Monday, March 25, 2013

Royal Riblet Part 2

This is great.  Sometimes things just work out. 

We are now into Easter week in the retail wine business so it's busier than normal and I don't have much time to blog but yet I know I should and I'm not entirely satisfied with my prior post recommending wines to go with honey baked ham.  With this blog, I know we will have completion.

On March 14th of '11 we told the story of one, Royal Riblet, a scoundrel of sorts who just happened to build the mansion depicted on the label of Arbor Crest Washington State wines.  You will have to scroll back to read that one because I'm too ignorant and lazy to reproduce it here, but it will be worth it, I assure you.  I remember thinking two years ago that this one would be a keeper and low and behold, like I said, things just work out.

So, my recommendations with honey baked ham were lacking because none of them were sweet enough for the ham and none had the honey flavor that might complement the ham.  With the Arbor Crest Riesling you get both the sweetness and honey flavor along with a slew of other fruit flavors.  It's a rich white wine that is three quarters of the way to being downright sweet and I think, for sweet wine drinkers, this and the ham are a marriage made in heaven.

Say you read this blog and get ten percent off Arbor Crest Riesling.  Hop into the store like an Easter Bunny saying "Royal Riblet" three times and get twenty percent off!

On Thursday the 28th from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage joins us for her first tasting here in a long time.  Gail is a popular presenter here so please join us for what she says will be an Easter dinner wine tasting.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Easter Wine

Easter Sunday is the peak holiday of the year for Christians and as such it is deserving of a special bottle of wine to accompany that special meal and if it is a family gathering you are catering, consider variety at the table for the sake of your guests.  Like other major holiday meals, Easter dinner avails itself to an assortment of choices depending on what component of the meal you choose to complement.  For this blogpost we will restrict our recommendations to what seems to be the most popular main course, honey baked ham.

For us here at ol' V&C, Gewurztraminer would have to be our well-accustomed leading wine of choice for ham. The Alsatian Dopff & Irion at a $21.99 retail is our current best selection in the store and if you have never experienced Alsatian Gewurztraminer you have been missing one of the world's finest dinner wines.  Gewurz has both the spice and the fruity sweetness to go with the ham without being "ham-handed" with either.  The historic winemaking houses of Alsace see to it that those qualities for which the grape type is known, are always understated.

Another white category we feel confident recommending for this meal would be Oregon Pinot Gris.  In recent weeks we have tasted two that would work with ham, Stangeland at $16.99 and Four Graces at $18.99.  Stangeland is a little fatter and less dry while Four Graces is drier with more earthiness and complexity in general.  "Gris" is French for Grigio, so if you are one or our minions who love the Italians, then choose a special Grigio for the occasion.

Dry Rose is another recommendation coming from us for Easter dinner.  If you have still not experienced a dry rose, do it now.  The best we have currently is Lavau Tavel Rose at $19.99 and while I particularly like rose that fools you at first into thinking it's a red wine in your mouth, the Lavau is much too sophisticated for that.  It's a class act.  Round out your family gathering selections with at least one rose and I guarantee you it will be the surprise hit of the meal.

I'm in the tank for Pinot Noir as everyone knows.  Sometimes Pinot is just a step beyond rose and that type would work here but the sometimes deep, earthy, and ponderous Oregon and New Zealand Pinots could also find their audience at the holiday table.  Try Pinot Noir this Easter with your meal, whatever wine style you may choose, and come here for your selection because I am the Pinot guy afterall!

Here are two other options.  If you just want a nice light red dinner wine that everyone will love, grab an Italian and you won't regret it.  Italians have so much fruit they work with holiday meals by default and yet they have the structure and sophistication to meet the needs of your "experts" at the table.  Now if you want rich mouthfilling fare, try one of the many California red blends which now seem to have their own style.  These wines are frequently Zinfandel based with Syrah and/or Petite Sirah added to fill out the body and middle flavors in the mouth and they tend to be less dry than europeans.  If that sounds appetizing to you and you know your guests to be Californiacentric, then go that way.

