Thursday, November 13, 2014

Washington Merlot Maniacs

The pro cyclist's road race season has ended and now cyclocross is where the action is.  The change in season signals a change in the Lucha Vino Challenges.  The spotlight will start shining on wines from non-cycling regions as well as some interesting intrastate challenges.  This week's matchup had its origins rooted in October, AKA Merlot Month.

Merlot dominant blends from Washington battle it out in the inaugural Merlot Maniacs challenge.  It's Walla Walla vs. a Red Mountain / Horse Heaven Hills / Yakima Valley Tag Team in a no holds barred Washington State Merlot fueled feud!

Kontos Cellars 2008 Alatus v. Nota Bene Cellars 2008 Miscela

Friday, October 3, 2014

Washington Albarino v. Rias Baixas

Spain has seen plenty of race action over the past 5 weeks.

First there was the Vuelta Espana, Spain's grand tour always seems to take a back seat to the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.  For that reason the Vuelta's organizers are always looking for new, and challenging, routes.  They changed things up this year by finishing with an Individual Time Trial in the Rias Baixas region rather than the usual flat, fast run into Madrid.  The finish might have been unusual, but the winner was certainly familiar - Alberto Contador recovered from breaking a bone in his leg in July to take the Vuelta victory in September.

Next came the World Championships that just wrapped up this past weekend.  There were some great races and another well known, yet unexpected, rider took the Gold Medal in the Men's Time Trial.  Brad Wiggins has had an wild ride the past three years, starting with a win of the Tour de France, followed by a falling out with his team and then culminating with the Gold medal last week.  Throw in a relatively unknown rider from Poland winning the Men's Road Race and Marian Vos' not winning the Women's World Championship road races and you have the recipe for an exciting week of racing!

In a salute to Northern Spain this week's matchup features an Albarino from Washington taking on a Rias Baixas Albarino.

Aniche Cellars 2013 Come and Go Albarino v. Paco & Lola Albarino

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Washington Tinto v. Rioja

The Vuelta Espana packed plenty of action into the past three weeks.  There wasn't a whole lot of drama or suspense once Quintana crashed his TT bike and Contador took the lead, but there was still plenty of exciting racing.

The Spaniards really seemed to be motivated for a good showing in their home race.  Alejandro Valverde, Joaquin Rodriguez and Alberto Contador were consistently at the front of the pack when the roads turned steep.

The Vuelta Espana is known for its strenuous mountain stages and mountain top finishes.  This edition stayed true to form and included some mountainess terain in Northern Spain passing by the Rioja wine region.  This week's matchup pays tribute to the mountains of Northern Spain and the racers that ride their bikes up these mountains like they have wings (or tiny hidden electric motors on their bikes).

This matchup features a Washington Tinto taking on a traditional red blend from Rioja.

2009 Pomum Tinto v. 2009 Bodegas las Cepas Cinco Denarios

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WA Wine Month Syrah Slugfest

August is Washington Wine Month and I've got the fever!  The only cure is more Washington wine...

This week's matchup features two Washington State Syrahs that are eager to duke it out for state supremacy.

In the blue corner representing the Walla Walla AVA is the Balboa 2009 Syrah

And in the red corner representing the Royale Slope is the Southard 2009 Syrah

Monday, August 4, 2014

Washington Merlot v. St. Emillion

The latest edition of the Tour de France finished up during the last weekend of July.  This year's tour was light on drama in the context of overall victory - Vincenzo Nibali established a lead in the first week of the race and never let go.  Well, he did give up the Yellow Jersey on Bastille Day "as a gift to the French" according to his team's Director Sportif, Alexander Vinokourov.

The race itself was still interesting as the route traced its way through the Alpes and the Pyrenese mountain ranges.  This year the race spent a considerable amount of time traversing the South of France and through the Pyrenese where the final mountain top finish was waiting for the racers.  Once the Hautacam was conquered all that stood in the way of the Paris finish was a sprinter's stage and long (54 km) Time Trial.

The Time Trial started in Bergerac and finished in Periguex, slightly East of the Bordeaux wine region.  That is close enough to Bordeaux to earn top billing on this week's Lucha Vino challenge.

2009 Alexandria Nicole Gravity Merlot v. 2009 Chateau Lyonnat Lussac St. Emilion

The French had their best Tour de France finish in almost 20 years placing two riders on the podium in second and third place.  Can the Ch. Lyonnat follow up that performance with a victory in this week's challenge.  Let's find out...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WA Claret v. Bordeaux

The 2014 edition of the Tour de France kicked off this past weekend in Yorkshire with the first three stages of the race all taking place in Great Britain.

