Tuesday, June 15, 2021


We recently got in a few cases of Santa Marina Italian wines which included a varietal Pinot Grigio and a couple different Proseccos.  Two things caught our attention immediately.  The bargain-priced Pinot Grigio turned out to be really quite good and secondly, one of the Proseccos turned out to be a rose.  Why is that significant?  Because to the best of our knowledge, there could be no such thing as Rose Prosecco.

It's been quite a while since we've written about Prosecco, but as I recall the 1990's were a pivotal time in its modern history.  That's when the Italian wine industry with a little help from the government started promoting it as a cheaper alternative to Champagne.  Prior to that Prosecco was either a low-rent Asti Spumante or a wine geek's prototypical example of bad sparkling wine.  But their fortunes changed as money was put behind the product upgrading the vineyards and winemaking facilities and governmentally re-defining what it is they were actually doing there.  Ten years later the EU stepped in to further advance the cause of Prosecco.

Prosecco had a two hundred year history up to that point; that is, two hundred years of making ordinary wine.  Now it was to be codified as a DOC (denominazione di origine) with the intent of eating into the Champagne business.  Glera was always the historic Prosecco grape.  Now the new and improved Glera was mandated to be eighty-five percent of any Prosecco blend with the remainder being any of three pinot grapes and/or any of three local varieties.  That was the mandate of the new Italian wine law.

At the same time Congeliano Valdobbiadene and Asolo, the two best districts in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giuli Prosecco appellation, were elevated to DOCG status by the EU.

So what about Prosecco Rose?  First of all, let's just say, there has always been Rose Prosecco.  (Insert wink and a nod.)  The industry has sold it to retailers and restaurateurs forever...if you promise not to look too closely at the label.  Moreover, if the truth be known, the Italian government has been known to let legal technicalities in its wine industry go unnoticed.  So, there it is.  

Now however, we have learned, as of last year (2020), roses are a legal production in the Prosecco arena.  By the new law they must be 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Nero (Noir).  We must have missed the memo.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Boatman

If you've been following this blog for any length of time you can't help but recognize the recurring rants we go off on.  One that seems relevant today concerns the question of ownership of some of today's California wineries and relatedly - Who's making the wine?

The Boatman is this really luscious red blend marketed by the Brack Mountain Wine Company.  We've been curious about them for some time.  Their website is tededward.com so you figure Ted Edward (or Ted and Ed) must be the owner(s).  Maybe that's the case.  But tededward.com is the website for a sizable New York alcoholic beverage importer/distributor.  So what's going on here?

Once you get to the Brack Mountain page you see that they too are quite sizable.  Scholar & Mason, Bench and Fable are just a few of their labels you may have seen here in the store.  But no Boatman.

If you go to theboatmanwines.com, which is on the back label of The Boatman bottle, you get an advertisement for godaddy.com.   While vacuous winery websites are another regular peeve here at the old blogspot, this one takes vacuosity to a whole other level.

It took us going to a third party liquor store website to learn The Boatman is made by Papagni Vineyards of the San Joaquin Valley.  Papagni is a credible wine company we've known for as long as we've been in the business.  The Boatman blend is 40% Alicante Bouschet, 26% Merlot, 23% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petite Sirah.  The berries are picked at dawn, crushed and de-stemmed while still cool, then immersed in a long cold soak, then heated in fermentation tanks to maximize fruit and color extractions.  Plenty of oxygen is introduced by pumping over the wine twice a day resulting in a wine that is an inky purple color.  The nose features blueberry, blackberry and spice; the palate, sumptuous layers of dark forest fruits and pepper.  

So here's where it gets interesting - If you go to the Papagni website where they market their Papagni labeled wines, they also offer bulk wine to the public.  Papagni has been growing grapes in California since 1912.  Moreover, as Italian immigrants in the hot and dry San Joaquin Valley, they planted the right grapes; Alicante Bouschet, Grenache and Barbera.  They obviously knew what they were doing.  Now we have to wonder - Did Brack buy Papagni's bulk wine and put The Boatman label on it?