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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

About San Diego: Costco Update

As the year is about be snubbed out like a dinner party candle, at the end of the evening, I thought it would be a great time to do a bit of a refresh on local San Diego Costco wine scene. The last article I wrote on this iconic stack-it-deep, sell it cheap big-box store has become thee most viewed post that I've ever written. So I wanted to add a few more observations, which I hope will enhance your next wine shopping experience to this vino slinging phenom.

I know there's Costco Wine Blog [supposedly not affiliated], chock full of many reviews of the wines they carry. There is also a Costco Connection with a focus on wine, but it really does not give tips to shoppers or as Costco employees like to refer to you as "members" on the practical everyday issues facing their members. Because I often find myself wandering down the aisles of many local San Diego Costco's looking for good vino deals and I also hand-sell wine for various labels, I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on a few "new" observations that I've made, which you may find helpful.

•  If you are a point shopper; look for older vintages that have been "reviewed" [with a high-score] under the pile of the new vintage which has been stacked on top of it. Many of their stores are not conscience [or they are just too busy] of rotating older vintages to the top of the box, as they rush just to keep boxes full [advantage to the savvy shopper].

• If you see an asterisk on the on their price signs, it usually means that item is just temporary [but how temporary remains to be seen]. So if the bottle of vino you really like, which is marked as such, you may just want to stock up before it's gone.

• Most of you reading this have a "smart-phone" but I don't see you using them too often when you're curious about ratings on wine you're considering. So go ahead whip it out, scan the bar-code or just Google it, you are more likely than not to find it has been reviewed on a blog or even one of the discussion boards like Cellar Tracker.

• Don’t be afraid to step outside of the everyday staples you’ve become use to. Yes, they may be your favorite tried and true style of wine, but nothing ventured nothing gained. For crying out loud, it just a bottle of wine and not your next living-room set, so lean into it. Think about it for a moment, often what you'll find is that your old stand-by is a wine made in a formulaic style, one that will always be available. So if I were you I'd ask one of the friendly Costco Merchandisers to make a recommendation on something new or check back here often for tips on finding a new wine to try. File this recommendation under something new, take for example the Rosso Montalcino, which can be found in many of their stores. It's a great alternative for Pinot Noir drinkers, who love light bodied, fruit driven wines, which will pair easily with many styles and types of food [advantage to the adventurous shopper].

• Looking for older California Napa Cab’s? As suggested in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, “older Cabernet, with tastes that have melded and tannins that have softened” which makes these wines a great pairing partner with many entrees. I stand witness to that fact, having uncorked many older wines this year, I found that many of rough profiles of Cabernet had really mellowed, giving way to softer tannins, subtle fruit, which led to more pliable food pairing opportunities. I keep seeing older Cabernet Sauvignon showing up in the local Costco stores here in San Diego, for example the Narsai David 2004 Cuvée Venus, selling for half the SRP, quite a steal. Give it a swirl!

• This last point is for the folks who make the buying decisions at Costco, I know you probably don’t want or need my advice. But honestly your customers are clamoring for a sweet red wine [besides the Six Grapes port]. I would recommend carrying the Lambrusco as one of the “stales” of the wine department aisles and not just the large format Riunite that I’ve seen pedaled in some stores. Hey don’t laugh, remember it was Eric Asimov who said, “Not So Fast: Don’t Dismiss Lambruscos”. It’s not for everyone, but a large percentage of Costco members are earnestly looking for a replacement to the Stella Rosa.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oakville Uncorked: Swanson Vineyards

It has been said; “There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, and no homage like his praise.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“Paying Homage” a term very much in vogue in our day and age; it flows from the concept, which now often appears in the “arts” where one artisan shows respect to a style of art. Whether that artisan is a winemaker, painter or author, by calling it homage, such as Homage to Bordeaux it allows each creative artist an opportunity to show respect to an admired tutor, by alluding to their work on a similar, but different canvas.

It's with this idea in mind that I want to highlight the work of Mr. Chris Phelps, an artisan, a winemaker, a painter whose canvas sprawls across the 100 acres of prime real estate in the Napa Valley. In fact it sits on the valley floor, in the Oakville appellation: on the Oakville Cross Road, between Opus One and Silver Oak [you may have heard of these wineries]. The brush in his hand represented by acres of prime-time Merlot fruit from the famed Oakville Appellation, which was planted in the 1980's, I didn't see that coming.

Chris decided to get on-board with Swanson Vineyards in 2003; in-part because he thought it would be the perfect fit for his desire to pay homage to Château des Laurets in Puisseguin-St. Emilion where he "cut" his winemaking teeth during the blockbuster 1982 BDX harvest. Swanson Vineyards must have seen the opportunity to bring Chris on-board as a way to continue their storied history of consistently producing French-style wine from their Oakville vineyards. A match made in heaven and one painted on the finished wines awaiting your purchase in their cellars. In my mind, wine is an everyday luxury and wines from Swanson Vineyard are emblematic of that thought.

2008 Swanson Vineyards Oakville Merlot: This again is the type of wine, that says, "hey I'm from somewhere". The kind of Merlot that gives me hope for California Merlot, which has been getting slapped around pretty good lately by the bruisers from Washington State. In the glass a shimmering ruby colored core, a nose full of ripe plums, cassis, floral accents. After the first slurp, abundant red and dark fruits, smooth tannins, nicely balanced by bright acidity and great overall structure. A wine built for years of aging, but is drinking very nicely at the moment. I would recommend an hour of decanting for maximum enjoyment. Looking for a pairing suggestion; I'd go for a wonderful fresh made grilled Burger, which is what I did and it was fantastic. This wine sells for a SRP of $38, but I've seen it selling a few places for well under $30. For those keeping score, this wine scored a solid 89 points.

2007 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon: A brillant, rich wine produced from the Schmidt Ranch Vineyard located in the Oakville AVA. Many wine writing gurus and commentators have dubbed the '07 vintage in Napa as being one of the best in recent memory. Of course there is a cadre of dissenters out there poking holes in that theory, saying how wrong headed it was to make that proclamation. All of that aside, I really enjoyed this very "big" wine, which  is drinking nicely now, but I think it would be so much better years from now. For someone like me, this is the a wine to purchase, lay-down and uncork for a special occasion years from now. In the glass a densely packed crimson colored core. The nose is engulfs your senses with rich cassis, dark espresso and ripe plum covered in a bit of vineyard dust. After giving this wine a-go, a rich velvet curtain of black ripe cherry, black licorice, a silky structure and a long plush finish. After the first slurp, I thought it would break out the decanter; to coax out all this wines many fine points and nuances, a long decanting at room-temp is recommended. This wine sells for a SRP of $75, but the savvy shopper can find this long-term cellar gem for somewhere south of the SRP. I gave this wine a score of 91 points, it's highly recommended.

In the interest of full disclosure, both of these wines were sent to me for the wine review process. If you find yourself in the Napa Valley give Swanson Vineyards a call to book your own tasting, they have a couple different and unique experiences available. Until next time folks continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Baby Brunello: 2008 Pinzale Rosso di Montalcino

Well the Christmas holiday has just passed here in the states, but trees still twinkle as the sun fades from view. The shimmering packages once concealing treasured gifts underneath the trees now lay open and are cast aside like yesterday's news. Many kids still freshly awash in the glow of new found trinkets; given to them from various sources, as many parents struggle today just to makes ends meet, let alone footing the largess of the holiday bill.

It is with that thought in mind, part of the reason that I'm writing this review in the first place. For many, times are tough and finding a wine with soul can be a difficult task for under $15. I secured this wine from a local Costco, a bottle dwelling in virtual obscurity until it was brought to my attention the other day by one of my co-workers, a young man named Eric. Oh, I don't work at Costco; I'm just a wine brand ambassador of sorts.

This wine was secured by the sweat of my own brow [okay, no sweat was actually involved] and no samples were uncorked in the process of writing this review. So the other part of the reason, I wanted to bring this wine to your attention, is that it represents in this reviewers mind, what I like to call an, "an everyday luxury". By the way, if you're keeping score and I know many of you are, this wine is from the famed Montalcino region, renown for producing some of the very best wines in the world, not only in terms of its superior ageability, but also its vast depth of complexity and outstanding flavors, while reminding you of where it came from every step of the way. I gave this wine a mouth-watering 90 points.

So yeah, this not a chemistry-set wine, conjured up inside a multi-million gallon sprawling complex, where one grape hardly has any idea where it came from, let alone what variety it may happen to be. Oh no my friends this wine has a soul, it knows where it came from and it boldly, no I say proudly proclaims it heritage in every long swirl, slurp and the occasional burp. This fantastic wine has a pedigree [it has to show its papers], Rosso di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese-Grosso [the little dark one] and is grown in the very same region as Brunello di Montalcino, hence the name "baby-brunello".

These particular clones of Sangiovese are unique to the Montalcino region; they've been specifically developed to adapt this area's specific terroir, which tends to be warmer and more arid there than the rest of Tuscany [specifically the Chianti Zone]. In my opinion; Brunello's seem to have many similarities to Pinot Noir wines of Oregon, because of its smooth tannins [round mouth feel] and ripe, rich earth and fruit driven character. A flavor profile which is wonderfully expressed in many "Rosso" or young red wines from Montalcino. Helping to keep the prices on the reasonable side of the equation; is that fact that these wines 
spend on average just six months in barrel and six in bottle before release.

The price on this wine came in just below $12, most of these styles of wine are in the $18 to $21 price range, so finding a wine of this caliber for this price, makes the Pinzale Rosso di Montalcino a best-buy. In the glass you'll find a light colored ruby core, the nose has real pop with dark rich plum, cherry and rich earth bathing your senses, like a trailer of the coming summer action movies. After finally giving the wine a go or as I like to call it the first splash down, bursting rich ripe dark plums, ripe dark cherries, a taste of Tuscan country-side and generous rich round mouth-feel. Bright acidity holds it all together, like a canvas upon which lies a brilliant painting [insert favorite artist here], making this one fantastic wine, amendable to many easy food pairing situations. I like to say; "this is the kind of wine that does not get in the way of what you're eating, it instead complements it, making for a better dining experience".

Honestly folks you're not going to find too many tastier 2008's than this one right here and at this price you better get your self on down there before it's all gone. But what do I know, this is just a hobby. By the way, I helped to move a few cases of this wine in just a couple hours, before I wrote this review, so good luck. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers! Full Disclosure: I do NOT represent this wine in any capacity what so ever or Misa Imports.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wine of the Week: Elyssia, Cava from Spain

It has been said that; "Dreams are nothing but incoherent ideas, occasioned by partial or imperfect sleep ~ Benjamin Rush. It's from over-worked slumber that I often awake from a nights sleep, remembering wild dreams, replete with wild concepts or new ideas. Where do those ideas end up, somewhere on the back-burner of my subconscious, whispering in the dark, "someday; someday". But alas, I'm not a writer, more of a chronicler of impressions about the vinous world of which brings me and so many others so much joy. It's my hope to bring some of that joy to an empty glass near you.

If I were a writer, I'd not be making a flimsy living in the sales game by day and blogging by night. But still it's my hope that something I put down in this blog will become a sort of mediocre guide post of sorts, helping the wandering-wino to find some of the best juice on the market today, wines with a soul.

Does it have to cost $124 to acquire a vintage 2002 Dom to make you happy, I dare say nay, not even one bit. But its mere appearance as a gift in a many splendid box, may just make a much bigger splash, than the bubbles awaiting in that bottle awaiting to be released upon the unsuspecting. But what do I know, I'm not a certified anything, I've got no credentials, got no stinking papers, hell I don't even have a badge.

I'm just an wine-soaked enthusiast who wants to help the average garden variety vino-sapien make their way through the purple stained pages of wanna-be wine-sage to find a quaffable glass of wine. With that random mess of thought having smacked you across the face, like the awkward toss of a stinky mackerel at your favorite local fish market, it's time swerve into a review of new found bubbly I received as a sample sometime last month.

With it nearly being time to suck down a few suds to ring in the New Year, I know many of you maybe thinking what kind of juice you should you be uncorking for New Years. If you want to make it something new and different, than you could not possibly get more different than this bottle of wine from our mutual friends at Freixenet. This beautiful bottle of bubbly [Cava] resides in an eloquent bottle, the wine itself is dressed to impress from the first sip to the last bubbly drop. Pairing suggestion; I'm thinking a holiday style glazed spiral cut ham and a fresh home made summer potato salad, replete with olives, hard boiled eggs, macaroni and tuna.

A unique blend of Pinot Noir and Trepat, full of intensely ripe summer red fruit aromas evocative of summer simmer on the beaches of Barcelona. Rich, elegant yet ripe raspberries, red currants and bright newly harvested cherries fill your glass, while at the same time bringing beautifully balanced acidity to the party and at long last giving the weary reveler a refreshing, yet long lasting finish. It has a SRP of a mere $18 and is widely available. I gave this bubbly score of 91 points; I recommend it to you highly to help you ring in the New Year. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines

For most folks, much of the main Christmas shopping is now done, but some are still traipsing through crowded malls, looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for their wine loving friends or family members. I have a great idea to help you get that last minute gift secured. In fact I wrote a quick review of a book from one of my favorite authors, whose wine soaked journey's makes for the a fun look behind the label of many folks favorite wines.

