Thursday, November 21, 2013

2012 Padrillos Malbec

Black cherry, red currant, plums, chocolate, licorice, and sweet spices all wrapped up in a velvety, round and juicy, mouth-coating body balanced by the bright acidity that even $12 Mendoza Malbecs can deliver.  All of the preceding adjectives were gleaned from reviews of this wine already posted on the internet.  My contribution?  Without hesitation, "hedonistic".

When we tasted Padrillos (stallions) last weekend I felt a distinct guilty conscience creeping up on me because I have been trained to relegate such new world efforts to a second rate status because, well, they aren't European.  By that, I mean they just don't follow the format, like jazz defied classical music a hundred years ago by thumbing its nose at Beethoven and the rest.  Nuance be damned!  We're just gonna "get it" right here.  Similarly, Padrillos makes no apology to Bordeaux for its forthrightness.  This is "in your face" new world red wine and after tasting it in Friday night's lineup, I impulsively said, "This tastes like $25 wine"...and I rarely say anything impulsively.

I have four reasons for why this wine is so good:

     1.  The wine is the project of Ernesto Catena, eldest son of Nicholas Catena, the "Don" of the Argentine wine industry.  Ernesto is a neophyte on his own in the business after a long and diverse academic career and doesn't even have his own winery, so the wine is made at his "old man's" place, Catena Zapata, only the best place in Argentina to make wine.

     2.  While he doesn't have a winery, Ernesto does have vineyards, 178 acres (116 under vine) in the Valle de Uco, Mendoza at 3576 feet above sealevel and certified organic.  Vistaflores is the name of the property and it is planted in Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah but the 100% 2012 Malbec is sourced from three Valle de Uco vineyards including Vistaflores (40%) with an average vine age of fifteen years.

     3.  So... Mendoza was originally planted in vines by Jesuit priests in the 16th century.  The project got goosed in the late 1800s when the phylloxera devastation in Europe drove winemakers to the new world to pursue their dreams.  Italians and Spaniards in particular ended up in Argentina but in more recent times French wine companies have invested heavily there.  Actually, Mendoza is being inundated with winemaking investments from companies around the world (blogpost 11/14/11).  A factor?  Yeah, sure.  Competition always drives quality up.

     4.  Here's the familiar refrain: for grapevine roots to survive in rocky, sandy, alluvial soils at high altitudes with little organic matter and low in fertility, they have to go deep resulting in small concentrated berries with accentuated minerality and firm tannins.  Then with the predictable Mendozan weather patterns (hot dry days, cool nights), effectively extending the growing season to produce rich ripe fruit, the winemaker has the latitude to perfect the kind of wine he chooses.  With Malbec, name your stylistic poison, the winemaker can make it happen here.

Join us here on Friday June 22nd when David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Selections presents a panoply of impressive French and Italian reds and whites for our joint edification.  Sounds like you ought to be here, right?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2010 Crociani Rosso di Montepulciano

This Friday between 5 and 7pm, David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Selections joins us here with a presentation of fine European reds and whites including the subject of this blogpost, 2010 Crociani Rosso di Montepulciano.  Rosso is the secondary complement to the premier regional wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and a relatively recent Italian creation (DOC-1989) from a winemaking region dating back 2500 years.  In 1999 the wine's style was further codified with DOC amendments, all of which seemed to spring from the Italian wine industry rennaissance of the 1980s.

The 2010 Crociani Rosso is 75% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese), 15% Canaiolo Nero, and 10% Mammolo, which is a standard recipe of the region.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are allowable (up to 20%) in Rosso but Crociani chooses not to use them.  De-classified Vino Nobile is also allowable in lesser vintages. 

Rosso was a necessary and smart Italian creation.  The finest Montepulciano vineyards feature soils of sand, gravel, and clay on hillside vineyards at 250+ meters above sealevel.  Thomas Jefferson and Martin Van Buren are just a couple of American notables from centuries past who recognized the greatness of Montepulciano.  So for Italy to create a lighter, fresh and fruity version of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one can only bow to their prescience.  Of course they did the same thing five years earlier with Rosso di Montalcino as a little brother to Brunello.

The structural foundation of Rosso is its 75% Sangiovese, a grape that offers savory cherry, black stone fruit, raspberry, and dried herbs in a balanced format which includes firm tannins and a high acidity.  With the 25% Canaiolo and Mammolo blend, the 2010 Crociani is a bright ruby red color with brambly red fruit flavors, hints of pepper, fine acidity, and a soft full finish.  To make an elegant wine such as this, the 10 hectares estate fruit is handpicked and the wine is made on the property in the 14th century wine cellar. 

On the dinner table the wine complements pasta with meat sauce, roasted red meats, and chicken with herbs.  Would this wine work for Thanksgiving dinner?  An interesting question.  I would love to try the combination.  Join us on Friday for a preview and, for gosh sakes, become a follower of this blog.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Best Buy

I have been telling people that the best buy in last Friday's tasting was the last bottle on the table, the 2010 Ezio Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Donati Family Vineyards.  What strikes me as peculiar is that it was the most expensive bottle on the table at $29.99, yet bang for your buck, it was the one to buy.  That still seems strange.  I guess I assume "best buy" means cheap. 

The night before, we tasted Monthuys Brut Reserve Champagne and that one too was the one to buy from that tasting lineup but it was $36.99 and not even the most expensive on the table and, honestly, I think it was just the best because I liked it...a whole lot. 

We have, of course, been celebrating our twentieth anniversary here at ol' V&C and we've been doing it with wine tastings to the tune of five tastings in the last ten days.  Whew!  Frankly, I haven't even been tasting all of the wines.  Sensory overload, ya know.

In no particular order, here are some of our best buys extending back to the beginning of October, aside from those already mentioned above:

October 11th:  Carlin de Paolo Italian Barbera d'Asti 2011 @ $16.99
October 18th:  Torres Ibericos Rioja Tempranillo Crianza 2009 @ $14.99
October 30th:  Chateaur Grissac Red Bordeaux 2010 @ $12.99
November 5th:  Pueblo del Sol Uruguayan Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, and Tannat @ $10.99

The Coto de Hayas Fagus and Centennaria ($21.99) from November 1st both sold out before I could taste them so they probably deserve mentioning and we had Croft Pink Port ($19.99) open over the course of a week and sold a couple cases during that time so that one too performed exceedingly well.

So were all of these wines "best buys"?  Probably not.  Best buys connote value for your dollar.  In that light Donati Ezio, Grissac, and the Pueblos were probably the best buys for the last couple months.  Now with Thanksgiving dinner looming on the horizon our selections have to be seen in a different light.  The value of "best buys" have to transcend dollar prices and brand identification and instead relate directly to our appreciation of the holiday.  In fact just toss out the idea of a "best buy" holiday wine entirely and pick up the one that is special to you.

Stop in ol' V&C for just that wine and then know you have what is appropriate for your Thanksgiving table.

Join us Friday for a tasting of some combination of: Queulat Chilean Sauvignon Blanc 2011,  William Hill Central Coast Chardonnay 2012, and then some combination of La Cacciatora Italians, Red Bordeaux , and Argentine Malbecs.  Then on the 22nd of November join us for David Rimmer's presentation of more top flight Italians and French wines. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Friday night we had the extreme pleasure of tasting four from Donati Family Vineyards of the Paicines region of San Benito County in Central Coast, California.  Donati is a legitimate family-owned venture with Ron Donati purchasing 1,000 acres of once-Almaden vineyards in 1998 for the purpose of putting his son, Matt, in charge of growing grapes.  As a second thought, they decided to just go ahead and make the wine themselves.  Ron's background was in cattle ranching but as an Italian-American, winemaking only makes sense, right?

Paicines was apparently a treasure trove of fine wine-capable vineyards hiding in plain sight and just waiting for a Ron Donati to step in and take advantage of what was there for him to exploit.  He hired the right winemaker in 30 year-experienced Dan Kleck to make his flagship Cabernet blends and for commercial reasons, located his winery in Templeton, an hour and a half south in Paso Robles.  Donati offers a dozen reds and whites of superior quality at great prices out of that location.

So why are the wines so good?  A familiar recipe:

     1.  The soils in Paicines are limestone, decomposed granite, and clay loam.
     2.  Ocean breezes from Monterey Bay give the vineyards a "Region II" cool climate.
     3.  The diurnal effect of warm days and cool nights result in wines with superior acidity.
But there is more:

     1.  The ecologically sustainable vineyards use natural predators, limited pesticides, and extreme diligence.
     2.  Vine canopys are trained, including the thinning of green shoots in the growing season and light management in the fruiting zone.
     3.  Green fruit is removed both before and after grape veraison.

"Rich in character and nuance" -from their website and my sentiments exactly.  I am not prone to hyperbole in any discussion of California wines but these guys just plain get it right.  The Chardonnay is unoaked with tropical and citrus aromas, creamy mid-palate, and crisp finish.  The Claret had strawberry and cherry up front and vanilla and clove laying back.  The tightly-wound Cabernet was right-on but for just a little bit more investment, the Ezio Reserve Cabernet proved to be the value of the evening.

David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Selections rejoins us on Friday, November 22nd from 5 to 7pm, with another assortment of fine French and Italian reds and whites.  This Friday, November 15th, we're tasting some combination of red Bordeaux, Argentine Malbec, La Cacciatora Italians, and some decent whites.  Attend the tasting and be the first to tell us what or who Ezio is and win a T-shirt.  Please join us and become a follower of this blog or, I swear, I'm gonna jump out of this skyscraper office window right now!  Help me, please!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

"Cheap versions of wines that should be expensive are almost always disappointing.  Expensive versions of underrated ones are usually a revelation."  Lettie Teague attributes this quote to Patrick Matthews from his 1997 wine book, "The Wild Bunch".  Also from the Wall Street Journal but not attributable, "Eight dollar Pinot Noir oughta be illegal." 

