On Thursday evening June 19th 2008 I attended the Boston stop of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book tour. He is promoting his new book 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World. I’ve been a Vayniac (fan) since early November ’07 when I discovered Wine Library TV after reading this article in Slate. I blogged earlier about meeting Gary at the Boston Wine Expo. I also saw him at a Vayniac party at Wine Library (his brick and mortar store) in New Jersey at the end of March, but my memory of that event is fuzzy (just kidding).
This event attracted nearly 200 people and was well organized by Dmitri Gunn. Bravo to him and the other people/groups/organizations who supported the event. It’s possible that the people attending numbered more in the Web 2.0 social networking circles than Vayniacs like me, but I don’t think that stopped their enjoyment.
The event started with a taping of a Wine Library TV (“Thunder”) show in a ballroom of the beautiful Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square in front of the audience. Gary has a lot of charisma and a good sense of humor so was very entertaining, as always. Also he has true wine reviewing chops, of course, which the more flamboyant aspects of his performance are layered upon. He reviewed 4 wines. After the show, there was a ½ hour question and answer session with the audience. After that, he signed everyone’s book and was his usual tirelessly personable self, giving each person attention and appreciation. Then we tasted the 4 wines, 2 of which Gary positively reviewed.
After that, the event moved downstairs to the Foundation Lounge, which is a chic bar. There was complimentary lychee-flavored bubbly which was interesting. There were a few hors d’oeuvres, but you had to tackle the waitress coming out the kitchen to get a sample or 2. We did, but also ordered the California rolls. Also, we just had to try a Mojito which was good.
I managed to ask Gary a few questions at the signing and down there in the lounge which he graciously answered. I had written them down ahead of time:
Q: If your family had never moved from Belarus, what do you think you would be doing right now?
A: I would be dead, probably.
Q: No, I think you would be a Master of the Underground Economy!
A: Yes, but that’s why I would be dead. I’m also kind of a softie.
Q: Are you excited about headlining the Open Wine Consortium Wine Bloggers Conference in October with Alice Feiring?
A: I don’t know who she is… but I get along with just about every one.
Q: Did you link up the Thunder Show (WLTV) recently with Internet Television site Revision3 (based in San Francisco) as practice perhaps for a future TV show gig?
A: No… REV3 will just be another distribution avenue for WLTV. We’re not changing the show at all.
Q: What is your favorite sport… to play? (Everyone who has watched at least 1 WLTV knows Gary is a huge Jets fan, and purportedly is saving up to BUY the franchise).
Q: What is your degree in?
A: Business Administration
Q: Are you a closet Red Sox fan?
A: No, except once when they were behind the Yankees 3-0 in the playoffs, I rooted for them as the underdogs.
Q: Would you consider adding a Drink Responsibly section to Wine Library dot com?
A: I’ve been thinking about it – I may.
Q: You shouldn’t sell Foie Gras at Wine Library – it’s evil. (OK, I know that’s not a question). Site – http://www.nofoiegras.org/
Q: Reading your book, I get the feeling you have really eclectic tastes in food, and wine. Is that true?
A: Lately I’ve been so busy I hardly eat or drink anything at all!
Here is a photo of Gary and myself at the lounge. Also I posted some other pics on flickr here. It was a fun time! Although my head didn’t feel so great the next morning after a mojito, rose, and bubbly. Hangovers – subject for a different blog post.
This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20. The theme this month is summery white wine varietals generally associated with the Rhone Valley in France, to quote:
“The varieties that I think best exemplify summer are white varieties associated with the Rhone: Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc, and Viognier.”
The varietals can be combined in a blend or not, and don’t need to actually be grown/vinified in the Rhone Valley. So this month on one of my recent trip to Gordon’s in Waltham (my wine class Mecca), I selected the 2006 Domaine Roger Perrin Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc for this month’s assignment. This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Roussanne.
This wine is very pale yellow in color, and also is light-bodied and crisp. It is citrusy and simple. This would be excellent sitting on a deck outside with a nice lobster dinner. If I were a wine critic using a 100-point scale I’d probably give it an 86 for general competence, but for $23.96 it’s not the greatest QPR in the world.
