Thursday, December 31, 2015

WA Cabernet Sauvignon v. California

The year is coming to a close and the pro cyclists are starting to announce their race programs for 2016.  Like any other sport, there is plenty of optimism and excitement as a new season begins.

Lucha Vino has caught the fever for a new season too!  The only cure isn't more cowbell.  No, the cure will be found by exploring more wines from around the world in 2016, looking for challengers to Washington State's excellent stable of wine Luchadors. 

As a conclusion to 2015, this installment features Washington and California Cabernet Sauvignon locked up in an epic struggle for supremacy.

2005 Gamache Vintners Reserve Vineyard Select v. 2005 Dehlinger Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Thursday, September 10, 2015

WA Mourvedre v. Bullas Monastrell

The Vuelta Espana is nearing completion and this year's edition has seen plenty of drama as well as a unique route through the Spanish countryside.  The Vuelta always seems to come in third out of the three grand tours (the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia are typically considered #1 and #2 respectively).  That means the Vuelta organizers are always looking for ways to draw more interest to their race.

Oftentimes, that means an unusually high number of mountain top finishes combined with a unique route through Spain.  This year followed the same formula with eight mountain top finishes and a route that started in South West Spain before heading East and North.

The first segment of racing concluded in South Eastern Spain near the Bullas DO wine region.  The pro bike racers are typically on a very strict diet during these three week bike races.  However, with a day off, I'm sure the racers all probably relaxed a bit and enjoyed a glass of Monastrell on their first rest day. 

Monastrell is the Spanish version of Mourvedre.  So, this week's Lucha Vino match up features a Washington Mourvedre taking on a Spanish Monastrell from the Bullas DO.

2013 Kerloo Cellars Mourvedre v. 2009 Bodegas del Rosario Tesoro Monastrell

Friday, August 14, 2015

Washington Syrah v. Hermitage

The 2015 edition of the Tour de France wrapped up two weeks ago.  This year's edition of the race was packed with plenty of action, especially in the final week of the race when le Tour spent 4 days scaling multiple mountains in the French Alps.  The race came to conclusion on the classic climb of l Alpe d'Huez.  Whenever the tour visits this famous climb it is like you went to a party and a bike race broke out.  The hill is covered from top to bottom with manic fans that, literally, arrive weeks ahead of time to stake out their partying and viewing spots.

The final two stages through the Alps (finally) saw Nairo Quintana use his climbing skills to attack the race leader, Chris Froome.  The aggressive riding made for great racing action, unfortunately it was too little, too late.  Froome was able to manage his time losses and still win the overall title by a comfortable margin of one minute and thirty seconds.

Leading up to the final week the tour passed through the Rhone Valley.  I imagine the pro racers and their support crews all enjoyed some Rhone Valley Syrah on their way to the Alps.

This week's Lucha Vino challenge features a Norhtern Rhone style Syrah from McCrea Cellars taking on a French Syrah from le Hermitage.

2006 McCrea Cellars Cuvee Orleans v. 2006 Phillippe & Vincent Jaboulet Nouvelere Crozes-Hermitage

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Washington Chardonnay vs. Chablis

The Tour de France completed its first week of racing this past Sunday.  Normally the first week of a grand tour is relatively straight forward with multiple flat stages that favor the sprinters and a couple of more difficult "hilly" stages for the one day race specialists that are commonly called "roeleurs" or "puncheurs."

This year the first week of racing featured exciting racing every day with the yellow jersey changing hands almost daily.  There were big crashes, exciting finishes and general mayem.  In other words, an absolutely perfect compliment to the Lucha Vino challenge.

The first challenge of this year's le Tour features a Washington Chardonnay taking on a challenger from Chablis.

Cloudlift 2011 Chardonnay v.  Domaine Servin 2013 Les Pargues Chablis

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Washington Nebbiolo vs. Barolo

The Giro d' Italia just completed this past weekend.  This year's route started and finished in Northern Italy with plenty of action in the first and last week of the race.  Alberto Contador took the overall victory after building a lead in the individual time trial and withstanding some fireworks in the final mountain stages.

The Italian favorite, Fabio Aru, finished with style by winning the final two mountain top finishes in the race.  Those were good enough to cement his second place finish and to win the Best Young Rider award.

All the action in Northern Italy spills over into this week's Lucha Vino challenge with a Washington Nebiolo taking on a mighty Barolo challenger.

