12 Things You May Not Know About Wine

Here's 12 interesting facts about wine you may not have known. I came across some of these nuggets in the past online, but was recently trying to figure out how many fluid ounces there were in a bottle of wine. Hope you find them helpful.

Grappe Grenache
Grappe Grenache

How much wine is in a bottle? Generally a bottle of wine measures the liquid in milliliters, with 750 ml being the standard amount in most bottles (or about 25 fluid ounces).

How many grapes does it take to make your average bottle of wine? It takes about 2 ½ pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine.

How many bottles of wine does it take to make create a case of wine? 12

How many gallons of wine are produced from one acre of grapevines? About 800

Where does the vanilla flavor in wine come from?If newer oak barrels were used in the winemaking process, the wines will often have a hint of vanilla in both the aroma and flavor.

When was the corkscrew designed? Mid-1800’s.

How many varieties of wine grapes exist in the world today? Over 10,000!

How many gallons of wine does California produce annually? Over 17 million gallons

How many calories are in a four ounce glass of red wine Approximately 85

How many gallons of wine are in a single barrel? 60

How many grapevines generally make up an acre? 400

When did winemaking begin? The Mesopotamians were credited with producing the first wines in 6000 B.C.

Mike Tyson in a Wine Glass

Just look at this video. It's like watching Discovery channel where the wolf hunts the rabbit in slow motion, and when the wolf catches the rabbit it punches the rabbit with a devastating upper cut. Watching Mike Tyson was a rare sight. Power, finesse and raw aggression all at the same time. Sometimes I feel like my palate is on the receiving end of a spring loaded brick in a boxing glove when I drink Petit Sirah.

Petit Sirah looks like motor oil when it sits in your wine glass. Good Lord just look at it! It's as black as Mike Tyson's boxing shorts. Even around the rim, Petit Sirah is dark as night. When you drink it, your tongue is like the other boxer in the ring and the wine is Mike Tyson. Bam! Down for the count.

There's never been a 100-point Petit Sirah. Why is that? Do wine critics even rate this grape? You don't see collectors lining up to add cult Petit Sirah's to their cellar do you? No and No. This isn't a grape you'd normally lay down for a couple of years and then pull out to impress someone. There's no track record I know of showing benefits of long term aging.

So why do we drink it? Better yet, why spend $75 a bottle on the stuff? Why do dumb asses get in the ring with Mike Tyson? Maybe we're gluttons for punishment, or maybe there's actually some okay wine out there that's enjoyable to drink. I'll take the latter, especially now that it's BBQ season. When all my friends are opening Zinfandel for summer grilling, I'm opening Petit Sirah.  You can serve it with most grilled foods like burgers, succulent ribs and of course your favorite cut of beef.  Petit Sirah is at its best when it's big and bold, yet silky and sweet.  This is a wine that loves to be paired with meat.

Petit Sirah is neither petite nor is it Syrah.  The grapes might be small when they are picked, but that's about the only thing "petite" about the wine.  The short history of Petit Sirah is that it's basically the French varietal, Durif.  Durif is the love child of Syrah and Peloursin much like Cabernet Sauvignon is the love child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.  The varietal was created in the 1880's at the University of Montpellier in France where a grape breeder named Durif was trying to capture certain characteristics of both varieties.  What we now have today is a wine that is full throttle, dark and inky and a mystery shrouded in black-as-night opaqueness.

A few gems I like to bust open when there's a brontosaurus burger on the grill:


2007 Girard Petite Sirah, Napa Valley - Melt licorice like a candle, add some cassis and sprinkle in some stewed plums, melted chocolate and North Carolina tobacco and you have a wine that's just begging for some BBQ ribs.  The thing is, Petit Sirah is pretty sweet and jammy.  That's why you want to add some heat to your meat.  Season up those ribs or favorite steak.

It's a good value from a good producer and a good year.  Because 2007 was such a big year for red wines in Napa, you'll want to either let this behemoth breathe or use some sort of aerator like the Wine Soiree doo-hickey that'll take some of the sting off that uppercut.




2005 Quixote Petit Sirah, Napa Valley - Way back when Robert Mondavi was just a kid starting out (okay, over 50 yr old man) he used to buy grapes from a man named Carl Doumani, original founder of the Stag's Leap Winery.  That was decades before Carl sold Stag's Leap to Beringer, and even then he had visions of something grand.  That vision was realized when Quixote opened its doors in 2001.

