City View at Metreon, San Francisco, California
Tasted Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Richard Jennings with 858 views
This is an event I look forward to every year, even if I've ragged a bit on the opacity of the selection criteria in the past. There's always an eclectic group of producers ranging from the very well known and perpetually excellent to the less well known and only occasionally excellent, or at least aspiring to excellence. There's enough of each to keep it interesting. There's also always great food on hand. This year's venue, the Metreon, had its pluses and minuses. The view from the Metreon balcony is one of the best in San Francisco, so the outdoor, balcony part of the event, especially given the beautiful weather conditions, proved to be a scenic and inspiring place to taste wine. The indoor part, on the other hand, especially after dark, tended to be gloomy, cavernous and more than a little depressing. I much preferred the design center site where it was held the last couple of years, but I appreciate the effort to make it work at the Metreon, especially given the wonderful outdoor view.
So last year I couldn't resist taking a swipe or two at Wine & Spirits Magazine's impenetrable explanation for how they arrive at their Top 100, noting that their criteria somehow manages to eliminate all of Bordeaux as well as a great many top Burgundy and Italian producers. My report on last year's event and my quibble with the means of getting to the top 100 list is here: http://www.rjonwine.com/argentine-wine/wine-spirits-top-100-wineries/ The editor-in-chief's fascinating response to my post, which I received months later via snail mail, and my rejoinder to (i.e., demolishment of) his response can be found here: http://www.rjonwine.com/magazines/winespirits-magazine-editor-response/
As usual, each producer was limited to pouring two wines (although a few somehow managed to sneak in a third). I managed to taste 102 wines from 49 producers this year. I avoided most California producers that I get other chances to taste, and tried to get to most of the producers that I'd never seen at local events before. I typically start with the sparkling wines, and there are always two or three good Champagne producers. I then move on to the handful of Burgundy producers--this year Domaine Leflaive, Bouchard, Philippe Colin and Maison Louis Jadot, as they tend to run out early--and then look to see what else is new. I tried all of the Italian producers on hand and found their wines generally disappointing compared to prior years. I was not really excited by most of what I tasted here from Spain or Portugal either, but the German lineup was quite strong. I also found some interesting wines that were new to me from Australia. And I skipped a lot of great producers--like Anthill Farms, Evening Lands, Peay, Qupe and Ridge, because I have other opportunities to taste them in more depth.
So what stood out for me at this year's event? On the positive side, I appreciate the continued inclusion of lesser known producers from less celebrated parts of the wine world, like Greece's Boutari, Domaine Gerovassilou and Tselepos; Argentina and Chile's Concha y Toro, Loma Larga, Achaval-Ferrer and Bodega Catena Zapata; Sherry producers Pedro Romero and El Maestro Sierra; and Washington State's Buty, Januik and Mark Ryan Winery. For the list of wines I rated 93 points or more, see below. On the negative side, the boorish and obnoxious behavior of Movia's owner/winemaker Ales Kristancic. I have never experienced more attitude and less interest in pouring one's wine from any winery owner or representative at any event in my life. (At one point I commented to the woman gamely trying to fill in at his station that Ales seemed to have "checked out." She cleverly responded, given the breakup of Czechoslovakia, that one might more accurately say he'd "Slavved out.") He was regularly absent from the Movia station, and instead could be seen grabbing and manhandling attractive women throughout the event. I returned multiple times to the Movia station, hoping to get a taste of the Puro Brut Rosé, which I hadn't tried before. For over 45 minutes, I was told to come back when the "tall bald guy" is here. He had to personally open it, as the fact that it's bottled with its lees requires it to be opened and disgorged under water. He finally did return and I was first in line. Ales performed his show of opening the brut under water, in a large bowl, constantly looking at the women in his audience. When he finally popped the cork, clumsily, he managed to drain all but half a glass of the wine directly into the large punch bowl. I managed to get a couple sips of what was left. My god, what an insufferable clown! For a couple of pics of Alex grabbing women (I could have taken dozens more from what I personally observed that night), see below. Personally, I've totally lost interest in this particular producer as a result of Ales's boorish behavior. If W&S invites him back next year, now that we all know how he behaves with women, they risk lawsuits for hostile work environment sexual harassment.
The wines I most enjoyed at this tasting, rating them 93 points or higher, were as follows:
2007 Bond Vecina - 93 points
2007 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill - 93+ points
2007 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace - 93 points
2008 Jasper Hill Shiraz Georgia's Paddock - 93 points
2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles - 93 points
2006 Louis Jadot Chapelle-Chambertin - 93 points
2002 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon - 93 points
2009 Philippe Colin Chevalier-Montrachet - 93 points
2007 Quinta do Noval Porto Vintage - 94 points
2009 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese - 93 points
2004 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut - 93 points
The biggest new finds for me were the tasty and savory Loire wines of Domaine de Bellivière; the standout Shiraz from Jasper Hill (one of the best Aussie Shirazes I've had in a few years; I see why W&S said their '08 "is a candidate for Australia's most elegant shiraz"); the floral, detailed Friulian wines of Edi Kante; the high level of Philippe Colin's two 2009 white Burgundies; and the elegance of Storybook Mountain's 2008 Zin. For my complete tasting notes, by producer, see below.