Archive for the ‘Festivals and conferences’ Category

“You can’t tell a wine by its label. Or can you?”

October 18, 2014

written by Michael Oudyn

Glasses at Buellton tasting

Hundreds of wines await, so let’s grab a glass and… check out those labels!

After Paso Robles (see previous post) I was a little wined out. So I grabbed a glass and set out to savor… the labels. Here are four I found intriguing.  Some because of their catchy and original graphics.  Some because they were in some way true to the winery’s story and essence.  Some just tickled my fancy.   Here are excerpts from interviews with the winery´s representatives.

urban legend

URBAN LEGENDS CELLARS: Oakland, California

“I’m Marilee Shaffer. I’m part of the winemaking team at Urban Legends Cellars Winery in Oakland.” (more…)

Llamas in the Vineyards of Paso Robles: Wine Bloggers visit Wild Horse Winery

July 31, 2014

Written by Michael Oudyn


I share a snack with Floyd, head of the Wild Horse Winery clan of llamas

I share a snack with Floyd, head of the Wild Horse Winery clan of llamas

We from the Wine Bloggers Convention 2014 are at the Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards, in Paso Robles, California.We have sampled a few tasty high-octane Zinfandels at the neighboring Dusi Ranch.  We have had an excellent buffet lunch and  tasted a few more wines, some unique. Like their “Pink Floyd” a highly original rosé blend of pinot noir, cab franc, and sangiovese named in honor of Floyd, the godfather of Wild Horse Winery’s  hard-working llama clan. Unlike the brutish llama, I have done very little spitting today; I am ready to meet Floyd face-to-face.

“Llamas in the vineyards?”

“Of course. To protect the sheep.”

“To protect the sheep?”

“Yes, from the coyotes.”


The villain of the story, the  coyote

The villain of the story, the coyote

Let’s let the winery explain: “We actually have three llamas… Floyd, the (more…)

Celebrating Malbec World Day with a Big Mac

April 20, 2012

written by Michael Oudyn

The second annual Malbec World Day was celebrated on April 17. “One global superstar” was the slogan.

In a related story “Big Mac with Malbec” is McDonald’s latest value meal. You get a Big Mac, a beef empanada, and some Argentine red made from the Malbec grape. This innovation is probably NOT coming soon to an outlet near you.  Unless, of course, you are in Mendoza, the epi-center of the Argentina’s wine industry, where this burger-with-wine pilot is being launched during national Wine-Harvest Festival.

Malbec is the obvious choice of grape. Still going nowhere fast in its native Bordeaux and Loire, Malbec has adapted fabulously to the semi-desert, mineral soils, and high altitudes of Mendoza since it arrived in 1853 and is now Argentina’s signature export grape, like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  And it has achieved Argentina’s ultimate seal approval; it is one of only five food stuffs declared “Patrimonio cultural alimentario, and gastronomico argentino”.  This poor immigrant, “the French grape,” has come a long way. (more…)

Climate Change and the Wine Industry: “The Square Wine Cask of the 21th Century”

January 28, 2012

written by Michael Oudyn

Marbella is a playground for international jet-setters on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.  It is famous for its luxury yachts, expensive international shops, and beautiful weather.  It is notorious  for conspicuous corruption: its last mayor did hard time for real-estate chicanery after keeping the afternoon gossip shows buzzing for years with his romance with flamenco icon Isabel Pantoja.  His immediate predecessor as Marbella’s mayor did hard time for corruption after being the flamboyant president of Madrid’s second soccer team, Atletico de Madrid.  In the box-office dark-comedy super -hit “Torrente II: Mission in Marbella”, Marbella is a gross-out swamp of  international arms dealers. In the international best seller The Queen of the South by Perez-Reverte, state-of-the-art speed boats connected to Russian mafiosi make night-time “business trips” to Africa.

III World Congress on Climate Change and the Wine Industry

Last April Marbella was also the scene of the “3rd Annual International Congress on Climate Change and the Wine Industry.”   Kofi Annan was (more…)

European Winebloggers II: Blaufrankisch and a mystical Riesling

January 11, 2011

written by Michael Oudyn

“Love at first sip on the Danube”– The European Wine Bloggers do Vienna

We  bloggers were mostly tasting  whites  (see last post). About 80% of Austrian wine is white afterall: a lot of best-seller Gruner
Veltliner, some fantastic Rieslings, a few noble rotters. But we learned on a two-day road trip through Burgenland, which hugs the border with Hungary, Austria is producing quite nice reds as well.

