Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Americans discovering Portugal as a vacation destination

Portuguese tourism office brings, "Portuguese experience 2014" to US travel agents in Boston, NYC, Washinton D and Miami

Friday, April 11, 2014

Is the US at a "let them eat cake" moment? Luxury Wine and Hungry Children in one of the worlds wealthiest nations.

I love wine.  I sell wine for a living.  It pays my bills and buys my kids shoes.  But this is ridiculous.  Today in things that disgust me, according to, since being awarded a 100 point score by Robert Parker in the October edition of the Wine Advocate, "A bottle of 2010 Screaming Eagle, described as “utter perfection” by (Robert)Parker has risen from an average price of $1913 in October (all prices ex. sales tax) to $2797 in March, a cool 46 percent increase in six months."   This as a new study finds that the US is ranked 34th, 34th!!!, in child poverty out of 35 developed countries.   Its us and Romania bringing up the rear.  Yes, people are paying nearly $3000 dollars for a single bottle of wine as an effort to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9/hour stalls out in the US Congress.   Glad to know that the rise in child poverty is keeping apace with the rise in the price of a luxury cult cabernet from California.  

Says Max Fisher of the Washington Post on the United Nations Children's Fund Study, "The poor U.S. showing in this data may reflect growing income inequality. According to one metric of inequality, a statistical measurement called the gini coefficient, the U.S. economy is one of the most unequal in the developed world. This would explain why the United States, on child poverty, is ranked between Bulgaria and Romania, though Americans are on average six times richer than Bulgarians and Romanians."

Robert Parker also announced a new magazine that will be called 100 Points by Robert Parker, aimed at the jet-set, for "high net-worth individuals and corporate leaders."    I have a few things I would like to aim at the jet-set myself(like acerbic aphorisms, settle down revolutionaries.)

When the recession hit, people were walking around for a while with a WW2 mentality.  Your belt (if you still had one) would be tightened.  It was bad form to throw money around when so many were suffering.   There were lots of articles decrying personal jets and champagne tastings.  And whats more, it wasn't really fun to drop a couple thousand on your wine cellar after watching your net worth dip so significantly.  

When the modern day Rockefellers began to operate in the shadows,  stepping in with cash to gobble up your foreclosed on homes and bankrupt companies, the job they finally offered you back-twice the work for half the pay, felt like a blessing.   Fast forward to our so called "slow recovery," the jet engine propulsion of our rapidly dividing classes blasting the very wealthy into the stratosphere and the middle and working classes into an economic free fall.    The very wealthy make no apologies.  They are unabashedly living their 100 Point lives, far above us all.

Pretty soon the only thing farther apart than a wealthy and a poor American, will be our image of ourselves as Americans and our 34th place finish American reality.

Map: How 35 countries compare on child poverty(The US is 34th)

100 Parker Points Give Screaming Eagle Prices Wings

Parker Launches Luxury Lifestyle Mag

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

50 Greats-wildly different take from Joe Roberts

For a wildly different take on the 50 Great Portuguese Wines by Joshua Greene, check out Joe Roberts account on his 1Wine dude Blog-complete with audio of Greene's decision making process.  In a "Sliding Doors" sized difference in experience, Joe Roberts' shares his impressions from the fancy lunch presentation hosted by Greene and Evan Goldstein.   We must have wildly different palates as well as our under and over achievers are pretty much flipped, but its great to remember that we all have different tastes and opinions.

Everyone seems to be wondering what the real point of this tasting was, and it is hard to make the argument that they are trying to get these wines into the US market without representation or even information about the wineries that importers and distributors would need to make these connections.   Says Roberts, "No badges, partly because there would be too many, and partly because I am also skipping price points (which would make “Overachiever” badges moot) as many of these wines don’t yet have U.S. representation (get on it, importers!)."     Why not put up some Dude bucks and bring these limited release beauties right to your readership?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Resource Renaissance, what a world?

What a crazy world we live in?  I really wish these resources had been around when I was starting out in music.  How is Shawn Colvin making that chord?  What is the tuning?  Using a Capo?  I used to make my poor guitar teacher spend half hour after half hour trying to figure out Jonatha Brooke tunings (after I had failed miserably to figure them out on my own.)   And through the magic of youtube I can now sit at my computer and watch them play, or tune or talk about tunings and writing the music.   She's dropping the D-Capo on the fourth fret.   Wow, that was...easy.  Tie a tie, braid a challah, you can do it-and fast!  I enjoy having the tools now-but what heights will these kids reach with it all at their fingertips? 

And the same is true for wine.  Not only are there a million bodies to teach and certify the trade(yes 1 million) there are exponentially more resources available every second it seems.  From winery websites to appellation and trade sites to the ever increasingly informed and creative bloggers-the world of wine is being catalogued, experienced, explained, photographed, videoed and more,  from struggling vine to struggling vine.