2012 Cotes de Ciel Nebbiolo v. 2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

WA Walla Walla Cabernet vs. California

The first week of the Giro d' Italia and the Tour of California took place simultaneously during the second week of May.  The races were physically separated by thousands of miles.  Yet, both featured similar high intensity racing.

Many racers commented that the first week of racing in this year's Giro was the hardest ever.  No more showing up and racing into top form during the first week.  This year the top riders were doing battle from the very first day.

Meanwhile, over in California the racers were locked in a series of stages featuring long breakaways and intense bunch sprint finishes.  Mark Cavendish dominated the sprints taking 4 victories out of the 8 stages.

This week's Lucha Vino matchup features a battle royale of Cabernet heavyweights from Washington and California.

2011 Laurelhurst Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon v. 2011 Kokomo Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cider Madness!

March has to be one of the best months for sports on the calendar.  The Belgian one day classic bike races are going full bore, optimism abounds with Major League Baseball's Spring Training and, perhaps best of all, the NCAA Basketball tournament brings Madness to the forefront for three thrilling weeks!

I got into the March Madness spirit with my own version of the Final Four: Cider Madness.  Washington Cider vs. Oregon Cider in a thrilling new take on brackets and bracket busters.

The Lucha Vino Cider Madness Final Four featured cider from Alter Ego, Swift and Hard Row to Hoe.

Alter Ego and Hard Row to Hoe ciders are made by two excellent Northwest Winemakers, Anne Hubatch of Helioterra and Judy Phelps of, well, Hard Row to Hoe!

This final four turned into quite the knock down, drag out, no holds barred battle royale...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Coloring Outside the Lines at the Seattle Wine & Food Experience

If you are careful, and stay inside the lines, you will color a pretty picture.  That is what my Mom used to tell me when I was a kid.  Straying outside the lines used to mean you were sloppy and lacked coloring skills.  Now, as a grown up, coloring outside the lines has become a metaphor for creativity, innovation and making new discoveries.

I took my sloppy coloring skills to the SWFE  at the end of February and had a blast.  This was my first year attending and I can say with confidence that I will be back again next year.  The event was a delight for all your senses and I put mine to the test sampling food and wine pairings that attempted to break out of the “that’s the way we always do it” mold.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Washington Sangiovese v. Tuscany

The pro race season kicked into high gear with the Strade Bianchi last Saturday.  Even though it is a relatively new race on the calendar, the Strade Bianchi has already become a favorite.  And, really, who could resist racing your bike through Tuscany's vineyards?  I would be tempted to stop along the way for a sample.  Or two...

The race features 10 sections of white dirt roads (the Strade Bianchi) over the course of 200 kilometers concluding in Sienna with a short, wicked, up hill finish.  This year featured sunny skies and dry weather.  The scenery was stunning, just like the wines from the Tuscany region of Italy.  The race was stunning as well with an exciting finish featuring three men that got away from a small bunch of riders late in the race.

This is one of my favorite races of the year.  It marks the beginning of the one day classics racing season.  It features great style (what else could you expect from Italy?), beautiful rolling terrain, vineyards and Tuscan villages.  It is also a great opportunity for the Lucha Vino challenge to explore the excellent Italian wines of Tuscany.

Making the 2015 edition of the race even better is the return of Eight Bells Sangiovese to defend the title it won last year.

Eight Bells 2012 Sangiovese v. Ruffino 2011 Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico

Tale of the Tape

 Eight Bells 2012 Sangiovese

100% Sangiovese from the Red Willow vineyard located in the Yakima Valley AVA

Provided as a sample by the winery and available at retail for $20.

Ruffino 2011 Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico

80% Sangiovese. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon make up the remaining 20%

Aged for 24 months in Oak, Stainless and Concrete vats with an additional 3 months in bottle.

Provided as a sample for a recent Virtual Snooth Tasting.  This wine is available for $24 at retail.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Ruffino certainly has a style and swagger to it right from the start!  Unbeknownst to the officials, this Italian luchador snuck some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon into the ring.  The nose is earthy with hints of cedar and light red berry notes that remind me of huckleberries and strawberries.  The palate is dry and herbal showing dried strawberry, rose petals with nice acidity and a slightly spicy finish.  

Eight Bells is taking the battle straight at the Tuscan challenger.  The nose features dried cherries, flowers and light herbal notes along with some citrus spices.  The palate doubles down on the dried cherries and throws in some herbal menthol spice notes for good measure.  The finish grabs your attention with light spices and a great streak of acidity.

