Final Thoughts

This will be my final post, so it’s a doozy. Scroll all the way down the page to see each portion.

Touring Bronco Wine Co.

I got the chance to see where Charles Shaw is bottled and shipped from in Napa. Here are the highlights:

Fred Franzia is a simple man. He drives from his home in the Central Valley to Napa in an old truck with a ton of miles. He calls his workers a “hell of an asset”. He has delivered more than 500 million CASES of two buck chuck through one distribution channel, Trader Joe’s.
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Winexpression to Close

I must fly away to another flowerAfter almost 8 years, I have decided that my Wine Blogging journey has come to an end. Thanks to all the readers, PR staff, and fellow wine bloggers that supported me through this journey. I have a few posts to finish up and will explain a bit more, but basically this forum has run it’s course in my life and I am ready to move on. I have valued the feedback I have received and thank you all for your support. Stay tuned for a few more posts with the most valuable wine lessons I’ve learned, tips for wine bloggers, and some final reviews and notes from recent tastings I have attended.



Khaya Cookies – Delicious Treats From South Africa

khaya_cookie_grapeseed_shortbreadSouth Africa has shot onto the scene as a wine making region of note, and now a company aims to expand on that success by producing cookie’s that include ingredients like grapeseeds and Rooibos that, they claim, can be paired with wine. The Khaya Cookie Company was founded by Alicia Polak, an investment banker turned social entrepreneur, who saw a need to help unemployed men and women find jobs, and this company became the vehicle to facilitate that.

Right now the company is running a promotion until July 15th,2009. By buying a pack of cookies you can enter to win your choice of one of three trips to South Africa and support local job creation. Details can be found here.

I was sent a press sample of the Grapeseed shortbread cookies and the following are my thoughts.

Khaya Cookie Company – Grapeseed Shortbread with Currents
Price: $5.75
These cookie’s are dangerous! They are buttery, crunchy, and light bite-sized morsels that are too easy to eat. I found them to be a great pairing with champagne or you might try a buttery chardonay.
The box touts the health benefits of grapeseed powder which is rich in antioxidants, and the package contains no preservatives or additives and zero trans-fats. A product of South Africa.

Available at fine retailers like Peet’s Coffee and Tea or Online at

Tasting Notes: Dog Food

pate_or_dog_foodNo notes from Winexpression, however, 18 brave souls did belly up to the bar and taste dog food alongside various types of pâté and other ground up meat to see if they could pick it out from the line up. The result? Only 3 of the 18 people that participated were able to correctly identify the dog food.

What does this mean? Is Newman’s own just an incredible product that could be fed to people? Or is it that our palates are not as refined as we would like to think they are?

According to the researchers: 72% rated the dog food as the worst-tasting pâté.

Steven Colbert from Comedy Central’s Colbert Report covers the story, and, let me just say, don’t drink anything while watching because it will end up on your screen.


Hat tip: Dr.Vino who asks the question, what wine would pair with this dog food?

The full paper from the American Association of Wine Economists, who did the study, can be found here.

Atlas Olive Oils – Tasting and Recipe

atlas_olive_oil_desert_miracle(Posted by T.A.P.)
I’m definitely not an expert on olive oil, the way it should taste, the different nuances, the proper color, etc.  But, much like wine, I do know what is pleasing to my palate.  So when Atlas Olive Oils asked if I would sample their olive oil I thought I’d give it a try.  I wouldn’t be able to offer an “expert” opinion, but I would be able to give it a review based on my taste.

Atlas Olive Oils estate (Website) is located in the dry areas of Morocco where they cultivate over one million olive trees.  The olives are harvested directly from the tree, never coming into contact with the soil, and the time period between harvesting and crushing never exceeds 20 minutes.  It’s the attention to details such as this that make for a very high quality product.  Just taking a look at their website one comes to see that olive oil is a passion for those at Atlas Olive Oils, not just a business.
They offer two olive oils.  Desert Miracle, aptly named because it seems a miracle to be able to produce olive oil out of a desert, and Les Terroirs De Marrakech which is their ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil and has a limited production of 25,000 liters. (Note: The oils recently won 3rd best olive oil in the world for 2009 at the MARIO SOLINAS olive oil competition. Website [])

The following are my tasting notes on these oils. Since I don’t consider myself an expert, you’ll notice that ratings were foregone.

Full Disclosure: The following oils were sent as press samples.
Desert Miracle
Recommended Retail: $11.29 USD
Notes: Hints of dried pineapple and banana on the nose, with a buttery and lovely palate that leads to a slightly peppery finish. Very nice and great as a salad dressing. See note below.

Les Terriors de Marrakech
Recommended Retail: $11.86 USD
Notes: A very green smelling and tasting olive oil, a bit like cut grass with a mellow palate that leads into a buttery aftertaste that shows no bitterness. Great drizzled on a variety of foods.

basic_saladSalad Recipe

Mixed Baby Greens
Baby Spinach
Strawberries – sliced
Red Onion – very thinly sliced
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Sweet & Spicy Walnuts
Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette (See Below)

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

Brown sugar
Cayenne pepper
Black Pepper
Non-stick spray

Spray pan with non-stick spray and place over medium heat.
Add desired amount of walnuts to pan.
Sprinkle brown sugar, (white sugar can also be used), a pinch of salt, fresh ground black pepper, dash of cayenne pepper and a sprinkle or two of cinnamon over the nuts.
Stir the nuts continually until all of the sugar has melted and each nut is coated.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once nuts are cooled, sprinkle over salad and enjoy!
Specific amounts are not given as the spices can be adjusted to taste.  This recipe is more of a method rather than exact measurements.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

The Desert Miracle is a great oil to use in this vinaigrette as the green notes of the Les Terriors de Marrakech and other subtle flavors would probably be overwhelmed and masked by the flavor of the vinegar. We choose to use an Industriale type of affordable balsamic vinegar available from most grocery stores. The ratio of oil to vinegar keeps the subtle flavors in the oil from being overwhelmed, and the addition of a bit of sugar helps to cut through the acidity of the vinegar. Salt and pepper balance out the flavors.

Serves 6 well dressed salads:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Desert Miracle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of cane sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Measure the vinegar into a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the Olive Oil, whisking briskly to emulsify the mix until there is no separation between the oil and vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar and season with salt and pepper. Whisk until fully combined then drizzle over salad until lightly coated.

For more info visit

Note: The oil will be available for purchase in the USA very soon.

Flayvors of Washington Video Contest Announced

Flavors of Washington Contest 2009Columbia Crest, the maker of some very nice value wines in Washington State, has announced a partnership with Food Network star Bobby Flay to promote the second annual “Flayvors of Washington” video cooking demonstration contest. The winner will receive a prize package valued at over $5,000 USD, and a chance for one-on-one cooking time with Chef Flay.

Here are a few of the contest details:

Your recipe should be inspired by a Columbia Crest Grand Estates wine and include at least one Washington-state ingredient (Apples * Asparagus * Blackberries * Chanterelle Mushrooms * Cherries * Clams * Dungeness Crab * Halibut * Hazelnuts * Lentils * Melon * Morel Mushrooms * Mussels * Oysters * Peaches * Pears * Raspberries * Salmon * Spot Prawns * Strawberries * Sweet Onions). Your video should be no longer than two minutes and showcase why you’ve got the winning recipe. America will vote on the entries and help select the semifinalists. Bobby Flay will then choose two finalists to come to New York for the Flayvors of Washington Face-Off Challenge, where they will prepare their dishes for a panel of judges and a winner will be decided!

Enter now through June 8, 2009.