Doumani's love of architecture is apparent in the winery building and on the label.  That art represents the complex tension between elements in the winery's flagship wine.  Quixote makes only one wine, and its a doozy.  Blackberry jam in a glass with a texture that's as smooth as a baby's butt awaits you.  Impeccable intensity and purity of fruit, layered with subtle vanilla blackberry pie notes lull you into a trace just like Mike Tyson bouncing around the ring.  Then BAM!  You get hit by a freight train.  It's Mike Tyson in a glass.



2005 Carver Sutro Petit Sirah, Napa - Lots of dark black brooding fruits integrated with vanilla oak and above average tannins.  It's an extracted wine.  It's Mike Tyson in a glass wearing black silk boxing shorts.  It'll require some cellar time, but when opened it'll take you for a ride.  Winemaker, Gary Brookman dry farms the vineyards in Napa Valley stressing the vines so they give him pristine fruit.  What I love about the wine is notes of pencil lead and some wet dark colored soil as if you were hiking through Muir Woods and stopped to pick up a handful of earth.





The mystery of Petit Sirah is still unraveling and I invite you all to share you favorite Petit Sirah or Durif wines in the comments below.  I'm always on the lookout.  And let me know if this becomes your BBQ wine of choice.


Rick's Pick: 2007 Domaine Carneros Avant Garde Pinot Noir

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Finding a good QPR (quality price ratio) Pinot Noir can be a bit tricky.  Pinot is such a temperamental grape—when it's off, it's not very good but when it's good it's magic in a bottle.  Perhaps more than any grape, Pinot Noir expresses it's place or terroir more than just about any grape.  And it does so pretty dramatically.

Because of how temperamental it is, Pinot Noir is all over the place in terms of quality (read: how much you like drinking it).  The grape requires more work in the vineyard and in the winery, which ultimately affects price.  You don't see many $10 Pinots for a reason.  It's not like Chardonnay, Cabernet or Merlot where you can produce the wine more cheaply.  With that said, when you find a Pinot Noir for about twenty bucks that blows your socks off, it's something special.

When I tried the 2007 Domaine Carneros Avant-Garde Pinot for the first time at the winery I said, "@#%! how much is this????"  I had to do a double take to look at the price tag.  This wine is a Rick's Pick for a few reasons:

1. 2007 is a stellar vintage in California, especially in the Napa area.  Most wineries has great fruit to work with, which is 75% of what determines quality.

2. Domaine Carneros produces exceptional sparkling wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  They don't work with many grapes, but luckily Pinot Noir is one of them.

3. Carneros is known for having a great climate for growing grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Carneros is located at the south end of Napa Valley.  Most wine drinkers may not realize how close Carneros is to the bay.  It butts up against the San Pablo bay, which in turn brings cold air off the water over the grapes.  Pinot Noir loves cold air.

4. Domaine Carneros is a fabulous winery, and one of the few wine clubs we belong to.  They are owned by the Tattinger Champagne house in France, so their approach to wine making is exceptional.  I've yet to find a wine of their that wasn't made with precision and quality.

5. The X-Factor I talked about in my 7 Things About Wine post mentions an element you can't quite describe.  A Pinot Noir of this caliber normally goes for $50 easy.  Considering the fact the Avant Garde goes for less than $25 we buy it in bunches.

Get your hands on a bottle and get some in your glass.  Swirl it around and let the fresh aromatics of strawberry, dark raspberries and black cherries take over your senses.  There's a delicate choreography of spicy vibrancy that unfolds across your palate like two dancers on Dancing with the Stars.  It's surprisingly complex and well balanced with just the right amount of funky earthiness and a kiss of oak, letting the fruit show through.  Well done!

7 Things to Look for in Wine

Here's the qualities I look for when evaluating a wine:

Balance - Like a good movie, a good wine has tension between the elements.  When the components have equal tension between opposing forces it creates more drama, which means more interesting stories to tell.

Precision - When you look through binoculars you have to adjust the dials to bring things into focus.  How well did the winemaker bring the wine into focus?  How well is the grape representing typicity for where it was grown?

Distinction - What gives the wine it's personality?  For example, a Burgundy is a thing that has a familiar distinction.

Complexity - How does the wine unfold on your palate?

Length - Here's a word you often hear associated with "finish".  What is the wine's volume of impact?  If its length were a graph how would it look?  How long would it take for the wine to fade away from your taste buds?

X-Factor - Here's where the winemaker adds their personality.  If the wine were a dancer, how would its choreography appear on your palate?  Is it a black swan or a white swan?

Sense of Place - A wine should express its sense of place and connect you with it.  A Pinot Noir from Oregon will express sense of place differently than a Pinot Noir from France.  How well does the wine do it?

