Monday, January 9, 2012

Over & Out

This blog seems to have run out of steam. Or rather, I have. After starting in 2009, posting somewhat frequently and then losing most of my posts in an "administrative mishap", I'm a little burned out. Wine -- I love it. Just finding it more and more difficult to keep talking and writing about wine. Well, there seem to be enough people out there to take up any small slack this may create.

I'm pondering an all new blog, but haven't decided for sure yet. Check here to see if I've started off in another direction.

Keep drinking, keep seeking, keep enjoying.


~ vs

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get Your Learn On: Austrian Style

I love this wine. It may be the "entry level" Riesling from Schloss-Gobelsburg, but I'll tell you what - if a boutique California winery made a simple Riesling this delicious it would retail for twice the price and the press release would include the hubris to announce a new grand cru level terroir.

This is just another great example of why Austria has the best collection of dry Rieslings in the world. Sorry, Alsace. Love your wines also, but I'm partial to your neighbors a couple doors to the East.

Want to learn some more about the wines of Austria? Here are some links to check out.

All things official can be found here.

The Austrian Wine USA blog has some solid info and is updated often.

My personal favorite source is the great importer Terry Theise over at the Skurnik Wines site.

Terry's vintage catalogs are the stuff of legend in the wine biz and are both great reading and an excellent source to learn about wine. I came to know Mr. Theise's work several years ago as I found that many of the great Austrian wines I was falling in love with were part of his portfolio. No one else can speak about wine quite like Terry. I'm a huge fan. In addition to Austria, Terry also represents wines from Germany and grower Champagne. All good stuff. You won't be disappointed.


~ vs

PSA: Drunks, Connoisseurs & Reality TV

If you've ever been unfortunate enough to catch an episode of The Real Housewives of New York City, then you are probably familiar with this creature and her ever present bottle of Pinot Gris.

I'm sure this lovely lady would tell you I'm really into wine. And after all, it is her very own name on the label. (Who the hell doesn't have their own winery or label these days?) One thing is for sure, she sure gets into plenty of bottles.

Disturbing as it may sound, this has me thinking about some wine terminology and a sort of wink-and-look-the-other-way thing that the world o'wine fosters. And it starts with how we talk about wine. Which is why I'm proposing that we do away with some much overused phrases: food friendly, great with food, ideal for pairing with food, etc. Why is that, you ask? I'll tell you.

All wine should go with food. We should be eating and drinking. It should be a given that this beverage compliments and accompanies all kinds of food. Sure, there will be the odd cocktail party or cause for celebration where you down a glass all by itself. (Snacks, anyone? You know, not to get all Martha Stewart here, but it isn't really a proper celebration or party without some snacks.) People of wine, people of Earth, please, let's not encourage drunken behavior by promoting wine as a fireside sipper or great on its own.

I personally enjoy the little buzz I get from some nice wine with dinner. But let's get real here, if you regularly sit around drinking a bottle by itself, you're not into wine, you're an alcoholic. You may think that wine is "classy" and therefore will somehow mask what is really going on. But trust me on this one, the cameras are rolling and we see can see it all.


~ vs

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Sinner and Saint Laurent

Regarded highly for their white wines like Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, Austria also produces some very unique and delicious red wines. The names may not exactly roll off your tounge - Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, St. Laurent - but don't be afraid, there is some real good drinking to be had here.

My favorite of the bunch is St. Laurent.

Known as Sankt Laurent in German, St. Laurent has been called the savage cousin of Pinot Noir. And there is probably good reason, as genetic testing and records kept by monks over the centuries both indicate a lineage back to the noble red grape. Think the delicacy of Burgundy with the spice and weight of Rhone reds.

People are catching on here and there, but you still have to do some searching just to find the stuff. Juris and Schloss Gobelsburg produce some very solid St. Laurent vintage after vintage. We have pictures - which serve as proof!

A label...

...and a bottle...

Along with these two, another one of the best bottles I've had the pleasure of drinking was from the great Weingut Brundlmayer. Frequent readers know that I will talk about this great Austrian winery quite often. Keeping it short here, let me just say that, as this fairly recent write up in the Los Angeles Times indicates, I don't seem to be the only one who is taking notice.

Just look at this bottle resting on what appears to be a hay stack... will quench your thirst, put you in a meditative trance and create world peace.

Alright, I admit, I made some of that won't quench your thirst. Rather, a good glass of St. Laurent will actually make you thirsty for more. My kind of sinning. Straight from a bottle of the saint.


~ vs

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can You Dig It?

