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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nearly Naked Chardonnay

It's a hell-uva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ~Lucille Ball

Have you ever wanted see winemakers, just for once free the grapes and perhaps see them run naked in the streets [damn voyeurs]? If so great, because making a splash upon the collective parched palates everywhere, is the 2009 Foppiano RRV Chardonnay. 

If you love nearly-naked Chardonnay, then this wine is the ticket for you. Not only is it reasonably priced, it's also a very well made wine that's drinking nicely now, and should improve a bit with more bottle age [6 months to a year]. 

While this is not really a cocktail style of wine, it's style of Chardonnay which will pair with many light entrees and appetizers. If I had a recommendation for Team Foppiano, personally I'd consider possibly the move to the screw-cap and you'll sell the whole lot, just like that [see me snapping my fingers]. Until next folks sip long and prosper, cheers.

It's with great pleasure [sorry, no pomp or circumstance though] I welcome in each one of you once more for another spin of the globe to find another delightful bottle of vino. This wine hails from Sonoma, California specifically the Russian River Valley, produced and vinted by one of Sonoma's oldest wineries, Foppiano Vineyards.

Chardonnay, easy to say and even easier to drink, the green-skinned grape variety used to make easily one of the worlds most easily recognizable varietals in the entire world. 

However many folks who find themselves in the card carrying ABC crowd have already fled the scene [no wait come back], clicking their way across the internet-universe attempting to escape being put upon by another review of Chardonnay. Okay I totally get that, so if that is you please bear with me for just a moment, because there's some good news just below.

The Good News: Winemakers have heard the pleas for far less intervention and dialed down use of oak, allowing the grapes to speak for themselves. They are willing to meet you in the mushy middle and make some compromises. 

For example, I believe Foppiano's winemaker Natalie West has heard you, she seized upon the opportunity with this new addition to their portfolio to make a wine which should even please a card-carrying-member of the ABC movement and get their lees [um, no not your jeans] stirring.

Nearly Naked: Foppiano's winemaker has listened to the plight of the ABC crowd and came up with a formula, a recipe if you will, for what I call Nearly Naked Chardonnay [time to take a peek under the hood]. So what does that Nearly Naked formula look like? 

From what I gather it looks a little like this; starting with a little night harvesting to minimize oxidation of the fruit, only 30% of this Chardonnay goes through malolactic fermentation, here's the best part only 35% New French Oak barrels and a whopping 65% was neutral French Oak and spending just 10 months on wood and finally barrels were blended before bottling enabling the "naked" fruit to shine through. See your time has come, give it a swirl.

Swirl, Sniff, Slurp: In the glass a golden hue hay colors the core of this wine shimmering in my glass. On the nose this medium bodied Chardonnay, flaunts it nearly naked style with classic apple and citrus aromas, and tinged with floral notes, with just a touch of spice. After splash-down, the mouthfeel is creamy, hides its oak influences well, nicely complex, suggesting anise, cinnamon, apples and citrus and a splash of yogurt. A crisp mouth watering wine perfect for pairing with grilled fish or chicken, that has not been fooled or fussed around with too much.

What's the score: Before I flop out the score, let me preface my remarks by saying I not one of the "card-carrying" member of the ABC movement, nor am I an Acid Freak. You could however classify me as someone who loves balance [moderation is the name of the game]. 

I have dubbed this wine as "Nearly Naked" and while I appreciate this attempt to reach across the aisle, I think the reins were held just a bit too tight. So here it's my score for this wine is 87 points, but for the folks in love with Naked Chardonnay style, you will love this wine far more and want to grab as much as you can.

Price and Where to Purchase: Okay the SRP in the tasting room is $20 and I seen the price at few places online for $18. If you wanted to grab it from BevMo, you'll have to ask them to order it for you. Filed under just saying: Maybe some enterprising wine "smarty" at Costco will buy the whole lot and sell it for a stunningly lower price point, somewhere just south of $15.

Other Voices: Okay so it looks like their PR firms "gets" social media and has got word out on their 2009 Chardonnay via many other wine blogs, who've already beat me to the punch and published their reviews. 

So it's great pleasure, that I give you a snippet of review by none-the-other than the "famous" La Jolla Mom who had this say; "It’s not a complicated wine and is very easy to drink.  Balanced is the word that comes to mind. I know a lot of moms that would enjoy this in similar situations. Don’t over think, just enjoy" she gave a it score of FOUR smiley faces!

Full Disclosure: Yes folks this was a media sample that was sent last year for the review process.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Napa Valley Uncorked: 2007 Carter Cellars, Coliseum Block

“A great wine is not the work of one man, it is the result of a tradition that is upheld and refined” ~ Paul Claudel 

This semi-annual pilgrimage Napa had me arriving in the fall, while the rest of the year was remembered as the year with no real summer and lots of rainy days. With the arrival of fall in the Napa Valley you'll typically see the sights and sounds of harvest. But the 2011 harvest for many producers was pushed back because of the long cool growing season, the same just about everyone on the west coast experienced in 2011. Suddenly there was a huge heat spike and the weather was unbearably hot and many folks who had plucked far too many leaves lost a good deal of their crop. Mother Nature once again showing her toughness wasn't so good to many of the vintners in what some would call the ‘challenging’ 2011 vintage. 

This was the picture, in the Napa Valley during my visit last year. An unusual extra hot and dry harvest. But none the less, I trudged on, wearing shorts and slippahs, leaving my vineyards boots behind. I nonetheless still had a great time exploring the Napa Valley wine-trail; meeting so many wonderful people and getting know folks who I had previously only known through their twitter accounts. I got to meet many wonderful producers and sample their wines. Sampling the wine and dine scene in Napa/Sonoma, the amazing diversity of wine and great people, what more could a geeky little wine-blogger like me possibly ask for? 

So in my continual effort to span the globe looking for the "intersection of where great wines meet reasonable prices." I've come across another wonderful producer you really should be familiar with. I know many of the more savvy among the young hip 'vinosapiens' out there are fully aware of Carter Cellars. But for those of you who were like me, you now have an opportunity to get-in-on the inside track what everyone else knows. What is that exactly? So glad you asked, Carter Cellars located sharing a tasting room with Envy Wines, is making some mind-blowing juice. 

Frankly they need no introduction as everyone in the wine media has been all over their story, lauding high [well deserved] praise upon this modest operation. Folks if you like a big meaty, Napa Valley [at its best] Cabernet Sauvignon, then you need to know about Carter Cellars [whose twitter feed you can catch here]. Their wines are big, melt your face off, epic wines that will make you scream uncle and have you coming back for more again and again [not even a hint of hyperbole here].

