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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Judgment of Paris: 40 Years Later

Dateline: Paris (May 24, 1976)

It was 40 years ago this week that Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant living in Paris, held a wine tasting event, the results of which shocked the wine world. Spurrier gathered nine expert judges, all of them French, for a head-to-head blind tasting of the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy against relatively unknown wines from California. Spurrier and an associate, American Patricia Gallagher also participated in tasting and judging the wines. At the time, the commonly held belief was that French wines were the standard of quality, and anything else was inferior. The tasting was originally intended to simply generate publicity for Spurrier’s wine shop and school. Therefore, there was not a lot of outside interest in it, and only one journalist attended the event; George M. Taber, from Time Magazine (Taber, 2005).

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There were two separate competitions: White Burgundy vs. California Chardonnay, and Red Bordeaux vs. California Cabernet Sauvignon. In each category, there were four French wines, and six from California. The outcome is now well known – a California wine won top honors in both categories. The event changed the landscape of the Napa Valley, figuratively and literally. Taber later compiled the experience in his book: Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Tasting that Revolutionized Wine (Taber, 2005). It is a fascinating and educational account, not only of the tasting event, but also of the history of wine in France and the Napa region. The tasting was also dramatized in the movie Bottle Shock in 2008. It’s worth seeing if you haven’t, but keep in mind this is a motion picture dramatization, complete with editorial and creative license. If you want to really explore and learn about the history, I recommend reading the book!

Judgment of Paris Taber

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Below are the results of the famous 1976 tastings, in order of their ranking:

White

  1. Chateau Montelena, 1973, Napa
  2. Meursault Charmes Roulot, 1973, Burgundy
  3. Chalone Vineyard, 1974, Monterey County
  4. Spring Mountain, 1973, Napa
  5. Beaune Clos des Mouches Joseph Drophin, 1973, Burgundy
  6. Freemark Abbey Winery, 1972, Napa
  7. Bâtard-Montrachet Ramonet-Prudhon, 1973, Burgundy
  8. Domaine LeFlaive, 1972, Burgundy
  9. Veedercrest Vineyards, 1972, Napa
  10. David Bruce Winery, 1973, Santa Cruz Mountains

Red

  1. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 1973, Napa
  2. Château Mouton Rothschild, 1970, Bordeaux
  3. Château Haut-Brion, 1970, Bordeaux
  4. Château Montrose, 1970, Bordeaux
  5. Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, 1971, Santa Cruz Mountains
  6. Château Léoville-Las-Cases, 1971, Bordeaux
  7. Mayacamas Vineyards, 1971, Napa
  8. Clos Du Val Winery, 1972, Napa
  9. Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard, 1970, Napa
  10. Freemark Abbey Winery, 1969, Napa

Among my more cockamamie ideas, it occurred to me that it might be fun to taste each of the wines featured in the Judgment of Paris. Of course, I’ll have to purchase current vintages, but so be it. Many of the châteaux and wineries represented in the competition continue to produce stellar wines, and their prices and scarcity reflect the prestige. Others have remained more affordable and are readily available. In 2004, Chalone Vineyards was purchased by global conglomerate Diageo, which took the brand in the direction of mass-produced table wine; neglecting its historic importance. Fortunately, earlier this year the winery was purchased from Diageo by Foley Family Wines. Spokesman Bill Foley says that Foley Family Wines will work to restore the estate’s reputation and highlight its place in history (Worobiec, 2016).

As much as I’d like to, I won’t be able to recreate the blind tasting, but instead will have to purchase and sample the wines individually over several months. This may prove to be an insurmountable challenge, simply due to the availability (or lack thereof) and cost of some of the famous French wines. Nevertheless, other than those that are clearly out of my range (Château Moutin-Rothschild, for as much as $1,100 for recent vintages, comes to mind) I am determined to seek out and taste them all! Watch for reviews coming soon!

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Works Cited

Taber, G. M. (2005). Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. New York: Scribner.

Worobiec, M. (2016, February 8). Foley Family Wines Buys Chalone Vineyards. Retrieved May 26, 2016, from Wine Spectator: http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/52727

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where to This Time? #MWWC25

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

After following the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge for a few months, I have decided it’s finally time to put myself out there submit an entry. Last month’s winner, Loie of Cheap Wine Curious, (a blog after my own heart!) selected the topic for #MWWC25: Travel. So let’s get this show on the road!

