Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!




Friday, May 31, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2009 Casanova Di Neri 'Rosso"

“When a man is in love very little is enough to throw him into despair and as little to enhance his joy to the utmost.” ― Giacomo Casanova

Ugh, can you believe that the wonderful month of May is nearly over? We are about to stretch out our arms while the warmth of June slowly creeps in over the weekend. If you don't live in San Diego, you have my apologies in advance, because it's going to be a picture perfect weekend here. 

I know, I know you may be thinking, "uh, didn't you already have a wine of the week?".  Ha, why yes I did and thanks so much for paying attention. That means, as hard as it's for me to believe that you are reading my blog. You folks really are funny, but I truly appreciate each and everyone of you for being here. 

Now about the wine pictured above, which I will point out again is NOT a sample, instead it's wine I purchased via the sweat of my brow. This wine is from a producer which some dismiss as making an international style, but none-the-less this so-called declassified Brunello which sells for a SRP of $18 is one of the best values going in Italian wine. 

It's 100% Sangiovese Grosso, and it's 100% approachable now, even into the future if you could wait that long. Which unfortunately, many folks where I work couldn't wait after I recommended this beauty and purchased all the 2009 to be had at the shop and or that Ken could get his hands on. 

But the good news is that, the 2010 is in plentiful supply and ready to rock, just not to the same extent as the 2009, because the ten was a cooler vintage. That said, if you want a truly authentic Tuscan wine experience look no further than this beauty from Casanova, a wine that comes dressed to impress, from the time the cork is popped to the last drop to fall from the bottle.
  
What you’ll find as you get the first slurp of this [09/10] wine in your glass is layers of sweet, complex dark and red fruit, balanced by vibrant acidity. Nicely polished tannin's, invite slurp after slurp. You’ll find both wines offer a plush, full, smooth flow across your palate. A wine which finishes, clean and becomes the center of attention [but won't get in the way of food] as the finish seems to last and last. 

And oh if you're wondering what to pair? I know I often recommend consulting your Italian cuisine recipes cards, but to be perfectly honest either of these wines will easily pair with just about anything you throw at, of course there are exceptions, but really they're few. Until next folks, remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers! 


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2011 Dourthe Le Grand Rosé Cuvée

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized.” — André Simon

Whether it's after a long hot-day at the office or you just finished that last bit of spring cleaning, it's nice uncork a bit of civilization isn't? And with that idea in mind, how about a delightful wine from Bordeaux? 


I’m a firm believer in that quote, hardly a day goes by without me popping the cork on something new and/or interesting. But for many it’s so easy to get stuck in the same wine-rut; going back to same familiar label again and again.
But I would encourage you to take a chance on something that possibly may be new to you. I’m talking to folks who may have been enjoying domestic US wines for the longest time and have never branched out, based solely on the fear of the unknown.
You've most likely seen bottles of wine which say, “Bordeaux” on the label, but you may have been reticent to give them a swirl. That fear of the unknown can keep folks off the path to discovery and frankly it’s quite understandable.
But the honest answer is; "the wines of Bordeaux have something to offer everyone in every price point and in every style imaginable". I know many you may be thinking, “but I only like white wines” okay great Bordeaux has that covered for you as well.
And you can even grab some great rosé wines, the unofficial iconic wine of summer. So really no matter what you may be looking for in great tasting easy drinking wines, Bordeaux has something to offer even the garden variety vino-sapien. 
But the wine into today's Wine of the Week spotlight is going to be the Dourthe Le Grand Rosé Cuvée . As you may know by now, I'm partial to wines labeled as a "cuvée" and this is one you should definitely check into obtaining for your up-coming pool-side adventures.
Wow, this rosé wine just says summer in a glass. Say hello to Bordeaux with this blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot provide the swagger of fruity/floral aromas with a slap of blackcurrants, pinned against a solid structure, made in a dry-style. 
If that was not enough summertime ripe strawberries enchant you, while finely toned elegance plays its part on the palate, providing a vivid canvas for summer-time sipping. Bold, fresh and just waiting to please, the price is easy on the eyes as well at a SPR of $11-$13. Until next folks, remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

How an AVA is Born: Above the Fog on Howell Mountain

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. ~H. L. Mencken 

Have you ever "loved" a place so much that you went out of your way to help have it legally defined? A group of winemakers from Howell Mountain did and this video is their story. I hope you'll stick around long enough to see how it all unfolded and why Howell Mountain wines are so distinctively different from those just a few miles away on the valley floor. 

