"Beauty is more important than impact. Harmony is more important than intensity. The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts. Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness. Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil, and artisanality." - Terry Theise
It's been some time since my last post and while sipping the morning coffee, I read a quote that inspired me by Terry Theise. Taken directly from the Skurnik Wines website... "If it is true that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, Terry Theise has been there and back. A brief perusal of his writing makes it quickly apparent that the man has no reservations about conveying his thoughts and feelings on wine, life, sex, philosophy and general cosmology. In Terry's world, it's all inter-related."
Terry works for Michael Skurnik Wines and has over many years, achieved a loyal following not only for his wine selections, but also for his passionate writing. Beyond writing annual catalogs covering the wines of Germany, Austria, and Champagne, Terry also has recently published his first book, Reading Between the Wines. Should you find yourself worn and thirsty for original thought amid a sea of mundane tasting notes, lifeless critical point scores, and a general lack of soul in wine, I recommend you read Terry's book for an invigorating boost of passionate perspective.
No eloquent words, no loquacious lead-in, just good times. This trip to Italy will not be forgotten.
I think the video says it best...
Photos & film by: Fermented Thoughts
Music by: Zucchero Fornaciari
Originally posted 2010
I wanted to bring this post to the surface in honor of Rick Bakas' #pinotmoment movement. This, was my Pinot Moment and a very memorable moment (night) it was...
(Originally posted August 2009)
Recently, amid a night of inspiring company and satisfying food I found myself torn - caught in the crossfire of two developed and mature wines, in what turned out to be a Pinot night to remember. Reflecting on the experience brought this thought. If pressed to identify these two wines by sex, both would indeed be female. Beautiful, elegant, and civilized in their seductive charm.
Prior to dinner, my attention went to the 1999 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir from Mendocino. She was sophisticated with nine years of refinement. Upon opening, the mild-garnet wine gave effortless pleasure. A playful nose of spicy red fruit coiled with notes of tobacco, burnt toast and hints of bitter chocolate. Denying no fruit - bright, tart cherry flavors conjured childhood memories of campfires filled with "pudgie pies" stuffed with cherry filling. Carbon laced raspberries lingered on the finish reminding me to stay serious. No doubt, a beautifully polished Pinot from the North Coast of California.
Just before dinner, we were graced by the star of the evening. The spotlight shifted, the crowd went silent and the 1981 Mayacamas Vineyards Pinot Noir from Napa entered the room. As the capsule was removed, a formidable cork was revealed. I actually think I heard the cork laugh (though politely) at the waiters corkscrew I brandished. As I proceeded with care, the laughter grew to a roar and erupted as I swiftly broke the delicate cork in two...
Undeterred, we called in the professionals and with the skillful twist of an Ah-So corkscrew, we were back in business. For over 40 years, Bob Travers has been making wine the old fashioned way. Situated high atop Mount Veeder, Travers' winery is a testament to all things traditional as outlined in a recent article by Appellation America. Cement vats are employed, fruit is never over ripened, substantial tannins are allowed and alcohol is kept low. This method produces very long-lived wines, allowing me to write about this wine today. Everything about the Mayacamas intrigued me. The label alone was captivating with a design like something out of a fairy tale. Even the material seemed artisanally made of a thick, fibrous texture that has worn well with time. Following a proper decanting to remove a few bits of crumbled cork, the wine was poured. Medium garnet at the center with an onion skin, orange hue approaching the thin rim, this lady prominently proclaimed her 27 years of uncontested maturity. Only a fine pedigree and graceful aging can produce the hypnotizing aromas and flavors that followed. My glass was a bouquet of orange peel and earthy mushroom draped over notes of coffee. Dusty, warm apple and starchy banana elements took me by surprise, showing depth. How does a 27 year old Pinot from a Cab house maintain so much fruit? Still medium bodied with dominant flavors of woodsy, sour cherry. Even after 30 minutes the grand dame held her fruit but with time the wine spun down gently, into an old world must as she faded away.
Torn, yes. Tough, grateful to have been able to dance with both.
