Posts Tagged With: wine world


quick sips


2012 – Balletto Vineyards & Winery – Sexton Hill – Chardonnay – Russian River Valley

More charm than you get from most Chardonnays, and I’m biased, I’ll concede.  I love Balletto, and all my experiences there have been resounding and inspiring as a wine writer.  But this Chardonnay, just considered objectively, says something different.  Not just about the winery, or even Chardonnay, or even as a standalone wine, but something to enjoy in life.  A story and voice that provides Zen, your needed peace.  There’s a charm and engagement in this ’12 Sexton Hill that’s absent in other RRV Chard interpretations.  Atmospheric fruit, not too much of an acidic roar; just a musical equilibrium that accompanies you from the sip’s start to last chapter, page.  It’s memorable and universal, with its own depth and sovereign direction.  Just what I hope to have in anything I sip.  (MM92)

img_10742012 – Stonestreet Estate Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon – Bear Point Vineyard

Cabernet.  What do you want?  The atypical Bordeaux bull or something a little more poised and passionate, more poetic and artfully crafted, representative of place, where the fruit’s birthed?  This Cabernet is far-reaching, to all Cab audiences.  Smoky and gritty, focused texture flavor arrangement boasts its confidence and syncopated ardor; lovely personality in principal, and after an hour or two (in preference two) of oxygen assimilation, you’ll be sung-to and caught by more taste-instrumented galaxies; black berries and dark chocolate, rich leather and espresso echoes design its own illustration.  The more romantic edge of this Cab, from Stonestreet, one of my loved tasting rooms on Healdsburg’s Square, comes with the fleshly floral ides in the nose.  Empirically relentless in its charm, its steps down your senses’ street.  (MM94)

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Needed Wine Thesis

img_0946Last night’s Sanglier Grenache is still in my head, how it tasted different and disclosed a contrasted song and trot this time.  Not better, not worse, still very much my favorite in Glenn’s portfolio, but how I can’t articulate the reasoning of my own thoughts, what it was, acutely, that the wine varied from those other, all those other, impressions, I’m in my lost seat.  Trying to type.  Trying to categorize.  But here I go, again, overthinking wine, taking away its jazz and palate paradiddles, the versified consistencies of what I sip.  So why—  Is this the English Professor ME telling the wined ME to look deeper?  What does it want me to do, type a reaction, 500 words?  This would be it, professor.  But my reaction predicates and prides itself on the euphoria of being lost in what I sip, ’12 Grenache from that Rincon Valley vineyard at the base of the Mayacamas; the rugged yet feminine duality sipped and perceived, shapeshifting and postmodern— the writer haunted.

Professor Me:  So what’s your thesis?  What exactly are you arguing about this Grenache?

Writer/Wine Me:  It reminder me that a wander should accompany the wonder of what’s in my glass and how it speaks to me.

Professor:  What does that mean?

Writer/Wine:  That to be replete with mechanical notes and to be drowned in analysis erodes wine’s spell and romance.  It should be a conversation, when you sip a wine.  A flirtation, a dance, a successful spell.

The speculative transaction halts and I imagine again, what I tasted, how it looked in the glass, what did the wine say to me?  Certainly more Strawberry syncopation with the stroll of slight saccharine about the herbal ebb; more activity, more electricity, more a bounce to its presence and placement to palate.  There was more intrigue, more instruction, more literature.  Definitely a professor’s wine, so the fictive stichomythia above shouldn’t even be taking place.  The wine is its own argument, rhetoric.  It’s an inviting wine, tranquil and leaning with Zen; The wine doesn’t want us to think, it wants us, wanted me last night and even this morning in this coffee-curbed meditation, to amorously summon its character; think about how it tasted, how it paired with that light pasta, the spinach leaves and red vinaigrette.  Such symphonic synergy.  Music.  That’s the truth, that’s the revelation.  Or, “thesis”, if you will…..

I’ll be in the tasting room today, and I’m sure I’ll taste the Grenache a couple times, well as the other projects, but I’m promising myself that no over-analysis will be executed.  Just a conversation with everything, from the Chardonnay to the Rhône blend, the Cab and Syrah.  Just a breviloquent intersection.  And that’s it.  Then I think, remember it, but no analysis.  Wine is teaching me more composure as a character, which translates to my pervading temperament as a character; wine’s shown me in its, now, ten-year lecture, that the characters change, the wines change, THIS WRITER will change.  And it shouldn’t be resisted, nor scrutinized or rejected, but wholly embraced

(new thesis:  Wine’s pedagogy is taste-based, no right or wrong, just sipped sincerity.)



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Tasty Pedagogy

Stuhlmuller Vineyards – 2014 Estate Chardonnay – Alexander Valley

A jazzy Chardonnay algorithm from a producer a bit hidden but once found you have that oeno-phantasmic revelation.  You sip and see something different in the Chardonnay character and story.  From the first sensory stroke, the fruit is clean, coherent and img_0904convincing; apple and pear, light paradiddles of apricot, nectarine.  And with the acidic current, every flavor phrase and conversation is augmented.  So narrative and wild, a Chardonnay that speak, truly speak, and isn’t concerned with what you experience has been.  And in such urgency you find universality, a branch to the butter crowd as well as the stainless.

Just as artful as the label, equally the naturalist splendor and visual ardor of the ground.  Comforting and arcadian with everything greeting you.  I’ve found that Chardonnay, as you may or may not know from my past columns, has a troubled relationship with me, for which I take full responsibility.  But there wasn’t that invitation, there was only and esoteric appeal of the wine’s immediate and inferred body.  As the bottle acclimated to ambient temp in the kitchen of my Autumn Walk Studio, the fruit exercised volition to morph its mold to something more pair-centered.  Everything else was still there, just a new steering voice delivered the bottled thesis.  I was ever more taken with what I was sipping.  I sat and thought and knew I had to visit, and maybe I will next week, my next day off—  This wine is a separation from reality, from the mundane and the patterned template of any varietal, but especially Chardonnay.  There speaks its instruction, its truest boon; the truth itself, Chardonnay’s truth and identity, and you’ll be coerced that there is amicable Chardonnay.  Not many this well-crafted, you should note.  And I review my notes form last night, right before putting the bottle back its frigid domicile: ‘beatific, centered, peripatetic (with how it travels about your receptors), devoted…” A bottle with life.  That reminds me to live, find my road, my own translations, and be vocal, narrative, tell my story.  My stories with wine this vastly prodigious.



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MOCK SOMM:  2012 Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard

  Animated, brilliant, a subtext of a dominantly pervasive message of Burgundian woo.  Surprisingly dark, convincing but still gentle, convivial— a delicious Sonoma Coast dote.  I’d been meaning to open this bottle for a while, since I visited JPV at the Silverado Trail fort toward the end of Fall semester.  But last night it forcefully beckoned, charmed, spoke and sung with its alchemically flavorous wings and wrapped me in spells of phenolic Equilibrium and sensory order.  I wasn’t shocked that I loved it as I did, leaving half the bottle for the next night, tonight (1/3/16), to see how it’ll evolve, develop and compound with identity and conviction; its textual and deliciously suggestive rhetoric— rich and precise intentions, layered and cosmic, right after cork removal…..

More communicative than most Pinots I’ve recently met, and again I sipped it first during my visit a couple months ago.  But it speaks, it commands more now, it remembers me— and the hue is surprisingly deep and radiant, quixotic, it teaches and humbly so.. soft palate music and artful notes from palate’s front to back.  Prior, on nose, violet and plush plum and dark cherry— a reserved vanilla drumroll, tremolo.  This Pinot is precisely and  

 poignantly what I mean when I cite the musical, notably jazz, dimensions of wine, especially Pinot.  It recites then hides then you chase it to the next sip hoping for the music to come back and when it does you sip slow, and the small placements of the bottle’s contents to echo, Zen reverb and angularity— the wine’s meditation with you sits; no time, no place, just the amalgamation of you and the ’12 Sonoma Coast world— the fog, the subtlety, the salty oceanic mist and phantasmic motions, ghostly enveloping mise en scène.

Tonight I’ll intersect with the remaining sips, jot my reflective trots.  And with thanks to the producer, the estate, winemaker and team and the fact I visited when I did.

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Encouraging Sip-Ignorance

It’s advantageous to know what you’re sipping, I understand.. vintage, varietal, AVA, sub-AVA, sub-sub-AVA, and whatever else you can shove onto a label.  But can that hinder or dilute the honesty of your reaction?  Yesterday in the tasting room, before the day started, we opened a bottle img_0350-1san label from the cellar.  We had more than enough sense to discern it was Pinot, as Arista’s know widely and wildly vaunted for its Russian River and Mendo Pinots, but we had no idea of vintage or site.  We stared at the bottle for a bit, tilted it to see if there was any visible variance in color.  Not much.  “So it can’t be that old,” said.  Tony pulled the cork, poured a little for all of us, Andy and I prior to measuring a couple ounces for himself.  We all smelled, or did the whole visually analytical “nose” thing.  And, for sure, a Pinot.  But the year, we didn’t know, and we loved not knowing, just guessing and playing with possibilities, and just enjoying the wine for a wine.  So many times consumers coffin themselves in the specifics, labels and numbers, the year and if there’s a score attached.  But not us, not yesterday morning, it was all about the sipping, the after-chat, and the observation of the wine’s response to oxygen, letting it open and swirling for a minute or more to see what the wine would do, what IT wanted to say.

