Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella
Filmed in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, "Bottle Shock" takes a romantic view of winemaking and the significance of that long-ago tasting in France (1976) where Chateau Montelena a small American winery bested the supreme French wines of the time and sent the wine industry on its head - putting California wines on the map for good. Based on a true story, Bottle Shock chronicles the events leading up to the famous 'Judgment of Paris' tastings, told through the lives of father and son, Jim and Bo Barrett.
A former real estate attorney, Jim sacrificed everything to realize his dream of creating the perfect hand-crafted chardonnay. His business, however, is struggling, and he's not only trying to overcome differences with his stoner son, but is also fighting off the banks.
Meanwhile in Paris, unwitting British wine shop owner Steven Spurrier hopes to revive his own failing business by sponsoring a competition (blind tasting) which will pit the traditional French powerhouse against the California upstarts.
Little did Steven and Jim realize that they were both on course to change the history of wine forever. Bottle shock delivers something for everyone...romance, intrigue,patriotism, and of course WINE. Its amazing to see how hard it was for the California wine maker in 1976 struggling to make ends meat...and being thought of as "hicks"...and to see the powerhouse California wine makers have become in 25 years.
God Bless America!!
Buy Bottle Shock at Amazon
View a trailer on youtube.
Chinon 1996, Clos de l'Olive, Couly-Dutheil
Remarkably youthful. On opening it tries to say too much at once, having been bottled up for over a decade. But the aromatics were staggering from the first pour. Subtle bell pepper as a base, layers of spring flowers, comfrey, camomile, and on top of the pyramid, a sweet and perfectly ripe red cherry-plum. The mouth kicked in after an hour, when the wine attained something reasonably close to perfection. Drunk with ossobuco, with olives.
Chinon 2003, Theleme, Pascal et Alain Lorieux
After two hours in a carafe, this still has a remarkable vibrancy and youthful vigour. Those who believe cabernet franc cannot produce great wine (aside from Cheval Blanc) should decant a bottle of this, and revel in the sheer intensity and richness of the fruit - dark, serious, sanguine. The tannin is solid, and the acidity is just enough to maintain an exceptional freshness. Bordeaux lovers, take note: This is really good.
I think I'm usually pretty lucky. There are some things that haunt wine lovers. Corked wines. Premature oxidation of white Burgundies (and, some are now sinisterly saying, of Alsaces perhaps and next, who knows, Muscadet?). Brettanomyces. Other sundry flaws that leave you aghast and pouring out glass and bottle into the nearest drain. I don't usually run into those specters. My corked bottle rate is so low you'd think I had some kind of saran wrap secretly hidden in my fingers.*
But recently, alas, my luck was out. I had the most alarmingly, awfully flawed bottle of wine I have perhaps ever had the misfortune to taste.
2003 Léon Barral Faugères Tradition. Now, I had the 2005 version of this usually lovely and straightforward wine a few weeks ago. It was, well, lovely and straightforward.
Flash forward to its 2003 incarnation. Uh, oops! Who poured nail polish remover into my Faugères? The nose was acetone and ungainly. It could only be less marked on the palate, I reasoned in my benightedness. Slurp. Ugh, no! It was in fact worse. Along with the nail polish remover taste was a dirty, rotten uncleanness in the background, hovering and killing all fruit and pleasure.
For once, for me, one sip was enough.
*For, as old wino's tales tell us, dipping saran wrap into a glass of corked wine whisks away the corkiness (along with some fruit and other flavor components, but you can't have everything).
There are four key pieces of legislation moving their way through the Virginia legislature that impact the Commonwealth’s wineries. They are briefly detailed below, and for what it is worth, all of this information is available through the Virginia Legislative Information System which can be accessed here.
HB2071 and SB1033. Both bills are in identical form (one on the House side, the other on the Senate), and would amend Section 15.2-2288.3 of the Virginia Code to require localities to take into consideration the agricultural nature of farm wineries before attempting to restrict the on-site marketing and sale of wine. The legislation was sponsored by Delegate Ed Scott (R-Culpeper) and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) in the House and Senate, respectively. The full text of HB2071 and SB1033 can be accessed here and here, respectively.
HB2606. This bill would have have permitted further regulation of farm wineries operating under so-called urban county governance. Interestingly, there is only one such county in Virginia: Fairfax County. Even more interesting, is the long, tortured history involving the single winery trying to open its doors in Fairfax County. That winery’s fate is still uncertain, but this legislation was part of this drama as you can read here. There has been strong opposition to this bill in Virginia, arising from concerns of legislative/regulatory creep. Fortunately, for the Virginia wine industry, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee voted to pass the bill by indefinitely on a voice vote Wednesday morning. And apparently, much credit must be given to Delegates Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) and Bobby Orrock (R-Caroline) who worked hard to support the Virginia wine industry. The full text of HB 2606 can be accessed here.
