Oenophilia – An obsessive disorder or just a way of life?

Swirl, Sniff, and Spit with your friend, Patrick

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Cute Little Bottle!

So here I am, minding my own business, looking through our wine closet for something to drink with dinner.  All of a sudden, it jumps out and grabs me!  This cute little innocuous bottle that was standing on a shelf (ignored for Bacchus-knows how long) demanded to be consumed. I have no idea from whence it came.  A 375 ml, dark green, bottle that could best be described a portly.

Turns out my little buddy is from Villa Sparina in Dolcetto d’Acqui, Gavi, Italy.  The 2000 <<Bric Maiolo>> was imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates, meaning it could have been a gift from my old friend Jeffrey Meisel who I met when he managed the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant – Oh so many years ago.   Well in the end…Who cares where it came from? It’s open and in my glass now!

This Dolcetto is dark, blood red, just starting to show a little age on the edges.  Ripe plum, black olive, almond, and licorice all teased my nose really peaking my interest in what is to come. The mouth is just as interesting. Add other fruits like black cherry and red berries, and lavender to the mix with very soft chalky tannins rounding the mouth as the finish shows cedar and spice, a little tangerine peel and juicy acids that go long.

It paired nicely with my wife’s lovely Butternut Squash Risotto, but I could easily imagine it with Salumi or other savory meats.

WBC: What a Day! And that was only the 1st half day!!!

The 2008 Wine Bloggers Conference is in full swing in Santa Rosa – our BIG city here in Sonoma County.  Over 175 bloggers from around the country have gathered for a weekend of wine, conferences, wine, breakouts, wine, meals, wine, friendly competition, wine, live blogging, wine, presentatons, meet & greets, wine, a keynote…. and did I mention there is a lot of wine here?

We started off with a ride out to Kick Ranch, grower for a number of notable boutique wines. I got to meet up with some of my favorite bloggers.  That is a very interesting dynamic here.  Most of us only know each other in cyberspace.  We follow each others blogs, we read each others reviews, we are Facebook friends, and we follow each other on Twitter.  Now we meet at the top of a vine-covered hill in Sonoma County and read name-tags as we squint at faces to see if someone might resemble their avatar or profile picture.  Then we embrace like old friends.  Pretty cool.  I will post more on Kick Ranch in the future.

Then we returned to the fabulous Flamingo Resort to get started with the meat of the conference.  Joel Vincent, our fearless leader got the conference rolling.  Joel is an amazing man.  He took a community of disparate individuals that shared a common passion and enabled us to create a community that we call the Open Wine Consortium.  He holds it all together and pushed us forward.

For me, the main event was the Wine Blogging Live – speed dating – wine tasting event.  There were 16 tables of bloggers all plugged-in and hooked-up.  Winemakers came around to each table and had five minutes to taste us on the wines and to talk us up as we blogged, Twittered, recorded, or scribed about the wines.  Pretty wild ride!  I chose to review the wines on Twitter.  If you follow me as Oenophilus or subscribe to my OenoTweets feed, you can click on that name and get the reviews.  I think most of the bloggers were with me and loved this event. 

We finished this and went on to the Blind Tasting Competition sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America.  Tracy Dutton – Head Wino at Greystone, CIA’s Napa Valley campus – led the comparative, multi-leveled tasting.  I got bumped out in the very first round.  In my defense, I think my two samples got mixed up. No! Really! Hard to pick Gewurtz and Viognier out of the air and just label the samples opposite!  Anyways, the eventual victor was Doug Cook of Able Grape.  This was well deserved as he is one of the most amazing wine gurus I have met.  By the way, If you don’t have Able Grape on your toolbar or bookmarked or widgeted on your own blog/site…get busy.  When it comes to wine, “Google” is no longer a verb; AbleGrape is the word!

We then retired to the next series of tastings! Yes. More wine. The Winegrowers of Dry Creek plied us with some gorgeous wines from that celebrated Sonoma County appellation in their cute hospitality suite by the pool.

