Saturday, January 05, 2013

2012 - The Year In Review

Given the lack of activity in this blog one might think little to no wine passed my lips in the past twelve months. That would be wrong. 2012 was a busy year. Lots of wine was consumed and notes taken but the real highlights were the trips afield. In February there was a cruise on Holland America down into Mexico. I have grown to like cruises. What I don’t like are the wine prices onboard. I try to embark with as much wine as I think is needed even if it means enlisting fellow travelers as mules. This is not necessary with Holland America as they allow a generous personal wine allotment. I also like to do cruises with my mother-in-law. She needs to be taken onboard in a wheelchair which means that I get her walker. So if you are ever going on a cruise and you see a little old lady being wheeled up the gangplank followed by a guy pushing a walker loaded down with at least one case of wine, you will have found me! Say Hi. I might share a bottle with you.

May found me in Granada, Spain on a work related trip. Andalusia, specifically in the southwest, is sherry country. Through the good graces of Classical Wines I was able to organize a tasting for our little group at Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana. In what was to be a recurring theme for 2012 I had come down with a head cold which meant my appreciation of the wines was limited but I must applaud the generosity of Senor Hidalgo (6th generation winemaker) for making time to give us a guided tour and unbelievable barrel tasting of his outstanding sherries. Also of note during our trip was the availability of inexpensive aged wines in several restaurants. Spain definitely stays on the wine Bucket List for the future.

To celebrate my 60th birthday in June we took a short trip to Santa Barbara which turned out to be partly a reliving of Sideways the movie, and partly new discoveries. We took the train, conveniently bypassing the LA freeways, to Santa Barbara with the soundtrack of Sideways playing in our heads. With a hire car we based ourselves in the unique little village of Solvang and enjoyed dining à la Miles and Jack at the Hitching Post II and the Los Olivos Café; and yes, Miranda did have a glass of F^#k!&g Merlot. We also had dinner at the Ballard Inn in Santa Ynez and tasted at many excellent wineries that didn’t get the nod from Sideways. But the real discovery was the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc. A bunch of wineries in a Lompoc industrial park with the finest being Piedrasassi; they even had a friendly Standard Poodle!

In October we did a road trip to UC Davis, where Miranda’s highlight was to celebrate her 30 year class Reunion. For me a highlight of the Davis trip was, you guessed it, wine. The Dean’s Office at UC Davis arranged for us to take a personal tour of the new Robert Mondavi Wine and Culinary Institute and Good Life Garden. Continuing the benefits of being married to a good woman we then stayed with a long time veterinary friend of Miranda’s and her winemaker husband in Sonoma, and then on to Mt Veeder overlooking the Napa Valley with Miranda’s cherished old friends Ridgie and Buttons. We visited wineries in Napa, Sonoma and the Anderson Valley and yes, for several days I had a head cold and could smell absolutely nothing. But when my nose began to work I really appreciated the discount that winemakers offer each other and we filled Miranda’s little Subaru with three cases of wine! Most memorable were sampling wine at various stages of fermentation at Russian Hill Estate Winery, and a visit to Lagier Meredith, the smallest mountain vineyard in Napa which is only reached by traversing an (almost) death defying switchback one lane road. Outstanding wines, especially their Syrah. Worth every stomach clenching curve. Carole Meredith told us a little trivia about Precious Bane, their recently released excellent Syrah fortified. Its named after a novel written by Mary Webb, the great aunt of Carole Meredith. A character in the book is named Jancis Beguildy. And the parents of a very well know wine writer/critic named their child after her - Jancis Robinson!

On the way back down to San Diego we also dropped in to a few, but nowhere enough, wineries in Paso Robles. This is one region I need to revisit for several days. There are great examples of Syrah in Paso, like the 2005 McPrice Myers Les Galets Vineyard Syrah that I am sipping as I type. Richly complex and still a pup at 7. Who said 15%+ wines have no aging potential.

What does 2013 hold for Shiraz? Stay tuned because February will find us in Australia on a wine tour of Victoria, specifically Rutherglen, and the Barossa and Clare Valley regions of South Australia. Then in April we will again visit Davis and hopefully there will be time to visit a few wineries in Napa, Sonoma and Anderson Valley. Who knows maybe I’ll blog a little about these wine adventures.

No comments: