#Vinopanion’s new wardkadel.com is live!

#Vinopanion: Domaine Chandon #wine

#thesunitburns

Well…the long wait is over!  If not for my fellow #Vinopanions, at least for my own incessant #wine cravings and the need to blast out my ramblings de vinos. WardKadel.com is finally live, as we are in the process of shutting down the long-running WineLog.net. With this relaunch, you will find more content combining my two passions of #triathlon & wine, as well as a newfound love of cooking and of course, the chronicles of our life in #Napa.

Indeed just last night, with the Lady (featured left in the vineyards of Domaine Chandon) in NYC for a fashion convention, I knocked out two very enjoyable recipes from Blue Apron, which has been a life-changer for me to finally learn and love to cook.

@BlueApron & #Beaujolais!

Cooking and first dinner (heh) was accompanied by the deliciously juicy 2015 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie (review Vivino), from Beaujolais extraordinaire Georges Duboeuf. And since the journey of wine can never end (thank goodness, right??), I listened to my two favorite wine podcasts:

 

And so it with those two tasty #recipe‘s and these two brilliant wine podcasts, I will bid you adieu until my next Ward Kadel – #Vinopanion – @drXeNo post.

Vineyards of Domaine Chandon

Loving that #NapaLife!

¡Salud!

#Vinopanion #wine Bits & Pieces

#Vinopanion has been a wild ride these past 8+ years (so hard to believe!).  Towards the end of last year, as life got exceedingly busy and I was unable to put my best efforts to my love of #wine writing and education, I pondered what step this blog would next take. I have always treated my wine life as a privilege and have felt grateful for every turn that it has taken.  Each little or big step was only partially planned/hoped for…most things like paid wine consulting, wine judging, being flown around the world for media trips, all have been joyous surprises, though they didn’t come without hard work (on the side).

I have missed my wine world these past ~4 months, but the introspection has been useful.  I’ve come up with new plans, reapplied old ones and have concocted new post formats, such as this new one: Bits & Pieces will cover multiple topics in short, 1-2 paragraph bites.  Prepare for more news in a more concise format. And so… ¡Vámonos mis Vinopanions!

CabFest Napa Valley Returns 3/4 – 3/6 (tickets)

cabfest_logo_color-01CabFest Napa Valley (WL, FB, Tw, IG) still ranks as one of my favorite wine festivals of all time.  The Lady and I attended the entire first incarnation weekend, back in 2014. The event hit on all cylinders right off the bat, with a fantastic opening night, all the way through 2 grand tastings, and multiple unique breakout tastings.

This year, the highlights again include a fantastic opening concert in the main hall, this year by Mat Kearney, followed by the infamous Cigars & Guitars VIP Party. Saturday features multiple 4hr tastings, including the San Francisco Magazine Grand Tasting and the Boutique Tasting, along with multiple breakout sessions and food & wine tastings, including Cab on the Couch with Karen MacNeil. Sunday features its own suite of tastings and VIP sessions, including the Sonoma Magazine Grand Tasting and a tremendous VIP Platinum Wrap Party, featuring cuisine by local legend Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc crew.

You can still buy tickets and can also see the full details at their website.  See you all there!

Bodegas Cepa 21 Virtual Tasting 3/9/16 6pm PT (#Cepa21VT)

sobre-nosotrosBodegas Emilio Moro is a legendary name in Ribera del Duero DO (WL) of Spain. Bodegas Cepa 21 (WL, FB, Tw) is a newer endeavor by the Moro brothers, striving to create a modern Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) wine inside their new, super sleek winery. The winemaking brother of the duo, José Moro, is visiting the US in March and he is kind of to sit down for a virtual tasting of his wines, from his temporary home in NYC.  I’ve had the fortune to try some of their wines in the past, so it will be enlightening to go through these new releases and to speak directly to José about his vinous products.  Follow along that night using #Cepa21VT. ¡Salud!

NVWA WSET II Endeavors Continue…

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI continue my studies of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Intermediate (WSET II) certification this year.Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw), already leaders in wine and spirits education, is leading my efforts.  Their unique position, situated in the heart of #Napa grants them special access for taking their teachings directly out into the field…and I do mean “field!”

Indeed, their WSET Ultimate Level 2+3 course two week immersive course will “take you directly into vineyards and working wineries“, all right nearby in Napa Valley.  I’m looking forward to getting more intensely into my studies!

HITS Napa Valley Triathlon: The Hometown Race 4/9 – 4/10

65760_789077141133939_416503315085470558_nI am also full steam back into my #triathlon training season, since the last week of December. This time I’ll finally be doing my hometown olympic distance triathlon at Lake Berryessa: HITS Napa Valley 2016. The HITS Triathlon Series (Tw, FB, YT) is a long-running, well-respected endurance race production company (HITS Endurance), particularly their multisport series.

Once again I’ll be taking on my awesome brother in-law in a race for the family.  This year, it should be particularly exciting, as we’ll be going off in waves within 3 minutes of each other.  I’m looking forward to chasing and passing his ass! 😛

hitslocation-headers_napavalley

Taking my #wine kung fu to the next level: #WSET II & Napa Valley Wine Academy

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI have been immersing myself in the study of #wine in a semi-systematic manner for much of the last 8 years.  Indeed, #Vinopanion‘s 8 year anniversary with @WineLog is approaching in the middle of this month. Yet I have slowly realized that something is lacking in my devotion to the knowledge of the vinous delights: focus, structure and external credibility. You’d think that a trained scientist would have recognized this long ago and I did notice these thoughts in the back of my mind a few years back.  But they were always battered back by “where’s the time?” and “I’m still receiving plenty of media travel & event invites,” along with “my wine consulting services continue to expand.” Then I reached last year and I started to recognize some clear patterns in my wine work. While I had plenty of media opportunities and my fellow wine colleagues were continuing to get work, I could see that the pace of my own trade offers beginning to slow down. It was then that I noticed that most of my colleagues began to sport letters after their names on their business cards: they were taking certified educational courses to formalize their wine training. I needed to set up my wine game. It was then that I contacted the good people at Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw): “help!”

Our-certification-menu-logoThe Napa Valley Wine Academy (NVWA) was founded in 2011 by longtime wine industry veterans, R. Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S., F.W.S., I.W.P and Catherine Bugue, D.W.S., IWP. As residents of Northern California wine country, they both perceived a lack of true connection between the schools that offered wine and spirits training and the actual regions about which they taught…and thus a fine beverage academy in the Napa Valley was born!  Featuring industry educational luminaries including Master of Wines Peter Marks and Tim Hanni, as well as Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser; they are truly “one foot in the classroom and the other in the vineyards.” The NVWA has experienced tremendous industry support and strong early success, prompting them to expand to satellite locations around the US in Tampa, Florida and Santa Barbara, CA; as well as online. 

IMG_5975The NVWA instructors are spread across all of the major industry certifications, allowing the Academy to provide a full service range of official beverage certifications, including wine, spirits, saké, and beverage service, and region-specific courses. All courses and examinations are given by the academy itself, making it a one-stop educational experience, unlike many other piecemeal organizations. I have chosen to start my wine and beverage education in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (FB, Tw, YT, NVWA) program, starting with the WSET II Award, courtesy of the NVWA.  More on those adventures later however, as I need to get studying for my first exam! ¡Salud!

#OleWinos Final Day: Tilenus/Estefanía & the little #wine valley that could

IMG_5408The final day of our brilliant #OleWinos trip was spent in a little appellation in the northern part of Spain, tucked in between still snowy mountains (if only we had that snow and rain in California!): DO Bierzo (WL, FB, Tw). Our group was finishing up our stay across Spain, hosted by high end #wine group MGWines Group (WL, FB, Tw), in the small, but lovely & ancient, Roman-era town of Ponferrada.  It was here that we would visit the previously known property of Bodegas Estafanía (WL, FB), now known better by its main label, Tilenus. Named for the Celtic god, later appropriated by the Romans for their own Mars god of war, their label features a Roman coin that was once found in their very old vine vineyards. It is those very vineyards that sparked an image of ancientness themselves in my mind, with their Dantesque vine-hands reaching towards the sky, during our soggy visit to their longtime home.

