Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dusty Rutherford's Greatest Hits




As long as I've been tasting wine I've wondered what the hell "Rutherford dust" is. What makes it different from any other dust? And isn't dust mostly just dead human skin cells? Why do I want to smell that in my Cabernet? "Hmmm, smells like cassis, green olive and a nasty case of eczema--must be from Rutherford." I think it was Andre Tchelistcheff (I just call him "the Sheff") who first coined the expression, and even he didn't know what it meant. I, personally, think it was in response to the famous Oakville Litterbox character everyone was talking about, though it could have been the Stags Leap Greasy Fingerprints. No one knows what the Sheff was thinking.

I weaseled an invite to the "A Day in the Dust" tasting of, primarily, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rutherford District held at Rubicon Estate last Wednesday. I attended under an alias. I went as "Dusty Rutherford." Only one person asked me if I sang "The Look of Love." I said Yes.

Industry tastings are more about social networking than they are about the wines being served. Since I relocated to Sonoma from Southern California I go to tastings and know only a few people, mostly winery owners and winemakers. In Los Angeles at a tasting like this, I would have spent 60% of my time shaking hands and catching up with other folks in my line of work. You taste the wines in between conversations. It's crowded, it's loud, and very difficult to judge wine at these things. But that's not what they're for. They're like FaceBook gone awry. Imagine having to actually talk to your FaceBook friends in person! Gawd, what a nightmare. You don't want to talk to them, you just want to have them! Like children. And now here they are with stuff all over their face demanding your drinking time. Not at all how you'd imagined it.

Since Dusty Rutherford knew so few people, I was able to focus a bit more effectively on the wines. It's still a crappy environment to judge wine. It's dark, it's dank, it's filled with sweaty people. It's like judging wine in John Wayne Gacy's basement. Which really makes me nervous now about those hors d'oeuvres. But I put on my serious evaluation face, took copious notes, tried really hard to pay attention and discovered what everyone has been saying all along is true--2007 is a great vintage for wine in Napa Valley (and other wine-growing regions in California as well). I tasted about 25 Cabernets at the Rutherford Dust tasting and the only one I wouldn't consider buying (were money no object, which it fucking is) was the Heitz 2005 "Bella Oaks" which I thought had far too much Brett, though it brought back childhood memories. Of petting zoos.

I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of tasting notes. No, I'm going to bore you the way I usually bore you, with poorly conceived humor. The wine blog world is overflowing with amateurishly written tasting notes, and, frankly, I'm not good at tasting notes. They all taste like paper to me. (See what I mean about poorly conceived?) I hate reading the tasting notes on blogs. They're awful. I read just one of the longwinded and pretentious tasting notes on "Bigger Than Your Head" and I am awestruck at the remarkable ability he has to wring every last bit of pleasure out of drinking wine. It's wine with a side order of anhedonia. But at least he doesn't match up wine with music. This is the realm of genuine idiots. Wine doesn't need music and music doesn't need wine. And they go together about as sensibly as literature and perfume. So I won't dull your senses with poorly written wine descriptions. But I will tell you which wines I thought were the best, and the not so best.

Let's start with the best. Much as I hate to agree with STEVE!, I think he's right that the real dazzler of the event was the Staglin 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. But Staglin has made brilliant Cab after brilliant Cab in recent years, so it's hardly surprising. The '07 may be legendary. Wow. If Rutherford is known for elegance, the '07 Staglin is damned Fred Astaire.

The first wine I tasted at the event completely surprised me. When the first wine you taste is sensational, it's always disconcerting. You start to think you're being too easy on it, that there has to be something you're missing, that it can't be that good. It's like losing your virginity, which, sadly, I've only done once. But I kept tasting it, and tasted it again later, and it's terrific. It's the 2007 from Round Pond, not normally a producer I would seek out. But this is seamlessly luscious and rich Cabernet from Rutherford. And then it was nice to see some of the legendary names of Napa Valley perform so well in 2007. The 2007 Rubicon is breathtaking, and the 2007 Beaulieu Georges de Latour returns to greatness after some time away. Finally, among this top five, I'd list the Meander 2007 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet for it's sheer power and purity. For those of you who haven't been in the wine business for a long time, or ever, let me tell you, it is very unusual to go to an event and find five wines that are absolutely classic. You're usually lucky to find one or two. These five were topnotch, and a joy to taste.

