When I'm not leading the Rebellion you can find me at home making bite sized Admiral Ackbar's snack bars. They make a great finger food to serve as guests are coming out of hyperdrive and docking at your ship. I like to serve them with Rylothian Yurp so you won't get too filled up but will enjoy spice on spice action.Read More
Here's your chance to step with pep into any social setting and drop some wine knowledge like an old school beat. No one likes the snooty know-it-all wine snob in the room, but you can still impress the pants of people by knowing how to taste wine like a sommelier. As a side note, the real wine experts like Master Sommeliers are usually not the snooty know-it-all types in the room. Actual wine experts know wine is about people—people who make the wine, and people who drink the wine.
The goal is to enhance your enjoyment of wine for the rest of your life and be able to know if a wine is good or not. How do you know that? One way is to know how accurately the wine shows typicity. In other words, does it taste like the grape should and does it taste like it should considering where it was grown. You might know that as terroir.
An accurate representation of the grape variety from the place its grown is a good wine. A shitty wine is one that sort of resembles the grape, but the winemaker had to do so much stuff to it that it has no sense of place, or that it taste like a generic grape that could've been grown anywhere. A Chardonnay from Burgundy, France comes across differently than a Chardonnay from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
The real pimp way to earn respect is to know it, but don't show it. Here's some some ideas on how to go through a wine and identify important "markers":
Roll the wine in the glass
Don't swirl the shit out of it. Gently roll it in the glass. You want to release the aromas in the wine, not break the sound barrier with how fast the wine is being swirled. You can accomplish the same thing by rolling it and not pulling 3 G's like you're in a blender. Look at how the wine drips down the side of the glass. That gives you an idea of how high in alcohol the wine might be.
Look at the color
Color tells you some key things about the wine. Color tips you off to the age of the wine, which is handy to know. Young white wines have a slight greenish tint to them. Older white wines start to get a brownish tint to them. Red wines, as they age will fade in color around the rim of the glass. You can tell an older wine because the rim is sort of orange colored. Younger wines will have more opaque pink eraser color closer to the edge. Try to narrow down to a window of 1-3 years old, 4-7 years old or older.
If you're not sure where to start, just stare at the wine and wonder if there's going to be an NFL season or not then move onto the next step.
Smell the wine
Here's where you start to piece things together. A sommelier, and cool people who read this blog post start to paint a picture that help to identify the wine. First, are there any faults in the wine like being corked (smells like Grandpa's basement), Brett or volatile acidity for example. Is the wine "clean"?
Next, roll it in the glass then shove your nose in there. First impression time—do you smell red fruits or black fruits in red wine? For white wine, do you smell tree fruit or stone fruit? This is what separates real wine experts from everyone. Sommeliers can name specific fruit in the wine. It's not just green apple, it's granny smith green apple. It's not just cherry, it's dried bing cherry.
You want to look for 3 things: fruits, earthiness and wood. Try to name the fruits you smell and be specific. For earthiness, do you smell moss? wet soil? manure? Even chalkiness can be a smell that is "earthy". And for wood, do you smell vanilla? How about baking spices? If not, maybe it's an unoaked wine.
Being able to identify the fruit is one of the most important steps to blindly identifying the wine. Most wines have distinct fruit associated with the grape. For example, Grüner Veltliner has distinct notes of white pepper. Sauvignon Blanc has telltale grapefruit on the nose. Chalkiness is an important one that we'll get to next.
Here's a handy chart that shows what aromas go with with which wine grape.
Taste the Wine
Don't do what what you did in college and shotgun the wine. I mean, you can and I won't judge you but you'll miss out on the beautiful expression of the grape. If you're drinking a wine cooler, stop reading this blog and go to funnyordie.com. Your bong is calling your name.
When you taste the wine, go through the same thing as smelling. Identify fruit, earth and wood. Try to name specific fruits you taste. For red wines really hone in on whether it's red fruit or black fruit. For earthiness, there's something cool known as chalkiness. It literally is like a chalk texture. That's important, because it helps you know the wine grapes were grown in chalky soils like limestone. Limestone is only in certain places in the world. Your brain can narrow down the wine to one of those areas such as France's Loire valley.