In our three year blogging history, we have witnessed the phenomenon over and over again.  An ordinary grape planted in the right place will yield an extraordinary wine while conversely Cabernet, Chardonnay, or other solid international grape variety will be repeatedly over-planted in ill-suited venues solely for the purpose of turning some gi-normous sales numbers.  Sometimes I want to scream, "Stop doing that!"

My mentor in the fine wine business was Jim Sanders, "the father of the fine wine business in Atlanta" and the French Burgundy expert of the southeastern United States.  The man knew his stuff.  While Burgundy was his professed area of expertise, he could expound on why Cabernet was king in Bordeaux, Syrah suited the Northern Rhone, Gamay worked in southern Burgundy, and so on. The man taught wine classes about grape vineyard terroir and if he had a fault (and everyone who met him knew his immediately) it was that he dismissed many of the lesser grape varieties...but then again I guess there is a reason for considering them to be lesser grapes in the first place.

Recently I tried to impress Master Sommeliere Michael McNeill by distinguishing the noble grape varieties from the lesser varieties.  He had just poured me a taste of an incredible Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) which I loved but damned with faint praise by asserting the grape's mediocre stature in the overall scheme of things.  The Vouvray was a marvelously complex wine, by the way, and McNeill took me to task immediately for framing the issue in that way by maintaining that any grape grown in the right environs can produce nobility.


Thesis:  There is a hierarchy of wine grape types with the elite ones being capable of producing truly superior wine.  The lesser grapes, by definition, produce lower quality wine.

Antithesis:  Any grape type is capable of achieving nobility if planted in the appropriate terroir.

Synthesis:  There are better and lesser grape varieties with the better ones having a track record of producing superior wine in multiple locations globally while the lesser varieties may show superiority only when planted in just the right venue.

Tomorrow evening we are tasting French wines with Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage and Michelle Schreck of Atlanta Improvement Company.  On Friday we're tasting Donati California wines with Colleen Rotunno, formerly of Corkscrew cafe in Dahlonega, now with Quality Wine & Spirits of Atlanta.  Please join us, 5-7pm both days.

Win a T-shirt by identifying the pop music historical event this blogpost refers to.  Supplies limited.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Smoked Cheese, Part 2

Here's a little pre-history on the smoking subject:

In prehistoric times cavemen would cook meats and fish over open fires in their caves and then hang the stuff in those caves to dry and feed the clan for awhile.  The motivation for hanging that meat/fish was for preservation first and foremost and in time, salt became a beneficial first step in that process either by rubbing it on or by dipping the meat/fish in brine.  Since we're talking about cave dwellers with no chimneys, the smoke in the room was, shall we say, heavy.

Salt also plays a possible role in the creation of cheese, itself.  Primitives may have accidentally created cheese by salting curdled milk, hoping to preserve it, but yielding a cheese of sorts.  Another hypothesis recontructs a scenario where milk is kept in a container made from animal stomachs which contain the enzyme, rennin, which separates whey from the forming curds which would become cheese.  Egyptian tombs document cheesemaking going back 8 to 10,000 years.

Now here's what smoking does:

Wood is made of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.  Cellulose and himicellulose are the basic structural materials of wood cells.  Lignin is the glue that holds the cells in place.  Cellulose and hemicellulose are sugars that carmelize when burnt yielding sweet, flowery, and fruity aromas.  Burning Lignin yields spicy and pungent aromas resembling vanillin and clove.

On July 15th of this year we wrote about phenolics, the chemical properties that give wine its flavors and health benefits.  Smoke from burning wood contains 400 chemical compounds with 75 or so being phenolic compounds.  Those compounds are triggered by the chemical reaction of the heat with latent wood polymers and just like in the wine phenolics blogpost, the smoking phenolic compound properties act as a preservative to the food being smoked.  So smoking meat/fish/cheese, like drinking red wine or eating dark chocolate, has healthful benefits in anti-oxidants which slow the rancidification of fats and anti-microbial benefits which inhibit bacteria growth.

...and all you ever heard was that smoking was bad for you.

Here's the wine tasting schedule for next week:

     Tuesday November 5th:  David Hobbs of Prime Wine & Spirits with Italians
     Thursday November 7th:  Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage Company with French fare
     Friday November 8th:  Coleen Rotunno of Quality Wine & Spirits with California wines

Tommy Basham is here tonight with Spanish and Italian wines.

Please supports us in these tastings and, by all means, become a follower of this blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Smoked Cheese

Last week we blew through a Spanish smoked San Simon da Costa and half a wheel of Dutch Smoked Gouda so I thought this blogpost would be appropriate.  Since most of what I sell is artisan cheese, my suppliers always tell me that the smoked cheeses are really naturally smoked and not chemically treated with liquid smoke.  Since I am at their mercy on such things, all things being proprietary nowadays, I have just accepted what I have been told.

What I have learned on the issue here is that by American law any cheese that is sold commercially as smoked cheese must, in fact, be smoked.  The smoking may include a liquid smoke component but if the labelling is "smoked cheese", the thing must actually be smoked, as in over a hardwood fire.  If the cheese has only seen the liquid smoke part, the label must use the words, "smoke flavor" in some combination with other colorful marketing verbiage.  The less expensive "smoke flavor" cheeses invariably also include a food coloring enhancement to the exterior of the cheese to make it look naturally smoked.

On September 9th of this year we blogged about Woodsmoke Provisions, the seafood smoker in Atlanta that provides our smoked trout and salmon.  In that post we distinguished between cold-smoking and hot-smoking with hot-smoking being a shorter process using a higher temperatures as opposed to the longer, lower temperature process.  While some cheeses may be hot-smoked, the vast majority are cold-smoked because, if you think about it, butter fat would melt at temperatures even as cool as 98.6 degrees (body temperature) as is the case when the product is still inside of the cow before it is extracted.  Cheeses to be smoked, by necessity, have to be of the harder varieties for the same reason and the cold-smoking process is usually done after the cheese is fully ripened and essentially finished.

With the preceding information in mind, should you want to smoke your own cheese, go to or  It looks pretty easy and, by the way, smoking cheese is actually mainly smoking the exterior of the cheese with smoke penetration not always saturating the center.

The 20th anniversary of our store's beginning in 1993 starts on Wednesday October 30th at 5pm when David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Selections joins us with a dazzling display of French and Italian reds and whites.  David is an old pro in this business and what he has to sell now is nothing less than the best available in their respective categories.  Please join us Wednesday between 5 and 7pm and then come back on Friday when Tommy Basham returns with a display of new Spanish and French wines.  Then come back the following week as the series of tastings continues as we do it up right for the occasion.  Attend all tastings and become a "follower" of the blog and maybe a T-shirt will be in the offing for you! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

MD 20/20 Blue Raspberry

On October 5th we blogged about MD 20/20 Electric Melon and roadside litter.  Being ecologically-minded I had retrieved a couple bottles that were despoiling the local Clermont environs.  That post was actually about the litter and I guess I was using it as a metaphor for products like MD 20/20 that I believe are the dross of the wine industry.  Last Saturday we wrote about the ordinary wines that California is known for producing really well and that, I believe, is a crowning achievement for a culture, to provide decent wine for the dinner tables of its people.

MD 20/20 and others are actually absurdities in themselves because categorically while they are wine after all, they are the furthest thing from a meal accompaniment and when heavily promoted to vulnerable souls, can lead to the life-destroying social nightmare that alcohol abuse can become.  Who's kidding whom?

Speaking of absurdities, how about all of the food and beverage containers that frame our beautiful North Georgia countryside and isn't it nice when an offender bags up his refuse first before tossing it out the window.  I'm not of the "there oughta be a law" camp so much as a "can't we all just get along" ethic and I guess that means a renewed educational emphasis on the subject in schools and churches.

Anyway this morning while walking the dogs I picked up an empty MD 20/20 Blue Raspberry bottle in the same general vicinity where I found the Melon, so I guess someone in the 'hood is a serious MD connossieur.  So just as I had followed up on the Melon discovery here at the blogsite, I decided to research Blue Raspberry and turning to the Google thingy, this is what I found:

     1.  MD is Mogen David.  Mogen is "king" in hebrew.  Familiarly, MD is, of course, Mad Dog.
     2.  Originally MD 20/20 was 20% alcohol in a 20 ounce bottle.
     3.  MD Blue Raspberry replaced an earlier product called Blue Hawaiian.
     4.  The front label prominantly displays the words, "Bling Bling", on a gold chain.  I wonder why?
     5.  Pricing for Blue Raspberry ranges from a low $2/btl to $7 with a nationwide average of $5/btl.

Semi-serious bloggers and others further out on the fringe have had a field day with MD 20/20.  Here are a few reports on Blue Raspberry from the "wino wine" blogosphere:

     1.  From a review, "As majestic as the cascading waste waters from a drain pipe..."
     2.  On color: "cloudy blue like an over-chlorinated pool"
     3.  In a comparison tasting with similar wines, Blue Raspberry wins in the "warmth" category.
     4.  How about this: "Really good with a sh__ sandwich.  Or a twinkie."

MD 20/20 now comes in 13% alcohol versions so maybe the producers have a social conscience after all.