Here is the great Post that got me thinking about all of this, giving you a short list of fantastic Italian Wine resources from Alfonso Cerola on his On the Wine Trail in Italy blog, a great resource in and of itself.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Highlights (and Lowlights) of Joshua Greene's 50 Great Portuguese Wines Tasting

Okay, so it's not the Oscar's, the Golden Globes or even the Sag awards of wine-but that didn't stop me from getting excited when ViniPortugal announced that they would be unveiling Joshua Greene's 50 Great Portuguese Wines at a tasting in NYC.  This is just the second year for this event in the US.   I have been following the UK lists for several years, and led a lonely cheering section for a US version.  There was no pre-show prognosticating like that leading up to Wine Spectator's Top 100 and I am pretty sure no one but me had a short list of front runners and favorites-but hey, no one starts at the top.

I suppose my expectations were a little high going into the event.  Some were met, some exceeded, and some were dashed faster than a progressive's hopes for President Obama.    Walk around tastings are at their very best an awkward affair.  I am not a fan of these tastings, and I will own that I arrived (after four hours of driving and another extraordinarily frustrated hour of trying to park in Bryant Park) in a less than perfect frame of mind to attend the tasting, and with less time then I would have hoped.  The tasting notes and materials on the wines of Portugal were excellent.  The cast of wines was expertly assembled and for the most part, spoke for themselves.   This was important as the presenters assembled were primarily NYC sommeliers working off of tech sheets on the wines.  Many of those I spoke with seemed to have not much knowledge of the wines/producers or regions beyond what was on the sheet.  I was truly surprised that many of them had not even bothered to read past the 2-3 wines on their table to learn what wines had made the list.   

They also decided to stop tasting right at 5 and not let the trade event flow into the paid open admission that followed it.  Here is some free professional advice to the sommeliers manning the tables and the event organizers.   If you are going to stop pouring in a room full of people (like a couple hundred people) 5-10 minutes past the advertised end of a tasting, pull the open bottles from the tables and walk away.  Do not stand behind your table and the open bottles of wine ignoring the people you invited to attend your event, or worse, shooing them away from the tables like a bunch of drunks after last call.  Lets hope they pulled it together for the folks who had paid $65 to attend the "Grand Tasting" following the trade event.   It served as an excellent reminder to me for my own future tasting events, whether for the public or the trade, there is a very basic level of human relations savvy that you need to be possessed of at all times or you can really ruin the very hard work of an awful lot of people in a flash. 
I know, blah-blah-blah, poor me.   I had to bring it up though because,  1) If there is a place for the real version of experiences it is a blog  2) I really just did not get to taste all of the wines.   I'm sharing my impressions of what I tasted, not the whole 50, so please bear this in mind.

So on to the list.  The idea is a good one.  Choose a journalist to immerse themselves in Portuguese wines.  They taste the wines,  visit the regions and generate a list of "50 Great Portuguese Wines"  Different journalists have different ideas and criterion for their list.  Julia Harding MW, the most recent UK author, wanted to focus on native varietals.   Joshua Greene had a goal "to assemble 50 wines representing the major regions of Portugal..."  And for the inevitable camp that starts typing, "What about Pera Manca?" almost before they have read the 50th wine, he says, "This list represents a snapshot of 50 Great Portuguese Wines, there are other great wines of Portugal waiting for you to discover them."  Clearly, Joshua Greene is knowledgeable and  passionate about Portuguese wines.  His letter, "Portugal Rocks" and the published literature handed out at the event were all top notch.  And his list of wines was thorough,  eclectic and inclusive.

The Wines-Highlights and Lowlights

As I said, if the presenters were tied to the script, many of the wines spoke for themselves, just not always to the good. 
I finally tasted an Encruzado that I was impressed with, and was introduced to what might well be the world's worst Loureiro.   Casa de Mouraz, an organic/biodynamic estate in the Dão, holds the first honor with their 2012 Encruzado.  I might not have found the wine quite equal to Greene's description of, "a cool sensation of lemon peel and orange oil.  The texture plays off Encruzado's unctuous richness while still feeling as clean as spring water.  The flavors last, with the granitic spice of the grapes."  But I don't know that I have ever found the character of Encruzado to be unctuous or rich either.   I did think it an excellent and intriguing bottle, lightly floral and filled with floral/white pepper aromas mixed with wet stones, and canned pineapple on a dry/high acid frame.