Many folks today seeing the vapid materialism of Christmas, wonder geez what's the point? Helping to answer the question is a very unlikely source, but one we can all take some comfort in hearing his sage advice, “That’s the true spirit of Christmas; people being helped by people other than me”~Jerry Seinfeld. Now don't you feel better? His statement could not be truer, as I know many folks looking for a perfect gift this holiday season will be immensely helped by Natalie MacLean’s latest book Unquenchable.

Well well, we are right smack-dab in the middle of the Christmas shopping-season, just a few days left to get your shopping done. It’s with that in mind that I wanted to bring to your attention one of the best reads in recent memory, from an author who I not only admire, but I also appreciate her common sense approach to the wine scene. This book, in my opinion, is a must read for the average garden variety wandering-wino or even the cave dwelling vino-sapien in the audience suffering from a spat of sulfite fatigue...Read More

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport

With the drum beat of the gift-giving season rapidly increasing its beat and many businesses, schools and government offices getting ready to close up for the holiday break, it's time to think about getting away. Yes, time for the "family" vacation to spend time with loved ones or perhaps you just want to beat it down to old Acapulco Bay, with the rest of the snow-birds. Where you may still hear old blue-eyes croon, pack-up, it's time to fly away.

I've been doing a bit of traveling lately, running around the planet [okay mostly Spain and Italy] attempting to track down, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices, meeting the wonderful folks behind the labels, meeting winemakers, seeing the terroir where the grapes are actually growing and traipsing through dozens of  tasting rooms along the way. But in order to get out there, you have to wade through some pretty tasteless and unforgiving terrain, known to many travelers as the airport concourse, while waiting for your flight [which is sometimes hours].

I can't say I've been to every airport around the globe, not even close and some of you will be able to top my own experiences, fantastic. But to date, for me personally if I have to get stuck at an airport for a long layover, then I want to spend those long layover hours in Seattle's Sea-Tec Central Terminal. Why you may ask? Well perhaps, it's because they have free Wi-Fi, a great view of incoming and out going plane traffic, comfortable seating, charging stations, a few decent dining options, or perhaps most of all someone got smart and added a sanctuary for the civilized. 

What am I talking about? Of course I'm referring to a wine bistro, called Vino Volo. A groovy little slice of heaven for the weary wandering wino that serves wines by the glass or grab a "flight" before your flight. You can also treat your
self to a full menu of gourmet small-plates, just take a peek at the menu, I scored the carnitas plate, while slurping down a trio of wines from Washington State. Now while I had a great experience and commend it to you, just be aware that the prices for bottle purchases seem a bit above, normal retail, but fall far below prices many restaurants charge via extreme mark-ups.

Also as a bonus, lets say you find a wine you love during your tasting they are available for purchase, and since you're in the "secure-zone"  allowing you to take your chosen wine on the connecting flight as a carry-on or you have the option to have it shipped home. So the next time you're in Seattles Sea-Tac please avail yourself of the vino-topia that awaits the thirsty vino-sapien, with a visit to Vino Volo. I wish you all safe travels this year, where ever you end up and the very merriest of holidays to you all. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Planet Bordeaux: Uncorks Bargain Bordeaux

It has been said, "Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized." ~ André Simon. For many newbie vino-sapiens or even the newly minted wanna-be wino looking around the vino landscape, it's far too easy to stick to the garden variety staples of the wine aisle. Whether it's Napa Valley Cabernet's, Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir's from the Russian River Valley. I totally get that attitude, I was there once and appreciate your conundrum when you start thinking, "is there something beyond these "staples" which will make me just as happy", the answer is a resounding yes, but not in a formulaic fashion.

With that said, I want to introduce you to some very tasty wines from the shores of France, a little place called Bordeaux, perhaps you've heard of it [ha]? Now I know when many folks hear the word Bordeaux, especially vino-newbies, they perhaps think of two things; big wines that need time to get better and wines that tend to be on the expensive side of the equation. I won't try to candy-coat the truth here, those impressions are more true, than they're false. Unfortunately, it's those impressions which keep many folks away buying or even considering Bordeaux and that is a shame.

I think you'll then be surprised to find out, that the words Bordeaux and Bargain can go together, sitting comfortably next to each other in the same sentence. Oh, yes it's true. Perhaps you're thinking, "oh okay so if it's a bargain, than it's just plonk" again I'd generally be with you in that sentiment. However, as someone who has been running to explore wines from all over this grape-filled world, we all live in and having recently participated in a Bordeaux tasting the other night, via Twitter, I am happy to report back to you that there are many wines from Bordeaux [BDX] which are easy on the pocket-book and are ready to rock your palate with a boat load of finesse and fun flavors.

The wines I experienced last night are just the tip of the iceberg in the many gems you will find in BDX bargain aisle. But at the same time you have learn to navigate the waters correctly or end up with a Titanically Tannic wine that may never be able to right itself in your glass, before its down the drain.  That said, enter a host of wine-bloggers who were invited to sit in on a live tasting sponsored by the kind folks at Planet Bordeaux who provided us with a tasting sample pack which included five wines, with price points ranging from $12 to $20 and each from a different producer.

If you are curious to take a look at the conversation that transpired, click on the #planetbordeaux hastag.  There was one wine in the tasting which I truly don't think would trip most folks triggers. I appreciate a wine that gives you a sense of where it came from, as much as the next guy and I've learned to enjoy those styles of wine, which frankly have what I would call more of a rustic or austere
flavor profile.

And seeing that most folks reading this blog, don't get it the whole "place" debate or care about "typicité of the grape or the place it was grown" [Rick Bakas], so instead I focus on wines which are by-and-large approachable to the wine-swirling masses, boo-yah! My recommendations are not for other wine-bloggers, to ooh and ahh over, nope I write for the everyday vino-sapien who wants to have well made, easy drinking wines swirling about in their collective glasses.

1] Chateau de Parenchere BDX Clairet 2010: Cutting through the fog on the label, this wine is a brillant clairet which is not a Rosé, to which you may say huh?. Although it walks like one and smells like a Rosé, it is in fact a very different creature, showing depth, structure and dare I say more fruit. It even has its own AOC: the Bordeaux Clairet to regulate its production. But enough of that, complex aromas fill the air just above the rim; rich raspberry, peach and spice overtones. You’ll find it soft, yet full. The tasteful fruit of blackberries, redcurrants and raspberries hit your mouth like a slap-shot from your favorite hockey player, giving intense round flavors that marry easily with food; like the Broccoli Beef, a delightful dish from PF Chang's menu. My Score: 89 points. This wine sells for a SRP of $12, highly recommended.

