WBW 63: Finding my muse in a bottle of 1990 Mas La Plana

It seemed like an easy theme, what Rob Bralow proposed for Wine Blogging Wednesday. Find your Muse. That’s easy, here it is:

There, done. And there’s plenty of other songs from that band available on the Internet.

Oh, wait. That’s not what he meant?

All right. Enough with the silly musical asides. But it is a wicked, inspiring song, isn’t it?

But then again, I’m not sure I’m going to rush to listen to that song again in 15, 20 years.

Whereas I can easily see myself inspired, 15 years from now, to go down to the cellar and grab a bottle of Mas La Plana, the 100% cabernet sauvignon, single vineyard cuvée from an old Torres family vineyard in Penedes. Because every time I’ve had that wine, I’ve found something bright, expressive, significant about it, whether I was tasting it young or old.

Last year, I posted about tasting a 1988 I’d pulled out of the cellar for my father’s birthday (and reminisced about the 1981 I’d had a few years before, a wine that was still remarkably fresh at 20 years of age).

A couple of weeks ago, I tasted a 1999 Mas La Plana with a tasting group, in a horizontal tasting of the 99 vintage. It was one of the stars of the evening, with its intense, focused, open aromas and flavors: cherry danish, spice, a touch of coffee and a beautiful finish that went on and on and on. It fared a lot better than the 1999 Le Pigeonnier, a “super” Cahors designed by Michel Rolland for Domaine Lagrézette’s Alain-Dominique Perrin, a superlative cuvée that was actually a very stupid wine: all wood, rough tannins sticking to your teeth, barely any fruit, overextracted, overdone in every way. No muse came over that wine, no divine inspiration, for sure.

But that didn’t stop Robert Parker from being suckered into calling this overblown thing ” the finest wine I have tasted from Cahors. (…) Made from extraordinarily small yields of 18-20 hectoliters per hectare, it is aged for 24-30 months in 100% new French oak, and bottled without filtration. The wine is produced under the guidance of famed oenologist Michel Rolland. A fine wine, an inky/purple-colored offering with tremendous intensity as well as an extraordinary nose of blackberries, cassis, licorice, and smoke. Extremely full-bodied, with low acidity and sweet tannin…” The type of wine that looks good early on, but is all steroid, looking worse and worse as it deflates over time.

No such problem with the more restrained, but always elegant Mas La Plana. The 1990 we opened today didn’t quite have the intensity of the 1999, but it had enough stuffing left to make a good pairing with skirt steak and caramelized onions deglazed with Pedro Ximenez sherry – a tasty, intense dish, to say the least. After showing mostly cedar, right after opening, the nose opened up to freshly cooked jam (not unlike the cherry danish of the 1999, come to think of it), with a bit of spice and a fair bit of mushroom, forest floor character. Not very big on the mouthfeel, but still long and, again, solid enough to be a great match with steak. A firm hand in a silk glove.

Beyond these prosaic tasting notes, is there some poetry to be waxed out of this wine I particularly love? Well, let’s see…

Mas La Plana, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Gave thee drinkability,

that serves meals so pleasantly;

Gave thee layers of delight;

Softest cherry, flavors bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making the tastebuds rejoice?

Mas La Plana, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Mas La Plana, I’ll tell thee,

Mas La Plana, I’ll tell thee:

He is called Miguel Torres,

And he can make a mean wine

That is intense,  and also mild;

He became a rich man.

In la tierra catalan,

And the world knows his name.

Mas La Plana, I’ll drink thee!

Miguel Torres, I thank thee!

(With a toast to William Blake, and a nod to Randall Grahm, master of the wine-poetic parody)

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Blog rankings: what a Wine Blogging Wednesday can do for your blog.

I got contacted, last week, by the folks at information portal Wikio, asking me if I wanted to have a chance to post an exclusive preview of the new rankings for top food and wine blogs compiled at the end of March. I’d come up over 30 spots since the previous rankings, they said, so they figured I would probably be happy to toot my horn a bit.

