Off to MoCool!
If you're anywhere within range of the Ann Arbor and suburban Detroit region in southern Michigan this weekend, that buzzing and clinking noise you hear may be the sound of a couple of hundred wine lovers from all over the world congregating for "MoCool," the world's oldest and largest gathering of Internet wine enthusiasts.
MoCool, short for "MoTown Offline Cooperative," is a non-profit and non-commercial event, organized at the dawn of the Internet age in 1992 by a volunteer group of online wine lovers. It's a non-snobby, cooperative, affordable weekend when cyberwine fans get together to enjoy wine, food, and each other's company.
Every year's event features a different wine theme, and this time it's "California Dreaming," with the focus on the wines of California. I'll be there for the entire weekend, with a few good bottles of California wine in tow.
Even if you've procrastinated, there's still time to sign on for some of the events. The Friday dinner is filled, but there's still plenty of room at the centerpiece event of the weekend, a giant picnic with gourmet-style fare and literally hundreds of bring-your-own California wines to share. There also may still be one or two seats left at Sunday's spectacular brunch, featuring rare "vertical" tastings of two California classics, Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon and Ridge Monte Bello.
Since I'll be on my way to Ann Arbor, THERE WILL BE NO WINE ADVISOR ON FRIDAY. We'll be back with the regular edition on Monday.
More on white blends
We've been celebrating wines that blend more than one variety of white grapes this month in our online Wine Tasting 101 program, taking the point of view that with white wines - as with reds - it's often possible to achieve complexity and balance with combinations of varieties that can't always be accomplished in single-varietal wines.
Some of the first-rate blends that I've tried during the month - including the La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc reviewed Friday and the excellent Leeuwin Estate Margaret River "Siblings" Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon reviewed Aug. 4 - have given credibility to this argument.
But in our Wine Tasting 101 discussions, some of my wine-tasting pals point out that blending alone doesn't guarantee exceptional wine. Sampling an insipid example from California, veteran wine taster Jenise Stone said, "... made me realize the extent to which one tastes, searches mentally for recognition, and then begins the process of breaking down the taste and comparing it to other prior experiences. When the wine's a heavily malo-ed blend of three familiar varieties ... the result could be aptly called Ambiguous California White Wine. And there's nothing interesting/involving intellectually about that. You taste it, find out what it is, then tell your brain to go find something else to do. ... boredom sets in."
She's right, of course, although I was quick to point out the obvious response: There's plenty of boredom to be found in similarly manipulated industrial-style single-varietal wines.
Happily, neither of the white blends featured today - one from California and another from Australia's exciting Margaret River - remotely qualifies as "boring."
Pine Ridge 2002 California Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($14.99)
The wine's color is light, a clear straw color with a faint greenish hue, but its scent is ripe and forward, fresh appley fruit with delicate floral overtones. Its flavor is bright and full too, a bowl of apples, pears and juicy melons with a whiff of wildflowers to add aromatic complexity, with an undertone of fresh-fruit acidity, sufficient for balance, gaining presence in the finish. It would be tough to play "name the variety" with this wine, but the Viognier shows its presence with characteristic floral notes even though it makes up only 20 percent of the blend. (Aug. 19, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A first-rate match with thick pork chops (sauteed with onions and garlic).
VALUE: Appropriate value in the mid-teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: Enjoyable now, but likely worth cellaring, as Chenin Blanc is one of the most ageworthy white varieties.
WEB LINK: You'll find the winery Website at
Brookland Valley 2002 "Verse 1" Margaret River Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
This wine from Western Australia, with both varieties in equal proportions, shows a very pale greenish-straw color in the glass. Its fresh, herbal scent blends aromatic mint with a tart citric squirt of lime juice. Full and round flavors follow the nose, good clean limey fruit and a hint of earthy green olive. Lovely texture, rich and smooth, with cleansing acidity in the finish. U.S. importer: International Cellars, Gonzales, Calif. (Aug. 13, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a hearty peasant dish of new potatoes and Italian sausages pan-roasted with green peppers and onions.
VALUE: Reasonable price for a complex, balanced and interesting white.
WHEN TO DRINK: Texture and balance will hold it for a while, but I don't see it evolving significantly with cellar time.
WEB LINK: To view a fact sheet on this wine, click to the winery Website,
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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2003