Believe it. The European Union has offered to turn 40 million gallons of surplus French wine into fuel, disinfectant, or any other use for distilled alcohol. The same offer went out to Spain for their surplus, about 100 million gallons of table wine. Wow, are sales that bad right now? Accordingly to yesterdays SFGate feature,they are.
That’s what some some Australians scientists are focusing on by trying some different yeast strains that convert less sugar to alcohol. How does it work? “Instead of alcohol, the yeast converted some of the sugar to glycerol and gluconic acid, which are already found naturally in wine.” Supposedly this will increase the flavour of wine, which can sometimes be masked by alcohol levels, resulting in stronger wine sales.
I’ve made many new discoveries since I started drinking wine, and one of these is varietal diversity. There are so many varietals to try that you have to branch out. Many of these ‘unpopular’ varietals are only missing the marketing, because the wines produced are fantastic. One of the under appreciated gems is Roussanne, a Rhone region white Varietal. The Oregonian has a nice write up on it.
Consolidation is a recurring theme in the wine and spirits industry. This time a bid in the works announced Monday by Constellation Brands to take over Allied Domecq which already has a bid by France’s Pernod Ricard. Several Napa wineries would be involved in the deal, as they are under the Allied Umbrella.
Want to jump head first into Winemaking, but don’t have a friend with a vineyard? Try Wine Boot Camp, a course that covers the basics of wine making, from the vineyard to the bottle. At $395 per person for a one day glass, it isn’t cheap, but at least you get a free t-shirt at the end of the day…YAY! You can enlist here.
Vintage port was declared by the Symington family, for the 2003 vintage, the last vintage year was 2000. Although temperatures were hot in 2003, the harvest yielded mature fruit, resulting in an outstanding your for Ports. Some wine reviewers, such as Winespectators, James Suckling, have barrel tasted some of these wines and declared them “to be outstanding”.
Fosters just keeps getting bigger and bigger, this time offering a bid to purchase Southcorp, to become the second largest wine company behind Constellation Brands Inc. Holding will now include brands like Penfolds, Lindemans, Rosemount, on top of it’s current holdings of Wolf Blass, Yellowglen, Saltram, Chateau St. Jean, Chateau Souverign, and Beringer, among others, which will create annual sales of nearly 2 billion. Number three in the world is Gallo of Sonoma.
Arnold Palmer, the man, the legend, the vintner? Amoung his many businesses, Arnie has gone into wine. But he follows a list of other Golfers who have done the same, names like Ernie Els, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman all have their own labels as well. Fortuneatly, although famous, Arnie is pricing his wine reasonably, so that all who want to can enjoy.
If you’re planning a trip to Napa, make sure one of your stops includes Neal Family Vineyards. But being that this winery is a small family owned operation, you’ll probably need to call or email to make an appointment. Chances are you’ll talk to the owner Mark, who’ll cordially invite you to visit at a time convenient to you. Once there, you are greeted by a beautiful building flanked with poppies and dogwood, which are both in bloom, and acres of vineyards. An outdoor terrace at the winery entrance greets you with detailed copper, wood, and stone work telling of times entertaining on the patio. Inside you find more copper work throughout, highlighted by a beautiful foot rail at the tasting bar, and a large vinelike Chandelier suspended a good 15′ up at the glass doors leading into the wine caves.
Gove, our tour guide and the Neal Family Vineyards winemaker, was nice enough to jump off the tractor and show us around the facility. His knowledge is abundant as we learned of the different Barrels the winery uses as a “Spice Rack” during the fermentation stage of their wine. He also explained the background of the Neal family, owning a Vineyard management company since the late 60’s, and just getting into mass production of wine. The philosophy is simple, never compromise. The quality of the wine will meet their standards every year, or it won’t be sold. Production is done in house, which gives Gove the control he needs to make a quality product. For many small wineries, crushing and bottling facilities are used, limiting the decisions in production. That was something they didn’t want.
The wines are superb and two were served on the sunny afternoon we visited. First we had the 2003 Rutherford Zinfandel ($22)
An aromatic wine with huge berry, vanilla and oak hints on the nose. The wine explodes on the palate with a rich mouthfeel and texture accompanied by a light Strawberry flavor with chocolate and vanilla. The finish is extremely long and layered lasting over one minute. 98 Pts. -JAT
Next was the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($45), a blend of many vineyards scattered throughout the valley. This wine is elegant and drinkable, yet the tannin structure feels strong and would aid this wine in the bottle. Again, pronounced fruit of Berry, (Blackberry predominately), vanilla, chocolate and cassis warm the palate. A chewy aftertaste lets you know this wine is built for the cellar. 94pts -JAT
The Zinfandel has the label of being the best I have ever had, and I can’t wait to dive into another bottle. Bravo to the staff and owners, on a wonderful example of what a wine and winery should be.