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Colorado Governor’s Cup 2014

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Colorado Governor's Cup 2014Ten years ago, when I first tasted Colorado wine, I spent much of my time being polite. As in, “This is nice. Thank you for letting me taste it.”

Those days are long gone, as was amply demonstrated last weekend during judging for the fifth annual Colorado Governor’s Cup. The red wines were exceptionally strong, and though the whites weren’t as good, they were technically sound and professionally made. In the regional wine business, that’s an accomplishment.

The best reds were cabernet franc and petit verdot, two Bordeaux grapes that do well in Colorado and that the state’s winemakers have taken to with enthusiasm (and especially cab franc). My panel gave a gold and double gold to cab francs, and a gold to a petit verdot. And the best wine of the competition was a petit verdot. The results haven’t been released yet, but I will update this when they are.

The wines were varietally correct, but also distinctive and reflected Colorado’s terroir — not a lot of fruit, more dry than a California wine, yet complex and very long. This is not an easy style of wine to make, but the state’s winemakers have made great progress figuring out how to work with their terroir over the past decade.

Finally, a few words about my pal Doug Caskey, who oversees the Colorado Wine Board and has run the competition since it started. One reason I enjoy judging this event so much is that Doug brings together judges who understand that Colorado wine isn’t French wine or California wine and isn’t supposed to taste like it came from those places. Sadly, too many judges downgrade wines that are “different,” which has nothing to do with quality, but with a preconceived notion about what wine is supposed to taste like that borders on snobbery and elitism.

The two people on my panel, Tynan Szvetecz and Sarah Moore, were terrific in this respect, and it was a pleasure to judge with them. I’m always lucky to work with people who put up with my idiosyncrasies, and they were no exception.

Book review: Buy the Right Wine Every Time

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Book review: Buy the Right Wine Every TimeTom Stevenson is a British wine writer and critic best known for his work with pricey and high-end wines, and especially Champagne. So what’s he doing writing a book that rates hundreds of wines with an emphasis on value, and where cheap wines are allowed to shine?

Writes Stevenson:

Inevitably the most widely available wines include many of the cheapest brands, an area of wine habitually avoided by critics. As such wines are almost exclusively purchased by most wine drinkers, those critics (myself included) have effectively disenfranchised most wine consumers. That is something I want to correct. …

Welcome to the fight, Tom.

This makes “Buy the Right Wine Every Time” (Sterling Epicure, $14.95) the ideal complement to the cheap wine book. I didn’t want to list wines, which is what the blog is for. Stevenson does, and includes not only Winestream Media favorites like Cakebread and Dom Perignon, but lots and lots of cheap wine, including $10 Hall of Fame mainstays like Bogle and Seguras Viudas. It even includes — gasp — favorable entries for white zinfandel, which surprised even Stevenson.

The ratings list 382 wines by price and “recommended,” “highly recommended,” and “to die for.” They mostly avoid winespeak (though comparing the Santa Rita sauvignon blanc to nettles probably won’t help most $10 wine drinkers), and include a much welcome link to similar wines, the goal being to help readers try something different. That’s such a good idea that I think I’ll steal it for the blog.

Most importantly, and the true genius of the book, is that the wines, whether cheap or expensive, are “widely available.” This is a refreshing approach given all the upset about wine availability these days. The drawback is that a lot of very ordinary cheap wine is included, and probably too much from Australia, but it points to the difficulties availability presents to those of us who have to buy wine. My only criticism of the book: Not enough rose, and no roses from Spain or the U.S.

That someone like Stevenson has discovered that cheap wine is part of the wine world — and that it is one key to spreading the gospel of wine — is just another indication that the wine world has changed for the better. And who doesn’t want that?

Wine of the week: Aragonesas Los Dos 2012

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Wine of the week: Aragonesas Los Dos 2012One of the joys of wine is stumbling on something enjoyable when you least expect it. Which is also one of wine’s frustrations, since stumbling on something enjoyable doesn’t mean it’s going to be generally available.

Which pretty much sums up the Los Dos ($8, sample, 14%), a Spanish red blend made with garnacha and syrah. The producer, Bodegas Aragonesas, a decent-sized Spanish winery, doesn’t list the wine on its website, which means the wine may be a one-off made for the export market or not made every year. Hence my concern about availability, given the way these things work.

Still, if you can find the Los Dos, it’s worth buying. It’s not quite $10 Hall of Fame quality; it’s too simple, even for a $10 wine. But it delivers much, much more than its $8 cost. Look for garnacha-style red fruit (cherry?) and a certain richness in the mouth. There isn’t much else going on, but the fruit and alcohol don’t overwhelm the wine the way I thought they would. It’s clean and professional, and someone tried for balance when making it, which isn’t usually the case with wines targeted for the U.S.

This is a food wine, for red meat and barbeque, and a very pleasant and welcome surprise. Assuming we can find it on a store shelf, of course.

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