2] Chateau Lamothe Vincent 2009: A wine you'll find available predominately on the East Coast, is robust blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. A bright vivid ruby colored wine the glass, made in an easy to drink, very fruity style. Here’s what to expect, ripe black cherry, odd red-vine licorice, a small dusting of cassis and newly ripened strawberries splashed with a bit of silty-clay. You’ll also get a subtle bit of toasty spice. Most of mouth-filling flavors are found mid-palate and then drop off in the end, saving grace smooth tannins abound. This wine sells for a SRP of $15. My score: 86 points. Recommended, but not enthusiastically so, meaning I wouldn’t go out of my way to procure a bottle, but wouldn’t turn down a glass if offered.

3] Chateau de Bel 2009: Okay, I'm going to be frank right here, this wine did NOT come dressed to impress. It's the kind of wine, you'd find dressed in an uncomfortable bur-lap bag, making you scratch your head, wondering why? It's even more funny that this wine, is predominantly impressed just about everyone else in the tasting. I was the only who dared to say, "umm, the king has no clothes on" and as predicted my comments were not well received. This is not the type of BDX, you'd want to introduce to folks interested in getting their first intro into the BDX wine scene. I found this wine unapproachable, flat out dry, tannic, rustic, barely scent of flavor. The red and dark fruit flavors are mostly muted, while earthiness, olive are emphasized. This wine sells for a SRP of $15. My score: 82 points.

4] Chateau Reignac Vendanges 2008: This delightful blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, impressed me from the first moment I pulled the cork. A lovely bouquet jumped from the opening of my glass as I poured my first slurp. A sweet barbecue, chocolate truffles and a fine Cuban-cigar enthralled me, giving me ample indication I was going to enjoy this wine immensely. After getting the wine in the glass, a rich garnet color rim to rim. Here's what to expect once it's sloshing about your mouth; abundant mix of red and dark berry fruit, riding along with plenty of dark cocoa, rich-toast, mineral and tar-note, floating on a groovy acid, leading to the plush finish. A great foodie wine, that will easily marry with many types of food. This is kind of wine that will make folks think, "oh-so this is BDX?" Well the answer is yes and know, while it give that sweet-rustic old-world authenticity there is a nod to the easier to quaff international style. My Score: 91 points. This wine sells for a stunningly low price of $20 and is widely available. Drinking great now, but has the stuffing to sit down for a few years, if you're thinking about a case purchase.

5] Chateau Larteau 2005: A wine from the famous Bordeaux '05' vintage, which didn't fail to deliver. This tasting definitely saved the best for the last two spots in the line-up. I'm really impressed with this 100% Merlot effort, a wine that would get up in Miles grill with a few expletives of its own, challenging his "No F'g Merlot" policy. This wine is drinking fab right now, you can expect a well rounded harmonious tannins and acidity that carry the abundant ripe dark plums and blackberry flavors. Nicely integrated oak influences, play nicely with the supporting cast of tobacco and floral flavors, on the polished finish. This wine sells for a mere $15 and is widely available. Another great intro into the BDX wine scene, pairs easily with many foods and my score of 90 points makes this wine highly recommended.

These wines reviewed above were sent as media samples for the review process. I hope you will seek out these wines out for yourself, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Syrah: Viva la Revolucion!

In a conversation about a movement afoot in the then Kingdom of France; the King and one of his counselors had a conversation that went something like this "Is it a rebellion?" asked Louis XVI of the count who informed him of the fall of the Cabernet. "No, sire," came the reply. "It is a revolution." Indeed it's a revolution to take back Syrah's rightful place in the cellars of wine-lovers, cork-dorks and even the garden variety vino-sapien. It's time to expose those 1% grapes for what they are, hogs of the lime-light, currying wine lovers favor with its fat over-oaked flair, flauting its grape growing superiority and market saturation. It's time to strike back, it's time to occupy Syrah.

I already have a beautiful wine open from a wonderful producer down-under, a winery called Chapel Hill Wine sitting in the wonderfully beautiful McLaren Vale AVA. You'll will find their winery tucked-in between the vast rolling hills and a picturesque coastline. Where a quick and highly recommend visit will introduce you McLaren Vale’s Mediterranean climate. A climate that has created ideal conditions for grape-growing and ensured that the region is recognized as a leader in environmentally sustainable viticulture. We say Syrah, they say Shiraz, but I say delicious.

Wow, in the glass this wine is a stunningly dark crimson color, great extraction. The wine rested in 300 liter Oak Hogsheads [meaning oak played a much lesser role] for about 20 months before being bottled in November of 2009 before arriving in my glass here in San Diego. A wine that has traveled a long way, to put a large smile on my face.

A velvet rope of flavor and finesse, a bit of chalky chocolate, ripe blackberry, dark cherry and plum, laid over smooth tannins and knit together nicely with a pop of acidity. Wow, nicely done my score is 91 points, made in a drink now and drink often style that has room to lay down for a few years. It has a suggested SRP of $39.99 but the savvy wine drinker can find this gem selling for $25 and that is a very nice price.

It's time to storm the walls of complacency, it's time to get down with the Rhone Zone. If you agree I hope you will consider to please join us at the Occupy Syrah event today on Wine Wednesday, be sure to use the hash-tag #OccupySyrah to join the conversation. I hope to see you there. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sonoma Uncorked: Kunde Family Estate

It has been said; “Good friends are like stars.... You don't always see them, but you know they are always there” Wow, what truer words could be spoken about one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma. The first time I discovered Kunde was well before I did any kind of wine writing. In fact, it was my first time in Sonoma and Mrs. Cuvee and I were just a newly “minted” couple. We were still wet behind the ears with matrimonial bliss, [ha] ahh the memories.

I remember it was a slow day in the tasting room and we had paid for the reserve tasting, took the "wine-caves" tours, glasses in hand, this where we encountered the same Century Vines Zinfandel from the 2002 vintage. We were so happy with the quality of the wine, we knew we had to take a few home [ I wanted to take more than a few home, but the wife scuttled that idea]. We also brought one of the CV Zins to dinner at the highly recommended Applewood Inn & Restaurant in Guerneville. I photographed the bottle at the table, thinking I really want to remember this bottle, how it tasted, how it made us feel and the excitement of finding a bottle of wine that helped us to celebrate our anniversary.