Maybe just a notch below these five winners were a handful of other wines, all very worthy and memorable wines. The 2007 Long Meadow Ranch was very seductive, Rubicon Estate's 2007 CASK was almost hypnotic, Honig's 2007 Campbell Vineyard is by far the best wine I've ever tasted from them, the once famous Freemark Abbey Bosche Vineyard was the best it's been in years and I like very much the suppleness of 2007 Quintessa though I'm not normally a huge Quintessa fan.

And there were some disappointments as well. Flora Springs 2007 Hillside Reserve, Hewitt Vineyard, Martin Estate's Reserve, Provenance, Freemark Abbey's Sycamore Vineyard--all nice wines, but hardly in a league with the others.

Any of the top ten wines is worth considering for your cellar. The prices vary considerably, and some haven't been released yet, but I think all of them are worthy if your budget allows. You're welcome.

And now back to our regularly scheduled stupidity.


56 comments:

Charlie Olken said...

Yack !! I hate it when you get serious about wine. Almost makes me want to read the Sunday funnies--which are about as funny as reading Ken Payton's blog--because as much as I like his serious take on things, it is a SERIOUS take on things--and besides, he does not know why the rest of us think you are funny.

Rutherford is the defining place in the Napa Valley, which, for years, has been the defining place in California. And the defining grape of that place is Cab. Sv. The annual Ru. Dust tasting is typically a must do, but this year, it somehow managed to coincide with the big Riesling event up Ste. Michelle way in WA. If you did not attend one of these two events, you no longer qualify as an "in person"--or maybe you never did.

I have not tasted the 2007 Staglin, but I did note Garen Staglin's comment about it and his 2006 over on STEVE!. I loved the 2006, and 2006 was a much more difficult vintage overall than 2007. These Staglins prove the point that the big, ripe wines can also be balanced, deep in fruit, have twenty and thirty year aging potentials, be well above 15% ABV, and thus in the final analysis, make the Dan Berger argument that wines of that size are fat slugs with nothing going for them but a couple of years of "in your face" drinking if you are also a fat slug.

So, thanks for the notes. And I am looking forward to the resumption of regular programming.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie,

First off, no one knows why the rest of you find me funny much less Ken Payton.

Secondly, if STEVE! can write "comedy" posts once in a while, I can write "serious" tasting reports once in a while. I'm better at serious than he is at funny.

Thirdly, I put this stupid tasting report up on the weekend so as not to disrupt the stupidity I publish during the week. In my capacity as Nobody in the Wine Business, I don't go to very many organized tastings any more and it was fun to revisit the experience and write about it. I may just do it again. If I'm ever invited to a tasting again.

I agree with you regarding the 2006 Staglin. Is the 2007 better? I don't think it's better, it's certainly marked by what a different vintage it was, but it certainly seems as good. It ain't cheap. $175/btl I think, or thereabouts. That prices it out of my league, by about $172.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie,

I forgot--do you think any of the Napa producers will come to HoseMaster to kiss my butt like they do over at STEVE!?

OOOOOOH, I hope so.

"Little Jimmy" Suckling said...

Some one should re-post STEVE's rant on Helen Turley, that he apparently took off his blog (but is still circulating on his feed.)

Now that's FUNNY!

Thomas said...

Just remember what happened to Woody Allen when he tried serious. What was it, something about interior walls?

Back in the 1990s, I "repped" Staglin in New York State for the distributorship that had it. The wine was fine, but too much money for the market here, and the winery hated selling to retailers, wanting us to focus mainly on restaurants--retailers get pissed when you do that to them and that hurts a sales rep's salary, but who am I to tell a high-priced wine producer how to market the product so that the sales team is behind it?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Little Jimmy,

I've never seen STEVE!'s rant on Helen Turley, but I'm guessing it's not pretty. Hey, according to your former employer Helen is "The Greatest Winemaker in The Universe!" Yup. And I'm "The Greatest Wine Blogger in the Universe!" And Marvin is "The Greatest Tub in the Universe!" And so on, ad infinitum.

If you've got it, send me the STEVE! rant via my personal email. I could use a chuckle.

Thomas,

I used to get an annual visit from Staglin when I was a sommelier. I felt sorry for the rep. He/she was under all this huge pressure to place Staglin in every damn restaurant in the city, at their ambitious prices. I did buy 6 bottles or so every vintage because the wines were terrific, but I made 'em sweat.

I'm no Woody Allen. I don't even have any foster children to marry. I did like Foster Brooks, however.

abc said...

Ron
Sorry to miss you there. I would have been happy to "network" and waste your time. I spent quite a while chatting with Steve! I picked the Staglin as well.
-A

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Amy,

You're much better off wasting STEVE!'s time than mine.

I was disappointed in the 2007 Awkward Silence Cabernet Sauvignon "Farting in Church" Cuvee. I think the 4% Beano may have ruined it.

A reader did forward me STEVE!'s Turley rant which he expunged from his site. It's very much to the point and I wonder why STEVE! decided to delete it. It's his blog, of course, and he's entitled to do whatever he likes, but it was provocative and inside and honest. Oh. OK, deleting it makes sense now.

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, ret. said...

What is a sufficient amount of brett?
Should it be somehow inversely or directly proportionate to the price of the wine?

If you like brett, and if you think there are people who are willing to accept it in a bottle priced over $15 and not meant to last more than a year under cork then I think you have just given me an idea for a niche business: I'll collect all the tainted barrels (people will be happy to have me haul them away - unless that is all they have to rely on to get those nice numbers from a Maryland lawyer), I'll culture the stuff, extract it and sell it at an obscene profit - in bottles, on scratch-'n sniff sheets, in aerosols, etc

Daniel Posner said...

Worst Hosemaster Post Ever!

If I want serious wine reviews, I look to STEVE!

abc said...

Ron
Wasting Steve's time? You forget that he is one of my authors.
Speaking of, I sent you a book.

Ron Washam said...

Arthur,

I don't like Brett. I like Bart Maverick.

I'm not overly sensitive to Brett, luckily, so if it bothers me, it must be over the top. It's a fault, no matter what or where. But it's like hubris--a very common fault.

Daniel,

About time you commented here. Sure, when I'm to your liking you keep your big mouth shut, but if I don't please you you're quick to criticize. What, are we fuckin' married?

Anyhow, thanks for all the kind things you've written about me in your chat room. I get bored, I love wine, I write a bit of nonsense about a tasting I went to, and everyone freaks out like I'm going to turn into 1WineDude. Don't worry, more pointless crap is on its way.

Meanwhile, being the worst HoseMaster ever is quite a hurdle to jump over, and I'm damned proud!

Amy Love,

I didn't forget STEVE! is one of your stable of authors. I'm not. That's why it's best you waste his time, assuming he remembers who you are, rather than mine.

Thank you in advance for whatever book you sent me. Is it Puff Daddy's?

abc said...

Time with me is never a waste.
Or something like that.
Nah, his is not out yet.
I sent you Terry's.

Thomas said...

Ron,

If I may be serious for a minute, re, Brett.

It isn't only that a consumer either likes or tolerates the level of yeast infection, it's that a Brett infection is dangerous for cellaring, slowly changing each bottle from year to year.

At the least, Brett is a force for change in the wine--on the other hand, if it's so bad on the wine's release, it is almost guaranteed kill the wine over time, making it a "Band-Aid" that does not provide protection from further infection...

Thomas said...

...in other words, some people like shit, but that doesn't automatically make it a good thing to keep in your closet.

