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A Series of Wine Thoughts From My Time in Minnesota

Ok, jetlag is done, culture shock is mitigated, and my life is starting to get back to its crazy usual self. I’ve inoculated my system with some fresh Iberian wines and assorted tapas. So what happened in Minnesota you may ask? Well a lot. One wedding, one 60th birthday party and at least 4 wine filled dinners. So rather than give you a play by play, I’ll bullet point some of the highlights and ask you a few questions, or rather, state some observations from the visit.

Jason Kallsen, the man behind the World Class Wines Blog, invited me to talk about blogging and Iberian wine on the second night I was in town! Thankfully, it was a great success. Held at the cafe across the street (space purposes) from SoloVino in St.Paul, we talked about wine, blogging and the intersection of the two. Take away thoughts? Well, I was shocked by how few of the “wine geeks” in attendance actually read blogs. While about half had read a blog, very few actually frequented them. If anyone who attended has anything to say about this, please chime in!

I tasted wines twice with old buddies/wine geeks. First night, I tried two Pinot Noirs, one of which was a Bergstrom 2002 PN that was beautiful, seductive, and well worth it. The other, as a result of my desire to carry over wines that were unique and different, was a Kosta Brown RRV 2005 that was undrinkable, or at the least, not a wine that I would ever purposefully go out and buy. Hot, thick, clunky, this was a wine that was better distilled than consumed. Oh, and at 14.7% alcohol?! Give me a break. Dinner was fabulous however, with lamb ribs roasted for 6 hours like pork ribs and served with mint, black current sauce and one other fun one that I can’t remember! We finished with was a Seebrich 2001 Niersteiner Hipping Auslese that had a nose of petrol, amazing acidity and had more sex appeal than I could have hoped for. Incredible! This came from my cellar back in MN and is a wine that I’m happy to say, I have one more of.

The following night, I stopped by another friend’s house where we had a stunning Chinon, a couple of Bordeaux’s and a 1997 Ferrari Carano Tesor. I thought this wine would have been hitting its peak and moving on, and I was happy to find that out I was wrong. Full, fresh, with amazing structure and acidity, this treat still has a few years ahead of it. Great wine! As to the others, I know my friend can tell us in the comments what Bordeaux’s we tried, though I can tell you that they paired very well with the lamb chops we savored straight from the grill!

Ok so on to the last big tasting night. This one was the most carefree with more wine consumed than I can probably remember. The goal: grill steaks, make a salad, eat some cheeses, and taste a ton of wine. Mission accomplished in the following order:

  • Next we tried some random wines including this gem: Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 – Intense dark, inky flavor, insanely dark. At first a big hit of green pepper that starts to blow off, though tons of cassis, and black pepper. Tight in the mouth with an intensity that is very rich. Tannins are starting to fade though the acidity is very rich and still a bit sharp. Rich and full, though a bit out of balance, The acidity needs to chill out to come to fruition.
  • A Bordeaux that was fading and a 1989 Tondonia white just to show people something different, all led to the 2001 Chaves Hermitage, a wine that was far from ready but for me showed why I’m in this world of wine! Beautiful, succulent, with raspberry notes and bacon fat. Dense and ready to drink in another 20 years. Sadly, we had to keep going and an overripe Australian failed us afterwords with its awkward and sickly sweet fruit, clinging to a 15%+ body. UGH.
  • I’m sure there were a few others, though I will say a highlight was throwing the ones we didn’t like over the deck to the hostas down below. It was the finish that really was fun: a 2003 LBV from our new client, Quevedo, and a 2000 Forrest Estate Chenin Blanc Botrytised from New Zealand that seriously was AMAZING. Who knew how incrediblet his would be, and I wish I still had a case sitting in my cellar right now. If you can find it, buy it!

Needless to say, the meal was fun and a great success. I even had a chance to end it with a cigar with my dad, not bad at all.

From there on out, it was the wedding, which while a great time, was not a wine lover’s paradise. Busch light was the beer of choice, a drink that I find offensive to claim is fit for human consumption; however, with a few bottles of strategically placed Hop Devil to add to the bastardly brew, it became considerably more palatable in the end.

So now, I’m back, dealing with the evil phone company of Vodafone (more to come very shortly), preparing for the EWBC, and answering more emails than I thought possible. We have a lot of wines on deck to taste right now and then a harvest to figure out. So far things look good, though some areas are suffering from small yields. We’ll keep you covered though.

Till Soon,

Ryan Opaz

  • Dylan

    What was the age of the "wine geeks" that showed up at your forum yet hardly frequent or read a blog? From my past experience with marketing and social media in America, age is one of the largest contributing factors for blog readership. Digital Natives, or those who have grown up with the internet from a young age, are just now hitting the age range of 18-24. These people are a sweet spot generation in terms of technology and are most comfortable with exploring the internet. Now, I am seeing successful blogs that are even being run by 12 year olds. That's not to say writing a successful blog is easy, it's just that people are learning on younger and younger. The earlier they start, the more saavy they become. (Continued on second comment)

  • Dylan

    Likewise the later one starts, the less keen they are on the prospect exploring the internet. It would be interesting, if you haven't before, to take a poll of those who actively read your blog and their age. Maybe a quick sample size on the comment section? I myself am twenty-two and just recently became an active reader of Catavino. Age isn't the only factor in this, anyone can learn at any age. It's merely the limits we place on ourselves which hinder the process. If they were in fact on the older side, I hope to hear that your discussion with the "wine geeks" inspired them to be more active among the blogs. Until then look forward to the new, tech-saavy wave of wine geeks just coming into this world of wine.

  • ryan

    Most of the participants were 30+ a major factor as you point out. I just wonder if we'll ever see this demographic move to the online world, and if there is anything we can do to help the transition.

  • Penelope Gadd-Coster

    Is that a Coral Mustang back label I see? To comment on the blogging- I am way beyond 30…….I think that many of us just don't have the time. I find that I don't keep up on my blog nearly as well as I should due to time constraints. From where I am, age is all across the board on the blogging front. I feel that I actually see many 'older' folks that have the time (retired) or it is part of their marketing strategy for a business. The last comment about blogging is that, I know that when I started in, there was some question about the validity/seriousness of the writing. Was this something only kids did, could the info be trusted, was it just opinionated crazies? Yes, blogs are opinions,day to day goings on, informational and I think that the acceptance is growing- but we still need more that 24 hrs in a day to absorb all of the great blogs out there! The Mustang Winemaker- back to the grapes…….and her blog!

  • ryan

    Thanks for your take on blogging Penelope…BTW how is the vintage shaping up this year?

  • Bill

    1998 Lafon Rochet 1999 Brane Cantenac Both wines were closed at the start, even after a couple hours of decanting. They really opened up nicely over the course of the evening, although I think most people enjoyed the Tresor better. I'm looking forward to our next get together and hope Gabriella is along this time!

  • Tali

    Actually it was Honeyweiss and Michelob Golden Light (which I'm sure you find just as offensive ;-) which were served. You blood-cousin wouldn't allow Busch Lite at her wedding thank you very much!Love you- Tali