Fast forward some years later to the future, Mrs. Cuvee and I are still drinking wine and really enjoying it more than ever. Now instead of just taking a few pictures of the wines I fall in love with or jotting down some notes about what I liked about a fab new favorite wine. I share my thoughts with the readers of my blog, which is great fun for me. I think it has been a few weeks now, since I participated in the Kunde "live-tasting" on twitter and had a great conversation via the live video feed with the winemaker Zach Long and estate owner Jeff Kunde and Marcia Kunde Mickelson. It really was like catching up with an old friends.

I also had the chance to catch up with some new wines of which I was not familiar with, but was happy for the opportunity to receive a sample of their 2009 Kunde Family Estate Sonoma Chardonnay, the Kunde Family Estate Red Dirt Red and got reacquainted with an old friend the 2008 Kunde Family Estate Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel.  Although Kunde Family Estate has just put their 107th harvest behind, slumbering in barrel, they have not missed a beat in producing well made wines, that often tip the quality to price ratio scales.

If you find yourself in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, tooling down the Sonoma vino super-highway, be sure to stop by the tasting room, behind the massive door to get inside are few different ways to enjoy their wines and may I also recommend the "free" daily wine caves tours, quite a treat for wine-newbies to see the wines slumbering away, developing character, finesse and complexity. One of today's buzz words is "sustainability" and the Kunde Family estate is proud to say that they have been "certifiable" since 2005, in fact they have been awarded a Green Business Program Certification from the Bay Area Green Business Program.

Now it is time to review the wine that were sent for the review process, after all reviewing wines is the heart-beat of this site and one of the main reasons you tune-in here on occasion. Now that said, I mentioned above I received three samples for this twitter taste live event, two of them knocked it out of the park. The other stalled in the red-zone and had to settle for a field goal attempt.

2009 Kunde Family Estate Chardonnay: This wine sells for a SRP of $17. This wine can be found under a screw-cap for easy access. A wine accented with ripe and spicy pear, a slap of hazelnut laid over a vivid structure and right touch of acidity to carry the fruit, nice mid-palate, but fades a bit toward the end. My score 87 points, paired nicely with seasoned grilled chicken breast.

2008 Kunde Red Dirt Red: This wine sells for an SRP of $28, under a cork closure.. It really lit up the score board nicely; with their reliable blend of Barbera, Syrah, and Zinfandel finished with a drop of Sangiovese as the exclamation point. This wine is made in a drink now and drink often style, uncorked it's dressed to impress. This is the type of blend, that will lend it self to many pairing opportunities, but I'd stick with a trio of some of my barbecue faves; Chicken, Pork, or slow-smoked beef ribs. Abundant dark plum and ripe cherry flavors, painted on a canvas of intensity, balance and voluptuous structure. My score is 91 points. This wine is highly recommended.

2008 Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel: This wine has a SRP of $30, under a cork closure. As I often say during these live tastings, like they guy with no filter, tasting the wines out of order at times, "this is the big boy in the room". To say this wine is a monster of finesse, would be a huge understatement. Depth and complexity draped over abundant red and dark fruit, make this Zinfandel the mother of all "old-vine" Zinfandel's. The Zen of Zinfandel's should really be the title of this wine. In a game of poker with other supposed old vine zins, this wine would be "all-in" sitting pretty with a full house and no I'm not bluffing.

Folks this Zinfandel is the real-deal, not a pretender to the throne like so many other so-called Old-Vines Zins. This wine is produced from the Shaw vineyard [don't miss this] which is reported to be 126 years old, Booyah! This is my second encounter with this same vineyard and oh my the layers of flavor, piped with nice acidity, give the fruit real pop. This is how you do it, not a jammy note insight, this wine is a seamless and the flavor sails on into the horizon. Well done, I give this wine 94 points.

I hope you will seek this wines out and give them a swirl for yourself soon. All the wines recommended above, were sent as a sample for the review process. The recommendations and scores are based solely upon my opinions and impressions, no other type of compensation is given or offered. I receive many wines for the review process and unfortunately not all of them make the cut. That said, thanks for stopping by today, I hope you continue to sip long and prosper, cheers!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wine of the Week: 1994 Beaulieu Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone, I only managed to aggravate one member of my family this year. But after the bubbly was poured and a few sips and long slurps, all was forgiven. See how wine can bring us all together? 
Even if we come from completely different backgrounds, widely different personalities, and even diametrically opposed political point of view, wine can bring us together. I have many folks who I follow with my twitter account, which ordinarily would not be interested in giving me the time of day, let alone converse with me on a subject such as this. Again wine can bring us all together, but not just any wine.

No, I'm not talking about the cheap commodity wines which fill a majority of lower shelves in the garden variety grocery store. Wines, which honestly have more in common with a loaf a generic bread than they do with a wine that has soul. Oh, a wine with soul, huh, so what is that?

It's the kind of wine I want to introduce to you today; it is my wine of the week. I don't normally talk about wines that are not readily available in the market place, but this wine came back to life just the other day, it really demands your attention. It happened when I discovered this bottle sitting there at my fathers place, covered with dust and dead spiders, out on his enclosed patio, exposed to wide temperature variations year after year, since 1994.
As I attempted to pull the cork on this wine, it just crumbled under the weight of time and improper storage conditions. I did all I could possibly do, to not let the cork make a splash down into the wine below, but alas it was no use and I had to screen the wine from what was now a cork explosion floating upon the still dark garnet colored waves below, just now starting to turn a brick-ish orange color on the rim. The aromas of cedar, dark cherry and ripe plum billowed up at me, forcing an immediate change in my opinion about what lay in this bottle
[I was thinking vinegar].

Sensing what I whiffed from the aromas, I became excited just to get it in my glass from the decanter which I covered with a small plate. Oh man was I rewarded with a bounty of finesse, I could taste the Rutherford vineyard dust from 1994, solid structure, smooth tannins, pure dark and red fruit and a long lingering finish. I sat in stunned silence for a moment and then said to Mrs. Cuvee, "now this is how you do it, this is a wine with a soul".

See folks this won't be the experience if you come across a two-buck upchuck years from now, no the caliber of juice being put into to BV Rutherford is cut from a different cloth, one you can taste and experience, down to the last drop falling from the bottle. It's funny that this wine still sells for a medium ranged price of $20 most places, but some Costco locations still have the 2007 sitting around selling for $15, quite a steal in my opinion. I'm going to grab a few put them away for a decade or two, just to see the magic unfold again. For the score keepers in the audience, I gave this wine a solid 90 points. The 17 years in the bottle have barely even began to touch this wines solid structure. Great job BV!

