Month: August 2021
I have for years recognized the parallelisms between wines/the winemaker and art/the artist. Winemakers and artists are more similar than you might first consider. It is more than left brain verses right brain and more the core personality and values held by each. Each typically strives to express the essence of an object/idea or grape varietal, in a dynamic form to showcase the expansive breath of their subject.
Wine reflects in the time & space continuum that which society deems “permissible and provides a solid ROI” for the endeavor at hand. History repeats itself but always with a new nuance or twist making both winemaker and artist with their works truly an existential endeavor. So while the winemaker harvests the grapes from the same vineyard year after year, each is unique and reflects it unique “terroir”. Artists have painted for centuries if not millenniums, mirroring the values and norms of society or revolting against them. Both the artists and winemakers are trying to provide a completeness and wholeness of the varietal or subject without blemish and bring satisfaction to their admiring public.
Five of the core schools of art can better be understood and their association with the winemakers’ perspective or presuppositions. They are Realism, Expressionism, Modern Art, Baroque and Romanticism.
Sometimes also referred to as Naturalism. This discipline tries to represent without artificial encumbrances or supernatural elements. More it depicts the ordinary and harsh environment of everyday and ordinary people from middle and lower class society. Manual labor is a hallmark of realism. This art is accurate and of unadorned, simple subjects of the 19th century. The Realistic often tackled social issues.
A winemaker who associates with this artistic discipline lets the “terrior” of the vineyards speak to and develop the wine without outside intervention. So in a good year the winemaker is hands off in the production scheme, but in a bad year financial consideration like ROI and profitability may leave him/her no choice to abandon this position.
The artists of this group paint people, places and objects with exaggerated proportions. Their perspective is highly subjective and personal. Negative even sinister feeling and aggressive behavior is recognized by amplified brush strokes and colors. These ideas can be seen in Starry Nights by Van Gough or Scream by Edward Munch. Much of this discipline was brought about from the reaction of Europe to the quickening industrialization and intended as well as unintended social consequences in society. Alienation and anxiety are parents which begat expressionism.
An expressionism winemaker who has a dispensation toward a varietal or final product, while often good, his or her perspective is extremely subjective and personal. If your tastes align with one, that is great, but odds are only a few will be simpatico.
This discipline is rejection of history and conservative values. The USA is more familiar with this art as it is more prevalent here but Europe obviously had a strong hand in Modern Art. The works here include abstract, surrealism, pop art, art deco, etc. Pollack and Salvador Dali are two key figures of this movement.
A winemaker related to this artistic discipline may interpret and reject standard practices in lieu of new technologies or processes. Perhaps this may apply to the can wine movement, Seltzer craze or even unconventional methods of winemaking.
A few of the key characteristics of Baroque painters include rich colors, grandeur, big round human subjects, serene or tranquil setting and pensive self-portraits. Ruben, Caravaggio and Rembrandt are some that come to mind.
A “baroque style” winemaker here may incorporate grandeur or drama combining two or more varietals. Perhaps even adding Mega Purple or other ingredients (egg whites, milk products, fish bladders, bovine pancreas, water, cultured yeasts, acidification, powered tannins, oak chips, etc.) to extreme measures or simply always making a “manufactured wine” for the consumers altering what nature has provided in the natural state of the varietal.
This represents a return to nature, organic in nature, green and bio friendly. This too was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and highlighted emotion and individualism. It also held tightly and glorified all the past and nature. Moods and feelings depict and can be seen in the art. Subjects of romanticism were religion, revolution and landscapes. Artists in this group include William Black, Thomas Jones, Eugene Delacroix, Francisco Goya and many others.
The winemaker here may return to the tried and true processes like hand harvesting and biological/environmental friendly vineyards. Many winemakers and wineries are getting certified green/organic and even going solar/turbine to be off the grid. The bottom line here is all of this producing a “better wine” or mirroring social norms to sell more wine or being better stewards of the land?
