Friday, May 15, 2009

Wine and Community: Applications Now Being Accepted

Markham Vineyards, a pioneering Napa Valley winery with a history of community involvement, is looking for applicants for the 2009 Mark of Distinction, a program designed to empower individuals to make positive, tangible change across America. Building on its history of community involvement and the tradition that began with the program launch last year, Markham will again award $25,000 to two passionate and inspiring individuals to complete a project that makes a positive, visible impact on their community.

To enter, go to the Nominations page before June 30, and submit a proposal of no more than 300 words that describes the initiative, the rationale and inspiration. A brief budget detailing how project funds will be used must also be presented.

Beginning July 27, 10 finalists and their dream projects will be selected and posted on the Web site. The public will then vote to determine two winners, who will be awarded $25,000 each to make a lasting local change – a “Mark of Distinction” – in their communities.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Taking the "Blah" Out of "Wine Blog"

Right, so this week I was supposed to post that $9 Côtes du Ventoux I couldn’t face last week, but…oops! Somebody drank it all. (wasn’t me!) As I recall, it smelled like Grenache and tasted like grapefruit. If I were tasting it blind, I may have guessed it was a white wine. Well, Côtes du Ventoux is known for being a light red so, I guess this one was right on the money. I have nothing to compare it to though as I have not had another Côtes du Ventoux. At any rate, this particular bottle was not really my style. It seemed surprisingly flabby with food but, apparently it was quaffable (judging by the now empty bottle).

Meanwhile, one week and two days after TasteCamp East, I think I’m almost ready to open another bottle of wine! In all honesty, I think I got in over my head going to Long Island with a bunch of professional wine tasters. Okay, okay…only half of them were actual professional wine tasters in the sense that wine tasting is listed in their job description—the other half totally could be professionals though. One thing they all have in common: They all got chops!

Yep, I was spitting [almost] everything at TasteCamp but, I think the wine was somehow soaking into my bloodstream through my cheek tissue or something (I believe I’ve heard of that kind of thing happening). Anyway, I have spent the last week+ just trying to dry out. Rest assured people: I’m pretty sure I will drink wine again. I am merely unable to venture a guess as to when. Soon, I’m sure! But, on that note, I would like to announce a change to the $10 Tuesday format.

Life's too short to drink cheap wine.

…Cheap wine; bad wine; no matter how you phrase it, nobody wins from the Tasters A & B tossing the dice on a $10 bottle of wine and losing. It seems to me that there actually are a lot of pretty uninteresting wines available in the $10-and-under category and finding one that is worth mentioning is luck of the draw. Being as we don’t have the resources (or inclination) to taste through dozens of $10 wines every week in order to distill the field down to a weekly gem, $10 Tuesday will no longer be a weekly feature.

Worry not value-minded Reader: whenever we do run into a fun or interesting $10 wine, we’ll post a $10 Tuesday to let you know about it. I’m just not going to kill my liver trying to seek one out every single week. If you know of a producer or a region producing attention-worthy wines in the $10 price range, please feel free to pass your recommendations on to us. We’re always happy to find such values in wine. In the meantime, I’ve got a cellar full of 15-35 dollar wines that needs my attention. ;)


Thursday, May 7, 2009

An Awesome Blogger Needs Our Support.

My friend Hardy is going for the brass ring and he needs your help! If you have 2 minutes to spare, please watch his application video and vote for him in the "A Really Goode Job" competition to fill a six month Murphy-Goode Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent contract.

Hardy is the man behind Dirty South Wine and is one of the most original, PR-savvy, creative wine bloggers I've met. I want him to get this job. I'm gonna be straight with you: I'll probably be a little jealous when he gets it but, really, I can't think of a better candidate. Won't you vote for Hardy? He's hilarious--and it's good karma!

A link to the voting is available from the "Dirty for Goode" badge on the right!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

$10 Tuesday: Côtes du Ventoux...maybe

The last thing I wanted to do Monday after returning from the palate equivalent of the iron man was open a bottle of wine. Actually, the thought of it made me cringe a little. Duty calls though so I did open something. However, I decided after tasting it that posting my present impressions wouldn't be very responsible. It's probably only fair to let my palate reset so I'm not comparing a $9 wine to the $40-$60 wines I was tasting all weekend. I'll post it next week. I still may not love it, but at least it won't have the deck stacked against it by being judged out of context.


The way I see it.

B and I had the pleasure of meeting up with a band of East Coast wine bloggers last weekend, exploring the Long Island North Fork region. Lenn did a wonderful job putting this together and setting up a weekend stuffed with meeting other bloggers, wine makers, growers and producers.

This is the way I saw the event. I was coming off of a bout of springtime allergies and was not top tasting form, yet this event provided me an opportunity to experiment with other styles of photography which was equally important to me as trying other styles of wine. The weather was cloudy, slightly foggy and drab. Not a good time for shooting outdoors, but we do need photo content for SLG so a healthy self-dosing of quityerbitching tonic was in order. Let’s see what came through the lens toss in some observations about the area.

The first challenge was the available light shots of Raphael which has a wonderful open, spacious tasting and function room beautifully appointed with wood, tile and marble. The textures were fabulous and proved irresistible for playing with the existing light.

