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WBW #54: ‘na passione per Piemonte

threepiemontesi(yes, yes, this is a couple of days late, mea culpa… more like a “Venerdì del Vino” as I write this, or a “Sauce-Blogging Saturday” as I finally post it…)

The idea of a Wine Blogging Wednesday on Piemontese wines (see original theme posting) was at once compelling and daunting: compelling, because I dearly love Piemonte; daunting, because there are so many wonderful Piemontese producers, varieties, and regions, choosing just one, or even a handful of wines to even vaguely represent the region’s diversity is a great challenge. In the end, I settled on three off-the-beaten-path wines from small producers in three different areas.

Continue reading ‘WBW #54: ‘na passione per Piemonte’

1997 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco ‘Vorberg’

vorbergSometimes one tastes wines that seem to redefine what a particular grape from a particular place can do. Such was the wine I tasted tonight, the 1997 Pinot Bianco ‘Vorberg’ from Cantina Terlano. I bought a few bottles of this a number of years ago, and I’ve tried a bottle every year or two. Each time I opened a bottle, the wine was closed, but I could tell there was something special there; it was like having someone almost smack me in the face with a gold brick, but stop short. I could feel the rush of air that somehow implied the weight of the brick, but I knew I had to wait.

Tonight that waiting paid off. I grilled a beautiful piece of swordfish, put it on a bed of rapini with garlic and chile, and pulled out one of the last bottles of the Vorberg. When I opened it and decanted it, the first whiff told me its time had come: pronounced, mature, yet still vibrant aromas of wet wool, lime, grapefruit, pear, honey, and a hint of diesel. On the palate, the wine was dry, minerally, full-bodied, almost unctuous, with a creaminess that bespoke malolactic fermentation, yet still with fairly high acidity and excellent focus. The wine has a long, wonderfully complex finish, and keeps evolving in the glass — so much so that I’m sitting here two hours later not wanting to finish the bottle so I can keep enjoying it.

The producer, one of Italy’s top cantine sociali (or see cooperatives), obtains the fruit from member vineyards at 500-900 meters above sea level, with sandy, porphyrous soil. After temperature-controlled fermentation in large oak vats, the wine stays on its lees for one year, which explains the wine’s evident honeyed note. The winery itself suggests the Vorberg will last 8-10 years; usually I take these things with a grain of salt, but in this case they’re spot on.

The moral of the story? Some wines are worth the wait, and they’re not always the one’s you’d think. This not particularly expensive white has stood the test of more than a decade in bottle, and it just keeps getting better. Signing off now to go enjoy the last glass.

More references:

Calling all of you in the wine trade!

postcardv1I’d like to help you, your colleagues and your customers find more trustworthy, in-depth wine information on the Internet. And I could use your help getting the word out about Able Grape:

•  If you’d like a stack of Able Grape postcards (see image at left) for display in your store or restaurant, or to give to your trade clientele, please drop me an email with your address, and I’ll gladly send some to you.

•  If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, get in touch and I’d be happy to come out and demo Able Grape for you and your colleagues, and show you some tips and tricks for finding great, in-depth wine information (some of which is very difficult or impossible to find via Google!). I’d also appreciate the chance to talk with you and learn how I can make Able Grape an even better tool for our community. Have thoughts or suggestions about what you need when looking for wine information? Get in touch, I’d love to come out and meet you. (If you’re not in the Bay Area, get in touch anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and who knows when I may be in your neighborhood…)

Able Grape Turns One!

birthdaycakeThis is a short post for a momentous occasion, but I’ve been so busy working on the new version of Able Grape that I almost forgot: on January 28th, Able Grape turned one year old! (That’s not counting the three year gestation period prior to launch, of course…) I wanted to thank all of you for your incredible support during the past year. It’s been quite an adventure.

On a separate note, some of you may have noticed that I’ve been quiet for the last few weeks, and database refreshes have been delayed a bit. This is because I’m hard at work on new infrastructure to handle the incredible growth Able Grape has been seeing. Early tests have been going well, and I hope to crank up the new system to full scale as soon as I finish testing. The new database should come in at about 17 million documents, with 40,000 sites worth of trustworthy wine information. Thanks for your patience, the new database is going to rock! And when it’s up and running, it’ll be time for a proper birthday party. Looking forward to bringing lots of great things your way in this, Able Grape’s second year!