But if you want the 1994 BV Rutherford, I found KL Wines has a stash of it, so you can still grab your own splash of 1994 and experience a wine that I know will just wow you, as it did me. To confirm my impressions; I found the Wine Speculator's score on this same wine from one they uncorked in 1997. They listed it as "very impressive" with a score of 90 points on a wine weighing in at only 12% abv [providing food for thought]. Okay folks that is all I got for you today, until next time sip long and prosper!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Travel Tuesday: San Felipe Uncorked

The best cure for lack of inspiration is travel; it's really helps to broaden your perspective; it also enables you to see what the world offers behind the walls of the "sound-bite" nation. Why else leave the comfy confines of my home here in San Diego to venture far into the interior of Baja. There was something I wanted to uncork for myself in venturing down to old Mexico.

I looked at this impromptu opportunity to go on a press-trip as not only a way to escape unprecedented cold, rainy weather which was just about ready to descend upon San Diego. It was also good opportunity to grow as a writer, while at the same time discover for myself America's wonderful neighbor to the south, to experience how different their world is from my own home, but yet so similar.

Helping me frame in my mind my principal reason for accepting this opportunity of discovery is Marcel Proust who said; “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” His words are piercing, cutting most of to the quick if the truth be told. Before we can see the world in which we wish to travel, we need to have “new-eyes”.

It’s far too easy for average Americans; [myself included] to buy into our “sound-bite” culture and paint with broad strokes that which we think we understand about the places and peoples of our tiny world. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my travels of late, you got to take the rough with the smooth.

A small group of bloggers was invited down by the Baja State Tourism Office to visit San Felipe during their annual Shrimp Festival. San Felipe is located on the Sea of Cortes side of Baja and about a four drive from TJ.

It’s a great place to visit, many Snow-Birds find their way their each year during the winter months. Some folks [known as ex-pats] like it so much they’ve taken up a permanent residence, building a wonderful community which brings needed employment to many. The beaches are beautiful, the cabana’s bountiful and you’ll find many overnight camping sites for the adventurous.

For many folks San Felipe is a great place for off-road lifestyle; making it a great jumping off place for those activities. If you love fresh seafood, especially shrimp then you've come to the right place, you can eat and drink like a king for nearly a paupers price.

Was I bit worried about traveling to Mexico? Yes, I can not lie, there was a bit of hesitation, a moment of pause, thinking what am I doing? We all have heard the stories about some of the bad things happening in Mexico. Honestly though, I never felt like I was ever in any kind of danger at all. We passed through many check-points on the way to San Felipe, with plenty of soldiers providing over-watch to the unsuspecting traveler.

Okay maybe there was a few white-knuckle moments; which came in the form of a sometime harrowing drive down the steep barren hills of the La Rumorosa [“the whisperer”] and as our group drove across the open desert below, passing through a sand-storm which blanketed highway so much it was hard to see the oncoming traffic.

So what did I learn from my trip, what were the take-aways? My experiences there, showed me San Felipe [a great sea-side town] is easy going come as you are kind of place. If you learned a little Spanish-lingo before you came down for a visit, it would help enhance your experience, but sparing that, even my basic Spanish skill got me by.

The many ex-pats you encounter are wonderful salt of the earth folks, who are very welcoming of travel newbie’s, as I was invited to sit and have drinks with a few just to chat. I also made some great new friends who were on this press trip with me, you should check out their work; 52 Perfect Days, My Burning Kitchen and Menu in Progress. They have some great perspectives on the trip that you should not miss.

I felt safe walking the streets at night, much the same as walking the streets of San Diego at night, taking the right precautions, with a dash of common sense. Lastly it made me consider, taking my next vacation south of the border. I unfortunately didn't have too many encounters with the rapidly developing wine-scene in the Guadalupe Valley, [La Ruta Del Vino] but it's something to look forward in the near future.

I want to give a decanter full of thanks to the Baja California Tourism board, San Felipe officials and Allison & Partners P.R. for this great opportunity to experience Baja and the wonderful folks that call San Felipe home. Until next folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tapeña Wine and Tapas Naming Contest

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." ~William Shakespeare

Tapas and wine are an integral part of Spanish culture, you can find a great Tapas bars in every city, but in some places they go by another name. In northern Spain, where I often encountered tapas on a recent trip to Navarra; they are called "pintxos" while most of the rest of the country they call them Tapas.

But whatever you call these small, yet very delightful snacks which are easy to make, I'm sure like me, you will call them delicious. You'll find they come in many shapes, sizes and various styles. One thing you can be sure about; these small tasty "bites" are ready to rock your taste-buds.

Tapas take appetizers to new heights and they tend to disappear off of plates as quickly as they can be ordered. One of the funny things about being in Tapas-Bar whether it's abroad or here in San Diego, is being at a complete lost to correctly pronounce many of names myself, most of my ordering came via pointing or gesturing to the new one I wanted to try next.
If you're not familiar with the Tapeña brand, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you, they produce four different wines, a Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and a dry Rosé.  These wines are part of the Ferrer family portfolio, like Frexinet of which you may already be familiar with iconic black bottled Cava.

You should be able to find that these Tapeña wines are widely available.  Their wines are produced in the Tierra de Castilla, a region near the heart of Spain. You will often find that just like people wines often have their own style; these wines are no exception as you will find them to be fresh and fruit forward, a great wine to uncork at your next Tapas party or get together. Feel free to connect with Tapeña wines on FB or give them a quick shout-out on Twitter.

Now for the contest portion, I have one of my favorite Tapas dishes pictured here, your job is figure out and name this very popular Tapas dish. If you're looking for some inspiration for finding the name of this very tasty Tapas dish, you can check here for some great recipes from the fine folks at Tapeña.
The contest will run from today November 28th through Friday, December 9th which is a Monday, one winner will be chosen at random, so feel free to comment as often as you like, I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Tapeña Wines want to give you a head start on planning your very own Tapas get-together by awarding a "party-pack" to one of my readers. The pack includes some great items to help you get you going in the right direction, finding your favorite wine and Tapas pairing. You will find, multi colored wine charms, a great tapas cookbook to help you get creative, corkscrew [waiters friend style] to help you uncork your own adventures, and of last but certainly not least you will get all four of their wines pictured above as well.

By the way; in order to enter this contest, you must be 21 years or older to enter; by entering the contest and leaving a comment below you verify you are over 21. Big apologies to all my readers outside the U.S. but you must also be a legal U.S. citizen to be eligible to win. Good luck and until next time may you continue to sip long and prosper, cheers!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wine of the Week: 2009 La Follette Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir

Well sports fan here it's the day before Thanksgiving. I know many of you're busy preparing for the annual stuff-your-face to gills holiday we all look forward to every year [wink].

It's also a great day to get your "sports" fix in for the year, if you have not been paying attention to any football this year, tomorrow promises to be a fantastic showdown between some teams that are no doubt destined for the big dance.