I first had the pleasure of meeting Mark Carter, who I met through a mutual friend, who at the time for worked for Von Strasser. After the introductions, I was invited over to Envy wines so I could give their wines a swirl. To set this up properly, I'd probably tasted through about 40 or so different wines that day so I had a pretty saturated palate at the time I showed up to Carter Cellars in Calistoga. 

I was presented with a splash of the Carter Cellars 2007 Coliseum Block. The first thing that came to mind, was "wow" this is some pretty freaking awesome juice, no joke. It really rocked my world, this wines presence cut right through the purple haze I'd been experiencing and said "here I'm, drink me!"

Sniffity-sniff, swirl and long Slurp: Upon splashdown in the glass I found a dark velvet colored core, rising from the glass is a deeply scented Cabernet perfume, suggesting a freshly baked cherry pie and hints of licorice and some dusty dried herbs wrapped around a piece of sandalwood. Finally on the palate, blackberries, cherries, spice laid bare across a leather saddle. The finish is long and enticing.

About Carter: Carter Cellars is a relatively new operation [it began in the late 1990's] run by Mark Carter and Nils Venge. The wines are made at the Venge Saddleback Cellars in Oakville with some assistance from Fred Schrader. They have some interesting and iconic vineyard sources, including the Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard in Oakville, the Truchard Vineyard in Carneros, the Revilo Vineyard in St. Helena, and the Coliseum Block in Soda Canyon.

What a Blast: According to the web-site, twenty years ago people thought Henry Hossfeld was crazy because of the slope and the solid rock he was trying to grow vines on in the south-eastern Napa hills in an area known as Soda Canyon. In fact, at planting, each vine hole was fractured into the terraces with a stick of dynamite. The dramatic site where these vines are grown, is steep and terraced site much like a Roman Coliseum and hence derives the name from this appearance.

Price and where to Purchase: Well folks it appears you have to be on the allocation list [which is not hard to do] I just signed up today and can already make a purchase. Or you could buy their wines from online purveyors like JJ Buckley. Most of the 2007's are no longer available, but you can still get the wine I reviewed here for $65 in the 375ml size or opt to give their 2008's a swirl. 

The shipping charge is a bit on the over the top end of the scale. I priced out 6 bottles from both Carter Cellars and JJ Buckley and there was a huge $15 dollar difference. But hey if you're spending this kind of coin on wine, than $15 may not be that big of a deal to you.

Other Voices: A certain Mr. Bobby Parker gave this wine 94 points. See the Wine Advocate - Dec 2010 issue. He had these remarks: 

"The sensational 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block boasts a dense purple color as well as creamy blackberry, cassis, floral and subtle smoke notes. Full-bodied, opulent and rich, it has more in common with a 2007 than expected. Drink this exuberant, flamboyant Cabernet over the next 15+ years"

What's the Score: So my immediate impression of this wine was to give it 93 points and after bringing home a sample from the trip, I edged up the score just a bit to 94 points on the CCWB score board.

Full Disclosure: Yep this wine I reviewed here was received as a sample. I know fancy huh? 

By the Way: In case you're interested jjbuckley still has two bottles left of the 92 point 2004 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Revilo Vineyard they are selling for $75 apiece. Considering the new releases are $125 each for a 750ml this seems like a great deal for someone who really wants to experience a premiums Napa Valley Cabernet.

My Recommendation: Geez, go buy yourself some this wine-tastic [yes a real word I made up] juice. It will not disappoint, but it will make ya wince just a little when you get the bill. For me this is definitely a special occasion bottle of vino or to give as a gift to someone you really want to thank profusely. This wine is Napa Valley at its best!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pinot Days Report: My Top Ten List

Well the Pinot Days event has come and gone, we [the media] were rushed in and given 2 hours to visit and taste as many different wines as we possibly could. While the event boasts wines from around the world, I frankly didn't see to many wines "from around the world" being poured or represented at the Barker Hanger event.

That meant lots of swirling, sniffing and spitting out, while scrambling to make it to as many producers as possible. So it I ended up only tasting through about 15 different producers before I was bounced outta there, like a cheap date. I think this is the first time I was given a time limit at an event like this, before the hook came in to pull me outta there like a lousy wanna-be comic on open-mic nite.

But I did get the opportunity to meet some really great producers [over 90% from California] and sample some very delicious Pinot Noirs. Of course I had a few favorites and some other of whom I expected big things from, [a few I won't mention] that really didn't have the impact I thought they would. But of course you can't nail every vintage and winemakers change wineries quicker than a game of musical chairs. That said here below is my short and sweet Top Ten Pinot Noir list from this past weekends Pinot Days event, I hope you'll give these wines a swirl.

The first winery which made me say wow, was a little place called Paraiso Vineyards. Paraiso's has a 400-acre estate vineyard which lies just at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in Monterey County, Ca. A winery whose tasting room, I later discovered is right [nearly] off 101 in Soledad, that sits on the edge of the Santa Lucia Bench, in the midst of their estate vineyard. They were pouring three wines that day:  I tasted their 2008 SLH Estate that sells for $25, their 2007 West Terrace selling for $40 [clones 667 & 777] and their 2007 Faite, which sells for $65 [clones 115 & 777].

1. The 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands: 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.

Purchase Alert: I just found out today that there's one Costco in San Diego carrying this fantastic PN and selling it for a winetastic price, if you'd like to know which one please post a comment below and I will promptly get you the juicy details.

2. The 2007 Pinot Noir, West Terrace [SLH]: I scored this wine 92 points. This generous wine is truly substantial. Vivid, complex aromas embrace the senses, while dark plums, ripe black fruit and soft cola and vanilla spices draw meld effortlessly on the palate. Plush.

3. Their flagship wine, the 2007 Faite Pinot Noir, [SLH]: I scored this wine 94 points. Elegant ripe fruit, supple tannins and vibrant acidity, an amazing complexity. Folks this wine is a stunner. You'll definitely want to grab a few of these before there gone, as they are down to their last 12 cases. A run don't walk buy recommendation.

The next winery to knock my socks off was a little placed called Belle Glos, whose vineyard locations can all be described as coastal. The wines are made under the same roof as the well known Caymus label in Rutherford.  Where their winemaker [the young] Joseph Wagner is able to distill some very elegant expressions of California Pinot Noir. So at first blush these are the scores I came up with, based on just a small sampling.

4. The 2008 Taylor Lane Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir: Whoa what a stunner, selling in the medium to high price range of $44, I gave this wine a score of 94 points. A purchase now, drink one and cellar three or four for maximum enjoyment kind of wine. Best through 2012-2014.