It's Easter, by the way.  Start your festivities before dinner with a bottle of champagne.  Nothing says celebration like champagne.  Then finish your meal with a nice rich dessert wine or perhaps...more champagne!

This Thursday from 5 to 7pm we host Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage as she offers up her own choices for the Easter dinner table.  Gail is a long time vendor and friend of the store who has an admiring following around here for her expertise in the field.  Please join us.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Red Wine, Chocolate, Resveratrol, and more

Since resveratrol is most prevalent in red wine and dark chocolate, perhaps a paragragh on pairing the two may be appropriate.  According to one source I consulted, you should keep the sweetness of the chocolate and wine in close proximity and don't make the wine much drier than the chocolate if possible.  Also match lighter, more elegant chocolates with lighter red wines and conversely, stronger dark chocolate with stronger wine.  It's common sense, isn't it?  So how come I can never get it right?

In our extensive blog about resveratrol a week ago I neglected to cite sources and I will cite two now.  Josh Mitteldorf writes about science for laymen and about this subject particularly with "Resveratrol and Sirtuins" (3/11/13) at and in the 3/9/13 online publication, Counsel & Heal, "Mechanism Behind Red Wine and Dark Chocolate's Benefits Discovered", the writers again spell it out for non-scientists to understand.  Notice that both articles were just written last week so new information is ongoing.  Also last week GlaxoSmithKline issued a press release concerning three new trial drugs, each containing resveratrol equivalent to 100 glasses of wine per tablet!

So just to recap, the potential health benefits of resveratrol may include: antiviral effects, anti-inflammatory effects, and neuroprotective effects (reducing alzheimers symptoms).  It may also combat obesity and diabetes, and it may be anticarcinogenic.  Now a sobering truth: GlaxoSmithKline's current drug trials are the first time resveratrol has been tested on human subjects, so we shall see.

Saturday's blogpost about Jancis Robinson's new book, "American Wine..." concluded with me saying we needed to say more about two grapes Robinson is particularly enamored with in America, Traminette and Norton.  We'll make this short.  Traminette was created at the University of Illinois in 1965 by crossing Gewurztraminer with Johannes Seyves 23.416.  Intended as a table grape, Traminette, with its fruity Gewurz style was quickly recognized for its winemaking capabilities.  Its cold hardiness and phylloxera disease resistance make it perfect for the northern midwestern continental climate and Indiana now claims it as its signature wine.

The Norton grape is from the Vitis aestivalis family of native grapes, as opposed to Vitis labrusca, thereby avoiding any of the foxiness inherent in labrusca.  It dates commercially to 1830 when Dr. Daniel Norton identified it and established it as a wine grape.  Norton is prevalent as far north as southern Ontario, south to Florida and Texas, and west to Oklahoma.  In northeast Georgia it makes some of our best reds.  It offers low acidity, good tannins, and flavors that are vinifera-like and it too is obviously resistant to phylloxera.  While most commercial vineyards of Norton grapes reside in Virginia, Missouri claims it as their offical grape and the cornerstone of their industry.

Norton is also the grape that has the highest concentration of anthocyanins known in any variety and that is what we'll talk about next time.

The Gail Avera Thursday tasting will have to be tabled again this week.  On Friday from 5 to 7pm during our regular weekly tasting slot, Coleen Rotunno, formerly of Corkscrew Cafe in Dahlonega and now with Quality Wine & Spirits, will be presiding.  The wines are not determined at this writing.  Please join us.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

American Wine, NPR, and Jancis Robinson

You never know what you may learn, from what source it may come, or when you are going to learn it.  One hour ago as I pulled into the store parking lot, I was listening to public radio (88.3 Demorest) when I heard an interview with the great British wine authority, Jancis Robinson, about her new book, "American Wine, The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States".  You may read the text of that interview at

This, my current blogpost, should stand in contrast with the preceding one which was a tome about the wonder drug, resveratrol, drawn from my research of a half dozen articles on the internet.  Expect brevity this time since it was just a ten minute interview.

Robinson has a co-writer, by the way, who deserves mentioning because she is an American and one may surmise she did most of the work.  Her name is Linda Murphy.

Here is the gist of the interview:

American wine culture has been revolutionized over the past twenty to forty years.  We are now the top wine consuming nation in the world and the growth has been driven by young people which tells me two things: This is real organic growth and it will continue.  Wine has now become important to our culture.  Here is a statistic: In 1970 there were 440 wineries in America; today there are 7,000.

Robinson is a worldwide wine authority so when she says two specific American wines are world class, you can take it to the bank.  Finger Lakes New York State Dry Rieslings and Gruet Sparkling Wines from New Mexico are both of that quality.  Though not in the interview, one would expect Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to be there too.

Robinson also singles out Virginia and Missouri for their accomplishments in the field.  Virginia for it's bordeaux blends and the development of the Norton grape and Missouri for overcoming the harsh continental winters by promoting the hardy white Traminette grape.  We will say more about Norton and Traminette next time.

Now just as an aside...the Jancis Robinson interview was followed by an interview with Duane Allman's daughter about new releases of old Allman Brothers stuff.  Go NPR!

This Thursday March 21st from 5 to 7pm Gail Avera will introduce us to some of her new wines from Atlanta Beverage.  On Friday during the same hours Colleen Rotunno of Quality Wine & Spirits will likewise present some good stuff to us.         

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I ain't no friggin' chemist, botanist, or scientist of any kind.  I cut cheese for a living.  But also being in the wine business, I get curious about stuff that is related to what I do but way beyond my small business station in life.  So here goes...

In 1933 the Japanese scientist, Michio Takada, isolated a natural plant phenolic compound and named it resveratrol.  Phenolic compounds are synthesized by organisms in response to pressures from pathogens or wounding of another kind and function as antioxidants.  His studies led to the marketing of a health supplement drawn from the Japanese knotweed plant in the 1960's.

Back in 1993 the news show, 60 Minutes, did a segment called "The French Paradox" which coincided with initial research on resveratrol at Harvard University.  The 60 Minutes program sought to show that regular moderate consumption of red wine was a healthful lifestyle for Europeans who consumed a fattier diet than we Americans, yet we here seemed to suffer disproportionately from heart disease. It was thought provoking to say the least.

In 2003 Harvard scientist David Sinclair published an article in the journal, Nature, that showed that resveratrol could prolong the life of a certain common yeast.  This article was followed shortly with similar life extending findings in a lab worm.  In 2006 Italian scientists found that the life of a certain fish could be extended with resveratrol and that same year Sinclair and others determined that resveratrol could counter negative effects of a high fat diet in mice.  The genie now appeared to be out of the (wine) bottle regarding this here-to-fore secret elixir of life.  Did we now possess the secret of life?  Well, yes and no.

Folk medicine has always known about the healthy values of eating your fruits and vegetables and the medicinal values inherent in certain plants.  The man who taught me about wines, Jim Sanders, the "father of fine wine in Atlanta", always maintained that wine was a stress reducer and in America, boy, do we need that!  Heck, even Sonny Corleone admonished his father, the old Don, to "Drink your wine, Pop, it's good for you." in the feature film, The Godfather.  So maybe we're over-thinking this stuff.  Well, yes and no.

It is, of course, always good to learn as much as we can about healthy living.  Further studies now show that resveratrol stimulates enzymes called Sirtuins including SIRT1, a particular enzyme related to a family of genes called SIRT.  SIRT1 is usually produced by exercise and proper diet and resveratrol seems to mimic those effects in individuals with a less healthy lifestyle.  Recent research seems to indicate that resveratrol does not extend lifespans but may help to moderately improve our stamina by limiting inflammation and oxidation from aging leaving our arteries healthier.

Now for the bad news.  The standard glass of red wine may contain .2-5.8mg/l resveratrol.  Since the resveratrol comes from the grapeskins, white wine has none.  In order for the resveratrol to be healthfully beneficial you would need to consume a hundred glasses of red wine daily!  I don't believe even I could do that! 

Aside from red grapes, resveratrol is most commonly found in peanuts, berries, muscadines, and cocoa, so should you want to indulge in your chocolate addiction, you now have permission.  Coincidentally by the way, we now carry Guylian "No Sugar Added" 54% Cocoa bars and we think we also may be able to locate an appropriate red wine to go with that.  So maybe fifty chocolate bars and fifty glasses of wine a day!

Thursday's tasting here has been cancelled as Gail Avera and her company, Atlanta Beverage, continue to experience growing pains as they struggle with their merger with Gusto Wines.  On Friday from 5 to 7pm, Colleen Rotunno, formerly of Corkscrew Cafe in Dahlonega and now with Quality Wine & Spirits, joins us for an exposition of her fine wines.  Please join us.  And if you found this article interesting, please become a "follower" of this blog so my self-esteem may be buoyed.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wine & Pizza, Part 2

Back on October 10th of last year we blogged about wine to go with pizza.  If you're interested in the subject, read that blog first, but we have to warn you, that one quickly degenerated into a rant about how we really need to drink Italian red wine not just with our pizza but with anything tomatoey or that seems Italian in any way.  I still feel that way but with a caveat: If the pizza is ordinary, like so many of them are, then a California Zinfandel, Syrah, or Petite Sirah may do just fine.  Conversely, if the pizza is first class, like my humble homemade stuff is, then any Italian red worth its salt would be the appropriate choice.

So why bring up this non-issue at this time?  Probably because we have been tasting some pretty good Zins and Syrahs here recently and while I'm not going to compromise my principles on the subject, lets face it, most pizzas are not high cuisine anyway.  Most commercial pizzas available from local restaurants here in Gainesville, in fact, do not use cheeses that are of the quality available at Vine & Cheese and maybe that's what separates the men from the boys in the pizza game.  If you pick up some first class Italian cheeses and make your own, of course your pizza and red wine will show better.

So in a way this is the old "get the wine that is good enough for your food" argument.  If you have an exceptional steak planned for your dinner, you wouldn't pick up Yellow Tail Cabernet, would you?  You may not get Stag's Leap but you could pick up Wente's Southern Hills.  And if your pizza is non plus ultra quality, then get your Brunello or at least your Montepulciano and if your pizza is lackluster at best, pick up Wente's Double Decker Red, a good solid red blend at $9.99 retail.

So what about these wine writers who recommend white wine with tomato dishes, Sauvignon Blanc in particular?  The same rule applies...only moreso.  If you are serving Italian cuisine, break out that Pinot Grigio, Gavi, Vernaccia, or whatever, as if you were in Italy.  California Sauvignon Blanc?  Only is it's Di Giorno or Tombstone from the grocery store.

This Thursday, March 14th from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera returns with new wines from her new company, Atlanta Beverage.  Gail is a popular presenter here at V&C and we look forward to her renewed participation here.  On Friday March 15th from 5 to 7pm, Colleen Rotunno, formerly of Corkscrew Cafe and now with Quality Wine & Spirits, joins us with a selection of stellar California wines.  Please join us.

If you like my hippy-dippy blogs become a follower so I know I am, if not loved, then liked...maybe?


Monday, March 4, 2013

Paso Robles

This Friday, March 8th from 5 to 7pm, David Hobbs of Prime Wines joins us for an exposition of Paso Robles wines from Castoro Cellars.  Castoro Cellars is located in Templeton, California and owns eight separate vineyards comprising 687 acres with 200 dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon, 88 planted in Chardonnay, and 62 in Merlot.  All Castoro Cellars vineyards are SIP certified (sustainability in practice - and 270 acres of their 687 are certified organic.

The reason we're writing about Paso Robles now, aside from promoting Friday's tasting, is to continue our recent discussions of Central Coast wines.  Paso Robles is one of thirty American Viticultural Areas (AVA) within the Central Coast, which is an AVA, itself.  The Paso Robles AVA  is the largest geographical appellation within the Central Coast containing 617,000 acres with 26,000 currently planted in vineyards by the 180 commercial wineries now operating there.  The appellation was first established in 1983 and twice enlarged since then, in 1997 and 2009. 

