Posts belonging to Category Spain



Politics & Wine: Malibu About Face! Timing Raises Eyebrows.

my attorney Bernie

my attorney Bernie

The Malibu AVA Association won their coveted AVA status August 19, one week before the California Coastal Commission announced there would be no more planting of vines permitted in Malibu. The AVA Committee was preparing a publicity campaign to rally local Malibu vintners to join their AVA Association when they learned County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky zev_plansCROPNOPEWEBhad filed a proposal with the Coastal Commission to prohibit further planting in Malibu. Zev, a master politician who will not seek another term as one of the Five Kings [LA’s five County Supervisors], already had the votes lined up, of course, to approve his motion.

The AVA Committee which includes Malibu developer and perennial Coastal Commission petitioner Don Schmitz organized his own meeting. the idea was to strengthen the vintner’s position by organizing the “horse people” and the “organic farmers” who were also included in Zev’s proposal. [ed. no anti-vaccine folks?]. Zev made the predictable concession. The horse and organic people were removed from his proposal. The wineries remained. And that my friends, is how the political game is played. Grant concessions to the small groups but keep the cufffs on the bigger ones. Do not count out Don Schmitz. He’s gone more than a couple rounds with the Coastal Commission.

What does the ban on further vineyard development mean for the Malibu region? It took three years for the AVA Association to win approval for the right to include “Malibu Coast” on the labels of wineries that include a high percentage of grapes [ed. you don’t know do you? I could know I just don’t want to look it up, OK?] grown in Agoura and on the Coast. Things could get grim.

Cut to the cheese. Wineries with current valid permits will be able to continue. They will also be all that are left in Malibu. Wineries that did not pull permits when they planted are screwed. There are approximately 50 AVA Association winery members. As many as half could be put out of business. That will severely diminish the ability of the Malibu AVA Association to make an impact on the new region. The entire Malibu AVA is within the Coastal Commission boundaries.

tBoW supports the Malibu AVA because it establishes standards for commercial activities, production scales and quality metrics. At least 85% of grapes in Malibu AVA labeled wines must be sourced from the Malibu AVA. Just like they do it in France. Sourced wines will dominate the shelves at the Cornell Wine tasting room. Malibu the AVA and Malibu wines could become some kind of oddball, hardly known wine region where people plant vineyards for reasons mostly having to with design and style. Napa on a tiny scale.

Sourcing juice outside Malibu was one of the reasons to establish the AVA so that wineries that exclusively or primarily made wine from 85% Malibu vineyards would distinguish themselves. Wineries with permits will still be able to source juice outside the ‘Bu. Seems logical that wines labeled Malibu AVA will become more scarce and, perhaps, more costly?

Wines recently tasted from the rest of the wine world we care about that are worthy of reportage.

laclarine12012WEB2012 La Clarine Josephine and Mariposa $26: If you love the idea of a tame English garden or a wild plot of herbs then this is your wine. We cannot recall such a pronounced scent of savory herbs that is repeated in the glass. “The final blend is 72% grenache and 28% mourvedre. The aromas are classic, old-school grenache – pure, high-toned fruit, some dried herb, and wet, chalky stones.” the winemakers love the yellow slate where the vines grow. La Clarine making natural wines the natural way in the Sierra foothills; “adding no yeast, sulfur dioxide, oak chips, enzymes or concentrates in the cellar, and no chemicals, fertilizers or tillage in our vineyard.” We will buy again. So exotic! 14.6% without the burn.

sperino10WEB2010 Proprietà Sperino “Uvaggio” Costa della Sesia $28 (Eno Fine Wine): 65% Nebbiolo, 20% Velspina and 15% Croatina. The blending of Nebbiolo is a soft, sweet and sexy revelation! 100% Nebbiolo now seems to tBoW like 100% Cabernet. Irrelevant. Jim Moore [ed. isn’t his wine label also named Uvaggio?] always said “Cabernet Sauvignon – a great blending grape.” This wine is from Lessona which is one of those “off label” Piemonte communities that grow Nebbiolo, also know as Spanna in the Italian pre-alps. These communities are Gattinara, Ghemme, Valtelina, Bramaterra and Lessona. At least these are the one we know now. Forget Barolo and Barbaresco! Go north! Here is a very good link to learn more about the region and the label. 13.5%

