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Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, New Life at Mayacamas, Few Reminders and more

August 7, 2013 19 comments
Field Recordings Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard

Field Recordings Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard

Meritage Time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #68, grape trivia – Chenin Blanc. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about Chenin Blanc grape.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: True or false: South Africa grows (area-wise) twice as much Chenin Blanc as France

A1: True. Chenin Blanc plantings in South Africa take a bit less than 25% of all grape plantings in the country, and it exceeds plantings in France by at least two times.

Q2: Do you know how Chenin Blanc is typically called in South Africa?

A2: Steen. Chenin Blanc is South Africa was traditionally called Steen, but as many wineries are improving quality of their Chenin Blanc wines, they also use the traditional “Chenin Blanc” name on the labels more and more.

Q3: Based on DNA research, Chenin Blanc might be a parent of:

a. Pinot Blanc, b. Sauvignon Blanc, c. Marsanne, d. Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano)

A3: Sauvignon Blanc.

Q4: Wine Spectator calls wines rated in 95-100 range Classic (the highest and the most prestigious category). True or False: there are no Chenin Blanc wines with Classic rating.

A4: False. While there are only 14 Classic Chenin Blanc wines to the date (all from Vouvray region in France), Domaine Huët Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1997 scored even perfect 100 points.

Q5: One of my all time favorite Chenin Blanc wines is made by the company called Field Recordings in California. It is a single-vineyard wine, coming from the vineyard which has the same name as one of the blockbuster movies of the 90s. Do you know how this vineyard is called?

A5: Jurassic Park! I’m really curious what would give such a name to the vineyard, but hey, this is how it is called. And Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc I had was spectacular.

I’m glad to report that we have lots of winners this time! Emil, SheWinesSometimes, VinoinLove and TheDrunkenCyclist answered all 5 questions correctly, and they get the coveted prize of unlimited bragging rights!

Now, to the interesting stuff around vine and web!

I have a few interesting things for you to read. First, an article by New York Times‘ Eric Asimov, talking about new life of Mayacamas Vineyards in Napa. Mayacamas is one of the historical vineyards in the region, originally built in 1889, and owned by Bob Travers and his wife since 1968. I experienced Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon only once, and it was a spectacular wine, done in very restrained and elegant style. Now the winery is acquired by Charles Banks, who owned Screaming Eagle in the past, and he brought in Andy Erickson, a past Screaming Eagle’s winemaker, to make wine at the Mayacamas. How Mayacamas will change is a big question for all of its fans,  so you should read the article to learn more.

Here is an interesting read for you from W. Blake Gray, on the subject of [yeah, here we go again] wine tasting notes. Before you read the article, test yourself – do you know what gunflint is? You do? Great, do you know how does it taste like? My personal answer is “no” for both questions, but you go read the article to learn something new and get entertained.

The last article for today on the subject of Georgian wines, talking about new and interesting wines coming from the “cradle of winemaking”, as Georgia often is referred to. Go find the bottle of Georgian wine to enjoy while you will be reading the article.

We are getting closer to the few important dates (deadlines, rather) so here are your reminders:

August 14th – Wine Blogging Wednesday event, #WBW80 – Dry Rosé. All you need to do is to write a blog post pertinent to the subject, and submit it to the host. For all the details please click here. Let’s make it a success!

August 16th – deadline for submission for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #2, with the theme called Trouble. You can find all the rules here. I finally made my submission, so I sleep much better now. There is still time, get your trouble under control and write! Side note – if you are using twitter, I recommend using #MWWC hash tag for all submissions and discussions.

August 29th – Annual Cabernet Day 2013. Grab the bottle of your favorite Cab and join the festivities – here is the link to the invitation I received for this Cabernet Day, in case you want to state your participation officially.

That is all I have for you, folks. The glass is empty -but the refill is coming. Until the next time – cheers!

Wine … It Will Get You In Trouble

August 5, 2013 35 comments

In June 2013, Jeff a.k.a.The Drunken Cyclist, started the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, where the new theme is announced on about the monthly basis by the winner of the previous round. This month’s theme, as announced by The Armchair Sommelier, is “Trouble”.

To be entirely honest with you, I was about to give up on this challenge, as I couldn’t associate “wine” with “trouble”. Before I would “officially” give up, I did what would [probably] most of the married men do – ask the wife’s advice. So the first thing she said, “what do you mean you don’t know what to write about? How about the time when you quietly drunk most of the home-made plum wine when you were a kid”? Yeah, but I really never got into trouble for that, don’t think it was even noticed. “Okay, fine”, she said, “so what about that girl in the wine store…”? Aha – you could probably hear my brain clicking – now we are onto something…

Mouton Rothschild

Mouton Rothschild

When you look at the bottle of wine, do you see a trouble lurking around ? No? Well, let me help you.

