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.



Top 10 Wine Myths Debunked

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Urban legends and myths continue to dupe us. Until the Paris tasting in 1976, the myth that France was the only Country that could produce high quality wine lived on in oenophiles minds. Even though you may laugh at the myths below some people are still fooled by them. Let’s try to set the record straight.

10. Fruit used to describe wine went into making it.

cherriesFalse. Unless you are buying a wine made from a fruit other than grapes, it is made from the grape varietal on the label, and not from fruit used to describe it (e.g., black cherry, strawberry, kiwi). It’s comparable to artificial flavors, i.e. they taste similar to whatever is being copied but do not contain the actual ingredient. So when you see, “hints of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla” on the label, the producer is simply describing how the wine tastes similar to these components, they weren’t actually used in the production of the wine.

9. You need a different wine glass for different types of wines.

wine_glassesFalse. Again, this is a myth that was debunked a long time ago. You do need a tulip shaped glass or a glass that tappers towards the top to concentrate the aroma toward your nose, but, different shapes to place wine on your tongue in different areas or to aerate the wine faster aren’t necessary. Get yourself a nice set of stemware (Riedel Ouverture Red Wine, Zinfandel or these Riedel O Stemless) and save the space in your cupboard. If you need to let a young wine breathe quickly, try one of these aerators or get a Decanter.

8.You can’t age wines sealed with an alternative closure

twist_off_capFalse. In fact, the data shows that screw caps, or twist-offs as they are sometimes called, are more consistent at sealing wine than cork. One study, cited in the March 31, 2005 issue of Wine Spectator on pages 59-60, found that screw caps allowed .001 cc’s of oxygen per day on average, versus corks that allowed anywhere from to .1 to .001 cc’s of air to enter a wine bottle. In fact, 7 of the 35 bottles sealed with cork allowed .1 cc’s! That means twist-offs are more consistent and let in less oxygen over time, which would result in longer bottle aging. The cork industry would like to have you believe otherwise, but don’t buy it, screw caps are here to stay and you won’t have a problem letting these wines age.

7. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Sherry, and Port are grape varieties.

chateau_margauxFalse. Thanks to a confusing labeling system from the old world this is a common mistake wine consumers make. Cities in France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, among others, restrict production of grape varieties in their area. For a winery to receive legal approval and label their wine, it must be made in the manner mandated by the organization that oversees production there. That means Champagne is not a variety of wine, but the place where some sparkling wine is made. Want to make a non-sparkling wine in the Champagne region from say, Cabernet Sauvignon, and write that on the label? You can’t. Same with Bordeaux, which is a blend of different red varietal grapes, Burgundy, which is primarily made from Pinot Noir, and Port, which is made from various red and white grape varieties. More information can be found here [Wikipedia].

6. Pair white wine with fish or chicken and red wine with red meat

2005_linne_calodo_nemesisFalse. Although this is the most common answer to ‘what wine should I pair with what food,’ it is incorrect. The better way to pair food and wine is by anylizing the flavors of the food and the flavors of the wine. For example, if you are grilling fish and decide to season it with a little salt, lemon, and butter, a nice Sauvignon Blanc with citrus notes or a Chardonnay with buttery flavors would work great. If, however, it’s salmon that will be smothered in a blackberry sauce, you would be better suited in choosing a fruity red wine like a Pinot Noir, Merlot, or even a Syrah. The best thing to do is read the description of the wine from the label or a review on a blog and then pair like with like. It’s also helpful to understand that wines with firm tannins work better with salty dishes, or that acidic wines need a dish with a bit of acid, or how spicy food works better with wines with some residual sugar and not a high alcohol level. Just remember there are no hard and fast rules to this. Dr.Vino has been playing with impossible pairings for some time so search out advice if you get stumped, it’s available.

5. Wine lovers are snobs

rudd_center_tastingFalse. Only people that live in Napa or Bordeaux are….no, I kid. Actually, most serious wine lovers are students of it and are quite down to earth. It’s the people that mask their ignorance with arrogance you have to watch out for. True wine lovers are passionate about continuing their wine education, and are willing to share their knowledge and a glass with anyone interested.

4. You can discern wine quality by looking at the legs.

swirling_wineFalse. You swirl your glass, set it down and notice that a thin, clear layer has stuck to the inside of the glass, and begins to drip down. Sometimes referred to as tears, this is simply a small amount of alcohol and water that adheres to the surface of the glass and as the alcohol evaporates water is left dripping it’s way back in. Why? Water is a primary component in wine, and alcohol evaporates much quicker, so when left on the glass, the alcohol evaporates and the surface tension of the water increases forming drops that gravity takes control of. This is not a measure of the viscosity or the quality of the wine so don’t worry about it. Further reading on this phenomena can be found here [] and on Wikipedia.