Mid spring in the North East is a time when the leaves emerge on the trees. The trees are not only spring green but also many pastel shades. The vineyards are devoid of greenery other than the green cover crop.

Long Island is flat. The soils are sandy-loam. The water is plentiful. Grape vines do very well in these conditions, too well. It can be difficult to get the vines to shut down and produce quality fruit. It is a struggle for the vineyard to keep the canopy in check while preventing too much moisture on the vines. Because the land is flat, the breezes are primarily from the ocean and are damp. This is tough on the growers because diseases are a constant threat. Thus, Long Island producers must be vigilant for molds and apply fungicides. This fact alone has made it difficult for farmers to go completely organic.

You will see dandelions in the vineyards of Long Island. Dandelions have deep tap roots that naturally till the land, keeping the soils open and aerated. This is a shift in thinking and may freak out those that are addicted to having putting greens for lawns, but dandelions are a beneficial force of nature. The experience of the growers and studies by Cornell University labs in these very vineyards have shown that the natural cover crops of grasses, dandelions, clover and other plants have not caused deficiencies in the vines.

This is the time of bud break on Long Island.

The wines have wonderful colors, winemakers can get a beautiful extraction. Merlot is the major crop and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and a little Pinot Noir are also grown as well as other blending varieties.

There are less than ideal growing conditions on Long Island. Mid-Atlantic coastal weather is fickle. Merlot seems to be doing the best. I see a region trying to become an entity on its own, yet still align themselves with Bordeaux and trying not to be another California.

I was having a hard time accepting the quirkiness of the Long Island wines. I fully understand the desire to be unique and a wine region of stature. I was having a difficult time with the funk that sat on top of many of wines and the unbalanced tannins. This funk may be part of Cab Franc’s green, cabbagy reputation, but it is a distraction for me that was creeping into the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

At long last, it came to me. These Long Island wines are not wines that stand on their own. More than any other region I’ve explored, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, California, Argentina, Chile, Australia, these Long Island wines need to have food eaten with them. Yes I know, you should generally have food with wine but there are wines that I like without food. During the Merlot Alliance dinner, a wine was poured that I tasted earlier and was dreading tasting again. But paired with food, the fats cut down the tannins and helped balance out the wine. The same thing happened at lunch the next day. Then all of the sudden, I got it. These wines need food.

Talking with the producers in the area, I see that they are emerging in a region that they are still figuring it out. They are trying to mend the farmlands beaten by the prior agri-chemical farming. Those that want to do away with chemicals are making inroads and are on the correct path. There is a strong desire to have a distinct style as well as improving sustainability. I’m sure that they will figure it out.

In the mean time, I’m looking for my next shot. Hey, there's a cool truck.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Back from TasteCamp East

Barrel tasting at PaumanokWe just got home from the first TasteCamp East organized by Lenn Thompson and this is the first chance I've had all weekend to post something. Actually, I'm totally wiped from a marathon tasting Saturday of over one hundred wines and five separate wineries (and several more represented) so, this is going to be brief. I just want to put up a few pics and impressions from the weekend.

Before this weekend we'd tried less than five Long Island wines. I was impressed by the overall level of quality of the wines tried this weekend but more so, I was impressed by how attuned the wine makers seem to be with the land. The weekend's featured wineries may not represent the whole of Long Island winemaking but, the philosophy was echoed often enough to indicate an obvious trend in Long Island toward sustainable and bio-dynamic farming practices. Anyone can make wine in a test-tube but it takes a certain commitment and zeal to make it in the vineyard.

David Page of Shinn EstateMacari and Shinn seem to be well on their way to organic certification. The area has it's difficulties which has made it a particular challenge to move away from chemical pesticides and fungicides. The practices at Shinn and Macari are even informing Cornell's organic viticulture experiment which nearly "failed" but has ultimately achieved some success thanks to Barbara Shinn's coaxing. They are changing the vineyard management paradigm over there.

John and Megan at the Bedell tasting barThere was such a number of tremendous wines (plenty so-so wine too) that I don't even know where to start. My tasting notes fizzled after Roanoke where they had the foresight to seat us at a table (note-taking surface) and bring the wine to us (kudos Roanoke). I will say that as an outsider, I think the biggest challenge for Long Island wines is their price to quality ratio. Yes, they are making some kick-ass wines but a lot of them are priced beyond their peers in other regions. Most (emphasis on the most) are staying true to the region and not trying to mimic another style, so perhaps with time the QPR will improve.

shinn vineHaving said that, I think Shinn will be able to fetch a tidy sum for their 2007 Cab Franc once it's released. This is a wine that goes deep. At the end of the day, we found the best QPR for our money at Lenz. Eric Fry wine maker and all-around character*, seems to be on a mission at Lenz. When you visit Eric's tasting room, he will not impose his preconceptions (or your own for that matter) on you by doing anything so covertly influencing as announcing the varietal being poured. That would be mind control and Eric doesn't do that. But wait, there's more: He is a die-hard protagonist against the evil Astrigent Tannins. He has also taken it upon himself to age his wines for consumers (because if he doesn't do it, chances are nobody will). All of this adds up to some mighty fine juice (depending on the vintage). He likes it. We kinda did too.

* Sorry, we were too distracted to capture any photos of Eric Fry