I’m never one to make big leaps in my life. Yes, about every ten years or so, the lady Beth Fontaine (Tw) and I seem to subconsciously start the process to evaluate our future in the context of our present. Yet, I can’t say that I have ever just done something on a leap of faith, staring at nothing but risk and hoped for reward, but that is the only way that I can explain our rather sudden move back home to Napa Valley. And so we’re both happy to say that now after a month+ into our new lives back in wine country, that we’ve made a fantastic decision:
So, uh, what the hell are infographics? Wikipedia defines them quite nicely as “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.” While they’ve proliferated a ton in recent years and in very creative directions due to cool new online and offline tools, as well as very graphic-oriented news and sportscasts, we’ve actually been using them for many years. If you’ve ever looked a transit map, you’ve used an infographic.
Recently, there has been an explosion of very useful and very informative wine-related infographics. Leading the charge has been the super-fun wine folks at Wine Folly (Tw, FB, g+), led by fearless leader Madeline Puckette. They’ve put together a number of fantastic ones, that they also sell as posters, and rightfully so: knowledge can definitely be art. Another one that really popped out to me was directed my way by my buddy Steve; which nicely combines my science side (meta-analysis) with my wine side (flavors of white wine varietals).
I have some very exciting news to share with my happy and wine-loving Vinopanions! While I hinted at this news earlier this year, I can now announce the official Kickstarter campaign for the fantastic new wine store and web destination, Block122 (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog). Founded by four BOULEVARD restaurant employees, Block122 will showcase the finest, small production producers of wine from the left coast, much of which lies along the meridian 122° west of the Prime Meridian. These boutique wineries are those that many times, only produce wines for 1-2 small stores or restaurants, have no distribution, and can’t even provide an online web store. It is these vinous finds that Block122 will revel in sharing with you on their website with stories, videos, and a retail store; all inclusive, with all snobbery excluded.
The 2011 Harvest is done. It has actually been done for the Northern California wine industry for a few weeks, but I needed those weeks to digest all that I have experienced (and re-acclimate to my previous life), before I was ready to write this final post for Man Falls in the Vines – #MFITV. Harvest is such a compressed, intense experience. It has proven to be hard for me to sum up in a somewhat, year-end post. Despite such difficulties, I was able to complete my harvest insider feature article for the January edition of Mutineer Magazine, as well as their brand new Mutineer Magazine Beverage Trade Edition, also debuting in January. All of this experience, hard work, and camaraderie demand applause and to be forever thanked for, however. And after the jump, you will see all of the new (and one old) vinopanions that I made during those six weeks in Stags Leap, Napa at Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog).
The heart of the Harvest season can be a surreal and crazy time. Yes, of course I guess, it’s crazy when you have a ton of things going on at once, including actual tons of ripe fruit to process and 15+ hour days dragging down your health. Indeed, I was sick twice during weeks 4 through 6 at the Rock for Man Falls in the Vines – #MFITV, with the entire Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) crew coming down with something, at some point. Crush isn’t easy, that is known the industry over, but I was happy to see that I persevered along with everyone else (who are all harvest veterans) and learned quite a bit about what it was to work some of the most taxing parts of the harvest: digging out the fermentation tanks after barreling off our new free-run wine.
Weeks 2 and 3 of Man Falls in the Vines began super busy at the winery, but finished with the quietness of fermenting tanks. I have already talked of the craziness of Week 1 for #MFITV, when we brought in a good 150 tons of super premium Stags Leap District Bordeaux varieties. The last two weeks saw all of the rest of that fruit come in, all of it Cabernet Sauvignon, the heart blood of the Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) wines. Our days were definitely long, particularly the last two, where we had two more days of bringing in at least 70 tons of fruit. The last of the lots of Cabernet were completed on 10/27/11 with a healthy roar of relief by the vineyard and cellar crews, and capped off by a raucous bin dive by Jeff in the last ton of fruit. I was in the north barrel room doing my morning ferm monitoring, so I’m still bitter that I missed his swan dive. My bitterness was sweetened however, when Jeff discovered that grapes can really go everywhere and anywhere, when hit at high speed!
At this point, my regular readers should know quite well about my participation in the cra cra known as the North American Wine Bloggers’ Conferences (Twitter, WineLog). We’re coming up on the 4th in this great series, after the huge success in 2008, 2009 and 2010. This year we’re invading Charlottesville, Virginia for our very first time plundering the wine life on the right coast (and East Coast wine bloggers rejoice). The state of Virginia has been exceptionally supportive and I’m looking forward to learning a ton about 5th largest wine producing state in the Union. Between the Keynote from Jancis Robinson (Twitter), the Virginia Wine (Twitter) Reception at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for dinner on Friday, another Keynote from Eric Asimov (Twitter) and the annual Vineyard walks in the local wine country, #WBC11 looks to be just as stunning a time as years’ past.
I have the great fortune of being invited to a number of wine events each year. All of these events have their merits and many are very cool. It is the more rare event that completely rocks my vinous world, however. The annual Garden Party at Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog), 600 feet above St. Helena on Spring Mountain was one of those rare events. Standing atop the mountain, with a 360 degree view of at least 65% of the entire Valley, with some glorious weather to complement the elegantly balanced Newton wines, paired with nibbles from étoile and the Lady by your side, it’s a bit hard to *not* have a brilliant time. I decided to suck it up and a have a great time (tongue comfortably in cheek).
Earlier this month, the smashingly charismatic founder and leader of Bonny Doon Vineyard (Twitter) wrote an article that got me thinking…again. Randall Grahm (Twitter) is as much a household name as can be found in the wine biz, as the founder, longtime winemaker and quixotic leader of the alternating huge and boutique Bonny Doon winemaking endeavors over the decades. Part devoted vigneron, part Biodynamic cheerleader, part shaman and part brilliantly funny and educational writer…it is difficult to try and put Grahm in a box. Indeed, if you were to try, he’d probably try and find the best, most neglected grape variety in which to grow in that shaded box. One thing that cannot be said about Grahm is that he isn’t willing to risk everything in order to find the best place to grow the best grapes.
A new vinopanion of mine, Sam Klingberg, has been making waves in the vino writing webernets over the last year or so with his wine blog, The Broke Wino. Sam contacted me recently to gather my thoughts on affordable Bordeaux wine. As one of Le Wine Buff for Enjoy Bordeaux for the CIVB, I have been involved in a lot of great Bordeaux-centric wine activities over the last 1+ years, including a truly spectacular trip to Bordeaux this past summer.
The dichotomy between the high prices of First and Second Growth chateaux and the remaining thousands of much more affordable, yet still high quality wine producers and chateaux is a hot topic. With the declaration of “vintages of the century” at least 3 times this decade alone combined with the increasing Asian markets, the prices of the high end Bordeaux have skyrocketed. Happily however, quality has also taken a great leap forward, all across the board.