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.

Best,

Jathan.

Top 10 Wine Myths Debunked

Copyright Winexpression

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 [kitchensavy.com] 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?

Cooking With Wine

2005_linne_calodo_nemesisAnyone who watches the Food Network knows that many hosts have advised time and again not to cook with wine you wouldn’t drink out of a glass.  I thought that by now this was a well known fact.  But to my astonishment, while talking to a friend about a spaghetti sauce recipe, they mentioned that they had some cooking wine they could add to it.  NOOOO! was my initial thought.  But then I remembered that they aren’t a wine drinker.  So I kindly mentioned that the wines flavor intensifies when you cook with it, so if it doesn’t taste good on it’s own, it won’t taste good in your food.

I made that spaghetti sauce recipe over the weekend and it turned out great!  We had a 2005 Linne Calodo Nemisis [website] open and I decided to add it to the sauce.  Now by no means do you have to use a 4 year old wine, it’s just what I happened to have open at the time.  But by all means use wine that you enjoy drinking.  And don’t worry about not having any wine left over.  Most recipes only call for a small amount to be added so there will be plenty to share with dinner.

Posted by T.A.P.

Wine Tips During Tough Economic Times

In news that surprised analysts, beer sales were down in many countries around the world in the fourth quater of 2008.  Dr.Vino weighed in on the wine side of the matter with a poll that showed most of his readers are buying less expensive wines at the same or higher volume.  Data on wine auctions has also been released that shows a sharp decline from the 2007 highs.  So what’s a wine lover to do?  Here are a few tips that I have already put into practice that will hopefully help you.

Tap Your Cellar

If you have been collecting wine, now is a great time to start enjoying all those bottles you’ve saved, especially since some of them will soon be going south.  Most wines made these days are made to be enjoyed within the first 5 – 10 years, so tap into your collection and enjoy.

Share Mailing List Shipments

Know someone who enjoys the same wines that you do?  Are you on mailing lists that you don’t want to lose?  Ask your friends if they would like to go in on the shipments.  Deferring the cost even a little might make that credit card statement easier to swallow.

Drop Mailing List Shipments

Are you caught in a spiral of buying wines that you don’t drink just because someone rated them high?  Are there other wines you enjoy at the same price point that you can buy on an as needed basis?  Now is a great time to trim the wine club fat and keep the subscriptions you truly love.

Explore Your Local Wine Retailer

You’ll be helping the little guy.  Exploring different regions, price points, varietals, and styles of wine will help you broaden your palate and is a great education.  Even if you do buy a couple of mediocre or bad wines, just remember, experience is what we get when we didn’t get what we wanted.

Avoid Ordering Alcohol Out

This is pretty much a no-brainer.  The markup on alcohol is huge.  It’s better to cut back on your overall bill than altogether not supporting your favorite restaurants.  Not drinking alcohol out will also keep you from possibly being a liability on the road.

Share The Cost With Friends

Many hands make the load light.  If you’re having a dinner party, ask your friends to chip in. They can bring a bottle to share, or help with the cost if you’re providing all the drinks.

Drink Less

Maybe not less times a week, but less on each occasion. If you enjoy a glass with your husband or wife with your meal, put the bottle back in the fridge and save the rest for tomorrow nights meal.  Since we really appreciate the first and last sips the most, you’re doubling your enjoyment of that wine!

Hopefully a couple of these tips will help you ride the economic storm. And since you might be consolidating your wine collection, I thought a giveaway would be in order!

THE CONTEST – ***CLOSED***

I’m giving away the Wine Tube wine rack. To enter the contest just leave the name of one of your favorite budget wines in the comments section below. Or, if you have a wine tip of your own, or just want to say hi, leave a comment below and you will be automatically entered.

THE RULES

One entry per person please. Open to U.S. residents only. No entries after Sunday at 8:00 PM PST will be accepted. The winner will be announced early Monday morning, a randomly chosen post from the comments section of this post!

I hope you win!

UPDATE

The winner is announced here.

And thanks again for your support. I wouldn’t have this site without you, and even if I don’t post as often as I used to, I will always try to keep quality posts coming your way.

Signed,

A Wine Lover
Ska Dancer
Nicholas Cage Look-a-like

Poll: What Do You Do With A Corked Wine?

The work week ends, you dig down into your wine collection and pull out a special bottle you’ve been waiting to open. You peel off the foil and breath a sigh of relief when you see that the cork hasn’t been compromised. The first glass is poured, swirled, and …. wait a second. Something isn’t right, this wine smells like cork, cardboard, mold, or a wet basement. Or perhaps it smells fine, but on taking a sip you are overwhelmed with acidity; this thing is tart and undrinkable.

