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.
Continue reading

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.

Best,

Jathan.

Bing Crosby’s Wine Cellar Preserves 1960 World Series Film

Image copyright Bing Crosby Enterprises
Bing Crosby at a game

Ahh the wine cellar, perfect for storing vintage films lost to time, or so the Bill Crosby estate executors found out when game 7 of the 1960 world series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees was discovered perfectly preserved inside the San Francisco residence.

After Crosby viewed the 2-hour-36-minute game, probably in a screening room in the house, the films took their place in the vault, said Robert Bader, vice president for marketing and production for Bing Crosby Enterprises.

They remained there undisturbed until December, when Bader was culling videotapes of Crosby’s TV specials for a DVD release — part of the estate’s goal of resurrecting his body of work.

He spotted two reels lying horizontally in gray canisters labeled “1960 World Series.” They were stacked close to the ceiling with home movies and sports instructional films. An hour or so later, he found three others on other shelves. Intrigued, he screened the 16-millimeter film on a projector. It was Game 7, called by the Yankees’ Mel Allen and the Pirates’ Bob Prince — the complete NBC broadcast. The film had not degraded and has been transferred to DVD.

Read [NYTimes.com]

Fred Franzia Dominates The Wine Business

down_under_by_crane_lakeSnuggling close to selling half a billion bottles of Charles Shaw, 66 year old Fred Franzia has got his right foot on the gas and isn’t braking for anything.  He’s a determined man with a simple yet unpopular approach to the wine business: sell an ocean of wine at a price people laugh at.

Guess what? It’s working.

Snobs can come up with a gazillion reason’s for you to avoid Franzia’s wine’s, but, much like there assertion of his quality, they just aren’t that good. There is nothing wrong with opening a bottle of wine that costs less per gallon than most people pay for bottled water, and sipping it to contentment. A few extra digits in the online statement is a welcome site for most wine lovers today.

Which brings me to the article that prompted this post, found here [abc.com], and the review I’ve been meaning to post on a wine from Australia under the Crane Lake label of Bronco Wines, Franzia’s Company. This wine was sent to me as a press sample, and after tasting it, I picked up a case at my local Trader Joe’s. (I took a picture of the display in the store, but I got scolded by internal watch, so I won’t post that for fear of legal ramifications.) Note that in no way do I benefit from sales of this wine, just a recommendation for people that would like a nice summer wine, which, brings me to a little change in my standard review language. Below are two styles of reviews, one, the normal format found here at Winexpression, and two, the seemingly more fitting review style I envision Fred using when he tells people about his wines.

1.

Wine: 2008 Down Under by Crane Lake South Eastern Australia Chardonnay
Price: $2.99 Suggested Retail
Alcohol: 12.5 % ABV
Notes: Light straw in color, stone fruit, mineral, apple on the nose with a crisp well balanced palatte and zesty finish.  Lightly buttery and food friendly.
Score: B+ 88 pts

2.

2008 Down Under South Eastern Australia Chardonnay
$3
This great tasting Chardonnay is a nice way to travel to Australia without flying, boating, or swimming, and an excellent way to cool off on a toasty summer afternoon.
:)

Update: The makers of Australia’s most identifiable bottle of wine, Yellow Tail, are suing over the Down Under label. Dr.Vino has the skinny.

Appreciation From The Robert Mondavi Family

The Napa Valley Vintners Association WebsiteI was surprised to find this note in my inbox today from the Mondavi Family, so I thought I’d share.

To all of our friends,

The Robert Mondavi family is extremely appreciative of the many kind expressions of compassion and personal reflections that have appeared since Robert’s death. From the beginning, his vision, commitment to excellence in every part of his life and desire to empower others to do their best, were hallmarks of his efforts; and he would be gratified to see that his message was heard around the world.

Please be assured that your words have eased our feelings of loss, and we hope that our paths will cross in the future so that we can share some of our best memories.

The Robert Mondavi Family

Wow. I wasn’t expecting to receive anything like this (even if it did go out to an undisclosed amount of recipients). It just goes to show that you never know who reads your blog, and that you have a chance to reach people on a personal level, even on the internet. This was a very classy gesture on the part of the family, especially during their time of loss. The more time I spend around the wine industry, the more I realize it’s all about the people involved; their love and passion is what makes this business so special. Some of the nicest people I have met are in this trade, and this little email is further proof of that.

You can share a message / condolences with the family on the Napa Valley Vintners Website

Also, The Chronicle’s Jon Bonné has an extensive write up on Robert at SFgate.com

A write up is coming soon on the Robert Mondavi Winery Website.

Another Write Up On Robert Mondavi, and A Review Of Solaire

(Note: Robert Mondavi’s Autobiography entitled Harvests of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business – Paperbackis available on Amazon.com) The Mercury News printed a nice obituary on Robert Mondavi this morning, which can be found here. The article highlights how he got into the wine business, his innovation using tempurature controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentation and French Oak barrels for aging (an uncommon practice at the time for California wines), and his recent work developing Copia in Napa Valley. It also lists some of the wineries he was involved with, including Arrowood Vineyards in Sonoma, Opus One in Oakville, Byron Vineyard in Santa Barbara, and Continuum launched recently by his children. His namesake winery was sold to Constellation brands in 2004 and they recently introduced Solaire, a reasonably priced wine that bares his name on the label. Winexpression was sent a press sample of the two wines they currently produce, and following is my review.

