National Zinfandel Day: An Interview With Ravenswood Founder Joel Peterson

15 11 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Happy National Zinfandel Day! Although we do not feature many interviews on Pop & Pour, we felt that the chance to publish a Q & A correspondence that I recently had with Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, commonly described as California’s “godfather of Zin”, would be a consummate way to celebrate, especially when paired with tasting notes for one of Ravenswood’s most iconic wines. To me, Zin embodies a key dialectic at play within wine appreciation: that between elegance, austerity and grace on the one hand, and sheer hedonism, richness and bold frivolity on the other. As an avowed disciple of Pinot Noir, you can deduce which pole of the dialectic I might ultimately prefer. However, wine is so immensely enjoyable precisely because there is ample diversity, so many different experiences to chase down and absorb. And I do like having my mind blown by huge flavours as much as the next bon vivant. If I am being honest with myself, a well-crafted Zinfandel may do a better job of resolving this particular dialectical dilemma than almost any other black grape:

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There are some very specific cherry varieties listed here. I approve. (https://zinfandel.org/resources/zinfandel-aroma-wheel/)

The best Zins feature succulent, approachable berry fruit in lockstep with robust secondary flavours of smoke and spice, all festooned on a moderately formidable structure of fresh acidity and fine ripe tannins. They are fun and serious in equal measure: light yet dark, carefree yet intense, simple yet complex. Joel Peterson masterminds just this sort of Zin. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Vinebox Cometh: 12 Nights of Wine

14 11 2018

After 7+ years of blogging about and immersing myself in wine, I am in many ways an open book about what I like and don’t like, vinously speaking — there are now over 450 posts on this site, and other musings elsewhere, that spell out exactly what gets me pumped about a new product or wine experience.  Three of the things that rank high on the good side of my ledger, backed up emphatically by past history, are (1) savvy labelling and branding (my love of which is the basis for every Cork Rating I’ve ever done), (2) clever alternative packaging (bring me your wines in cans, your 1L bottles, and everything in between), and (3) Advent calendars.  If you rolled your eyes about the last one, feel free to consult PnP’s 125+ December postings over the past four years and then get back to me…if I’m not a boozy Advent authority by now, I never will be.  As we approach another holiday season, little did I expect to be dumbfounded by a sleek, shiny, downright sexy combination of all three of these things.  Meet Vinebox:

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Oh yes.  It gets better.  Take a look inside:

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OH YES.  Bring it.  That’s what I’m talking about.

Vinebox is a San Francisco-based company that, up until right this minute, was a US-only subscription service for by-the-glass-sized portions of new, interesting, high-quality wines.  This special holiday release box marks their first foray into the Canadian market, and luckily for us locals, it is exclusive to Richmond Hill Wines and a select few other boutiques right here in Calgary.  Given my prior history of Advent proselytizing, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Vinebox’s 12 Nights of Wine holiday kit is not technically an Advent calendar, as it offers 12 different holiday wine offerings instead of the classic Advent 24-day December countdown to Christmas.  It is instead intended to mirror the 12 days of Christmas (which, I was shocked to discover, all actually occur AFTER Christmas — they run from December 25th through January 5th, marking the time in Christian lore that it took the three wise men to arrive and visit the newborn Jesus…mind formally blown).  Practically speaking, this means that you can either crack a glass on every even day in December as a sort of quasi-Advent replacement (or get two and create your very own full-scale Advent calendar, with a critical revisit of each offering every second day) or get the coolest Christmas gift ever for somebody to enjoy on Christmas Day and the next eleven following.

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In recent years, because the progress of the species is a real and abiding thing, we have seen a proliferation of wine, beer and spirits-based Advent and holiday calendars in a variety of shapes and sizes.  What sets the Vinebox addition to this growing December lineup apart is the unique and patented way the wines are delivered, in Stelvin-enclosed, test tube-like — yet still amazingly labelled and producer-branded! — 100 mL glass cylinders that make a stunning visual impression. Read the rest of this entry »





PnP – Now on FB!

6 06 2016

After a half decade of technological procrastination, Pop & Pour has finally properly joined the Internet age and now has its very own Facebook page – you can access it here for reviews and other content:

https://www.facebook.com/popandpour

It is still in early development but will be expanded further in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, if you are a fan of the blog, I would be thrilled if you would be willing to Like and Share the page in Facebook – it would be very much appreciated.  New reviews coming this week!

