Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The best of 2014: Part I

This is the time of the year that we all pause to take a look back at the year in our respective rearview mirrors. It is the time that we take stock of the things that we liked and the things that pissed us off. I am in that mode right now and will reminisce on some of the 2014 wine-related happenings in this post. I will not cover wines specifically as, on its merits, the topic deserves a post all its own.

Best "Own-Rooted" Wine Tasting
Orlando is Boonesville when it comes to wine events, so residents who want great wine experiences are on their own. I am part of a small group that holds tastings, either as specialized events or wine dinners. This year we held three such tastings: two specialized (Solaia and Penfolds Grange) and one wine dinner (Victoria and Albert's Queen Victoria Room). The best of these tastings was the Penfolds Grange Vertical Tasting based largely on the wines but also due to the magnificent leadership and performance of DLynn Proctor, Penfolds US Winemaking Ambassador and star of the movie SOMM. As I described it, DLynn "was a veritable fount of information on Penfolds as a company, the wines, the winemakers, the vintages."

Best Expert-Led Tasting
During the course of the year I attended a number of events which featured tastings led by experts in specific wines or regions. At this year's TEXSOM event, I attended the following events:
  • Burgundy's Last (Decade) of the Last (Century) -- Fredrick L. Dame MS, Jay Fletcher MS, Paul Roberts MS
  • Varietal Focus Syrah -- Rajat Parr, Josh Reynolds, Bernard Sun, Robert Bohr, Serafin Alvarado MS
  • Regional Focus: Germany Today -- Tim Gaiser MS, Laura Williamson MS
At the Digital Wine Communications Conference I attended the following seminars:
  • North Greece Constellation Masterclass
  • Grand Tasting of Swiss Wines -- Jancis Robinson and Jose Vouillamoz
  • Rare Swiss Varietals -- Jose Vouillamoz
  • Iconic Swiss Wines -- Paolo Basso, 2011 World's Best Sommelier

At La Fete du Champagne I attended two outstanding seminars led by Anselme Selosse of Domaine Jacques Selosse and Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Louis Roederer.

These were all stellar sessions with the Gaiser/Williamson and Robinson/Vouillamoz deserving of special mention but the cream of the crop for me was the Basso-led tasting. In the allotted time (squeezed because the event was late starting and had to be hurried because we had a hard stop to accommodate the Gala Dinner), he clinically dissected the 11 wines on offer with a precision and verve that I had not previously been exposed to. His points of attack were always the same but the wines had no defense and, at the end of every skirmish, lay naked before us, the awed spectators.

Best Classroom Education
The tag line of my blog is "A quest for knowledge. A mandate to share." In order to deliver on that promise, I have to consistently put myself in positions to acquire knowledge to share. The knowledge-acquisition opportunities that I normally pursue can be broken down into classroom (courses and seminars) and field (winery and vineyard visits) education. This year's classroom activities included the seminars previously described plus Wine Production and Viticulture courses at UC Davis. The Wine Production course was my best knowledge-acquisition vehicle of the year. Why was this course so great?
Because it fulfilled the promise of distance learning (DL) which was undelivered by many DL courses that I have taken in the past. It was great because it provided a multitude of avenues by which students could acquire knowledge and, rather than allowing those avenues to lie fallow, seeded them with starters, continuously monitored for progress, and provided direction along the way as necessary. It was great because it competently tested the students' knowledge acquisition with case-based assignments that required careful thought, extensive research, analytical thinking, and a comprehensive understanding of the topics covered to date in order to effectively answer the questions. It was great because of the tools and resources made available to the students and the mix of media provided for professor/student interaction. It was great because of the knowledge and experience locked up in the students and shared freely in the General Chat forum. It was great because Program Administration performed flawlessly in getting me from the position of a prospect to having a seat in a classroom. It was great because the Professor was eminently qualified to teach this course and was empathetic and interested in our knowledge acquisition. It was great because the Professor did not allow a personal tragedy to impact the schedule that we were working with (even though it would have been perfectly understandable).
Best Vineyard/Winery Visit
I was lucky this year to be able to stitch in a few vineyard/winery visits between the varying tugs and pulls of trying to keep food on the table. We visited a number of the leading Burgundy properties with Raj Par to include DRC, Domaine Roulot, Domaine Armand Rousseau, Dujac, Domaine Francois Carillon, and Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg.

AS a part of the DWCC pre- and post-conference press trips, I was able to visit a number of wineries in Tavel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and, Ticino.

Domaine Maby
Domaine Lafond - Roc Epine
Chateau de Trinquevedel

Domaine La Barroche
Domaine de Nalys
Chateau Fortia
Ogier-Clos de l'Oratoire

Brivio Vini SA Gialdi Vini SA
Cantina Kopp Von der Crone Visini
Tamborini Carlo SA
Angelo Delea SA
Azienda Mondo
Viattieri Ticinesi

The DRC visit was iconic in  a number of ways. This was my first trip to Burgundy and I was making it with my wife and our two best friends and we were being shown the ropes by Raj Parr and our first visit was DRC and the first Burgundian winemaker that we met was Aubert de Villaine. Further adding to the magic of the trip was seeing Raj blind these DRC wines and nail them every time. 'Twas good.

I will cover the best wines tasted in my next post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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