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Pure Pleasure, And How To Express It

September 5, 2022 Leave a comment

Does this glass give you pleasure?

You take a sip of wine. The wine is sublime. It is beautiful. It is complex. The wine solicits emotion – it makes you happy. It makes you moan quietly inside your head, you might extort an “OMG” or a “Wow”, and after a pause, you take another sip. You are not in a hurry. You want to extend this pleasure for as long as possible.

Wine is art. Wine doesn’t leave you indifferent. Wine solicits emotion.

Painting is art. Painting doesn’t leave you indifferent. Painting solicits emotion.

Music is art. Music doesn’t leave you indifferent. Music solicits emotion.

We can consider wine to be a form of art, the same as painting, music, poetry, architecture, and many other human creations which invite an emotional reaction. Do you know what makes wine a unique form of art? Your utter desire to share it.

You can quietly stare at a beautiful painting for a long time, slowly uncovering little details and being in the moment. Even if you stand next to someone else looking at the same painting, 99 out of 100 you are simply focused on your own personal moment.

When listening to the music, even if you are in the concert hall surrounded by thousands, the music is being played only for you and this is how you want to keep it. You can buy a recording and listen to it 100 times. Just by yourself, and you are happy about it.

Have you seen an oenophile get excited about wine? The excited oenophile grabs the total stranger by the sleeve, shoves the glass into their face and says “here, here, you must try this!!!” It is very important for an oenophile to be able to share the joy of the experience with others. There is an ultimate pleasure in sharing your excitement with others, as wine is an art that needs to be shared.

Sharing pleasure is easy in person. Have you tasted magnificent, life-altering wines in the group? If you had, you probably noticed the collective “ohh”, rolling the eyes, unprompted nodding, maybe a muttered “oh my god”, and then silence. The silence of the greatness of the moment, slowly settling in.

This in-person sharing of the pleasure is simple, and kind of just happens on its own. The real challenge comes when you decide to share that ultimate pleasure with the rest of the world.

So how can one express pure pleasure?

A typical way to describe the wine is via so-called tasting notes. Such tasting notes are often called “technical notes” as they usually describe the wine in terms of appearance, aroma, bouquet, and finish – using analogies such as “brickish color”, “smell of mushrooms”, or “taste of dark cherries”. The wine is described in the terms which the wine drinker is supposed to relate to – and it is a great review if you can relate to all of the terms used without trying to figure out what is Cascarilla and how it actually smells, or how Jabuticaba tastes like. What is usually not found in the tasting notes is the emotion – how this wine might make you feel; will you scream with joy when you will take a sip? Yes, I get it. Even the aromas and flavors are subjective. The emotion which you will experience while drinking the wine is yours and yours only – the person next to you might not experience the same enlightenment – and nevertheless, even the hope for greatness is worth sharing.

Can wine pleasure be expressed in the words by professional wine critics? You be the judge of it. Here is the collection of tatsing notes for the 1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche Grand Cru. At this link, you will find the reviews from Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, John Gilman, and others. Here is the best excerpt in my opinion. John Gilman: “La Tâche ‘66 is deep, full and opulent on the palate, with a grandiose delivery of thick, perfumed fruit, excellent balance, plenty of power, great focus and finesse, and an incredibly long, softly-tannic and astoundingly complex finish.” This might be the best description out of the six present, but does it convey the emotion?

Does this wine give you pleasure?

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of drinking two wines from the 1997 vintage (1997 is a special year for our family). These two wines really prompted this post. First, I opened the 1997 Château Haut-Piquat Lussac Saint-Émilion (12.5% ABV, 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc). The wine was somewhat of a recent find at the Wine Exchange – after getting an email offer to buy 1997 Bordeaux for $19.99, I had no option but to get a few bottles. I was happy to see the cork coming out in its entirety with no issues. I was ready with the decanter, but the wine in the glass was quite approachable. After the initial grippy tannins dissipated in 20-30 minutes, what was left in the glass was an absolutely sublime beauty. You see, this is where the challenge lies. Here is the technical description from the Wine Exchange: “a wine that still possesses a youthful charm as there is something to be said for ex-chateau. A beautiful plum/garnet color with very little lightening for its age. This 1997 is full to medium-bodied, showing lots of forest floor, roasted herbs, cedar, tobacco, black cherry, blackcurrant, and new saddle leather. It is opulent and is just entering its plateau of full maturity. The tannins are soft and subtle with an elegant seamless finish. ”

The description is perfectly fine, but it doesn’t help me to express my emotion. The mind singing with every sip. Pure joy in each and every sip. Enough pleasure in every sip to give a nerve enough to tell my wife, who was enjoying the wine with me “this is almost as good as sex”. A personal perspective for sure, but yes, this was the wine.