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FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part VI

29 05 2016

Well, we made it.  When I started this trip recap I wasn’t thinking it would be a 15,000-word Greek epic, but that’s what happens when an area has so many stories to tell that so many people may not have heard.  To retrace your steps:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau
Part III – Red Newt, Knapp Winery
Part IV – Hermann J. Wiemer, Lamoreaux Landing
Part V – Boundary Breaks, Anthony Road

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Our last winery visit was probably also our most anticlimactic, but only because it felt for many reasons like Fox Run Vineyards had been with us all along.  In many ways Fox Run was the catalyst for our whole trip, the Finger Lakes producer with the deepest and most established Alberta presence, to the point where its unoaked Doyle Vineyard Chardonnay was recently selected as the official on-venue house white of the 2016 Calgary Stampede.  A key piece of the winery had literally accompanied us on nearly every stop of our grand FLX winery bus tour:  Sales Manager Dan Mitchell had given us the scoop and filled in the blanks about the region and the wineries who hosted us, never once seeking to undermine any one of them in favour of his own employer, delivering honest yet community-minded feedback that gave us a better sense of what the Finger Lakes were all about than any tasting room.  Winemaker Peter Bell was almost a mythical figure, his impact and his protégées spread across the entire region, his reputation eagerly preceding him even though he is certainly not the kind of person who would revel in it. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part V

28 05 2016

Roll call for the previous chapters in this saga:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau
Part III – Red Newt, Knapp Winery
Part IV – Hermann J. Wiemer, Lamoreaux Landing

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Kees Stapel, Boundary Breaks Vineyard

Ten wineries into our multi-day tasting tour of the Finger Lakes, we continued along the eastern shoreline of Seneca Lake for a different kind of meeting with a different kind of winery.  Rather than gather around a tasting room counter with a winemaker, we were told to head out to the vines at Boundary Breaks Vineyard for a grape-growing lesson with the winery’s conscientious viticulturist, Vineyard Manager Kees Stapel.  He is such an integral part of what Boundary Breaks is all about that he is the very first person listed and pictured in the list of personnel on the winery website; owner and president Bruce Murray doesn’t mention himself at all.  This unusual (but laudable) level of marketing focus on the vineyard team is partly because Boundary Breaks is a winery without a winemaker:  it was founded based on its vineyard, planted in 2008 to four different Riesling clones on an ideal sloped, breezy, sunny, west-facing site arcing gently downward to the lake.  It only makes Riesling and focuses its energies on only five different bottlings, which are presently vinified by Red Newt winemaker and FLX Riesling star Kelby James Russell. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part IV

27 05 2016

To start from the start of this tale of adventure, click in order:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau
Part III – Red Newt, Knapp Winery

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The morning of Tasting Day 3 started at the home of another FLX pioneer.  If you had heard of two Finger Lakes wineries before this travelogue (travelblogue?), I would be willing to bet they were Dr. Konstantin Frank (which we visited in Part I) and Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, another winery started by a European immigrant to the FLX with a prescient belief in the potential of vinifera grapes in the region.  In this case, Hermann Wiemer came to New York State from Bernkastel, Germany, about as close to Riesling Mecca as you can get in the world, and he was convinced that both he and his national grape could be successful transplants in the region.  He planted his first Riesling vineyard, the eponymous HJW Vineyard, on the western shores of Seneca Lake in 1976 and established his winery right beside it in 1979.  Thirty-seven years later, there we were. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part III

24 05 2016

In case you missed the prequels, click here:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau

We remained on eastern Seneca after the morning views of Chateau Lafayette Reneau, taking a quick jaunt north to one of the best-known new-era Finger Lakes wineries, Red Newt Cellars Winery & Bistro.  I first read about the growth of Red Newt’s legend around the same time it experienced its greatest tragedy, in 2011, when co-founder and executive chef Debra Whiting was killed in a car accident.  Her husband, Red Newt founding winemaker David Whiting, forged on, turning the winery into one of the few in the Finger Lakes with an international reputation.  He remains in charge as Red Newt’s president, but has recently turned the winemaking reins over to a cerebral, unassuming twentysomething who might already be one of the best Riesling winemakers in North America:  Kelby James Russell, a homecoming son now squarely on the global Riesling vanguard.

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David Whiting and Kelby James Russell, Red Newt.

Russell was born and raised in and around the Finger Lakes area but found a good reason to leave:  Harvard.  He graduated with a major in Government (poli sci grads unite!) and a minor in Economics but then sought a job in orchestra management to soothe an ongoing passion for music.  A trip to Italy ignited a love of wine, however, and Russell returned home to work a harvest with Fox Run Vineyards in 2009.  After three years there and an equal number of off-season harvests in the Southern Hemisphere (Marlborough, Tasmania and Barossa), he moved to Red Newt to assume the head winemaker mantle at the venerable age of 25 and almost immediately started pushing the boundaries of New World Riesling. Read the rest of this entry »








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