SB 1445. This one is my personal favorite. Sponsored by Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) it would permit wineries to solicit wine club memberships at wine festivals and events. The Virginia ABC apparently concluded that such solicitations were not permitted under present law (see second and third entries). If passed, this legislation would permit “wine of the month club” operators to solicit memberships at any location for which a permit to consume alcohol has been issued, including restaurants. This is great — and fair — legislation that provides equal marketing opportunities for both in-state and out-of-state wineries. The full text of SB 1445 can be accessed here.
As this and other legislation moves through the halls of Richmond, we will keep you updated.
An Unfashionable Grape
I Love Cabernet Franc
I had just finished writing my tasting note. Giving the remaining wine in my glass a good swirl, I took a deep, pensive whiff, and reread what I had written. Strawberry sorbet, cherries, cilantro, green pepper and cabbage - yes, they were all there. But then I thought, "Who is going to buy a wine that combines strawberry sorbet and cabbage?" While it made total sense in my glass, I can't see Dairy Queen making this its flavour of the month.
The wine in question was a red from France's Loire Valley, made entirely with cabernet franc. While this is one of the wine world's most important grapes - in that it is the sixth-most grown grape in France and plays a part in some of the world's greatest wines - more so than any other, people tend to love it or hate it.
This goes beyond the traditional New World vs. Old World schism. Yes, Robert Parker rarely reviews wines that are made entirely with cabernet franc, and its herbaceous quality is off-putting to many of you "fruit-forward" types. But I also know a number of sommeliers and wine freaks with very classic, European tastes who simply don't like cabernet franc.
I think it gets a raw deal. Many of the best examples are relatively inexpensive, complex and flavourful wines.
While it can make some fantastic wines, cabernet franc's most important contribution may be the grape that it helped parent: cabernet sauvignon. Recent DNA profiling has shown that one of the world's most illustrious varietals is in fact a cross of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc.
Cabernet franc is vinified on its own, most notably in France's Loire Valley and other cooler climates, such as right here in Canada. Its major role, however, is in blending, especially alongside cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Depending on where you are in Bordeaux, for example, it can make up to 75 per cent of the final wine. On the left bank, in such hallowed communes as Pauillac and St. Estèphe, it is used by winemakers in small doses to "soften" cabernet sauvignon, as it adds both red fruits as well as signature aromatics - tobacco, flowers and its herbaceous quality.
On Bordeaux's cooler right bank, cabernet franc plays an even more important role. Many of the most celebrated wines of Pomerol and St. Emilion have significant proportions of cabernet franc in the blend. The most famous of these is the legendary Cheval Blanc, the St. Emilion Grand Cru whose recipe is generally two-thirds cabernet franc, one-third merlot.
Even you Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon fanatics may have been unwittingly drinking some cabernet franc. Many of California's top cabs have small amounts of cabernet franc in the blend, and more and more acreage is being devoted to growing the grape. These plantings are generally limited to cooler growing areas like Napa and Sonoma, where it can be positively juicy - showing sweet red fruits like raspberry and strawberry, and floral notes like violets.
But the controversial wines I am talking about here are those from the Loire. They come from such appellations as Chinon, Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil and Anjou Villages. The styles can vary, from light and delicate summery wines to bigger wines that can age with grace and elegance, particularly those of Chinon and Saumur-Champigny.
Now back to strawberry and cabbage sorbet in my glass, which I have refilled since starting to write this. There is no doubt that herbaceousness is a quality in wine that is derided by a number of popular mags and their writers. It is definitely not fashionable. While I would agree that a wine with excessive herbaceous notes can be disagreeable, I really appreciate the subtle notes of peppers and other greenery found in this style of wine when it is done right. Aside from the flavour, I love its uniqueness.
This Anjou Villages in my glass is great. It was served slightly chilled, as an apéritif. Dinner was classic Greek: chicken brochettes, lots of oregano, basil and garlic, feta cheese. The wine never took control; its vegetal notes just supported the oregano and basil that perfumed our plate, the fruit and acidity refreshing the palate, cutting through the garlic and feta. It drank with ease.
The world of wine is incredibly diverse, and we are fortunate to live in a place where we have so much choice, where it is so easily accessible. Yves Saint Laurent said that "fashions fade, style is eternal"; let's hope the future of wine remains more style than fashion.
I wrote about this topic last year, and despite the unhappy ending, I am glad to see that our neighbor to the North is once again taking a shot at changing its direct wine shipping laws (for the better). Senator Jamie Raskin (my old law school professor) introduced the bill, S 388.
Among other things, the bill (Adobe required) would establish a direct wine shipper’s license issued by the State of Maryland. In addition to permitting self distribution by in state wineries, it establishes a permit process for out of state wineries to ship into Maryland. You can read more information about the bill here, including sponsors and legislative history.
I became aware of this legislation after receiving an e-mail from these folks — the Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws. I seem to recall these guys were around last year, and I wish them the best of luck in helping to get this legislation passed. We will keep you posted.