It's electric! Dark n' deep gold - spraying viscous wafts of 93 octane premium petrol, sharp key lime spritz, and ripe Georgia peach. Grab a few white flowers, toss'em in the blender and puree some flamboyant apricot preserves. Now, add in sugary egg yolks, salty pistachios and some fresh shaved truffle. Whoo awww... Ride the Rhine river to Pfalz and get some! I had the chance to meet Ranier Lingenfelder, proprietor, at the New York Wine Expo back in February, and this guy's family has been doing Riesling since the 14th century. Trust the tradition.Read More
This summer, I was hot for Lopez de Heredia and yet, I missed my opportunity to purchase this wine when it was first released. So, tonight - I jumped when my local Sommelier pointed out something special on the list: The 1998 R. López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. Excuse me? Yeah, it's a mouthful. Even before opening, the color seduces you ... In the glass, vibrant peach rust hues lure you into the bouquet of sweet marzipan, bright red fruit, warmed sawdust, dried apricot, peach cobbler and deep, wet sandy notes. The briny minerality is scary ... Think of laying on a warm, wet beach towel, fresh out of the ocean. If I were blind, I'd guess this as a red. So full, the mouthfeel is unreal. Tart cherry flavors yield to cinnamon spice and as the roller coaster undulates up and down, we're lead from cranberry to wet and woolly sour lactic funk - butter milk notes give me flashbacks of Joly's Coulée de Serrant but, this isn't the Loire my friends... No, no. Twelve years of careful and calculated age show what precision oxidation does to dress up this Rioja cuvée. 60% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, and 10% Viura intermingle playfully on the tongue and leave you in an mild aldehydic, Jerez like trance as the ethereal marzipan reemerges - morphing into a mature, restrained nuttiness ... Up and down and indeed, well worth the ride!Read More
Tasted by fermentedthoughts. Why not? Inexpensive Cremant brings class and nuance others cannot for $16. Vibrant green apple, subtle river rock, briney sour cream cake, and nice yeasty, toasty marzipan finish. Good fizz! - Tasted 12/20/2009.Read More
The way I get over eye surgery...
Yeah, yeah. I know. I had surgery this morning... So! I ask you then, what is the proper wine to pair with Tylenol? In fact, I asked this exact question just now, of 50+ wine bloggers over on Twitter. The best answer received? Arneis. Decent, refreshing, but not for me. Not now.
Thinking for a moment, I recalled the words of an old friend, Frank Sinatra, who once said "I Did it My Way."
What I really love about Riesling, is its modesty. Amid today's market of over-ripe, over-extracted, over-blown wine, it's easy to find respite amid the restrained, low-alcohol, yet bracingly flavorful richness of a good Riesling. Following this path, I've encountered mesmerizing bouquets and flavors that have arrested - all modestly wrapped in wine that left me feeling refreshed, energetic and alive.
Tonight I consulted the wine rack and selected the Bernhard Eifel Riesling Spatlese 2005. An excellent value, purchased at retail from Wine Library for $14.
Surprisingly greenish and faintly golden in color with a lively nose of lime, wet pavement, and citrusy meringue. Full on the palate with creamy vanilla hints reminiscent of Creme Brulee mixed with sweet Clementine, honey and a rich caramelized sugar finish.
Modest opulence with a citrus edge that Sinatra himself would be proud of. The Chairman would say... "The record shows I took the blows - And did it my way!"
Fur-what? Look people, wine can be confusing. Deal with it, I know I am. One bottle at a time. So many complexities: different countries, classifications, grape types, growths, regions, laws, wine making styles, minimum blending and aging requirements, terminology, terrior, sulfites, what to pair it with, how much you can drink before getting "rotten", etc... Part of our quest here at Fermented Thoughts is to educate and perhaps, at times - to turn you onto something new.
First off, Furmint [FOOR - mint] is the principal grape used in producing Tokaji [TOKE-eye], Hungry's renowned sweet, late-harvest, white wine made from Furmint, Harslevelu and Muscat grapes. Being thin-skinned and late-ripening, Furmint is often affected by noble-rot. This is a good thing. As this "rot" takes place, the grapes shrivel like raisins and lose most of their weight, leaving only the rich, sugar-concentrated essence of the grape that is kneaded into a paste and added to the base wine produced one-year prior, allowing it to ferment a second time. The result is a very rich, sweet white wine that is both lush and balanced. Some argue Tokaji rivals and even surpasses French Sauternes.