Next Wednesday between 5 and 7pm David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Selections leads us in a tasting of some really special French and Italian reds and whites.  On Friday Tommy Basham rejoins us for a tasting of new French and Spanish reds and whites.  Then next week we celebrate our 20th anniversary here at the store and we will be having tasting events throughout the week.  Please join us.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gouguenheim Malbec/Wasabi Gouda

Last Saturday I was telling people we had two winners from Friday's tasting here, Gouguenheim Malbec and Wasabi Gouda.  Over the weekend we sold about a case and a half of Malbec and half a wheel of Gouda.  I'll take that any time.

The Malbec, by the way, was the Reserva from Gouguenheim, a label which has only recently been reintroduced to this market.  A small distributor had the brand over a year ago and lost it to a larger player and now it's back at a better price.  Coincidentally I got to meet Patricio Gouguenheim at a trade show recently and came away from the experience greatly impressed by his presentation.  Gouguenheim is an Argentine by birth to French parents.  He was a banker in Argentina until 2002 when he made the leap into the wine business, buying a winery in the Valle de Uco in the Andes foothills (3600 ft. alt!) in the Tupungato plateau of Mendoza.  Tupungato is a magical place and one to watch in the future as it is sure to become a fine wine industry hub (blogpost 11/14/11).

The Wasabi Gouda comes from Cheese Partners Holland which is changing its name this month to Dutch Original Cheese or DOC.  DOC is a private labeller in Holland with four clients who distribute their own labelled Goudas in America.  I am quite certain another brand we have sold here called "Gooda" is from the same people. 

2/3 of the 650 kilos of cheese produced annually in the Netherlands is exported and 60% of that is Gouda.  Archeologists have found cheesemaking equipment in area digs that date to 200bc and by the middle ages Holland and specifically, the town of Gouda, had become known as a cheese trading center.  Blogpost 5/8/13 dealt with that aspect of Gouda.

Last weekend's Wasabi Gouda was a pistachio-colored, creamy, medium-hard cheese that was not strong at all.  In my research I learned that the distinctly pungent Japanese Wasabi root is not the same as the horseradish we in the western world all know.  While similar in taste, Japanese Wasabi stimulates the nasal passages more than the tongue and is water-based so the burning in your nostrils or mouth is temporary compared to oil-based condiments like peppers.  The Japanese Wasabi plant is also difficult to cultivate which means it's expensive and often substituted in the west with a combination of horseradish, mustard, starch, and green food coloring.  I don't know whether the Gouda is authentically Wasabi or not.

On Friday October 25th between 5 and 7pm, Ryan Thayer of Eagle Rock Distributing joins us with a presentation of California reds and whites.  Eagle Rock represents the Small Vineyards portfolio of fine European estate wines which has been hugely successful here.  Ryan says we're going to like the California stuff too.  Please join us for the tasting and say, "Wasabi Gouda, please."

And for gosh sakes, become a "follower" of this blog; I'm not doing this for my health, ya know.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What I'm Getting At

I'm an introverted armchair wanna-be historian who cogitates about imaginary "what ifs" and then lets his unrealistic ideas coagulate until he thinks he's arrived at something profound.  For instance, I was wondering if the current developmental stage of the California wine industry might correspond to an earlier stage in European oenological history.  Then of course I realized how preposterous the whole idea was because of the ridiculously huge situational differences involved.

Among this blog's common threads is my assertion that our American capitalist economy is driven by the mass marketing of stuff to consumers and wine sales are an example of just that.  The Gallos, Indelicatos, Sebastianis, and others from the early twentieth century marketed jug wines for a reason: it was decent product in a volume container at a very affordable price.  Thirty years ago when the cold war was raging and I was new to the business, it was common knowledge that the Soviet Union couldn't stomp out a good wine no matter which five year plan was in play.  We, on the other hand, have always been able to provide decent quality for our people at a very modest price.

Now, with the cultural shift to a more serious wine-appreciating consumer and coorespondingly better quality wines through new world technology, we have wines that are way better than before.  But the mass market template is still in force.  The large companies don't aspire to create something new, exciting, and individualistic so much as to provide a type of wine that fits the generic product prototype.  Just as those Italian-American immigrant winemakers turned out jugs of dago red for an appreciative people a hundred years ago, now the current generation markets Cabernets and other types that fit the basic varietal profile.  A successful California Cabernet is one that just tastes like good Cabernet.  Pinot Noir, same idea...but lesser results.  Sad to say, the elite wines from the industry giants aren't so much sterling examples of type but just better than the regular model.

Oh oh, I'm cogitating again.  Okay, so it's a fool's errand to compare cultures across time, but now I'm wondering if those Italian immigrants to America left behind paesanos who were mass marketers at heart and maybe they just didn't have the mass markets in Italy to service. 

Maybe everything is situational.

Please join us on Friday October 25th between 5 and 7pm as we explore California reds and whites with Ryan Thayer of Eagle Rock and then Tommy Basham of Continental returns on the 1st of November.  Please join us for that one too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wine Tasting Lineup October 18, 2013

On Friday October 18th we'll be tasting our usual half dozen mixed array of reds, whites, and roses here at the store and for a change, this time we will give you a preview.  As you see only five are pictured so the sixth is undetermined at this time.

1.  2011 Juno Sauvignon Blanc.  Some of the best Sauvignon Blanc anywhere comes from South Africa.  These Stellenbosch vineyards are in the Western Cape of the country.  The grapes were slightly pressed before cold fermenting in stainless steel tanks and then left on the lees for added richness.  The wine is recommended with oysters, grilled fish, and goat cheese combinations.

2.  2010 Torres Ibericos.  This is a Rioja Crianza meaning it is aged in oak for one year and then aged longer in the bottle.  The grape variety is Tempranillo from the most esteemed region of Spain.  The name refers to both the Iberian Penninsula and a favorite food pairing, Iberian ham.  The color is red cherry; the nose is black ripened fruits and spice; the taste is forest fruits and spices; the body is elegant and silky; and the finish is long and spicy.

3.  2012 Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rose.  This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah sourced from a 200 acre vineyard at the foot of Mount Saint Victoire near Aix en Provence.  The Quiot family is the fifth generation owner of the property.  The aromas are citrus and strawberry while the flavors are red berries and watermelon, herbs and white pepper, cardamom, and minerality.  (Stephen Tanzer-"firm, focused, and racy".)  Food affinities include: shellfish, fish, and cured smoked ham.

4.  2010 Torres Celeste.  This is a Tempranillo Crianza from Ribero del Duero which is known for bigger reds than Rioja.  The wine has a blackberry color and a spicy nose; the mouthfeel is full-bodied and persistent with well-ripened flavors of blackberry and cherry, soft tannins, and licorice and black pepper.  Roasts, small game, and red meats in general would accomodate this one.

5.  2010 Gouguenheim Argentine Malbec Reserva.  The property is at the foothills of Mount Tupungato (blogpost 11/14/11) in Valle de Uco; at 3,600 feet above sealevel, one of the highest wine regions in Mendoza.  Tupungato features alluvial soils, 320 sunny days a year, and the highly beneficial diurnal effect of great temperature swings between day and night.  Irrigation in this arid plateau is done with water melted from the Andes snowcaps.  The 2011 Gouguenheim Malbec has dark red and violet hues; rich, strong aromas; and flavors of strawberry, plum, black cherry, black currant, chocolate and violets.  Further, the wine features balanced acidity, good structure, soft tannins, and a long finish.  That was the regular Malbec.  We will be tasting the Reserva.  Fasten your seatbelts.

The tasting is from 5 to 7pm here at the store.  Please share this with anyone who you think might be interested.  The wines range in price between $10 and $25.  Cheese and crackers will also be on the table.  We ask for a minimum $30 purchase or a ten dollar donation per person.

Please become a "follower" of this blog so I can point to those numbers with a reasonable pride for my efforts.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

MD 20/20 Electric Melon

I pick up trash.  I carry my grocery store plastic T-shirt bags when I walk or bike around the neighborhood and pick up recyclables like plastics, aluminum cans, and glass bottles.  If the stuff is too yucky I let it go but in most cases I just bend over and do it.  I used to get angry about littering but a couple years ago I decided I wasn't too good to do something about it.  Also some recyclers give a percentage to breast cancer research and that's certainly a motivator too.

So, I've learned a bit about the food and beverage habits of North Georgia litterbugs.  Beer preferences are uninspired.  The largest industrial beer company with its coorespondingly largest advertising budget is the beverage of choice for the vast majority of beer drinking litterbugs.  Food containers likewise reflect the fast food chains and soft drink giants that are most heavily advertised although Starbucks is an outlier with potential for producing big litterbug numbers.  Wine has not made it into the big leagues with litterbugs percentage-wise compared to food and beer but it took a while to catch on with the rest of us too.  So maybe there are prospects for growth here too.

One surprise for me in my picking up province is the prevalence of  plastic water bottles by the sides of roads.  Back during the so-called cultural revolution, many people replaced soft drinks with the new stuff, bottled water, for the obvious health benefits.  Recycling was just getting started too and it just seemed natural that bottles of this pure beverage should be disposed of properly.  It was like, what's good for inside of us must be made good for the environment.  Now I think a lot of working guys in pickups around here throw their empties in the back of the truck and they blow out going down the road.  Plastic bags too.  It happens.

