March 23, 2011 (a very rainy day) was perfect for reviewing the current release portfolio at Cuvaison's Silverado Trail tasting room in a deep presentation by associate Travis Elder, and joined by their direct marketing specialist Suzanna Boogay. Their commitment to sustainable green vineyard and winery practices are commendable, from grey water treatment to solar power. Their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Cabernet are all extremely good.
The global beat goes on, surrounding designations, classifications, assessments, grading, labeling, certifying bodies, and the "promise of quality". Do regulatory bodies help the industry to have consistently higher quality products? How much of these efforts are sustainable, justifiable, and warranted net benefits? How extensible and portable are such practices to DOCs and AVAs elsewhere in the world?
Yesterday I addressed how and why a small handful of winemakers have begun to raise the quality of their blending and aging components in "Wrestling with Promiscuity and Monogamy through Artisanry in the Battle against Commoditization in Wine". Now we see more evidence of originality and genius breaking through into a new marketplace.
The market has boiled over with tremendous discussion about the global commoditization of fine wines produced on a megascale, and about how the attending market forces are diminishing the best practices of many artesans as well as exacerbating the scarcity of the distinctive, unique products in which their reputations are embodied.
Weeks often go by without a new favorite wine of the month(of any varietal) for me. Last month was exceptional in that so many presented themselves. The first week of every month gets its’ own favorite as long as I work diligently through the tasting proceedings in the monthly collaboration of wine makers at Cheers-to-Taste in Saint Helena, which I did a few days ago on February 2, 2011. It’s not fair to say that we all taste equally well from start to finish through a two-hour walking exam, but we all end up with a favorite of the evening, though probably not the favorite of the month.
Julio César López de Heredia, general manager of Viña Tondonia in Rioja, Spain speaks at a wine conference in Brazil to honor the vintages of 1973 and 1954. I translate his words loosely, while expressing his feelings with every drop of honesty that I can press from this mature berry that I call myself.
Mark Middlebrook in the Paul Marcus warehouse, explains the Spanish aging classification conventions in the context of wines from Rioja. "Crianza" is the mezzanine tier above "Joven" (young). Pointing to the higher tiers, he tells us that, the legal descriptor "Reserva" indicates 3 years of aging, of which, one year must be in an oak barrel. The top tier is the "Gran Reserva", which requires at least 5 years of aging, with no less than two years having been in oak.