A ‘New World’ wine with white Rhone varietals I had a few months ago that rocked my world a bit more was the 2006 The Black Chook VMR McLaren Vale & Langhorne Creek (Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne blend). This wine had quite a bit more going for it in terms of aromatics, fruitiness, finish, and overall deliciousness, and I agree with Stephen Tanzer’s 90 points on the 100-point scale. In fact, I recall in January when I opened this bottle I didn’t manage the sort of reasonable restraint a petite lady should strive to maintain when enjoying a potent potable :-).
Last night I attended a pleasurable tasting/class at Gordon’s Fine Wine & Culinary Center featuring winemaker/producer Olivier Humbrecht (pronounced oom-bresht) of very well regarded winery Domaine Zind-Humbrecht of Turckheim, Alsace, France. Gordon’s really is one of the neatest places in my area to attend a formal tasting, wine class, or culinary class (no, I don’t work there). It is so beautifully outfitted for the purpose. Here’s a photo showing the 2 overhead screens. I like this pic as it shows the old nag dragging the plow through one of the vineyards in the domaine:
Olivier Humbrecht is one very smart (and tall) French wine producer who can claim to be have passed the very difficult Master of Wine examination, the first French man to do so. His winery produces a really impressive range of classic Alsation white wines including generic varietal wines, village-level (5), vineyard-level, and 4 Grand Cru level. Varietal wines are made from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat a Petit Grains, and Pinot Gris. There is also a wine called Pinot D’Alsace which is made from Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc.
The Domaine practices organic and biodynamic grape growing practices. It produces about 180,000 to 200,000 bottles per vintage and employs 25 people (not including more at harvest times). Alsation white wines are generally more spicy, aromatic, and rich than the German counterparts. He explained that his idea of terroir not only includes the land and growing conditions, but the people and culture who inhabit the land. As far as biodynamic practices, he does indeed pay attention to moon cycles, homeopathic practices, and maintaining biodiversity. I’m pretty sure he stated that they do the buried cow manure in the horn thing, and believes that plants communicate with each other in a natural system that is not totally understood. He believes in a lot of up-front effort in the vineyards, and the simplest most non-interventionist vinification possible after harvest. He stated that machine-harvesting of grapes is a completely heinous process (although 6x less expensive than hand-harvesting) which produces ‘pulpy wine mush’ which includes a lot of stems and extraneous stuff that then has to be dealt with by the winemaker (all Domaine Z-H wines are produced from hand-picked fruit).
I managed to, well, ingratiate myself to Olivier by asking if he implemented malolactic fermentation in his winemaking. This is a secondary fermentation process by which tart malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid and CO2 post alcohol fermentation. I thought the 2006 Pinot Gris varietal wine tasted kind of round and buttery. He wanted to know why I asked, and then explained that all the wines we tasted had undergone malo *except* for the Pinot Gris. Well, I knew it was SOMETHING about the Pinot Gris that was different! (I’m telling myself to feel better). There’s a cool presentation of the malolactic fermentation process from Ellen Butz of Purdue University Dept. of Food Science.
In a Q&A session, someone asked Mr. Humbrecht his opinion of Finger Lakes NY wines, and he thought the grapes were grown in the wrong plots of land – the grapes are planted where the potatoes should be and vice-versa. Someone else asked about global warming, and he stated a general trend towards earlier and earlier harvests at his Domaine. When asked about optimum grape ripeness, he stated that the grapes are fully ripe when the pips can grow more vines!
We tasted 10 wines that were all delicious and aromatically extremely exciting. My favorites were the generic 2006 Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot D’Alsace. I didn’t love the Pinot Gris, but was sitting near someone who thought that was the most outstanding, so of course everyone’s palate, opinions, and life experiences are different. The 2005 Riesling Gueberschwihr and Turckheim (2 village-level wines) were extremely delicious. The 2005 Riesling Herrenweg was extremely spicy and perfumed and had a super long finish. The 2005 Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim was so pungent and extracted it reminded us of a liquor, almost.
All in all it’s probably obvious I found this a very interesting and informative tasting. Also Gordon’s had some special pricing which was also quite nice and appreciated.
There are some reviews of some of these wines at the example issue of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar for those interested.