Also atypical, in a not so great way, was the Solar das Boucas Loureiro 2012.  Usually I feel a bit  like Will Rogers when I think about Loureiro, "Never met a Loureiro, I didn't like"   Cue the screeching tires-I actually thought this must be a flawed bottle.  The presenter (the very first wine at the very first table-was very sweet and indulged me by pouring me a sample from another open bottle which was equally awful, thereby eradicating that theory)      Greene's description of the wine would make me buy a bottle, "His young white has the clarity of a Vinho Verde without any overt sweetness. Instead, it delivers a blast of coastal briskness, it's pear-like fruit reflecting the granite soils in which it grows as a crystal refracts light.  The flavors are harmonious with lime zest freshness."   I did not write tasting notes on this one, but I can guarantee that my description would not sell any bottles.  Sometimes you can just have a very different palate than the author of a tasting note, but on the whole I found my impressions and notes to be not so far off from the expert notes provided by Joshua Greene.   When that second bottle turned up the same as the first, I read the tasting note and willed myself to search for those flavors.  The most I could summon was that perhaps this could be appealing in a very under-ripe/high acid/where Vinho Verde all started kind of a way-or in layman's terms, what green fruit tastes like when it's not masked by sugar.  Anyway, either it truly was a bad bottle or it is just not my cup of tea.  But I would implore any other tasters for whom this was their first Loureiro/and not their favorite wine, to continue to experience the varietal in other versions.  I am pretty sure you will find one to your liking (Anselmo Mendes, Dirk Niepoort and even Quinta de Gomariz on the simpler side, are all producers worth seeking out.)

There was actually one more Loureiro on offer at the tasting, IdealDrinks, Eminência 2010, white, Vinho Verde.  This one came with a fine pedigree, a famous winemaker and a staging in used barrels from the famous Sauternes producer Chateaux d'Yquem.    All this aside, I found it oddly lacking in Loureiro's more captivating attributes.  Maybe it's sort of like sending your kid off to a fancy boarding school-the wine had plenty of polish but not much down-home appeal.    Sarah Ahmed gave a great description of the wine on her site, The Wine Detective.  She acknowledges "it might not appeal to purists" but still placed it in her top white wines of the year.   So maybe I'm a purist.  Here's her description, "A glitzy Loureiro, which undergoes extended barrel ferment and batonnage.  Not your usual Vinho Verde then but this, the flagship wine, is wholly in keeping with Ideal Wines’ ambitious portfolio.  From the estate’s 40 year old vineyards in Loureiro-focused Lima, its concentration and structure belie its pale hue.  It’s most definitely pale and interesting!  A leesily creamy, deliciously textured palate reveals long and ever so lingering layers of minerals, lime cordial and lime blossom, powder puff and delicately judged supporting sweet, smoky oak.  It won’t appeal to purists but, without question, it’s the most powerful, intense and complex Loureiro I’ve encountered.  And thoroughly beguiling with it.  One of my top 12 white wines of the year"

Although I feel a bit as though I should recuse myself as I represent these wines in my markets-I would be remiss if I did not point out the fabulous wines from Esporao estate in the Alentejo.  Their delectable and unique single varietal Esporao Verdelho 2012 made the list.   Side note-Verdelho is not Verdejo, though it's grassy aromas, citrus and high acids may remind to this or Sauvignon blanc.  It is a grape used in Madeira and genetically similar to Spain's Godello.  Searching for a white variety that could stand up to the relentless Alentejo sun and still maintain interest and acidity, Esporao's chief winemaker David Baverstock, knew the variety from the Barossa valley and planted it experimentally.  The result is an enticing white with layers of tropical fruit and spices on a frame of stony minerality and a long, and mouthwatering finish.

The Esporao Reserva Red 2010 also made the list.  This wine is their flagship and never fails to deliver, but this year's is undeniably first class, with impeccable balance and plenty of stuffing to continue aging if you are so inclined.  I found Greene's description spot on, "This is a dark and supple blend of Trincadeira, Aragones, Alicante Bouchet and Cabernet Sauvignon,...  The wine delivers immediate richness, taking time to show its subtle tannic detail.  There's a touch of volatility to point up the complex scents of leather, earth and black peppercorn, then the finish holds firm and stony."

And for whites I would have to award best in show to the Soalheiro Alvariniho 2012.  I've probably talked about it on this blog enough already-but it is a stellar wine and held its head high above the competition.  I actually had never tried the Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas 2012 which also made the list, "the Grand Cru of Alvarinhos...aged in older oak barrels; it rests on its fine lees until bottling the May after harvest.  This will age with grace and harmony for ten years or more.  Cerdeiro's top vintages, including the 1994 are still gaining momentum in the bottle."  Joshua Greene.  Age worthiness aside, a pesky purist, I still prefer the basic Alvarinho.  The Primeiras Vinhas was delicious though-mellower and much leesier with subtle oak and lots of power.  The lush mouthfeel hinted at pastry cream-a citrus tart topped with slivers of toasted nuts?   I would never get to Alvarinho in a blind tasting.

Some other whites of note incuded the Vale da Poupa Moscatel Galego White 2012, an intriguing dry Moscatel Galego from the town of Favaios in the Douro produced by Secret Spot Wines.   The wine was smoky and perfumed with lovely spice and persistence.  Also the Quinta do Boicao Reserva White 2012 was a lovely barrel aged Arinto from Bucelas.  Some discrepancy between the fact sheet and Greene's notes leaves the age of the barriques used in question.   My money would be on older oak as the wine brimmed with fresh fruit.  Delicious either way.

The wanna-be wine weenies were swimming around the Quinta das Abgeiras Garrafeira White 2004.  A blend of Maria Gomes and Bical from the Bairrada region fermented with only native yeasts and aged in 100 year old Portuguese Oak barrels.     I will leave them to it.

I really missed out on lots of reds and Ports.   Luis Pato had been manning his table earlier, but I did not get to taste with him.   There were no real duds of the reds I tried, though a few of the fancy Douros failed to wow.  I found the Muxagat Vinhos Red 2011 somewhat pedestrian considering its fine pedigree.  Likewise, I was excited to try the Niepoort Vinhos Batuta 2010, but I found it to be way over the top, showing a little oxiized and extremely Porty.   

For me, these red wines were the highlights:

Quinta do Pinto Estate Collection Red 2011, Lisboa
This blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Miuda, and Syrah really showed that the Lisboa region can do more than bulk wines and value.  Only 150,000 bottles produced, the winery was listed as "seeking a US importer" but there was no representative from the winery there and the presenter had not even a ballpark idea of what price the wine would go for.  (My guess is too much, or they would already have a US importer. )   The nose reminded  me of an Alentejo red with loads of sun drenched fruit.  The palate was broad but remained soft in the mid palate with the French Oak and very present tannins really only asserting themselves on the finish.  Very, very good.

Quinta de Plansel Marques de Montemor Colheita Seleccionada Touriga Franca 2010
A varietal Touriga Franca from the Alentejo!  This really reminded me of a Bordeaux, the nose was a bit vegetal (in a good way,) and Greene's description of the wine as "a peppery claret, with little of the overt warmth of the Alentejo.  It's ripe and velvety, lasting with fragrance rather than heat," is right on the money.

Casa de Mouraz Elfa 2010
My Encruzado friends came out swinging again with this killer red from the Dao-a field blend of 30 different grape varieties from an 80 year old organic vineyard that has been farmed biodynamically since 2006.  The nose on this wine was incredible-full of floral perfume and a crazy blend of fruit flavors that managed to meld themselves into focus.  This is one to geek out on.  Greene calls the wine, "vibrant in its flavor detail, monumental in ints granitic power.  A modern classic from the terroir of Dao."  

Jorge Nobre Moreira Poeira 2010
Just 15,000 bottles of this old vine Douro beauty are produced.  Showing a bit closed, the glimpses of what this wine will do were provocative.  Says Greene, "His 2010 has the floral spice of Douro's old-vine blends, and compelling schist tannins that lend an undercurrent of power-a sunny wine that seems to expand and contract with each breath after a taste of its dynamic flavors."

Joao Brito e Cunha Quinta de S. Jose Touriga Nacional 2011
No surprise to me, a varietal Touriga Nacional was my favorite wine of the tasting.  Just 2700 bottles are produced from an organically farmed 25 acre Douro front vineyard across from Quinta da Romaneira.   The nose was unbelievably vibrant and complex, and the palate was silky and voluptuous with loads of mocha/espresso.  Joshua Greene said, "The foreground is much more complex than most single-variety Tourigas, pulling aside a full drape of purple fruit to reveal a silken fabric of purple-black tannins.  The tannins seem to refract the broken edges of schist, rounded by oak into richness.  The wine has flavor dimensions as well as cut, the structure as tight as the skin around a plump black cherry."  That is one voluptuous cherry!  It claims they are "currently seeking a US importer" but with only 250 cases produced, my guess is it is getting consumed in Portugal.

Clearly the goal of the tasting was to showcase the wines and the strength and range of Portuguese wines and styles.  To that end, I would call it a success.  But next year, I think I'll wait for the DC edition.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I knew I liked that Matt Kramer

Well, Matt Kramer and I may have had our differences of opinion in the past but he's certainly changed his ways now...Off to Portugual, for real, to live there.  Now that is what I call immersion.  Can't wait to read all about it!

Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place on the Planet Today?

It may well be. That’s why I moved there

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Event Pick

Event Pick
Esporao dinner at Tuscarora Mill
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm 
 Don't miss the Esporao dinner at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, VA tomorrow night!    The landmark Alentejo winery has been having quite a year...3 wines made the 50 Great Portuguese wines list, Grand Prize for the Reserva Branco from Revista dos Vinhos and a new raft of wonderful ratings from the Wine Enthusiast.  Come taste the wines for yourself paired intuitively and deliciously by Tuscarora Mill's Executive Chef Michael Dinh