More details after the leap!

IMG_5428

MGWines Group’s very old vine vineyard in DO Bierzo, part of their Bodegas Estefanía Tilenus estate. #OleWinos

The Bierzo DO is made up of a lot of ancient, family-owned vineyard properties that have a similar Napoleonic inheritance process as Burgundy: each property is split into equal portions following the inheritance of the next generation.  This results in a lot of small vineyards that still sit right next to each other.  As such, MGWines sources fruit from both their own properties, as well as very select, old vine neighboring properties that share some of the same characteristics as their own estate vineyards, such as soil and vine age. Depending on how close you are to the mountains in the Bierzo valley, you will find sandy soil sitting on top of clay or slate.  This has contributed to the lengthy life of these vines, as they have avoided the phylloxera plight of most of European vines, being protected by the mountains and in some cases, sandier soil.  It is quite common to come across a head-trained, gnarly row of dry-farmed vines that were planted 60-110 years ago.  These elderly vines produce a small amount of fruit, but it grows into tight, small berries with plenty of flavor concentration, savory characteristics and deep minerality.  And the vines of Bierzo are almost entirely of one grape: mencía.

Relief of the Roman coin of Bodegas Estefanía & Tilenus. #OleWinos MGWines Group

Relief of the Roman coin of Bodegas Estefanía & Tilenus. #OleWinos MGWines Group

Bodegas Estefanía is yet another beautiful jewel in the stable of MGWines Group.  Originally founded by the local Frias family in 1999 in a former creamery, MGWines Group purchased the property last year and kept on our host, Pablo Frias as General Manager.  Pablo is a stylish and tall Spaniard, dressed comfortably in a semi-hipster fashion, yet still functional for the winery work environment in which he’s developed his career.  He is very well-versed in the property and its wines, and a wonderful, soft-spoken, well-humored ambassador for the brand.

The winery has received extensive restoration and remodeling since its old days as a creamery.  Clean, stylistic wood and concrete modern Spanish design still maintains the painstaking utility to produce minimally-handled fine wines, as seen at all MGWines’ properties.  Gravity flow is enforced here as well, where they also hold onto their wines for 3-4 years before release in their “sleeping room” racked cellar. Once told by the then Bierzo Coop head winemaker that mencía would never make a fine, single varietal wine, Pablo’s father and uncle are now respected leaders of the mencía monovarietal movement that has been taking Bierzo and Scandinavia by storm, not to mention the US if you can find their wines. Twenty wineries in the DO ten years ago have now expanded to 72 wineries, as of March 2015, all focused mainly on mencía and the lone white in the Group, godello.

The #OleWinos Tilenus #wine lineup! MGWines Group

The #OleWinos Tilenus #wine lineup! MGWines Group

Mencía, despite appearances after 4+ years of aging, is an extremely ageable grape variety. Many of the wines that I enjoyed below, as evidenced by the many WKBadges given out, showed color aging as early as the 2011’s.  In some ways they reminded me of garnacha, including it’s medium weight and acidity.  Yet, these wines feature a lot more savory complexity than many garnacha, along with their shared floral notes, and mixed mainly red fruits that complement their good acidity.  Mencía does have a slightly smoother mouthfeel and fuller tannin, however.  Based on our historical tasting of wines from the property, even the Tilenus Bierzo Godello can age well, not just their well-priced mencía varietal wines, at all price categories.  Seek these Tilenus wines, and all Bierzo DO vino, near you, they are worth the affordable price!

IMG_5239 - Version 2A giant thank you goes out to our hosts, MGWines Group and Kraynick Consulting.  You can find all of our #OleWinos content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The photos are posted at the #Vinopanion Facebook page and the wines reviews at WineLog. You can read the MGWines Group blog post about our trip at their site, as well.

