Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wines for the People is Dead! Long Live Wines for the People!

We have enjoyed ourselves immensely, but it is time to end the Wines for the People blog as we know it. We set out to share our love of wine with our readers, as well as some of our knowledge to help you enjoy wine more, and have fewer disappointing glasses, without having to spend a lot of money. We hope we have succeeded.

When this blog returns--and it will--its new focus will be the wines we are producing as The People's Wine Revolution. PWR Wines is all about delivering top-quality wine at reasonable prices. No surprise there. We do hope you will return to see the new incarnation.

In the meantime, the older posts will remain, and we do hope you'll explore and catch up on any that you may have missed. All the posts are indexed by category here. With New Year's Eve fast approaching you may want to review the video lesson on opening sparkling wines with a sword (or butter knife), found here.

We remain at your service to answer any wine-related (or not) questions you have. Please comment on the site or contact us directly via email: pwr [at] att [dot] net

The People's Wine Revolution

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ritual Pinot Noir

The 2008 Ritual Pinot Noir from Chile's Casablanca Valley is delicious and represents a great value at $18 (or less).

We have been greatly impressed by the outstanding wines coming out of Chile of late. The success of the Chono Riesling (discussed here), for example, shows that Chile can excel with cool-climate varieties. This wine, our first Chilean Pinot, is confirmation. The wine is definitely new world in style, but it is distinct from any Pinot Noir from California or Oregon. It is medium-bodied, with an elegant tannic structure. The fruit is pretty, with notes of Bing cherries, but what stands out is the attractive peppery, spicy note on the finish.

The wine is produced by Veramonte, who were also involved with the excellent Argentine Cruz Andina Malbec we discussed earlier. Veramonte is a solid Chilean producer and we have long enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc in particular.

We loved the Ritual Pinot Noir and will be back for more. We shall also continue to seek out Chilean Pinot Noir.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wine Guerilla Zinfandels

Here at Wines for the People we view wine and the wine industry with the eyes of revolutionaries. Imagine our delight to discover the Wine Guerrilla and the wonderful Zinfandels produced under that label.

What motivates the Wine Guerrilla?

 "Wine Guerrilla is a hero to those who seek wines of unabashed uniqueness and character. Wherever proud zinfandel grapes are oppressed and the taste buds of consumers are in peril, Wine Guerrilla is there."

We could not have said it better ourselves.

At our request, Wine Guerrilla provided two of their 2007 Zins, and a yet-to-be-released 2008 Zinfandel. We loved them all.

We never seem to get enough Zinfandel, let alone the good stuff from Dry Creek. When we do get it, it disappears quickly. Why? Because it is so delicious. Zinfandel is an amazing grape that can appear in any number of styles while still retaining its "Zin-ness". Zin can be restrained, believe it or not, and it can be overblown, super- to overripe, and even sweet. Zinfandel can also reflect its origins as well as any other variety, including Pinot noir. We find it does so best when it is somewhat less than overripe.

The 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, $22, was everything we look for in Dry Creek Zin. It is delicious and well balanced, and it tastes like it comes from Dry Creek, with wonderful red berry flavors and sufficient acidity to match the alcohol and tannin. If you are not familiar with Zinfandel from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley, this wine is a great introduction.

We also enjoyed the 2007 Goat Trek Vineyard Block 6 Zinfandel, $25, which is also from Dry Creek Valley, though not the valley floor. As the back label explains:
"It would take you a 45 minute drive up a dirt road to a 1250-foot elevation to reach the grapes of Goat Trek Vineyard. So we decided to bring them to you instead. You can thank us after your first glass"

This wine is incredible. The same flavor profile as the Dry Creek Valley Zin described above, but turned up a notch. Brilliant, zingy raspberry fruit that tasted almost candied (though not sweet). And still perfectly balanced. Some of this wine survived to day 2, when we found it deliciously savoury and sapid. It made us want to close our eyes and meditate on deliciousness.

The third wine may have been our favorite. This was a 2008 Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley. Wine Guerrilla will release it in January in a lineup of eight 2008 Zins at ZAP, an annual Zinfandel showcase/tasting event in San Francisco.