The Brits like to call wine from Bordeaux a "Claret."  To honor the start of le Tour and British style the Lucha Vino challenge features a Claret from Medoc and a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend from Washington.

2008 OS Winery BSH v. 2008 Chateau D'Escot Medoc

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Washington GSM v. Cotes du Rhone

The Criterium du Dauphine' is one of the final tune up stage races as the pros get ready for the Tour de France.  The Dauphine' is great training because it follows many of the routes used on the le Tour.  The stages in the week long race will also often mimic stages the riders will experience in July.  In the past several years the winner of the Dauphine' has gone on to win the Tour de France.

This year's edition of the race rolls through the Rhone Valley and through Provence before heading back for a couple of mountainous stages to wrap things up with a bang.  The race featured the top contenders for the Tour de France.  Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are expected to be the top three riders battling for the crown in July.  They did not disappoint in this year's Dauphine with numerous attacks and spirited uphill skirmishes.

In the end, Andrew Talansky took the overall victory.  Nobody saw that coming.  Well, maybe the Garmin Director Sportif, Jonathan Vaughters saw it.  But he would have been the only one outside the Garmin team.  Talansky took the (well earned) overall victory on the final stage of the race.

This week's Lucha Vino matchup takes a trip to the south of France with a tour de force through the Cotes du Rhone AOC.

2008 Brian Carter Byzance v. 2011 Alain Jaume & Fils Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champouvins

Saturday, May 31, 2014

WA Nebbiolo v. Barbaresco

Last week featured an Italian wine lover's dream stage in the Giro d'Italia.  A point to point time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo.  Are you kidding me?  You would have to time me with a calendar if I was doing THAT time trial!

Of course, the pros are paid to race their bikes so there is no time for hanging out and drinking the excellent Northern Italian wines made from the Nebbiolo grapes available in these two areas within the Piemonte region.

My friend, and occasional Lucha Vino contributor, Richard Foxall hit me up to see if I might want to include a feature on Peimonte wines since he happened to be in the region.  That question lead to the first truly international Lucha Vino challenge.  Richard provides the tasting notes and commentary for the Barbaresco challenger and I provide the counter attack from the Washington Nebbiolo representative.

Cana's Feast 2008 Nebbiolo v. Rivella Serafino  di Rivella Teobaldo Barbaresco Montestefano 2008 

Friday, May 23, 2014

WA Sangiovese v. Chianti Classico

After a few days in Ireland the pro cyclists boarded several airplanes to fly to the far South of Italy to start the Giro d'Italia properly last week.  They followed a route that went Southwest and then made a hard right turn and started North.  The route covered a variety of DOCs that feature the Sangiovese grape.  The route also featured a high number of crashes and top rider casualties.  This year's race has been a bit weird...

This week's Lucha Vino challenge pays tribute to Italy's grand grape, Sangiovese.

2011 Kaella Sangiovese v. 1995 Fattoria de Falsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva

Thursday, May 8, 2014

WA Barbera v. Lombardia

The Giro d'Italia kicks off on May 9th in Belfast.  Wait. What?!  Belfast?  You might be saying "I don't remember an Italian town named Belfast!"  You would be correct.  This year's race starts off with three stages in Ireland before the racers transfer to Southern Italy.

Like many of the pros, I was hanging out last week putting the finishing touches on my form for the big race.  I chose to hang out in Northern Italy.  In Lombardia to be exact, a wine region just across the border from the Tour du Romandie, a major Tour de France tune up race held in Switzerland.  Did you know that Switzerland only exports 2% of their wines?  Its true.  One more reason I was hanging out in Lombardia...

This week's challenge features a Barbera from the Oltrepo Pavese DOC taking on a Washington State Barbera from the Yakima Valley.

2011 Cantina di Casteggio Bronis Barbera v. 2008 Cavatappi Barbera

Thursday, April 24, 2014

WA Malbec v. Argentina

Last Thursday was World Malbec Day.  It was also a day when the pro cyclists were resting their legs and getting ready for Amstel Gold, the first hilly Spring Classic.  If you look at the profile of this race in the Ardennes region you might think you were looking at a well used comb!  This race had over 20 climbs.  Each one has a name and a certain character.  Most are short, with at least one brutally steep section.  For example, the Keutenberg has sections with grades of 20%

The three one day races that make up the Ardennes Classics are often a war of attrition with the winner typically making a powerful move on one of the final climbs.  This year's Amstel Gold followed the formula and former World Champion Phillipe Gilbert made the winning move on the final ascent of the Cauberg to take his third Amstel Gold victory.