5. The 2009 Las Alturas Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County: This was one just needs a little more time in the bottle, but it will be another stunner in a year or two with proper cellaring. I gave this wine an initial score of 91 points. Selling for $44. Best through 2012 - 2016.

6. The 2008 Clark and Telephone Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, SBC: Ripe, with a full baking spice backbone and good acidity to carry the low hanging fruit. This wine is ready and eager to please right out of the gate. I scored this wine 92 points and give it a drink now and drink often recommendation. Selling for around the $44 price range. Grab it before this one is all gone.

7. The 2008 Siduri Sonatera Vineyard Pinot Noir: This Pinot was I sampled toward the end of the day, but obviously had a enough substance to still wow an over indulged palate. The wonderful folks at Siduri Wines produced yet another winetastic Pinot Noir, geez what's new. Opens with wonderful aromas of sweet baking spices, tea and rose petals, immediately followed an amazing attack of rich fruit flavors on the palate, framed my fined grained tannins and solid acidity.  I scored this wine a solid 92 points. This wine is selling for somewhere between $25 and $40, but not entirely sure as I was not able to ascertain the price.

8. Belle Glos 2007 Pinot Noir Meiomi Sonoma Coast (Caymus): The next wine is a wonderful expression of Pinot Noir for a winetastically low price; which is the 2008 Meiomi. It's pronounced May-oh-mee and you can get this beauty at your local San Diego Costco. Not sure if any other Costco carries this wine, but if you happen to be shopping in San Diego and are looking for a inexpensive well built Pinot Noir, folks this it. It definitely won't break the bank, but it will feel like you're robbing the bank. Expressive baking spices, ripe fruit aromas abound and a silky mouth-feel. I immediately scored this wonderful wine 93 points. Why the high score, good question, because this wine tastes like it cost way more than the price tag, but you could pay way more than the Costco asking price of some $17, as it is available online at a eye-popping $22. Either way the QPR is off the charts!

9.  The 2007 Fort Ross Symposium Pinot Noir: Moving onto the Fort Ross, damn fine Pinot! Folks if you love Pinot Noir the folks at Fort Ross are not to be missed. I've already reviewed their 2007 Sonoma Coast, which was off the charts. But what you may not be familiar is the Fort Ross 2007 Symposium that has a 4% blend of Pinotage. Black Cherry and raspberry mingle nicely together with nutmeg and vanilla flavors. Damn fine bottle of wine for the price, which I gave a score of 90 points.You can pick up this bottle of wine at BevMo for $32.

10. 2007 Etude Pinot Noir Temblor Estate Carneros: Last but certainly not the least a place where you can get an Etude. Many of you Pinot fanatics are already very familiar with them, but one that should not be missed is their 2007 Temblor, unfortunately appears to be sold out [boo, hiss]. Wow, that is frustrating bringing a wine like that to Pinot Days, which is already sold out. Sorry folks I had no idea, but it was a fantastic wine that I gave 91 points and it made me say wow, which was my first impression.

The price per bottle made me cringe a bit, though. I mean c'mon $60 per bottle, really?. Get real folks because Stehpen Tanzer gave this wine a mere 90 points, meaning the price admission is a bit high. However, many folks bought it $60 bones each, must have been folks far above my pay-grade [geez] and according to their website is sold out. It was definitely a winetastic bottle of vino. Maybe the 2008 will be just as spatacular, just will have to wait and see.

I would have given it a higher score, but the price held me back. If you look at their portfolio, many of their wines prices off the chart in terms of just how expensive I find them to be, not your everyday drinkers. But what's expensive to me, may be a paltry sum to others. Don't get me wrong here, I love many of their wines, however at those prices [for me] their wines fall far outside of the "everyday" wine category.

Full Disclosure: I almost forgot to mention that I was comped admission to this event. So yes FCC, my sampling fee was waived.

Well folks that is all for now, I hope you will go out and enjoy many of these wines. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hello Cahors: Chateau Les Hauts d'Aglan 2005 Cahors

The CCWB goal this year is to continually span the globe to bring you the constant variety of "wines" available on the market today [yes borrowed a little phraseology from ABC sports]. With that goal in mind and the fact that I always love to try new wine, I was intrigued seeing this bottle of French Malbec laying in a bin at my local Costco the other day. It has been far too long since I've reviewed a bottle of French wine, but I am very happy to bring this very reasonably priced bottle of near perfection to your attention.

This bottle of French Malbec is not my first encounter with a Cahors Malbec, but sorry I was just not as impressed with my other encounters as I am with this wine in the review spotlight today. So it's with great pleasure to introduce to you the Chateau Les Hauts d' Aglan 2005 Cahors in the review that will follow.

What is Cahors: Many of us are very familiar with Argentina Malbec and have to come to love its beautifully expressed fresh and yet complex fruit flavors, supple tannins and complex minerality stretched over the nuanced canvas of acidity. But in answering the question what is Cahors, I wanted to remind you of where that noble grape has gone and where it's coming back from; the short answer is that it's the birthplace of Malbec. Cahors has a reputation for its "black wines" [meaning opaque] produced from grapes from high limestone plateau vineyards making for highly extracted [dark] wines built for aging. Cahors is area with a long rich history, but had lost its way a bit and is now attempting to rebuild that legacy.

Competition: Hey Mendoza I hope you're not resting on your laurels for a second, because you can probably see Cahors in the rear-view mirror and they're gaining ground. I know, I know there not competing right? Because as I've seen many other places [other blogs] that they [Cahors] are making different types of Malbec [say the play-nice police]. Okay I must admit in a moment of truth, that the Malbec I had last night was a bit more Bordeaux like in its overall structure and finesse, but that said I still see it as a competition between two equals. Especially if the wine I had last night is an example of what's to come and bonus even the price points are very similar. All I'm saying is, Mendoza lookout, as Cahors may just have a winetastic kick waiting as a gear not shifted into yet, but holding in reserve waiting to throttle its opponent. Competition or not, the juice coming out of these two places is pretty fantastic, so stay tuned.

The Many Names of Malbec: According to the International Malbec Days site there are "So many local names for the same grape, to some it's known as Auxerrois in Quercy and Cahors where it originates, but also Pressac, Noir de Pressac or Gros Noir, Cot in the Loire Valley and Malbec in Bordeaux as small player in blending." the last name [grape] on the list is Malbec, producing the wine we all know and love.

