Gone west

So, I just came back from a ten-day trip west, and here is a brief report.

The first leg of the trip was to Boise, Idaho to act as a judge in a competition among Idaho wines. Actually, it was the second leg of my trip, as you can’t get from New York to Idaho without going somewhere else first! I think that’s called the deregulated airline industry…

In any event, the Idaho trip was an eye-opener. There are some good things going on in wine around Boise. While I found many flawed wines with weird off aromas and plain technical faults, I also found a number of solid wines to appreciate.

My favorite wines from Idaho included Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Merlot, and Malbec. I was generally unimpressed with the Pinot Noir wines and most other wines in the competition.

Even though it started in the nineteenth century (of course, there has been a decided gap in wine production from then until now) the Idaho wine industry is still young and learning. But some wines certainly are ready for the big leagues.

I was going to talk specifically about names that I enjoyed, but the list of winners got lost in my emailer while I was traveling. I must get a replacement email sent to me and then I’ll get back to Idaho’s wines in a later blog entry.

After Idaho, it was off to Sonoma County to travel with an old business associate who seeks wines for his wine shop, his wine bar, and his restaurant in Manhattan.

We traveled the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys and of course found special delights named Zinfandel (I love the way the gnarly old Zinfandel vines look like trolls reaching out as if to grab us).

Look for the name Del Carlo on wine labels soon—their first vintage is being released and it is wonderful stuff. I think I mentioned Rued before—look for their great Sauvignon Blancs.

In Healdsburg, we were treated to Alderbrook Zinfandels and were quite pleased. This winery has had some trouble in the past, and since it became part of the Terlato Wine Group, it has been more focused, mainly on Zinfandel.

We also made a foray into Boonville, northwest of Hopland in Mendocino County. Here we found some young wineries that show great promise, with a winery named Breggo at the head of the class.

Speaking of class, one fellow proved that he could use a little help in that department.

Others told us that this fellow’s winery was a comer. What we didn’t know is that the winery had been discovered by a West Coast blogger and that is what made the place an all of a sudden seeming success—tasting room traffic swelled and so, it seems, has the owner’s head.

We introduced ourselves to the owner and mentioned that one of us was on the lookout for unknown wines to bring into New York City. To that, the owner went into a winded lesson about how his tasting room traffic has been making him rich and about how he would never consider distributing wine to New York unless it was to go to a ‘high visibility’ restaurant. He never asked us about my friend’s business, so he had no idea whether or not he was talking with the owner of a ‘high visibility’ place, but he made sure to repeat the refrain at least four times.

We figured it was either arrogance or the fact that my friend is black that made the man act so distastefully. We said nothing more than “it’s your choice,” reached out our hands and said goodbye.

One of the things that impressed me on this trip is the number of times I was told how much of a turn off excessive wood and extract is. This sentiment was expressed by winemakers, wine tasting room servers, wine distributor sales reps, a few friends in Sonoma who are not in the wine business, and a couple of restaurant waiters.

I found myself wondering: with all this apparent dismay over bombastic wines, why in the world are they still being produced. Why in the world do these wines still win accolades? Must be a disconnect.

In all, I loved the Idaho experience, mainly because I learned from it. I always love visiting Sonoma County and this time was no different—I tasted many more wines that were wonderful than were not (incidentally, a winery called Ledson offers a stellar red blend of Bordeaux varieties).

We had lunch with Tom Wark one afternoon. It’s always a pleasure to talk with Tom. He’s one easygoing guy who handles even criticism with grace, leaving me to sorrowfully wonder how I might gain some of that humility?

Oh, I almost forgot. I also met for the first time one of my blog readers: Jack Everitt and his lovely family. Jack and Joanne entertained us for dinner in their fabulous surroundings in Santa Rosa.

Thanks again, Jack and Joanne, for the dinner, the wines, and the sparkling conversation. You proved once again how nice and sharing the majority of wine people really are.

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
April 2009. All rights reserved.

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