punset07WEB2007 Punset Barbaresco $65 (online): High toned stuff. Pure 100% Nebbiolo from the heartland. Yes it is sinewy, even muscular. Yes it is palate pumping. And yes Nebbiolo wines like these have lost their spot in tBoW’s world of Neb. LKike the discovery of communities like Aloxe-Corton,= and Mercurey in Burgundy and producers like Clois de Moines, we are learning to appreciate particular wines in our favorite varietals that are not quite but almost off the grid. And that are ready to drink right dang now… and next year. Same vintage. This Punset was Parker’s highest scoring 2007 Barbaresco but, y’know, we don’t value Parker’s POV. No sir. [ed. We definitely do not]. Plus this wine needs a lot of air. 14%

pezaWEB2011 Peza do Rei Mencia $20 (Garagiste): Described as the Pinot Noir of Spain, after we sipped and pointed out the balance, medium weight and flavors unlike the riper Tempranillo or more fleshy and rich Garnacha. Wine that we would buy if we saw it. The back label states “eight acres of vertiginous south facing slate terraces in the rugged and beautiful Ribeira Sacra.” Very good value and, even better, a new varietal for tBoW! “Situated at the foot of the Biellese pre-alpine hills, the soil of the Lessona district still contains ancient marine sands that make it one of the most acidic in the entire world of wine production.” 13.5%

Next up… What if the NFL ran wine Tastings?!?

Somehow this Dylan classic seems apropos. Special thanks for ‘Bu News courtesy of the sanest vintner in the ‘Bu, Charles Schetter.

The Fall, Rise and Fall of Beaujolais

she ruled the 60s

she ruled the 60s

Beaujolais has been forgotten more often than whatshisname. Beauj wines were top shelf in the 14th century until the Burgundy farmers chased the Gamay Noir grape – crossed with the blessed Pinot Noir – and its wannabe producers south. Gamay lost its prestige in the wake of Marie Antoinette’s gehackt kopf.

Gamay grown south of Burgundy can produce a lovely light to medium weight red wine with floral qualities and the requisite acid to buck it all up. Until the 1960s. Yearning for fanfare the Beaujolais producers led by Georges Dubouef came up with Beaujolais Nouveau which became fashionable as Twiggy. And half as interesting. This pompy silly era was Fall #1 for Beaujolais in the Modern Era: Beaj Nouveau. Like the Beatles, still popular.

The Rise. In 2006 the earth around Beaujolais began to move. Suddenly, gratefully, amidst an avalanche of rocketing collector prices and the relentless quest to win a Parker 100 point score, Beaujolais winemakers began producing some very nice wines. The value quotient (VQ) was an island in a sea of [ed. better metaphor please] an outpost in a wilderness of [ed. not wilderness] an outpost in the back country of forgotten appellations. Gamay returned to wine snobs. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages were superb. The ten crus offered more variety than Bourdeaux along with far better pricing and far more availability. Superb Gamay cru wines were priced near $15. Beaujolais was on the RISE.

Fall #2. The 2008 economic crash took about 18 months for Parker and the Wine Speculator to concede the 100 point game was over. Tostado. This should have been the tipping point when Beaujolais secured its new position as leader in the quality and value game. But it did not. Instead, the producers raised prices. Dumb. Da Dumb. Dumb. The market was in their hands… and they let it slip away. The last vintages we bought were 2009 2010. We are tasting through them now with no plans to replenish.

Very good Beaujolais costs close to $30. At the same time we are buying outrageously great Chablis for the same price. And super Red Burg for the same price and up to $10 more… except we are buying wines Beaujolais will never become, except for Clos de la Roilette which we still buy. Welcome to the new top shelf.

Here are two more wines from the Not Ready For Prime Time Tasting.

Ridge-Montebello-00WEB2000 Ridge Montebello $120: A-L-M-O-S-T R-E-A-D-Y. At 14 years this wine can be enjoyed. Ridge Montebello is regarded as the Lafite of US wines. Justifiably so. This wine was gorgeous, not voluptious, not lean. Classically beautiful, something like Lauren Bacall. Perfect California mountain blend with just enough oak to give it the classic style. Last domestic Cabernet we had like this was the 1987 Dunn Howell in mag. Dunn is more rustic. Montebello more refined. Truly spectacular wine and not Bordeaux. Honestly. At $120 and being the benchmark for California GREATNESS in wine, this is a bargain. 13.5%

Tondonia-91WEB1991 Lopez de Herredia Tondonia $105 (sorry, it’s a secret for now): tBoW asked Goldun will this wine be ready in another 10 years? “Maybe 100” came the comeback. 23 years in the bottle and the color is not even golden. Yellow as a five year old Chablis. Flavors enchanting but the wine is n-o-t r-e-a-d-y. We must have another bottle taking into account predicted auto-longevity and the likelihood I will be around to enjoy with the Geezer Troop. 13%

Maybe this could also be “the discrete charm of the Beaujolais?” Cue the electric sitars please. It’s all… so beautiful.