Laid down the Gauntlet: There's a movement afoot to grab or take back some of the thunder some may perceive as having been stolen by the Argentines. The trade association for Cahors, the region in southwestern France that can legitimately claim to be the homeland of malbec, wants their grape back [figuratively speaking of course]. Seeing the success of their counterparts in the New World, the Trade Association for Cahors has laid down the gauntlet and challenged the Argentines with their slogan: “Cahors — The French Malbec" as their rallying cry.

Swirling, Sniffy, and Slurp: While making dinner I poured myself a couple of ounces just to catch a glimpse of the color, in the glass I found an intense garnet and violet colored core, wonderful aromas of dark cherries, dark ripe plums and just a sprinkling of coffee jumping out at me. After the first sip and swirl about in the mouth, I enjoyed wonderful dark chocolate covered cherry's and seductive supple tannins leading me to the smoky silky finish. Even after the wine was gone from my glass I continued to smell the same wonderful aromas and wondered why silently why there was no one bottling it as a fragrance with the same qualities.

Discrepancy: Folks I was lead to believe from the back label put on by the US distributor, Wine, Wine Situation Inc. that this wine was 100% Malbec. But if you look at the Chateau Les Hauts d 'Aglan website the actual make up the wine is 90% Cot (Malbec) and 10% Merlot. In my opinion it's no big deal or do I see anything really wrong with that, but it would be nice to know which story was true. However for folks that moan about some wines juicing, they may wanna just clear up that little issue.

Where to Purchase: This is one thing you don't get with most folks who review wines, the-skinny on where to get the great wine they are talking about, not here at the CCWB. Nope, I take the time to get the facts that matter [like where you can buy the freaking juice]. This wine can be picked up at most local Costo stores and is selling for $20. This wine is sold out at some of their stores but the Chula Vista [East H St.] store still has a few in stock. If you don't live in San Diego, check with this fine online vendor who appears to be selling this wine for $15 and have it in stock ready to go. But the bottle shot does look different than the one I purchased, but appears to be the same wine.

What's the Score: Okay let's get down to it, this is an amazing bottle of wine for the price. Refined, complex and delightfully compelling. I scored this wine 95 points and it's the best buy of the year to date. A definite QPR winner. If this was had been made in California it would sell for three times that price.

Other Voices: The folks over at WS gave this wine a mere 92 points. That's a great score, but I gave it three more points to take it this wine toward the classic range, as this wine more than defines the mission statement of the CCWB; which is finding wines on the intersection of "where great wines meet reasonable prices."

A stunner for the original home of Malbec: Its dark purple color alludes to its old name (the black wine of Cahors). On the nose this wine is bursting with ripe black cherries, cassis, dark plums, with a touch of cedar and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. In the mouth, if you want to understand what chewy texture means, this is it! The tannins are present, but still smooth. Black cherry preserve, and cassis are the main flavors, and the finish is long and multifaceted. Ready to drink now, but has enough structure to last another 3-5 years. This is THE wine to have with a ribeye steak. By IRONNE11007966 5 stars

My Recommendation: Ummm, wow, what the bleep are you waiting for? This is a run don't walk recommendation, so get up off your collective fannies and grab as much as you can possibly afford of this fantastic juice. Because once it's gone it's gone. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pinot Days are here Southern California: Time to get your wine on!

If you love a great Pinot Noir like I do, then folks it is time to get your "wine on". What better way is there to experience some of the best NW producers of Pinot Noir than to dive into a burgundy filled pool and slurp your way through it all in one day and under one roof, than this upcoming Pinot Days event. Honestly folks is there a better deal on the horizon, umm I don't think so.

Most wine stores will charge on average ten bones to sample maybe 10 wines if you are lucky. At Pinot Days $60 gets you in the door so you can sample wines from over 125 phenomenal producers of Pinot Noir and drown in a burgundy sea of deliciousness. So what is there to think about, get your happy little wine-loving self down to the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica this weekend.

Of course who could forget the character Miles from the movie Sideways discussing his favorite vino, saying he likes pinot because"It's a hard grape to grow - thin skinned, it ripens early, it's not a survivor. It needs constant care and attention, and can only really grow in these specific tucked away corners of the world."  possibly meaning that you can't just grow Pinot Noir any where and expect it to be mind blowing wonderful, something which can't be said for many of the other well known grape varieties which are not half as fussy. His sentiments are partly based on reality as many of the very best Pinot Noirs are site specific, but I'm not sure Miles was just talking about the grape.

"Appropriately nicknamed the heartbreak grape’, no other varietal can claim to have simultaneously seduced and rejected as many suitors. The greatest wines made from the vine possess a complexity and beauty that trap consumers and winemakers alike in a lifelong search for its equivalent."Appellation America.  I think Appellation America here sums up the the love/hate relationship many have with this very fickle varietal.

Pinot Profile: Typically very light in body, featuring a light colored garnet core. When sampling Pinot Noir many find the flavors are reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, cherries and at times a notable earthy or wood-like flavor, depending on specific growing conditions and for aromas along side the sweet baking spices and whiffs of strawberry, you will also find a barnyard [nope not kidding] smell or two on occasion.

The Gist: Pinot Days is an event that connects wine enthusiasts from all walks of life directly with the winemakers themselves gathered together in one spot, creating a unique opportunity for new and even the seasoned wine geek to experience, enjoy and deepen their knowledge of Pinot Noir [pronounced Pee-noh-n'wahr].  This event will feature New World Pinot Noir, but its forerunner and modest inspiration hails from Burgundy, one of France’s most prized wine regions. This event will feature Pinot Noir planted, cultivated and produced in Oregon, and California hailing from the Russian River Valley to the Santa Lucia Highlands, Willamette to Carneros, the Anderson Valley to the Sonoma Coast to the Santa Rita Hills. Folks honestly it doesn't get any better than this

How long is the event: The three-day Los Angeles food and wine extravaganza includes two intimate winemaker dinners, the VIP Regional Tour and the Grand Festival, a wine tasting event which gives wine lovers the opportunity to experience and enjoy some of the worlds best Pinot Noir and interact directly with the gifted and passionate winemakers who produce them.

When does it begin: Pinot Days Southern California begins Thursday January 13th with a Winemaker "Table Hop" dinner at the Wine House and culminates on January 15th with the Grand Festival at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Event tickets can be purchased at Pinot Days.