Now, here's where it get's confusing. Furmint, by itself is also vinified into a dry white wine exhibiting both high acid and alcohol from the cool, long growing seasons of northeast Hungry.
While there is always contention as to "who was first" regarding wine, the Hungarians are quick to point out that they were the birthplace of quality classification between 1700-1720, followed by Portugal with the 1756 classification of Port and then France's Great Classification of Bordeaux in 1855. Prince Rakoczi II of Transylvania first classified the vineyards primae classis, secundae classis and tertius classis or 1st - 3rd growths. This system outlined quality and is still in place today.
Quality production however dwindled during the Communist takeover of the Hungarian wine trade and it wasn't until the fall of the iron curtain, that Tokaji truly began its renaissance. The Royal Tokaji Wine Company was founded in 1989 by a group lead by Hugh Johnson, the prominent wine authority, to secure a future for Tokaji and to preserve a dying art. Located 125 miles northeast of Budapest, Royal Tokaji produces many wines but, only five single vineyard wines including Furmint.
The video above goes further to showcase not just the rich wines themselves but also the rich and storied history of the region.
Royal Tokaji Furmint 2006 - Retail $14
Light golden hay in color, Royal Tokaji Furmint 2006 opens with a hot and intense nose hinting at its 14% alcohol by volume. Nonchalant tropical notes of kiwi and banana skin float on with time and mix in among layers of citrus and thick toasted nuts. At first the palate is restrained but really picks up momentum and jumps out at you in full-force on the finish. Full-bodied and tangy, subtle flavors of honey, ripe lemon and tropical mangosteen are flanked by a light cosmetic nuance.
Rewarding, biscuity marzipan leads to a mouth searing acidity that says "I am Hungarian and proud of my tradition!" Really, this wine is so very similar to the Aligote I enjoyed recently with such a high acidity but, rewarding fruit and layered, complex flavors. I'll be keeping my eye on this producer and you should too.
Today, I have the pleasure of tasting an amazing lineup of Spanish wines with Pancho Campo, MW as part of the Society of Wine Educators conference in Sacramento.
This wine proves that Spanish whites can age and, age well. Eight years of cask ageing bolsters this beauty and allows us to taste 1970, today.
1970 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja Blanco:
85% Viura, 15% Malvasia.
Vibrant golden with a complex perfume of olives and truffles. Full on the palate, giving massive puffs of orange peel and toffee. Serious acidity will carry this bottle for years to come.
Barry Schuler (former CEO of AOL and now VC and Vintner) addresses the crowd on new technologies and how they apply to the business of wine. The Wine Bloggers Conference is indeed up and running at full speed.
This man is passionate and can read an audience. Humor is just as important as knowledge when commanding a room.
Key take aways: Right now, we're going through "Death Valley," where traditional media is deflating faster than new models are being developed. Today's new business model is "if they come, we will build it!" We've gone from broad to narrow to micro and now, nano casting. The message continues to get more fragmented; however, every downturn leads to opportunity. Wine Bloggers are reshaping the media industry and so long as they stay passionate, build a brand, tell the story well and continue to survive - they may ultimately thrive.
Disaggregation and fragmentation is bound to consolidate in a new form with time... Those that stay strong will be the victors who cash in on the opportunity.
Just enjoyed a nice 1982 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon... Freakishly young with plenty of horsepower to carry it for another 5-7 years. Nice brick red color with cranberry, anise and dusty black pepper on the nose. Restrained palate with fine tannins and faint black berry and licorice spice. Seriously elegant. Not my first encounter with Mayacamas. Not my last.
Just shy of one year ago I set out on a journey. A journey of taste. Accompanied by two close friends, together we formed an impressively insatiable force. Our stomachs were empty, our palates dry, and our spirit strong. Seeking sustenance for the mind, body, and soul we soon found ourselves sitting at Italian and French tables and feeling very much at home. As we trekked through Pisa, the Cinque Terre, BeauSoleil, and Monaco, good times were had and many a bottle shed its lifeblood in our glass...