Sure, I said, why not, all the while keeping in mind the limitations in blog rankings that others have previously pointed to. Now, technical issues kept me from getting the rankings in time to write my “exclusive” post on time, and now the new rankings are out for March, and I’ve gone up from 111th rank in January to 61st in February to a smashing 27th place in late March.

Woohoo, right? Weeeeellll…

The key things you have to keep in mind about this ranking are that, first, it works on an opt-in basis (The Pour, Vinography, Fermentation and many other popular blogs are not in the list because they haven’t linked up to Wikio) and that, second, it works on the basis of links, rather than traffic per se. “The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs.”, it says at the bottom of the page, adding that how recent these links are is also a factor.

Now, what did I do in February and March? I hosted the 55th Wine Blogging Wednesday, on a theme called North vs South. This collective wine tasting event is very popular, meaning that several wine bloggers always relay what the new theme is, and that the dozens who actually take part then link to your blog as they post their contribution on the theme in question. So that makes for a lot of links over these last two months, for me.

Same kind of thing happened to David McDuff, who hosted WBW 54, about Piedmont, and whose blog climbed all the way up to 12th place before falling back a bit to 19th place last month. I expect to start slipping back down next month. No regrets or surprises: it’s perfectly normal that less people will link to my blog next month, compared to the central blogging event that is Wine Blogging Wednesday. WBW brought me a lot of traffic, and I’ll only keep part of it on a recurring basis, as is always the case when something makes your traffic stats spike suddenly.

So what does that do for me? Well, judging from my stats, it has brought me some extra traffic. So thanks, Wikio. But am I the 27th most read and most important blog on the Internet? No way. I just had a really good couple of months, thanks to the WBW.

The sweeter side of things: check out The Tawny Times

While I’m waiting for the latecomers to Wine Blogging Wednesday 55 to send in their posts, so I can prepare my round-up, I rummaged through my tasting notes from the Salon des vins de Québec, and decided to put a bit of them online… on another blog.

But Rémy, you may ask, don’t you have enough already with The Wine Case and that French blog of yours? In fact, yes, but when you get a really sweet offer…

The sweet offer in question (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South, just across the Loire

The North vs South theme I proposed for Wine Blogging Wednesday provides bloggers with certain guidelines (use the same grapes, so you can compare), but also with a lot of leeway. Thousands of miles of leeway, really.

If you wanted, you could pick similar wines from the other side of the world. The antipodes, really. Spanish vs New Zealand pinot noir. Or Finger Lakes vs Australian riesling. That’s as far apart as it gets.

I wanted to raise the challenge for myself (more…)

WBW 55 Trial Run: North vs South in Radio-Coteau pinots

Periodically, I’m grabbed by the urge to pull a bottle out of the cellar, unplanned and by itself, not for a meal or special occasion. That’s how I wound up pulling out a 2005 Savoy pinot noir by Radio-Coteau, Eric Sussman‘s winemaking operation in Forestville, California.

Sussman, who started Radio-Coteau in 2002, learned the trade in Washington State before heading to Bordeaux and especially to Burgundy in the mid-1990s. After four years at Dehlinger, he started collecting 90+ scores from just about every wine writer of influence. Descriptions got me so excited that I even ordered a case for myself all the way out to Quebec. A costly proposition, just counting the import taxes. But it was worth it, especially for the La Neblina, which remains one of the finest, most subtle and well-focused California  pinots I’ve had.

Beyond providing a satisfying drink, the Savoy, sourced from a vineyard in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, also provided a clear example of what I’m aiming for with the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South.

The Neblina and the Savoy I’ve had are two wines from the same vintage, same variety and the same producer, the only difference being vineyard location – and perhaps the farming practices in each vineyard – single vineyard for the Savoy, two different ones for the Neblina, one in Annapolis, and the other one along Gravenstein Highway, west of Sebastopol.

