Jul 312013
 

Each summer I teach a class called “the Greatest Wines of the World” for the viticulture and enology program at Napa Valley College.  It’s a chance for the students to taste the very best wines from some of the top regions of the world, and each summer the wines vary, based on the interests of the students.  Here’s what they tasted in 2013:

Greatest Wines - Burgundy

Burgundy

2011 Domaine Paul Pernot Meursault Blagny 1er Cru “La Piece Sous le Bois”
2011 Domaine Paul Pernot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Folatières”
2010 Domaine Blain-Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Boudriottes”
2010 Domaine de Montille Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
2011 Domaine Paul Pernot Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
2010 Billaud-Simon Chablis “Les Preuses” Grand Cru
1998 Nicolas Potel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
2010 Domaine Champy Corton Grand Cru “Bressandes”
2010 Domaine Odoul-Coquard Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”
2010 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Vaucrains”
2010 Louis Jadot Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru “Les Beaux Monts”
2010 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru “Petite Chapelle”

Greatest Wines - Bordeaux

Bordeaux

2009 Chateau La louviere  Pessac Leognan blanc
2007 Chateau Cardonnieux Grand Cru Pessac Leognan rouge
2007 Chateau Poujeaux Moulis en Medoc Grand Vin
2006 Chatau La Lagune Haut-Medoc Grand Cru Classe
2007 Chateau Marquis de Terme Margaux Grand Cru Classe
2007 Chateau Talbot Saint Julien Grand Cru Classe
2007 Chateau Batailley Paulliac Grand Cru Classe
2006 Chateau les Ormes de Pez St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois Exceptionel
2000 Cheatu Phelan Segur St. Estephe Grand Cru Classe
2010 Chateau Figeac St. Emiliion Premier Grand Cru Classe
2010 Chateau Beauregard Pomerol
1998 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Paulliac Premier Grand Cru

Greatest Wines - Italy

Italy

2007 Massolino “Parussi” Barolo
2005 Aldo Conterno “Cicala” Barolo
2008 G.D. Vajra “Bricco Delle Viole” Barolo
2007 Francesco Rinaldi “Cannubio” Barolo
2008 Savignola Paulina Chianti Classico Riserva
2007 Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico Riserva
2008 Massanera Chianti Classico Riserva
2007 Monte Maggio Chianti Classico
2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
2007 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino
2006 Tassi “Franci” Brunello di Montalcino Selezione
2007 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino
2007 Pian dell’Orino Brunello di Montalcino
1997 Masi “Mazzano” Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
2008 Corte Rugolin Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso
1980 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore
2010 Antinori “Tenuta Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato” Toscana
2008 Castello di Bossi “Corbaia” Toscana
2007 Querciabella “Camartina” Toscana
2010 Ornellaia “Ornellaia” Bolgheri Superiore

Germany

2011 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett
2011 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett
2011 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett
2011 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2011 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese
2011 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spatlese
2011 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese
2011 Dr F Weins-Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese Feinherb
2011 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spatlese #10
2011 Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Rheinberg Riesling Auslese
2011 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
2003 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese ***

Greatest WInes - Champagne

Champagne

Charles Heidsieck “Brut Reserve” Champagne
Bollinger “Special Cuvee” Brut Champagne
Charles de Cazanove “Tete de Cuvee” Brut Champagne
Ruinart Brut Rose Champagne
2006 Marguet Pere et Fils Grand Cru Brut Champagne
2004 Moet & Chandon “Grand Vintage” Brut Champagne
2000 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blanc Champagne
Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siecle” Champagne
Krug “Grande Cuvee” Brut Champagne
1998 Billecart-Salmon “Cuvee Nicolas-Francois Billecart” Brut Champagne
1998 Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame Brut Champagne
2003 Moet & Chandon “Dom Perignon” Brut Champagne
2005 Louis Roederer “Cristal” Brut Champagne

Greatest Wines - Dessert

Dessert Wines

Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth (1L)
2004 Villa Pillo Vin Santo (375ml)
2010 Samos Vin Doux Muscat (375ml)
2010 Donnafugata “Ben Ryè” Passito di Pantelleria (375ml)
1996 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume (375ml)
Rare Wine Company Historic Series Boston Bual Madeira
Williams & Humbert “Don Guido” Pedro Ximenez VOS Jerez
Ferreira “Duque de Braganca” 20-year-old Tawny Port
1970 Taylor Vintage Port
2008 Inniskillin “Silver” Riesling Icewine (375ml)
2003 Királyudvar “Lapis” Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos (500ml)
2003 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes

Napa Valley College Viticulture & Winery Technology courses prepare students for entry-level positions and help current industry employees to advance in their careers. Based on a core of viticulture and wine-making classes, the program offers a variety of options for careers in the industry. Students learn to apply viticulture and winemaking theory for decision-making in actual production situations. College facilities include classroom and laboratory buildings, vineyards, and a teaching winery. All program instructors are experienced wine industry professionals.