I went home last night and opened a Malbec from Alexander Valley, from a small producer I don’t feel the need to here cite, and I didn’t feel the intrigue as with the Pinot.. there was too much knowledge of the wine, too much disclosure and specifics.  There was a tag.  So then I entertained, “Do we want too much as wine consumers?” There are days when people come into the tasting room, and either have an expansive familiarity with wine or just studied-up quickly, on wikipedia or something before flying or driving to Sonoma, Napa and pose the most specific of specific probes.  “What kind of oak did this see?” Or further, “What coopers do you use?” Or further into a locomotive obnoxiousness, “What yeast strains do you use?” My question has always been, of course I never voice this, but “If you get the information, what will you do with it?” It’s more than a matter of “Why do you need to know?” What will you do with it?  Is that important?  Why not just enjoy the wine as a wine you’re drinking with those around you?

The label is just a label.  It determines nothing about your connection to the wine.  And that’s just what we found yesterday.. or at least I did, the void of a thin piece of adhesive paper on the bottle’s face added to the moment the exploration of what we tasted— magnanimous in the antonymous staccato of all sips, and the talk it catalyzed.  That I’ll remember, not one of the bottles that came before and some number or moniker or acronym in some fancy font.

So I’m back in the tasting room today, again, and wondering what I’ll sip, taste, hoping there’s more surprise than expectation.  But I know too much.  I know the labels.  I know the wines.  There’s no surprise.  I want yesterday repeated, but that’s wine wish (and you’ll find yourself having those, as you further in your wined story).  The anticipation is its own buzz, its own dimension and “nuance” (ugh, hate that word), the narrative suggestion of what we’re here for; wine, acknowledging its punctuated identity, all voices and theses to the pours— exile in a wonder, wander, to the next pour, and I hope I don’t now what it is.



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Wined and Windblown


Had been meaning to stop, for years, and finally I did a few weeks ago.  Feeling like a guest at a resort, or at an elevated Aspen cabin; cozy and convivial, inviting and rich in story and passion for the grounds, for what’s poured.  I knew it’d be great but just not as intense as I experienced in such greatness. Joseph Phelps is a beacon of not only quality but as well its own distinguished and directed language in the wine it bottles.  IMG_9642Prominence and promise, passion, and an extended communication and connectedness with everyone they have over—  And that’s how you feel, that’s how I felt, as if over at someone’s delightful dwelling, focused on wine and the grounds, the Napa Valley and the history of what’s been catalyzed by the Joseph Phelps story.  I could have sworn I wasn’t a local, but here for a first.  An out-of-stater.  Tourist, I guess.  But certainly not from here.  It was musical; a wined moment I could sing and sing to, as I was being sung to with the views from that back patio and from the notes in the wines the host put out for us.

There were some other tastings I’ve done in the last couple weeks, like at Bergamot Alley in Healdsburg, where the owner, Kevin I think his name IMG_9981was (yes, Kevin.. I see looking at his card that I forgot I put on my desk here in the home office), poured a cosmically magnetic flight of import wines for me.  I had to get something.  And.. I did.  Two.  White and Red.  And where else.. oh, the Suncé tasting room in Kenwood that opened a couple months ago.  I realized you just have to get out there.  Taste wine and find something you like, and I know I’ve said that in a something-wined page or string of pages I’ve written before, posted to some blog or I don’t know, but in this last month or so it’s become like a staple and stake of clarity in IMG_9875my wined life—  Get the F out there and taste some wine.  Tonight I’m sipping a Grenache, from Sanglier, their ’12, which won’t surprise people I know.  But, it’s a wine I trust, that I can depend on, and it’s just goddamn delicious.  It’s memorable.  And I have to be honest, I thought I didn’t have any more left.  I actually thought, when I saw the bottle shape was Burgundian, that it was one of Glenn’s Russian River Pinots.  But, no no no!  My gregarious Grenache, with all its voluptuous and erotic tumble of berry and cherry, chocolate and black pepper floating around— whatever it is, it has me.  Now as I roll through pictures in my phone like that typical wine geek, or blogger, or tourist so struck by everything around them that they take pictures of everything, and I mean everything; from the doorknobs, to the winery dog, and the ceilings, each stinkin’ label that’s in front of them.  And them, this “they”, I start to envy them, the visiting ‘they’.  The tourists…  They don’t say things like I am here, like “some other tastings I’ve done the last couple weeks”.  To them tasting is something a vacation entails, something they plan for an envision and fantasize for weeks before getting out there.  They don’t just go out and taste, they can’t.  They’re not here.  But I am.  And the weeks neoteric have been invaluable teachers, with encircling and forcefully fruitful lessons to me as one who sips wine more than just a little.