So with the basic outline of various schools or disciplines of the art world, do you see the concepts/ideals that a winemaker or winery emulate? While not wanting to “pigeonhole” anyone in particular, perhaps a winemaker cross pollenates various artistic disciplines.
While these concepts and ideas/ideals between winemakers and artists are not mutually isolated or strictly adhered to, it provides a perspective as to the presuppositions which may direct a winemaker either consciously or subconsciously in his/her winemaking direction and abilities. Perhaps a blending of many of these disciplines come into play reflecting both societal norms as well as individual creativity and thought.
Two of my favorite quotes on art are:
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”- Edgar Degas French Impressionist, 1834-1917. The winemakers’ corollary is “Wine is not what you see, but what you make others taste”.
“A picture is a poem without words” – Horace 65 BC to 8 BC. The winemakers’ corollary is “a bottle is simply a bottle with liquid, but a winemaker makes it come to life and sing as wine”.
Perhaps a bottle of wine is for a remembrance of a specific time with energy and creativity sprinkled by the winemaker.
Examining the cork is always the first task when opening a bottle of wine. What you notice with this bottle is how perfect the cork preserved this exquisite wine! A high quality cork allows approximately 1 milligram of oxygen to enter the bottle each year. Why is this important? Air allows the sulfites to be removed that are added in the bottling process to keep the wine fresh and not have harming effects from oxidation. The wine being fourteen years old, it was bottled for approximately eleven years in the cellar. The corollary is that a good cork can keep a good wine good, but a bad cork can spoil any wine.
Another facet of a bad cork is called “cork taint” which is a specific compound called Tricholoroanisole (TCA) that makes a wine taste and smell horrible. It is often compared to the fragrance of wet dog or sweaty gym socks. This is a whole other topic for another story.
In sharp contrast, I recently opened up this wine and you can see the trail of wine on the cork exiting the top of the bottle! The wine had turned bad and this had only been bottled a relatively short time of two to three years. Cork quality makes a difference! This vintner was aware of a “bottling glitch” on the line and thought they had caught all of them. He readily provided a new bottle.
I never have experienced a “bad cork” or any leakage from an O’Shaughnessy wine over fifteen years. O’Shaughnessy is one of my all-time top 30 wines!!! Two nights ago opened a 2007 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder from the cellar to accompany dinner. The 2007 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon is from the west side of the Napa Valley, Mount Veeder. On the eyes, a dark ruby coloring with medium viscosity. On the nose, a woody but sweet briar, with red fruits waffling into the nose. On the palate, extremely concentrated fruits, licorice and black cherry exploded in the mouth. The finish had some strong tannins, but without any “edginess” which provided for a long velvety crescendo. Currently release price is $140/bottle and is typically on allocation.
For more information on corks, see a previous story at:
“One Acre, One Guy, One Wine” slogan is the quintessential meaning behind their wines and success. It started in 2002 with Dave Becker, who founded the One Acre label with just one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon planted at his family home in the Oak Knoll region of the Napa Valley. The success of One Acre led to the launch of Acre Wines, a portfolio of classic wines from sustainably farmed, family-owned estate vineyards in Napa Valley.
Industry veterans, Mike and Talley Henry purchased the winery in 2017. Together with well-known consulting winemaker Richard Bruno, they continue to carry on the One Acre and Acre Wines legacy that Dave created nearly two decades ago. Today, the One Acre portfolio includes an Oak Knoll Cabernet sourced from Dave’s original one acre vineyard, and a Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon, planted on one acre with identical clones, varietal, spacing and row orientation as the Oak Knoll Cabernet to be able to understand and appreciate the differences of “terroir”. The highly acclaimed Acre portfolio includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc sourced from family-owned vineyards within the stellar AVA’s of Oakville, Yountville, Calistoga, and Stags Leap.
