Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Knowing What You Like

That's important, isn't it?  Knowing what you like?  That is, as opposed to going along with whatever everyone else likes.  Yet the pressures are there to go along with others and fit in with your peers.  We're all guilty of caving in to the desires of others.  We all want to be liked.

I think all of us start our wine adventure with overwhelming insecurity.  We usually start with a friend's sweet white wine recommendation and stay there until another friend let's us know it's okay to move on.  What satisfied us with our first wine-love was the sweetness, and that's okay, so maybe our next wine-love is something less sweet and in time we're knocking on the door of truly dry wine.   

What is concurrently happening as we wean ourselves off of sweetness is we start tasting more of the intrinsic flavors of wines.  If the palate-satisfaction is there with each new venture then we keep going and in the process we're educating our palates without even realizing it.  

Now for the dark side.  Are we sure we are tasting what we think we are?  We're not all gifted with an optimal palate.  What if we don't have the sense of taste we think we have?  Is some of this self-deception or worse yet, pretension?  Could it be wine industry "smoke and mirrors?"  

I think at some point after hobbling through some wine potholes along our journey we decide we have arrived and this is where we are meant to be.  We know what we like.  And it's a good thing to know what we like.  It makes my job easier.  But if you think there might be something else around the next bend then lets get to work and together we'll see what's next on the journey.  Maybe we decide it's the journey itself that we like.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Vinho Verde

The literal translation is Green Wine, although the color is more accurately lemon/straw.  More on that later.  Because it is harvested early and bottled three month later, its alcohol content is low.  Its body is as light as they come and its nose and palate reflect lemon/limeade, grapefruit, white melon and gooseberry.  There is salinity too, no doubt from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean.  And just for yucks and giggles, a CO2 spritz is added!  So if you're looking for a summertime outdoors fun wine, this just might be it. It's a natural with all sorts of seafood and salads and picnics and beaches and if you're with me so far, here's the rest of the story...

Vinho Verde is the very large wine district in the northwestern corner of Portugal.  It actually accounts for almost ten percent of the total vineyard lands of Portugal.  The area is sort of a cross between a vertical rectangle and the shape of the state of Illinois if you're high on acid and looking at it in a mirror.  

This region is lush with greenery fed by the humidity provided by the Atlantic Ocean and the Douro and Minho rivers.  As we've said, the Vinho Verde name literally means green wine but that greenness really applies to the youth of the wine (as in green fruit).  It is also believed the Verde name may have originally referred to the green landscape of the region.

The Vinho Verde wine region was created in 1908, regulated in 1926 and given its DOC in 1984.  Of the nineteen grapes allowed in the region, Alvarinho is by far the most important.  Alvarinho is the Portuguese version of Spanish Albarino, which some consider to be the great white grape of that country.  Alvarinho complements Loureiro and Arinto and other blenders with both citric and tropical fruit flavors.  Loureiro, the second most important grape in the blend, adds a floral component and Arinto offers lemon.  All three of these are acidic in nature.     

The vast majority of Vinho Verde is made by wine cooperatives.  Currently we have four brands in the store.  The best sub-regions of Vinho Verde lie at the top of the map where, unsurprisingly, Alvarinho flourishes.  There the granite soils offer a minerality to the wine that the schist soils to the south do not.  Single varietal Alvarinho wines and Alvarinho/Loureiro blends are now being aged in oak to make the finest Vinho Verdes.

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 so you figure Ted Edward (or Ted and Ed) must be the owner(s).  Maybe that's the case.  But 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, which is on the back label of The Boatman bottle, you get an advertisement for   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?