Now what?

What do you do with that wine? I have a feeling that most people do the same thing, dump it and move on. But shouldn’t we do more? If it was an electronic device, wouldn’t you take it back? Maybe most people do take their wines back, but that’s less than convenient if say, the wine was bought while on vacation.

Take the poll, and then let us know how you deal with this situation in the comments section of this post. Inquisitive minds want to know.

[poll id=”3″]

Top Ten Reminders For Your Next Wine Tasting Trip

View of Napa ValleyNo, it isn’t rocket science, as my wife conveniently pointed out to me one morning as I rambled off the reminders below. However, these are good points to keep in mind before you spend a day in wine country.

  1. Wear dark clothing – Splatters happen and this will keep you from looking like a lush.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes – Hard for the ladies, I know, but you just might get the urge to stroll through a vineyard or get stuck on a long tour. Besides, a lot of trails up to tasting rooms aren’t paved, so wear something that can get a little dirty.
  3. Be aware of how you smell – Your tasting can be ruined if you or someone around you is wearing to much perfume, deodorant, or sun screen, or has body odor. I recommend a light application of deodorant on your freshly cleansed body, no perfume or cologne, and applying sunscreen 1/2 – 1 hour before your first stop.
  4. Thoroughly clean your mouth – Includes flossing, brushing, and rinsing. Red wine sticks to plaque, so get it all off. (Remember those pink sugar pills at the dentist when you were a kid?)
  5. Stay hydrated – Very important, especially when it gets hot. Bring a little more than you think you’ll need.
  6. Bring a few snacks – This is good for keeping your blood alcohol level down and hypoglycemics at bay. This is in addition to making sure you stop for lunch.
  7. Designate a driver – This person can use points #5 and #8. Most tasting room staff will have some stories of people stumbling out of the building to get behind the wheel. Sometimes wineries will offer an alternative beverage for the D.D., so feel free to ask.
  8. Practice spitting – The shower is a great place to practice, and believe me, their is a technique to it. Go for accuracy and a clean finish. Any respectable winery won’t turn their nose up at you if you do this, and most have spit buckets set out, so go for it. (Extra points for distance.)
  9. Plan your trip – But don’t cram in too much. Leave some time to explore or meander. I like to maybe have 1 or 2 set appointments, with enough time in between to stumble upon another winery that allows walk-ins. Three to Five winery stops is usually plenty for the day.
  10. Have fun but go easy – This is just grape juice. Don’t let pretentious snobs ruin your day and don’t over do it. No one likes the drunk obnoxious fool, so don’t be that person.

Why I Stopped Buying Harlan Estate

Pricing for the last few vintages of Harlan Estate:

2001 – 225
2002 – 245
2003 – 265
2004 – 350????

2001 and 2002 vintages saw perfect scores (100) from Robert Parker Jr. Granted, this is a business, and I understand Bill Harlan is a savvy businessman, but wow, that sure is a turnoff, especially when this vintage didn’t score nearly as well as some previous vintages, with Parker predicting between 93-96.

It also appears that many new to the mailing list were offered the 2004 Estate, which means one of two things:

1. Production is up from 2000 Cases, or
2. Regular customers were also put off by the price increase, and they opted out this year.

Perhaps it’s a combination of both. I do recall a letter from Harlan saying they were ramping up the vineyards planted to the Maiden to eventually become part of the estate bottle, but I’m not sure when that would happen. I did have a large allocation increase over the 2003 vintage, but that could be because I ordered the estate 3 years in a row.

Researching some of the wine boards, apparently, I wasn’t the only one to drop off the list this year, as many long time buyers felt the same way as me.

So there you have it. If production has increased, it is more widely available, and not as precious. If long time customers were turned off by the price increase, it might be wise to rethink the pricing strategy, especially when these wine lovers are loyal and consistent, an ideal customer.

That said, I’ve got a message for Bill Harlan: It’s just fermented grape juice dude.

The Consumers Mistake

We’ve come to rely on this system for our wine purchases. It’s only human nature that we look for approval and quality in the products that we buy, and for wine, the 100 point system meets those needs. Robert Parker devised the system that became the backbone of his highly recognized bimonthly publication, the Wine Advocate. Ratings start with 50 Points (So in effect it is just a 50 point system) and points are added based on color, aroma, flavor, finish, and age-ability. Others followed suit including Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast, etc. and have since immortalized this way to rate wine. Alongside the point rating, journals offer up extensive notes, which are proclaimed to be as important, if not more, than the score, but consumers don’t always see it that way.