I mentioned above how advertising influences the litterbug community in its food and beverage choices.  Gallo is the industry leader in wine sales by far and while I don't know current advertising numbers, at one time I remember hearing they had done as much as 75% of all wine advertising.  The few wine containers I find by the side of the road reflect seriously advanced advertising numbers.  Among the brands Gallo has rode to success are Ripple, Thunderbird, Night Train, and Boones Farm. Constellation, the second largest wine company, has marketed Richard's Wild Irish Rose since the 1950s.  These are the kind of wine products that in an earlier era built portfolios that now include fine dinner wines.  These are also the kinds of wines that end up as highway road litter.

Recently I picked up a couple bottles of MD 20/20 Electric Melon in a secluded bend in the road where litterbugs like to dump stuff.  (Some litterbugs prefer to drop their stuff in less public places or cast them away from the roadside like they are ashamed or something.  Perhaps similarly, Gallo doesn't list the Ripple, et al., on their website.)  MD is made and marketed by The Wine Group, the third largest wine company in the world, and producers of Almaden, Big House, Concannon, Corbett Canyon, Cupcake, Fish Eye, Flipflop, Foxhorn, Franzia, and many more.  To their credit they do list MD with the others.  As I looked down at the MD bottles I remember thinking, "Electric Melon is a damn fine wine name", and then I wondered whether one person had drunk both bottles and then after that I remembered finding a needle and syringe in the same place some time earlier. 

Lord have mercy.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Less > More

Did you ever notice how often the lower priced item is better than the higher priced similar item?  I don't just mean that there is parity in quality between two products.  I mean the lower priced one is actually better.  (Yeah, I know it's all subjective.)  I think we all track this stuff to one extent or another and maybe not obsessively but maybe out of the corner of our eye, so to speak, we notice that it sometimes seems to be the case.

Recently a customer accidentally got a case of the reserve version of Maggio Petite Sirah here and returned it.  I apologized and ordered the correct one but also tasted the reserve and it was clearly inferior to the regular Petite.  Another customer bought a bottle of Badiolo Chianti in the fiasco (straw basket) bottle and a bottle of the Badiolo Reserve Chianti.  He reported that the basket Chianti was better.  That just defies reason...but I don't doubt this customer.

One Friday night here we had a half dozen California Cabernets on the tasting table and the lowest priced bottle seemed to be the best of the show.  I have not failed to keep that one in stock here since that tasting.  Stop in if you want to try it. 

There are certain products which are institutionally set up to offer a better deal if you buy the lower priced thing.  Non-vintage Champagne comes to mind where the Champagne house will blend vintages together to achieve a style and quality level that is representative of who the Champagne house thinks they are.  If a vintage year is declared it may be better than the non-vintage blend but it may not.  I am not a Port lover but I wonder if that situation may be similar.

This being a recessionary time, non-historical labels appear on store shelves containing wines that were ticketed for a higher price point but contracts get broken in times like these and new and unusual labels appear with superior surplus juice.  We blogged about Bridesmaid Napa Red Blend here on September 14th and I wonder whether that one wasn't a case in point.  Actually, recessions produce all kinds of bargains that reflect the need to dispense higher priced juice at lower prices because the pricier labels just aren't selling and that's certainly good news for the consumer.

Read the Tilsit cheese blogpost just before this one for a cheese counterpart to this discussion.

Please join us Friday October 4th between 5 and 7pm as we explore more red wines and what may be the finest white wine in the place.  For a review of the white go to blogpost 7/8/13.

Less > More, Part 2: Abundantly Rich Red

Let's define what constitutes a superior wine.  It's not necessarily the biggest, boldest wine on the table that's the best.  It may be, but not because of its breadth or the "hair" growing on it.  If the flavor profile of the wine demonstrates complexity with harmony in flavors, appropriate body and structure, and is balanced lengthwise from start to finish with demonstrative attributes at the beginning (nose), middle (palate), and a lasting pleasant finish when you exhale, then that's a superior wine.  I also give bonus points for texture, including wininess and when appropriate, oiliness.

Twice in recent weeks we have tasted out the 2009 Abundance Cellars Abundantly Rich Red from Mencarini Family Winery in Lodi, California.  I have sold this twelve dollar wine for years but, frankly, I never realized just how good it was.  Maybe the current vintage is just better than the past vintages I have had.

The Lodi AVA is due east of San Francisco between Sacramento and Stockton.  Thirty years ago Lodi was strictly jug wine country.  Now 20% of all varietal wines from California come from there.  It has become the "Languedoc" of California, meaning a whole lotta decent wine comes from there.  The Mencarini family got started there in the early 1950s and the vines used for this wine were planted in 1961, which may explain in part why it tastes so good.  A mission statement of sorts from the Mencarinis asserts that their goal has always been to provide high quality, yet affordable wines for the working people of America.  I like that.

Abundantly Rich Red is a Carignane/Zinfandel blend.  It features a dense, dark raspberry color with a nose of strawberry, plum, and evergreen and balanced long soft fruit flavors of plum and strawberry layered with oakiness, especially at the finish.  Food affinities include: cheeses, pasta, and red meats.

So I include the Abundantly Rich Red review under the "less is more" heading because this is a wine that overperforms for its price point.  I am not a natural fan of this kind of wine by the way.  My take is that these kinds of California wines are often muddy, flabby (unstructured and lacking acidity), and unbalanced.  ARR is not fine wine by any means but it's awfully nice for what it is and I would prefer it to many twenty dollar Zins.

In a different vein, on Friday October 4th we are tasting new Chileans on the market with Tommy Basham of Continental Beverage presenting.  This Leyendas line features three reds and two whites, and they are all reported to be "reserve" quality examples.  Please join us.  Please become a follower here also so I won't embarrass my family by not being more successful at this. 

Monday, September 30, 2013


Tilsit (or Tilsitter) is a mild semi-hard cheese that originated in Switzerland but now, like Gouda and others, is produced commercially in many places.  We have two versions in the store at this writing.  Both come from Austria and in this case we have an example of the lower priced version actually being more flavorful than the higher priced one.  The higher priced one, Black Knight (in black wax), looks the part though.

Unlike Gouda (blogpost 5/8/13), Tilsit's historic roots are firm.  The Westphal family of Switzerland migrated to the town of Tilsit in German East Prussia in the mid-nineteenth century where they reproduced the cheese they had previously made in the homeland but with different results.  Apparently the molds active in the Tilsit area were much different than what lived in Switzerland.

Tilsit is a smear-ripened cheese produced by rubbing a bacteria solution on the outside of the cheese during aging to develop stronger flavors in the cheese.  Sometimes an older cheese is rubbed on a young one to transfer the microorganisms for the same effect.  The smear also protects the cheese by inhibiting the growth of undesirable bacterias while adding a pinkish-orangish color to the outside of the pale yellow cheese.

The Tilsits that we have in the store are good, safe crowd pleasers.  They are mass produced from pasteurized cow's milk with a 30-60% milk fat content and aged for two months before going to market.  They would do any tray arrangement proud.  The flavor is subtle but undeniable.  It's a good cheese but yet a far cry from the original product described above.  This cheese may be cubed on salads or melted in sauces or on potatoes or burgers.  In its artisanal form, the Tilsit would have been a natural on a coarse dark bread with a dark ale to wash it down.  The commercial versions would seem to pair well with light reds, roses, and white wines.  The former, a working man's cheese; the latter, for the rest of us.

Join us here on Friday October 4th between 5 and 7pm as we taste another lineup of red wines as we move into the cool weather season.  The Tilsit will be on the table.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Anciano 5 Year, Part 2

The Valdepenas DO represents more than just a history separate from La Mancha which surrounds it.  It also represents a wine style of its own which differs from La Mancha although in this modern era there now seems to be more similarities than differences.  Both regions have dramatically modernized.

Originally in 1932 when the Denominacion de Origen system of wine/vineyard classification was set up and Valdepenas was admitted into that inaugural classification, Valdepenas was known for young fruity wines.  Valdepenas means "valley of rocks".  The soil is stony and clayey with some sandy loam but also with a substrate layer of chalky limestone which serves to retain moisture during the hot and semi-arid summers.  The wine was, in fact, historically made in large earthenware bowls sunken into the ground and into the limestone depths to maintain a cooler temperature than surface levels.  This winemaking method may be an early prototype for what modern winemakers do to affect fruity style wines today.

The historic wines of Valdepenas were white, red, and rose and purposefully blended.  The reds (Clarete) were lightened with white wine and the rose was a blend of red and white juices.  When the Phylloxera epidemic struck in the nineteenth century and native vines had to be grafted onto disease-resistant American rootstocks, Airen became the new white grape of the region and Cencibel (Tempranillo), the red.  This was done because the vines were durable weatherwise and grafted better than others.  The wine styles that resulted were kept in line with pre-phylloxera styles.

Robert Parker has described Anciano wines as "silky textured with savory flavors and no hard edges".  All of Anciano's vineyards feature 30+ year old vines at 2300ft elevation with modern facilities, the sum total of which would produce wines of superior quality and being Spanish, affordably priced.  Anciano 5 Year is $10.99/btl!

Please join us for Friday's tasting.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2006 Anciano Tempranillo Reserva Aged 5 Years

Sometimes neat things happen here.  Friday evening David Hobbs of Prime Wines showed up with a couple open bottles of Anciano wines from Spain.  He said to add them to the tasting lineup for the evening.  I had placed a large order with him earlier in the week and I think his tasting donation was a "thank you" of sorts.  One of the open Ancianos was the "5 Year" which means it was aged in oak barrels for five years.  The other was the 2002 "10 Year", which was very good also but the 5 Year was a true delight.