Ruffino takes the first round.  The additional aging (and Merlot/Cab in the blend) made the difference in this early round.

Round 2.  One hour later

The Ruffino Chianti Classico appears to be getting a bit over confident, playing to the crowd and not paying close attention to the Eight Bells Champion.  The nose is getting richer with shades of cherry, raspberry and dusty tobacco spices.  The palate is similar with dried herbal spice notes that carry over to the finish.

The Eight Bells Champion is not going down without a fight.  The champion drops into the ring from the top rope with a devastating flying body slam that takes the overconfident Ruffino luchador by complete surprise!  The nose is continuing to develop with notes of herbal citrus and dried flowers followed by cherry and  light cedar spices.  The palate is showing dried tart cherries and rose petals, cedar spices and firm acidity that all carry over to the finish.

Eight Bells takes round two.

Round 3.  One day later

This is it.  The match is all tied up and it looks like the Eight Bells Champion is prepared to go the distance.  Let's see what the Tuscan challenger has in store.

The Ruffino luchador is showing some good stamina.  The nose shows herbal, slightly earthy dried cherries and a touch of cedar spices.  The palate continues to display dried cherries and sweet tobacco leaf spices that are complimented by a finish that concludes with tart, spicy tobacco leaf notes.

Eight Bells is switching things up.  You can never underestimate the heart of a champion.  The nose is getting darker with funky, earthy aromas, cherries and light earthy herbal spices.  The palate shows cherries, dried herbs and light white pepper that repeats on a dry finish.

Eight Bells proves to be a worthy champion, taking round 3 and the the match with a 2-1 final score.

Wrap up and overall observations.

This was a great matchup.  Both of these wines are great values in the $20-$25 range.  If you can find them, I would highly recommend picking up a bottle (or two or three).

Both wines showed great acidity through all three rounds and would be a great companion to a number of different dishes.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Washington Monastrell v. Jumilla

The racing action is heating up in Southern Spain - in the Murcia area to be exact.  This is where you will find the Jumilla DO, which is dominated by the Monastrell grape.

Two one day races took place this past weekend in the area surrounding Jumilla.  The Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia and the Classica de Almeria.  Both races provide high energy racing and a good opportunity for the sprinters to stretch their legs.  And that is exactly what Mark Cavendish did at the Classica de Almeria.  He racked up his 124th career victory sprinting over the finish line after avoiding a late race crash.

This week's matchup features a Washington Monastrell taking on Jumilla.

2011 Idilico Monastrell vs. 2012 Juan Gil Monastrell

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Washington Syrah v. Barossa Shiraz

The Tour Down Under is another top level Southern Hemisphere bike race the pros like to use for early season racing.  It gives them a chance to stretch their legs and relax with a Fosters (or two).  The pros with bigger contracts might spend more of their time tasting the wines of Australia culminating with The Grange from Penfolds.

Most of the pro racers head to Australia for the warm weather and casual early season racing.  The race is well organized and offers an opportunity to visit a part of the world that doesn't host many top level races.  The Australian pros always show up in top form ready to battle it out for the overall victory.  This year was no exception with Rohan Denis taking the overall victory.

Speaking of battling and victory, this week's challenge features an Australian Shiraz from John Duval -  the Penfolds' Grange master himself - taking on a unique Washington Syrah from Owen Roe.

2011 Owen Roe Ex Umbris v. 2012 John Duval Entity

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Washington Malbec v. Mendoza

Let's kickoff the new year in Argentina.  Those are the words you are likely to hear from a wine drinker that favors Malbec.  Those are also the words you are likely to hear from many professional road cyclists at this time of year.

One of the first popular stage races of the year takes place in Argentina.  The warmer weather makes it a great place for the pros to start their race schedule as they build toward their season's major race objectives that will take place in Italy, France or Spain.

The Tour de San Luis gives the riders a chance to knock the rust off and begin to put some race miles into their legs.  It also gives us a great chance to see how Washington Malbec stacks up against Argentinian Malbec.

Argentina has become the new home of Malbec ever since France dropped Malbec like a bike racer that just failed their latest out of competition drug test.

On to our first Lucha Vino challenge of the new year.  Where, neither of the combatants have failed a drug test (at least as far as we know...).

2008 Nota Bena Malbec vs. 2010 Achaval Ferrer Mendoza Malbec