Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two very different days of tasting wine - USA and ARGENTINA; FRANCE and ITALY

On Tuesday, I tasted around 50 wines at work. I thought 10 of them tasted ok. Two of them I might buy with my own money. It was a day spent tasting mainly California wines, with about ten Argentinean wines as well, so I guess I'm not surprised that I disliked most of the wines. I've noticed that many of my colleagues who sell wine retail and in restaurants, especially the under 40 year-old set (though not by any means limited to these folks) overwhelmingly prefer European wines to Californian, Washington, Oregon and other new world regions. Furthermore, most wine drinkers I talk to who have been drinking wine for a while often tell me that they gradually have grown to prefer European wines to their new world counterparts. That does not bode particularly well for new world wine regions, don't you think? Especially if more people continue selling what they actually like and think is good, not what they think their customers will think is good.

Of the 50 wines I tasted, there were six by Paul Hobbs, each of them truly awful, and unimaginable with any sort of food. What's up with Americans' unsatiable thirst for these crappy wines? Subject for a future post, perhaps.

One of the two wines that I really liked was the 2006 Unti Petit Freres (90% Grenache, Syrah) which tasted of dark fruit, fully dry, and unmarred by overripeness or new oak. No surprises here given that, if memory serves, they ferment with indigenous yeast in tank, with aging in used oak foudres The other one was a Pinot Noir from Hirsch's Bohan Dillon vineyard in the Sonoma coast. While CA pinot is generally not my tipple of choice, this wine was bright and lively, crunchy red fruits with good acidity and even a touch of minerality.

Now on to a different day of tasting, the day before this one, on my day off. It was a small Dressner tasting, basically a line-up of wines that are not represented by our CA distributor and are available direct from Mr. Dressner in New York. Of the 19 wines, I really liked 14, a markedly higher percentage than the day of tasting mentioned above. Granted, Joe Dressner has a pretty mean palate and imports good stuff, but I think you can readily see the contrast between these two days of tasting. Chances are, if you are reading this then you know what I'm saying and find yourself feeling similarly inclined, but I welcome any and all contrarians to state their wine preferences.

More detailed notes to come on the Dressner wines.


Brian said...

The problem is I have an awful lot...bottles and bottles...of California Cabernet in my cellar from the first few years of my hobby. I've had one...count it one...Chilean red wine that I actually enjoyed.

Oh well...they make good gifts. (And I still like some California Cabs. I love Clos Du Val...and Reserve Beaulieu, and a new wine called Musante that is savory and herbal without being raw bell pepper)

Mike Drapkin said...


I have noticed the same trend on this coast:If you are under 40 years old and in the wine biz, then you prefer drinking wines outside of North America,South America,Australia......Soon these young pups will be owning their own shops or restaurants selling the wine which incites their emotions and intellectual needs. This is a serious problem that the "new world" should pay attention. Very thoughtful insight Joe. Cheers!

Chief of Lab Research said...

Isn't part of the issue here Joe Dressner? Or Terry Theise, or Kermit Lynch, Gary Westby, Jeff Vierra (like to give my local wineshop guys their props right?), Jenny & Francois, Jon David Hedrick, and etc... meaning: there's a beneficial editorial function lurking behind the old world wines that I, too, prefer to drink. Someone has pre-screened the list. And look, I don't disagree with anything you've said. In fact, I agree with it wholeheartedly. And I get that California producers have sales reps too, but it's not the same playing field. Or maybe it is...

On a completely different subject, I've been trying to figure out how to use the new google following tool to keep up with my favorite readings via my "dashboard". For some reason, the "most recent" posts from owos are posts from 8 months ago. Anybody else mentioning having this problem?

Joe Manekin said...

JD -

Point well taken. Even with less of a heavy handed editorialized comparison, though, I know which side of the pond (and equator) many of us tend to prefer, which of course was the larger point here. Well-deserved props to Vierra and Westby, those dudes do some good digging. Say 'hey' next time you're in Redwood City, by the way.

Thanks for the heads up on the google reader - other blogs are working ok, particularly other 'blogger' blogs?

Chief of Lab Research said...

Yeah, it seems to be something odd with owos. Maybe something about how you have the date configured? This is the post that comes up as most recent:

Post New Year's, Pre Bday Champagne.

Which it obviously is not.

Maybe ask someone else who's "follwing" if they have the same problem? Meanwhile, I'll delete you and wait a while to see if that resets it. (I already tried deleting and resubscribing with no effect).

Hollywood has become my local K&L. It was a forced march down here and I miss the Bay Area. But I'm supposed to be up in the fall, I will definitely swing by. And let me know if you ever volunteer to drive the van down here!


Anonymous said...

Come on Joe, let's see some notes from the Dressner tasting.... \m/

David McDuff said...

Let's see... where to start?

Glad you're digging Unti's wines, Joe. I can't say I think they're stellar across the board but I do think that Mick, Sebastien and crew are doing really good work with their hearts in the right places. Some of the more "serious" wines do see barrique but the new % is always judicious. They're also incrementally adopting biodynamic practices. Definitely real wines.

As to the OWOS follower issue, I'm finding the same problem that JD described. Who knows why. I haven't had similar issues with any other blogs.

Finally, as you may have mathematically figured by now given the old DC-scene posts, I'm over 40 (though I don't feel like it). Go figure.

Joe Manekin said...

Anon (really Mike D??) - it was a Friday off for the blog, will get those notes up soon!

McD - Thanks for the info on Unti and chiming in on the follower issue. Will do some investigating when time allows. As for the age, yeah I did figure you were of the 40+ set. No ageism here! Just noticing that even more people of my generation seem to be enjoying specific types of wine. Though of course folks in your generation and older also enjoy these wines.

Mike Drapkin said...


Wasn't me, but get those damn notes up. Joking. Hey, I am going back to our wine roots this Thurs for the Vintage 59 portfolio tasting. Notes to in a few weekd. Cannot sleep with excitement to dip my nose into some Marc Tempe wines.

Steve L. said...

It's a strange dichotomy--what sells briskly in a typical Northern California wine shop (and therefore gets most of the editorial space in a monthly newsletter like, for example, K&L's), and what the people who work in that shop vociferously tend to prefer (including in writing, in the self-same newsletters). I can't figure out why average consumers and so-called industry insiders are so far apart.

Anonymous said...


Just getting to this post... well done, and very enjoyable. I often wonder why the tastes of us youngerish wine people veer towards the more esoteric old world wines, and really I think it comes down to price. At least at first: Morgon is tasty, real, has geek-cred and doesn't cost a lot -- especially when ordered in a restaurant, where a food pairing will take place. And you know, maybe that doesn't have to do with age so much as a general level of curiosity--perhaps that's higher for young people, I don't know.

As for the disconnect between people in the trade of all ages and your average wine consumer that another commenter points out here, I'm not sure how to address that...but of course if one perceives a disconnect hard enough, then lo and behold, there's a disconnect.

Not sure if that makes sense.

Meanwhile, I also have a problem reading your blog in Google reader--I have no idea why.