We sold several cases of the Anciano that evening which got me to thinking about the last time we had such success in tasting sales and it was actually five years ago and before the recession.  One evening back then we sold a similar amount of a Montepulciano that has since left the market as has the distributor who poured it, both recession casualties.  Then one evening a couple years ago at a tasting a customer burst into the store gushing about a Chilean Carmenere he had purchased here and now he wanted several more cases of that wine.  Several tasters that night said, "I want what he's having" and ordered cases at his prompting.  But that was different because we weren't tasting the wine that night.  But it was neat too.

Anciano is a label produced by Bodegas Navalon in the Valdepenas DO (Denominacion de Origen) which is surrounded by the La Mancha DO on the desolate Meseta plateau in the middle of the country.  If you want to read about La Mancha, scroll back to the June 8th blogpost of this year.  Why would Spain create a DO within the boundaries of another DO?  Well, of course it has to do with history, or better yet, pre-history.

Spain is arguably the oldest European wine-producing country.  When the grapes were brought up to the continent from the Middle East, the merchant seafarers stopped at southern Italy and Sicily and Spain and from those beginnings the vines began their travels across the continent.  Archeologists have now dated civilization in Valdepenas to the Bronze Age, approximately 1000-1300bc.  The inhabitants were members of a tribe called "Bronze of Levante" and the artifacts now being unearthed are remnants of military fortifications at higher elevation settlements called "motillas".

Now back to the wine...  Tasting notes for the Anciano 5 Year include: ruby-brick color; balsamic, licorice, and fruit compote aromas; rich fruit with balanced tannins on the palate; and a long and intense finish.  Food affinities include stews, red meat, and mature cheeses.  I got all of that from what sounds like a great outfit, The Well-Oiled Wine Company.  My contribution here is simply that the fruit component of this wine is what makes it special.  That fruit really jumps!

Did we mention that the wine retails for $10.99/btl?

Please join us on Friday September 27th between 5 and 7pm when again delve into a smorgasbord of California and European reds and one great Italian Pinot Grigio and please become a "follower" here so I will feel validated.  (Momma always wanted me to amount to something.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Three-Tier System, Part 1

Some of you may have heard of the three-tier system of alcoholic beverage distribution.  Briefly, it was instituted following the Prohibition Era when it became apparent that regulation was necessary as a response to the lawlessness of the times.  The power to regulate the alcoholic beverage industry was given to the states and most states chose to adopt some variation of this system which separates the producer of the beverage from the distributor in the state and again separates those two from the retailer/restauranteur.  Coincidentally, taxation was a motivator also with all three levels being subject to taxation before the consumer pays his sales tax on top of the others!

In Georgia our system cedes undue power to the distributor level which can negotiate the cost of a wine from the producer and then set its marked-up price to the retailer.  There is no competition on the wholesale level in Georgia.  Each distributor has sole ownership of a particular wine brand until he chooses to give it up.  This is a primary reason for Georgia's high beverage prices.  In the original setting up of the system, by the way, those contending for distributor licenses were chosen by the most widely approved system of our time, the All-American political patronage system, sometimes called the "old boy network", thus providing yet another example of systemic corruption in America.

A producer may choose to terminate a relationship with a distributor if he is dissatisfied with sales or payment arrangements but he then must stay out of the market for five years as a penalty which again reflects state favoritism for the distributor while the sacrifice paid by the producer can be very dear.  The trading or selling of labels between distributors is a common practice for commercial reasons or sometimes due to interpersonal difficulties between parties and it's all very entertaining for the impartial observer in an "inside baseball" sort of way.  The interruptions in the availabilitiy of brands in the marketplace, while not exactly a hardship, can be an inconvenience to the consumer though.

On Friday September 27th from 5 to 7pm we will be tasting here at the store as usual.  With the cooler weather, expect more reds.  Please join us us.

The Three-Tier System, Part 2

So I bring up this subject because I am a small player in this game and I have recently been reminded of how little I matter to the big players.  Large distributors cater to large retailers and to chain stores and restaurants.  That's their bread and butter and it's easy money once you're in.  If you are small you are sort of irrelevant and perhaps a party to be humored by the real players.  I think I understand the game. 

The smaller distributors share their stature with small producers and small retailers and restaurants.  They have been locked out of the chain stores and chain restaurants.  So it makes sense that smaller players do business with each other. In my case, being a retailer who hand-sells, I can sell wines that many venues cannot because the product is put on the shelf in the large stores with no one to recommend it.  I must admit, some large distributors know my talents and long history and deal with me fairly.  Others don't.  C'est la vie.

There is an errant assumption at work for many wine consumers though, and that is that the large brand names that are prominantly placed in chain stores and big box stores are better than small unknown brands.  I understand the psychology.  It is better to hedge your bets and play it safe and get the mass marketed product because they wouldn't have gotten to where they are if they don't make good wine. 


But...if the whole truth be known, it's the smaller producers who remain true to the idea of what wine should be and that is that it should reflect its origins.  Mass marketed wine reflects a poll-tested idea of what a given wine should taste like.  It is safe.  It won't offend anyone.  You don't have to think about it. 

Small players want you to think about it, to experience it, to get that the stuff has origins and what you are tasting is the historic product from that place.

Please join us at the store Friday September 27th between 5 and 7pm for our regular weekly tasting. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Istara Ossau-Iraty

Ossau-Iraty (oh-sow ee-RAH-tee) is a traditional shepherd's semi-pressed raw sheep milk cheese.  It is the most famous cheese from the Basque region of France and one of only two AOC (appellation d'origine controlee) sheep cheeses in France with the other being Roquefort.  With the formation of the European Union, Ossau-Iraty received its PDO (protected designation of origin) further ensuring that the quality of the cheese will be maintained through its traditional methods of production including the sourcing of milk.  "Istara" is further proprietary branding of the cheese but its meaning is lost on me.

The aroma of Ossau-Iraty is distinct and indelibly reflects its ewe's milk origins.  The cheese taste is nutty, sweet, and herbaceous with complex delicate flavors of hazelnut, figs, and olives.  The natural orange-brown rind is edible and actually adds to the cheese's complexity while contrasting in color with the ivory white interior.  The texture of the cheese is somewhat oily.  Ossau-Iraty fits well into a cheese tray format but also complements fruits, jams, and honey.  Wine affinities include light reds and whites in general and, of course, the wines of the Basque region in particular.

Ossau-Iraty is the product of Manech and Basco-Bearnaise ewes grazing in steep mountain pastures in the 20% of the Basque country that lies in France.  Ossau is a valley in Bearn which is in Gascony outside of the Basque region.  Iraty refers to the Iraty Beech Forest within the northern or French Basque country.  Both places lie in the Pyranees-Atlantique department which was created after the French revolution.  Prior to that, the region, whether French or Spanish at the time, was at least somewhat autonomous for centuries.

Last Friday at our weekly tasting we opened a bottle of Domaine Saint-Lannes Gascogne white which may have been a nice pairing with Ossau-Iraty.  This week on Thursday from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage joins us with three Spanish whites, a Rioja reserve red, and two domestic red blends.  Want to bet the Ossau-Iraty gets sampled out with some of those?  Please join us.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bridesmaid & Robin K

I'm a history buff and last night's tasting here has served as another opportunity to discuss the California fine wine industry in historical terms.  In 1976 when this young and undeveloped, insular, naive and uncertain business was getting its legs in northern California, I was doing likewise in my first position in a retail wine shop in Berkeley, California.  Now from my current 2013 Gaineville, Georgia perch, I can now see how the maturation process in fine wine production has worked, at least in these examples at hand.  Whereas thirty-five years ago winemaking prospectors in California were gambling that they could make this winemaking project happen, now individuals like William Knuttel (Robin K) and Pam Starr and Drew Neiman (Bridesmaid) know how to do just that.  It just took a few decades and amassing a few friends along the way.

William Knuttel began his winemaking career making wonderful Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays with Saintsbury of Carneros/Napa from 1983 through 1996.  From 1996 though 2003 he led Chalk Hill of Sonoma with an expanded line of fine varietals before turning around an underperforming Dry Creek Vineyards (2003-2011).  Knuttel had a diversion in the 90's with Tria wines and in 2005 with Zap but, by way of overview, what he accrued in knowledge was fundamental to what he does now. Knuttel uses his practical experience, scientific background, and instincts to produce what he calls "Wines of Intensity and Finesse" at his eponymously named winery.  Robin K is the second label for William Knuttel Wines.  Mrs. Knuttel is Robin, by the way.

The Robin K 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon we poured here last night is reviewed as "black cherry, blackberry, cigar box, caramel and creamy vanilla bean, supple tannins, and a lengthy finish".  I forgot where I read that and I didn't get a chance to taste it since it sold out so quickly.  Robin K retails under $20.

Now for a confession: High-end Napa Cabernet is not my thing and while I have tasted many and I acknowlege their greatness, I just have other preferences and I haven't tracked this end of the business in a long time.  Call me a heretic.  So with that said, the 2010 Bridesmaid was the high-end red on the table here last night and it was luscious.  It is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot, a Bordeaux blend, if you will. 

Pam Starr and Drew Nieman each have resumes that include stops at some of the finest wineries of Napa and they have both made their share of ultra-premium luxury wines along the way so with that said, let's stay with the here and now for this one.  What we have here is an assemblage of excess juice gleaned from colleagues at similarly high-end operations in Napa.  This is juice that was originally intended to complete someone else's high-end centerpiece wine but was not used and then became available to someone like Ms. Starr and/or Mr. Nieman.  Needless to say, the proprietary blend for Bridesmaid will necessarily change every year with this modus operandi.