The real big thing to look for when tasting is whether the wine is fruit driven or acid driven. Generally speaking, fruit forward wines are "new world" and acid driven wines come from the "old world". Fruit driven wines are just that, wine driven by sweet fruit. Acidity is something you hear about, but what is it? Your palate detects acidity on the roof of your mouth in the back. If that part of your mouth is all tingly, the wine has high acidity. During blind tastings, wine tasters want to know if the wine is old world or new world so they can narrow down on where it comes from. Old world wines come from France, Germany, Italy and other places in Europe. New world wines come from Australia, USA, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, etc..
Neither is better, just different strokes for different folks. It also helps when trying to decide if the wine has typicity and tastes like where it came from.
Last thing on taste is the tannins and finish. Tannins dry your mouth out like when you drink tea or eat paint chips, which is what I did as a kid. Finish is that lingering taste in your mouth after you've swallowed the wine or spit it out. Can you still taste it 30 seconds after it's gone? That's the finish. How are the tannins, complexity and finish of the wine?
If you were being tested, you would be asked to combine all that stuff (color, age, nose, fruit, earth, wood, finish, etc..) and name the grape varietal and where it came from. All the data would help narrow down what it is. But for you, you can just have a look at the wine and appreciate all that went into making it. Over time you might come to appreciate new things in wine like chalky textures in Sancerre Sauvignon Blancs or make more educated buying decisions. Or if you go to someone's house and they open some sick bottle from their cellar you'll appreciate the gesture.
Who knows, if you're like me knowing stuff about wine might inspire you to be a better cook and understand how to pair flavors together.
There's no wrong way to enjoy wine. Ultimately, it's about enjoying it with or without other people. What you like is all that really matters. There's close to 12,000 wineries in the world and many are making decent juice. Lately, I'm all about finding the best bottle under $15. Hope this helps. Please let me know about your wine discoveries on the path of life.
Pairing Local is all about finding localized wine+food pairings in each region of the world. In this episode I visit Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander in Yarra Valley, Australia and meet a man who knows something about how your palate works. Winemaker, cheese maker and trained chef, Steve Flamsteed took time out of harvest to create pairings that feature the best of what Yarra Valley has to offer.
The first pairing was King Fish in a soy broth paired with Giant Steps Chardonnay, and the second pairing baby chicken with Pinot Noir. It goes to show Mother Nature gives us everything we need to eat and drink well in many regions around the world.
WINES TASTED IN THIS EPISODE:
2008 Giant Steps Chardonnay - Yarra Valley is a place where top notch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flows like a river. Giant Steps has a unique production facility tucked neatly into into a building that features a bakery, restaurant, wine shop and wood fired pizza ovens. You could spend a week in there and be perfectly happy.
In the glass, this beauty shows candied meyer lemon peel, hawaiian pineapple, yellow carnations and baked bread. There's slight hints of toffee suggesting a deft balance of oak integration married with bright acidity. Yarra Valley is cold enough to give the wine the acidity it needs. It worked with the local king fish because the acidity cuts through the fattier fish, then compliments it with a backbone of minerals aka mild wet rocks (which sound weird but you want that), meyer lemon, honeydew, pineapple, marmalade and other tropical fruits. A ying to the yang of the soy broth on the fish.
2008 Giant Steps Pinot Noir - Australia makes some damn good Pinot Noir. Many wine lovers in the states may not realize it's not all about Shiraz and Cabernet. The Yarra Valley reminds me quite a bit of my beloved Willamette Valley in Oregon. The lush, rolling green hillsides are dotted with green grass and groves of big, bushy trees. It's farmland, and it's cooler than the Barossa or McLaren Vale.
Beautiful aromas of dark cherries, roadside raspberries and rose petals drift out of the glass. You can smell the wine even as it's sitting on the table in front of you. I also found some faint tertiary notes of asian spices. Like many Yarra Pinots there was a light body style, but focused intensity with soft, rose petal texture like cashmere. I liked the almost-chocolate-covered black cherry and RC cola notes, combined with raspberry tart, anise and smoky minerals. The Sexton vineyard fruit provided a fun experience and an exotic, sassy Pinot that paired nicely with the grilled chicken. But the secret to making this dish work was the onion cooked in stock for added complexity and savoriness.
. . Pairing Local is all about finding localized wine+food pairings. I love seeing how chefs marry local ingredients with local wines or beers. Mother nature creates natural pairings for us in each region where wine is grown by providing foods that naturally match the style of wines. German wines happen to go with German food. If you're in Vancouver, Canada where dungeness crab is plentiful, it just happens to go with Sauvignon Blanc from the Okanagan Valley. Argentina has some of the best beef in the world, and just happens to grow great Malbec.
In this episode I had a chance to visit d'Arenberg winery in McLaren Vale, Australia where Chef Peter Reschke (co-head chef with Nigel Rich) sourced local lamb and paired it with Grenache. When you think about McLaren Vale you might think Shiraz, but I really fell in love with the Grenache. Some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world can be found in Australia about two hours north in a little region called the Barossa. Grenache doesn't get much love as a grape, but when you get a good one, it can provide exceptional range in food pairings.
Mother nature blessed these guys with the gift of great lamb, as well as great old vine Grenache. Lamb can be prepared in a way that makes it both savory, yet delicate. Over the years I've really come to appreciate good quality lamb if it's raised right and comes from the right region. Chef Peter Reschke created three lamb dishes specifically to bring out the delicate, yet powerful notes of old vine Grenache and used herbs from their own herb garden at the winery.
WINE TASTED IN THIS EPISODE:
d'Arenberg is a well known Aussie winery in the states for wines like The Hermit Crab, Dead Arm and The Stump Jump. One wine you might not know or appreciate is the 2007 Custodian Grenache which is foot trodden and aged on lees to keep the flavor fresh and bright.
Distinct black cherries, stewed plums, dark red fruits and raspberries (almost blackberries) complimented by tobacco, earth and spice box surround the fine grained tannins. In other words, it was rich and robust without being hot or overpowering, yet smooth as a baby's butt. The reason it works is this Grenache has medium weight, yet great depth and complexity. If Grenache was a musician, it would be in a cool ass jazz trio with Syrah and Mourvedre. The three of them are hip and stylish on their own, but when they come together, they create magic.
Lamb can be a wonderful protein if seasoned correctly. Mutton might not be the way to go, but the three ways chef Peter Reschke prepared lamb not only showed off what this region has to offer, but how versatile lamb can be.
Matching wine with food means combining elements with similar levels of intensity. All three lamb creations, along with the wine had similar weight or intensity of flavor. Add in the complimentary dark fruit with key seasonings and you have another great localized pairing. For about $20 you can't go wrong. I'd highly recommend picking up a bottle. Thank you to the chefs at D'arrys Verandah.
During a recent visit to the Yarra Valley, I had a chance to sit down with one of the most iconic people in the global wine industry. James Halliday AM is a living legend, famous wine writer, winery founder and recent recipient of Australia's highest honor. Mr. Halliday and I had the chance to discuss new media and how it fits into our world of wine. .
As one of the founders of Brokenwood in the Lower Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, and thereafter founder of Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, James is an unmatched authority on every aspect of the wine industry, from the planting and pruning of vines through to the creation and marketing of the finished product. His winemaking has led him to sojourns in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and he is constantly in demand as a wine judge in Australia and overseas.
James has contributed to more than 56 books on wine since he began writing in 1979. His books have been translated into Japanese, French, German, Danish and Icelandic, and have been published in the UK, the US and Australia. He is also the author of James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia and The Australian Wine Encyclopedia.
to be continued in part 2...
. . Here's a wine+food pairing from Bergstrom's wine club. In my recent shipment they included this recipe, and being the pork lover that I am, I thought it would be good to share with all my readers.
Fruit Stuffed Pork Loin Roast
INGREDIENTS 4 lbs boneless pork loin roast prepared for stuffing 1 cup pitted, chopped prunes 1 cup dried, chopped apricots 1 clove garlic 8 TBSP butter 1 TBSP dried thyme 1 cup Madeira 1 TBSP molasses Salt and Pepper to taste . 1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees 2. Mix prunes and apricots, roll up in cavity of pork loin and secure with twine 3. Cut garlic clove into thin sliver, make slits in roast with tip of knife and push garlic into slits 4. Rub the roast with the softened butter then sprinkle with salt & pepper and thyme 5. Set the roast in a shallow pan, mix the Madeira and molasses, then pour over roast 6. Set the roast on the middle rack of the oven and bake 1-1/2 hours or approximately 20 min per pound. Baste frequently. Roast will be medium when the temperature is 160° degrees 7. When roast is done, remove from oven and cover with an aluminum foil tent for 15 min 8. Slice thin and spoon pan juices over slices. Garnish with watercress if desired.
GARLIC SCALLOPED POTATOES
3 lbs yellow potatoes peeled and sliced thin 2 cloves of garlic 6 TBSP butter 3 cups heavy cream Salt and Pepper to taste . 1. Cut garlic and rub over the survace of a shallow casserole dish 2. Layer potatoes with dots of butter & cream. You can also add caramelized sweet onions to layering if desired 3. Bake slowly at 325° degrees for approximately 1-1/2 hours. It's important to cook slowly so the cream doesn't curdle but gets absorbed by potatoes 4. When done, increase heat to 400° degrees for last 10 minutes to brown tops 5. Let potatoes set for about 10 minutes before serving
Peter Gago is the man responsible for creating one of the world's most iconic wines, Penfold's Grange. On a recent visit to Adelaide, Peter was nice enough to sit down and talk about the current vintage as well as share some amazing bottles of wine. During my visit Peter opened a younger Grange from the 2004 vintage along with a 2008 Yattarna Chardonnay and 2004 Block 42 Cabernet.
Peter also gave a tour of Magill Estate, where many of the higher end Penfold's wines are crafted. Pinot Noir grapes were just arriving and being crushed during the visit, so it was a rare opportunity to sit down with one of the world's most famous winemakers: . WINES TASTED IN THIS EPISODE:
2008 Yattarna Chardonnay - Much has been made about this wine being the "white Grange". When Peter mentioned half the fruit was sourced from Tasmania, I got excited because world class Chardonnay's often have higher acidity and less winemaking fluff like overly oaked malo textures. Growing grapes in colder areas that are either higher, or farther away from the equator boost the acid in the wine grapes. It makes a statement to grow half the fruit in their vineyard in Tasmania that's both higher and southerly.
The immediate expression of Yattarna is elegance and refinement. I was thinking it was going to be over the top, but is was very much restrained in the same way automobile designers at Mercedes use restraint when designing a new car. This baby had the Mercedes body with detailed leather seats and fat chrome wheels. It's less oaky and less fruit forward than past vintages. Pouilly-Fuisse lovers would likely enjoy this vintage with its crisp acid backbone, framed up with golden delicious apple, meyer lemon and lees, toasted biscuit notes. You don't have to search for the fruit on your palate, you get it front and center first, followed by refined oak nuances.
2004 Grange - If you've ever had Penfold's Grange, you get a sense of its place in history (and collector's cellars). This is not only one of the most iconic wines in Australia, but also worldwide. From its humble beginnings, Grange has been made as a wine that needed age before drinking. Collectors tuck bottles of Grange away in their cellars without even thinking of touching them for at least ten years, but knowing they'll be rewarded the longer they wait. Over time, Grange develops into a "first growth" type of wine with wonderful Cabernet and Shiraz characters along with exotic spices, shoe leather, cedar and cigar box among other notes.
So it was a bit of a surprise to see the 2004 drinking so well at this stage. I expected it to be a bit closed down, as if asleep in a long slumber. But it was lively and approachable now. It was neither tight nor overly oaked. The 2004 was a decidedly relaxed version of Grange that still exhibited the pedigree you'd expect from Grange. Somewhere along the way it seems Peter realized people want to wait, but not wait their whole life to enjoy Grange.
Dark brooding crimson color in the wine, with so much depth you could get lost staring into the abyss. Dark red fruits waft out of the glass unraveling a mystery of cassis, cocoa, vanilla, stewed plums and tertiary notes of menthol and blueberries. This was cashmere in a glass, exhibiting a more open and refined style than one would expect. It'll only get better with age, but if you have more than one bottle in the cellar take a look at it to see where it is, but also where it's going.
2004 Block 42 Cabernet - As a sommelier and wine blogger, I get to taste all sorts of different wines from around the world. Wine bloggers in general are called upon to share their thoughts, notes and experiences on the wines they taste. When Peter poured this wine everything stopped. This was a wine unlike anything I've ever tried, and quite possibly one of the finest Cabernets I've ever tasted. It was magic in a glass.