However, the system has not gone without critique, and many wineries refuse to allow their wines to be dumbed down to a simple number rating. Critics argue it is impossible to decipher a 1 point variation in a wine, and that perhaps a broader system should be used. I have taken up the methodology of using the 100 point system, but only with even numbers from 50 on, thus creating a simpler 25 point system., i.e It’s either a 90 or a 92, I’ve got to decide. But regardless of how the system is tweaked, it remains flawed. How so?

Many have stated that you shouldn’t listen to critics because everyone’s tastes are different. That may be so, but there are so many wine critics nowadays, that surely you can find and align yourself with someone whose tastes are similar to yours. But that isn’t the problem. The problem lies with the consumer. Many consumers fail to explore, only purchasing wines highly rated. In turn, wine has become a material object to brag about owning, and instead of truly enjoying, a competitive outlet. If consumers didn’t cling to the 100 point system it wouldn’t be around today, but the fact of the matter is, they have, so it is.

Can wine truly be enjoyed without confirmation that it’s good? Can you be your own critic, and simply rate wine yourself? Is it possible to tell a friend about a wine you enjoyed without spouting off a critics score? The answer to all of these questions is of course, yes. But here I stand, caught in the middle, as both consumer and critic. The critic hopes that their comments are taken with a grain of salt, taken for what they are, merely an opinion. A critic hopes they can save you from buying a bad bottle, and point you toward the good. That has always been one of my goals. But do you really need saving?

As a consumer, I tire of having to keep up with ratings. I tire of having to pay higher prices every vintage, as my favorite winery raises prices 10% after receiving a great score the previous year. I tire of competing with my friends over who brought the better bottle to dinner, as determined by someone we both don’t know. So, I have decided to take ratings for what they are, an opinion. I will enjoy wine without wondering how many points it’s received, and I will continue to tell my friends about good wines I have enjoyed. I won’t obsess about the label I’m drinking or the one I am not. I will fully enjoy this amazing beverage, and I hope you will too.

Opening Sparkling Wine 101

As I watch friends, family, neighbors, and strangers open bottles of Sparkling wine, my frustration has finally reached an unbearable level. Hasn’t anyone showed you how to do this? It’s not rocket science. But unlike opening a 2 liter bottle of carbonated sugar water, opening sparkling wine requires some guidelines in order to avoid harming oneself and/or others. In want of not turning this site into the pompous wine snobs tip spot, I’ll keep it brief.

  1. Hold the bottle of Sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, Sekt, Spumante, Cap Classique, what have you) pointed away from yourself and others at a 45 degree angle or so
  2. Remove the foil around the top of the bottle and pull down the wire loop
  3. Place one hand securely over the top of the bottle keeping some pressure on the cork while supporting the bottle
  4. With your free hand, twist the wire cage open, but do not remove it.
  5. With that same free hand, grasp the bottle at the base and rotate it clockwise (or counter clockwise) while holding the cork in place with your other hand.
  6. Allow the cork to release into your hand slowly. You’re done!

Note: You can drape a towel over the bottle after step 2 if you’d like.

Why am I writing this? On two occasions now, flying corks has nearly shot me. Neither were purposeful, and fortunately no one was hurt, but a little more caution is in order, as lawsuits sighting negligence hold up pretty well in court. I’ll relate one of the stories.

My wife and I were enjoying the summertime concert in the park series our city puts on annually. I brought some wine and fine stemware, and we where sipping away on that Friday evening. A family of four drops their blanket down next to us. The father begins to open a bottle of Sparkling wine when “POP”. I think nothing of it until the next thing I hear is my wife’s glass shattering. She had placed it in one of those glass holders next to her and after noticing the shocked look on her face, I knew she wasn’t injured. I look over at the guy, who looks at me and halfheartedly mumbles, “Did that just beak? Sorry.” That was it. No offer to pay for the glass, no further apology, just a quick glance at his wife who was smirking, and back to the business of getting sloshed while the kids chase each other with sticks. I collected what was left of the Riedel overture and disposed of it. I didn’t offer the crack shot any pointers on how to open a bottle safely, so I’m writing this now for him and others like him.

Regardless of where you are, you need to be careful opening a bottle of juice whose contents are under great pressure, especially when they’ve been bouncing around in your car or picnic basket. With the world record cork flight at over 177 feet, and average bottle pressure at around 115 pounds per square inch, (or nearly 3 times what’s in your car tire!), please be careful when handling this projectile around others.
For more information on Sparkling Wine and other fun facts, check out this Wikipedia entry.