The 2017 Acre Zinfandel was a deep purple and ruby red coloring on the eyes. The aromas of red and black fruit engulfed the olfactory senses. On the palate, one juicy Zinfandel opened up with raspberry, blackberry and most pronounced blueberry tastes. Secondary notes of vanilla and cinnamon were present. This was no Amador “fruit bomb” Zinfandel, but rather a well-balanced fruit wine with restrained tannins and acidity providing a “mouthful experience”. The finish was “juicy and long lasting” with a tinge of earthiness and herbal qualities which made for such an enjoyable wine. The grapes came from two separate vineyards and is 90% Zinfandel with 10% Syrah grapes. The wine was aged 15 months using both American and European barrels, with 70% being new. The wine alcohol percentage is 14.9%. It also won Best in Class for Zinfandel at the American Fine Wine Competition in 2020 (right before the shutdown) with 94 points the winery website shows this selling for $29.
The Food and Wine Pairing
I wrote an article five or six months ago mentioning that Acre Zinfandel would provide some great food pairings and I would be trying many in the near future. So two nights ago a fantastically prepared Andouille Cajun Rice Skillet dish was chosen to pair with the wine. This was a “warm temperature flavor” dish with spiciness and far reaching textual appeal in the mouth. The recipe called for Andouille Cajun sausage, yellow onion, red & yellow bell peppers, minced garlic, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, kosher salt, tomato paste, fresh sliced Roma tomatoes, crushed red peppers and brown rice. The counterbalance of the dark fruit of the Acre Zinfandel rose to the occasion to provide a lovely experience. I usually don’t comment on wine bottle labels, but this bottle is as beautiful as the wine!
Saw a beautiful picture of shrimp Pad Thai that Janette Marie Klevan posted the other day and it caught my eye. That was the impetus for the meal last night. Decided to grab a bottle of 2019 Wood Family Vineyards from the cellar to accompany the meal.
On the eyes a deep golden color and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose green apple, toasted almonds and soft lemon fragrance. This wine, different from her iconic past vintages with “crackerjack flavors”, added a citrus note. The finish was long and with complex layers of intrigue. This Chardonnay has many of the familiar characteristics of previous years. The wine has lingering tropical fruits, with peach and pear on the palate. In a recent conversation, Rhonda stated she blended her Chardonnay from both “tightly grained barrels and loosely grained barrels” into the final production wine. For the 2019 Chardonnay, she incorporated a higher mix of new French oak barrels, which imparted a new twist on an already exquisite wine. A little bit less “buttery” but the same big mouthful feel/texture and imparting some mild “Sauvignon Blanc type” lemon citrus for enjoyment. The previous three years this wine made “The Best of the Year” on my annual report. It will again make it for 2021!
Thai, Pad Thai or Phad Thai, is commonly served as a street food and at restaurants in Thailand. Tonight’s dish was a shrimp Phad Thai on the lighter side with flat rice noodles, egg, garlic, tofu, bean sprouts, Chinese chives and crushed peanuts. Seasoning include fish sauce, sugar, water rice vinegar and chili powder Served with lime wedges to be drizzled over the meal with dried chili peppers. Served with a fresh side salad. While the “safe choice” of wine could have been a Riesling, the 2019 Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay proved to work wonderfully with the food. Truly the sum of the two (food and wine) brought it to a new dimension. A winning combination for sure!
I have been a fan of Keenan wines for over twenty years. Keenan winery is located on Spring Mountain which is one of the unique areas for Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot wines. Michael Keenan’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is grown primarily from grapes on the Spring Mountain estate at 1700 foot elevation. The balance of fruit is from Pope Valley, to the east of Napa Valley.
One of the hallmarks of Keenan wines is his year to year consistency. This is due in part to the viticulture of the estate and the artistry of wine maker Nils Venge. I have enjoyed every wine he has made or acted as the consulting winemaker! The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was fermented for ten to fourteen days and presents a beautifully deep robust color. The wine was aged for twenty months, with thirty-three percent being new French and American oak.