Travel

Ah, the allure of travel. Jetting off to exotic lands; experiencing new and exciting cultures; visiting famous sites and landmarks. TSA lines. Lost luggage. Jet lag. Yes, travel is an adventure! Yet travel can mean more than international destinations, as enticing and fun as those are. We can jump in the car, and travel to nearby locales to explore what our own backyards have to offer. If you are fortunate enough to live near a wine region, day trips can be very rewarding, and time well spent. Besides being easier and less expensive, local excursions eliminate the stress and bother of figuring out how to transport all that newly purchased wine home!

I have the good fortune to live in Northern California, near Sacramento, where I am practically surrounded by some of the most famous wine regions in the world. In 30 to 90 minutes, I can travel by car to the Sierra Foothills, Clarksburg, Lodi, Napa, or Sonoma.

If it weren’t for my pesky day job, I’d spend a lot more time exploring the hundreds of fantastic wineries that are just a hop, skip, and a jump away. And living so close to such popular destinations means that I get to meet wine-loving friends, who I’d only otherwise know via social media, when they travel to the area! (If any of my fellow bloggers are planning trips to the area, and are interested in meeting, let me know!)

Of course, California isn’t the only place in the U.S. where great wine is made. In the various blogs and articles I read, I’ve been seeing a lot of information about the wines coming out of Virginia, New York, Texas, and other areas. If there are no wineries near where you live, let your fingers do the walking…to Google or your favorite search engine…and find wine events nearby. Festivals, tastings, and classes are all fun ways to incorporate a little local travel into your wine journey.

Still, many wine lovers dream of sojourns to their favorite wine regions. I long to travel to the great wine regions of Europe: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany, Piedmont, Rioja, and so many more. I dream of walking the vineyards, seeing the beautiful châteaux and estates, and tasting the world famous wines. Travel allows us to experience other cultures and meet amazing people. It brings perspective to this small world of ours.

The topic for this month’s MWWC is especially timely, if a little premature for me. In just a couple of weeks, my wife and I will travel to Quebec City, Canada for an extended stay. Although not among the more famous wine destinations, there are several wineries in the area, worthy of a day trip or two. As it happens, I enjoy seeking out lesser known wine regions, so this will be a great opportunity to do just that. We’ll immerse ourselves in this French provincial city for several weeks; sightseeing, shopping, and of course enjoying local wine and food.

Route Des Vins

More than 400 years old, Quebec City is the oldest walled city in North America, and the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist. With its Old World charm, and French history and language, Quebec City is sometimes referred to as the Paris of North America.

While I’m struggling to learn a little French, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in a new culture, experiencing history come alive, and of course sampling some amazing French cuisine and wine. I’ve already scoped out the website of the major wine shop in town, and as expected, they have an incredible selection of French wine. And would you believe there is a Bistro near the condo we’re renting that serves a duck confit burger?! Ç’est magnifique!

So although I may have had more fodder for a blog post about travel after our trip, preparing and writing this post has been a great opportunity to think ahead to all the amazing things we’re planning to do and see. I plan to blog while we’re in Canada, including reviews of the new wines I anticipate trying; French, Canadian and others. Watch this space during June if you would like to follow along on my journey. (Yes, I’ll be sure to post a picture of that duck confit burger!)

Salt and PepperTravel adds spice to life, whether it is a quick, Chinese-Five-Spice-Powdersalt-and-pepper day trip, or an exotic five-spice adventure to a distant land. Travel enables us to get out, see the sights, meet new people, and generally and literally broaden our horizons. Near or far; relaxing or intense; whether by train, plane, automobile, or bicycle, get out there and experience what the world has to offer! Where will you go today?

Santé!

Takeoff

 

Review: Leigh Meyering LeisureLeigh 2015

LeisureLeigh

It was with eager anticipation this week, that I opened a bottle of Leigh Meyering’s Aromatic White Wine, LeisureLeigh. I had my first taste of the 2013 vintage of LeisureLeigh in 2014, shortly after joining NakedWines.com. I’m normally a big, bold red wine drinker, so I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this light, floral, sweeter-style wine. But LeisureLeigh is absolutely delicious! It is a perfect, refreshing wine to enjoy on a hot summer day. It pairs well with swimming pools, lakes, river, and ocean beaches. It is also the exact wine my wife and I had been looking for to take to the summer “Concerts in the Park” series in the town where we live.

