when upper class folks living in a “modern” nation feel they have to prove they are not really anti-semitic? The director asks the particular Argentine vigneron about Peron’s friendship with Mussolini. He clumsily answers “hey Peron really didn’t have any problem with the Jews”. While it makes for titillating cinema Nossiter commits a mistake by painting nations and peoples with too broad a brush.
Mondo Vino sets up fairly simply. You have the good guys like Neal Rosenthal who nearly chokes on his pastrami screeching about the Parker-ization of wines globally and the imminent disappearance of terroir. Another good guy is the Languedoc vigneron daumas-gassac.jpgAime Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac who successfully led the resistance against the Mondavis overwhelming his town.
Then you have the bad guys. Michel Rolland laughs all the way to the bank…day after day. Micro-oxygenation apparently means monetizing bullshit in French. Robert Parker plays the do-gooder bumpkin with roots firmly planted in the radical 60s. He aims to “level the field” and remove wine appreciation from the cold pecuniary grip of the bloodless distributors. The problem is he loves the attention, the awards, as well as rubbing shoulders with, and being one of, the big names in wine. He is a dupe of his own dictatorial (fascistic?) palate. In a poignant scene his very good friend Michel Rolland – who Parker proclaims gets no benefit from their friendship when Parker “objectively” tastes Rolland’s wines with Rolland at the table – laughingly (this is one happy dude) talks about how the wine merchants of Pomerol should give Parker his own plaque in the village for all the $$ he has made them.
Neal Rosenthal declares Parker’s love for Merlot dictates his palate preferences…along with the rest of the wine world that covets his 90+ points and the mountain of orders that follow. There does seem to have been some film fallout for Mssr. Rolland who has had to “re-organize” as they say in the business world.
Mondo Vino is not Mondo Cane, the legendary international film of my youth. It is more Michael Moore than David Cronenberg. Yes, I am saying that Mondo Cane and its many successors were forerunners of the Cronenberg style.
In real life things are seldom so crisp and clear. The Mondavis are not bad people. Michel Rolland and Robert Parker cannot possibly be this buffoonish (can they?). Michael Mondavi describes the family’s flaw as making business decisions based on family emotions. photo_05.jpgThe director definitely captured some very good moments if wine and the business of wine intrigues you. Probably the best moments are conversations between burgundy vigneron Hubert de Montille and his daughter Alix who compete for family leadership as most crusty. Of course, theirs is the only wine I would like to try after watching the film. Read about the Montille estate in a blurb from the Beaune Imports website.
Rosenthal is right. Terroir before “Parker-ization”.
Hats off to Nossiter for making a film worth watching.
RENT IT

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