What is Pinot Days: This event
will showcase over 125 phenomenal producers of Pinot Noir. Consumers will be able to sample up to 400 pinots from every important domestic PN region. Producers from the Russian River Valley to Oregon, Carneros to the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Anderson Valley to the Sonoma Coast.
More than 125 pinot producers will pour their wines at Pinot Days, including the newly-released 2008 vintage and maybe some will still be pouring the winetastic 2007 vintage, which critics have called the best PN vintage in decades, and maybe ever

The Food: Oh did I mention the food; Le Pain Quotidien as created a pairing menu that folks can enjoy, and Whole Foods is bringing fondue, pinot-friendly cheeses and meats, and who knows what else. The 2nd Annual Pinot Days in Southern California will engage all the senses with its offering of gourmet food and 400 incredible Pinot Noirs. You can also expect to find local specialty food purveyors will serve delectable tasty treats [well I hope so] which should pair well with PN being slurped down. 
Who should go: If you are a self described "Pinotphile" or just your garden variety Pinot Fanatic you should definitely find a way to be there. And just about anyone else who is new to wine or even the seasoned veterans among you, this is a great opportunity to try many styles of Pinot Noir under one roof and in one venue. The price is right and this is the 2nd time that this event has come this far south so mark your calenders now. Remember this famous French saying when considering when you want to pony up $60 to attend this event, "La coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. ~ Pascal  meaning the heart has its reasons that reason ignores completely. Hopefully I will see you there, cheers.

What's the Buzz: Pinot Days organizer Lisa Rigisich said, "Los Angeles is a real food town and the innovative culinary scene in this city is the perfect complement to the depth, complexity and versatility of Pinot Noir" and went on to say "Like chefs, pinot producers are modern day artists with an intense passion for their craft. This dynamic lends itself well to Pinot Days because it allows food and wine lovers to learn about pinot by connecting to it with both their palate and through its producer." I understand it this way, this event is going to be the bomb-diggity [yes a phrase from the urban dictionary]!
The Pinot Days Southern California event line-up:

Day One: Pinot Days Winemakers "Table Hop" Dinner at the Wine House on January 13, 2010 from 6 PM to 10 PM in Los Angeles and the cost is $90 per person. Be prepared to sit down to artfully planned five course meal prepared by the Wine House's Chef Todd Barrie, and each paired with two acclaimed pinots.

What to expect: Chef Todd Barrie, whose creative culinary style is hailed for its emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients and flavors from around the world, Chef Barrie designs his cuisine based on the wines with which he pairs, and the seasonal foods available to him, also known for his creative turns with Mediterranean-style dishes. The winemakers play a sort of musical chairs as they move seats with every course so they can share their stories with attendees [Sounds like good times].

Day Two: On Friday, January 14, 2011 6:00pm-9:00pm they will have a "Meet the Winemakers" night at the West Restaurant at Hotel Angeleno and the cost for this event is $28, a bargain for sure.

What to expect: At this Eat, Drink and Meet the Winemakers event you can expect to slurp your way through six different pinot producers who will pour the amazing fruits of their labor and the new vintage is spectacular - and Angeleno's West will prepare and pass pinot-focused, incredible appetizers.

Day Three: The Grand Finale: The Pinot Days Grand Festival on January 15th2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, at the Barker Hangar, in Santa Monica, CA. for ridiculously low entry fee of $60 per person to get into a place where you taste many wonderful Pinot Noir styles.

What to expect: Saturdays Grand Tasting will showcase over 400 Pinot Noirs and the 125 wine makers who produce them. A culinary extravaganza, the Pinot Days Grand Festival features dozens of gourmet samplings from local food purveyors. So amazing snack-age and winetastic juice by the gallon.

About the Organizers: Pinot Days was created by Steven and Lisa Rigisich out of their love for the "the noble grape." The Bay Area Wine Project holds annual events in San Francisco, Chicago and Southern California. Produced by the Bay Area Wine Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Pinot Noir, Pinot Days provides information about and access to wine-related events, wine education opportunities and wine trivia -- including articles about outstanding wine personalities, winery profiles, reviews of wine events, restaurant wine lists, formal tastings and more.

Designated Driver: Folks a moment of debbie-downer time here to be serious you will need to find someone to take you to this event and pick you up. So for Pete's [who's Pete] sake do yourself and everyone else a favor find a way to get there that does not involve you driving. Or at the very worst hang out in your vehicle and wait a few hours so you can sober up.

Stay Hyrdrated: Another debbie-downer message but it must be said over and over, stay hydrated. They will be giving out bottled water at this event, not just as a suggestion either. It is highly recommended. I've seen folks walk into these events only to be carried out later, spewing purple cookies everywhere [not a pretty site]. So don't be that guy or gal, the wine will sneak up on you faster than you think.

Spit Buckets: Those buckets are there for a very good reason. Don't be afraid to spit, frankly the folks pouring at this event are really hoping you will spit their wine out. Yep you heard me right they hope and desire for you spit their wine out and not drink it that day. But not because you won't like their wine, but because you are there to taste and not drink. So sip, swirl and then spit, you'll be happy you did.

Event details and ticket information can be found at the video below give ya a small bit of insight as to what you can expect to see, hear and slurp.

Monday, January 10, 2011

About San Diego: Costco Wines Uncorked

I wrote this article on Costco a couple of years ago and I thought it was high time to dust it off and give it a shiny new coat of paint. This is the second update on this familiar wine-buying icon, an oasis if you will of tremendous wine buying savings in a [purple] sea of overpriced wine stores.

It's my hope is that these kind updates will become familiar advice to the many vino-sapiens and aspiring wine-geeks alike about the best brick and mortars in our wonderful city to purchase wine. I've long been intending to update this article, because so much has changed since 2009 and I've learned a few new things about the bountiful bargains to be found at your local Costco wine section. Each store depending on its locations has a little bit of a twist to it selection of wines available.

To folks who may have never experienced shopping at Costco for vino, [hard to believe] finding a cache of some great wine-buys amidst sets of tires, tubs of butter, multi-packs of toilet paper and piles of discount clothing can be odd surprise. To some it may seem just a bit out of place, however folks get over that pretty quickly once they see some of the Costco prices on a few of their favorites. 

If you want my recommendation; I would be on the look out for what I call "special-buys". Those are wines that only a few of their warehouse stores will carry and is not really advertised or promoted. I've found the best way to know about these "specials" is to get to know the various [very friendly] merchandisers who work in these departments and then you'll be the insider.

In my opinion, Costco really has come along way in creating a wine-tastic inventory that will have you coming back for more over and over again [less about depth, more about cherry picking]. If you happen to be new to wine shopping or just wine in general, what you can expect to find is that many Costco stores do have some of the best deals around and most likely the Costco near you does as well. I know some of you are saying, "what you're a Costco wine shopper?" Yes, in this economy you need save every dollar you can, Costco has become the intersection of where great wines meets reasonable prices

Example One: Here's the first example of one of my finds. I found this gem at Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 which comes unfiltered! [I would recommend decanting]. On the plate you will find a dusting mocha, red and dark fruits, coiled around vanilla notes that entice you to discover again and again the lingering, seductive silky finish, no doubt honed by the 27 months in the barrel. 