I didn’t have many expectations for 1997 Chateau Montelena Saint Vincent Red Wine Napa Valley (13.5% ABV, blend of Zinfandel, Primitivo, Sangiovese). Chateau Montelena is absolutely legendary with its role in the Judgement of Paris, especially if you had an opportunity to see the movie Bottle Shock. But Saint Vincent is an eclectic blend, produced only for 5 years from 1995 till 1999, and it is not given that this type of wine can age for 25 years. While very different from the previous Bordeaux in its profile of cherries, eucalyptus, and herbs, it had such a lip-smacking, savory and satisfying bouquet, that every sip was demanding to be followed by another sip.

Do you want a second glass?

I have no idea how to convey the pure pleasure the wine can bring. Maybe emotion is the key. There are lots of good wines out there. The wines you are happy to drink any day every day. Maybe it is the excitement that needs to be measured. Or maybe this is simply in the unyielding desire to share this pleasure with the world. The act of telling the world how amazing the wine was, and hoping that everybody will see it that way too.

Let’s share our little joys with one another. And if you know how to convey this pure wine pleasure, please let me in on that secret.

 

Experiencing Judgment of Paris, Courtesy of Stew Leonard’s Wines

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment

And again I have to thank folks at Stew Leonard’s Wines for putting together an interesting wine tasting event. This time we had an opportunity to relive legendary Judgment of Paris of 1976, a wine tasting event which put American wines on international wine map.

In 1976, a blind wine tasting took place in Paris. In that event, wines from Napa valley in California were put against classic French wines – and Californian wines won over French hands down, all in the event judged by the French wine critics and such, which became a turning moment for the whole American wine industry.

I have to mention that I just realized something: while I know some of the Napa wines presented at this Paris event, I have no idea what French wines they were competing against. Nevertheless, let’s talk about the wines presented at the tasting.

Starting with the white wines, there was Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from Napa valley, positioned against Michel Lelu Pouilly Fuisse from Burgundy. Chateau Montelena was one of the actual winners in the Judgment of Paris event (great story of Chateau Montelena is presented in the movie Bottle Shock). I don’t know if this Poilly Fuisse wine participated in the 1976 competition, but Chateau Montelena Chardonnay just beat it completely. The Pouilly Fuisse didn’t have much of anything going ( it belonged to the “also wine” category), where Chateau Montelena showed nice fruit and just right amount of oak, vanilla and butter – delicious!

Talking about red wines, the Stag’s Leap Artemis was also one of the original participants  in the 1976 Judgment event. In the Paris tasting, it was competing against the Bordeaux. During the tasting at Stew Leonard’s Wines, it was “competing” with another Napa red, called Hansom. Both reds are from the great 2007 vintage and need more time to fully develop. Hansom, which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, was a bit “overdone” to my taste, and it had noticeable “burnt fruit” on the palate – this is my personal terminology, which means that fruit and alcohol are not in harmonious balance with tannins and acidity. Artemis, which is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with small addition of Merlot and Petit Verdot, was very elegant and round, and the only thing it is asking for … is more time. It probably needs another 5-7 years to achieve true greatness. I assume that you can guess form this description that Artemis was my absolute favorite in this tasting.

In addition to tasting these four wines, I was able to try one more “off the record” wine, courtesy of Larry, who was manning the tasting station. I call it “off the record” because the wine was not the part of the tasting, but it simply happened to be open, and Larry was kind enough to give us a taste. The wine was called Block 2 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from Horse Heaven Hills area in Washington. To describe it quickly I would say that it was similar to Hansom in style, only done right – fruit forward but well balanced with enough acidity and tannins to make it a very pleasant wine (at $19.99 it is also a good value).

To conclude, I can only again say thank you to the Stew Leonard’s Wines folks, for putting together one great wine tasting after another. And they have done it again, by the way – it is Dom Perignon weekend at Stew Leonard’s Wines – don’t miss it!

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