(P.S. that photo isn’t just a stock image, it’s a mille crêpe cake a friend and i baked recently for another friend’s birthday; 20 layers of crêpes (well, almost; we ran out of batter) with pastry cream in between, and a brûlée top. A “mattone,” as the Italians would say, but oh, so good. And so much fun with a kitchen flamethrower making it)

Spiffy new language features!

Hi, folks, just put live a new release with some significant improvements in how Able Grape handles languages. Here’s what’s new:

  • Language detection (the accuracy of those little flags on the results) is vastly improved.
  • You can now change your preferred language from any page. Just use the pull-down menu at the far upper right.
  • Results are now slightly biased towards your preferred language. First, set your preferred language in the user preferences or change it using the pull-down menu. Now Able Grape will still show you the most relevant results in any language, but in the case where two similar results are available, and one is in your language, Able Grape will prefer the one in your language. You can see this, for example, in the results for Taurasi in Italian, and the results for Taurasi in English, or between Côte Rôtie in English and Côte Rôtie in French.
  • The Yahoo and Google search facilities (to the right of the search box, try them!) will now use your preferred language. In other words, if you’re using Able Grape in French, the Yahoo and Google links will search in French as well.
  • Last, and most exciting: Able Grape’s Spanish version, courtesy of the fantastic translation services of Carolina Ramos, is up and running. There are a couple of small glitches we’re still working out (my fault, not Carolina’s!) but it should in general work very well.

Able Grape beta 3, coming soon, will have additional sophisticated language features, by popular request. In the mean time, as always, don’t hesitate to let me know should you have comments or suggestions!

Merry Christmas / Joyeux Noël / Buon Natale!

Just a quick note to all the people who have stopped by to visit Able Grape in this, our first year. I hope we’ve been able to help you find lots of useful, in-depth wine information. Thanks for using Able Grape, thanks for helping us get the word out, and thanks for all the great suggestions and ideas. Please keep them coming!

It’s been a fantastic year meeting all of you — even if virtually — through our shared love of wine.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and I look forward to serving you even better in 2009.

Doug Cook

VdV #20 – le “roundup” des vins de Thanksgiving

Je veux remercier tous les gens qui ont participé à la dégustation de Thanksgiving. J’étais content de voir la gamme d’interpretations du thème un peu “ouvert.” Voici le “roundup” des posts!

  • Matlebat a degusté un Côte Rôtie 2006 de René Rostaing avec une soupe au potiron et bacon (alliance classique de Syrah et bacon!) Voir le post.
  • Julien Marchand, dans sa première participation aux Vendredis du Vin, dit “merci” aux bonnes recommandations qu’il a eu récemment, avec une bonne citation d’un livre de Michael Pollan que je dois absolument lire, et publie ses notes de dégustation des vins recommandés. Voir le post.
  • Selon Rémy (ou bien Rémy), l’animateur des Vendredis du Vin, en disant “merci,” il “convient avant tout de regarder près de soi.” Donc il a pensé a un vin rouge québécois, la Cuvée Julien 2006 du Domaine les Brome. Voir le post.
  • Olivier Lebaron, pensant à l’idée de la fête, se dirige vers les petites bulles, mais nous amène vers un vin hors des sentiers battus: le Crémant de Limoux “Joséphine” du Domaine les Hautes Terres. Voir le post.
  • Iris Lisson a rangé des belles photos d’une joyeuse fête entre amis vignerons il y a près de vingt ans, et nous a posé une devinette: qui sont les gens representés dans les photos? Voir le post.
  • Olif, parlant de nôtre fête nord-américaine “où la dinde aux canneberges canne sur les berges et où les tartes au potiron aux potes iront aussi,” dit merci à plus ou moins tout et à tous dans son post. Il déguste un Sauvignon qui s’appelle — ahem — “Merci,” tout en le remerciant, naturellement, de la Grange aux Belles. Voir le post.
  • FGsuperfred a degusté un bon 2004 Mourvèdre de Jean-Louis Denois, avec un rapport qualité/prix excellent. Voir le post.
  • Selon toon, le bon Château Cantenac 2003 représente parfaitement l’amitié de la famille qui le produit. Voir le post.
  • Et finalement, moi, j’ai décrit la belle fête que j’ai passé cette année avec mes amis. Le thème le plus “évident” des posts, mais quand même, j’espère, un post divertissant. Voir le post.