What do you look for in a wine?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

1998 Tahbilk Shiraz, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria Australia

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Australian Shiraz went through a wild ride a few years ago thanks in part to colorful labels and inexpensive, fruit forward jammy wines.  In recent years Spain, Chile and Argentina have been capturing the attention of wine drinkers in the U.S. using a similar approach—affordable wines that are ready to drink now.  It seems Australian wines have been left behind.

Australia is not a one trick pony, however.  Sure, Shiraz drove exports to the U.S. for years but Australia has so much more to offer, and it's still affordable.  Take this Shiraz from Tahbilk for example.  Located in Nagambie deep in the heart of Victoria, Tahbilk is known for making lean European style reds and claims to have the largest Marsanne planting in the world.  In 2010, Tahbilk celebrated 150 years of wine making.

For about $15-20 you can get a bottle of Tahbilk Shiraz, but what you'd really be getting is something that resembles a "baby Grange" kind of wine.  Baby Grange is the name often given to Penfold's Bin 389 in part because some of the same barrels are used on legendary Grange and Bin 389.  Penfold's Grange is one of the most iconic wines of Australia resembling more of a First Growth than a standard Shiraz.  What makes Grange so good is the style in which it's made.  It actually needs time to come together, but when it does you get many of the leather shoe notes found in Bordeaux rather than Shiraz.

The 1998 Tahbilk Shiraz was showing off some old leather shoe and cedar notes without being "hot" or too jammy.  Tahbilk makes a decidedly more European style of wine that's not what Australian Shiraz is known for.  With 12 years of age, this baby is right in its drinking window, and it's got a few years of life ahead.

Rick's Pick: 2005 Maison Bouachon Gigondas Duc de Montfort

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The Rhone Valley has two part: the Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone.  Northern Rhone is known for 100% Syrah or Viognier wines whereas the Southern Rhone is known for Grenache based blends.  Gigondas is an area within Southern Rhone, which means the wines are predominantly Grenache blends, but have a unique characteristic all their own.  The 2005 Duc de Montfort from Maison Bouachon is a great example of typicity.


Color: Clear Brightness: Star Bright Red Color: Ruby Rim Variation: Pink representing a few years of age Viscosity: Medium Plus with minor tear staining



Condition: Clean Intensity: Medium Plus Aroma: Youthful Fruit: Black Cherry, Red Cherry, Plum Earth: None detected Other: Violets, Cola, Leather



Sweetness: Dry Body: Medium Fruit: Black Cherry, Red Cherry Earth: None Detected Alcohol: Medium Acidity: Medium Plus Complexity: Medium Plus Finish: Medium Plus

Black fruits and red fruits come together one one of my favorite wine regions.  Gigondas is like the little brother to Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a little bit of Rosé production, but dominated by red wine.  Gigondas has a Mediterranean climate, unlike Northern Rhone, which has more of a continental climate.  The main geographical identifier of Gigondas is the Dentelles de Montmirail, which is a small mountain range dividing the region into two areas.  One area is hotter, while the other is cooler.

I found the 2005 to have just the right amount of age (although it'll get better).  Food pairings with this wine can be fairly easy—tonight we opted for grilled pork tenderloin with balsamic fig reduction sauce, and it was off the hook!  Let me know your suggestions in the comments below.


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Hard to believe how fast a year went by...  On August 1st of last year the Bakas family moved west to pursue a dream.

In the past twelve months I've had the privilege of meeting so many people across the country and share great wine.  Many of the people I've met are on this list you can 1-click follow on Twitter.

I've cooked up a deal for online friends to get the wine I'm going to celebrate with.  The newly released 2006 Napa Valley Merlot goes for $28/btl at the winery but on Thursday and Friday you can get it for about $16/btl including upgraded shipping!  Orders are in full cases (12 btls) only.

Here's the link to get the Merlot Use coupon code ONE YEAR when checking out to get the FED EX priority overnight shipping included at no charge.  When the order is filled and it ships out, it'll get to you the next morning.  Enjoy!

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#WorldCupWine Tasting Notes: 2005 Pago de Larrainzar from Spain

Pago de Larrainzar is a family owned estate winery from Navarra, Spain.

The wine presents an attractive and deep cherry-red color. On the nose, you will distinguish an intense aroma of mature fruit, compote, well assembled with notes of a well-aged wine in high quality barrels. This gives way to hints of minerals, pepper and coffee. On the palate, the taste is flavorful, very mature, appetizing and fruity. It is well structured and has a long finish. Merlot (45%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Tempranillo (15%).

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