The Russian River Valley abuts Dry Creek Valley, but it is generally cooler than its neighbor. There is plenty of Zinfandel planted in the RRV, but it is perhaps better known as Pinot Noir country. We typically find that Zinfandels from Dry Creek are more to our liking than those from Russian River, but this wine confounded our expectations. As a 2008 wine, it is still very young, but it did not take long for it to loosen up and begin revealing its layers of flavors. It continued to grow more beautiful with each glass. With a little more time in the bottle and perhaps a good decanting, this wine will sing.

The wine does represent its origins. We find that Russian River Valley Pinots often have a cola/sassafrass character. In Pinot we find that somewhat off-putting, but this Zinfandel has it as well, and it works.

We look forward to returning to these wines and to further exploration of the Wine Guerrilla's creations.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two More Treats from Bonny Doon

When you see a great painting or play, or read a great book, the images and ideas can swirl around in your head for weeks. How much you talk about a movie after seeing it is a good gauge of how good the movie was.

About a week ago we finished reading Been Doon So Long, a new book ($35) by Bonny Doon's founder and President-for-Life Randall Grahm. Later we enjoyed the Bonny Doon 2005 Le Cigare Volant ($30). Both book and wine have been very much in mind ever since.

Autumn tableau of Tri-Pour beaker used as decanter and sadly empty bottle of Le Cigare Volant

The wine was amazing. We heeded Mr. Grahm's strongly emphasized advice to decant the wine, and we reiterate that advice to you if you try this wine. In fact we recommend either a double or triple decanting (i.e., bottle to decanter, decanter back to bottle, bottle back to decanter), or letting the wine sit for at least an hour after decanting before taking a sip. As a friendly reminder, your decanter need be nothing fancy--an empty wine bottle will do if you have one on hand. We used a plastic tri-pour beaker, which cost about $1.

A fancy decanter, for contrast. Image by Geoff Parsons used under the Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Here's why you should decant and wait. Our first sips revealed the wine to be pleasant, with silky tannins--a simple if tasty wine. About an hour after decanting, however, the wine was something else entirely. The wine was still "quiet," in the sense of not being overly extracted or tasting like a fruit compote, but it was also intense and lively on the palate, with multitudinous delicate flavors dancing on the palate. This is the sort of complexity we love in wine, really what wine is all about. Alas, by the time we reached this stage, most of the bottle was gone. Decant and wait, and you can start at the exciting part.

As you will see below, Grahm is redefining the mission of Bonny Doon. In an Apologia accompanying the wine, Grahm writes, "[Le Cigare Volant] has become the truest lens of my current winemaking ideas, aspirations and obsessions, a reflection, of where I am going as a winemaker and where the company itself is headed." In that light, this wine promises a very bright future for Bonny Doon Vineyard.

At $30 the 2005 Le Cigare Volant is at the high end of wines we recommend on this site, but this wine is worthy of a splurge, and would make a great present for any wine lover you know. Just remember to decant!

Been Doon So Long would also make a great gift for anyone who enjoys wine and has at least some appreciation of word play. Puns and such are not our favorite amusements, but Grahm is extremely gifted with his word play and never once did we groan. His writing is also full of allusions and references, some to the wine industry and its players but most to literary works.

The book is called a "Vinthology," so we assumed that it would be a collection of pieces from the always amusing Bonny Doon newsletter. It is that, but it is also much more. How many collections of newsletter pieces can be said to have a narrative arc? This book, despite being divided into sections by type of writing (in "Ficciones," for example, we find "Don Quijones, the Man for Garnacha or A Confederacy of Doonces," while "Poesy Galore" features "The Love Song of J. Alfred Rootstock" and "Da Vino Commedia: The Vinferno"), decidedly has a narrative arc.

The plot begins with Grahm at the helm of a large wine corporation that seems to have little in common with his original and still held winemaking ideals. He lampoons the wine industry, which can always use a good poke (if not kick) in the ribs, but he also probes his conscience. Throughout the book and especially toward the end, Grahm grows ever more philosophical as he tries both to understand and to explain his enological yearnings. A couple of these entries are appropriately called "meditations." These resonated with us, who also consider ourselves to be philosophical winemakers, and we will return to them whenever we begin to doubt or need inspiration.

As the book ends--and this is really no spoiler--Grahm has dramatically altered the course of Bonny Doon in the hope of returning to his original vision. The wines Grahm sent with the book, the Cigare Volante (supra) and the AlbariƱo reviewed earlier, show us that Grahm is very much on track. Mr. Grahm may protest that he still has far to go to produce the wines he has always wanted to produce. We will eagerly watch and taste his progress.
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