Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth discovers that a winery's claims to outstanding Wine Spectator reviews are not always what they seem.
I didn’t realize how the three places I visited today—Damiani Wine Cellars, Shalestone and the Argetsinger vineyard—were as interwoven as they are. Both to each other as well as to the fabric of the Finger Lakes wine industry itself. And, interestingly, these wineries are fueled by experience, rather than stifled by it.
My first visit on this trip was just a short drive up the west side of Seneca Lake from Watkins Glen. At Lakewood Vineyards, brothers Dave and Chris Stamp (along with Chris’ wife Liz) are the third generation to run this family winery, which represents where the Finger Lakes is today - trying to move away from hyrbids to vinifera production. Stops at Rooster Hill and Hermann J. Wiemer were also on the schedule.
For Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth, it's time to do a little field work in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York. This will be his third visit to this growing wine region in the last year, following visits in October of 2008 and June of this year. He reports that Riesling as well as other grape varieties are improving.
At 60, Aurelio Montes could easily decide to slow down. After entering the business in 1972, he founded his own Viña Montes winery in 1988 and since then has built it into one of Chile’s premier wineries. But he’s not slowing down – at all. He's busy working the Asian market and has two project in California. But I sat down with the winemaker here at my office last week to get caught up on his latest efforts in Chile and Argentina, including the new vineyards he’s nursing along near the town of Zapallar, some new Malbec plantings in Chile and new bottlings from his Argentine brand Kaiken.
Usually people run to restaurants when they just open. Critics jockey to be first with a review, despite a wait staff and kitchen that inevitably has kinks to work out. Diners want to say they’ve been there while the place is still "hot." Does anyone ever rush to get to a restaurant that’s closing? When Nancy and I saw the small notice in the paper earlier this week that Zoë was shuttering this coming weekend after an impressive 18-year run, it was sad news.
When reviewing wines, it’s always important to make the distinction between quality and style. It’s a point that’s been covered here before, but one I don’t grow tired of talking about. It’s fitting that I sat down with Iduna Weinert here at my office today to talk about her family’s wines – Argentina’s Bodegas y Cavas Weinert is a great example of the need to distinguish between style and quality.
Ricardo Rivadeneira’s Los Maquis winery is located in the heart of the Colchagua Valley, where wineries like Viña Montes, Casa Lapostolle, MontGras and Viñedos Emiliana are producing ripe, black fruit-filled reds from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Syrah. But Los Maquis only shares a proximity to those wineries, rather than a winemaking philosophy or style. Los Maquis' philosophy is one of picking earlier, rather than later.
Some wines are lucky, starting out with a bang as they hit qualitative heights right out of the gate, never looking back. Other wines take time before they become great, perhaps increasing their complexity and quality as vineyards mature. At Chile’s Viña MontGras, the winery’s flagship Ninquén bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon was one of the lucky ones, earning a 92-point review for its debut 2000 release in 2003. But then, oddly, it went downhill...