The wine offered on the eyes an intensely deep color on the eyes and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, both beautiful aromatics and blend of flowers and old world rustic dust/bramble. Additionally, raspberry provide sufficient fruit to entice one to take the first sip. In the mouth, the layers of complexity from both the estate and Pope Valley intermix to provide a mouthful flavor and mid lasting finish, with structure and defined but rounded tannins. It is currently still available at the winery for $84.
This story originally published in 2019 and it still rang true last evening. 2018 While sitting on patio enjoying the unusually clear skies (from all the raging California fires), pulled from the cellar a 2018 Tenbrink Chardonnay from Suisun Valley. When I first tasted this wine, I immediately rated it as a Best of Year wine on the nose alone without even tasting it. I can’t recall giving a “score” to any wine before and then only on the nose! As I sipped the wine was inspirational. The pale straw coloring provided an array of honeysuckle, pear and apple on nose and later on the palate. It had a touch of citrus on the finish and was clearly going to be a winner! This evening opening it, the wine still continues to surpass my high expectations set at the winery two years ago! For sure it will be on my List of Top Wines of 2021. I am so pleased I continued to purchase this wine. A tremendous bargain now at $32 retail price for the 2020 release. See a previously written stories on all their wines at:
Suisun Valley is definitely on my list to visit shortly to get a better understanding of this often overlooked and underappreciated wine region!
Previously I have written about the Hindsight Winery in Calistoga and their excellent red wines, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon’s. About six months ago their long time winemaker, Jac Cole retired. Now some excellent news—they hired Michael Weis, who was the head winemaker at Groth. He is well known for making spectacular wines and I believe he received 100 points from Wine Spectator for one of his Sauvignon Blanc vintages. Additional reading on the winery and ownership can be found at:
The Hindsight 2020 Sauvignon Blanc
Their inaugural Sauvignon Blanc release under Michael Weis was handcrafted with an artisan touch. First on the eyes it is a golden straw color and medium viscosity. On the nose, floral aromas waft into the senses, along with green apple which is most prominent. On the palate, citrus accents of lime and lemon come into play and are kept in check with flavor but not overpowering. The finish provides a mouthful feeling of a much heavier wine rather than a “light Sauvignon Blanc”. This is most likely due to the addition of nine percent Viognier. This also helps lower the acidity. This wine goes for only $25.99!
The Food and Wine Pairing
This evening meal was fresh halibut picked up by my wife. (Editor’s note: my wife detests fish and she was kind enough to bring this back in an ice chest for me to cook—and very much appreciated!). When I returned home she mentioned “the purchase” in the refrigerator. I immediately thought of the 2020 Hindsight Sauvignon Blanc. Prepared as a Pacific Islander theme, cooked in a sauce of Chardonnay wine, a dab of butter, wasabi, ginger, mango slices, pineapple slices, a few purple onion slices, pineapple juice and salt & pepper. The Halibut was served over rice pilaf and topped with diced mango, pineapple and a modicum of purple onion. This dish sang an operetta in the mouth with flavors of enjoyment with this Hindsight Sauvignon Blanc. A wonderful food pairing this evening!
Pulled two of Rudy Zuidema’s spectacular Grenache wines last evening from the wine cellar. Wanted something fruity, spicy and a medium body. The 2014 was ready to drink and was a very good wine. However Rudy Zuidema’s 2016 Grenache was spectacular! You can read more on the background of his project at:
His Clone 515 Grenache from Chateauneuf du Pape heritage continues to produce a delightful summer and fall wine. Minerality and a rustic flare still persists in the wine and the 2016 is aromatic with black cherry and as Rudy states “notes of cocoa and fig newton”. Add to this plum with soft tannins, it engulfs and surrounds the palate with fruit and spice. A wine very worthy to have in the cellar for any evening or occasion. This has made My Best Wines of Year, 3 straight years and his 2017 Grenache will also make the 2021 Best Wines of the Year List. To get such aromas and character from an old world meets new world Grenache, at $42, made this even more enjoyable. His current release is the 2017.