Have you ever wondered how does an AVA come into being and what does that mean anyhow? And what difference does it make to the wines you drink? Can anyone simply apply for a new one, just because they want to? 

These are all good questions; many of which are addressed indirectly in this great video about the birth of an AVA. One, which just happens to be among the top AVA's in the Napa Valley. The video is just a little over 10 minutes long and I'm pretty sure this blog is one of the few places where you can still view it. 

One thing I'm sure of; after having watched it, the next time you find yourself in the Napa Valley you'll be wondering what is going on above the fog. Until next folk, remember life is short so sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wine Word of the Day: Structure



Here's an article I wrote at the request of the Stan the Wine Man who has done some great work defining words, that we in wine-geek-dom use on a regular basis. You can finish reading the article on via Stan's Blog and be sure to follow his many wine adventures via twitter.

"The characteristic of Brunello is its longevity," Biondi Santi told Wine Spectator last year"Nature is capable of creating beautiful things—you just have to wait." 

And in order for you to wait for that wine to mature, then said wine needs to have the stuffing to go the long-haul [aka longevity]. That’s something we wine-geeks call structure.

Let’s face it, not all wine is created equal and I know, I know that’s not what you've heard from your friends around the wine-cooler. But stick with me, all will be explained below.

And for the average garden-variety vino-sapien out there, you probably don’t care too much about a wines structure. But let me frame it this way; a wine without good structure is like having that second cup of coffee brewed from the grounds of the first cup. Now you feel me don’t you?

Like the quote above from the Godfather of Brunello, if a wine is meant to go the long-haul which much of Brunello is, it’s going to need structure. And like any building, structure in wine is the foundation, for which every other component in the wine hangs upon.

It was just the other day; I tasted through some very elegant and interesting Italian vino which got me to thinking about a wines structure and what does that really mean anyway. Some were what I call everyday drinkers, not much too them but in the short term they were very tasty and got the job done.

Now this is where the nerd-meets-the-herd [eye-roll] it’s time to define what all this talk about structure means to you and to the wines you may or may not be consuming. [Read More]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Ten Tasting Room Tips


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

Wine tasting as a "vacation focus" is a growing segment in the travel industry. It's something I can personally attest to; seeing most of my own vacations have become wine-vacations. And even though it was nearly ten years ago and as cheesy as that sounds, it could be said the continued popularity of the film “Sideways (2004)” continues inspire folks to plan similar trips. 

The month of May is typically the time of year when many folks are thinking about a quick road trip. With the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend looming many vineyards and wineries will open up their tasting rooms to the public and some, for the first time all year. 

For example one of my favorite wineries on the Orgundian Trail is Patricia Green Cellars, which has a fantastic Open-House Memorial Day weekend. If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely make a point to stop by to taste some the best Pinot Noir in Oregon.

When you do go wine-tasting, it’s typical to be allowed to sample a handful of wines for a fee [I know shocking right?]. Some are a upwards of $50 per tasting for some of the top producers in the Napa Valley like Opus One. But  most tend to be in the $10 range per person and you’ll typically sample 3-4 wines. As a bonus some will let you keep the logo-ed Riedel glass, if you like having an assorted stem-ware collection.

Many wineries offer educational tours of the facilities which are terrific for first timers who’d like to get "beyond the bottle". And please be aware that many of these opportunities need to be booked ahead of time, so please plan accordingly.

1. WINE CLUBS: So there you are in the wine tasting room where you will see and hear offers to become a wine club member. It's a great opportunity to stock up on wine you won't see at your local grocery store or in your favorite wine shop. But you will often pay a bit more than retail.