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh I don't Know....I think it's kinda sexy when you talk wine once in awhile. I've always been a fan of Long Meadow Ranch for it's saucy luscious fruit and soft tannins....been my go to Cab for a couple vintages now.

Steve Heimoff said...

Hey HM, I love it when you get serious! [signed] STEVE! P.S. Sorry I missed you. I didn't recognize you with the Groucho face.

Ron Washam said...

Thomas,

You bring up an interesting point, and I agree with you. I was thinking as I wrote about the Brett in the Heitz "Bella Oaks" how rarely I see Brett diagnosed in wine reviews. It seems to be unmentionable. Are those always the wines relegated to the "Do Not Review" list? Granted, I don't spend much time reading wine reviews, especially my own, but it seems to me, especially after judging in a large wine competition, that there is more Brett out there than the press lets on. And it is a time bomb in the bottle, as you suggest.

Nor do I accept that a "little" Brett adds complexity. But if I can't smell it, I can't condemn the wine for it because, obviously, I don't know it's there. And they don't tend to include that on the tasting notes on the back label.

My Gorgeous Vacationing Samantha,

Well, if you think it's sexy I'm going to do it more often.

I can hear everyone deleting me from their Bookmarks.

I adore you, and I miss you!

STEVE!

Well, I wasn't in tasting with the big shots like you and Amy, I was reserved a special place in the cattle call. Well, maybe more sardines than cattle, but so it goes.

Groucho face? Oh, you mean my Helen Turley mask! Yeah, pretty cool, huh?

Thomas said...

"...how rarely I see Brett diagnosed in wine reviews."

I won't go there. Maybe Arthur will.

Charlie Olken said...

It is not the place of wine reviewers to ascribe chemical properties to wine. I think you will find more reference to Brett if you look for adjectives like adhesive tape, wet dog and other analogies. At least, that is how we handle it, just as we do not say ethyl acetate ore acetic acid but will say sharp, sour, biting and even vinegary upon occasion.

We do debate Brett at our tastings all the time. There are tasters who will drop a wine to the bottom if it shows the least bit of Brett and others, me included, who have a higher tolerance for it.

It is important to understand all kinds of issues in wine, but the question of how to describe them is not limited to describing them by their chemical names.

And now you see what happens when you get serious. Before you know it, you will want to be called HMW!! .

Ron Washam said...

Charlie,

Oh, damn! You mean I'm disqualified from the Wine Reviewers' Association for ascribing Brett to a wine? I've gone overboard? Gone too Brett Favre? Now you tell me. I need to study up on those wine reviewing guidelines. Sounds like a HoseMaster post...

And I didn't get THAT serious. Just posted lame tasting notes amid lousy jokes. I'm going for next year's Poodle for Best Wine Reviews! Of course, in order to win, I'll have to be asked to judge first.

Charlie Olken said...

No, Ron, you are not disqualified. Not yet at least. But, when you show up at my house on Tuesday night to taste Pinot Noir, you won't get in the door unless you know the secret handshake and can say merde in at least four languages.

That serious? THAT SERIOUS??

Hells bells, you had STEVE! coming by to see who was horning in on his territory. Now, that is SERIOUS. If Ken Payton comes by and wants to know if you are horning in on his territory, then that will be VERY SERIOUS.

Erin McGrath Davis said...

Hey Mister,

I really enjoy reading your "serious wine writing," and now I'm saving all of my pennies (fewer pennies now, thanks to the dumb economy) for the latest Staglin. We had one at Christmas...it was outstanding.

(Sidenote - I love how folks try to trump your wit in the comments section, it's kind of silly.)

Thomas said...

Erin,

Trump his majesty's wit?

Not really--just playing along.

Silly?

Isn't that the point of this blog?

It's ok, though, "you don't have to say you love us, just be..."

Arthur said...

Thomas,

Not sure if Brett grows on agar plates of if you just need to do a wet mount with KOH.....

In either case, I am patenting a wine aerator which has a mesh at the bottom. The fibers of the mesh are infused with miconazole.

Snappy, eh?

Oh and:

"It is not the place of doctors to recognize symptoms as disease."

or

"It is not the place of judges to apply the law."

Kinda asinine, isn't it?

Thomas said...

Arthur,

The best way to deal with Brett might be to apply toilet paper to the mesh fibers. Oh wait, that would be after the fact.

How about testing the wine BEFORE it goes to market? Oh wait, that would mean many of them can't be released.

How about watching pH so that the wine has a better chance at not being infected? Oh wait, that might mean picking the grapes when they hit maturity instead of when they hit raisin-ness and being extra careful during ML.

Geez, this is work!

Tasting Note Daddy said...

You boys are having way too much fun. I love it when you take prescription drugs of the azole class and feed them to us all. No more yeast infections for anyone who drinks wine. Yippee.

Or do we all become resistant to azole drugs when we need them?

As for the comments about recognizing diseases, it one thing to recognize them for doctors or wine writers. It is another to write tasting notes that use technical terms rather than descriptors. Tasting notes are for ordinary punters, not lab rats.

Arthur said...

"Tasting notes are for ordinary punters, not lab rats."

Whatever the terminology one uses, the point is to tell the consumer that the wine has brett. That has implications not only for personal preference but integrity of a product.

Arthur said...

TND

With all the organophosphates and neonicotinoids being sprayed on vines and strychnine leeching from dead gophers, what's a little azole in the wine?

Tasting Note Daddy said...

Arthur--

One for you and one for me on your recent comments.

The point is NOT to use words like Brettanomyces which have no meaning to the readers but rather to describe the character of the wine, its structure and its aging potential in real world terms like soft or drying out or drink sooner than later.

As for your second point, I see what you mean. It is sort of like prophylactic winemaking. We are going to kill you but we are going to do it less slowly because we have used drugs that will kill our and your yeast infections. I get it. Got some drugs to cure my gout before it acts up? If so, start putting it in red wine.

Charlie Olken aka Puff Daddy said...

Note to Erin--

Listen to Tom P. He knows that Ron loves it when we are inspired by him. Its like watching his children play in his backyard. Besides, it's all in fun. Give it a try. Nobody laughs at my corny imitations but me, but I do enjoy them and so far, Ron has not run me or anyone else out for our attempts at Hosemastering.

Arthur said...

colchicine and lots of water

Tasting Note Daddy said...

Arthur--

I'm there, believe me.

I read somewhere that gout becomes less of a problem as one ages. I find that to be true, but I cannot tell if the cause is age or my lowered alcohol consumption.

On the other hand, my tasting acuity just keeps getting better. I wonder what drugs I am taking for that. :-}

Arthur said...

"my tasting acuity just keeps getting better"

colchicine should slow olfactory mucosa turnover - not sure if that improves acuity but it might diminish it as it slows down delivery of fresh receptors to the surface.

lower alcohol intake (which helps in gout) definitely helps: it lets the brain rest and while you detect with olfactory and gustatory detectors, you recognize and process with the brain. Case in point: you should have much higher acuity after a period of abstinence and much poorer acuity when you have a hangover.

Puff Daddy said...

Hangover? Moi?

Like most tasters, I never drink when I am tasting. I saw that STEVE! complained that he notices a bit of alcohol intakes when he tastes. I never do, but then I weigh a bit more than his 130 pounds. He likes to taste at 10 AM, after he has exercised, so perhaps he needs a new tasting regimen.

I would advise that he take two glasses of milk and call me in the morning.

Arthur said...

Never underestimate mucosal absorption.

Thomas said...

"Never underestimate mucosal absorption."

I have a distinct feeling that I'll never remember that admonition.

Charlie, if you have gout then you must live a kingly existence.

I have the low class diseases that come from poverty--bow legged and quite a big stomach!

Puff Daddy said...

"Never underestimate mucosal absorption."

You could not be more right, Arthur. I never turn my back on mucosal absorption lest it sneak up on me.

Ron Washam said...