There aren't many wines being made in the Ardennes region of Belgium.  So, this week the Lucha Vino challenge features two Malbecs battling it out in honor of World Malbec Day.

Olsen Estates 2009 Malbec v. Bodega Goulart Clasico 2011 Malbec

Monday, April 14, 2014

Washington Red v. California Red

This is an awesome time of year for bike racing with the Spring Classics.  From a wine perspective, things are not so awesome.  You see, most of the Spring Classics are one day races that happen in Belgium.  If you were doing beer comparisons you would be in heaven.  Over here at the Lucha Vino ranch we're doing wine comparisons so I have to search a bit more to pick my opponents.

This past week the Redland Classic stage race took place in California.  This is a great race for the domestic US racers and gave me a good opportunity to do a Washington v. California matchup.

2007 Robert Foley The Griffin v. 2008 Seven Hills Ciel du Cheval

These two wines have similar percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The California red blends in Petit Sirah while the Washington red brings Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to the party.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Washington Grenache v. Priorat

The stage racers spent a week in North Eastern Spain racing the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya last week.  You would think that Spain is a nice sunny place to visit this time of year.  The weather might be sunny in the Southern or central parts of the country, but Catalunya was not so nice.  The province is hilly and mountainous with heights reaching elevations of 2200 meters.

The race was one for the climbers.  Catalunya's own Joaquin Rodriguez (el Purito) won the overall general classification with Alberto Cantador coming in 2nd four seconds behind and America's TJ Van Garderen was third three more seconds back.  TJ is a bright young star and this finish shows that he is working his way toward a fine showing in some of this season's bigger races.

The Lucha Vino challenge features a blend of Carignan, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon from Priorat taking on a Washington State Grenache.

2011 Syncline Grenache v. 2005 Lipscom & Tobella Priorat Mosaic

Friday, March 21, 2014

Washington GSM Blend v. Chateauneuf du Pape

The Pro Cyclists just completed Paris-Nice, also known as the The Race to the Sun.  This traditional early season race starts in Paris and heads South to Nice.  The finish is in the coastal town of Nice (Duh! It is right there in the name of the race).

The final stage of the race was won by Arthur Vichot, the French National Champion.  A great finish that is sure to give a boost to French national pride.

The race touched down near Chateauneuf du Pape for the start of the sixth stage of the race.  That seems like a good enough reason to feature a Washington Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend taking on a Chateauneuf du Pape challenger.

2008 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend v. 2010 Domaine du Pere Pape CdP la Crau de Ma Mere

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Washington Sangiovese v. Chianti Classico

In the immortal words of George Castanza... "I'm back baby!"  I have been on a bit of a hiatus from wine writing the past 6 months.  Now that I have completed my Executive Leadership Program at Seattle University it is time to get back to the wine business.

March is a great time to return too.  It is Washington Wine Month AND one of the most stylish one day races takes place in Tuscany during the first weeks of March.  The Strade Bianche covers nearly 200 kilometers that include 10 sections of white dirt and gravel roads.  The strade bianche cover 54 of the 200 kilometers and make for some interesting racing.

This week's Lucha Vino matchup honors Italian bike racing flare with a classic Yakima Valley Sangiovese from Eight Bells winery taking on an old Chianti Classico from Tuscany.

2010 Eight Bells Sangiovese v. 2009 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Washington Mystery Syrah Match

Love him, or hate him, one thing is for sure, Jon Rimmerman has created a cult-like online wine buying experience with his Garagiste website and "exclusive" email list.  Once you subscribe to the Garagiste email list you will begin receiving some of the most over the top wine missives you have ever read.  If you are anything like me, you will find these offers hard to resist.  Then, one day you will wake up with a cellar full of French wines that all taste like you are licking minerals from rocks strewn on a pathway running with streamlettes of acid rain.

If that isn't enough to make you question your will power, Rimmerman introduced his Mystery Wine series a few years back.  I repeatedly confirm P.T. Barnum's observation that there is a sucker born every minute by succumbing to far too many Mystery Wine offers that appear in my inbox.  Luckily, I have probably enjoyed about a 90% success rate with my Mystery Wine purchases.  The 10% failures?  They are failure like you could never imagine!  Search for Garagiste Mystery Wine on Google and you will see what I mean about failure, love and most of all hate.

This week's matchup features two Washington Syrahs that were Garagiste Mystery Wines.  Both of these wines fall into my mystery wine addiction success bucket.  They are also excellent Washington Wine representatives for this month's Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.  The Drunken Cyclist won last month's challenge and earned the honor of picking this month's theme - Mystery.

On to the matchup!