Another great thing about a “wine-club" is that if you live close by, you can really benefit from going to pick-up parties, concerts and various other "cool" activities many wineries having going on during the summer months.

So don’t wince the next time you hear the words, "would you like to join our wine club?" embrace the wine club and you’ll save on average 20-30 % off a wine you would most likely purchase anyways.

2. Hot Days: Since were on the topic of purchases it's good to remember to bring a large cooler with you to keep your wine cool while it sits in the car, keep the windows cracked open a little, it can get real warm in wine country.

3. Planning: I’ve read Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher former Open that bottle Columnists at the WSJ, who I think have oddly recommended it's best to "not have a plan". Instead they've encouraged folks to randomly drive through wine country and just show up to any tasting room you may find open. Uh, okay while this may sound great in theory, in my experience it will most likely end in disappointment.

From my many trips to wine country; even a little planning will go a long way to maximizing your experience. Not only for you and those with you, but everyone else you may encounter. Managing expectations is a prime key to the 

4. Maps:
Order your wine country map ahead of time [or print it out] and bring it with you on the trip. This will allow you preview the wineries you plan to visit before your trip, so you are somewhat familiar with the area and it helps you visualize your itinerary for each day, even if you have GPS. 

It's is helpful to locate and/or group wineries with relatively close proximity. Lastly, make some dinner reservations ahead of time; this will save you a lot of frustration and make you look like a genius. The OpenTable app, is a great resource for making reservations.


5. APPOINTMENTS:  Don’t be discouraged if they are by appointment only, it's not an obstacle. It’s simply a tool to manage their time more effectively and these arrangements can be done easily via email [winery staff and winemakers are some of the busiest and hardworking folks I know].

But on the flip side this can be some of the best times you will have tasting wine, because often times the winemaker or proprietor is the one hosting your appointment and they are very eager to give you their wrapped attention and can interact with you on a much more personal level.

Make sure you keep your appointment, call ahead to remind your host of your arrival and show up on time and if you have to cancel please call them at least day ahead, that is just good form.

6. The Barrel Room: Another thing to keep in mind, is that some appointments are located in their barrel-room. A place which is often a very cool 57 degrees and while great for maturing wine, it can be a little uncomfortable. So I'd take a jacket with just in case, even if it's 80 degrees outside.

This happened to Mrs. Cuvee and I once while at Patricia Green Cellars in when we were still wine-tasting newbie’s. The other couple who were at the appointment were quite cold; they especially since they had only sunny-day garments, my wife and I fared a little better with our sweaters, but it was still cold.

7. ARRIVE EARLY: Another good rule of thumb regarding tasting room visits is to get there early [the popular places will fill up fast and this will minimize your experience]. I can not stress this point enough, because as you may know some wineries are "super-popular" and you may not make it to the [tasting-area] bar at all. 

Most tasting rooms will be open by 10 or 11 in the morning and they start closing up by 5 in the evening, this why I recommend only going to 3 to 4 TR’s a day, it’s no fun rushing through a tasting.

5. DRINK OR SPIT:  Stay hydrated, and make sure to have a designated driver. They should most likely not be sampling any wine at all. But, if you do I recommend spitting everything, and having a large breakfast. And for everyone else remember you really only there to sample [taste] the wines and not drink them.  

6. Pours: Don't feel bad if you don't like the wine, just pour it out and move onto the next wine in their line-up. By the way, if you’re in-between pours please don’t pour the water sitting on the bar to rinse your glass or allow the tasting room staff to do that either. In my experience this will only dilute your next pour; ideally you only want to rinse your glass with wine or just ask for a new glass.

7. TASTING MENUS: In my experience if I have a choice between the reserve tasting and the everyday tasting, I go all-in on the reserve. If you’re on the tasting trail with someone else, try sharing the tasting.

*Another point to remember is many times the tasting fee will be comp’d if you make a purchase.

8. SHIP OR HOLD:  This will mainly be determined by what method you may have arrived at your destination. For example if you drove to wine-country, you can save yourself some money on shipping.