The Bradinator’s Bottle

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of a visit here in Healdsburg from Bradley Cooper – the engaging winemaker from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.  The Bradinator (Cooper’s moniker in the fast-paced world of Twitter. Yours Truly goes by Oenophilus)  & his wife, Audralee, spent an afternoon with me running around Healdsburg and tasting a little wine.  After visiting my sister-in-law, Samantha at Chateau Felice’s tasting room, we decided to cross the Plaza and to dine at Ravenous.  One of my regular haunts, Ravenous serves wonderfully fresh and creative “wine country” cuisine.  They are also home to one of the finest burgers in creation!  We tasted some of my Iridesse Wines with our dinner as we talked shop long into the evening.  Audralee and Brad  thoughtfully left me with a couple of their bottles.

I must say, the first Merlot I have had in quite a while.  Not because of any aversion to the varietal or any Miles-induced prejudice.  I just hadn’t happened to have any recently. That said,  I was honored and excited to try it – especially as my knowledge of wines north of the Willamette is woefully inadequate.

Boy, was I ever glad I did!!!

Township 7 – 2005 Merlot Okanagan Valley

Bradinator Brew

This wine has great color:  dark, rich, and inviting!  All sorts of wonderful aromas come up out of the glass: Plum, Smoke, fresh raspberries, dill, bay leaf, humus, pepper, and cloves. These all seem to come together perfectly with the flavors that the Merlot brings to the palate.  A nice medium acid approach is quickly rounded out into an elegant mouthfeel that holds dark rich fruit, spices, plum, blackberry, cherry, bittersweet chocolate, and fig.  The wine finishes like a great food wine with good acid, a quality similar to “Angostura” Bitters” in aroma and flavor with a zesty citrus finish to wrap it up.

Audralee:  You are always welcome in Healdsburg.  Don’t bring Bradley too often. The world needs him at work in the cellar!

Selling Wine in L.A., Volume I

Just a quick post before I hit the road.  After a month of random illnesses that were sucking the life out of half of wine country, I feel great and have hit the road to introduce Iridesse Wines to L.A.  I flew the blessedly fast and easy flight from Sonoma Co. airport to LAX (Yea, Horizon!) and got my car and drove to my first pitch over in Orange.  I had forgotten how insane it is to get around.  My Mapquest and Hertz directions eventually got me there – several different freeways later and a side trip to genuflect at the altar of Mr. Disney. 

I had also forgotten how inane wine sales cattle calls are.  I arrived at the Wine Exchange in Orange and put my name at the bottom of a very long list of wine sales guys who got there before me.  I am glad I had time to wait because this store was great!  Their selection of Bordeaux and Burgundies alone kept me busy for most of the time I was there…and I’m not even really a French wine geek.  I finally got to my turn and I had the pleasure of pouring for Kyle – a really great guy and he liked what we were doing.  I hope to hear from him soon so that the good people who live behind the Orange Curtain can get some Iridesse!

I capped off the day with dinner at El Cholo.  This restaurant is one of the classic establishments in the hamlet legally known as “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula.”  We call it L.A.  I have memories of El Cholo going back as long as I remember.  Since it is March and the gorgeous Green Corn Tamales are served only from May to September, I had another classic dish Sonora-Style Enchilada (layered corn tortillas, savory chicken simmered in a tomato, onion, cilantro broth, & cheese, topped with olives and a fried egg) served at El Cholo since 1923.  While I would have loved this dish with a nice rhone white,  I decided that my roots needed to show more and I had the Gran Tradicional Margarita – Cuervo Tradicional, Herradura Silver, Cointreau and a float of Cuervo Reserva de la Familia!  Yum.

Oenophiliac Wine Elves Wish You a Merry Christmas!


Thanks to the erudite Lia Huber of Swirling Notions for passing on the elf idea from Office Max’s Elf Yourself.

Drink plenty of wine this holiday season.  Whether around the holiday table or out of a brown paper bag at your kid’s Christmas concert, wine is meant to be enjoyed as a part of life.  Drop me a line and tell me what wines you liked and which ones made you gag.

Even better, go to Snooth, or any number of other on-line wine communities and rate the wines yourself.  Wine 2.0 has taken the power and put it in your hands – or tongue as the case may be!

Thanks for all the support in getting this blog off the ground. More enabling behavior to come in 2008!!!