Where to Find Me These Days…

I’ve got a few posts in the hopper for this site, but for the next couple weeks or so you’ll find me blogging at San Francisco Natural Wine Week, a loosely organized collective tasting bacchanal happening in the would-be Angers-by-the-Bay from August 23-29. Be there or be a lame ass!

Please click here for more information about San Francisco Natural Wine Week, including event information, contact info and various schedules.

Hibernation, or, Summertime

The summer has been so cold out here in coastal California that I’ve been hibernating with all the grapes that are going to hit maybe 12.% alcohol this year. Or something like that.

Driving up the coast last week (end of July), Ventura to San Francisco, via my car’s outside temperature display:

Ventura, 10am, 67 degrees (fog)

Santa Barbara, 10.45am, 66 degrees (sun and fog)

Top of San Marcos Pass, 11.15am, 71 degrees (sunny)

Santa Maria Valley, within site of the Bien Nacido vineyard, 12.15pm, 63 degrees (fog, some sun)

Pismo Beach, 12.35pm, 66 degrees (fog)

San Luis Obispo, 12.55pm, 70 degrees (clearing fog, sun)

Paso Robles, 1.30pm, 89 degrees (sun)

San Miguel area, 1.45pm, 91 degrees (sun)

Gonzales (roughly Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone), 2.35pm, 68 degrees (fog-sun)

Salinas, 3pm, 65 degrees (fog, wind)

Morgan Hill, 4.15pm, 71 degrees (sun, patchy clouds, bullshit traffic)

Cupertino (below Monte Bello), 5pm, 69 degrees (sun, fog to the north)

San Francisco, 5.55pm, 52 degrees (fog, wind, mist)

Summer 2010 on the California coast.

Two Sides to Every Tasting: Nebbiolo Prima 2010

Nebbiolo Prima, the reconstituted annual anteprima event formerly known as the Alba Wines Exhibition, is easily one of the most engaging Italian wine tastings that I’ve attended. It’s also certainly the most gruesome: four days, 75-85 new nebbiolo wines each day, and only three or so hours in a single sitting to taste them all. Still, it’s a fantastic opportunity to taste most of the new releases from the following appellations: Roero, Barbaresco and Barolo. And as an invited (and hosted*) journalist, I got to taste everything blind, broken out by vintage and commune.

I’m still typing up my notes, so it’s a little premature to comment on individual wines. Actually, typed notes or no, I think it’s impossible to offer accurate impressions of the 330 or so wines tasted at Nebbiolo Prima. To be sure, I had some favorites — wines that, to me at least, gave a balanced impression of how nebbiolo performs in a particular zone, whether the Roero, Nieve, or Castiglione Falletto.

Large, comprehensive tastings like Nebbiolo Prima, however, do have their advantages, namely providing an opportunity to play generalist and look for underlying trends or profiles within communes and, most importantly, within the vintage.

So speaking generally, I came away from this tasting uninspired by many of the ’07s from the Roero (a region that I tend to like under normal circumstances) and frustrated by the bulk (literally and figuratively, but not all) of ’07 Barbarescos, especially those from Treiso which, marked as they were by jammy tannins and high alcohols, didn’t seem to handle the warm, dry conditions of 2007.

(Above: Two sides to every tasting, and every rental car. I had rented a new – and adorable – Fiat 500 to make getting around much easier. Unfortunately a tight alleyway and an obscured bench in the medieval town of Serralunga decided to make things a little more difficult. Thankfully, a quick thinking winemaker reattached the bumper with tape.)

Barolo 2006 was a different matter. And at least to judge from my experiences during both Nebbiolo Prima and during visits with several producers both before, during and after the event, 2006 is looking like it will be a very good, possibly classic, vintage for Barolo, especially among producers in Castiglione Falletto, Barolo/Novello, Monforte, Serralunga and Verduno. La Morra was the odd man out here, with too many wines that felt pushed in the cellar, whether through overworked tannins or excessive oak flavors.

Which brings up another point about 2006, and perhaps why I think this vintage shows real promise for Barolo: it’s a tough year to hide behind. In other words, it’s not a year in which warm, ideal ripening conditions can hide bad winemaking, nor is it a year in which the more obviously modern and international styles tended to show their best. If you dig brighter acidity, earthy, firm tannins and purity of expression over technique, then 2006 Barolo is your thing.

A few more posts, including some producer visits in Liguria and Valtellina in addition to Piedmont, to follow…

NB: I had the great pleasure of spending a good amount of time tasting (and eating) with David McDuff, who has also posted informed observations about Nebbiolo Prima. Definitely worth a visit.

*As noted before, but worth pointing out again, I was an invited journalist at Nebbiolo Prima, and have the organizers to thank for logistical support, airfare, some meals, etc. The rental car, in all its taped, bashed-up glory, was my own responsibility.

Tunnel Vision

Greetings from Piemonte! I’m here as a guest for Nebbiolo Prima, a tasting of new releases from Barolo, Barbaresco and the Roero, happening next week. I’ve wanted to attend this tasting for the last several years but because of publishing schedules I couldn’t get away. Now that I’m more of a free agent, well, I just had to make this one a priority.

For these few days before the tasting, however, I’ll be visiting producers and generally getting into trouble. Stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, some crappy iphone photos from yesterday’s jet-lagged haze. I forgot the cable for my digital camera, so you’ll have to content yourself with the phone pics… sorry!

To transfer to the short-jump European flights at the Frankfurt airport, you need to pass through this underground tunnel. Early in the morning after a transatlantic flight.

La Morra overlook. It’s a little rainy here these days.

Castello di Verduno’s delightful 2008 Pelaverga with carne cruda.

Giuseppe Rinaldi’s awesome 2008 Barbera d’Alba and a couple plates of tajarin to take the edge off after a long flight.

Bad Blogger!

But whatever. There are times where I think I’m losing my taste for this sort of thing, whether it’s because of the lowest common denominator tendency inspired by the internets, general flaming, or because I’ve just got too much else going on that staring at a computer screen for yet another hour is anything but appealing.

And then of course there’s the whole traffic thing, and traffic spikes in particular. A savvy social mediaite might have parlayed the huge bounce from a timely post like this one into double the usual traffic, but, well, that’s not me. I did the opposite and got caught up in other things. Like life. Wine. And disco. To whit:

Cougar Beat: More From the Field at WSWA

It’s not all speeches and booze bottles shaped like weapons for Cougar Beat at the annual WSWA convention in Las Vegas. This time, our intrepid reporter sends word direct from the exhibition floor:

Highlights from the exhibition floor: Jello shots that require no refrigeration, 30 proof whipping cream in five flavors, a caffeinated RTD branded “Jakk’d” and the delightful lady hawking a ‘purple hooter’ in packaging akin to a large mustard packet. She said that the product retails for 99 cents beacuse “you gotta keep it cheap for the kids.”

At last, five flavors of 30 proof whipping cream!

Luckily, Cougar Beat stumbled on something that was more to her taste:

On a serious note, Leblon Cachaca is making a drink in their suite with said cachaca, lemongrass, cucumber, lime and coconut foam. Outstanding cocktail. Not to be missed!

Coconut foam? We here at Spume HQ love our foams.