If you've flown to your destination, you will most likely opt to have your wine shipped home, unless you've flown via Southwest or Alaska Airlines who offer a 2nd bag which can be checked for free.  

If shipping home I would recommend sending it to a work address, because the shipper will need to have someone sign for your wine.

If you only plan to buy a few bottles you can easily put it in your "checked" luggage, [just watch the weight] which I have done successfully many times without anything other than my clothing protecting them from breakage. I brought nearly a case home in my luggage from Italy and not even one casualty, knock on wood.

9. WINES NOT SOLD RETAIL: One other thing to consider is to ask about the wines you may have tasted, which are not sold outside of the tasting room. I would recommend purchasing those bottles, over a wine which is available via your retail wine store shelf. 
10. HAVE A BUDGET:  This is a very good idea; because it is far too easy to go overboard. This will cause you to really be more focused and fastidious about the wines you just can’t live without and save you some headaches down the road.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wine Tasting: Rules of the Road

Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. ~Robert Anthony

Rules, rules, rules they're everywhere and, just about anywhere one may look these days. But, if you're ever in doubt about what the rule is, then there's the always the good old "rule of thumb" or that old fashion notion of common sense. But as we all know, some folks just don't take the time to think about rules when it comes time to visit their favorite winery and/or wine tasting room.

So what about the "rules" for going wine-tasting? What are they? Should there be any? I think there should be and so do many other seasoned vino-sapiens.  So whether you're going wine-tasting for the weekend in Napa or Sonoma or you're planning to visit a wine-festival, a portfolio tasting, or just the average garden-variety wine tasting, it's important to understand a few rules before hitting the wine-trail. 

Seeing I've been to my share of tasting-rooms and wine-festivals, I thought this video would be a good idea to help the average vino-sapien understand the rules-of-engagement sort-a-speak and, more importantly the view-point from the other side of the tasting table/bar. Please remember while you're on the path to wine discovery, you're going to be wine-tasting not wine drinking. 
As we all know, life is short, so remember until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bordeaux Uncorked: 2009 La Croix de Beaucaillou, St-Julien

"A man will be eloquent if you give him good wine." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson

After a period of great mourning; an invitation can shine like a light in a dark place. That invitation, an opportunity to sample a wine from one of very best vintages of the eighties; in fact one of the best come along since the 1970. The Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 1982, which would be uncorked later that evening. I had no idea what a treat laid ahead, but I knew it was going to be wine-tastic evening full of firsts. 

But first-up would be the outstanding 2009 La Croix de Beaucaillou, St-Julien, a wonderfully approachable Bordeaux, that has enough structure [don't miss this point] to go the long haul in your cellar, but the way this wine is drinking at the very moment, why wait. And that is the point of this wine, made in a style that will appeal to the California "palate" fleshy, fun and flush with flavor. Personally I'd buy a half dozen and, drink one each over the next six years to see how they mature. 

Reportedly; a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot [pH 3.69] and rested in 60% new oak for what I’m guessing was some 12 months. This wine is a seamless beauty, very generous black and red fruit, subtle licorice, cedar, rich earth, which comes nicely wrapped in supple, well honed tannins. Now take a gander at the color in that glass, via the image below, gorgeous right? 

Just nosing the wine alone is amazing, a plume of rich Cabernet perfume runs to greet you right away, welcoming the first sip. A boat-load of head-turning aromas; cherry fruit intertwined with hints of wood smoke, sweet-vanilla and fresh earth. I scored this wine 93 points and highly recommend it to you. 


In light of the fact, that it does not have a first-growth chateau, it’s sometimes an unfairly overlooked region. But that lack of claim to first-growth fame can make for some tasty bargains. 

Reportedly, the owner Bruno Borie in speaking with Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar fame said that "starting with our 2005 vintage, that the La Croix de Beaucaillou would become a wine of terroir." Now he [Mr. Tanzer] scored this wine 87-90 points, but he also said "this looks to be the best Croix ever" which seems to contradict the low score. 

