Wine Review: 2008 Fog Crest Vineyard “Laguna West” Chardonnay

15 02 2012

I had to use the promo pic from the website instead of my actual pic, for obvious reasons. Sure is foggy.

I just finished reading the book Judgment of Paris by George Taber, which is primarily a recounting of the now-legendary 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting where California Cabernets and Chardonnays shockingly upset top French Bordeaux and Burgundies in a blind tasting evaluated by renowned French judges, but which also tangentially describes the birth and rapid growth of the California wine industry.  The truly amazing thing about the J of P tasting wasn’t that the California wines upset the French; it was that the California wineries represented in the competition didn’t even exist a decade earlier.  Many of them entered their first, second or third vintages EVER in a tasting contest against historic French bottlings that dated back centuries, which in the world of wine should have been a recipe for embarrassment.  I now think about this every time I open a Cali Cab or Chard because, as a recent disciple of wine, I’ve only ever known California as a world vinous powerhouse; it’s remarkable to think that 40 years ago it would have been laughable to describe it that way.

To coincide with my finishing the book, I felt it only appropriate to open a California wine in commemoration, and the Fog Crest has been a bottle I’ve been very interested in trying, largely because the producer brings in ultra-famous Cali winemaker David Ramey as a consultant to help craft its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  Fog Crest is based out of the Russian River Valley sub-region of Sonoma County, an area known for having a notably cooler climate than the surrounding area, helped in part by cold morning fogs (hence the winery name).  These climatic conditions make RRV an ideal spot for growing grapes like Chardonnay that show their best in cooler sites.  My favourite thing about this wine has to be its thematically-accurate, dry-ice-induced foggy promo pic from its website (see above left), the set up for which almost inevitably involved some marketing guru saying:  “See, FOG Crest?  Get it?”  (I get it.)   Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




Wine Review: 2007 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon

28 11 2011

Can a flower vase be an appropriate decanter? I say yes.

If the name of this wine sounds familiar, it should:  the ’07 Freemark Abbey Cab from the Napa Valley was my ultimate victor in the modern-day Judgment of Paris blind tasting I took part in at Co-op Wine & Spirits a month ago.  Matched up against 9 other top Cabernets including a couple of First Growth Bordeaux (2002 Chateau Haut Brion and 2007 Chateau Mouton Rothschild) and some iconic Napa Cabs (2007 Ridge Monte Bello and 2002 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard”), by far the cheapest wine of the bunch (average bottle price of the 10 reds:  $277), this $47 little wine that could knocked both my tasting companion and I over and emerged the clear cut JoP winner for each of us.  As soon as the identities of the various wines were unveiled, I knew I had to get my hands on some — a reaction that probably would have been more subdued had the $928 Mouton Rothschild taken the title.  Thankfully for me (and all of you), the Freemark Abbey Cab is currently on sale at Highlander Wine & Spirits for just over $40, which is absolute robbery for a bottle of this quality from a premium region.  If you’re a Cali Cabernet fan, or if you’re not yet done your Christmas shopping, this is your winner.  Thank me later.

Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Co-op Wine & Spirits Judgment of Paris Tasting, Part 2

24 10 2011

The official checklist of what was poured, for the low low total retail price of $3800.

If you missed the excitement of the white wine portion of Co-op’s Judgment of Paris re-enactment, or me harshly slagging a $300 bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy, click here for Part 1 of this post.  While you had a whole day to absorb the notes and results from the white flight before moving onto the reds, we had about 15 minutes, which was spent running to McDonalds and powering down cheeseburgers and Quarter Pounders (note to wine retailers:  if you’re conducting a 5 hour tasting featuring 20 wines, don’t wait until the end of the tasting to serve food).   Then it was time for the main event.  Generally speaking, I think white wines are tragically underappreciated as compared to reds and shouldn’t be automatically classified as a vinous undercard; that said, some of the J of P red wines are among the most famous on Earth and were clearly the star attractions of this show.  I was particularly excited for the opportunity to try two of the five First Growth Bordeaux — Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Haut Brion (combined bottle price for both:  $1500), which, at least from a reputation/prestige/marketing standpoint, constitute the creme de la creme of the wine world.

Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Co-op Wine & Spirits Judgment of Paris Tasting, Part 1

23 10 2011

Last night I went to the longest and most expensive retail wine tasting of my life (5 hours and $250 respectively):  Co-op Wine and Spirits’ modern day re-enactment of the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, the event that first put California and Napa Valley on the world’s vinous radar screen.  The original Judgment of Paris was a promotional stunt organized by Steve Spurrier, the owner of a well-known Paris wine shop, pitting top French reds from Bordeaux and whites from Burgundy against Napa Cabernets and Chardonnays.  While today that might seem like an alcoholic battle of the titans, 35 years ago California wine had basically no international presence or prestige, and it certainly was not viewed as a wine region whose products could stand up to the aristocracy of France’s top names.  As a result, especially because 9 of the 11 hand-selected judges at the tasting were French (and a 10th, Steve Spurrier himself, was British), the J of P was expected to be an Old World massacre.  10 reds and 10 whites (6 US/4 French, for some reason) were poured blind and the judges rated and ranked them without knowing which wine belonged to which producer/country.  When the scores were tallied, France’s divine right to make the best wine in the world was shattered as California took top prize in both the red (Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet) and white (Chateau Montelena Chardonnay) categories.  One reporter covered the tasting and wrote up the shocking upset in Time Magazine; less than half a century later, out of these humble beginnings, Napa Valley is one of the most famous, critically acclaimed and expensive wine regions on Earth.

Ready to (re)make history?

Read the rest of this entry »








%d bloggers like this: