Monday, February 28, 2011

Wine Industry 2011: A Brave New World

Hello Again,

When last I mused here I mentioned DFV wines of California as possible subject matter for an article. The context for my query had to do with the relatively high quality in their portfolio considering the enormity of their production. DFV ranks as the 11th largest domestic wine producer yet seems to produce wines that outperform others at respective price points. After some research we have learned some surprising facts about DFV.

First of all DFV acknowleges a recognition that the customer (rightfully) insists on quality at popular prices, a mission statement of sorts. By making and marketing fifteen or so brands of domestic and imported wines, DFV has woven a fabric of production that seems to offer a quality product for most any need. Now by taking an historical look at the company, may we gain insights into what the modern wine industry has become?

DFV is an 85 year old company originated by Gaspare Indelicato, an immigrant from winemaking heritage in Italy. The company was originally called Delicato and struggled mightily early in its history due to prohibition and the depression. With land holdings in Lodi and headquartered in Manteca, California, the Delicato company plotted a parallel course to their better known rival, Gallo. Delicato, however was never as independent as Gallo and built longstanding business relationships with their neighboring wineries and grape suppliers like Giumarra, the largest non-winery grower of wine grapes in the world. When the time was right Delicato was ready to grow.

Today Delicato is DFV (Delicato Family Vineyards) and owns 10,000 acres in Lodi and the central coast. Their sales are $200 million annually and their production is 2.67 million cases and with a 23% increase in production in the past year, they are the fastest growing wine company in California. Now here is the staggering truth about DFV. They actually produce five times as much wine...for others. DFV is a custom winemaking outsourcer, a contractor for other mega-companies to rely upon to bolster production. Some of the most familiar labels on the grocery store shelves, though branded as another company's production, were really made by DFV! As might be expected with increased production, acquisitions in winery capacity and vineyards are ongoing. It is truly a brave new world for the domestic wine industry.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Hey Folks,

Massimo Malbec is probably one of the best values in red wine that I have tasted recently. The name means "massive" as you might expect and I am here to tell you that it is. It is not especially tannic but it is really slow to open up, so get out your aerators! Here is a paragraph on Malbec followed by one on this wine in particular.

Argentine Malbec, like most other fine new world wines on the market, originally had its home in France. It is part of the supporting cast in the red Bordeaux blend but has recently become best known as the principle grape of Cahor. This is all anecdotal though because the finest Malbec comes from Argentina where its acclaim is without question. It is one of the great wines of the world and has become the hottest selling varietal worldwide currently because of its popular pricing. Typically Argentine Malbec displays black currant, damson, and spice in its flavor profile and finds its finest terroir in Mendoza, the undisputed capitol of fine wine production in Argentina.

Massimo is a product of DFV wines of California which probably deserves an article itself because of the fine quality of their wine portfolio. Massimo is made at O. Fournier, a state of the art modern facility in Valle de Uco, Mendoza, under the guidance of winemaker Gale Sysock of DFV in cooperation with Julia Holupczak of O. Fournier. The winery is 100% gravity flow at a 4000ft elevation. The altitude mitigates the heat and allows for a longer ripening season.

The 2009 vintage is the first release of this label and displays dark garnet color with purple edges. The taste is blueberry and plum with violet and spice and an appropriately long finish. The grape composition is 95% Malbec and 5% Tempranillo. Enjoy this wine with steaks and other hearty red meats. The price is $10.99/btl so jump on it, folks!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Wine and Food

Greetings All,

At last week's blind tasting here at the store, while between flights someone inquired as to whether the cheeses and crackers we were sampling could be affecting our perceptions of the wines. The answer clearly was "yes". Now considering how most all of the wines we enjoy are intended to be paired with foods, how often have we guessed wrong on our wine pairings for specific dinners? And if we "nail it" with the optimal wine choice, have we necessarily "failed it" with a lesser choice? Sounds like a question for therapy.

On a lighter note, here are some ground rules. White wine goes with fish, lighter chicken fare, picnic fare, shellfish, vegetables and salads, and perhaps mild goat cheese. Try a dry rose or a lighter red like Beaujolais or Pinot Noir for these foods if white is not your thing. Reds are really at their best when paired with red meats, oven roasted poultry, and cheese. If you want a crossover white for these things, try a particularly rich Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay, or Viognier.

In general, european wines are more food-friendly than new world wines due to their dryness and higher acidity. However as my friend has pointed out to me, so much of our American cuisine has become lighter and lower in fat making the richness of new world wines often a more attractive choice than old europe.

Here are three personal rules of thumb: Italian wine with pasta; beer (dry rose?) with barbecue; and with chocolate, um, I don't know.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Raymond Vineyards of Napa Valley

Hello All,

We have been selling Raymond wines for a few months with great success and recently the Family Classic Cabernet and R Collection Merlot have stunned with their complexity and class. Their presence in this store deserves some text here. Please read on.

The vintages in the store are '07 meaning they predate the current ownership, Boisset Family Estates, a multinational wine company comprising twenty properties in europe and california. They bought the property in 2009 from Kirin Holdings Company who in turn purchased it from the Raymond family. The 200 acre property and Raymond family management team has stayed intact with each sale. If you go to the winery website, however, Raymond's history prior to '09 just isn't there. So here it is.

The Raymond family tree in Napa goes back to the 1870s under the name Beringer; yes, that Beringer. The Raymond Winery name started with three family members, notably including winemaker Walter Raymond in 1971. The first vintage was 1974 and the wines in the store today were made by that same Walter Raymond.

Raymond is located in the Rutherford appellation of Napa and practices organic and biodynamic farming an ethic also espoused by Jean-Charles Boisset, head of the privately held Boisset Family estates based in Sausalito, California. If changes are forthcoming from Boisset ownership one can only hope they are modest This Friday we will be tasting the R Collection Merlot so stop in.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rotta Winery Tasting


So I'm getting older...I admit it. Damn it! I have been in the fine wine business thirty years and time doesn't stand still for any of us much less us curmudgeons who have always thought we knew it all, all along only to to be shaken awake repeatedly by change going on all around us.

Last night's tasting was an eye opener for me because I realized the wines I was tasting were a throwback to thirty years ago when a less refined model was the norm. These were country wines, plain and simple, and perfectly charming in their own right and Marc Caporales was right out of central casting as the forty year veteran winemaker out of UC Davis. My guess is he was making wines like these forty years ago before the consolidation within the industry produced a mantra of "make it taste all the same" so no one has to think about distinctiveness in the product.

Now I am faced with a new reality: There is now no more "old world" (Europe) and "new world" (California et al) but there exists a category that may be called "old-new world" for wines like Rotta. Now to close this episode... May I have the envelope please? The winners of the tasting were the reds in general and the two cabernets and the two zinfandels in particular with special accolades for the Heritage Zin for it's long lasting euro-style. Maybe its like clothing styles, if you hang around long enough everything returns to fashion.

Thanks for everything,


Friday, February 11, 2011


Hello Winelovers,

This week we received two new Argentine Bonardas that that far exceeded our expectations for that kind of wine. The wines were from Santa Julia and Zuccardi which are actually the same company but different quality levels. We actually tasted the whole line and selected a half dozen for the store. But the Bonardas are special. The Santa Julia is fresh and vibrant, medium bodied with spice and food-friendly. The Zuccardi is richer and more subdued being a reserve quality wine. They are both priced at $10.99; the Zuccardi is '06 and marked down. Jump on it.

Here's some information on Bonarda. Bonarda, always thought to be the Bonarda of Italy actually comes from Savoie in eastern France; north of Provence, east of Beaujolais, and south of Alsace. This region features many grape varieties with which we are largely unfamiliar possibly due to relative isolation being an Alpine region with very small scattered vineyards. The grapes that thrive there have probably benefitted from being there so long and may not actually travel well to new world environs.

That said, Bonarda in Argentina is the second most widely planted grape in that country and is the same grape as Charbono in California. In Savoie, "Charbonneau" produces a light floral red; in California, a full-bodied, dark red with medium tannnins; in Argentina, while more like California, Bonarda is not quite as big.

So stop in and try Bonarda and, by the way, we do have Napa Charbono in the store too.