"So rather than only including grapes from Ducru's youngest or less favorably situated vines [fruit that now goes into private labels], "the Croix is made only with the grapes of certain specific parcels.” ~ Stephen Tanzer


As you can see my low-light image of the bottle did not turn-out as well as I hoped it would, but this amazing wine was none-the-less a shining star of flavor and finesse, after some near 30 years in the bottle. 

You’ll find Saint-Julien, sandwiched in-between the more famous appellations of Pauillac and Margaux, but also nicely balanced. Many vino-sapiens know Saint-Julien as one of the smaller but still important appellation of the Haut-Medoc an area found in south-west Bordeaux. Sad to say, but the importers of this great wine  Woltner and Co. appear to have gone out of business. 

Hovering over the glass a moment; beautifully aged aromas escape slowly from the glass, filling the air just above with a sweet cedar box and forest floor aromas. Bumping up against the wall of the glass plum colors give away to garnet and brick colors and, sediment lies lazily in the glass. 

Meanwhile after the first slurp; spice box, more cedar, and dark licorice, dried dark plum and other red fruits entice you. What at time of bottling must have been a full-bodied, solidly structured wine has beautifully matured over the decades. Becoming a wine which easily shares it pure with sweet tannins. An amazing and unforgettable experience to say the least about a wine I’m scoring 94 points. 

I will leave you with the words of Mr. Leonard Cohen who said; "Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash." Until next time folks remember life is so short, sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blast from the Past: 1963 Cockburn's Vintage Port


“Talents are best nurtured in solitude. Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.” - Von Goethe

It's not often you can jump into a time machine of sorts and go back to the year you were born, but I had the good fortune to do just that last Sunday. 

One of the funny things about vino-sapiens and just people in general is the fact that most folk’s historical context starts the day they were born. But with a quick look-back into the history books, you'll see that here in states 1963 was a tumultuous year to say the least. 

Many may recall it was JFK, who inspired his country to find its way to the moon and, who also tragically lost his life just two years after making that announcement. It was also the year when many folks heard MLK give his "I've a Dream" speech to hundreds of thousands of American's gathered at the national mall. 

Musically speaking; the Beatles were taking the UK by storm, while the Stones sang songs many fans probably would not recognize today. And the very first celebrity chef appears on TV, French Chef with Julia Child debuts via an educational-television program. 

The iconic cold-war era "red-phone" is established between DC and Moscow and it's also happens to be the year I was born. It was during these times, that Cockburn's was also pleased as punch to announce their decision to declare 1963 as a Vintage year. 

The Symington family who recently acquired Cockburn’s has now taken ownership of this once great port empire. They are well aware of what many had called “The golden age of Cockburn’s”. It was during this golden-age which produced many legendary wines, [ports] like 1896, 1908, 1927 and the 1963 which I recently sampled. 

They believe that by identifying that "style" from their hey-days, one which had brought them tremendous success in the past, that the family can [hopefully] recapture that essence for the future. I'd say that is a good bet, if they can pull it off. Their newest "declared" vintage is 2011, but I don't think I'll be around in 50 years to taste whether or not they have succeeded. 

The wine held up beautifully over the years and, the cork came out without a hitch. In the glass you can clearly see, the ruby color starting to fade and, starts picking up more garnet and brick edge colors. It was decanted for about an hour or so before dipping into what can only described as sheer delight. If you would like to grab a bottle of this for yourself, please stop by Bird Rock Fine Wine for your own amazing birth-year experience. This is my first time sipping of wine with this much bottle age and wow what a special treat it was, big-time thanks to Ken for the invite. 

Splashing down from the decanter to my glass, grabbing more air, the fruit gained a bit more plum-like character, while at the same time dialing up a bit more complex dried fruit characteristics. Bang-bang right out of the gate this port is nicely integrated, showing cherry, dark-plum, baking-spice, subtle choc-truffle, great depth and hints of fig on the nose and palate and perhaps surprisingly so, a nice verve of acid to carry the still abundant fruit. It was nothing but sheer drinking pleasure and paired ever so nicely with pecorino cheese. Until next folks please remember to sip long and prosper cheers!


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