In less than a week, Fermented Thoughts will invade Italy once more - feasting on culture. We'll be in search of lively Ligurian wines, freshly caught Mediterranean cuisine, and views that exude the essence of laid-back, riviera living. After hiking from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore, we'll find our way to Florence, back up to Pisa, over to Portofino and back again.
Until we return with a new sack full o' pics - enjoy last year's harvest!
Jesus did it (well, in reverse...). Doc Hendly did it. We did it and you can too!
In 2003, Doc Hendley was a bartender from North Carolina that had a dream. That dream became a reality in 2007 when he founded Wine to Water, a non-profit organization who's mission is to support clean water projects - helping deliver fresh, clean, and sustainable drinking water around the world.
How did he do it? Wine tastings! Quoting their website "...The first fundraiser was a great success. With its success, and others to follow, came a confidence that Wine to Water would continue to grow as an organization. As a result, wine tastings became just one of many ways that we raise awareness and support for the global water crisis. We have worked to provide clean water and sanitation in many countries including Sudan, India, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Haiti."
Since 2004 Doc's organization has brought sustainable, clean water to more than 25,000 individuals in more than 5 countries. "
Doc's dream, and now the goal of Wine To Water, is to quench the thirst of the needy in a way that sets them apart from the rest of the world." -Wine to Water
Doc's story humbles and inspires. Join us in raising a glass to Doc, his team and to all of those who work to quench the thrist of the needy and in doing so, help to make our world a better place!
To host a Wine to Water tasting - click here.
To support this worthy cause by making a donation click here and help make a difference.
Do yourself a favor and watch this ENTIRE 5 minute video. You'll be very glad you did. Given the crazy times we all live in today and the recent strife experienced by so many, it's pretty uplifting to see an organization focusing on bringing joy to the masses, even at its most elemental level. This video was done by a group called Playing for Change. Their mission is to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.
Quoting one of the artists in the film, Roger Ridley, these people, much like him, are "in the JOY business" and I see great dividends in their future.
Looking beyond limitations, walls, and current situations of doubt, we benefit ourselves by benefiting others and seeking to speak and relate to each other in a universal voice.
This past October I was invited to check out some wine making over in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Now, I'd bet you're asking yourself the same thing I did: "Wine making... In Brooklyn?" Yep, that's exactly what's going on and the story behind it is pretty catchy. Former Sound Technician for Peter Frampton and Billy Joel and now turned Wine Distributor, Mark Snyder (a local New Yorker), decided making wine in Brooklyn was just the thing to do. From what I've heard wine making isn't all that disconnected from Brooklyn. Historically, the area was a home to Kosher wine production and much as I've witnessed in small town Italy, homemade wine is an integral part of the culture and apparently thrived among Italian-American immigrants in Brooklyn during years past.
Given Snyder's close connection to two of the West Coast's cult-status winemakers (Bob Foley of Robert Foley Vineyards and Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project) it now seemed time to do a little "West Coast Winemaker meets East Coast Grapes" style throwdown.
Talking to Snyder, you can sense his enthusiasm and passion for wine. This drive is exactly what led to the formation of his company, Angel's Share Wines which, is well-known for distributing quality West Coast wines from the likes of both Foley, Schoener and many others.
In reality, these bold Winemakers faced a really though year. Long Island vineyards experienced an aggressive growing season in 2008 with increased rain, lower than average temperatures and according to one of their growers accounts, the onslaught of hungry birds as the tough little grapes hung on the vines longer than normal for a bit more development.
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viogner and as you can see above, Merlot are all on the block. Having the opportunity to taste some of the Sauvignon Blanc during fermentation was excellent. The yeast was very much present and while it was still more juice than wine, I was intrigued by the rich, crisp fruit and sweetness that was present given such a though year. If anyone can pull-off this project, I'm betting Snyder, Foley and Schoener are the crew to do it. It'll be really exciting to taste some of these wines in 2009.
I'll be posting some video taken at the yet-to-be-named Red Hook, Brooklyn winery soon. Until then, check out some of the photos I snapped that night up in the Fermented Photo Gallery.