This wine comes from some of their 118 years old vines in Lodi, California! This is perhaps the fullest and most worthy tasting Carignane in the New World. Carignane originated in Spain and is commonly found in French wine. Historically used in blending due to high volume per acre at 11 tons and with its agreeable personality. Not “advertised” in writing in the tasting room, but told after tasting the wine for the first time, it had won Double Gold at the 2018 S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition.
For more info on Jessie’s Grove Winery you can read a story at:
Their 2015, 100% Carignane provided an excellent nose and on the palate a rich fruit spice and even a tad hint of “earthiness”. This Carignane Reserve was intense with freshly crushed berry & cherry aromas. Flavors seem to light up this full-bodied, bold and ripe wine. The fruit flavors were focused and pure and the texture was vibrant, giving the wine a lot of vivaciousness. Tremendous cherry flavors burst in the palate.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired with a fresh taco salad of ground beef, lettuce, freshly halved tomatoes, purple & green onions, and topped off with cheddar cheese and salsa. This fruit forward Carignane enveloped the spiciness of the meal.
The definition of hindsight is “understanding of a situation or event, only after it has happened or developed”. And knowledge as defined in philosophy is either “a priori” (knowledge that is acquired independently of any particular experience) or “a posterior” (derived from experience). You the reader of this article get both a priori and a posterior knowledge of this remarkable wine!
Tasting Hindsight’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon 20/20 was similar in that you can obtain knowledge of this wine independently of your own of experience. It is always noteworthy to try a wine you have heard about but have not experienced. It is even more pleasing to taste the wines and be impressed! Last night, pulling this wine from the cellar to enjoy with a meal was for a lack of a better phrase, breathtaking! I had tried the Hindsight 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon 20/20 and rated it highly. But the 2017 far surpasses the 2015.
The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon 20/20 from Napa Valley earned 95 points in the San Francisco International Wine Competition. It is 100% Napa Valley fruit, and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes came from Southern Napa Valley, Rutherford, and Spring Mountain AVA’s. The processes of the grapes were in small lots and cold soaked prior to fermentation for five days for maximum extraction of color and flavor components.
This produced a beautifully dark red/crimson coloring on the eyes. On the nose, black and blue fruits wafted into the nose with elements of subdued violets. On the palate the predominate flavor of blueberry, with secondary flavors of soft vanilla, pipe tobacco and a hint of black licorice. The tannins were softly rounded and smooth but structured enough to make this a solid Cabernet Sauvignon finish. Now here is the key to “a priori information”—it is listed for $39.98/bottle on their website. So without experiencing this wine, I can attest that it is a phenomenal wine for the price point! I have tasted and sipped many wine with these characteristics from $50 to $75 and up. If you want to get some foresight, than Hindsight Cabernet Sauvignon 20/20 is your wine. The 2017 just made my Best Wines of 2021 for two reasons: first the flavor profile is exquisite and secondly the unbelievable price point.
The Food and Wine Pairing
The food for the wine was a favorite Carne Asada recipe. A marinated flank steak was marinated for 24 hours in advance. The marinade consisted of fresh cilantro leaves, olive oil, trace of reduced sodium soy sauce, juice from an orange, juice from a lime, minced garlic, diced jalapeno (changed from recipe calling for seeded and one to two and included seeds!), ground cumin and Kosher salt/black pepper. It was quickly seared on the BBQ to medium rare. Plated and garnished with additional marinade (that was not in touch with the raw meat) and fresh lime wedge drizzled over the meat. Accompanying the meal was a Spanish rice with tomatoes and fresh Beefsteak tomatoes. The wine cut the protein of the flank steak beautifully and the fruit of the wine enveloped the spiciness of the Carne Asada. Another wonderful meal and wine combination.