Wednesday, March 13, 2019

...But it depends on which wine you are drinking:

Recently, I was burned by two Cayuse wines, and I blogged about that, and also about some disappointing K Vintners wines. But everything in life is complicated--tonight I opened a 2014 K Vintners "The Deal" Syrah, and it is very drinkable. Dark purple; nose is muted but at first I thought I noticed purple fruit and cola. OK--later I smell definite purple fruits and that nice "smoothness" aroma. It's a fairly big wine, but has good structure. Good with my Cuban stew. Not as much fruit on the palate as I'd like. But my point is that it is not a disappointment. At about $35, it probably doesn't make sense to buy it--most likely better Syrahs are out there at less cost. But at least this won't disappoint you.

A distributor told me that Charles Smith has now sold off most of his wine labels. For huge bucks. I'm happy for him--he turned nothing but a dream and some money, and a passion for learning about wine, into a fortune. That is great. My first meeting with him was wonderful-he spoke at about 120 mph and I couldn't catch it all but what I heard was brilliant. I guess this raises the question: How well can you continue with the nitty-gritty of making great wine, when you're so wealthy? I hope he can.

And this is a Robert Parker story. Parker was one of my wine heroes, but over the years I learned that many of the wines he gave high 90s scores to (like K Vintners' wines), were not as good as their scores. Now I trust Spectator, and James Suckling, and Wine Enthusiast, much more. It can be argued that it was Parker who made Charles Smith a multimillionnaire. OK; I can live with that. But just know that if you're willing to search for them, there are many many wines at relatively low cost, that are better than many of super-high-priced wines from the likes of K and Cayuse...

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Dissing on two Cayuse wines

There is a huge benefit in following the wines from a long-established great European wine house (like Eschezeaux in Burgundy or Pichon-Lalande in Bordeaux) --they (many of them) have been in business for decades, if not centuries, and each chateau (usually) has developed and zealously maintains its own typical favor profiles and high standard of quality.

But in this infant nation we call America, most wineries don't have that kind of history. We don't see generations from the same family taking up the family wine mantle. And, here, winery fortunes rise and fall faster than the success or failure of the Seattle Seahawks. My favorite wine distributor's owners think, for example, that K Vintners' Charles Smitth, having sold out for $120M or so, is no longer able to reliably make mind-blowing wines (and I agree, having left his wine club recently for that reason--I don't mind $80 wines if they are mind-blowing, or if they perform well on the resale market, but if they seem too ordinary, or (perversely) too innovative, they leave me feeling shortchanged).

Just so, with Cayuse. I've learned the hard way that too many of their spendy wines don't perform well on the resale market. I've learned that, five or six years on, they just don't perform well enough on the palate to merit their $80 or $90 price tag.

It hurts to say all that. For years I thought Washington's two best wineries--its "First Growths"--were those two. But stuff changes. This is not Old Europe. It is necessary to stay on top of "the good wineries of today."

Tonight, we dined at the The Hammond in Camas WA, and opened our 2014 God Only Knows Grenache. It's retailing for $150 now, and got 97 points from Robert Parker. It should've been mind-blowing, but it was undrinkable. Not flawed, but just a bad wine. Both of us thought there wasn't enough fruit evident, and the wine was thin, and the finish was bitter. That bitter finish was the death knell for me, so we defaulted to our backup bottle: 2013 Foundry Malbec, which was "very good-but-not-great."

Last night, we took a 2013 Cayuse Armada Syrah to Elements in downtown Vancouver, and we made ourselves drink it, but didn't enjoy it. It also was thin and had a bitter finish. Not a very good wine. Yes, there was some bull's blood in it, and if you strained really hard, you might imagine some blueberry, but it just wasn't good or interesting. And yet Robert Parker gave it 98 points (!) and it's retailing now for $150.

When I can get much more enjoyment from a $20 or $40 bottle made elsewhere, why wouldn't I? What a disappointment.

So, who will be the next fleeting "First Growth" from Washington? I say that Cayuse and K Vintners are no longer First Growths. Maybe Thirds, if they are lucky.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Rivetto 2006 Barolo del Commune di Serralunga D'Alba

I (OK, and the winery) held this for 13 years, and now I understand why Barolos need that time. Younger Barolos can be not so great--fairly thin, and maybe disjointed--just not attractive. With age, I thought they turned bricky and had fascinating secondary flavors. But last night we opened this Barolo with Jane's fantastic veggie lasagna, and wow! The wine was very young-plenty of smooth tannins, with a bright purplish-red edge that's the hallmark of a young wine, not a bricky-brown edge that tells of an older wine. This wine was so seamlessly fantastic that you sort of got the overall sense of real excellence, instead of being able to pick out individual flavor notes. That said, Brian and I thought there was black cherry; I thought there was eucalyptus or menthol, and we thought there was just a hint of Brett, which great winemakers sometimes induce in tiny quantities, for complexity, whereas lots of Brett is a huge flaw.

Long time since I've enjoyed a wine this much! Just wow. Costs about $50 and well worth it!

I see that the pros like it too:

95    #16 of the Top 100, and 95 points, Wine Spectator: "Like its macerated black cherry and plum flavors, this is both sweet and intense, taking on a bittersweet chocolate richness as it powers its way to a long aftertaste. The ripeness is supported by a dense core of tannins. Best from 2014 through 2035. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 1,600 cases made."
Wine Enthusiast
"Rivetto has delivered an impressive portfolio this year with vineyard-designate Barolos and a stellar Riserva. This Serralunga expression is ripe with generous, velvety fruit tones and loads of mineral, cola and spice. The wine shows balance and personality and definitely has the qualities needed for long aging."

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