I know this is normally a day to tune out the TV and commune with the family but you definitely don't want to miss the action year, to see which team will win the galloping gobbler award. Go Pack go!

But for those of you not into the whole "sports" thing on Thanksgiving [poor souls] you may then just be interested finding out about what the Pilgrims were really dining upon for the "first" Thanksgiving meal [supposedly not a pumpkin pie in sight]. It had much less to do with Turkey than most folks think, you can check out the more realistic and rustic menu here; Plimoth Plantation's recipes. By the way I didn’t misspell Plymouth, that's the old spelling you see above in the link.

For the history buffs in the reading audience, wanting to show-off some new Thanksgiving trivia acumen; may I suggest taking a quick trip over to Nat-Geo who has taken the time out-line some of the biggest myths about the holiday. They also lend some credence to the annoying facts that can't be debunked, then click on over to Thanksgiving Myths and Facts.

Now for every else still looking for the perfect wine to quaff with their family and friends tomorrow, I have a newly discovered favorite, a Pinot Noir from Sonoma Mountain. If you're thinking "umm, what the bleep is Sonoma Mountain" well stay tuned. We've all heard of Russian River Pinot and Sonoma Coast Pinot, as hot-spot areas for Pinot Noir. But when this sample arrived last week, I was a bit surprised to see a Pinot Noir from this AVA, simply because it has great reputation for producing stellar Cabernet Sauvignon. So if this review has you thirsting to know more about Sonoma Mountain, please click here, as there's a great article that breaks it down for you quite quickly.

Now about this wonderful expression of Pinot Noir that Mrs. Cuvee and I popped the cork on just last night. A wine that we dared to pair with apricot glazed pork chops, grilled to mouth-watering perfection. Also being grilled, right along side the bone-in pork chops, were some mighty tasty asparagus spears giving aid to the side of Parmesan, garlic potatoes I prepared in a skillet via the side-burner. 

Proving a man with a grill is a man with a mission to deliver fabulous flavor from the everyday mundane and humdrum choices that populate many dining tables. Did I deliver, umm well I think so, but Mrs. Cuvee has a different opinion, which only varies slightly from mine [wink]. That said the one thing that over delivered on taste, finesse and length was this Pinot Noir from Lafollette Wines, Mrs. Cuvee and I had a bit of a tussle over the last few drops.

Wow, this wine has some very alluring aromas and flavors. A nice pop of strawberries and blackberries, accented with sweet baking spices and earthy minerals, almost a meaty quality to it. A rich, ripe, silky wine, fully supported by well integrated tannins, structure and bright acidity, punctuated by a long silky finish. Even after the wine was gone from my glass, I still held onto because the aromas escaping from the glass was like the sweet perfume on the nape of the neck [don't shake your head, that's just how it went down] oh Mrs. Cuvee.

Honestly folks this is some fantastic juice and I would highly recommend it for Thanksgiving day or anytime you want a wine that comes dressed to impress. This wine sells for a SRP of 39.99 and I gave it a score of 92 points, a drink now and drink often wine. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Uncorked: My Top 10 Wines for the Holiday

"Personally, I love Thanksgiving traditions: watching football, making pumpkin pie, and saying the magic phrase that sends your aunt storming out of the dining room to sit in her car." ~ Stephen Colbert

Another wonderful year nearly ready to put in the can and stored away for posterity, but every year at this time we collectively take time-out to give a "thanks" for our collective blessings.

I know there are a few folks in my age bracket speaking mostly to the guys, it's far too easy to become the grumpy old men, we swore we would never be, yelling and gesturing for the "kid" to get off our lawns even if we haven't kept it up and has now turned a dull shade of brown.

Many of the grumpiest among us, even start to resent holidays, like the one right around the corner, for many it has become far too clichéd, football, pumpkin pies, turkeys and hot sweaters and homes so hot you can get "meat" sweats, man do I totally get that attitude.

But [yep here it comes] I think many of those "grumps" may just need a couple glasses of decent vino, to help them get over their anti-holiday feelings. So this year when you gather with your families or choose to serve others, use it to embrace them and thank each one of them for being a part of your life, whether you like them or not. I think if we all do that [myself included] we will be better off in the long run. I’m now stepping away from the soap box and returning you to your normally scheduled holiday wine review.

Every year at this time, I give my Top Ten Thanksgiving Holiday Wine "picks" and this year is no exception. I know my post is a bit "danger" close for those wanting to stock up for the holiday, but chalk-up these recommendations for the procrastinators in the audience who waited to the last minute, to hear about ten tasty selections to brighten up your holiday menus this week. Yes most, but not all of them will be Pinot Noirs. Sorry no white wines to recommend this time around, perhaps next year.

1. Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2010 Colchagua Valley $16.99: This wine was one of the early favorites that evening for it's easy-going personality, abundant fruit and uncomplicated body, made for an early and easy quaff. I scored this wine an easy 87 points.

2. Paraiso 2008 Pinot Noir, SLH: I scored this wine 91 points. Fully flavored and balanced with firm acidity. Seducing aromas draw you in again and again, a winetastic experience. A wonderfully style driven Pinot Noir, that will pair with many types of food and is great on its own. Expressive aromas and enticing flavors await your purchase. Definitely worth the price of admission. Other Voices: The International Wine Review gave them 90 points. This wine sells for $18 in a few Costco locations here in California.

3. Taz 2009 Pinot Noir: Another wonderful wine from Santa Barbara County. With so much hoopla around RRV PN it can be easy to forget about the wonderful expressions of Pinot Noir, coming from this area. In the glass you'll find a wonderful cranberry colored core, floral and baking spice aromas swirling about, leaning toward the strawberry end of the flavor spectrum. On the plate a well-balanced attack of baking spices, red berry fruits and finish is plush. I scored this wine 91 points. Just a fantastic wine from the SBC region. Taz really delivers a consistent wine tasting experience. Selling for under $20, a real steal!

4. Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir 2009: This wine is a steal under $15 black;">still being a fantastic bargain at just under $20. I found this wine to have a garnet colored core. The first whiff, reminded me sweet baking spices, rose petals and fragrant strawberries. On palate a nice attack of dusty-spices, sweet vanilla, sandalwood, a silky mouth-feel, and baked strawberries, mouth watering acidity, leading to the plush finish. Adds the perfect score to your holiday menu, I gave this wine a score of 89 points and a hearty buy recommendation.

