Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How many hours does it take to visit a wine region?

I'm feeling a little guilty today because, like a Republican congressman, all I said yesterday was "No."

In two weeks I'm heading to Valencia, Spain as a judge for this year's Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Europe's leading wine competition. It's always exciting to taste at an event like this that's open to wines from throughout the world -- that's the best way to discover great new things happening in countries you weren't paying enough attention to.

As at most competitions, you taste wine in the morning and sleep it off -- er, engage in activities -- in the afternoon.

On the first afternoon, there's a tour organized to the nearby Utiel-Requena wine region. I'm not very familiar with the wines, most of which are made from a grape, Bobal, that's hardly used at all outside the region. So naturally I'm curious.

So why did I say "no"? Because like the S.S. Minnow, it's a Three Hour Tour.

That's too short and too long at the same time. It's too long because, selfishly, I know I'll be tired after flying in from California the night before and tasting wine all morning. That said, sometimes you have to drink a lot of cafe cortado and suck it up.

The larger problem is that it's too short. You figure that from any city to the closest vineyards has to be an hour in the van each way. That leaves only one hour to view the region. What can you see in an hour? If you had one hour in Napa Valley, how would you spend it? (Don't say at the basement bar at Martini House.) More importantly, would it give you any feeling for what the region is like?

Think about it: If you had one hour to show a guest something about your favorite wine region, what would you show them? Would you drive up Spring Mountain or up to Rockpile? Maybe the restored winery at Ruby Hill? Would you spend 20 minutes tasting wine?

My dream hour would be spent one-on-one chatting with one interesting winemaker, because it takes at least that long to get to know anyone. But how likely is that on the S.S. Minnow?

Yet I feel guilty. My dreams will be haunted by untasted Utiel-Requena wines -- and an empty van seat -- for the next couple of weeks.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

O.K. -- so tell me, maestro:

How would you recommend a wine novice who has a week or so and wants a fer real down-home experience spend her time? She has a rental car and petrol.

She wants something like the King's BBQ experience tour of Sonoma/Napa :)