TMiW 2 – The Tastes They Are A-Changin’

by Tim Elliott on February 26, 2012

This Month in Wine artworkJeff Lefevere and I return to review the top wine stories of the past month including tongue-twisting wine names, a disturbing wine manifesto, trends in wine marketing, the stellar 2009 Bordeaux vintage and much more.

Hosts: Tim Elliott and Jeff Lefevere


  • If the wine is hard to pronounce, is it worth more?
  • Has wine lost it’s romance?
  • The Slow Wine movement
  • 2009 Bordeaux: vintage of the century?
  • Will drinking too much wine give you cancer?
  • Million Dollar Day for
  • Wine’s 2011 Report Card
  • Moet Hennessy aims for super-premium red wine from China
  • Are Americans’ Tastes Changing?
  • Wine discounting trends
  • Randall Grahm and The State of the Modest Winery
  • Follow-up on QR codes from last month


  • 2012 New York Wine Expo: March 2-4, New York City
  • 2012 World of Pinot Noir Tasting: March 2-3, Shell Beach, CA
  • Paso Robles Wine Country’s 2012 Zinfandel Festival, March 17, 2012
  • Wine Blogging Wednesday 75, Single Vineyard, March 21st
  • Rhone Rangers, San Francisco, March 24-25
  • For events near you check out Local Wine Events

Links discussed on the show

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Copyright 2012 Acan Media, Inc. Licensed under Creative Commons.



Wine & The Connected Consumer

by Tim Elliott on February 23, 2012

Randall Grahm is one of the true characters of the American wine scene. A self-styled terroirist, intuitive branding genius and all around eccentric, Grahm has taken his Bonny Doon Vineyard on quite a ride over nearly the past 30 years. After setting out in 1983 to make great Pinot Noir in California, Grahm was drawn to Rhône varieties — long before it was cool — and blazed an innovative trail. Years past and the winery continued to grow particularly at the entry level with the ubiquitous Big House brand. But being a terroir driven vintner who presides over blending sessions in industrial wineries can’t be a lot of fun. So in 2006 Grahm sold the Big House brand to The Wine Group and spun off Pacific Rim into it’s own business with outside partners.

Randall Grahm

Photo via Twitter

By his own admission Grahm has downsized his once considerable enterprise by a factor of ten and the business model of a modest winery today is a lot different than when he got started. Today the consumer has more tools to help them choose a wine in the store using smartphones and apps like Hello Vino. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can connect friends from Barstow to Barcelona in near real time for instant recommendations. And wine distributors, who used to be the winery’s “feet on the street”, have become nothing more than extensions of the sales force for large volume brands like Gallo, Kendall-Jackson and, somewhat ironically in this context, The Wine Group.

It appears Mr. Grahm is well aware of the current realities in the wine market and his own transformation from selling mostly through distribution to mostly direct to consumer after reading a very revealing post on his blog earlier this week. I have the opportunity in my day job to have frank conversations about the wine business but none of these surface here as they are off the record. Seeing similar issues presented in a long-form post on a winery blog is most refreshing and frankly breathtaking. I’m sure there is a bit of added drama at play here and the Dooniverse is not really on the edge of ruin but if it is that would be most distressing. The wine world with Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon in it is much better than the reverse.

So in the spirit of a friend lending a helping hand I offer the following unsolicited ideas for Mr. Grahm and his team to ponder:

Get social - Dude, you have over 350,000 Twitter followers! No other vintner is even close. Use it occasionally to sell your wine. I’d probably also figure out how to convert some of those followers to Facebook Page likes, too (only 5,000 there now). I know you have a social media strategy and do better than most in the wine business but a bit more wood behind this arrow would pay off handsomely at the very least in positive word of mouth.

Embrace Video - Unlike a lot of winery owners you have a rich story to tell with passion and nuance. Use video to get more of your story onto the social web to get some of those Milleninals exposed to your brand. You are sort of dabbling at this now; commit to a regular schedule.

Open A Bay Area Tasting Room - Hate to say it but Santa Cruz is kind of out of the way for many to get exposed to Bonny Doon wines. I’d take my hospitality closer to the customer and look for a space in San Francisco (SoMa, Dogpatch, Haight, etc.).

Ditch That Flash Website - I mean it’s 2012 and a lot of folks have iPads. All of that cute animation can be done in HTML 5.

Spruce Up The Wines - This is the least important on the list but one that deserves some consideration. I have to admit aside from the occasional bottle of Le Cigare Volant I have not tasted through your lineup in a while but a peek at CellarTracker reveals some improvement can be made. These days a $25 wine better taste like a $35 or $40 wine or people will buy alternatives that over-perform their price point.

Hope this helps, Sir. Let us know how it goes.


Follow My Wine Reviews on Pinterest

by Tim Elliott on February 19, 2012

When I first got started on Twitter I had high hopes of posting frequent reviews there but it never really worked out. It was partially due to the 140 character limit but the transient nature of the medium ultimately kept me only reviewing wines there as part of an organized Twitter live tasting.

But with Pinterest, I think I have found the perfect place to post reviews directly from my log. Each will be linked to the winery ecommerce shop when available. For now I’ll be posting a couple of reviews each day until I reach the end of my tasting log for wines I liked. Some of these might be covered again here as part of full review but you can see my raw notes on Pinterest first.

And you don’t have to be on Pinterest to see the notes, just click on the link below.

Pinterest is an online pinboard.Organize and share things you love.

Read more at:


WBW 74 Wrap-up: 39 Sparkling Values

by Tim Elliott on February 18, 2012

This is my fifth time hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday, our monthly virtual tasting event, but my enthusiasm has not diminished with the passage of time. In fact, since bringing back the event from hiatus it looks like the idea might be picking up some steam judging from the entires this month. While many of the bloggers are new, some of the WBW stalwarts from the past also returned.

The first post came in a week early from Dave at Toledo Wines and Vines. His choice of a Louis Bouillot Crement de Bourgogne ($18) in celebration of the New York Giants Superbowl win got the tasting off to a fine start.

Another early entry was posted by Jasmine at the Knitting 40 shades of green blog. It’s aways good to see a new perspective from outside the wine blog circle on WBW and Jasmine did not disappoint with a nice review of Barboursville Brut ($17) from Virginia.

Roddy from Sentir le Bouchon! in the UK was next with non-vintage Condesa Blanca Cava (£7/$11) which he enjoyed quite a bit.

Next was the VA Wine Diva reviewing not a wine from her home state but the always dependable Gruet Winery non-vintage blanc de noirs ($15).

Alleigh from A Glass After Work was the second to blog a sparkler from Gruet Winery, their non-vintage Brut ($14). From her review it looks like this will not be the last bottle from this reliable New Mexico producer.

Wine Blogging Wednesday founder Lenn Thompson from New York Cork Report was next with a review of Happy Bitch Wines “Happy Bitch” NV Rose ($12.50). This wine is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay from the Finger Lakes region of New York with a bit of sparkle added.

Next to post was Xandria from the BrixChicks blog, the first of three there (thanks Ladies!). She selected a Jean-Louis Denois Brut “Tradition” ($15) from France’s Languedoc. From her review, this K&L exclusive seems like a no-brainer for Bay Area or online value seekers.

The first multi-bottle entry was next from Ben at Colorado Wine Press. First of the three wines tasted was Gruet Winery Brut Rosé ($15) which was preferred over the others. Next up was Trevisiol Prosecco, Extra Dry which didn’t impress. The final wine as Domaine Chandon, Brut Classic which fared better than the Prosecco but didn’t measure up to the New Mexico sparkler.

Girl Meets Glass was next with Fleuraison Blanc de Blancs ($12). Made from Spanish base wine, it is trucked north to the Languedoc where secondary fermentation and bottling takes place. The resulting wine is delicate and might be best used for sparkling wine cocktails.

Next was Bob at 2001 Bottles – A Wine Odyssey who posted a lengthy article covering the non-vintage Evans & Tate “Zamphire” ($21) from Australia and 8th Generation “Confidence” 2010 ($22.50) from Canada’s British Columbia province. While both wines used the bulk process to add the bubbles, BC’s Confidence proved the winner in the flavor department.

Lisa from Wine Muse was next with Pizzini Brachetto 2010 ($17) a Muscato-like sparkler made from the Brachetto grape in the state of Victoria in Australia. The off-dry frizzante-style rose was a hit.

Liza from BrixChicks posted a review of the reliable Napa Valley sparkling wine from Mumm, their Napa Cuvee M ($18). The wine is another winner from this respected Champagne house who has been making sparkling wine in California for 26 years.

Thea from Luscious Lushes was next with a trio of sparklers from California and New Zealand. First up was Trader Joe’s non-vintage North Coast Sparkling Wine ($10) which sounded pretty nice for the price. Next she reviewed the reliable sparking standby from Roederer Estate ($17). And finally tasted Quartz Reef Method Traditionalle NV ($22) from New Zealand. Going for extra credit, Thea blogs another 3 wines in the honorable mention category from Mumm Napa ($15), Gruet ($14) and Gloria Ferrer ($16).

My post was next with another Trader Joe’s exclusive their Albero Brut Cava ($8) which I though was a good crowd pleaser for any celebration.

Shannon from Grape Occasions reviewed the trendy Villa Jolanda Moscato Rosé ($10) and was pleasantly surprised by the off-dry sparkler.

Posting next was Michael from Undertaking Wine with a Long Island selection, the Palmer Vineyards non-vintage Special Reserve Brut ($20). And from his review it sounds like another good option for New Yorkers.

The final post of the night was a blow-out by BrixChicks Liza and Heidi who hosted a tasting of 10 sparkling wines. The standouts where the non-vintage Gruet Blanc de Noirs ($14), non-vintage Piper Hiedsieck Champagne Brut ($15) and 2008 Taltarni “Taché” ($20) but check out their entire post for some entertaining tasting notes including aromas reminiscent of Bath and Body Works.

Posting on Wine Blogging Thursday was Gwendolyn from Wine Predator with pairings of 4 wines with various dishes. Although all the wines seemed to work with their dishes, the Trader Joe’s Blason du Bourgogne Brut Rose, Cremant de Bourgogne ($12) seemed like best wine of the quartet.

Update (I missed a post): The Wine Compass blog posted a review of Yellow Tail Bubbles ($10) which was deemed a good value.

So that concludes the seventy-fourth edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Overall, 19 bloggers tasted 39 wines from 8 countries. With only a few repeats there are over 30 solid choices for everyday sparkling wine.

Next month look for Joe from 1WineDude to take Wine Blogging Wednesday in a totally different direction which he will announce early next week.

WBW 74 by the numbers

Bloggers: 19
Wines Tasted: 39
Countries Represented: 8
Least Expensive: $8 – Albero Brut Cava
Most Expensive: $22.50 – 8th Generation “Confidence” 2010

Will China’s Influence Lead To Lower Alcohol Wines?

by Tim Elliott on February 17, 2012

There was a news item last week that got me started on a long-ish post about who really determines wine styles; critics, winemakers or consumers. Long post short, I think ultimately consumers determine wine styles but it takes a bit of time for the industry to respond.

That’s what makes this Decanter story so interesting. Not only do consumers in the U.S. and Europe prefer lower alcohol wines but in China, “…91% of drinkers saying their desired level would be 8.5-10.5% by volume.”

There is no doubt China will play a very large role in the international wine trade and their influence is already noticeable in some sectors. Will this lead to lower alcohol wines? I think it will.

The alcohol content of wine is the major priority of wine drinkers across three continents, new research shows. In research commissioned by German wine trade fair Prowein, analysts Wine Intelligence canvassed 1000 regular wine drinkers in the US, China, Germany and the UK.

Read more at:


WBW 74: Value Sparkling Wine

by Tim Elliott on February 15, 2012

Sparkling wine is thought of by most American’s as a luxury to be consumed on special occasions like weddings, graduations and New Year’s eve parties. And that’s a shame since sparkling wine is so versatile at the table, pairing with a wide variety of food, made all over the world and available at every price point. Perhaps it’s just too difficult for most wine consumers to get their heads around this wine as the best examples tend to be delicate and acidic with yeasty minerality that takes some getting used to. But the rewards are worth the effort to really get to know, and love, sparkling wine as it brightens up even the most challenging day.

This is the 5th time I’ve hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday and I’d like to write my theme was calculated to take advantage of the bubbly consumed yesterday for Valentine’s Day. It actually had more to do with my desire to find some new values in sparkling wine to enjoy this spring and summer where I intend to drink (and blog) a bottle each week. I chose the $25 price point to keep the wine selections inclusive of the entire world knowing this might be a challenge, but doable, even in Champagne. But it was the under $10 price point that most interested me since this means “everyday” to most of us.

Albero Brut CavaSo my search took me to Trader Joe’s, the value grocery store that has a reputation as a decent place to find wine values. While TJ’s might not deliver great wine values since they became the house of Two Buck Chuck, their sparking wine selection is still pretty solid. So after looking at their Crement de Bourgogne choices I have had, and enjoyed before, I picked up a Cava for just $7.99 as my choice tonight.

Albero Brut Cava ($8) is an exclusive of Trader Joe’s here in the U.S. made by Bogedas Iranzo, the oldest Spanish winery dating back some 677 years. Before you think Christoper Columbus drank sparkling wine from this estate, a quick aside to the history of bubbly.

Although wine with bubbles has existed since antiquity as a by-product of fermentation, it was only until glass blowing technology could withstand the pressure in the bottle before this style really emerged. Counter to the legend that this wine emerged in Champagne from the cellar of monk Dom Pérignon, sparkling wine was actually first made on purpose in Italy in 1622. But it was glass blowing technology developed in England in 1662 that made this country the true founder of sparkling wine almost 80 years before Dom Pérignon first drank “stars”.

Cava is the name given to sparkling wine made in Spain. It mostly comes from the Penedès region in Catalonia, just south of Barcelona. Like in Champagne only certain grapes are allowed in Cava but until recently these have only been native Spanish varieties. Keeping it old school, the Albero Brut Cava is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.

The wine is golden straw color with a medium bead of fine bubbles that dissipate quickly in the glass. It has green apple, stone and baking bread aromas. Bright apple and citrus flavors finishing dry with hint of minerality and nice acidity on the finish. A nice crowd pleasing sparkler at a good price.

11.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

Thanks go to Wine Blogging Wednesday founder Lenn Thompson for asking me to host again. I’m looking forward to next month already.