Wednesday, June 29, 2011

White Wine Melancholia part II

I did it again in my midterm this evening, I thought an Alsatian Riesling was a Sancerre.  That's worse than last time, as I'm supposed to get the aromatic varieties pretty well.  I just didn't appreciate the acid enough to call it a Riesling, and I didn't get any petrol at all.  My teacher says it is helpful to swish a little wine around before the test starts.  Prime the pump, so to speak.

New plan.  The MW exam has the tasting in the morning, so I should get used to priming that pump.  Three times per week, I'm going to taste in the morning, then recork the wines to enjoy with my wife Wendy later.  That way, she doesn't have to deal with my geekish ways and we can have time together.  Plan.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

White Wine Melancholia

Okay, be calm.  I prefer red wines traditionally, and that is where the majority of my experience comes from.  So the fact that I cannot tell the difference between Moschofilero and Sauvignon Blanc, or a Gruner Veltliner and a Riesling.  That's just a lack of practice, right?  It'll get better, right?  Because right now, this is kinda depressing.

This is more up my alley - 2007 Sattler Burgenland Zweigelt

Clear medium ruby in color.  There is only slight fading towards the rim.  Legs and tears are slightly stained.  The nose is clean, and has medium-plus intensity.  I find developing aromas of raspberry, stewed red cherries, cinnamon, clove, violets, and cedar.  On tasting, the wine is dry, with medium-plus acid, medium body, and medium alcohol.  The tannins are supple, medium-minus.  The flavor intensity is medium-plus, and includes raspberries, red cherries, cinnamon, clove, stewed plums, and pepper.  The finish is medium-plus.  This is a very good wine in a mid-price point.  It is ready to drink , but will continue to develop those spicy secondary flavors.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shipping cost rant

I just received a six-pack of wine from a Paso Robles Rhone Ranger, and I was nervous.  It's pretty hot to be shipping and I had suggested that they wait until fall, but they shipped anyway.  They charged me a fair amount, which I thought was kinda steep, but it was worth it - the package was extra large and filled with cold gel packs, they sent it overnight, and somehow managed to get it routed through Canada.  Pricey, but perfect execution.  Cheers to Booker Vineyard, who also has really really excellent wine, BTW.

That is my success story from the spring allocation season, and I'm not going to name names here, but I do feel a certain need to vent a little spleen about some of the practices I think are getting out of hand.  I paid $30 for one bottle shipped UPS ground.  I had several producers who didn't disclose their shipping costs until the manifest arrived.  And I complained to one winery who told me they weren't responsible, but that I should pass my complaint on to their fulfillment company.

Folks, that is freaking ridiculous.  That's what a Bordeaux winemaker might have said 200 years ago when my cask got oxidized because there was a naval battle going on in the Channel and they had to wait until England re-established the blockade against Napoleon.  Talk to the negotiant!

It is not right to charge $30 to ship an $80 bottle of wine.  $50 to ship a 3-pack is too much!  In this information age, it's easy to look around and see your peers doing the same thing for better pricing.  I'll name 2 more wineries who are doing a good job - Kistler ships a whole case inclusive of the price of the wine, and Araujo charges $20 to ship one Eisele Cabernet but at least they send it priority overnight.  I have no problems with those prices.  Those make sense to me.

This is a crowded market, even for highly allocated wines.  I remember being on all kinds of waiting lists prior to the recession in 2008, and instantly I was getting allocations.  And I have several stories of cult Napa properties that have raised prices only to see big inventories build up as winebid sells their juice for half price. I read about Caymus actually reducing its price.  This is not the time to be generating ill will among your customers by overcharging for shipping.

Here are a few principles I have come up with that should be elementary:
- State your shipping prices up front
- Resist the urge to pad extra profit into shipping.  It's obvious to the
   consumer and it makes us angry.  If you feel your wine is worth that
   money, price that into the bottle itself.
- Stay in contact with your chain of distribution.  The shipper's name is
   not on the label, yours is.  We blame you for overcharges.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Argyle Cowhouse Pinot Noir 2006

Attend to me, all you wine marketers and salespersons.  The following conversation actually took place between two wine drinking adults.

"Wine tonight?"
"Excellent, what are you thinking?"
"Something Spanish.  Prado Rey?"
"Nope, Can't find the corkscrew.  Think screwcap.  New World."

Of course, you could dismiss this as the ramblings of a wine guy who cannot find his damn corkscrew, but I guarantee it happens to real people too.  Screwcaps guys.  Vino-Lok.  Better closures, easier.

Okay, tasting note.

The wine is clear and the color is garnet with medium-plus intensity.  There is very little rim variation.  Legs and tears are noted.  The nose is clean, with medium intensity.  The aroma is developing, with secondary characteristics just beginning to show.  I appreciate red cherry, strawberry, cinnamon, violets and a touch of smoke.  The wine is dry, with medium acidity, low tannin and medium alcohol.  The body is medium-plus, big for a pinot.  The flavors are pronounced, and include Red cherries, black cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and tobacco.  The finish is long.  This is an outstanding wine from a premium price category.  It is ready to drink but will continue to develop secondary flavors for a few years.  The lack of tannin and acidity, however, preclude long term aging.