Wines tasted during our #OleWinos visit to Bodegas Estafanía Tilenus (WL, FB):

Tilenus Bierzo Godello 2013

Tilenus Bierzo Vendimia Roble Mencia 2014

QPRWK - WKBadgesTilenus Bierzo Crianza Mencia 2011

Color: Dark garnet in the core, with garnet on the edges as well, slight brick.

Nose: Good earthy & meaty nose here, with all dark black fruit and flinty toasted notes.

Palate: Very nice smooth and full mouthfeel here, then cherry liqueur comes in, deep and ripe. Flinty, floral oak comes in towards the good and long finish that is more savory and with finer tannin and great acidity: QPRWK.

Tilenus Bierzo Crianza Mencia 2010

Tilenus Bierzo Crianza Mencia 2008

Tilenus Bierzo La Florida Mencia 2008

KeeperWK - WKBadgesTilenus Bierzo Pagos de Posada Mencia 2006

Color: Darker garnet in the core, garnet edges.

Nose: Big ripe black and red plum, graham cracker, light toast and flinty earth.

Palate: Big mouth here, more coating tannin, then all of that ripe plummy fruit arrives, with more toasted graham into the full, toasted, powerful finish, with more tannin: KeeperWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesTilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia 2006

Color: Very dark rust colored sediment core, rust edges.

Nose: Huge black plum here, with some raisin and mocha aromas.

Palate: Big juicy plum here as well, distinct pencil lead and flinty earth, with cocoa and big tannin structure. Cocoa into finish with some sweeter toast as well. Continues to open with air, and gain forest floor: KeeperWK.

 

#OleWinos: MGWines Group’s Lavia rocks the A+ #wine

We continued our #OleWinos adventure with host MGWines Group (WL, FB, Tw), at their stellar Bodegas Lavia (WL, FB, Tw) #wine estate in the Bullas DO (WL, FB). You might remember that I visited DO Bullas a couple years back during our #Murcia8 journey. It was wonderful to be back and to visit a new part of this small Spanish appellation, the smallest in the Murcia region of Spain.  It is here that MGWines found the latest jewel in their basket of unique, fine wineries across the multitude of Spanish wine regions.  Our host for this trip was again, winemaker Sebastien Boudon.  He splits his time between Sierra Salinas and Lavia, which are about 100 km apart from each other.  The rain and clouds followed us to Lavia as well, but that didn’t stop us from taking in the striking mountainous surroundings of the Lavia estate.

MGWines Group's Bodegas Lavia, in DO Bullas.

MGWines Group’s Bodegas Lavia, in DO Bullas.

As described previously, wines from Bullas are mainly composed of the magnificent monastrell grape and tend to be more elegant, floral and lighter in weight than other wines from its neighboring Murcia DO’s of Yecla and Jumilla.  It is also the highest in elevation of the three and tends to get the most rainfall (though still quite low) and have higher humidity from the surrounding conifer forests, all of which stresses the dry-farmed vines less than neighboring regions.  The green trees and forests of the surrounding mountain peaks are a marked contrast from the drier Alicante appellation that we visited the day before. The soil is characterized by lot of shale rocks and stone, making for a very well-drained mixture and also allows these vines to easily send their roots quite deep in search of water and nutrients, picking up fine minerals along the way.  The estate owns roughly 30 acres of organically grown vines, with 5 of syrah and the rest monastrell. The syrah averages 16 years in age, with the monastrell at 35 years old. They further source fruit from surrounding old vine vineyards, of airén, syrah, macabeo/viura, and 2-3 other foreign grape varieties.

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Thea Dwelle tasting the newest Bodegas Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo with Bodegas Lavia winemaker Sebastien Boudon. MGWines Group

Similar to Sierra Salinas, this winery is also quite the architectural wonder and designed to minimize manual handling of the grapes, juice and wine, allowing gravity to take care of those movements.  The gorgeous modern stone building manages to both shine alone in its surroundings, but also blend in with nearby natural landscape.  Built in 2004, MGWines purchased the property in 2014, which was also Boudon’s first vintage at the estate.  The winery is much larger than their current needs, but they plan to greatly expand production, while still maintaining a boutique, hands-on approach by Boudon and his team.  Wine production currently sits at roughly 4,000 cases, so there is plenty of room to expand, as they continue to identify the best nearby fruit and vineyards.