Drinking Wines Before Their Time

properly aged

properly aged

A bracingly warm summer evening in SoCal and an assembly of tasting mavens. Heat driven visions for an epic evening celebrating accomplishments. All that was needed was a collection of wines to taste, discern
Orson Wine

Orson Wine

and discuss their mysteries. We had them… both. But where was the moon?

The wines that were opened showed kind of tight and NOT READY, excepting the Andre Robert champagne that was popped first. Champagne is always ready isn’t it? The wines most anticipated were just not there yet. What does it mean to be “not ready?” The wine needs more time to round out, integrate, come together, settle down, find its equilibrium, mature. Bartod-Chambolle-07WEBOr, if you are biodynamically literate the wine needs to be in harmony with the lunar cycle. Let’s face it. Astrology.

2007 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Aux Beaux Bruns $111: Don’t do it they said as he pulled the cork. Big and brooding. Like a Beethoven portrait. Pinot fruit so deep it could not be fathomed. Tight. Weight without mass. A sleeping warlock. Never opened up. Now we will never see it again. 13%

coldstream-06WEB2006 Mac Forbes Coldstream Yarra Valley Pinot Noir $70: By contrast this dusty, leanish drink was fascinating. Definitely tasted like Pinot Noir. Had the Burgundian style with light middle weight liquid and dark Pinot flavors. Not exactly forest floor and definitely not from the cherry/strawberry clan. Savory flavors. Yarra Valley wine country is low (100′) and high (1500′). It is a cool region so Pinot Noir grows well. This bottle pleased almost everyone. The winery is Mac Forbes and they have a young crew. The great about tasting this wine at $70 was to have it near the Chambolle at $111. Neither is quite ready. Which would you rather open tonight? A treat to have them both on the same evening. 13.5%

Malvar-2011WEB2011 Viñas Ambiz Malvar (Maceración Carbónica) $24: We have been waiting to try this bottle of orange wine. Made from a white grape indigenous to the Madrid region. The story is in the winemaking. Fabio Bartolomei reveals his “greatest secrets” at this website. The back label is almost as striking as the wine color. YOU MUST READ IT. He presents a list of what is in the bottle – “fermented grape juice”, what he did and did not do to the wine, and what he did and did not add. How was the wine? Fascinating. Tasting like pure juice, acidic, lean, high flying, without peer. Don’t look for fruit. We decided to decant it! As my mother-in-law might have said “these guys are having too much fun!” As the website says “Practicing environmentally respectful, sustainable and chemical-free viticulture.” The vineards are head cut. The Malvar vineyard so so old nobody knows. If this was Sonoma or Napa the owner would have a geneticist out to the site immediately! This region near Madrid is a must visit for wine tourists. 12%

Here is a seven minute slide show with music of Diane Arbus’ fotos.

Banality Gets an Upgrade: the Costco Illusion

the ancient mystical Rioja Alavesa

the ancient mystical Rioja Alavesa

Amazingly, there are respectable wine writers who insist the selection of wines at Costco are worthy of your attention. That would include tBoW. You may consider this strange since everyone knows Costco is the king of ordinary and middle-of-the-road in all things from sandwich bags to 60 inch TVs to fancy watches and diamond tennis bracelets… and First Growth Bordeaux; except the guy who owns the wine blog devoted to Costco wines. It is true the Costco wine buyer has steadily “raised her consciousness” [ed. as we used to say “back in the day”]. She has been profiled on CNBC as the most influential wine buyer in the business. But now… she and her staff of 20 are buying the kinds of wines that even tBoW and other discerning wine drinkers might be tempted to buy. We did. We were amazed… (more…)

Memorial Day Memories: Reds, Whites, the Blues, Paella!!

paella mandala

paella mandala

As summer’s unofficial coming out party, Memorial Day weekend has lots going for it: BBQs, wine dinners, paella spectaculars with pan fried sardines …and plenty of wine loving pals. A few pages ahead on the calendar is the Topanga Art Tour and the Playboy Jazz Fest. Officially, Memorial Day is all about the red white and blue and our fighting forces. For the tBoW tasting team it is mostly about reds and whites while listening to Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. With a salute to our veterans we report on the wines put forth by the brave tasters who fight for wines under $20 every day in the bargain bins and floor boxes of liquor and wine stores where the real gems can be found…on sale! As IGTY so aptly explains the struggle …

The IGTY Manifesto: I have to budget for 6 bottles of wine a week. At 4.3 weeks in a month that comes to ~25 bottles and at $20 per, that is a lot more than I am willing to pay. My monthly wine budget is $400 and that means hunting down wines that cost ~$16.

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