Monday, June 6, 2011

West Coast Rhone Rangers Event at Willow Restaurant

Another shout out to my employer, Willow Restaurant in Arlington VA, as we host several West Coast Rhone Rangers for a wine dinner this week.  If you are interested and able to attend, you can call us at 703-465-8800.


Katin Cellars

2009 Grenach Blanc with Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and Corn Butter

Michael David Winery

2010 Incognito White with Tempura Fried Soft Shell Crabs, Fennel Raviolini, and Mustard Fumet

2008 6th Sense Syrah with Peppery Beef Bourguignon

Roca Family Vineyard

2007 Syrah Grigsby Vineyard with Tuna and Bacon Sliders with Avocado Sauce

Treana Winery

2008 White Blend (Marsanne & Viognier) with Littleneck Clams and Prosciutto in an English Pea Emulsion

Cline Cellars

2010 Viognier

2010 Mourvèdre Rosé

2010 Mourvèdre Ancient Vines with House-made Sausage wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Spaetzle

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A bit frustrated by Rosés

Textbooks report there are three methods for production of a rosé wine.

Rosé de Pressée, also known as the white wine method or skin contact method, sees the grapes crushed first and then the must (pulp and juice slurry) left to macerate for some amount of time before being pressed.  The color is determined by the length of skin contact.  

Rose Saignée translates to "bleeding the vats," and is also known as the red wine method.  Here there is no pressing.  The macerating must is just bled off early as free run juice.  Often, only a small portion is made into rosé and the rest is kept for a more concentrated red.  If you find Rosé of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, there is a good chance that it is just a byproduct of trying to get a more intense pinot noir.  

Some texts have a third method based on the time of skin contact before pressing off or free running.  In Bordeaux, for example, there is an AOC Bordeaux Clairet (not to be confused with Claret or the grape called Clairette) that they call a semi-red.  The two methods seem pretty damn close to me.  The difference is just the machine used to extract the must after contact.  And in one case, they might not take all of it.

The third method is simply adding some red juice or wine to white juice or wine.  It's illegal almost everywhere in the old world, with the exception of Champagne where it's traditionally used as a dosage to make rosé.  There was a movement to allow this method in Provence, but it failed.  As for the new world, I cannot say with certainty how and where it is used.  I haven't researched enough yet.

My problem is with the differences between Pressée and Saignée.  All textbooks make a distinction, but what is the difference in flavor?  Several hours of trolling through the interwebs have uncovered only a handful or producers who even disclose their method.  absent some source to explain the taste difference to me, I need a few dozen examples of each to figure it out for myself.  I need that many to control for about a million other variables like terroir, year, house style, grape, et cetera.  This one is tough.  If anyone has leads, please do contact me.  Otherwise, I feel a tasting coming to my house in the near future!

photo credit:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tasting Sick

This is just a quick note to illustrate the lengths we go to as wine students to train our palates.  I mentioned to my teacher yesterday that I was getting a cold, and she calmly told me that it is important to practice tasting wine when you have a cold!  And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Imagine getting to London to take the test and finding that you cannot smell.  What a pisser!  ...if you haven't practiced for five years every time you have a sniffle...

There's still a lot you can do to evaluate wine when you cannot smell.  Acid still makes your gums water, tannin still grips the roof of your mouth, you can still use the milk-cream test to evaluate body, etc.  A friend of mine who is an Australian wine importer (a rare breed if you know any) swear by a shot of mescal to clear the sinuses for a short time.  Weirder than his suggestion is the fact that I'm gonna try it.  Practice practice!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rhone Rangers at Willow Restaurant

Hi all!  I just wanted to give a shout out to Willow Restaurant, where I work and an event coming up tomorrow. The East Coast Rhone Rangers are having events around the city and we are proud to host three of them for a tasting with paired dishes.  The event is at 7:30, for $45 plus tax and gratuity, and you can sign up on the website or call 703-465-8800.  It isn't likely that I will review these wines, as I have to work on the line tomorrow, and I have a tough time tasting in a 110 degree kitchen.  Everything tastes hot under those conditions, dunno how the festival and big outdoor competition judges do it!

Anyway, we are featuring...

Delaplane Cellars
2009 Honah Lee Viognier
2010 Maggie's Viognier
with Tempura Battered Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes served with Corn Pancakes and Corn Butter


2007 Syrah

with Peppered Beef Bourguignonne

Veritas Vineyard and Winery
2010 Viognier
with Coquilles Ste.-Jacques and Scallops with a Bacon, Wild Mushroom and Syrah Ragout

Tarara Winery
2009 Naveah White Viognier Blend
2009 Honah Lee Whote Viognier Blend
with Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Fennel Raviolini and Mustard Fumet


2010 Viognier
with Mustard Crusted Pork Milanese

Next week we are hosting several West Coast Rhone Rangers and I'll try to have details up before too long.