3. Drink Red Wine At Room Temperature, White Wine Chilled

stormhoek_chilled_white_wineFalse. Although this idea isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s interpretation almost always is. Many see this as letting a red wine sit out on the counter so it can come to the current room temperature, and opening white wine right out of the fridge. The real idea behind room temperature for red wine was getting it to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the typical temperature of a “room” when this saying was popularized. Many professionals agree, the best way to enjoy wine if you don’t have the luxury of a temperature controlled storage device, is to put your red wines in the fridge for about 5 – 15 minutes before consuming, white wines about 20 – 30 minutes. If you store your wine in the fridge, take the whites out for at least 15 minutes before serving, reds at least 30. Again, it isn’t an exact science, but typically you’re looking for around 60 degrees Fahrenheit on a red, a little below that for a white, and a bit colder for anything that sparkles. Some argue that nuances aren’t observed in white wines that are too cold, which is true. I find that if you chill your wines, over the course of the evening they will warm up and you can observe the development through the night. Professor Bainbridge expands on the subject a bit at the bottom of this op-ed The Red Wines of Summer.

2. All wines get better with age.

vintage_1850False. Actually, a very small number of wines have the proper structure to hold up to aging. Most wines are made with the intention that they will be opened within a few years. The small amount of trophy wines that garner the majority of the press are the ones that have been built for longer aging, and most people don’t even buy these wines. So if you’ve been saving that white Zinfandel from 10 years ago because you think it’s getting better, might want to cut your losses now. (Can you say Re-gift?)

1. Smelling the cork in a restaurant will tell you if the wine is bad.

corksFalse. Cork’s smell like….well, cork, and won’t give you an indication of the quality of the wine. It’s the wine that you want to smell, the cork is only offered to you for a quick examination. So what should you be looking for when the waiter hands you the cork? If you’re buying an expensive bottle the biggest thing you want to avoid is fraud, and if you’re at a reputable restaurant, they’re going to be buying from reputable sources, but again, this is just a precaution. Does the winery’s name, logo, or other branding information appear on the cork? Has the cork been damaged, compromised, allowed seepage in any way? If it is a more expensive bottle, does the year stamped on the cork match the vintage of the wine?

2008 Kim Crawford Latest Releases

Kim Crawford LabelI love the on setting of Spring. The patio furniture is taken out of storage, the grill gets it’s long awaited work out, and the wines we enjoy turn to the crisp food friendly white wines that work so well when chilled.

Some of my favorite white wines come from New Zealand. Tropical fruit flavors seem to be most apparent and are a pleasant accompaniment to any number of appetizers you feel like sampling. Wines from the Marlborough region especially lend themselves to subtle flavor profiles, thanks in part to a mild temperature growing season.

Kim Crawford Wines had it’s start in 1996 by the husband and wife team, Kim and Erica, with an initial production of 4,000 cases of wine made from grapes sourced from local growers. Since 2000, the company has been handling more of the process themselves, from vineyard acquisitions to leasing their own wine making facilities, and production has soured into the 100’s of thousands of cases per year.

Both of the wines sampled below are delicious and very food friendly. I have seen the price steadily rise over the last few years, but such is life, and these are both still very good values, especially the unoaked Chardonnay. Both of these wines are sealed with a twist-off, another plus.

Full Disclosure: The following were press samples.

Kim Crawford
2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Marlborough, New Zealand
Total Acidity: 7.1 g/L
pH: 3.34
ABV: 12.9%
Release Date: July 2008
Cases Produced: 175,000
Price: $19 USD
This straw colored wine has a nice aroma of lychee and mango. There is a touch of lemon grass and pineapple on the crisp palate that carries into a nice finish.
Score: 90 pts (A-)

2008 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay2008 New Zealand Unoaked Chardonnay
Appellation: Gisborne and Hawkes Bay Regions, New Zealand
Total Acidity: 7.5 g/L
pH: 3.46
ABV: 13%
Release: January 2009
Cases Produced: 24,000
Price: $17 USD
Notes: This is a very well balance wine with an aroma of apple, pineapple, and pear that leads into a medium bodied, well balanced flavor with a soft finish on the palate. Not overly acidic or crisp, a very nice effort.
Score: 92 pts (A)
Note: As of this writing, a Bay Area wine retailer that ships to quite a few states, Beverage’s & More, was having a buy one bottle get the second for $.05 and this was one of the wine’s on the list. Not a bad deal.