I purchased this little number from Costco the other day for $29.99  $36.99 [up a full $17.00 from 2009 prices, ouch!]. Ah the cost of expanding an wine-empire, but for the caliber of wine in the bottle it's still a good value, not the QPR Champ it used to be. If you take a look around the web, you will see I saved $10 -$12 per bottle. This wine is very versatile and in my opinion very food friendly [thanks to the blending with Merlot], which makes pairing a snap.

Example Two: If you love a good Malbec you are undoubtedly aware of the huge value coming out Argentina, here is another example of a Malbec brought to via Costco Wine. The ability to offer a wine with so much finesse for so few dollars. The Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve 2007 this wine demonstrates everything that is wonderful about the Argentinian Malbec. 

Swirling, Sniffy and Slurp: In the glass a dark, opaque violet color and the old sniffer is hit with a wave of ripe berry fruit and wild flower aromas and a touch of cinnamon spice and odd citrus peel. Slurping down a big gulp, I'm immediately treated to a rich offering of ripe mouth coating sensations, with nice weight and concentration, wrapped around a soft, supple texture. An explosion of flavors dance across my palate throwing cassis and black currant along with hints of chocolate, vanilla and black pepper culminating into a somewhat narrow finish, still full of finely grained tannins, pleasing minerality and lively acidity.

What's the Score: Well it looks like the WS review mirrored my own closely, I guessed they would give it a 91, but no instead 90 points. However, they did place this wine on their Top 100 wines of Year in 2010. A high honor indeed and really confirming my thoughts. The QPR is through the roof! Folks seriously I picked this up at Costco for a mere $12.89 each [the same price as two years ago]. Again huge savings compared to their other competitors selling this wine for $15.99. But you will want to hurry up and grab a few while you still can, as this wine is selling out quickly in many of their locations.

Here is the skinny on my favorite Costco's to purchase wine from in the San Diego market:

1. The Morena Costco: In my opinion this location has the very best variety of wines to choose from, some of best hot-to-trot labels out there. Rows of wine in the boxes for many of the better labels [the high-end juice] Their lead wine-merchandiser really knows his way around a wine bottle, so don't be afraid to ask questions. Great selections of high-end and high scoring Cabernet Sauvignon and a great list of ever changing imports sure to please even prince and pauper alike.

2. The Carlsbad Costco: This store may not like being snubbed for the number two spot, sorry about that but those "be the facts" in my opinion. That said, this store has a great deal of wine-tastic labels to choose from, the selection is much better than some of other locations. Their lead merchandiser in wine section really knows his stuff and will be a good source of information in helping you to make a purchasing decision.

3. The Carmel Mountain Costco: This store is has been dubbed as New World "Pinot Heaven" my many patrons I've spoken with. So if you are a huge fan of this very popular grape and love its New World style, then this would be your Costco of choice. They also many other great labels, but this store seems to be PN centric.

4. The Mission Valley Costco: This store also has a wide selection of many old world selections, a nice variety of top labels and is well organized. I found there to be a lack of mid-priced to higher end Bordeaux, but a nice selection of  Rhone varieties. Their lead wine merchandiser at this location also really knows his inventory and is very helpful in answering questions about the wines they have on hand.

What they Finally Have: Okay folks, not sure how this became the most asked for wine at Costco and, I'm no fan of something which only poses as real wine. That said, they definitely NOW stock this wine in both the red fizzy and the white fizzy versions. Time to rejoice sweet wines fans, it looks like Costco buyers have finally heard your cries or perhaps they've taken a look at this post and got with the program. Stella Rosa is a fresh, low-alcohol 5.5%, semi sparkling, sweet, red wine best served chilled. 

A Piemontese wine made predominantly from partially fermented grape must [Brachetto] in the tiny town of Santo Stefano. If you are looking for something very similar, you could get a Lambrusco from just about any grocery outlet. You could also try this little known beer called a Lambic which is fizzy and has mild fruit flavors and low alcohol, you'll swear it's wine.

What are the benefits/pitfalls of buying vino at Costco:

Imports: One of my favorite aspects about the Costco wine scene is that imports play a large role in the Costco wine department. Because of the importance placed on offering a balance of domestic and imported wines. There are tremendous values, along with traditional well known appellations which are very appealing. I would love to see them expand their bubbly portfolio beyond the typical house-hold big-name labels.

Online: Costco use to feature a number of good wine-buying deals online as well but it appears they no longer offer wine online. However, they do have many wine storage systems, which are rarely available in their stores.

Cherry Picking: Their buyers love to cherry-pick some of the very best bottles of wine on the market today, because of their market presence you can often get a smoking-deal on some very best wines, far below what most wineries would like to let-on.

Drawbacks: Some of the drawbacks that I've observed about getting your wine-on at Costco can be the summer-heat. Some which can and does affect some of their warehouses more than others, but if you’re okay with buying premium bottles of wine, with wide temperature swings, [because we all know that doesn't matter] then by all-means, go for it. 

Another issue I've noticed is the obvious hassle happens in the parking lot, looking for a space, especially problematic on the weekends. Shopping in their stores during the busy weekend can be a bit daunting for those who may want to take their time to browse before rushing into a wine-buying decision. 

Finally, the worst thing for me is to get a corked bottle or a wine I just don't like, to find out I'm no longer able to return it.

That's it: That may be your first thought as you enter a few of their stores, my advice is not to expect Costco to have any real depth of selection. They tend to carry many of the basics, but selection varies store to store based on the demographics of the area in which you live. 

Most of their locations tend to stick the staples of the wine aisle [there are exceptions]. If a vast diversity is what you're looking for on Costco's vino landscape, you may want to look else where. Just to keep this in mind, each store has its own variety of vino, meaning you may find a particular wine in one location and none of that same wine in the other store, a definite point of frustration.

Going, going Gone: Due to volume of traffic, your new favorite wine could be here today, gone tomorrow. Just remember Costco's has an unwritten rule, "he who hesitates goes home empty handed." So if you see a wine which you know or suspect is a screaming deal, then buy all you can afford or go without.