As if in a movie, I felt like I was in a slow motion scene drawn out for drama. This wine is not a wine you drink. This is a wine you experience. The Block 42 has only been made four times ever and with good reason. Penfold's uses fruit from the world's oldest operating Cabernet vines to make Block 42 in exceptional years, otherwise the fruit goes into Grange or possibly Bin 707 Cabernet.
I could try to describe what I tasted by pecking away at some tasting notes but my notes wouldn't do justice. The power and finesse on display create an amazing tension between the elements. There was purity and precision as if the winemaking team was saying, "yeah, it's Cabernet from some of the oldest vines in the world". They got out of the way and let the fruit put on a show. Then Peter put an exclamation point on the end and stated the alcohol was only 13.5%. I nearly fell out of my chair. I was guessing it was closer to 15% based on how much impact came across. I hope to be able to try this wine again in my lifetime....what a treat!
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!
Langmeil Winery in Barossa Valley has the oldest Shiraz (and Syrah) vines in the world. Their Freedom vineyard is documented as such. But Langmeil has another vineyard called Orphan Bank consisting of 100 year-old vines they transplanted from another location. The cost associated with transplanting vines is steep, but the reward is something that can't be quantified. All the hard work to sacrifice these living legends is akin to preserving a historic building. Vines of this age are hard to come by, and produce pristine fruit in which to make stellar wine from. Here's how it happened:
It's harvest time in the Victoria wine growing region. Although winemakers are hard at work bringing in 2011 vintage grapes, many of them took time out of their day to bring wines to Brown Brothers winery for an afternoon of wine tasting. Did I say wine tasting? I meant rapid-fire one wine a minute lighting round tasting. With limited time, what took place was something more along the lines of speed dating than enjoying wine.
Over the course of two hours, I tasted about 30 still wines and 7 stickies. Victoria is a vast wine growing region with some of Australia's historic wineries. One of my personal longtime favorite wineries is Tahbilk, famous for having the world's largest Marsanne vineyard. Some of the sub regions of Victoria are Yarra Valley, Rutherglen, Heathcote, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and King Valley. Brown Brothers, located in King Valley is one of Australia's First Family's of Wine with roots tracing back to the 1800's. Located about 3 hours northeast of Melbourne, King Valley is a surprisingly diverse growing area with flat lands and high elevations. It's predominantly a cool climate with above average rainfall with a wide ranch of soils, including alluvial parent soil, some balsalt as well as shallow sandstone.
The wines poured at Brown Brothers were impressive in both the varied selection of grape varietals, but also the quality of wine. We started with Prosecco's, graduated to whites, moved on the reds and then finished with the VGS (Very Good Shit) stickies aka fortified wines. Here's a smattering of wines tasted:
PROSECCO (new website for King Valley Prosecco Road):
Booyah! Right out of the gate we're off on the right foot. Brown Brothers Prosecco NV is grown at a higher elevation of 500 meters above sea level which is approximately 16 inches. No wait, I didn't carry the '1' when converting from the metric system. The grapes were grown at 1640 ft. above sea level, and you know what I love about that? Acidity. Cold climate plus high elevation equals the kind of bubbles I like. Crisp, clean, green apple and pear with some elegant Easter flower notes.
Dalz Otto Pucino Prosecco NV - Pale, Pale almost water color. Asian pear, white flowers, Charmat stye. Light, delicate, green apple. Dalz Otto family came from Italy...brought their wines with 'em
Ciccone Estate Prosecco NV - Tangerine peel, white flowers, medium acid, crisp, clean, fuji apple. Elevation 420 meters. Food: fruit fondue
Sam Miranda 2010 Prosecco - Dry, pear, mineral, Med acid, drier style, lower sugar. Single vineyard. Sam Miranda was a cool dude. Really liked him. Food pairing: gnocchi, blue vein cheese, poached prawns
Sam Miranda 2010 Arneis - Pale straw color. Pear, yellow flowers, almonds, sherbet, great summer drink welcome at any table. Medium acid. Longer finish/Phenolic. Food pairing: Prawn Pizza.
Brown Brothers 2010 Vermentino - Here's a cool thing this winery does that no other winery in the world does (that I know of): They have a building called the Kindergarten winery. This is a full sized facility larger than many wineries that's dedicated solely to experimentation. Winemakers come from around the world to fill test tanks with experimental lots, fermentation techniques or new grape varieties. The BB Vermentino became a product in the lineup after first being a test batch in the Kindergarten winery. Pretty cool.
Feathertop 2010 Vermentino - Green apple, natural acid, longer ferment. Comes from the same vineyard as the Brown Brothers Vermentino with a touch of their own fruit. Asian Pear, lemon peel. Longer, pleasant finish. Food: Salmon Carpaccio
Pizzini 2010 Verduzzo - Tannic white, Red golden delicous apple, medium minus acid, lees stirring in barrel for added richness, slight vanilla, baked pears, thick skin grape... Have to hand pick ‘cause you’ll lose too much juice and the wine will easily become too tannic.
*Fighting Gully Road 2009 Aquila - Wine was inspired by personal favorite, Mas de Dumas Gassac from Landguedoc. Blend of Chard, Viognier & Petit Manseng. Straw color, no oak. Flint, wet rock, Full mouthfeel of fun. Medium acid. Tropical fruits, Lychee. This is the kind of wine you bring out for your wine geek friends. One of my favorites of the day. In speed dating terms, I'd take this one out on the town.
All Saints Estate 2009 Marsanne - golden colored. medium-minus acid. Cuttings from Tahbilk. Underrated, red golden delicious apple, honeysuckle. Food: seafood, but not too fatty. Shrimp Scampi
Sorrenberg SauvBlanc/Semillon 2010 - Organic and orgasmic. When I worked at St. Supéry winery in Napa, we had a wine called Virtu. This very much reminded me of Virtu. The aromatics of the Sauvignon Blanc combined with the fattier mouth feel of the Semillon are a ying and a yang to each other.
Savaterre Chardonnay 2008 - When you read the notes, "Golden, Green apple, pear, flinty wet rock, malo, french oak, spice box, medium acid" it doesn't do it justice. This wine was really pleasant and elegant. Malo and oak were there, but refined.
Giaconda Chardonnay 2008 - Golden, no green hue, Mersault-esque, flinty wet rock, green apple, matchstick, supple and round with medium acid. Lots of finesse and X-factor. A bit on the pricy side at $120 considering the Savaterre is grown across the street with similar presence at $60.
La Zona 2010 Tempranillo - Nice Tempranillo not overly oaked, very easy to drink. Well done for $22. Not over the top, has finesse. The lower amount of oak made this a "drink now" wine. You could taste the grape expressing its dark cherry and plum notes.
*Fighting Gully Road 2006 Tempranillo - dark brick color, bigger, cedar, tobacco, dried red cherry. Right in the pocket at 14%, could go another 15 yrs. More Spanish in style. Considering the La Zona is a "drink now" wine with less oak, this one is a contrast...more of a "need to age" version of Tempranillo. The bigger style with more oak did it justice because the age mellowed it out into a stunner. Both Fighting Gully wines are on my short list.
Brown Brothers Montepulciano Heathcote 2009 - Brand new release made only from 7 year old vines. Beautiful expression of the grape—this baby is going to age beautifully. Older oak barriques used in production. This wine showed so much complexity and X-Factor at such a young age, but it's going to be drop dead gorgeous in a few years. Lay it down, which is where my mind would be in speed dating if this was sitting across the table from me.
Brown Brothers Tempranillo/Graciano 2009 - Another stunner with very little age on it. Dark violet color, red raspberry, stewed plum, cherry filling from pie. A little on the sweeter side, which would be perfect with my Flank Steak w/ Chimchurri recipe.
*Stanton & Kileen The Prince 2008 Reserva Rutherglen - 12.8% ALC very much along the lines of Crasto Douro Red from Portugal, probably because it has some of the same grapes. Savory earthy characters, Dark, raspberry color, love this one! Simon Killeen 7th generation winemaker wanting to introduce different varietals into the family business. One of my faves from the speed dating round.
The Sixties Block 2009 Campbells - Tempranillo, Graciano, Carignan, - orange peel, cinammon, red dried cherry, sweeter, earthy, raspberry. Really intriguing blend of grapes...so distinct in its make up and character. Food Pairing: Orange Beef Chinese Food, Venison Carpaccio
Savaterre 2008 Pinot Noir - Light brick, nice elegant, raspberry, faint orange peel. Light and pleasant, silky smooth like a baby's butt. Winemaker was a real character and says he's the laziest winemaker. He just gets out of the way of the fruit during harvest.
*Castagna 2008 Genesis Syrah - After blowing through all these wines, it wasn't until the last still wine that I found the girl I wanted to take home to Momma. The Castagna Syrah is my wine of the tasting for many reasons. We're in Australia, and they're calling this 'Syrah'. Cofermented with 2% Viognier, this gem has Cote Rotie written all over it. Beautiful "shit my pants" good, spice box, chocolate covered raspberry goodness. Some wines are like a wool sweater on your tongue, this one is like cashmere. Goes beyond just being a glass of wine and becomes an experience.
Overall, the quality level of the wines were superb. More than that, there's rich history here with family traditions and people who are dedicated to making world class wine. Australia has heard us loud and clear, and the wines are responding. Lower alcohol, more finesse and sophisticated labels are all things we don't associate with Aussie wines in the U.S.
I really would have liked to have spent more time with each person to get to know them a little better. It wasn't really fair to just blow through the way we did. But hopefully we'll all see each other again, or at least online. Stay tuned for the next post where I compare tasting through stickies to Bruce Lee's Game of Death..
There are 3 virtual Australian wine tastings coming up at the end of March and early April are a golden opportunity for anyone who's in the wine business. Wineries, sommeliers, retailers, importers and restaurants can realize ROA (return on attention) by following a few steps.
If you've never participated in a virtual wine tasting, the idea is simple—get a bottle (or bottles) of wine, taste and tweet along with other people at the same time on Twitter. The reason why you'd want to participate is to capture the attention of participants while it's happening. If the virtual tasting is planned properly, it's possible to have significant reach.
With traditional media, ad dollars are spent on reach. If we run an ad in a magazine, we're paying for the reach of that magazine. If we run an ad on television, we're paying for the reach of that station.
With new media, we can create our own reach through our fans and followers. When virtual tastings are orchestrated correctly, we can create a wide reach by bringing together an audience for a defined period of time. For #Cabernet day we had 3,000-5,000 participants who all had their own followings. If we average each person with a following of 300 friends/followers a conservative estimate for reach was 900,000 people (3,000 x 300). The upside is the community can scale up to an unlimited numbers. The downside is once the tasting is over, the community disbands. So we have to be ready to seize the opportunity. Here's some tips for maximizing the reach before, during and after:
1. Search the hash tag (listen)-
Search for each hash tag while the virtual tasting is going on to "hear" what others are saying. Use Twitter Search, TweetDeck or kurrently to track the tag. Personally, I like Twitterfall.com to put up on a monitor for others to see or TweetDeck on my laptop. I watch to see what others' experiences are.
2. Prepare content ahead of time (share)-
Videos, blog posts, recipes or any other educational content can be created ahead of time, then posted during the virtual tasting. For example, during the #YarraWine virtual tasting wineries can do videos about their vineyards, soil or climate then post them during the virtual tasting. Because people are searching the hash tag, the content is likely to be seen by someone. You may even end up chatting with them real time during the virtual tasting to continue the conversation.
3. Share real time experiences -
What wine or wines are you drinking? Share photos of the label, including the hash tag. Share your impressions of the wine, including the hash tag. For example, during the #HunterWine virtual tasting I'll be interviewing winemakers in the Hunter Valley and posting the short vids online during the tasting.
For wineries or wine shops wanting to sell wine there are different strategies on how to make it happen before, during and after. Before any sales, coupons or offers can be made, there must be a level of trust with the online community. The worst thing anyone can do is start blasting out offers. If, and only IF the winery or wine shop is engaged with their community through lots of @ replies and one-to-one communications can they even think about selling anything.
If there's a healthy level of connection, then taste packs can be sold ahead of time. If a winery is hosting a virtual tasting, they can offer wines on-site at a promotional price. The most powerful use of new media is what happens after the virtual tasting. A savvy winery or wine shop will make the most of the opportunity and engage as many participants as they can. This is a targeted community of people who are participating—the community has already told us they like wine because they opted in to the tasting. Create Twitter lists or maintain communication with participants to grow the brand's own following.
Positive signs of recovery for the wine industry in 2010. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that consumers are drinking again. Well, they never stopped drinking, just now they're drinking the good stuff. Consumers are now buying $25-$50 bottles of wine whereas last year and the year before they were buying bottles under $15.
