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Intoxicating Ruminations v2: "Old #Wine, Old Friends!"

Intoxicating Ruminations v2: "Old #Wine, Old Friends!"

Cameron Porter  , Advanced Sommelier Winemaker, Amplify Wines

Cameron Porter, Advanced Sommelier Winemaker, Amplify Wines

“Hey man, how's it going.”  I looked at the text.  I hadn't heard from him in over a year.  We hadn't seen one another in person in longer than that, yet any time we talked it was like we picked up right where we had left off.  Never any awkwardness, just bull sessions about the usual stuff- family, women, new albums.  This time was no different; 2 hours later, we were still reminiscing, shooting stupid memes from Instagram back-and-forth, and generally acting like the dumb teenagers we were when we met.  It's rare to find a friend who understands you so thoroughly, who you connect with in a way that's timeless.

Finding a wine that connects with us in this way is equally difficult.  Much of the joy in being a wine lover comes from discovery, the excitement of “what's next?!?”  Yet certain producers, for whatever reason, possess a spirit that we want to return to over and over again.  It's highly subjective and deeply personal.  Like that old friend, we can go years without experiencing the wine, but when we do revisit it, it's equally stirring.

I had the privilege of being reminded of this fact recently when I was lucky enough to taste the 1993 “La Migoua” bottling from Domaine Tempier.  The iconic producer of Bandol, I first tasted Tempier about nine years ago when I worked at a wine shop in LA.  I was only 22, and this Mourvedre-dominated vineyard struck a chord with me- animal, sanguine, tannins like the texture of burlap, it recalled the hometown I'd recently left in its evocation of Santa Maria BBQ and my grandpa's venison- and a whole new world was opened.  Since that first taste I've followed the wines off and on, and every bottle has consistently delivered that same joy.

1993 “La Migoua” bottling from Domaine Tempier

It had probably been a good two years since I last had a Tempier, and probably three since I'd had the “La Migoua.”  With one whiff, I was transported; I was back to being in my early 20s, at that LA wine shop, a snotty kid who thought he knew something.  Further back in time, I was driving down Broadway, smelling trip-tip on red oak, salt air from the ocean nearby.  The wine was amazing as ever; grilled game and dried fruits, a kiss of smoky earth, perfectly refined tannins.  This was a bottle at its apex, and a perfect example of why Tempier is so special.  

With age, it had changed, and I connected with it in a different way; it lost the vibrancy of youth, sure, but it was possessed of more meaning, more depth, in its maturity.  It made me think about that old friend.  As we've matured, our conversations run more and more to career and family.  We still talk about a lot of the same dumb male nonsense, but those topics are surrounded by questions with real meaning, honest appraisals of hopes dashed and dreams deferred, and talk of the future.  There are few people in our lives that we can share these things with; if we're lucky we find a few.  

After I experienced that bottle of Tempier, with all these thoughts racing through my mind, I decided to take a walk.  I had Madvillainy on the headphones, a true hip-hop masterpiece that my buddy and I used to geek out on in college.  I caught a brilliant MF Doom line that I'd never noticed before, cracking up to myself; I had to call him up.  “Hey man, how's it going...”

Want to share that moment when wine, friends, and music took you back in time? Download the VAULT29 app, post your experience and use the hashtag #IntoxicatingRuminations!

Wine, Music, and the Element of Surprise

Wine, Music, and the Element of Surprise

Cameron Porter , Advanced Sommelier Winemaker, Amplify Wines

Cameron Porter, Advanced Sommelier Winemaker, Amplify Wines

Nothing excites me more than a new idea.  The rush of a fresh experience, and the new memory it creates, is something I value above any material possession.  As we get older, more experienced with a subject, and grow inevitably more jaded, it can be harder to find these experiences, particularly when it comes to our passions.  When it comes to my life’s great passions, wine and music, I readily admit to feeling this “everything’s been done before” cynicism.  So even though it doesn’t happen with the frequency it did when I was a novice, when a bottle of wine or an album surprises me, I am moved to a much greater depth. 

The most recent occurrence of this pleasant surprise was a pairing in which both elements married the cutting edge and the traditional: Jamie xx’s “Gosh” and Fred Brander’s 2014 Kick-On Ranch Riesling.  In both cases, there is a link to the familiar acting as an anchor:  “Gosh” begins with links to UK Garage and grime, short repetitive loops clicking into place; Brander’s Riesling has aromatic signifiers that, at first whiff, recall top sites in Germany’s Mosel.  This element of familiarity beckons you in, grounding the wave of euphoric surprise soon to wash across your body and send you spinning from the earth.

Jamie xx "Gosh" - 

In the case of Jamie xx, it is a squelching, neon-orange synthesizer that comes out of nowhere almost 3 minutes into the 5-minute song, dancing across the brooding track.  In a flash, the grime of “Gosh” is saturated with this unbearably joyous, warbling moment, suffusing the digital with an unexpected level of humanity and excitement.  I’ve listened to “Gosh” probably 50 times in the past week, and that moment never loses its element of surprise; goosebumps are guaranteed every time.

With Brander’s Riesling from Los Alamos’ Kick On Ranch Vineyard, the surprise comes when it hits the palate.  Those familiar Mosel-inspired aromatics give way to singularly Kick-On, and singularly Brander, flavors that explode in the mouth.  Images of cherries or juniper share equal mental space with watching fireworks burst for the first time as a kid, or the popsicle-asphalt-watermelon scent of summer BBQs in the local park.  Intensely sweet and rich, yet also bracingly acidic, it manages the delicate balancing act that only the world’s greatest Rieslings can.  For this to be coming out of the western reaches of Santa Barbara County is a surprise, nay shock, that moves me in a profound way. 

My wife recently gave birth to our first child; as new experiences go, there is nothing on this earth that comes close to the euphoric moment of bringing new life into the world.  The level of love I feel for this delicate little being is unlike anything I’ve experienced, and every day my jadedness melts away a little more.  Perhaps it’s because, seeing the world through his new eyes, the element of surprise has returned to everything: the first whiff of his grandmother’s mole negro slowly cooking on the stove; hearing the opening notes of Kind of Blue as we rock him to sleep.  Wine is having its own return to this childlike sense of wonder and surprise, as winemakers experiment with a new varietal palette, new techniques in the vineyard and winery, and a new mental approach to what wine can be.  It is these wines that excite me, and I will be sharing and exploring them with you through VAULT29 in the coming months.  Stay curious…