A quick look at a map (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #52: an inexpensive organic red from Chile

When I heard about the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday number 52, Value Reds From Chile, proposed by Tim of the Cheap Wine Ratings blog, I knew that it was right up my alley. After all, for Wine Blogging Wednesday #48, when Lenn Thompson asked us to go back to our roots, to the first wines we liked to drink, I went straight back to Chilean cabernets.

And since, as far as I’m concerned, the most interesting ones are generally under 20$ (or only a little above that), it wasn’t too difficult to follow Tim’s lead and stay under the 20$ line.

But beyond the price, I thought I’d try (more…)

WBW 51: Madeiration in all things (Henriques and Henriques 1995 Single Vintage)

I really have to thank Joe Roberts, aka 1WineDude, for proposing this baked goods theme, about wines that have gone through the test of time and heat, and have only become all the better for it. Because when I tasted the Henriques & Henriques 1995 Single Harvest Madeira I chose for this edition of the Wine Blogging Wednesdays, I could only think: “Wow. Why don’t I drink this kind of stuff more often.”

It’s true that the idea of “baked goods” and oxydative wines go well beyond madeira itself – the vin jaune of the Jura region of France, sherries of Spain, old cuvées of some muscats of southern France… – but madeira is what I was really looking forward to taste, this time.

Just the caramel/copper color of this teenage wine is enough to get you daydreaming. And then (more…)

The Wine Case at 100

As I was checking out my blog stats, this week, on the WordPress dashboard, a number caught my attention. A round number. 100, to be precise.

That’s the number of posts that have come online on The Wine Case blog since I put it online a little over a year ago – on July 10, 2007, to be precise. By an interesting coincidence, my French-language blog, À chacun sa bouteille, also reached the 100-post mark the same week, meaning I’ve posted 200 articles and notes on wine, in both languages, over the last year, at a steady clip of almost four a week . Since I have a full-time job and a family, it must mean I like doing this stuff pretty much.

Between all the tasting notes, news items, reports and reflections, I’ve had a great time discovering the online wine world, from the serious forums at the Open Wine Consortium to the fun of Twittering with fellow bloggers to the collective online tastings known as the Wine Blogging Wednesdays. And I’ll be glad to meet with some of the wine blogging community at the Wine Blogging Conference taking place in the Sonoma region in late October.

As I put up this 101st post, I’m feeling pretty good. Readership is growing at over 10% a month, on average, as dozens of visitors are turning into hundreds a week. Which means I’m not rambling on just to myself. Phew.

So cheers to everyone, on this fun little milestone. See you on the next post.

Wine Blogging Wednesday (aargh… Thursday, again) #45: Old World Riesling

I like riesling more than I think I do.

What I mean to say is that as I pondered the theme of the May Wine Blogging Wednesday and tried to choose an Old World riesling for this contribution, I kept thinking about the many ways in which I’d enjoyed it, just over the last few months: alsatian Léon Beyer riesling by the glass in two restaurants (dry, mineral and yet nicely aromatic and expressive), a 2002 Grittermatte riesling from Domaine Julien Meyer (a touch oxydized, yet clean, well-rounded and complex), a 2000 riesling from Ontario’s Hernder Estate Winery, a bottle of Mort’s Block from Kilikanoon, a Grant Burge riesling, a Mount Cass slightly botrytized riesling from New Zealand (see my French-language review here) , and so on. The variety in acidity, mineral character, floral and (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday (Thursday?) #44: Chinon Thélème 2003, Alain Lorieux

So here I am, this morning, recovering from my shift at the paper last night, deciding to hop on the Wine Blogging Wednesday bandwagon, for edition number 44, and I check out when in April it’s going to take place, and when I look at Gary Vay-Ner-Chuck’s Wine Library to get details, I find out that it’s supposed to be done on April 2nd. Oh Great. I’m late and I haven’t even started.

But hey, the theme was irresistible: French cabernet franc, which I’ve always loved. So I just flew to my neighborhood SAQ store and immediately looked for (more…)