Robert Parker said about this wine: "The first credit for this wine should go to the buyer of the juice.  The second credit should go to the blender."  Since we don't know the individual roles of the Starr/Nieman team, accolades to all for this well-knit ultra-premium assemblage.

This Thursday September 19th from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage rejoins us with a presentation of European whites and domestic reds.  The whites include: Lo Brujo Macabeo from Calatayud, Spain, and Lanzos 50% each Viura/Sauvignon Blanc and Ermita Veracruz Verdejo both from Rueda, Spain.  The reds include: Solar de Randez Reserva Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain and a couple noteworthy domestic red blends.  These wines are a must-taste so be here Thursday for that one.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Namaste means "the spirit in me honors the spirit in you" according to David Masciorini, owner of Namaste Vineyards of Dallas, Oregon.  From its origins in the Indian subcontinent, this salutation and valediction has been popularized through cultural contributions like yoga and other quasi-religious associations.  For Mr. Masciorini, whom I spoke with for this blog article, the meaning for his purposes would be "the spirit of the wine honors the spirit of the vine".  Mr. Masciorini intimated to me that Namaste may not have been an intentionally meaningful selection of a name for his vineyard and winery but to my understanding, I'm not sure just how much more meaningful he could have gotten.

Namaste Vineyards is located just about in the middle of the Willamette Valley, the finest wine region of Oregon.  Dallas is fifteen miles west of Salem, the state capitol, in Polk County which is home to a veritable who's who of great Oregon Wineries including Eyrie Vineyards whose founder, David Lett, first planted Pinot Noir in the state in 1966.  Today the Oregon wine industry contributes $800 million to the state directly through wine sales and $1.4 billion is believed to be indirectly contributed to the Oregon economy through ancillary trade and...40% of Oregon's wineries are ecologically sustainable!

Namaste Vineyards consists of thirty-three estate acres with eight of those acres planted between Pinot Noir Dijon 115 (Abundance Vineyard) and Pinot Noir Pommard Clone (Prosperity Vineyard).  Each of those vineyard Pinot Noirs is now in the store at special pricing while the Reserve Cuvee Pinot Noir, made from a 50-50 blending of select vines from each vineyard, has yet to appear in the Atlanta market.  Namaste also markets white wines made from Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer including the proprietary white blend, "Peace", which has been a very popular item here in the past.

Namaste Vineyards was planted in the years from 1980 to '83 so all of their estate production is now sourced minimally from thirty year old vines.  They produce 2000 cases annually with 200 cases each of the two estate Pinot Noirs.  Some additional fruit is sourced locally to supplement the Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling grown on the property.  The topography of the vineyard is rolling hills and the climate features ideally mild temperatures for Pinot Noir with little rainfall during the growing season but plenty in the off-season.

This Friday, September 13th from 5 to 7pm, Henry Leung of Hemispheres Global Wines joins us for a tasting of two French whites (Gascogne & Rhone), Osso Anna Napa Chardonny, an Italian Primitivo (Zinfandel), a French Red Rhone, and Bridesmaid Napa Red Blend.  Henry has been written up in several food and wine magazines for his ability to pair wines with foods and according to the Wine Spectator, Henry is "the man who solved the Chinese puzzle".  You can ask him about that one Friday evening.  Please join us for the tasting and please become a "follower" of this blog. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Woodsmoke Provisions

Woodsmoke Provisions is an Atlanta seafood smokehouse started in 1995 by a couple of entrepreneurs in intown Atlanta.  The business has since changed ownership twice and been moved and enlarged and now resides at 1240 Menlo Drive in northwest Atlanta in the original Inland Seafood building.  Inland Seafood is the premier seafood wholesaler in Georgia and has a business interest in Woodsmoke.  Rich Luff is the individual I was directed to at Woodsmoke when I made my initial inquiries about the business and most of what follows is information from him.

Woodsmoke prides itself on being an entirely All-American company in every aspect of its operation.  The fish it uses are caught by American fishermen and harvested sustainably in the Alaskan Arctic for salmon and here in Georgia for trout.  Moreover, in-house processes are all done by hand using American workers from the meticulous cutting and cleaning of the fish through the curing and smoking (hickory for salmon, pecan shells for trout) to the final packaging and storage before shipping.

There are two methods for smoking fish.  Woodsmoke "hot smokes" its many types of salmon but  "cold smokes" their trout at temperatures well below the 75 degrees fahrenheit it considers the standard and this is where it gets interesting.  According to my research cold smoking in humid parts of the country is difficult at best.  It is a long process with several hours of curing in citrus juices, brine, and brown sugar followed by four times as much time in the smoker.  During the entire process when not in the smoker the fish must stay at temperatures of 38 degrees or lower or frozen at zero degrees fahrenheit during down times.  The only time the fish may reach room temperature is for a short time prior to wrapping.

We have been selling Woodsmoke Provisions smoked salmon and trout quite successfully for the past year or so and never until now thinking about the difficulty involved in the smoking process.  We have, however, thought about Inland Seafood's incredible endeavor of delivering all of its fresh seafood offerings around Georgia every time we see one of their trucks on the roads.  Think about that the next time you're noshing on your fresh tuna sushi!

Not yet available but coming soon to this store: Woodsmoke Provisions Wild Arctic (hot smoked) Salmon.  Stay tuned.

This Friday from 5 to 7pm Tommy Basham of Continental Beverage joins us with a presentation of reds and whites including Villa Rubini Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Italy and Opolo Vineyards Summit Creek Zinfandel from Paso Robles, California.  Next week on Friday the 13th, Henry Leung of Hemispheres Global Wines presents his usual dazzling array of "fine-winery" which is undetermined at this time, but as reliable as Henry is, you ought to be here for that one too. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Field Blend: 2009 Whiplash Redemption

Whiplash Redemption is the unfortunate name of a very decent field blend red from Reata of Napa Valley.  At their website they offer a corny story about training a particularly spirited wild horse.  I won't recount the story here because, if the truth be known, I didn't read it.  If you want to read the story of how this wine acquired its Whiplash Redemption name go to

The blend here is standard California fare for this kind of offering: 65% Syrah, 25% Barbera, and 10% Zinfandel.  These are all fruity grapes and the wine displays aromas of red fruits like strawberries and cherries and palate flavors of black fruits like plums and blackberries.  This unpretentious red's charm lies in its inherent amiability and wide variety of applications.  Have it with your red sauce pasta, barbecue, grilled meats, hamburgers, get the idea.

Historically a field blend was a red wine made from an assortment of grapes grown together in the same vineyard, harvested at the same time and vinted together on-site, an economic way to make wine for sure.  While this blue collar version of winemaking seems unsophisticated, I'm not so sure it is, at least in current application.

Today the grape varieties used in California field blend red wines like Redemption are sourced from vineyards that have historically demonstrated their prowess.  One hundred fifty years ago European immigrants carried cuttings of such grapevines from their homes in Chianti, Cotes du Rhone, or lesser regions to their destinations in California with the intention of making the same kinds of wines they had back home, ie., field blends. Using their historical advantage, savvy contemporary winemakers can now pick and choose what fruit from what place offers what component that would be a desirable dimension to flesh out a blend.  Not unsophisticated, but rather, historically enlightened.

Whiplash was the best selling wine at last Friday's tasting here at the store.  This wine was about as soft and easy-drinking as they get and that was what our tasters wanted that evening.  This Friday, September 6th from 5 to 7pm, Tommy Basham of Continental Beverage presents an array of wines that will include Villa Rubini Friuli Italian Pinot Grigio.  A century ago, before Bolla and Santa Margherita amongst others fundamentally simplified the product, Italian Pinot Grigio was more in the style of a lush French Meursault.  Rubini is a throwback to that style and a white wine counterpoint to Whiplash.  Please join us on Friday and experience Rubini.

Monday, August 26, 2013


It happens all the time.  I get a call for Dom Perignon which I don't carry and I offer Billecart-Salmon instead.  The caller invariably says, "No thanks", adding that no one ever heard of the alternative and Dom has the reputation for being the best and yadda yadda yadda.  Not wanting to lose possible customers before I could possibly cultivate them into being solid future customers, I assure the caller that I understand but at some point during the brief conversation I mention that Billecart-Salmon often gets critics' ratings that are higher than Dom at a third of Dom's price.  That comment never goes anywhere.

I actually do understand the caller's point of view.  Champagne, itself, is symbolic.  It symbolizes celebration and achievement and the marketers of Champagne use that symbolism to amp up the dollars for those they are able to project as being at the top of the heap.  I don't have a problem with that.  If Champagne were like other wines and it was more of an everyday dinner accompaniment, then my point of view may have more credence. 

Champagne, like all other wines, is dominated by the big players.  Not only do they set prices in Champagne but they create styles that are marketed as the style of that particular historic Champagne house and more.  With a bankroll of advertising dollars and the right admen, a large Champagne house can create the illusion that they have perfected the product.  Look no further.  This is it!  I guess that is what Moet & Chandon have done with Dom Perignon.

Billecart-Salmon is a medium-size Champagne house.  It dates to 1818 (when Billecart married Salmon) and seven generations of the family have run it since then.  They own five hectares of vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Ay and source mostly Pinot Noir grapes from the Marne Valley and Montagne de Reims for their award winning Rose.  A map of the heart of the Champagne country is shaped like a mushroom, by the way, with Mareuil-sur-Ay being at the juncture of the cap and the stem on the right side.