More Info:

Twist off’s are good enough for Bond

Screw Cap Sealed Wine Bottle in latest Bond Film
Screw Cap Sealed Wine Bottle in latest Bond Film

About 49 minutes into the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace [QOS/Amazon], James indulges in a glass of vino while reminiscing with his old friend Mathis in Talamone, Italy. Although the conversation about the wine lead to a joke that Mathis only bought the cheap stuff, he did insinuate that he didn’t want to serve the man who tried to kill him any of his fine wine.

The stereotypes are almost gone.


Reviews – Cameron Hughes Lot 74 and Lot 92

Lot 74 photo credit Katie MacKenzieDisclosure: The following wines were received as press samples.

Lot 92 – 2004 Margaret River Chardonnay

Price: $14
Alcohol by volume: 14.1%
Production: 350 cases

Cam’s back! This delicious wine (sealed with a screw cap) is very well balanced and delivers a nose of pineapple, pear and apple with a light mouth feel that is crisp with a bit of a tangy finish. Great with light fare, snatch this one up before it’s gone!

90 pts. A-

Lot 74 – 2006 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: ???
Alcohol by volume: 14.9%
Production: 1,440 cases

This wine is very young, and even with an hour of decanting, remains tight. The nose offers hints of blackberry and black raspberry with a chewy mouth feel that covers your tongue in a tannic blanket. The finish is long but acidic. This wine will definitely need to be placed in the cellar for another 4-6 years before enjoyed.

82 pts. (B-)

Purité – Purely Unoaked Wine From Fess Parker

2006 Purite ChardonnayFess Parker Winery has recently released a new line of wine under the Purité label to showcase white wines that aren’t touched by Oak. Quite a few wine drinkers today love big, buttery, oaky Chardonnays, and the industry reflects that, as most Chardonnays sold are oaked in some way and/or go through malolactic fermentation or sur lie aging. But those wines just aren’t the greatest with food (unless your limiting your meal to cheese). The Purité line aims to offer wines with balanced acid and clean fruit flavors, devoid of any secondary malolactic fermentation or sur lie aging, that should work perfect with your midweek dinner. Initially, a Viognier and Chardonnay are available, with a Dry Riesling planned for the near future.

I had a chance to try the inaugural offerings last month with Tim Snider of Fess Parker and Epiphany Cellars at Charles Communications in San Francisco. The following are my notes from that tasting.

2006 Purité Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, CA

ABV: 14.5%

Production: 403 Cases

Retail: $22

Notes: This light straw colored offering exhibits a touch of lemon grass and pear on the palate. The acid is bright and crisp with more lemon zest on the medium length finish. It’s a nice wine and you find that Chardonnay in this capacity closely resembles Sauvignon Blanc.

Score: B (84-86 points)

2006 Purité Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

ABV: 14.8%

Production: 103 Cases

Retail: $22

Notes: Immediately on the nose is a pleasant floral note, with hints of lychee and passion fruit, a nice bright mouthfeel but a bit hot towards the back of the palate and on the finish from the high alcohol. Still, a nice first effort that really showcases what Viognier is capable of in this more naked form.

Score: B/B+ (86-88 points)

Note: Although not pictured, these wines are sealed with a Stelvin screw cap, bravo!

Screwcaps under attack, but will prevail

StelvinIn a recent story on Decanter, researchers from Cairn Environment for Oeneo Bouchage in France assert that the manufacturing of Screw Caps has a bigger carbon imprint over Corks, and therefore is bad for the environment.

The production of screwcaps gives off over 10kg of CO2 per tonne compared with 2.5kg of CO2 per tonne for corks

That’s great and all, but as some savy readers of Decanter point out, there are more than a few flaws with the data.

First off, how many Screw caps make up a ton vs. how many corks? It would be nice to know the actual emission number per closure.

Secondly, the study says nothing of the impact of aluminum closures being recyclable versus corks, and the impact that has on the environment.

Third, what about the wines that are more likely to be tainted by TCA that are sealed under cork? Does the study measure the impact all of those bad bottles of wine that were produced, transported, and then thrown away versus ones sealed with a cork that were not bad, therefore not a waste of fuel, packaging, etc?

Forth, how big of a footprint is left from the transportation of the majority of corks produced in Spain and Portugal around the world, versus countries that have screw cap manufacturing plants in closer vacinity?

Fifth, what is the footprint of the alumium foil cover on bottles sealed with corks versus screw caps that don’t necessitate the foil?

Sixth, how about the energy used to manufacture corkscrews, rabbits, foil cutters, etc?

Now, I will admit that screw caps have their fair shair of faults; mined from the earth, not sustainable, chlorine taint during production can also cause TCA taint in bottles sealed with any closure. But I think when you look at the whole picture, the consumer is tired of hearing attacks against closures that are far superior to corks, and are already here to stay.

