Sep 25, 2016

Vertical_ Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail, a review

Sideways was an over the top, pretty funny lost weekend buddy road trip story, and one that had a significant impact on the wine industry (for better or worse). Rex Pickett’s sequel ‘Vertical' continues a similar type of story but aims higher than it’s predecessor and will have you reflecting on ones own human condition, and in most all ways succeeds, other than it probably will not change the wine industry (a good thing).

Vertical starts of a little like Sideways meets the Hangover. The story goes through basically three stages with a ray of sunshine at the end. A hell of a good time with drunken debauchery and the start of a long road trip which then goes through a period where it spirals into falling apart to a lone dark stretch fighting openly with personal and physical demons to the final destination. The final ray is the reconciliation of mother and son. Touching enough to bring a tear with an emotional rawness that will make some bleed.
Confessing that the book sideways has not been read here but the movie has been seen and often discussed.
Rex Picket uses the first person lens of his alter ego, Miles Raymond and is quite the wordsmith. Another confession... Had to use the word dictionary in the back or the book a few times.

The premise is that Miles wrote a book about the boys weekend in sideways called Shameless and shortly after a movie by the same name makes him a huge celebrity with all the fame and wealth that goes with it. His sidekick Jack has had the reverse fortune and is divorced with a child and on the skids. Both have a serious drinking problem and not in a good way. Miles concocts an idea on how to fulfill his mothers wishes to leave the nursing home and go live with her sister in Wisconsin via the International Pinot Noir Celebration in the Willamette Valley and everyone's favorite two wino's hit the road again. This time its in a handicap van with Miles' disabled elderly mother, her pot smoking nurse, and his moms poorly behaved dog Snapper in tow. Sounds like a bloody good time ay? Well, at times it is, but at other times, well, it is soul searchingly sad.

So off they drive. Passing through Santa Ynez they stop at their old haunts including the now bustling Hitching Post where Miles is treated like a rock star. At every stop the wine and food is comped as vintners thank him for their booming Pinot sales in the wake of ‘Shameless' and even with his invalid mother in tow, Miles and Jack find plenty of star crossed women along the way to satisfy their lust including a couple of Spanish women on a ‘Shameless Tour’ of the Santa Ynes area. Once they discover Miles’ identity they both are more than willing participants in a weekend fling up in Paso Robles. This is the fun part of the journey. It soon turns tense and dysfunctional (OK, more dysfunctional). This is where the story takes on a dark quality that at times is uncomfortable to read.

The last part of the book follows the buggered relationship between Phyllis and Miles as they travel to Wisconsin. This gives ‘Vertical’ a conclusion that may split readers on the satisfaction of how the story comes to it’s end.
For those who are curious there is clearly plenty of room for a third book to be written.

Oh and on the question of whether this book should be made into a movie... Yes! 

Happy Wine Adventures,


Note to reader : The book I am reviewing here is Vertical- Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail--not to be confused with an earlier limited edition run known simply as "Vertical

Sep 11, 2016

Pinot Paradise 2016

A few Saturdays ago, ok quite a few, I attended a Pinot Noir technical session on Santa Cruz Mountains AVA put on by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association.

Putting you on the pathway to Pinot Paradise. Who doesn't love a good Pinot Noir? Well it seems now days Pinot Noir is easy to find and often quite inexpensive but good ones are not as easy to find as one would think so checking out this Pinot centric region was going to be fun.

Pinot Noir Technical Session at Hotel Paradox
Saturday, May 21
John Bargetto acknowledging Ken Burnap 
Learn and discover! This session was from 8:30am to 11:30am and featured an engaging program around geology and soils, regional history and all with a winemaker panel to kick-off regional exploration. During this event as we tasted and talked about an array of Pinot Noirs from the oldest mountain American Viticulture Area (AVA) in the United States. The ticket price was also reasonable $45.

Held at the lovely Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, California in a well sized and comfortable meeting room. The morning started out with the first session being done by area icon and Pinotfile Ken Burnap founder of the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. Ken told the story of how the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA was designed. Ken was a big player in how the AVA came about. He explained how he and David Bennion (co founder of Ridge Vineyards) spent years studying the region and the way the fog would behave creating a defined and predictable pattern.

Next up was the engaging John Bargetto of Bargetto Winery.
Bargetto Winery is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is currently run by the third generation of this family winery. Bargetto Winery, an American story. 

John talked about the Regan Vineyard (pronounced 'Ree gan') that has nearly 40 acres planted to twelve different varietals and clones. A special vineyard that is one of the largest and most diverse in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 
As part of the session we had the opportunity to taste a Pinot Noir from Bargetto and also a Pinot Noir from the Regan vineyards made by MJA Vineyards. This was a very eyeopening tasting as the grapes came from the same vineyard but the wine could have been from different parts of the world. Both lovely tasting wines but bearing no resemblance to each other. One very much an elegant Pinot, the other more robust with heavier mouth feel.

Next up was three tastings from different wineries using the Muns Vineyard. We tasted wines from Muns, Left Bend and Thomas Fogarty Winery's. The Muns Vineyard sits atop the Santga Cruz Mountains facing the Monterey Bay at an elevation of 2600'.

The next tasting of the session was of the Lester Family Vineyards. This gentle sloping vineyards is located in Corralitos where a strong maritime influence provides for long cool maturation time. The wineries we tasted using the Lester Family Vineyards were, Big Basin, Martin Ranch and Sante Arcangeli Family wines.

The final group of wines have grapes sourced from the Coast Grade Vineyards. The Coast Grade Vineyard is located in Bonny Doon and was planted in 2008. Residing at an elevation of 1,238 to 1,350 feet on a southwest facing slope that is also heavily influenced by the Monterey Bay. The wineries we tasted were Beauregard Vineyards, Big Basin Vineyards and Partage Wine Company.

This casual yet informative (and very affordable unlike some other Pinot events) session on the Santa Cruz Mountan AVA and Pinot Noir was a wonderful overview of the region, the grape and the lovely wine that is produced by multiple wineries. The similarities and the differences were interesting and delicious from this interesting region which certainly has its share of good Pinot Noir.

Happy tasting Adventures,