Danube river love at first sip

Love at first sip backdrop

We were treated, in effect, to a 48-hour total-immersion crash course in Austria’s signature red: Blaufrankisch, In a nutshell: it can be “bold and spicy” to “soft and juicy” according to Karen Mac Neil who compares it to Zinfandel. It can be ”intense and zesty with flavors of blueberries, red cherries, and redcurrents” according to Oz Clark. Most common alias: lemberger in Germany and Washinton state. Etymology: Frankisch from the (more…)

European Wine Bloggers I: The Heurigen

November 15, 2010

written by Michael Oudyn

“Promiscuity in the Vineyards of Vienna!” –The European Wine Bloggers do Austria

I just spent a week with the European Wine Bloggers in and around Vienna.

The Mayer am Pfarrplatz Heuriga

The Mayer am Pfarrplatz Heuriga

But isn’t that in Austria, and isn’t Austria like hop-happy beer-guzzling  Germany only a little further south?  Well, no.  Austrians prefer wine; put away a whole lot of it; and a lot of it is, as I found out, quite excellent.

Vienna has one unique iconic wine institution: the heurigen which are tavern/restaurant/ wine gardens.  It turns out here are about 1700 acres (sic) of active vineyards inside the city limits of Vienna.  No other city can really make this claim. Sure, Paris has a petit vineyard (Clos Montmartre), and a three-day Harvest Festival (see post).  But the festival is strictly for the tourists, and the wine itself  is (more…)

Tasting at Vega Sicilia

June 18, 2010

written by Michael Oudyn

In 1970s Spain the very words “Vega Sicilia” inspired mystery and awe.  “World´s greatest wine”: “Most expensive wine in the world.” Of course nobody I knew had ever tasted it, or even seen a bottle of it, for that matter.  (My friends and I might get into a mid-level Rioja on a good day.)  Jancis Robinson attributes much of this awe to Vega Sicilia´s “splendid isolation” in the ruggedly inhospitable Castilian backwaters a couple of hour’s drive north of Madrid; steamy hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter.  Vega Sicilia was far from any official wine region.  So in those days “the best wine in the world” had to be sold as the lowest of the low: vino de mesa, table wine. And their neighbors were capable of nothing better than plonk. Definitely the stuff of fairy tales.  Personally I wasn’t completely convinced that Vega Sicilia wasn’t just some  weird collective patriotic hallucination until I saw, with my own two eyes, a bottle of it in a Barcelona wine shop. (more…)

The Montmartre Wine Festival, 2009: Impressions

October 19, 2009
A little Paris kitsch to get things going

A little Paris kitsch to get things going

written by Michael Oudyn

On June 4, 2009 I posted an article on the history of the wine festival at Montmartre. (read post) So, serious wine journalist that I am, I thought I would go back to Paris and actually check it out in person.

I am writing the day after, so everything is by necessity a bit foggy and impressionistic. A petite husky-voiced street singers belts out chansons a la Edith Piaf while turning the crank on her little music box. I sit at a wooden barrel surrounded by bustling humanity and stare down at some Muscadet  in a plastic cup and six miniscule mini-oysters on a paper plate. A friend, empty plastic cup in hand, looks longingly at a vendor of Chateauneuf de Pape who is just across the street  but unreachable due to the human bottleneck in the narrow Montmartre (more…)

The wine festival of Montmartre

June 4, 2009

Clos Montmartre (2)

Michael Oudyn

I am away from Barcelona visiting Paris.  I find myself up in Bohemian Montmartre gazing through a wire fence at  the vines of  “Clos Montmartre”, the last active vineyard inside the Paris city limits.

“Clos Montmartre” is found on a quiet picturesque backstreet up a hill from the Moulin Rouge where Toulouse-Lautrec drank his Earthquakes (half cognac and half absinth) and then died of alcoholism at  36.  It is just around the corner from the house where Maurice Utrillo was born, raised, and took to painting the (more…)

AOQ Priorat and AO Montsant

May 15, 2009
Priorat, through a glass lightly rose

Priorat, through a glass lightly

written by Michael Oudyn

My friend Ricard Domingo and I are on our way to Falset.  About a two-hour drive south of Barcelona this town of 5000 inhabitants is this week´s center of the Spanish wine world.  We will be spending three days tasting, talking about wines, and whatever else might pop up at the Mostra de Vi, a wine fair for D.O. Montsant and D.O.Q. Priorat.

We are reminiscing about wines in the good old days and how far Priorat has come.  In the 1950s Ricard worked in his father´s bar in Barcelona and some of their best wines came from the comarca (county) of Priorat.  They were not the D.O.Q. Priorat wines of today; they didn´t even have labels.  Horse carts delivered the wine in 60-liter bullskins or 120-liter wooden barrels.  No preservatives (more…)