Hey Gang,

Man, I'm gone for a day and suddenly an episode of Dr. Oz breaks out. Cool discussion of mucosol absorption, though. Brought tears to my nose. I try to absorb everything mucosally (is that a word?), but find that air bags work more effectively. Even for gout.

Erin,

How's my newlywed? So glad to see your gorgeous face here.

I absolutely encourage nonsense here in the comments section. I love it when someone "trumps" my wit. And I also love how only on HoseMaster can a throwaway comment about Brett turn into a discussion of wine writing ethics and gout, which, actually, have a lot in common. Most wine writers are seeking a cure for both.

Arthur said...

Thomas

What about Syphilis?

I hear that's moving up in the classes....

Arthur said...

Thomas

To your earlier points:

Brett-pH-raisin:

"Extended hang time is best reserved for convicts, not grapes."

Thomas said...

Arthur,

It's impossible to contract syphilis when nobody loves you...

Ron,

If ever I read a mucosal absorption candidate it's you, what with all that snickering and snorting.

Charlie,

Take six asparagus and DON'T call me in the morning after you are up all night!

Arthur said...

Tom:

"It's impossible to contract syphilis when nobody loves you..."

-now you bring love into this?

Charlie Olken said...

Try having this conversation on some other blog.

Or better yet. Don't.

The secret word for this session is: zoarmid. Tom, take two for your syphyllis. Take four if you don't have it. Take Cialis is you are trying to get it.

Ron Washam said...

I kind of feel sorry for anyone trying to read through all 45 comments. I know I haven't.

So I do a post everyone hates, "worst HoseMaster ever," and end up with 45 comments.

Yeah, try this over on STEVE! or Catatonic or Reign of Fools and see where it gets you. Same place it gets you here. Knee deep in VD. Or ED. Or MD. Or HowD DooD.

Kathy said...

Personally, I like Rutherford for the Grill. I'm not as thrilled with Rutherford Cross Road as it isn't as straight and fast (except for that one curve) as Oakville Cross Road.
I do like dirt. Particularly when it is outside and especially when it is in New Mexico and red.
I don't mind brett as it is much better than the mold in my fridge. Neither has killed me yet. Too many Top 10 tasting notes could.
Yet, it is nice to know that truly good places to grow grapes are few and far between.

Thomas said...

What scares me is that I've understood almost every one of the comments, despite the hard time understanding the original post beyond the reference to Ms. Springfield and something about wine--is this a wine blog?

Ron Washam said...

Kathy,

You make some points.

Congrats, you've been promoted from AA to AAA.

Thomas,

No, Thomas, HoseMaster is not a wine blog. The subject matter is me. It's a me blog, like every other blog. Attention barking, remember?

Everyone,

And now STEVE! has gone ahead and published his Helen Turley rant. See what you did, Little Jimmy Suckling! Happy now?

Thomas said...

"Congrats, you've been promoted from AA to AAA."

Lucky, Kathy: everyone else has to take 12 steps.

Kathy said...

I always did like one for the road.

Art said...

I'm new here, but I think Ron loves it when someone picks up on his referents(?), like Thomas did, and ignores the wine crap. As for me, I LOVE Dusty Springfield!

Ron Washam said...

Art,

Mostly my motley crew won't let me talk about wine. They only care about jokes and how often and sarcastically I make fun of wine bloggers and the wine business. When I talk about wine they all bitch and moan and complain that if they want to read about wine they'll go to other blogs. Not that I care, I pretty much just write whatever the hell I want.

I hope you'll stick around and participate as the mood suits you. As you will see, many folks come and go here, but, all in all, HoseMaster has, by far, the best and brightest and funniest comments in the wine blog world. And with 90% less buttkissing than a regular blog.

Arthur said...

Ron
Great post. You're so cool, You're so funny. You're so smart. I love your beard

Art said...

Not to worry, Ron. I have absolutely nothing better to do (I sell wine for a living).

Thomas said...

Art,

You sell wine for a living?

Welcome--I once was a whore, too, but now am found, or am I lost...

Art said...

Thank you, Thomas. And call me what you will . . . I'm like Ron -- I barely wince.