Jul 292013
 
Colorado Wine

Photo Credit: Michael Wangbickler

Last week I visited The Centennial State as a judge at the Best of Fest Wine Competition. Hosted by the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE), Best of Fest is Colorado’s “most prestigious local wine competition” for Colorado wine.

I can pretty confidently state that I’m probably (is that enough hedging?) the most knowledgeable California blogger on Colorado wine now. In the past two years, I’ve visited the state three times (once on the Front Range and twice in the Grand Valley).  I can tell you that it is one of the most unique growing areas anywhere in the world. It’s stunningly beautiful and the people are exceptionally welcoming.

Colorado Wine: A Rockies Road

And how is Colorado wine? Well, to be honest, it’s a mixed bag. I’ve tasted hundreds of examples from the past several vintage. There are some very GOOD wines being produced, but there are also some very BAD wines as well. Colorado’s not unique in that regard. Any wine growing region is going to have its stinkers (including California). In Colorado’s case, however, it’s probably more pronounced. Since they only have about 1,000 planted grapevine acres and around 60 producers, the bad apples tend to float to the top. Which, in my opinion, is a great disservice to the  truly great winemakers of the area. The good gets lumped in with the bad and the whole industry suffers.

This disparity in wine quality is one of the reasons that competitions like Best of Fest are so important. It’s a validation for the better producers and a way for consumers to know which Colorado wine they should pick up for dinner this evening.

Best of Colorado

This was the second year the competition took place in Colorado, though it was held for years back east before that. The one main difference with this year’s Best of Fest, which I wholeheartedly applaud, is that they added an important element in judging criteria: Only wines that are Colorado Appellation or from one of Colorado’s AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) were able to enter. Simply stated, this means wines must be made from 75 percent Colorado grapes.

Wait, what? You read that right. Before this year, Colorado wineries could enter wines they made from fruit sourced outside the state. Several of the larger producers import wines and grapes from California and make or bottle them in Colorado. It makes economic sense. It’s basically an insurance policy for an area known for winterkill and frost damage. It’s a bit confusing (or misleading) for the consumer, however, and doesn’t really support local growers. So, the fact that the competition made this change is a very good thing for Colorado wine.

“Our winemakers have always been the stars of the industry and now we are elevating our amazing grape-growing industry, too,” says Cassidee Shull, executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology (CAVE).

This was no fanboy lovefest. All the judges evaluated these wines critically and rigorously. Using a stringent judging standard designed to reward wines for shining in quality, not just passing minimum standards, 44 percent, or 73, of the 165 entries received medals.

Fruit Basket

It’s not all grapes though. The state is also known for it’s fruit wines and meads. Now, many wine ‘experts’ tend to poo-poo wines made with anything other than grapes. They shouldn’t. When well made, these wines are the very essence of the fruit they’re made from and very popular with consumers. Most are sweet, which appeals to a broad audience. In addition, there are several winemakers making excellent dessert wines. In fact, a third of all medal wines from the competition were fruit, mead or dessert wines, with ports a very strong category.

Diversity is the Key

The breadth of the wines offered in Colorado makes the area pretty unique.

“Colorado is an impressively diverse, emerging wine region,” says Richard Leahy, Best of Fest Competition Chair. “Its two AVAs (West Elks and Grand Valley) provide a range of varietals from cool climate classics to red Bordeaux and Rhone varieties and blends. In addition, fruit wines and meads are very strong as are ports. Colorado may statistically be the state (not growing hybrid grapes) offering the most diversity of any in the country, not just in grape varieties but in fruit and non-fruit wines.”

“I like the originality and experimentation in Colorado wine,” Leahy continues. “Graystone Vineyards only produces port wines, St. Kathyrn’s specializes in mead and fruit wines, and they produce a lavender wine (made in a riesling base) that flies out of the winery, and got a silver medal in this competition. This shows the diversity possible in Colorado wine but also the spirit of pioneer individualism that is part of the Western character and a refreshing change from the herd mentality of the corporate wine world.”

The Results

So, here are the category winners of the competition:

Best of Fest winners:
Best of Category Red Wine
Turquoise Mesa Winery Crimson 2011

Best of Category White Wine
Plum Creek Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Best of Fest Fruit, Berry and Mead
St. Kathryn Cellars Blueberry Bliss

Best of Fest Dessert Wines
Graystone Winery Port V 2005

* “Best of Fest” wines are recognized as best in a category and received no less than a gold medal. “Best of Category” is the highest scoring wine in a category where there were no gold or double gold medals. 

A list of the remaining medal winners is posted on the CAVE website. I enjoyed my time in Colorado and look forward visiting again.