The other night I walked up to the bar at a concert, and I heard a woman behind me tell her husband she wanted a glass of wine. He asked her which one, to which she replied, “Anything sealed with a screw cap.”

The smell of change is in the air.

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 70% Off!

Cameron Hughes Lot 28 Napa Valley Cabernet The hunt for the illusive Napa Valley Cabernet that is both stellar and affordable has left many a wine lover frustrated, with many losing their belief that such a scenario even exists – until today. Cameron Hughes, Negociant extraordinare, has done it again, this time with his limited release Lot 28 which arrived at the Danville Costco today. Treasure Hunters, start your engines, this wine will not be around after the weekend. I actually feel bad that there is such a limited quantity of this Lot, and that it isn’t even available at other Bay Area Costco’s or Cam’s site. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, you have my sympathy. But for the fortunate few, your Hommage a Cameron has paid off; you are now being rewarded. Tasting notes below:

2002 Cameron Hughes Lot 28 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $14
Abv: 14.1%
Notes: This Inky Purple wine is loaded with Dark Fruit, Cassis, and Vanilla, aromas with a hint of violet apparent after a little aeration. On the palate this wine has good tannic structure and reveals glycerin, blueberry, licorice and leather notes with a full bodied finish. The terrior suggests hillside fruit; an incredible value.
Score: 94pts

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 27 Russian River Valley Syrah
Price: $9
Abv: 14.5%
Notes: Of the two Syrah’s out now, this is the one to buy.  This wine is very young and tight, but opens up after about 30 minutes of air. Decanting is a must if you are going to enjoy this wine early, but you are rewarded with lovely Vanilla and Blackberry notes, glycerin, well integrated tannins and a nice finish.
Score: 92pts

2006 Cameron Hughes Lot 26 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ
Price: $7
Notes: This is a fantastic effort, with a ton of tropical fruit notes, great acidity, and a clean crisp finish. It possesses Passion Fruit, Mango, and Citrus aromas, as well as floral notes and spice on the palate. A refreshing wine, this effort can stand up to similar bottles from the region selling for twice the price. Sealed with a Stelvin Screwcap, bravo!
Score: 90pts

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 24 Syrah Sonoma County
Price: $9
Abv: 14.5%
Notes: This Ruby/Purple colored wine offers loads of Coffee on the nose, with a medium bodied mouth feel with hints of earth, pepper, and currant, with the dominate quality of coffee carrying over on the palate. This wine finishes mildly and is a bit one dimensional.
Score: 82pts

2002 Cameron Hughes Lot 23 Meritage 63% Sonoma 37% Napa
Price $12?
Abv: 14.2
Notes: This “mystery blend” which tasted to me like a Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, Merlot blend, has a nice ruby purple color but possesses a somewhat cloying perfume. Hints of oak, raspberries and forest floor caress your tongue. A somewhat short finish, this wine is a simple yet tasty effort.
Score: 86pts (tasted twice with consistent notes)

2004 Cameron Hughes Lot 21 California Zinfandel
Price: $9
Abv: 14.5
Notes: A Ruby/Garnet color is just the start of this pleasant wine. With notes of Cherry liquor, sweet currants, and ample glycerin, this wine isn’t overly tart and has nice black fruit characteristics.

Score: 88pts (tasted twice with consistent notes)

Please Welcome Jacob’s Creek to the Dark Side

As they just announced their entire European wine line will now be closed with a Screw Cap. This includes bottles that retail for up to $77 U.S. (£40). Jacob’s Creek parent company, Pernod Ricard UK, decided to make the change to meet the demands of retailers, consumers, and the wine making team.

Adrian Atkinson, of Pernod, states: ‘Consumers increasingly associate screw cap wines with quality’.

A recent poll conducted on behalf of Pernod Ricard suggested increasing consumer confidence in screw-cap wine. 68% of those asked said they were ‘quite likely’ or ‘very likely’ to buy wine under screw-cap within the next three months.

It is also interesting to note that this winery has the biggest market share in the UK for an Australian import, with 13.3%.

Contrary to what the Cork industry would like you to believe, consumers are warming up to Screw caps, and this is proof.

Read []

Watch Vive Le Screwcap!

StelvinTake a few minutes to enroll in the Dooniversity, and watch as Bonny Doon Vineyard explains the virtues of the screwcap. This is an informative, scientific, comedic attempt to inform all the cork snobs in the world that there really is a better wine closure.

Watch Vive Le Screwcap here

(Click on the Dooniverse when the Navigation loads, Then on “Learn our ways” , Then “Watch Vive le Screw Cap” and hit the play button.

Then, head over to the De Long Wine Moment blog and read Steve’s Comparison of alternative closures.