Si j’ai oublié quelqu’un, je vous prie de me faire savoir! Tous les blogues, tous les producteurs, tous les vins des posts, s’il ne sont pas déja dans la base de données d’Able Grape, y seront d’ici quelques jours. Merci encore une fois, et à bientôt!


What are all these posts in French?

Some of you may be wondering why the Able Grape blog is suddenly peppered with french posts. My Québecois friend Rémy Charest, author of the excellent blogs À Chacun sa Bouteille (in French) and The Wine Case (in English), is also the force behind the tasting group Les Vendredis du Vin (a great French-language wine blogging community, a bit like Wine Blogging Wednesday, but, um, well, on Fridays instead because “Mercoledis du Vin” just sounds crappy), and asked if I’d like to lead this month’s dégustation. So I sat around, as Julian of Bubble Brothers nicely put it, slaving over a hot dictionary, putting together a couple of hopefully interesting and vaguely grammatically correct posts. It was a lot of fun, and a great chance to work on my French.

One of the things I most love about Able Grape is that it — like the world of wine itself — spans languages and cultures, and it’s been a great chance for me to connect with the wine community from all over the world. Coming soon will be Able Grape en Español, and improved versions of AG’s other languages… and as always, if you have comments, questions, or suggestions about how I can make Able Grape the best possible tool for you, please let me know.

PS: obligatory product plug: Able Grape knows about both VdV and WBW as concepts, so you should get great results for these queries, though our weekly update frequency may miss the very most recent posts.

VdV #20: les vins de Thanksgiving

phil2J’ai passé ce Thanksgiving chez mon vieil ami Phil (ici à gauche), un Écossais, gourmand, amateur de vin, avec un coeur aussi grand que New York City (même s’il fait semblant d’être un petit peu grincheux). Je ne connaissais pas bien les autres 12-13 invités, mais nous étions unis par la fête même et l’amitié commune avec Phil, donc ils m’ont accepté comme si nous étions de la famille; nous avons causé, bu, mangé, (bu un p’tit peu plus), toute la soirée, pendant que Phil dansait entre la table et la petite cuisine à côté, cuisinant un repas exceptionnel: dinde aux canneberges, un gratin de cardons (mmmm), une salade de fenouil, une soupe aux lentilles… Moi, j’ai apporté la tarte aux pacanes et quelques bouteilles de vin. Voici les notes de dégustation des meilleurs vins:
Continue reading ‘VdV #20: les vins de Thanksgiving’

VdV #20 – Thanksgiving

dinde rôtieQuand Rémy m’a demandé si je voulais présider ce Vendredi du Vin, j’ai pensé deux choses. D’abord j’ai pensé: Rémy, t’es cinglé ou quoi? Avec mon français si rouillé, ça serait un désastre! Puis j’ai regardé le calendrier, j’ai vu que le dernier vendredi de novembre sera le jour après Thanksgiving, j’ai pensé que peut-être il serait intéressant de créer un thème autour de Thanksgiving, et j’ai accepté. Alors le cinglé c’est moi!

Je sais bien que Thanksgiving est une fête nord-américaine (toujours le quatrième jeudi de novembre aux États-Unis, le deuxième lundi d’octobre au Canada, les Canadiens étant toujours en avant de nous dans les choses importantes), mais j’espère qu’avec un peu d’explication, et un thème assez “ouvert,” la dégustation soit intéressante même pour nos amis d’outre-mer.

Thanksgiving, selon le mythe qu’on nous a inculqué ici depuis l’enfance, Continue reading ‘VdV #20 – Thanksgiving’

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