Disclaimer: CAVE paid my expenses to participate as a judge in the Best of Fest wine competition.

Jul 262013
 
Creating Compelling Content

Photo Credit: Wine Predator

One of the major goals of this blog is to create articles that we think people will want to read. In other words, we try to create compelling content. When I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Okanagan last month, I had the privilege of participating on a panel with Jeannette Montgomery from The Third Glass and Okanagan Writing and Marcy Gordon from Come for the Wine. Together, we attempted to share some wisdom based on our backgrounds in writing. I’ve been writing for 20 years and have learned many lessons (some hard) along the way.

So, what is compelling content?

Simply put, it’s something that is convincing or demands attention. In other words, compelling content is something that grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. We want to make sure that the reader actually reads the whole article, and hopefully comes back to read more at a later date.

Why write it?

Because we want people to read our blog. The more compelling the content, the more interested the reader.

What’s the benefit?

Increased traffic, increased engagement, and possible increased revenue.

So, where do we start?

Some writers have great success sitting at a keyboard and just starting to spew forth the most interesting drivel. The rest of us, however, may need to prime the pump a bit.

Know the audience.

Who are we writing for? Who is reading our blog? Other bloggers? Trade? Consumers? What kind of consumer? The connoisseur, the novice, or somewhere in between? How do we figure this out? We make a model of who our ideal reader is. We include examples of what we think they might want to read.

Here’s the rub: WE ARE NOT OUR AUDIENCE. If our audience was like us, they’d be writing their own blogs (some may). We try never lose site of that.

Until we know who we are writing for, we can’t make our content compelling.

Pick the subject.

What kind of article will we write? Will it be an editorial piece (opinion), news piece (fair-and-balanced), review piece (expertise), or something else? Once we determine that, we set the tone of the article.

Do homework.

To most, this will be the most important step in the writing process. Chances are that we don’t know everything or anything about the subject on which we intend to write. Which means, we need to do our homework.

Where are we going to look?

  • The Internet – Because everything is true on the internet, right?
  • Wikipedia – Um, yea. Relies on their community of “experts.”
  • Technical notes – Because everyone wants to know about TA and Malo-Lactic fermentation, right?

No! We talk to people and try to be original.

We contact a PR Manager or agency.
We contact a regional associations (Napa Valley Vintners, Wine Walla Walla, etc.)
We contact a winemaker.
We visit the wineries or regions.

We have questions prepared. Better yet, we have INTERESTING questions to ask. Again, we think of our audience, and what THEY would want to read.

We try not to get too wrapped up in the experience that we lose our objectivity.

Build a narrative, tell a story.

Wine writing today tends to be like a scientific journal. It’s all about breaking down the wine into its component parts (aromas, mouthfeel, tannin, technical, etc.). On top of that, the various rating scales have broken it down further. Does it tell you ANYTHING about the wine or the winery?

NO.

Wine is an aspirational product. Wine drinkers imbibe to feel better about themselves and impress their friends. If they didn’t care about that, they’d just drink beer or whisky. What they want, is to drink a glass of wine and be transported somewhere else. That somewhere else is rarely going to involve malolactic fermentation. It does involve the place the wine is made, the people who made it, and the blogger who experienced it. they want to know what the story is behind the wine and to live vicariously through us.

Three take aways.

In the end, the three main things that separate the great bloggers from the rest is:

1. They know their audience
2. They do their homework
3. They tell a story

Creating compelling content is really just that simple.

Jul 172013
 

An interesting infographic titled, “A Toast to Wine” is circulating the interwebs. It graphically presents who consumes wine in the U.S., how much they consume, and what wines they prefer. It’s really an reiteration of information available through other means. In addition, it was created not by a wine company or research firm, but by a storage company. So, it’s obviously linkbait, but it’s still interesting. We republish it here for your review.

A Toast to Wine

Produced by SpareFoot. Copyright 2013.
Jul 102013
 

CampingWhat do you get when a bunch of winos go camping? I know there’s a joke there’s somewhere.

Each year, our agency takes a timeout and heads somewhere naturey for a few days of R&R. This isn’t exactly roughing it. We camp in style. Big tents, air mattresses, showers every day (for those that want them), and a whole lot of exceptional food and drink. Each night, a team is responsible for developing a menu and feeding their compadres. Over the years, this has led to a friendly competition to see who can outdo the other teams and top last year. (For the record, I won this year.)

This year, the first night we had a Caribbean Island (Cuba/Peurto Rico) feast the first night, Italian-inspired ribs the second night, and gourmet chili and corn the last night. Each, in it’s own way, was a masterpiece. Of course, we had great wines to accompany every meal. (We may have also had a few mojitos this year)

Contributor Paul Wagner also writes a backpacking blog. He’s written a brief article there about our experience this year.