Conclusions: Costco has some very good juice at great prices, which often will beat the market price average. Find the Costco that closely mirrors your taste in wine and build a relationship with that stores wine manager. Shop during off peak times and stock up during  the cooler months to avoid having your wine spoiled by the high heat. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Malbec Madness: The Flechas De Los Andes 2007 Malbec

”The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars." ~ Benjamin Franklin 

Hey San Diego wine fans here's another screaming deal, this time I present you with a "take no prisoners" wine of huge proportions. A wine that can only be described as smoking hot and full bodied, one that will grab your attention like a spicy Latin dance move. Best of all it will cost you so very little, but deliver so much. A wine that has a big, up in your face, kind of bravado! 

Once you pour it from the bottle the aromas immediately grab your attention, looking at the color and the taste-bud tickling flavors, you immediately realize what a great deal you got in purchasing this wine and that maybe you've sucumed to Malbec-Madness.

This wine made me think of a song entitled the "Fire Within" from the Costa Del Sol Spanish Guitar Collection [which by the way is great music to play while writing or drinking]. A song that speaks so eloquently of the many Argentine wines.

If you're a huge fan of Argentine Malbec like I am, than you're most likely aware of what the folks Wine Spectator are calling the current love affair wine drinkers are experiencing across the board as "Malbec Madness". That's because sales of Argentinean Malbec are going through the roof, folks just can't get enough of these great wines. Thus I must admit, that I to have been afflicted and very happily so, with Malbec-Madness [Muh-wah-ha-ha].

Is it any wonder that Malbecs from Argentina are the QPR champs and folks are lining-up [not literally, but you get the picture] around the block to get their hands on a great bottle vino that cost so little, but gives so much. 

In a recent article from WS, entitled Malbec Madness, Mr. James Molesworth [Wine Spectator’s lead taster on wines of Argentina] had this to say after reviewing over 600 Argentinean wines in December of 2008, [more than 50% of them Malbec or Malbec based blends] he proclaims that:
"All the foundations are in place’ for Argentina’s success in the US wine market" November 2008
This just may be the wine profile or style many of you've been clamoring for and not being able to find, until now.

Wine in the Spot Light: The Flechas De Los Andes 2007 Malbec

The Partnership: The owners of this Argentinean estate [Bodega Flechas de Los Andes] are Laurent Dassault, owner of [Grand Cru] Chateau Dassault in St. Emilion, and Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, with folks like this involved in this project, I was not really surprised at the caliber of this wine, but what did catch me off guard was the tiny price I paid for such great quality. [The whys and how's to be discussed at a different time.]

The Winery: Bodega Flechas de Los Andes is located at the foot of the Andes cordillera, to the south of Mendoza with a Duillet designed winery offering you a wine that is the a pure, top of the range Argentinean Malbec.

Treatment: The wine spent 14 months in 33% new French oak, 33% second fill French oak, and 34% in stainless steel.

The Terroir: The grapes for this wine are sourced from wonderful alluvial soils, which are prized in the world of viticulture, because it often produces grapes with a higher concentration of flavors.

Throwing Sediment: After opening another bottle of this wonderful wine just the other day, I realized after pouring myself a glass that hmmm wow, I nearly choked on the sediment in the glass. I'm as much a fan as anyone with unfiltered wines, but this was a bit overboard. Since this time I didn't have my Centellino Areadivino aerator and didn't use my decanter, boy was I caught off guard by the large sediment deposits filling my glass. It was nearly like having a mug of hot coffee chock full of grounds.

Decant Me: Some folks are going over-board [warning: danger Will Robinson, please decant] on the decant recommendation on this wine, yes this is a big wine for a little price and I do agree further decanting would be helpful.  But honestly right out of the gate [at first pour] it's a palate pleasing behemoth, make no mistake about it. So here's what I recommend: Just decant with a screen to avoid the large unfiltered sediment deposits an hour before dinner for maximum enjoyment.

New Release: Well folks the 2007's are long gone, but the new 2008's are out and available most places. For folks who shop at Costco, they have it there in plenteous supply at the moment, but beware this wines reputation precedes it and according various sources within Costco this wine is going fast. By the way, here's a little unadvertised fact about Costco, where purchasing alcohol comes into play. 

You don't have to be a member at Costco to purchase liquor from their warehouse stores. It's the hot-ticket [buzz] going on in the wine market place and folks are"Going-Gaga" [rightfully-so] over the fantastic flavor profiles from many of these Argentina beauty's of power and finesse, coupled with the amazing  price points they are selling at, it's a win/win for the consumers wallet and their palates. Thus we all are being happily inflicted with what many have characterized as Malbec Madness.
Swirly-Swirl: After uncorking the bottle and only using the Centellino Areadivino to decant the wine, I found tilting the glass to the side it had a gorgeous opaque royal purple colored core, fleeing to cerise rim.

Sniffy-Sniff: Giving it a good swirl, my senses are immediately enveloped in this robust Malbec, as it unleashes notes of blackberries, red currants, and blueberry which gets the taste buds watering.

Slurp:  An excellent velvety body and a balanced structure finishing with sweet tannins. It will age elegantly but who can resist drinking this now, I dare say I couldn't as I'm relishing each and every sip.

Pairing Partners: The folks over at Malbec Only  gave the following tips on what they believe pairs best with Malbec, "be sure you pair it with asado de tira (short ribs with the bone), flank steak, New York steak, or a rich piece of lamb", none of which I wouldn't be happy to have on my plate. On the other hand, I had it with some yummy pre-made hamburgers from Trader Joe's, brimming onions, peppers and Swiss cheese which grilled up ever so nicely, fresh home-made crispy fries and in my humble opinion this wine went freaking fantastic with my chosen pairing.

The Big Brother: What a lot of other wine reviewers don't tell you is that this wine has a "big-brother" the Gran Corte 2006 Flechas de los Andes from Baron Edmund de Rothschild estate in Mendoza. This is what they are calling their flagship wine; a blend that includes 57% Malbec, 35% Syrah, and 8% Merlot. This wine has already received wonderful adulation from the print critics, with average scores topping 94 points and the best part folks, another tiny price, selling for $35 to which I say wow. So much wine, for such a little price or as some critics like to point out another hedonistic wine for the Californian palate. Too which I say "so be it, bring it on."

Where to Purchase: You can pick up this beauty at your local San Diego Costco, where they are selling the 2008 for around a ballpark price of $16 a screaming good deal. I seen other places online selling it for similar prices and some online purveyors selling it 24.99 a price I would have gladly paid as well. If you only had bought one at the time, like I did and after consuming its absolute wonderfulness, you will like me run not walk to quietly pick up a case or more of this fantastic wine.