Think about bottle shapes. Probably 80% of all the wine bottles made worldwide will fall into one of two shape categories – Bordeaux or Burgundy. Yes, there are some shape variations even in those big classes, but they are nominal. Which means that if you will put next to each other a bottle of Bordeaux which retails for $6.99 and the one which will command $699, they will look very, very similar. What differentiates them? Yes, of course the content, but this is not something you know just by looking the bottle. So the only things which will differentiate those two bottles will be labels. See the trouble yet? Let’s continue.

In the wine store, one is guided by the visual cues – namely, the price tags. Take the cues out – and then even labels look identical. Yes, yes, before you call me an unintelligent low life and stop reading, give me a few more minutes and you will see where am I going. Of course, for the small group of crazy devoted wine geeks, every little word on the label is cherished and carefully assessed. 1982 vintage? Bordeaux? That’s nearly a heart attack. Tiny letters RM on the bottle of Champagne. La Turque, Qunitarelli, Alban, 1961, Pingus, Latour, 2000, To Kalon, Colgin, Riserva… I can go on and on and on with all those cherished words. We see any of those words on the label of the wine bottle, and the brain immediately sends out command for awe and appreciation.

Now, step outside of this crazy devoted circle. Outside of the wine store, does the bottle of 2009 Chateau Latour Bordeaux (about $1,600 per bottle, if you can find it) looks all that different from 2009 Chateau Moulin de Beausejour Bordeaux ($6.99, readily available at your Trader Joe‘s)? No, not really. Bottles look very similar in shape, both say “Bordeaux”, both have the same vintage listed – 2009, both have the word “Chateau” on them. Do you see it now? The trouble is not lurking anymore, it is looming, as a huge stormy cloud, full of wind and water.

Let me give two examples. Here are two real life stories of my friend Zak, the owner of the wine store in Stamford. The first one I only heard from Zak, and second one I witnessed myself.

2006 Ornellaia - sorry, Zak was out of Sassicaia

2006 Ornellaia – sorry, Zak was out of Sassicaia

The lady comes into the store and asks for help. “I’m looking for the bottle of the Italian wine. I don’t remember the exact name, but I think it starts with “S”. If you will show me what you have, I will be able to recognize it”. Zak takes her to the Italian wines section. The lady looks around and says excitedly “this one!”, pointing at the bottle of Sassicaia. Then she looks at the price tag ($179 or so), looks at Zak, back at the price tag and says with the hope in her voice: “this is the case price, right?”. “No, madam, this is the bottle price”, answers Zak, and lady’s face becomes all overwhelmed with he emotions and she mutters “ahh, no wonder my husband got so upset when I used this wine for the pasta sauce…”. Turns out the husband was not at home, and the lady was looking for the bottle of red wine to add to the pasta sauce, and the bottle of Sassicaia looked not any different than any other bottle of the Italian wine… Trouble!

I’m standing in the store talking to Zak. The girl comes in with the bag of empty bottles and starts putting them one by one on the counter and then tells Zak: “I need to get this exact wines”. I’m, of course, curious, and I’m picking over Zak’s shoulder as he is looking at them one by one. Some kind of Spanish wine. Something else I don’t recognize. 1995 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. 1999 Riesling. Something … Wait, what? Mouton Rothschild 1995, one of the First Grows Bordeaux? That will be interesting. Zak points at that exact bottle and says: “I don’t have this wine, miss, and it will be hard to get it as this is an old vintage”. The girl asks if he can get the current vintage. Zak looks in the catalog and says “well, I’m not sure if it will be available, as this is highly allocated wine, but if it will be, it will be about $900… Yes, for a bottle”. You should have seen despair and horror on the girl’s face. Turns out her uncle left on a long trip, and left the girl to be house-sitting. Of course having the house party with the full access to the cellar was not what her uncle planned for, and now that he was coming back soon, the girl was on the recovery mission. Is that a trouble? One look at that girl’s face would tell you – yep, big time trouble!

There you have it, my friends. Wine is a dangerous thing, with the “trouble” spelled all over it… Or not. While there can be multiple personal “troubles” around the wine, which will seem serious to the person experiencing them (think about that girl), in a big schema things, we need to remember that at the most, all those troubles will become great (and funny, for the most part) stories to tell later on. Wine is just a beverage, and there always will be another bottle to drink. I can only wish to all of us, that the wine troubles would be the biggest troubles of our lives. You can pour another glass now. Cheers!

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