Leigh Meyering is a very talented winemaker, to be sure. She is also an enologist – a wine scientist, receiving her Master’s Degree in Enology from U.C. Davis. She runs myEnologist.com, a consulting service, and has worked in such notable wineries as Spring Mountain Vineyard in St. Helena, Clos Des Jacobins in St. Emilion, MacRostie in Carneros, and Charles Krug in St. Helena. Working with grapes in the lab, Leigh knows where all the best fruit comes from, so when she puts on her winemaker hat, she knows who to contact for the very best grapes. As you can probably guess by the name of the wine, Leigh also has a terrific sense of humor. All the wines she makes for NakedWines.com are a riff on her name: SeriousLeigh, her Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon; DeliciousLeigh, an appropriately named Bordeaux-style blend; and ElegantLeigh, a light, floral Zinfandel.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Leigh in person, and she is a truly wonderful person; kind, caring, and giving, and she really does have a great sense of humor! In fact, I was so impressed with Leigh, the person, that when I was chosen to be a NakedWines.com “Archangel”*, she was the first winemaker I chose to sponsor.

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At the 2015 Angel Tasting Tour

At the risk of overstating the obvious, I am a big fan of LeisureLeigh. It is a unique, refreshing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Symphony, and Moscato, with a splash of Viognier. Here’s my review of the new, 2015 vintage:

 

 Summer can now begin!

My shipment of LeisureLeigh has arrived! Last year’s vintage sold out so fast I missed it completely. 😦 Summer just wasn’t the same. I vowed I would never let that happen again!

Light straw color in the glass. I started it off fridge cold so I could experience the evolution of flavors as it warmed. Even cold, the aromas of honeysuckle, elderflower, and ripe pear are inviting and enticing. On the palate, those sweeter flavors continue, along with soft citrus of grapefruit and lemon. As the wine warms, these flavors become more pronounced and satisfying, peaking around cellar temp (55F). This is a refreshing, light bodied wine with zesty acidity and a delightful finish.

LeisureLeigh was one of the first NakedWines.com wines I tasted. It continues to be one of my favorites. As a former “reds only” drinker, I thank Leigh for this wine, which prompted me to start exploring whites.

Sweet? Yes, but balanced. Not cloying; but rather it is fresh, lively, and invigorating! Try it for yourself, but be forewarned: this stuff is seriously chuggable!

5 Stars (95+ points) Yes, I love this wine!

Available exclusively from NakedWines.com; MSRP: $17.49, Angel Member Price: $10.49.

NW Logo

 

If this sounds like your kind of wine, you can get LeisureLeigh by following this link and using the voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more.

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* NakedWines.com members are known as “Angels” (click here for more info.) “Archangels” Angels who have been selected by NakedWines.com staff, because they are the most active and helpful in the NakedWines.com social media groups, and diligent in reviewing all the NakedWines.com wines they try. Archangels select winemakers (typically 3-6 of them) to support by answering questions about their wines posted by other Angels.

Review: Capafons Osso Sirsell 2008

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This week, my continuing exploration of Old World wine regions brought me, figuratively, to Priorat. In recent years, wines from Priorat have increased in popularity, so I was happy for the opportunity to check them out. The Priorat DOQ (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) is located in Catalonia, in the northeastern part of Spain. priorat-montsant

Priorat is one of only two wine regions in Spain to earn the distinguished Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa), the highest classification in Spain, indicating consistent high quality wines. The other region is Rioja.

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The primary grapes from this region are Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan). In addition, winemakers often blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah in their wines. Influenced by the warm, Mediterranean climate, Priorat red wines tend to be intense and full-bodied, with ripe, bold fruit flavors, with ABV in the 15% range, and as high as 18%.

Priorat’s rise in popularity began in 1989, when a group of winemakers joined together to revive the oft-neglected region and improve the quality of the wines. I’ve seen more and more Priorat wines in articles and reviews, so I was excited when I received a bottle as an upgrade in a recent Underground Cellar purchase. For those who don’t know, Underground Cellar’s claim to fame is “free upgrades.” When you purchase multiple wines from a sale offer, random bottles are upgraded to higher priced bottles at no additional cost.

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The Capafons Osso Sirsell 2008 is a blend of 35% Garnacha, 26% Merlot, 22% Cariñena, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah. Like most Priorat red wines, it spent 12 months in French oak. Here is my review:

Dark purple color. On the nose, aromas of blackberry jam and ripe blueberries, with hearty oak. These carry to the palate, and are joined with flavors of raspberry jam, cassis, and spice. Tannins are very soft and smooth, and the acidity is balanced. This is quite a jammy wine, especially for an Old World wine. Yet it isn’t a “fruit bomb” but rather is juicy and delicious. The finish lingers long with dark fruit jam followed by earthy mineral notes.

3.5 Stars (85-87 points)

Retail: $24. I paid $21 and got it as an Underground Cellar upgrade.

Although this wine was a little jammier than I prefer, my wife loved it! She’d rate it at least 4.0 stars (88-91 points). I look forward to buying and trying more wines from Priorat.

Cheers!