Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wine Trip 2010: Lessons Learned

1) Old World v New World Wines: I'm new to the wine world, but I've seen the "old world" and "new world" descriptors being used - to describe processes of winemaking and also on wine lists to categorize wines.  And of course - "old world" referring to traditional European methods v "new world" referring to more modern American methods.  So basically "old school" v "new school".  From our trip, this is what I gathered...

Old School: Vines are dry farmed – not irrigated (they withstand the dry California weather as they did in the old country) and also not trellised. Instead, each vine stands alone and the vines grow up and out, without the support of a trellis.  According to Vince, you may not get as many grapes, but the grapes will have a more complex aroma/flavor.  Growers don't use fertilizer or mess with the grapes in any way, so the wines are usually not as sweet and are more complementary with food.  They also have a lower alcohol content.
Tofanelli vines are not trellised.

New School: Grapevines are irrigated and trellised to get more grapes and, hence, bigger profits.  In order to get the bigger, more fruit forward flavor that has become popular, winemakers may use tactics to adjust the grapes flavors and tweak the sugar content. Due to more fermented sugars, they tend to be sweeter and higher in alcohol content (up to 16%). And with a bigger, more fruit forward flavor, the wines taste better in the tasting room but can compete with foods rather than complement them.  
Trellised vines

2) “Situational Drinking” – Pairing alcoholic beverages according to the experience. Ex) a smokey red wine for the campfire gathering, tequila at a Cinco de Mayo party, etc.  Originator: the wine pourer (uncertain of official title) at St. Supery tasting room.

3) Realization: Wine Dogs experience a higher quality of life than most humans.
Lucky dogs.

4) Based on some informal polling of locals: There’s no place like home - if “home” is Calistoga, CA.  Almost every server, bartender, bar patron, etc, we asked verified the fact that there simply is no other place they’d rather live than Calistoga.  For wine, food, natural hot springs, breathtaking scenery, proximity to ocean/mountains, weather, quality of life – Calistoga’s got it on lock-down.  If you’re looking for a laid back wine country experience with lots of local flavor, Calistoga is really where it’s at.  By comparison, we spent a short amount of time in Yountville.  And while its home to some seriously amazing restaurants, Yountville had a very suburban, ritzy feel.  However, if you’re looking to show off your Benz and tempt fate by wearing white pants, this would be the place to do it!

4) “Brambly” – adjective used to describe a wine that is complex and gnarly.  The visual of sticking your head inside a blackberry bush would be apt. Originator: for us, it was Vince Tofanelli.

5) While tasting wines at a granite countertop in an attractive tasting room is fun, nothing compares to standing on the freshly tilled soil of the vineyard that produced the wine you are tasting (as you are tasting it) while the man who tilled that soil, picked those grapes, and crafted that wine shares with you his family’s history and his passion for what he does.  Nothing compares.

6) Wine Country Coma:  A state of consciousness (or lack thereof) that begins with your first wine tasting at 10am and seeps in deeper with each decadent meal and each 3 oz pour of wine until you are thoroughly soaked to the core, like a liquor-soaked ladyfinger in a tiramisu dessert.  Words aren’t easily formed, let alone coherent and grammatically-correct sentences.  No.  All you can do is let your head hit the pillow and hope that tomorrow morning’s coffee brings intelligibility. 

Thanks, Calistoga! It's been real.

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