I got to thinking about what it costs to produce a bottle of wine. Things that factor into the price have a lot to do with the work done in the vineyard. Each time vineyard workers go through the rows and touch the vines, it costs money. In good vintages, a winery will get good fruit with less touching of vines, hence, less cost basis. In a bad year, a winery might have to do a significant amount more work just to get fruit to a good place by harvest. From vintage to vintage, these are unfixed costs that can't be controlled. If a winery is buying fruit from another vineyards, there might also be a fluctuation of what the fruit costs per ton. In 2010, many vineyard in Northern California lost 20-30% of their crops because it was a cool summer. Grapes weren't getting ripe, so vineyard managers cut leaves off the vines that normally act as shade from the sun. Mother nature, it seems, has a sick sense of humor. Shortly after leaves were cut off, there was a heat spike over 100 degrees for a few days. That turned 20-20% of grapes into raisins. Without the normal leaf shade, the grapes didn't stand a chance.
One (somewhat) fixed cost in wine is the cost of oak barrels. A brand-spanking new French oak barrel costs somewhere around $800-1200. A barrel can be used a few times before it becomes "neutral," or doesn't impart oaky flavor. American oak is an option, but French oak is the preferred choice. Wineries order pallets of oak barrels each year. Do the math with me. If a winery buys 500 new oak barrels at an average of $1000 per, that's $500,000 in barrels.
Here's where my brilliant idea for financial recovery comes into play: Use less oak. Simple, huh? In 2010 I tasted more overly oaked wines than I cared to. Why on God's green earth are winemakers oaking the shit out of their wines? This is a debate that's been around for years, but I'm really baffled. Cut the amount of oak down 25% on your next barrel order. Actually make wine that expresses the vineyard and don't cover up flaws with an orgy of French oak. Not only could wineries save a few hundred grand, but they might actually make a better wine. Why has nobody done this?
Take for example the 2007 Quilceda Creek Red wine from Washington state. For years I've been a lover of QC wines, and have ordered from their mailing list. After drinking (or trying to drink) this wine, I decided to drop off the list. At 15.2% alcohol, the lower tier QC resembled Vodka and Robitussin rather than a world class wine. There was so much oak on this wine, my wife and I literally could not finish it. We ended up making a sauce instead.
In Napa and Sonoma I've experienced something similar. Dozens of overly oaked wines that really have no reason to be so oaky. Robert Parker isn't helping any by giving these behemoth's inflated scores, and essentially rewarding them for oak.
So there it is, use less oak. That reduces the carbon footprint for shipping. It saves more trees. Wineries save on costs and wine drinkers get a better wine. What do you think?
When you drive over the Golden Gate bridge leaving San Francisco, you immediately go from city scape to Marin county. Marin was home to Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead as well as some of the bay area's wealthy residents. Marin is the great outdoors with mansions and high end car dealerships.
Right off highway 101, rolling hillsides meander towards the Pacific Ocean covered in lush green vegetation. The coastal area is largely undeveloped. Marin's wine growing region is just south of the Sonoma border, and of all grapes that should do well there, Pinot Noir is it. The cooler temperatures in Marin county keep the Pinot grapes from getting too much sugar during the growing season. Some of the vineyards sit on hillsides protected from west winds above the fog level. This ensures the Pinot grapes get enough early morning sun to help the grape ripen and keep up with the acidity from the cool temps at night.
Soils can be erratic with a mix of clay and high magnesium from serpentine soil. It's not uncommon to see rock outcroppings that were volcanic tubes filled with magma 150 million years ago. Over time, the magma cooled leaving rock formations all over the coastal area.
Kendric Vineyards is operated by Stewart Johnson, who is responsible for all aspects of the winery. He farms the land, he manages the vineyard and he makes the wine. I met Stewart last month right before the Pinot Summit in Marin. We had a good laugh that the summit was held in Marin, but his was the only local wine at the event. The rest of the pinots came from all over the globe. Stewart and I tasted the 2006 and 2007 side by side. Case production is close to 375 cases. I liked the lighter, more refined balanced style of the 2006 over the bigger 2007. Both offerings were good representations of Marin.
I came away intrigued by this region for growing Pinot Noir. Keep an eye out for other offerings or grapes that make good use of the cooler weather. Next up? Chardonnay.
Some possible food pairings to play with for this recipe:
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