Wine Review: Buena Vista Social Club

16 08 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

If there was a Most Interesting Man In The World designation for the history of wine, Agoston Haraszthy would be a strong contender for the crown.  I had previously come across his name in a book about the pioneering contributors of the California wine industry and had assumed that he was one of many 19th-century immigrants from Europe to the United States who brought Old World wine knowledge and tradition with him to his new home and helped it propagate.  And he was.  But his tale was anything but rote.

FullSizeRender-700

Haraszthy was born in Hungary to a noble family in 1812, later becoming known by the honorifics “Count” and “Colonel” even though he was technically neither.  He carved his own path throughout his life, stringing together a series of firsts that would be near-impossible to top in this day and age.  He was the first Hungarian to move and settle in the United States; the founder of the oldest village in Wisconsin (and the planter of some of the first grapevines there); the first town marshal and elected sheriff of San Diego; and the founder of the first commercial winery in California (more on that in a bit).  From the time he first arrived in the United States in 1840 to the time he left in 1868, he was at various times a mill owner, an author, a steamboat operator, a butcher, a member of the California State Assembly, and a gold refiner and assayer at the US Mint.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




FEL Wines: Pinot Showdown

11 01 2015

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Happy New Year!  I took a bit of a holiday blogging break after 24 straight days of whisky-induced Advent madness in December, but I always had it in my mind to start up 2015 (and return to actually producing wine-related content on this wine blog) with these two bottles of California glory.  Although they come from what might technically be considered a new producer, their roots and history are inextricably linked to a California stalwart…and, as it turns out, to my home province of Alberta too.

Great wines, plus new wine glasses - to be the subject of a separate post.

Great wines, plus new wine glasses – to be the subject of a separate post.

FEL Wines came into being less than a year ago, in March 2014.  It is the brainchild of Cliff Lede, whose eponymous Napa Sauvignon Blanc helped renew my faith in the grape a month ago.  Lede is well known for creating those rarest of beasts, Napa Valley value wines, and he’s also a born-and-raised Albertan who is well known outside of the wine world as one of the owners and senior executives of the Ledcor Group, which was founded by his father (how the construction lawyer in me failed to mention that in the last review is beyond me).  FEL represents Lede’s foray outside of Napa’s welcoming confines and into the cooler climate areas of California, and it also seems to be underlaid by a personal passion:  FEL is so named for Cliff’s mother Francis Elsie Lede, who helped kindle his love of wine as a child. Read the rest of this entry »





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 »