But, I have to again paginate, recently I’ve just been tasting.  The climate of love about my wining “palate” (a word I’ve come to hate as everyone says it and so many say it and oversay and overuse it do so just to sound like someone who should be listened to when really they’re the ones who should be first ignored; they’re the bad ‘they’).  And I’m lucky enough to live close to these tasting rooms and wineries, these roads that are like a jolting reflective spell veins.  So I pour myself another glass, try to finish an article but I wind up getting so lost and whirled in the wine here at my bottle-emboldened home, in my own tasting room, my own flight, my own visit-that’s-not-a-visit that I disconnect from being a local.  And different that the tourist, or planned visitor.  This is something else.  But I’m tasting.  And it’s wine.  So wine.



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a writer: post 010

So after the meeting in the Sanglier tasting room this morning, and the tasting at Hartford Court (new ‘Wine Gem’ as I call tasting rooms and wineries I love, and this one just down the street from the Sanglier Room), then a drive out to Arista which was more or less pointless as I didn’t much talk to anyone, just having a splash of some single vineyard Chardonnay, I’m ready to begin my wine story–  MY.  Wine.  STORY.  And with that scope I think of what I’ll open the night Emma’s born, the newest add to our family, surely to be in our tasting room one day, in the office of bottledaux or vinovinevin, or one of my blog/wine/publishing ventures.  And as a writer, I’m not sure how I want to do all this, or even how, really.  BUT, I do know I have to keep writing.

Finishing my brunch, a takeout order from Piner Café, I was smart enough to order a coffee to go, having no K cups in this Autumn Walk base.  May rain outside, which is excellent writing weather– maybe I should write and brainstorm and evermore fantasize and envision my wine story at Hopper, the Starbucks.  Have held some fruitful and explosive sittings there, I can say…  I’m thinking about it too much, I know– and where’s that latest piece of paper where I wrote out my plans?  Hate how I misplace so much, I definitely blame the semester, the adjunct life, and most certainly Solano and to a lesser division Mendocino.  Think it’s out in the car but I can’t rise from this sitting, not till I reach the word count (and yes I’m targeting a number I know) I’m after, that I’m chasing..

Beginning to think the write should go to Hopper, write for a bit there before making my run to the store as I promised Ms. Alice.  Then I’ll get little Kerouac, and write the rest of the day, about fatherhood and being only days away from baby 2.  Life is moving faster than I can calculate, and I feel like Hem when he wrote the story was writing itself and he had difficulty keeping with it, capturing it all.  I’m right there with him, but I keep writing and try not to think about it too much, my wines and my wine story depend on my consistency and a tireless writer nature that I’ve never before lit.  And my new baby, Ms. Emma, depends on this revised draft of Mike Madigan, his alter’.. Mike Massamen.

While Solano was writing their practice exam responses yesterday, I started a project, “Massamen Sketches” At first it was THE Massamen Sketches, but I hate ‘the’ with too much presence on the page, especially in a title, so I pulled it. 

Putting extra 1’s in envelop, for winery or for business, just to put aside so the writer can’t touch them.. content content.. on my mind.. won’t get it at SBUX, so maybe I should drive down Piner and shoot vineyards, do something wined.  And tonight, only pieces, short writings on wines, specific wines I’ve tasted recently and that I’m convince propel character to palate.

The book Britt, Glenn’s assistant winemaker, showed me today after the meeting, while I tasted through the Room’s wines to make sure they were awake, and still civil and communicative, has me thinking, on writing my own position on wine, wine tasting, wine loving, wine life, and wine as a story only meant for the most inviting and open of sippers.  An extended thesis, or position piece.. on wine.

“Hmmm,” I think.  Shapes are beginning to take.  My winery’s closer than I think.

Time to do some money counting, reading, thinking, driving, content-pocketing.


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MOCK SOMM, quick sips.

IMG_96962013 Cartograph Wines Pinot Noir, Choate Vineyard, Green Valley:  Seraphic from the first contact to palate’s end.  Thick and melodic chords of strawberry and cherry, coupled with some unexpected plum and minted chocolate; but what separates this Pinot from others is the pervasive equilibrium of each sip.  I wouldn’t wait on this one, I’d pop it now, but if you forgot about one or two in the cellar and run into those bottles down the line, you’ll be fine.  (MM92)

IMG_96802013 Boekenoogen Winery Syrah, Bell Ranch, Carmel Valley:  Wholehearted and robust, encompassing and persuasive in its interplanetary intonations.  Not too heavy, nor at all passive, more rounded and capturing than any Syrah I’ve tasted in the last few years.  Musical and tempered, audacious but somehow savory in its coy taste equator.  Its own language of Syrah, dactylically delicious.  (MM93)

IMG_9723-02011 Valdez Family Winery Zinfandel, St. Peter’s Church Vineyard, Alexander Valley:  This wine is just fun to be around, dark and with a sexy weight to its texture and motion.  Nothing like I’ve had from Zin’s all-too-excessive of a world.  Nothing astringent or sharp or tart about her.  Just in line with every fruit suggestion and smokey/charcoal/chocolate wink.  Had it with a slow-roasted chicken and well-done sourdough garlic bread and was only smitten by the synergy.  I’ll be going back for a couple more of these, and what a brilliant object to all those boo-hoo-ing the ’11 vintage.  (MM92)

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NaNoWriMo Thanks

…or at least MARKET it.  This is the caffeine talking, maybe I shouldn’t’ve ordered a 4-shotter.  But I did and here I am.  The winery tomorrow should also prove quite fruitful.. taking a picture of this setup, me at the counter, coffee and computer, thoughts and wishes, the liste.. everything, this time, now, 12:47 and how that could be a novel to itself.. deciding that I will have everything I want.. well, I do, I just have to sell it.  Funny this new obsession with selling, I never considered myself a salesperson, nor have I ever even slightly enjoyed the concept of selling or being a seller, but infused with the appropriate creative acts selling actually becomes not selling at all, but more a sharing of passion for something.

Looking left now out the back patio, to the fall leaves that haven’t yet met the ground, I dream of a vacation home somewhere.  Not adding that to liste but I’m just daydreaming…

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NaNoWriMo (excerpt/standalone article)


And why wine.. for the narrative, for the story, for the love and life of her.  Across varietals, wines should be described as character and story, story in character and characters in a multitude of stories.  Like the blend I sipped last night, one I made in 2012 with a buddy, and now I’m here three years later still learning and evermore appreciative of the Roman-like presence of wine in the world’s collective and individualized momentums.  Wine’s its own scholar, its own study, and I don’t want to be anything more than a student, ever-learning and ever-growing with the ebb of innovation, from the Earth to winemaking approaches and methodologies–  Wine provides the writer an escape and a tally of rewarding inner-storms.

Stopping in my typed mayhem, I remember the first day working behind a bar, pouring wine for guests coming from everywhere it seemed in the world just to be at that counter, at that moment, to taste those wines.  That’s always provoked me to get closer to wine’s epicenter and intrinsic palatable parcels.  Wine is always inviting the lover and curious sipper to get closer.  It doesn’t exclude, it doesn’t judge, and I don’t think it very much wants to BE judged.  Just enjoyed.  Yes, I know, wine judgings and competitions, scorings, publications, blogs like this one.. I get it.  But at its most principal of principles, wine wants communication; the occasion.  That vie, cet amour.

When I drive from my home in Santa Rosa and east on 12, I’m reminded, that it’s everywhere, this story, and I need to commit to the story.  The story, wine’s narrative and cascade of short imagist disclosures, has done its part, very much, in fact ten times over and over; Repeated again from pure civil urgency, an exhausting kindness.  So I need to answer and keep driving, to Sonoma, over to Napa, stop in Calistoga in some tasting room I’ve never been in and taste, and keep tasting, write what I feel and capture the moment and know intimately this ‘why’…  Why I’m here, why wine wants me here, and why I want wine to want me here writing about her.

My notes from last night, on my own winemaking effort, reading them this morning after a rushed-sip sequence of coffee, teaches me to move slower with her, that she need to be listened to, not string-pulled, not steered, just let to speak.  My notes read like some cookie-cutter tasting room menu, “Wild Cherry, Chocolate, slight cinnamon, milky texture.” ‘What the hell’, I say to myself.  Wine deserves much more than that.  She needs MORE than ‘more than that’.  She needs time, measure, attention and always a more wanton writing than I last night gave.  She gave me a story, chapters and dialogue, images, and she knows I’m not the most wild plot enthusiast, so she lets me decide that.  She’s kind.  I need to be more a mirror, and reflect what’s on the other side, in that vineyard over there off Adobe Canyon Road, and over there off 29.  Everywhere and everything.  For her, me.

Wine, writing…  “Wine,” I call to her, “I’m still writing.”

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