It is quite clear from our tasting following the estate tour, that they have already found some of the best vineyards in the DO: these were some of my favorite wines from the strong MGWines Group portfolio! It was in the Bodega’s very modern tasting lounge and wine store, which overlooks the rows of old syrah vines and stony soils that surround the winery, that we tasted through the wines of the day.

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The #OleWinos in the Bodegas Lavia public tasting lounge. MGWines Group

We tasted through a number of mainly back vintage wines from the estate, from all three tiers of wines.  The lowest tier, though still with plenty of #QPRWK quality, is the straight Lavia red blend.  Next up is the Lavia+ label, a tighter selection of some of the best lots from each vintage, followed by the flagship Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo.  This single vineyard wine is made only in select years and is 100% estate monastrell.

All of these wines are characterized by balance, acidity, elegance, and in the case of the Paso Malo, restrained power, all of which can age for long time past their stated vintage.  You will find peppery, juicy red fruit in the early vintages, along with only a dusting of toast to balance the medium body and smooth, fine tannins.  With age, savory leather, scorched earth and more black fruit starts to enter the palate and nose.IMG_5280  If you’ve ever read any of my tasting notes in the past, you’ll know that these combos excite my palate in its core.  Please enjoy the tasting notes below and hopefully you too can try these wines in the coming years.  ¡Salud!

IMG_5239 - Version 2A giant thank you goes out to our hosts, MGWines Group and Kraynick Consulting.  You can find all of our #OleWinos content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The photos are posted at the #Vinopanion Facebook page and the wines reviews at WineLog. You can read the MGWines Group blog post about our trip at their site, as well.

Wines tasted during our #OleWinos visit to Bodegas Lavia (WL, FB, Tw):

 

QPRWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Lavia 2010

Color: Medium ruby in the core, light ruby by edges.

Nose: Peppery red cherry berry fruit here, almost of garnacha, with light toast.

Palate: Great medium smooth feel and weight here, juicy and tasty, ripe cherry berry fruit as well, with good blackberry, light tannin, and great acid. Finishes with light toast and unsweetened chocolate: QPRWK.

QPRWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Lavia 2006

Color: Starting to get some brick in the core color, edges are clearer brick red.

Nose: Drier red fruit here, with earthier, fully integrated oak. Some dried leaves here as well.

Palate: Dried, tasty cherry liqueur here in the fore, light dry tannin, juicy acidity, finishes with a bit of chalk, and flint. Good: QPRWK.

OldWorldWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Lavia 2004

Color: Medium to dark garnet in core, more dark brick edges.

Nose: Deeper cool, earthy menthol and anise here, drier black fruit in the nose with cigar and new leather.

Palate: Medium full and very round and smooth palate. Good mix of drier red and black fruit, dry firmer tannin, savory cherry tobacco as well, with good acid. More leathery notes into the finish: OldWorldWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Monastrell Lavia+ 2009

Color: Light to medium ruby in the core, light on edges.

Nose: Brambly and brighter cranberry fruited nose here, then rounder raspberry near the rim with medium toast.

Palate: Good savory mouth at first here, with nougat flavors, but unsweetened, with earth, black fruit, anise, medium fine tannin and good balanced acidity. Good mouthfeel that continues to get smoother and more elegant with additional air: KeeperWK.

Lavia Bullas Monastrell Lavia+ 2006

KeeperWK - WKBadgesLavia Bullas Monastrell Lavia+ Finca Paso Malo 2012

Color: Darker garnet core with violet highlights, violet edges.

Nose: Big red and black plum in the nose with nice violet and rose petal florals. Lurking oak underneath.

Palate: Bigger mouthfeel here and integrating but already nicely smooth and round with very fine tannin, almost feathery. Medium sweet chocolate marzipan as well, with juicy acidity to brighten things up. Still integrating, but will be good in a few years: KeeperWK.