An AVA in theory should have geographical boundaries.  For the Paso Robles AVA, a rectangle 35 mile wide and 25 miles in length, the eastern boundary is the Cholane Hills range while the western boundary is the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain range.  Paso Robles is six miles from the Pacific Ocean.  The northern and southern boundaries are less definitive but a feature worth noting would have to be the Salinas River and its basin between the two ranges.  The vineyard topography of Paso Robles includes the rolling hills and mountains just mentioned and the flat lands around the river basin.  Because of such environmental diversity Paso Robles boasts forty five different soil types.

Shale, or "mudstone", is one of the most common of all sedimentary rocks.  It is comprised of clay and silt, hardened into stone over centuries, and then because it is "laminated" (thin layers) and "fissile" (readily splittable) it degrades into an ideal vineyard soil.  Paso Robles has more of this kind of soil than any other AVA.  Combine with that, the weathered granite, volcanic rock,  and marine sedimentation from different epochs and this kind of soil will support root structure, provide drainage, and add minerals and nutrients like calcium, iron, nitrogen, phosphates, and potassium.  One vineyard website boasts that its soils produce wines that "naturally restrict yields while promoting firm structure and pure fruit expression".  Whew!

This week's tastings include a Thursday evening event from 5 to 7pm with David Rimmer of Artisan Vines and Friday evening from 5 to 7pm with David Hobbs of Prime Wines.  Both Davids are wine industry veterans so start thinking of those wine questions you have always wanted answered and pose them to these guys.  And please become a "follower" of this blog so I don't feel like such a loser writing these.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Stilton blue cheese is one of seventeen PDO (protected designation of origin) English cheeses claimed by the European Union.  Stilton was first legally protected by England in 1966 and it remains the only English cheese that is trademarked.  It must legally come from one of three counties in England: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, or Nottinghamshire.  Moreover the dairy district for Stilton, the Vale de Belvoir, lies within a further well delimited "tri-county" area.  Oddly enough, the village of Stilton lies outside of this area and cannot legally produce Stilton cheese today.

Only five dairies make Stilton today.  That number has varied in recent times and has greatly diminished overall in the last two hundred years.  Written records of Stilton cheese date from 1730 and it is believed that while the village of Stilton in Huntingdon county must have produced the cheese at sometime, there is no record of it in existence.  At its website, the village, of course, promotes the connection even to the point of hosting an annual Stilton cheese rolling competition.

Stilton Blue is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese using only milk from local dairy farms.  Curds are formed into the cylindrical shape (never pressed) and rotated to naturally drain the young cheese.  After six weeks of aging, stainless steel needles puncture the naturally formed crust and inject Peniccillium Roqueforti into the core of the cheese starting the blue-green mold to radiate outward from the center.  The cheese then continues to age another three weeks minimally before it is ready to market.  All of the steps delineated above must be followed in order to produce this legally defined product.

The classic beverage complement to Stilton is port or sherry but English ale would have to be wholly appropriate.  Fresh fruit, walnuts, crackers, biscuits, and breads would also complement this centerpiece cheese and let us close with a quote from the great writer, Daniel Defoe, from 1724: "We passed Stilton, a town famous for cheese, which is called our English Parmesan, and is brought to the table with mites or maggots around it, so thick that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you eat the cheese.".   M-m-m.  Pass the Port, please.

If you want to learn more about blue cheese we blogged about Bleu d"Auvergne back on November 1st of '11 and if you like what we're doing here, please become a "follower" of this site.

On Thursday March 7th from 5 to 7pm, Gail Avera of Atlanta Beverage will present an array of new wines to this venue and on Saturday March 9th from 3 to 5pm, David Hobbs of Prime Wines offers more new stuff here at ol' V&C.  Between the two, on Friday the 10th, we will have our regular weekly tasting which ain't no slouch either.  Please join us for these events.