Here is a glossary of adjectives for Billecart-Salmon Champagne: creamy, delicate, delightful, elegant, fine, balanced, beautiful, harmonious, racy, rich, and fresh.  Okay, that's a little over the top.  Stephen Tanzer, who is as good as any critic, says this pale gold sparkler has a nose of fresh peach, pear, nectarine, and white flowers.  On the palate it is plush, ripe, and fleshy with strong peach and pear flavors with minerality on the finish.

Please join us on Friday August 30th from 5 to 7pm as we taste another crop of new wines that need to be explored including the 2009 Charles Krug Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  We'll see if the noble Krug Cabernet tradition is still intact with this latest example.  Please stop in this weekend for your holiday wine and cheese needs and become a follower of this site so I can claim some kind of accomplishment for doing this.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Grenache Part 1

Grenache (gren-aash) is the preferred name for this workhorse blending grape everywhere it is planted except in Spain where it is called Garnacha (gar-nah-cha).  Because Spain had it first, Garnacha, would seem to consitute a legitimate name claim.  Some modern day ampelographers, however, believe the island of  Sardinia may have actually had the grape before Spain so Cannonau, Sardinia's name for it, may be most appropriate.  Since no one outside of Sardinia calls it that and no one outside of Spain calls it Garnacha, Grenache it has become.

Grenache is perhaps the most widely planted red wine grape in the world.  Its popularity in part is due to its hardiness in hot, dry, and windy conditions.  Those conditions exist in southern Europe, Australia, the central valley of California, and elsewhere.  It is drought resistant and actually prefers gravely, stony soils that most vines find too difficult.  With the ecological changes anticipated with global warming, Grenache's future appears secure.

Grenache also ripens later than most grapes making it a softer, fruitier wine that is coorespondingly low in tannins, phenolics, acidity, and color.  Consequently this typically high alcohol wine is prone to oxidation and usually not cellar worthy.  It's essential character includes a floral orange blossom nose, a fleshy and full mouthfeel, and blackberry and black current on the palate with allspice and cinnamon.  Grenache is adaptable to alternative growing conditions which of course would accentuate some of the above characteristics over others.  Time in oak would also affect tendencies toward smoke and toastiness.

Food affinities for Grenache include grilled meats and fish, stews, and game.  Grenache also seems to like the spices, paprika and curry, and works well with dishes where olive oil is prominant.  Grenache roses are well paired with tuna, other seafood, and summertime picnic fare.

Grenache Part 2

The finest Grenache-based wines in the world come from France and Spain.  In France those examples would include Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where Grenache typically makes up 80% of the blend, and in Spain, Priorat, where the wine is a 100% varietal made from ancient vines.  In both countries when blended, Grenache is typically married with Syrah, Tempranillo, Carignane, Mourvedre, or Cinsault, with Spain's more expansive wine culture tending toward more exotic blends.  In any case Grenache is the element in the blend that adds body and fruitiness to the wine.

Grenache is the second or third most widely planted grape in Spain and France.  In both countries the 19th century Phylloxera epidemic was the catalyst for Grenache planting since European vines had to be grafted onto American rootstocks to avoid the blight and Grenache happened to work particularly well for that purpose.  Throughout the 20th century commercial trends drove Grenache plantings down in Spain and up in France as the Languedoc region became the bulk wine powerhouse of the country.  Nonetheless Spain currently still maintains a large plurality in Grenache plantings over France.

Rose wines are a category that usually gets short shrift reviews from both the critics and the public.  After all roses are what is made from grapes from a bad vintage, right?  Well, yes and no.  With Pinot Noir, yes, if the vintage is bad, one tends to see more rose wines.  However, the finest rose in the world is made annually in Tavel in the Cotes du Rhone from 100% Grenache grapes and year after year similarly high quality unheralded roses are emerging from Spain to a public that is gradually becoming more and more receptive.

On Friday August 30th from 5 to 7pm we will be pouring tastes of Mureda Unoaked Chardonnay and Espelt Corali Rose, both from Spain; Lavau Red Cotes du Rhone from France; Maggio Petite Sirah and Whiplash Redemption Red Blend from California; and Charles Krug Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.  Please join us and, for God sakes, become a follower of this blog!  There will be a pop quiz Monday morning on the content for everyone but the followers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


In the store at this time we have a large stack of inexpensive Terras Do Literal Portuguese wines from Vidigal, one of that country's wine giants.  One of the reds is labeled "Vinho Regional Lisboa" which obviously means regional wine of Lisbon.  That was obvious, I guess, to every one but me since it actually took me hearing it from a customer before I got it.  It turns out Lisboa is Lisbon for the Portuguese people and the wine region extends 40km north and west of Portugal's capitol city.  Before its renaming as Lisboa in 2009, this region was called Estremadura.

Estremadura was never a popular name on Portuguese wine labels because there are nine subregions within the district which were more important place designations.  In 1993 the wine industry created the "regional wine" category for Estremadura to both take advantage of new investment money coming into the area and to promote experimentation with new varieties in new locations within Estremadura.  So whereas the nine districts continued to exist as an overlay for the region, the regional wines could be drawn from anywhere within the region's boundaries.  This was actually a qualitative upgrade yet a continuation of the region's history of producing decent ordinary wines, the equivalent of France's Vin de Pays wines.  As such, the region has been the largest wine producer by volume in Portugal.

The nine subregions of Lisboa, of course, reflect microclimates within this region of hillsides and reliefs in varying distances from the Atlantic coast.  The climate is subtropical and Mediterranean with average temperatures year round in the 50-70 degree range.  Its winters are amongst the warmest in Europe, courtesy of the Atlantic Ocean.

Our Lisboa offering is an elegant lighter style red composed of 70% Tinta Roriz, 20% Castelao, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Tinta Roriz is one of the thirty-five or so names for Tempranillo which may display aromas and flavors of berries, plums, tobacco, vanilla, leather, and herbs.  Being inexpensive wine this one is fruity with raspberry and other red berries predominating.  The wine is ruby in color and food affinities would include most meat dishes, pastas, and even salads.  Last night I had this wine with salmon on the grill with a honey mustard glaze and it was delightful.

Please join us here this Friday between 5 and 7pm as we continue our exploration of new wines in the store.  This time we welcome Ryan Thayer of Eagle Rock Distributing as he presents Italian and Chilean reds and the critically acclaimed Ferraton Cotes du Rhone Blanc.  Also, please become a follower here since that may eventually land me some advertising revenue.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vina Ventisquero

Vina Ventisquero is big business wine.  It is one of the ten largest wine companies in Chile and has just been in existence since the year 2000.  That tells me there are big bucks behind this operation.  But because of the reliability of the product quality and my dependence on them as a "go to" brand, I feel like I have been selling the brand for twenty years.  To go one step further, the quality of Ventisquero wines often seems to supercede others at twice the price.  Twice in recent months I was able to taste the complete line of Ventisquero wines and the following is a brief introduction to and description of the wines we will taste here on Friday August 16th, 5 to 7pm.   

Because the company is so large, you would expect them to market several labels and that is the case here.  The everyday ten dollar level is called Yali which is named after a Chilean wetland.  Ventisquero Reserva is the line priced at twelve to fifteen dollars and Ventisquero means "glacier".  Queulat means "sound of the waters" and that quality level is roughly priced between fifteen and twenty dollars.  Grey is the name of the largest glacier in Chilean Patagonia and the two Grey reds are in the twenty to twenty-five dollar range.  Vertice (vertex) is a red blend from Apalta; Heru is Pinot Noir from Casablanca; and Pangea is Syrah from Apalta.  The last three are priced between thirty-five and seventy dollars per bottle.

In the Atlanta market Ventisquero offers sixteen wines.  Of the three Yali wines the Cabernet-Carmenere is the best and it is simply a solid well-balance, fresh and fruity, new world red.  There are four types in the Ventisquere Reserva line and all are winners but, being a Sauvignon Blanc lover, that one is my fave.  Friday we will taste the Carmenere, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.  Queulat similarly has four great types with the Carmenere possibly being the best, but for our event on Friday I chose the Sauvignon Blanc because, well, that's the way I roll.  Grey has a Cabernet and a Carmenere and this time I thought the Cabernet showed better than the Carmenere so we'll do that one.  We will have the Pangea on the table Friday but because of the cost, we probably won't open it.

Those Spanish and Indian names for Ventisquero wines is a tip-off as to their environmental bent.  Ventisquero is the only Chilean wine company that has 100% sustainable viticulture, and remember, they are huge.  Moreover, the Yali wines are carbon neutral, meaning the energy from fossil fuels used in making and transporting the wines is offset by the use of  renewables and/or the purchasing of carbon credits to make up the difference.  So if you're a greenie or you just love the environment, be here for the tasting.

David Hobbs of Prime Wine & Spirits will present the wines on Friday.  We hope you can join us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Most of what follows is taken from their website, where this family-owned company rightly sets forth their proud history, which is another example of the All-American success story.

In 1962 Mexican immigrant Salvador Renteria was hired at Sterling Vineyards as a grape picker.  Because he demonstrated leadership skills in the field he was promoted to a supervisory role.  Renteria also seemed to have an instinct about grape cultivation that surpassed what might be expected from someone without a formal education in the field.  As he was subsequently employed by Beaulieu, Clos Pegas, Cuvaison, and Silverado, Renteria experimented with canopy management and trellising, always demonstrating keen insights that usually proved successful. 