Ladies and gentlemen, let's all dig on this a little:

True quality is that which succeeds in surprising and moving us. It is not locked inside a formula. Its essence is subtle (subjective) and never rational. It resides in the unique, the singular, but it is ultimately connected to something more universal. A great wine is one in which quality is contained. Such a wine will necessarily be uncommon and decidedly unique because it cannot be like any other, and because of this fact it will be atypical, or only typical of itself. 

This sentiment came courtesy of Alsace winemaker Andre Ostertag as quoted in Kermit Lynch's book, Inspiring Thirst. This is such a great way of thinking about wine and what constitutes quality.

I hear the world quality used so often in terms of winery equipment and vineyard management - and those things are important considerations - but rarely will you hear an articulation such as Andre's. The unimaginative mantra you hear so often is:

low yields + very ripe fruit + modern cellar equipment + no fining no filtration = quality

Formulas might work for things like Coke, Big Macs and shampoo, but it when it comes to making great wine, there is no exact formula that will get you there. Like with a lot of things, I think people in and around the business of wine tend to get seduced by technology and all that it promises. I mean, if you were investing thousands of dollars and massive amounts of time and energy into a venture you might want to believe that you have a blueprint rather than what you really have - an ever evolving process. [Full disclosure: nothing against Coke, Big Macs or shampoo. These are fine industrial age products, but they are not the same as a great agricultural product.]

I worked along side a winemaker friend who used to like to say we have philosophies, not rules. Makes a whole lot of sense to me. Nature doesn't follow a set formula. Any winemaker who thinks they can force their formula onto vintage after vintage is in for a rude awakening. But let's get back to Alsace and Andre Ostertag for a quick minute.

To get straight to it - try some of Ostertag's wines. They are fantastic. Known mostly for white wines like Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, the domaine's Pinot Noir often flies a little under the radar. Andre worked in Burgundy while studying wine making and he may have picked up a thing or two about Pinot Noir, which is grown in Alsace but not considered one of the region's noble grapes. But really, you can't go wrong with any of the wines from Domaine Ostertag.

Here's a link for the domaine - It's all in French, my apologies to the non-French speakers. Google translator anyone?

And here's a shot of Andre with some of his wines.

He seems like an interesting cat. But in the wine world the story and personality of the winemakers and domaine owners tend to get a little bit too much ink. So while I do like this particular messenger, I think I'll focus more on the message.


~ vs

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Delivering the Goods: Schlossgut Diel & the Nahe

It's raining today where I live. As I like to just sit and listen to the rain on days like this, I'll keep the text light on this posting. In short, this is a great wine from one of the best wineries on Earth.

The Nahe growing region of Germany. Is there anywhere better for Riesling? There may be regions that produce Rieslings as good, but you would be hard pressed to find anything better. Quick - memorize all these fantastic vineyards:

And with other world class wineries like Donnhoff, and Emrich-Schönleber also located in the Nahe, this tiny portion of the planet receives a disproportionate amount of my wine attention. I highly recommend a look. Here's a view down into the valley to get you started.

For my US readers, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, don't sleep on Riesling as a great Turkey Day wine. Riesling is so versatile, and with the varying degrees of sweetness to bone dry options available in German bottlings, you can find something to match up nicely with whatever you have on the menu.


~ vs

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friends & Fiends

If you want a friend, feed any animal. Or, buy a good bottle of Pinot Blanc.

There are some wines which always seem to be capable of vexing the dedicated drinker. Red Burgundy for sure. You know the drill. It can be so lovely, aromatic, and delicately mouthwatering. And the next bottle you buy is...such a disappointment. (And it sure as hell wasn't cheap, right?) Well, maybe this has gotten better over the last couple of decades, but taking a chance on a Burgundy producer who you aren't familiar with can still net some pretty dubious results. As much as we love the stuff, Pinot Noir can be prime fiend territory.

On the other hand, Pinot Blanc, the pale genetic cousin of Pinot Noir, just wants to be your friend. Less flashy, not quite as dreamy, but just plain tasty to drink - this is a great wine to keep on hand for its versatility and simplicity.

Alsace would be my go-to region for this grape, but you are sure to find some nice bottles from Italy, Austria and Oregon. I would be remiss to not also mention some outstanding Weissburgunder, as it is known in Germany.

We all have different sorts of friends. Some are fair weather - the kind who tend to come and go as suits their needs. Some friendships can be intense, where you share your deepest secrets and desires. Others are more casual in nature - you see each other when you see each other. And then there are your steady, uncomplicated friends. Always available, never causing trouble or costing you too much time and money. Bless their little hearts.


~ vs