Monday, June 30, 2008

Coupla White Rhones

I quite irresponsibly skipped out on posting for the recent WBW white Rhône event, so here are the notes I meant to post way back when. Each are around $14 and are good values.

Philippe Faury St. Joseph Blanc 2004
Philippe Faury makes a clean and lovely Côte-Rotie, and that's an apt description for this 60% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne St-Jo blanc. That said, the wine is just short of exciting. Pear's the fruit here, and soft nutmeg and apple skin comes across as well. Medium-bodied and nicely focused on the palate, with good length, and I'd pair this with white-fleshed meats.

Auguste Clape Saint-Péray 2005
You probably know Auguste Clape as one of Cornas's leading vignerons, and I certainly have loved the very limited experiences I've had with his distinctive syrahs. Now color me impressed by this golden beauty. It's 100% marsanne and it showcases a rich nose of honeycomb, banana, baked apple, and lemon, but while full-bodied, it's elegant rather than over the top. It shows great presence at the midpalate and an acidity that purrs throughout the long finish. The soft brown spices, marked by coriander in particular, are beautiful. I'd love to see what becomes of this wine in two years.

I was hoping to report back on the Abacela's Estate Grown Viognier from 2007, launched straight outta Southern Oregon's Umpqua Valley, but the bottle I tasted may have been in shock, as it showed none of the life of the previous two vintages. Fortunately I have one more bottle left, so I give it another month or two before making a somewhat definitive statement.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Interesting 2008 in Store for Oregon?

I'm a big fan of the National Weather Service's web site and troll it daily. It seems the NWS is predicting a cooler and drier 2008 than normal in Oregon. And excepting one brief heat spike in May, the Willamette Valley has also had a very cool spring. Rainfall has been average in most months, but in McMinville, rainfall was quite a bit lower than normal in February and May.

Provided the vines don't get too water-stressed — and yes, many good vineyards there are dry farmed — this could be an interesting vintage, particularly for those of us who prefer the cooler vintages.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Dark Day in Illinois

Crap! I wasn't paying attention and June 1 has come and gone. That was the day that

HB 429 [took] effect. The new law [strips] Illinoisans of their right to have wine shipped to them from out of state wine merchants... "Illinoisans will lose access to tens of thousands of wines that are not made available in Illinois by its wine distributors or retailers so that the profits of a very small group of very powerful wholesalers can be protected," said Tom Wark, Executive Director of Specialty Wine Retailers Association.
So sadly true. I believe in buying locally, or at least in buying my Loire wines locally (I ain't gonna buy no Illinois wine, bub!), whenever possible. But the fact is, there are many, many wines that are simply not available to me. The wines imported by Jenny & François? Not distributed in Illinois. The wines imported by Petit Pois? Not distributed in Illinois. And so on. Sure, I am generously allowed a few cases of wine direct from American wineries, but there is more to life than American wine. And unless and until all current-release imported wines are distributed here — and I eliminate rare back vintage wine of domestic or foreign origin that's sold online, just to be generous — the Illinois wine buyer is cut off from experiencing all s/he can experience; and the money pocketed by out-of-state agents will probably not otherwise flow to in-state agents.

So won't this simply increase the likelihood that Illinois distributors will pick up such at-the-margins wine? Hardly. Distributors are consolidating, merging. That's not a healthy environment for marketplace diversity, certainly not in the short term.

Boo-hoo, right? Well, you gotta look at how this legislation was passed — and as Mr. Wark notes, "What we are seeing is political payoff to alcohol wholesalers for the more than $6.3 million they've contributed to Illinois state political campaigns since 2000." Sounds spoofulated to me.

Before I get off my soap box, I have one more thing to say. How do we know that wholesalers paid off our legislators? We know thanks to Barack Obama. His "legislation, passed in 1998, banned most gifts by lobbyists, prohibited spending campaign money for legislators’ personal use and required electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports... The disclosure requirement 'revolutionized Illinois’s system,' said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform."

Did Obama's legislation stop the payoffs? No. But it does make it easier to hold the responsible accountable; and that is why, in the AP article, names are named and amounts are listed, e.g. "One Senate sponsor of HB 429, James Clayborne, Jr., has received $85,000 from alcohol wholesaler interests since 2000, including $15,000 since the legislation was introduced."

That Obama made a choice not only to sidestep the corruption endemic to Illinois (and no, he didn't do a thing for that Rezko guy) but to help expose it tells you a lot about who he is. Even if he does prefer beer!

(PS - the odious Ken Starr represents the the Specialty Wine Retailers Association in a legal capacity. My support of the association's argument is in no way an endorsement of his own fetid puritanism of yore. What, were all the other lawyers taken or something? Sheesh.)