5. Byron PN SMV 2009: The wine’s perfectly poised fruit to acid balance makes this wine incredibly food-friendly. My palate was struck by wave after wave of a rich cherry and raspberry pie filling, wrapped around the smokey vanilla-tinged wonderfully integrated oak, with a small dose of rich earthiness. The mouth feel is silky, the brilliant finish is long and sumptuous. This wine is drinking FAB, right now and will only get better over the next few years. A real stunner, I gave this wine 90 points and it sells for $18 most places or $26 through the tasting room.

6. Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2009: Woo-hoo, this wine hit it out of the freaking park, seriously great juice for the price. In the glass, a shimmering dark crimson colored core.  A raft of flavors coming your way, cherries, raspberries, light touch of blue-berries sweet vanilla, tobacco, baking spices and fat-slap of bacon fat, and the finish is plump. It sells for a SRP of $20 at most places here in San Diego like your local Bevmo. I gave this wine a score of 92 flavor filled points, nicely done.

7. Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Single Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir: In the glass a rich looking strawberry colored core. On the first whiff, wow, a wonderful perfume of dried strawberries, rich earth and raspberry. After the first splash down, this immediately appealing Pinot is soft but lush, presenting a raft of vanilla, cinnamon and sandalwood flavors, with a healthy splash of raspberry and strawberry pie filling leading to the silky plush finish. A great performer from our friends down-under, it has a SRP of $40 and is one of my top pick for this weeks festivities.

8. Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2009: This "Terroir Hunter" wine hails from the Leyda Valley, produced by one of Chile's oldest wineries. In the glass you'll find the core leaning toward purple. On the nose compact ripe blueberry and black-berry fruit, with just a touch of olive aromas leaps from the glass. Really nice mouth-feel, plush and giving, balanced acidity, polished blueberry and black-berry and floral flavors are drawn from the nose, leading to a nicely penetrating finish, with touches of chocolate and expresso rounding out the experience. An extremely well done wine, with plenty to offer for the $25 price of admission. I gave this wine a score of 90 points, highly recommended.

9. Loma Larga Syrah 2006: This wine is from Chile's Casablanca Valley, a 100% Syrah which was not fined or filtered, so decanting is highly recommended through a screen. But don't let that bit of sway you one bit from this fantastic example of a cool climate Syrah. It definitely was my favorite, as I gave it a solid 92 point, a great match with a variety of holiday foods. In the glass a deeply crimson colored core, deeply staining legs against the glass. After first swirl, blueberry, licorice and meaty aromas combine to perfume the air above the glass preparing you for the coming attractions.

The first sip is a head-back wow, you'll find this wine located on the drink now and drink often aisle, nice heft and the tannins are polished, leading to a lengthy finish. Gamey, herbal and earthy complexity help you get your head around the blueberry and black berry fruit that dominates the mid-palate, while the striking acidity keeps the wine in complete balance for the total package. Selling for a SRP of $29, it's great juice for this price point, it really over delivers and came dressed to impress.

10. The Fonseca Porto Bin #27 Ruby Port: You always need to save room for dessert and what would my blog be without a recommendation on one the tastier options for after dinner than this Fonseca Ruby style port, ready to dress up that pumpkin pie. A wine produced using advanced piston fermentation called, "port toes" and aged four years in neutral wood before being bottled. 

You can find this wine selling for about $20 or less most places. In the glass you can expect an opaque purple leaning toward a deep red colored edge. Sticking you nose the glass expect a raft of compact, intense, blackcurrant and cherry aromas. After the first slurp, wow nice, a fully expressive but firm, plump fruit flavors stretched over mellow tannin structure and a lasting finish.

From my house yours this holiday season, here's to a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, whatever you do I hope you uncork some great holiday memories, until next time sip long and prospers cheers!

Occupy Syrah: A Grape Cause

It was Aristotle  who said that, "All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire" and it was Graham Chapman who said, "All ideas come about through some sort of observation".

It is with those two quotes in mind that I came up with the idea for the "Occupy Syrah Movement". It literally came about from a conversation; I was having on twitter, something I do often. It then percolated through my own observations and conversations that I've had over the years with many different sources in wine world. This movement is being aided and abetted by none other than Shawn Burgert a self-described Wandering-Wino.

Take this example; Jon Bonné, Wine Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, declared that "The grand experiment to push Syrah as California's next great red grape has hit a brick wall." In an article entitled California Syrah: Not the Next Big Thing, But Better For It? Talia Baiocchi states, "the numbers do nothing to prove him wrong. As of last month, sales of Syrah and Shiraz were down another 11% from the year before." Ouch, now that has got to hurt and those facts only bolster my position about why Syrah needs our help, I say viva the revolution!

For most folks, Syrah is not even on their collective wine swirling radar, like it came from the isle of misfit toys or something and for me I can't even imagine why its not a better received wine. From my observations, Syrah seems to sit in far too many wineries, distributors, and retailers inventories collecting dust, in nearly a virtual obscurity, when compared and contrasted to other wines. It would seem that the average vino-sapien out there, is just too unsure of what to do with it, they just don't know what to pair or where it fits into their daily quaff.

For example if I said, "what would you pair with a Cabernet Sauvignon", you would most likely have a quick answer or if I asked, "what would you pair with a Pinot Noir", again many easy answers would immediately populate on the tip of your tongue. Now if I said, give me some pairing suggestions for Syrah, I'm pretty sure I would get far too many blank stares and a few shoulder shrugs.

Now if you're reading this from the wine-blogger perspective, you most likely have all the answers to those questions and drink Syrah on a regular to semi-regular basis.  My challenge to you other [1%] wine-bloggers out there, who already "get-it" is to help the other vino-sapiens [99%] out there who don't.

So your part of this movement is to be a "thought" leader, go out make some noise, shake up your local wine bar, wine store or your favorite tasting room with an occupation. So I'm going to ask you to get on-board with the movement, the occupation if you will. Please help me and help Syrah by promoting this event, to Occupy Syrah, where ever and whenever you can. How you help is up to you, but if you do have an event, please take some pictures and post them to Occupy Syrah FB page here. For those of you with a twitter account please feel free to follow the conversation on December 7th from 4-8pm PST, which also happens to be Wine Wednesday, we will be using the hash-tag #OccupySyrah.

In the interest of full disclosure, I personally don't seek to gain one thin dime by this promotion. Okay a few more folks may look at my blog and I may get a bit more traffic. But in all candor and honesty my only motivation is; the desire to see this grape have its well deserved day in the sun, with plenty of hang-time of course.

I know jumping to conclusions is considered good exercise by some, but honestly for those of you with concerns about the reasons behind this idea, let me lay those fears to rest. Occupy Syrah has never had anything to do with belittling or minimizing anyone period. Because it's in fact a movement about elevating a grape from realm of the of less-likely to be quaffed, to the mainstream of vino consciousness.
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