My first true Winecast in 5 years to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this podcast and wine blog. And there is no better theme than the celebrated, often imitated, but never duplicated sparkling wine region where the modern wine industry was born: Champagne.
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I recently began rereading George Saintsbury’s classic, “Notes on a Cellar-Book.” The 1920 volume was one of my first wine books read back in the early 1980’s that I had not thought much about since. With time – and much more context and experience with wine – I am finding the book a fascinating window into late 19th and early 20th Century views on what makes a wine truly great.
I was reminded of this last week when I read Jancis Robinson’s post about Riesling. She rightly talks about how Riesling gets short shrift when compared with top varieties such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I regard the grape in the top tier of white varieties along with Roussanne, Marsanne and Chardonnay. Each of these grapes make wine of power and subtly which can age for years with the proper terroir and attention to winemaking.
Not surprisingly – at least to me – Steve Heimoff used this post to vent his astonishment about how wine geeks adore Riesling. I’ll give Steve a pass here since I know how hard it is to get good German and the wines of Alsace in California and how many crappy California Riesling must have been in his mouth. But his points are well taken.
Riesling is a grape that can be easy to enjoy but difficult to fully understand. Like all great varieties, it is layered and nuanced. But unlike most of the other great varieties, Riesling has an animal character that can put you off in its youth. It’s strong and undefiant, which is part of the reason I like it so much.
Another reason many might view Riesling as not noble is the stereotype many of us Baby Boomers have of the variety from our youth. How many of us grew up seeing Blue Nun or Zeller Schwarze Katz bottles on our dinner tables in the ’60’s and ’70’s? At some level that has to bring the grape down but I was able to develop a love for the variety even after these indignities. But it took years and a lot of really stellar bottles to convert me.
Bringing this post back to the beginning, Chapter VI of, “Notes on a Cellar-Book,” has these words near the beginning:
…despite the wonderful first taste of the great ‘Auslese’ wines, I think both Hock and Moselle best as beverage drinks; for in these lower quantities, the overpowering and almost barbaric volume of flavor does not occur, and they are fresh and pleasant quenchers, going well with most sorts of food.
“Hock” is an old British term for white German wines much like “Claret” is used as a generic term for Bordeaux red. In Saintsbury’s time Hock was the best of the German Rhine wines. Even then, nearly 100 years ago, Riesling was a niche variety. And I think it will continue for another hundred years.
Until then, more for me!]]>
I have written and podcasted many times over the years about by love of California Zinfandel and Zin-lead field blends. The tradition of the field blend was brought to California by Italian immigrants over 100 years ago and some of the most individual expressions of this tradition are still bearing fruit in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. The technique is simple, interplant a vineyard with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and other varieties, then harvest them at the same time and co-ferment. This tradition reaches its peak with Ridge’s Lytton Springs and Geyserville vineyards which has been chronicled here many times over the years.
Finding distinctive Zinfandel for under $20 is difficult these days and almost everything under $10 does not display much of what makes this variety so special. Occasionally you will find something on close-out that falls within this price band but these are very few and far between. But négociants such as Cameron Hughes regularly bring us wines of distinction that overperform their price point, as is the case with this wine.
Podcast listeners will remember Cameron Hughes from my interview on Winecast 73 seven years ago. Much has changed with his operation over the years but his brands are still as meaningful for wine lovers looking for a bargain. So when I found this wine — a Lodi Field blend of 56% Zinfandel, 17% Syrah, 16% Petite Sirah, and 10% Tempranillo — for $8.99 at my local Costco, I grabbed a bottle.
Lodi has had a long history with Zinfandel dating back to the Gold Rush of the mid 19th Century. I’m sure field blending was also part of this tradition in the region but I’ve never tried any until now. And I don’t think the term “field blend” is regulated so it’s possible some back blending went on to create this wine, but it makes little difference to me since the traditional expression remains in the glass.
Cameron Hughes, Lot 467, Lodi Field Blend 2012 ($9) — Black/purple color with aromas of blackberry jam, fennel, chaparral and sage. Rich blackberry, blueberry and kirsch flavors with white pepper finishing with supple tannins. A bit boozy at the end but balanced currently by exuberant fruit. If you see this at your local Costco, buy it, as this one will not last long. My new go-to BBQ and pizza wine.
Composite cork closure
Buy this wine online]]>
Back when I first started podcasting about wine, in late 2004, there were maybe 40 podcasts in the world. But there were even fewer wine blogs and soon I discovered the monthly tasting event called Wine Blogging Wednesday joining on its eighth outing back in early 2005.
Over the years I have participated in WBW now 49 times and have hosted 6 times and I am pleased to have it return after a hiatus. The theme I chose for this outing is consistent with the wines I drink this time of year. While I do continue to drink reds, most of the time white or rosé wines are what I choose due to the temperatures outside and the food of the season. And while rosé wines such as white Zinfandel have carved out a significant presence in the market their residual sugar makes them more difficult to pair with food. So I drink exclusively dry rosé in the summer.
For the selections made for this month’s WBW I decided to sample what is available under $10 a bottle. After looking at some local stores and big box retailers I settled on a couple of bottles from Trader Joe’s both under $6 a bottle. At this price I wasn’t looking for the best rosé but something that would complement a hamburger or taco. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The first bottle is Trader Joe’s Napa Valley Rosé 2012 ($5.99, 13.7% ABV) – It is a light ruby color in the glass with aromas typical of rosé, strawberry, cherry and citrus. There are bright grapefruit and strawberry flavors finishing dry with a touch of bitterness. I found it refreshing but a bit subdued in character but still a decent value. The varieties used were not disclosed but I assume Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were most of the blend.
My second selection is from Spain, the Albero Bobal rosé 2012 ($5.99, 12.5% ABV) – Also a nice light ruby color the aromas here are all strawberry and grapefruit. In the glass the wine shows strawberry and lemon flavors finishing dry with nice acidity. A very pleasing rosé made from a grape I have never tried before. A win-win!
Both of these wines show how far we have come delivering value even in niches like dry rosé. I’m looking forward to reading what everyone has tried to fill out my cellar for the remaining weeks of summer. You can follow along on my Delicious feed.
Thanks also go to Lenn for asking me to host yet again who I will soon pass the baton to for hosting WBW81 next month. Look for a roundup post for WBW80 Friday or Saturday for all the rosé goodness.
Back in the the first year of wine blogging (2004 for those just joining us) Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS (now New York Cork Report) made a modest proposal and Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) was born. I joined the monthly virtual tasting back at WBW 7 in early 2005 and have continued off and on over the years since and have maintained the WBW website. But interest wained in the event after Twitter tastings took hold and WBW went on long-term hiatus a couple times in recent years.
But the embers of WBW remained and there has been enough interest in the event recently that Lenn and I have decided to bring it back in its original, grass-roots format.
The idea is simple; each month a blogger “hosts” the virtual tasting determining the theme and posting a summary wrap-up some days after the event. On the Wednesday appointed for the tasting anyone can blog a post related to the theme and let the host know so their link can be included in the wrap-up post. Back in the day this literally meant a blog but over the years this has expanded to places like Tumblr and Google+; basically any public-facing spot on the web that doesn’t require a membership to view (so Facebook wall posts are out but you could participate on a Facebook page).
I am pleased to announce the return of Wine Blogging Wednesday on August 14st for our 80th (non-consecutive) monthly tasting. My choice of theme was easy given the heat of the summer here in the Northern Hemisphere: Dry Rosé.
Good dry rosé is one of the most versatile wines in summer matching with light to heavy fare. But like some other wines, rosé (here in America anyway) doesn’t get the respect it deserves. So I’d like to see everyone explore beyond their regular summer rosés and try something new. It might be an obscure varietal or a region you haven’t tried before. Or maybe just kicking it old-school and picking up a rosé from Bandol, Tavel or Provence from a new producer.
Basically you can pick up a rosé wine made anywhere from any grape varieties, just make sure it’s dry.
When you post your entry, just send me your link via email (winecast at gmail dot com), Twitter (@winecast and please use hashtag #WBW80) or post here in the comments. A few days after the tasting I’ll write up a summary post and pass the baton to the next host (Lenn will host WBW 81 in September). And you can mark your calendars as all future WBW tastings will take place the 2nd Wednesday of each month.
Hope you can join me next month and beat the summer heat with some dry rosé!]]>
The results here are not that surprising to me given the venue. At a state fair the conditions are far from ideal and the judges have to taste too many wines in a short period of time. I have always believed a wine should be tasted over a period of time (1-2 days minimum) and then a fair review can be written from this extended experience. When a hundred wines are tasted in 90 minutes variations like this are far too common. Not to mention all of these were tasted blind which is its own bag of snakes.
via The Guardian]]>
The Smith Brothers are living legends in Napa Valley. This great interview tells their story.
via Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews]]>
Beaujolais is arguably the best value in red wine right now and Lyle has an excellent list here to back up this claim.
via Rockss and Fruit]]>
As is often the case, Steve Heimoff has posted a “think piece” on his blog today. And judging by the relatively few comments at the time I write this most readers are just doing that; thinking. His post is on authenticity in wine and how difficult and subjective it is to define. In the end, Steve gives no answers on the subject but does get one thinking about what makes a wine “authentic”.
To me authenticity starts with the intent of the winemaker and what the site and vineyard manager has provided her or him to work with. Can you make authentic Syrah in Napa Valley? Perhaps but other sites might be more suited to growing the grape. Should anything be added to the crushed grapes to make an “authentic wine”? Some would argue no, but denying scientific advances is similar to not using modern medicine to avoid fatal illness. The issue is loaded with traditional, cultural and political nuances.Photo by stromnessdundee via Flickr
No discussion of wine authenticity should lack the obvious mention of low intervention or so-called “natural wine“. My own preference in my single quasi-commercial winemaking venture to date used as few processes as was possible in a shared winemaking facility like Crushpad in Dog Patch. Yes, yeast was inoculated as conducting a native yeast ferment, which was my preference, was not recommended within a winery with dozens, if not hundreds, of other fermentations taking place. Yes, enzymes and a minimal dose of sulfur were used on the must but after pressing only regular stirring of the lees was applied and the wine was only racked once after several months in barrel (it is a Roussanne/Marsanne blend).
Is this not a “natural, authentic” wine? Some would argue one or all of the three additives used makes this wine somehow makes it un-natural and less authentic. A few others might argue that trucking the grapes several hundred miles in a refrigerated container is also unauthentic but that’s another story.
My point is what is authentic wine is highly debatable. What is not is a sea of industrial wines sold that not only use modern science to produce clean wines but also techniques that make the resulting product softer and more approachable (think micro-oxygenation, mega-purple and other such processes or additives here). That doesn’t mean the wine is not better for all the manipulation but what is left is not an authentic representation of the site and grapes harvested that year.
But that’s just my opinion, and as Dennis Miller used to say, I could be wrong.]]>
As with anything you eat or drink, moderation and common sense, not prohibition, often makes the most sense.
via The Telegraph]]>
Short but insightful interview.
Good weekend reading from Will Lyons.
Private Preserve has been my choice for years.
Back in the day, I participated in April Fools pranks with posts that hopefully brought a smile to the face of the reader. But after one such post fell flat, even garnering angry comments years later, I decided to hang it up. Face it, wine is not that funny to begin with and most wine blog readers don’t expect satirical posts even once a year (unless all your posts are satirical).
I was reminded of this Monday when I read a mildly funny post from Alder at Vinography but the best prank post was from John Mariani over at Bloomberg. Only it appears to not have been a prank post. I think, anyway.
My confusion began when I first saw the story tweeted by Dr. Vino as a prank so that might have influenced the context of my first reading. Starting with true facts, the hallmark of the best April Fools pranks, it gets increasing strident and ridiculous. But like my ill-fated Charles Shaw post referenced above the joke was just too subtle and it launched some earnest posts in defense of Washington State wines.
As I write this, I have not been able to figure out if this was a Fools’ Day post or not. It seems like it could be a serious critique of selected Washington State wines as those reviewed actually do exist despite long-winded and somewhat fanciful naming conventions. And I guess the cynic in me could just chalk this up to link-bait, engineered to be controversial and provoke such reaction. But I think it’s funnier as a prank. And until the author comments here to clarify, I’m going with that.]]>
Reality TV is all the rage these days but I rarely watch this genre outside of a few cooking competition shows like Top Chef or Masterchef. But I have been hooked this year by ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’. The show’s premise is simple; entrepreneurs pitch their products to a panel of well known investors (‘sharks’) such as Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John, and Lori Greiner. Sometimes the entrepreneurs fall flat, other times they walk away after some interest, but most times they arrive at some sort of deal trading investment for equity in their company.
Wine products have surprisingly been featured a couple times this season but the most interesting was an invention called ‘Wine Balloon’ (later changed to ‘Air Cork‘) that preserves wine with a patented balloon system. Inventor Eric Corti was clearly nervous pitching the panel of sharks but did well enough to garner two offers from Kevin O’Leary and the combined team of Mark Cuban and QVC host Lori Greiner. It was clear that Corti didn’t like the strings attached to O’Leary’s offer to license the invention to a third party for marketing but was surprised when Greiner offered $500,000 for the entire company. Cuban joined the offer which grew to $600,000 but demanded an immediate response. Corti didn’t act fast enough but accepted their final offer of $400,000 for his invention. At the time of the show I thought Corti made the wrong choice as $200,000 of value had been taken off the table in under 2 minutes. And Wine Balloon seemed like a novel idea that might see wide distribution in winery tasting rooms and wine stores (although the reviews on Amazon currently are not encouraging).
So it was good to see an update to this story last week at Wines & Vines. After due diligence, Corti and his partner walked away from the deal and worked on building their business. And it appears to have worked with sales reported at 15,000 units a month. Using the cost of goods disclosed during the show of $6.50 that makes over $260,000 of gross profit a month or $3.1 million annually. It’s good to see an entrepreneur stand his ground and make something work as it was clear during the show that Corti really believed in his invention.
If you want to see the episode of Shark Tank it is available to Hulu Plus subscribers here (season 3, episode 4). Corti’s pitch starts the second dot from the end on the timeline.
via Wines & Vines
Nice theme for summer. Join us June 20th.]]>
China pivots to Burgundy.]]>
Almost all of us don’t treat blogging as a business. And those few who do find building a community around a wine blog very, very difficult. Without hundreds of thousands of pageviews a month, advertising on blogs of any topic is not a viable business.]]>
Not too long ago I drank quite a bit of Australian wine, particularly Shiraz. Given that this grape, also known as Syrah, expresses greatness in the Barossa Valley I could not pass an opportunity to revisit this region for this months’ Wine Blogging Wednesday. Our host, Adam from Wine Zag, proposed we look for any wine from Australia’s Barossa Valley but for me only Shiraz would do, much the same way only Cabernet would do for Napa Valley. One other limitation was to choose a wine for $30 USD or less. I’m well aquatinted with great values from Barossa but have not tasted any lately so I was a little concerned as I entered my local wine store to explore the options available this week.
The main reason for my exile from Barossa and most of the wines of Australia of late has been value. There are many great wines made in Australia but far fewer under $30 than in the past (at least it seems to me). Some of this is due to shipping costs; some of this is due to exchange rates. Today the best bang for the (American) buck comes from the Iberian peninsula or lesser known parts of Italy and France. Even California, Washington State and Oregon are bringing the value in these recessionary times. But there still are some producers who are managing to bring the value from Barossa even today.
One of those is Schild Estate, a family run winery in Barossa that over delivers value if judged by the wine I tasted this evening. Established in 1952, this winery produces a range of wines but with an emphasis on Shiraz. And after tasting their entry level Shiraz today, I can see why they lavish so much attention on the variety. It is because it’s delicious.
Schild Estate Wines, Shiraz, Barossa 2009 ($18) – Dark purple in color with aromas of cherry, plum, bacon, and black licorice. Round in the mouth with concentrated blackberry, plum and black pepper flavors finishing with savory tannins. A very nice expression of Aussie Shiraz at a stunning price.
Screw cap closure
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Thanks go to Adam for hosting this month and for provoking me to taste a Barossa wine and blog about it. Stay tuned for next months edition of our global virtual tasting to be announced soon.]]>
A-List wine critics are the celebrities of the wine geek but we don’t get a chance to learn much about them. Just Google for interviews of Robert Parker or James Laube and you will see very little outside of promotional stuff.
But Antonio Galloni of The Wine Advocate seems to be more open and has been interviewed by Grape Radio and now Steve Heimoff. Steve is himself a noted critic from The Wine Enthusiast so he knows the questions to ask. And his three part interview with Mr. Galloni goes deeper into the lifestyle of a wine critic than anything else I have seen to date. Everything from blind tasting to dental cleaning schedules are covered and I was surprised more than once while reading the series.
The link below goes to the first part. I would suggest you carve out a half hour and read all three parts together. Really fascinating stuff that I will pick up again in a future post.]]>