Solaire Chardonnay and CabernetIt goes without saying that when putting your name on a bottle of wine, you want that name to reflect well on you. I’m pretty sure that Robert Mondavi wouldn’t allow a company to simply plaster his name on a product that he wouldn’t be proud of. Even though Constellation is a huge brand, they hit a home run with their latest venture that bares the Mondavi name. Solaire is crafted by Rick Boyer and aims to showcase the quality of grapes coming out of California’s Central Coast and the results are a pleasant surprise. Even more surprising is the price point that both of these wines come in at. I’ve been recommending both to close friends for a few days now, hopefully they can get a head start finding them at their local retailer before the rest of the world catches on.

2006 Solaire Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Price: $15

ABV: 13.5%

Rating: A (94 – 96 pts)

Notes: Just in time for summer! This wine possesses a rich aroma of vanilla, a touch of Oak, and hints of citrus and creme, that are not overdone on the palate. Think Crème brûlée without the weight, finished by a medium bodied palate that is fresh and crisp. It finishes beautifully and leaves you wanting more. I’ve tasted Chardonnays that weren’t this good that sell for twice the price. This is a fantastic value.

2005 Solaire Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA

Price: $18

ABV: 13.5%

Score: A- (92 – 94pts)

Notes: Another fantastic effort, I don’t think I’ve tasted a Cabernet from Paso at this price that was this good. It is gorgeous to look at, a rich and deep purple, that reveals loads of Black Cherry, Blueberry, and other black fruits on the nose. The mouthfeel is complex and full, and contains hints of leather, oak, and Cassis, with the dominate flavors of Cherry and Blueberry carried over from the nose. The finish is round, and not overly tannic, and lasts for at least 30 seconds. This is a great food friendly wine and a fantastic value that I’d compare to wines that sell for $50.

Website: www.solairewines.com

Robert Mondavi Dies At 94

As reported in Decanter, Winespectator (who has a full obituary), and SFgate.com, Robert Mondavi passed away this morning at his home in Yountville. If you would like to read more on the man, a book detailing his life entitled The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty(paperback) Hardcover is available for purchase on Amazon.

The man was instrumental in many of the innovations still used today in wine making, was an excellent marketer, loved the arts, and left a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.

Robert Mondavi Winery

Wikipedia Article

Paul Newman Joins List of Celebrity Wine Business People

Newman’s OwnHot on Martha’s heels, Mr.Newman, under his namesake brand, plans to offer an organic Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon early next year. The 2006 vintage will be produced by Rebel Wine Co., the folks behind Three Thieves and True Earth Wines, and is estimated to go on sale for about $16. I’m guessing the vineyard sources will be the same as the True earth brand, which is organically produced. If anything’s hot right now, it’s anything organic, and the Newman’s Own brand is already associated with high quality, natural foods. The million dollar question is, will this one be any good?

Oh, and who is Rebel Wine you ask?

Rebel Wine is a two-year-old joint venture between Three Thieves and St. Helena’s Trinchero Family Estates, one of the largest wine producers in the Bay Area, with between 9 million and 10 million cases of wine produced annually. The two companies formed the joint venture in March 2005, hoping to link Trinchero’s production and distribution capabilities with the “creative flair and winemaking talent” of Three Thieves. As part of the venture with Trinchero, all three of the “thieves” who started Three Thieves in 2002 — Joel Gott, Charles Bieler and Roger Scommegna — became principals in Rebel Wine.

Will we see a Cool Hand Luke dessert wine down the road? The hustler red blend? Time will tell.

Read [bizjournals.com]

tip: Luxist.com

Compass Box Shakes Up Scotch Industry

John Glasser of Compass BoxIn a world that has been somewhat unchanged for years, John Glaser is beginning to turn some heads. His method is unconventional, although quite common in the wine world. His company, Compass Box, is responsible for producing around 6,000 cases of award winning Scotch a year, with one catch: they don’t make it. The company contracts with about 15 different producers, and blends unique traits from each cask at their warehouse in London, creating a final blend that garners attention. For example, the Spice Tree, a whiskey that was blended and aged in barrels that contained Oak staves to infuse a rich flavor, was deemed impermissible by the Scotch Whiskey Association, and Glaser was forced to discontinue the blend. He laments in the announcement on his website:

Not much we could do at that point, with a gun, (figuratively speaking) pointed at our head. But don’t worry! The good news is we’ve got lots of other whiskies in development. We have no shortage of ideas. And no diminished passion for creating extraordinary and delicious whiskies. Stay tuned.

Glaser kept close ties to his former employer, Diageo brands, producers of Johnny Walker, and his contacts in the industry, giving him an “in” to buy the whiskey’s he blends. A man in his 40′s originally from Minnesota, he has done much to raise awareness of the spirit, helping to showcase a profile that hadn’t really been seen, and it’s beginning to pay off.

Compass Box has won Whisky magazine’s Innovator of the Year award four times in six years, which may say less about the recipient of the award than about the very conservative industry, in which even little innovations make big splashes.

Read [Wired.com]

Martha Does Wine – A Lot

Martha Stewart, America’s domestic goddess, has teamed up with E & J Gallo, wine giant from Modesto, to produce a $15 bottle of wine available in red, white, and blu….oops, I mean red (merlot, chardonnay, and cabernet) from grapes grown in Sonoma.

Gallo is expected to heavily promote the Martha wine, with print ads and other marketing efforts. Martha Stewart Vintage labels will feature a calligraphy-like design with her initials; but the name Gallo won’t appear anywhere on the label.

So, Martha Stewart Vintage is due to hit store shelves soon, with about 15,000 cases available at release. Will the Martha faithful rush out to try a bottle? Only time will tell. I must say, I did enjoy an episode of her show that helped me appreciate the choosing of proper hens when I start my egg farm. Maybe her taste in wine will prove to be as refined?

Read [WSJ.com]