Grand Prize

* Opportunity to cook with Bobby Flay in New York
* $5,000 cash
* Wine refrigerator
* Selection of items from the Bobby Flay at Kohl’s cookware line
* Autographed copy of Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Grill It! cookbooks
* Selection of Bobby Flay sauces and rubs
* Columbia Crest glassware and corkscrew
* Washington wine books

The official entry page and announcement form is here. []

Wine Spectator Gets Had – Gives Fake Restaurant Award

In what may be one of the best publicity stunts in the wine industry this year, Robin Goldstein, Author of The Wine Trials ( recently pulled a fast one on the editors of Wine Spectator magazine. Goldstein created a fake wine list that included wines the magazine has given horrible reviews to in past issues, set up a website using the free blog site, posted reviews on a food forum site- Chowhound, set up a phone number with an answering machine, and sent in the required wine list and $250 fee to be listed as a recommended establishment. The result? The editors granted Osteria L’Intrepido with an “Award of Excellence“, a title that over 4,000 restaurants around the world covet. Goldstein explains the whole process on his blog and highlights how he made his menu:

The main wine list that I submitted was a perfectly decent selection from around Italy that met the magazine’s basic criteria (about 250 wines, including whites, reds, and sparkling wines–some of which scored well in WS). However, Osteria L’Intrepido’s high-priced “reserve wine list” was largely chosen from among some of the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past few decades.

Goldstein said he wanted to expose the magazine for their lack of foundation granting these awards. He hypothesized that Wine Spectator merely uses this as another profit generating medium, which brings in an estimated $1 million every year.

Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of Wine Spectator, defends the publication in a posting on the Wine Spectator Forum saying that the company did their best to contact the restaurant and felt that there was enough evidence on the web that this was a real business. Matthews asserts that, although the wine list contained some obvious bad wines, the majority of the list contained wines that fit into the award of excellence criteria:

Our basic award, for lists that offer a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.

Goldstein’s actions could be looked at in different ways: Here is someone that wanted to hurt the credibility of a magazine while promoting himself. Or, perhaps he had been to a few of the restaurants in the recommended list and felt like he was the one who was had by the magazine and wanted to expose a flaw in the system.

I think a bigger question arises, one that has been on the minds of many wine lovers: Does this lack of diligence spill into other areas of the magazine, where ratings and awards may be bought and aren’t necessarily earned?

Read []

A Wine You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Wine Cellar SorbetDon’t eat and drive after you’ve had this sorbet. Wine Cellar Sorbet is made from finished wine from California, Oregon and New York, and packs a 5% abv. The brainchild of Bret Birnbaum and David Zablocki, this sorbet comes in varietal specific flavors like Pinot Noir and Riesling, complete with the wine vintage dates on each pint. Do I see a way to make a variation on the good old Ice Cream Soda here?

David first tasted Wine sorbet in Big Sur, CA, where he was a chef, and began making it himself in 2000. Bret loved the product so much, instead of opening a wine bar in New York and incorporating it onto the menu, he pushed to start a company based around wine sorbet. Currently, it is only available at gourmet stores in New York and New Jersey, but they hope to add more locations soon.

Visit the Website here.

Wine isn’t the only cash crop from California

Olive Oil, Wine, BreadAsk anyone from the Middle East, Italy, France, Greece, Spain, or California where the best Olive Oil comes from and they’ll most likely say their hometown. As with wine, Olive Oil producers take great pride in their product and Artisan Oils are becoming increasingly popular. California in fact has increased its EVOO, or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (thanks Rachael Ray), production from 123,000 gallons in 1997, to 384,000 gallons in 2005. With a lot of these 375ml bottles selling at around $25 a bottle, that’s quite an income for these producers, many of whom also make wine.

So far, I haven’t personally been blown away by any artisan oils from California. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, just not amazing. That green pepper character I’ve tasted in many just doesn’t harmonize with my palate. Perhaps I’m spoiled though. I have a friend that travels to Italy annually and brings back her ‘family press reserve;’ a rich, soft buttery oil with a hint of almond, that subtly coats the palate like velvet. I bet I could sell it for $25 in 100 ml bottles, it’s amazing stuff. A fresh baguette, this olive oil, and a nice bottle of wine is a match made in heaven.

For more on the Californian Olive Oil industry, and it’s 300 producers, visit the California Olive Oil Council’s website, or this article from the Contra Costa Times.

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