Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Ashy to Classy: The Wine Blogger Dinner | January 31, 2010

Obviously through some clerical error, yours truly got invited to an Artesa wine dinner at Bone’s Restaurant the other week. For those of you not from Atlanta, Bone’s is an institution: incredible steaks, totally old-school, great service, massive wine list…the place you’d go for a big-deal power business dinner, to take Mom out for Mother’s Day, or to bring a date if you think you’re gonna score, justifying such a lofty bill.

And they wanted me there. Invited me. Fo’ free (take that, lawyers looking for my “DISCLOSURE” statement)! Maestro, cue the theme from “The Jeffersons”.
Kidding aside (I know that’s tough for me), I really appreciate the invite by Artesa’s folks. They’ve reached out to the blogging community, wisely deciding that they’re marketing need not be limited to Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, etc. While I have tremendous respect for the knowledge and the palates at those heralded institutions, they’re hitting a pretty tight demographic. Many of my readers are wine folks, but the other many are folks who just want to read something during the day when work gets boring. They drink wine, too, and might be influenced more by a non-threatening blogger than a rather intimidating tome of the wine aristocracy. By the way, this latter group is a sampling of who most people are. And those people spend a lot of money, even on wine. See what I mean?
But back to the story. As this was a blogger dinner, I had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with local like-minded oenophiles (please don’t take “like-minded” as an insult): Ed from Wine Tonite! (becoming a regular on the “Suburban Wino” scene), Kevin from Atlanta Wine Guy (who- to my chagrin- is probably the #1 wino in Cherokee County), and Elizabeth from Wine For Normal People (a lovely dinner companion and conversationalist who knew her stuff and didn’t seem in the least bit unnerved by my signature crude and uncouth disposition). And yes, we all rubbed elbows. Literally rubbed our elbows together in a circle. I thought is was a little weird too.

Anyway, I’ve linked to all their posts about the evening, put out in a timely fashion. Me? I like to come in late for all the scraps. Call me “mantis”. Great job to whoever gets that one.
Supposedly, there were other bloggers there. I didn’t meet them. I didn’t talk to them. I was too busy making eyes with an enormous plate of lobster claws, king crab legs, and shrimp the size of Andre the Giant’s fingers. Outside of wondering what constituted adultery as I ogled this mound of regal shellfish, I hoped I would get some whites that had enough body for the sweetness of the lobster, but still a good whip of acidity to brighten the subtle flavors. What followed was a veritable orgy of Caligulan Rome-proportions:
Lobster, King Crab Legs, Jumbo Shrimp on ice, served with the 2008 Artesa Chardonnay Carneros and the 2007 Artesa Reserve Chardonnay Carneros. The former had really pure fruit (Chardonnay, being prone to manipulation, can often taste too much of oak), a good balance of oak, and enough acidity. The latter- which experienced more new oak aging and sur lie aging (sitting on the dead yeast)- was a powerhouse: big flavors of butterscotch, more breadiness (?), and more tannin. I thought I could definitely drink this with a steak. Damn good, but I preferred the ’08 with the shellfish.

Kobe Beef Carpaccio with 2007 Artesa Pinot Noir Carneros and the 2007 Artesa Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros. While raw Kobe beef needs no accompaniment, these fruit-forward Pinots were not totally unwelcome. Both of these 100% Pinot Noirs had nice cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors, but the Reserve really stole the show here. I got some smells of root beer and fennel on the nose, and this beast was clearly more extracted. It had a pretty serious tannin structure, and- as brand manager Tim Shippey noted- it was not quite ready. However, snag this one if you see it. Set it down for a year or two, then get ready to turn on some Ronnie James Dio and rock out. Tasty wine, friends.

N.Y. Strip, Spinach, Whipped Potatoes with 2005 Artesa Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Ridgeline Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (“Ridgeline” being a sister property of Artesa). As usual, by this time, my notes become non-existent as I was fully absorbed in the experience. We all know steak and Cab go together swimmingly, and either of these would fit the bill. The Alexander was a bit softer than the Napa, but both expressed the prevailing fruit-forward style, but with enough balanced acidity and tannin to get busy with a dry-aged piece of cow. I recall leaning towards the Ridgeline Alexander, but I would kick neither of these off my table.
I’d say I was satisfied. Call it a night. You’ve done it, guys. You’ve wined and dined me enough.
“Hey, I’ve got some single-vineyard Cabs in my car,” says an increasingly mirth-some Tim. “You guys wanna try them?”

And so we did (who turns down free wine, and single-vineyard at that?). While these wines are sure to be outside of the everyday price range of a lowly suburban wino (around $75, according to Elizabeth), they were a rare treat. The 2005 Lone Pine Vineyard (Alexander Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 Standing Bear Vineyard (also Alexander) Cab were damn good. The former, comprised of 81% Cab Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc, was softer and more aromatic than the latter- a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. If you’re looking for a special-occasion wine that is- quite frankly- cheaper than many Napa/Sonoma single-vineyard Cabs, you could do a lot worse.
Fully; overly satiated, I boogied on out of there, dreaming of future dinners. I want to give a big thanks to Artesa; to Tim Shippey; to new winemaker Mark Beringer (formerly of Napa powerhouse Duckhorn)- from whom I anxiously await great things; and to you, the reader, for getting to this point in what has become an incredibly long-winded post. I love you guys. You interpret that how you want. Cheers!

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