In 1987, Renteria Vineyard Management was formed and the company client base expanded to include Robert Mondavi, William Selyem, Caymus, Etude, Rombauer, and Duckhorn.  What Salvador brought to these wine companies through his experimentations in the field were the lower yields of higher quality fruit that resulted in the highly extracted fruit-driven wines that Robert Parker and other contemporary critics adored.  In 1993 Salvador's son, Oscar Renteria, took over management of the company.

Here's where it gets interesting.  The wine industry has always had a reputation for benevolence toward others, offering a helping hand to those in need of support for their own projects.  Usually it is the ones who have "made it" who are willing to help the upstarts.  In Washington, Chateau Ste. Michelle is known to be that kind of patron.  The esteemed reputation of Renteria Vineyard Management was so high in 1997, when Oscar approached his clients for juice to start his own wine label, of course, the juice started flowing from many of those giants listed above.  Eighty cases of Cabernet was the yield from that 1997 vintage.

Today Renteria Wines markets Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir under three labels from juice sourced from the Stag's Leap District, Carneros, Mount Veeder, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast.  Renteria now supplements his contracted juice with his own vineyards in Mount Veeder, Russian River, and most recently, Carneros.  They have now built a winery in Yountville and the production is up to 2,000 cases annually.

In the store at this time are the Renteria Carneros Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.  They are priced between $35 and $65 per bottle.  When I tasted these wines five years ago at a large trade show in Atlanta they were amongst the best wines in the show.

Please join us Friday, August 16th from 5 to 7pm as David Hobbs of Prime Wine & Spirits leads us in a tasting of Vina Ventisquero Chilean wines.  The wines to be tasted are mostly reserve level reds and whites that over-achieve compared to most on the market.  David is also the Renteria distributor for the Atlanta market so consider him to be another resource on the subject.  Please join us for that one.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dirty, Foul, and Proper, Part 2

Dominio de Ugarte Rioja Reserva 2003 is a critically acclaimed (91pts-Parker) red from a 130 hectare vineyard in Rioja Alavesa in Spain.  That property was purchased by the Ugarte wine making concern in 1957 to complement vineyard holdings begun in 1870.  We blogged about Rioja in four installments between May 3rd and June 29th of 2011 if you want to learn more about the finest wine region of Spain.  We also did a post called "Dirty, Foul, and Proper" at that time which is how one of my vendors described old world Spanish reds.  That description works well with this one.  The sixth generation of the Ugarte family currently operates the business.  The wine is 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano and sourced from old vines, some of which exceed a hundred years of age.

From the winery website we learn there was a maceration period in '03 of eighteen days for this wine followed by six days of fermentation.  The maximum temperature at any time was 29 degrees centigrade with a malolactic fermentation occurring naturally in the tank.  Barrel aging was done in French and American oak and lasted twenty months.  By definition, this is a modern era effort.

Tasting notes from the website: On the palate you have red fruits, primarily intense Garnet cherry, balanced with powerful ripe tannins.  The nose has "wide ranging aromas including an excellent integration of the barrel with the very expressive fruit".  I would also note that the wine's medium body is perhaps a compromise between the traditional lighter style and the fuller modern style.

It is now 2013 and the development of this wine is complete.  A couple years ago we sold this one for $25/btl and it did well.  Now the price is less than half of that and presents an opportunity for aficionados and the curious to enjoy this one with an appropriately spiced red meat meal.  This is not cocktail wine.  As fine wine, this one also benefits from decanting and will improve in the glass.

We are also offering a Syrah/Tempranillo blend and a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon from the same people under the "Mercedes Eguren" label at a $10 retail.  These are also strictly dinner wines.

Please join us Friday August 2nd between 5 and 7pm as we explore new world wines including a great one from Januik of Columbia Valley in Washington State amongst others.  Please become a "follower" here also so I can impress people with my notoriety.   

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Four Sauvignon Blancs

In the past couple weeks we have tasted four Sauvignon Blancs here at the store that have all been immensely popular with our participants.  Sauvignon Blanc, my personal white favorite, has been a tough nut to crack commercially here so the response was surprising and hopeful, not that Sauvignon Blanc deserves acclaim (it is a midlevel grape at best), but it's still nice to see people try these things and enjoy them.  A related factor in the scenario would have to be the time of year, July, when lighter and drier works better in general than the heavier and richer types.  Lets look at the four...

Mureda Sauvignon Blanc was the best selling wine on the table last Thursday night and being a summer quencher priced at $10 certainly helps.  Mureda dates back to the fifteenth century and the name refers to the Moors and their contributions to Spanish culture.  This family owned operation consists of 3,000 acres of certified organic vineyards making it the largest such operation in the world!  The wine is fresh and fruity (pineapple and peach), light in color and body, and would be a nice apertif before dinner or as an accompaniment with shellfish, broiled fish or olives and soups.  On June 8th we blogged about Castilla-La Mancha which is the location of this vineyard if you want to learn more.

On Friday July 19th we tasted two Sauvignon Blancs, Babich, one of the largest from Marlborough, New Zealand and Chateau Carbon D'Artigues, a small property in the AOC, Graves in Bordeaux.  The citrusy (grapefruit and lemon) New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs continue to be very popular so that one's showing wasn't very surprising but the Bordeaux's popularity was surprising although one person actually bought half of our inventory effectively skewing the numbers. 

Josip Babich was a 14 year old immigrant to New Zealand from Croatia in 1910.  He labored in the kauri gum industry with his brothers until he was able to purchase land and establish his vineyard and winery in 1916.  In every decade thereafter he purchased more land and then modernized his winery in 1977, five years before his death.  The operation is now run by two of his grandsons.  We blogged about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in three parts back in February of 2012 (2/21-2/25), again if you want more information.

Geneticists are now saying Bordeaux in western France may be the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc.  Chateau Carbon D'Artigues is situated on a southern facing Artigues hillside in Graves, the best region of Bordeaux for Sauvignon Blanc.  Typical of the region, D'Artigues Sauvignon Blanc is blended with Semillion, this time in a 50-50 ratio with the Semillon providing a rounding counterpoint on the palate to the acute aromatics of the Sauvignon Blanc.  Shockingly, Sauvignon Blanc plantings in Graves are down to about 25% of vineyard space due to the popularity of the reds.

Peirano Estate Sauvignon Blanc has been tasted on two occasions here in the past month.  It is a low acid, less-dry soft round cocktail wine with evidence of time in oak.  Peirano is a continuously family owned property which, like all of the others above, has a great history to tell, albeit the California version complete with Italian immigrants.  We blogged about Peirano Estate and Lodi, California back on March 29th of 2011.

Please join us for our next tasting adventure here on Friday August second from 5 to 7pm.  Nothing is written in stone for that one yet but expect more Sauvignon Blanc-like whites, maybe a dry rose, and a few masculine reds.  Please become a follower of this blog if you would like.  Actually even if you don't like the thing, become a follower anyway as a random act of kindness.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Phenolics and Red Wine Tasting

Phenolics is a term that is bandied about in the wine business, like we at this level actually understand chemistry.  Speaking for myself, I don't.  But I want to try to further the understanding of the subject and as long as I do no harm, I may be doing some good.  So here goes...

Wine is 95% water and alcohol so it is in that remaining 5% of its chemistry that all of the flavors in wine reside.  With red wines those flavors mainly come from the tannins and those tannins come primarily from the grape skins, secondarily from the seeds, and remotely from any stems in the mix.  Moreover in the winery the optimal varietal flavors for the wine come from the skins and are extracted early in the winemaking process followed by the less desirable bitter tannins from the seeds and stems.  These flavors go on to form phenolic compounds and polymers as the wine develops with any oak barrel aging further building the flavor complexity.

Red wine phenolics actually fall into two categories: flavanoids and non-flavanoids.  Flavanoids are those phenolic qualities in wine that are experienced by our senses of taste, smell, sight, and touch.  Non-flavanoids include stilbenoids, phenolic acids, and resveratrol which while offering nothing flavor-wise, contribute to the antioxidant health benefits in red wine.  Flavanoid phenolics also have antioxidant qualities by the way.

Last Friday night at our weekly tasting, among the six wines tasted were three inexpensive Portuguese reds and a great red blend from California.  Two of the Portuguese reds were noticably lighter in body than the third but all three were great in the nose and on the palate.  In short, the Dao was a soft round light summer quaff of a red wine.  The Lisboa red was finer and more feminine than the Dao and more pronounced in the nose.  The Douro was far bigger in the mouth than the other two but its most startling feature to me was its texture on the tongue which evoked comments like "velvety" and "silky".  All of these observations depict our experience of phenolics in red wine.

The big California red blend was Villa San-Juliette Chorum, a blend of seven grape types with the base of the blend being the 36% Syrah.  It was huge in the mouth with a spicy-peppery flavor.  Most tasters thought red meat on the grill would be an ideal complement.

So of the four senses mentioned above in the phenolics/tasting context, the flavor of the wine, of course, trumps all others in the experience.  But since so much of tasting is done with the nose, smell would have to be right up there with taste.  Thirdly would be the experience of touch in the mouth and on the tongue with lightness and heaviness being only part of it.  The one sense I have not mentioned is sight and no one at the tasting here last night commented on the wine coloration and I am thoroughly deficient in that area.  No one commented on "hearing" the wine either by the way.

Join us here this Friday July 19th as we taste California Pinot Noirs, Italian whites, and Spanish roses along with new cheeses in the store and become a follower of this blog if you enjoy what you see here.