What's the Score: I know there are many folks who just want to know the score and move on, nothing wrong with that method of shopping. I gave this wine a score of 95 points on the CCWB 100 point scale. First, because the price point on this wine is so reasonable and two because this wine is like a high caliber rifle, it really makes an impact on the palate, making the QPR off the charts.

Other Voices: Okay so maybe your thinking, "I need another opinion" well here ya go this wine received 92 Parker Points and had this to say this very good juice:  "The Flechas de Los Andes’ 2007 Gran Malbec was opaque, deeply purple-colored, it reveals a brooding bouquet of cedar, espresso, violets, and black cherry. Medium- to full-bodied, on the palate it borders on opulence, with layers of succulent fruit, a smooth texture, spicy flavors, and a lengthy finish. It admirably combines power and elegance and perhaps over delivers in a very big way."

My Recommendation: This is a run don't walk recommendation, so you better hot foot it down to your local wine store and grab a case before they are all gone. The summer grilling season is a few short months away and you don't won't miss out on this fantastic deal. Are you still here? Ummm, what the heck are you waiting for? Get your happy little self out the door, fill up your cart, where ever you can find it and stock up. This wine will not disappoint anyone on any level, you will thank me over and over again. Until next everyone sip long and prosper, cheers!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Cuvée Corner Wine Blog: 2010 in Review

Buy wine in quantities of 6 or more bottles and get 50% off shipping with code "corner27"

Well folks this was supposed to be my very last blog-post [hey stop clapping] for the 2010, actually started writing this damn post last year and before I knew it 2011 had eclipsed 2010 and a new year was born. So before the shininess of the New Year has worn off and the last Christmas decoration is put away, I wanted to recount some of the fantastic events and great times I've had writing the CCWB. I've learned so much last year, made many new friends, seen the size of my readership grow like crazy, drank a boat-load of wine, reviewed a lot of wine, and did my fair share helping fill the coffers of wine producers via my wine related travels and filling my 300 bottle wine cave to the max.

The CCWB Mission: My one man mission is to provide you my wonderful 
readers with current, objective, relatable content and hopefully even entertainment about the wonderful world of wine. So the CCWB will be spanning the globe, looking and eventually landing on the intersection of where great wines meets reasonable prices.

Places I've Been in 2010: I can hardly believe all the amazing wine destinations I had been to last year, I mean I had to sit back and think about all the wonderful places that I've been and all the wonderful people producers, tasting room folks and winemakers I've met this year. The CCWB went to Santa Barbara County this year and revisited many of my favorite wineries and found some new ones that are equally fantastic. I also visited Paso Robles once more to re-visit old favorites and found some new winetastic places.

Last summer I visited the Washington State Wine Scene, while attending Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla, Walla Washington and fell in love with Red Mountain. Finally the CCWB found itself back in Napa Valley, coupled with a simultaneous trip to Sonoma and Stags Leap District AVA really wowed me. I can't even believe it, what a whirlwind year it has been. So in my writing this year I barely scratched the surface in terms of identifying some of the wonderful producers that you should not only know about, but should be drinking their wine on a regular basis.

Places I'm Going in 2011: My wine travels this year will not be as extensive, but will be "none the less" very exciting. These new adventures will take me back to Italy and for the very first time I'm happy to report I will spend a week in Spain [Can you see the big "purple" smile on my face?].

Oh lord, a whole week in Spain a winetastic week for sure, but barely enough time to make a dent in one of the most fabulous Old World Wine Regions in the world. Places where the Old World and New World wine styles mingle together ever so wonderfully.

For the second part of my wine travels this year the CCWB will be off to Napa once more, specifically the Stags Leap District Vineyard to Vintner this coming April 29 - May 1, 2011. Last but not least, I'll be heading to Santa Monica for Pinot Days for the exclusive trade tasting. 

Broad Appeal: This may not be that big of deal but starting last year in 2010 the CCWB became published on a couple other sites. You can see my blog on Lunch, Wine Miles [the best minds in wine] and last I was asked by to publish some articles on their site. A French run website that has some 40 plus heavy hitters of the wine blogosphere represented. Yep this folks came to me and I thought hey wine-not and I am so happy that I have, as it has increased my exposure greatly. I am very appreciative of these opportunities and want to thank them for helping me on this journey.

Other Venues: I also started writing for another site in 2010, beside my own and it's called the The Unreserved, where I publish four articles a month.

No Politics: Around the wine blog-scape, there were plenty of folks entering into the political frey with their wine blog, which had me scratching my head thinking to myself really?? C'mon folks really, are you that desperate to get your political POV on a stage, that you use your "wine" blog to make political book? I know many of you do, which only leave me with one comment, oh-brother! As for me, I really try to keep politics out of my blog, the vapid politics of personal destruction may have a place in the blogosphere, but a wine blog is NOT the appropriate venue for such meanderings. That's not to say I don't have strong opinions on the subject, because I do. Believe me, the last thing you want to hear is my political point of view. Last year you didn't see any of those thinly veiled attempts at lambasting political opponents via conversations about wine, to me that practice is just sour grapes. So if you expect to see any of that nonsense here in 2011, you will be sadly disappointed.

However, when it comes to taking on certain snobby elements of the wine community, those folks should be prepared for a canons blazing broad-side, man o'war style. Because I'm so over the some the pretentious hog-wash I see swirling about in "areas" of the wine world and will not shy away from taking it on when and where I see it, like a swirl of vinegar in a dirty wine glass stained by snobbery.

Stuff I Learned: Some tips that I've got from better bloggers than myself and from two years plus of attending wine blogging conferences. Good question, the following is some of the take aways about what I learned on how to make blog grow.

1. Find your voice and define your own style


3. Stay consistent.

4. Set ground rules for yourself and publish those rules.

5. Don't be afraid to be controversial [readers love drama].

6. Remember "sex sells" booze is sexy!

7. Remember the five W's [who, what, why, when and where].

8. Always remember you are writing for your readers and not other bloggers.
9. Brevity is the sole of wit, so don't just blather on needlessly.
10. Just be yourself, but continue to grow by learning and asking questions.

Viewership: While I would like to think readership is up [gulp], the sad truth is the only perceivable analytic stat is that viewership is up and quite dramatically so over 2009 levels. In fact I get views from all over the world. I've seen folks in South America reading about a review of Temecula. I've seen folks in China and even Moscow having at the very least clicked on a link to view the blog to read or look at Wine Service Etiquette. I've seen huge increases in page-views over 2009, with nearly 25,000 views in the last six months, compared against the same time frame last year of roughly 10,000.

Thankful: To you my viewers, lurkers, readers and the handful of subscribers, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to stop by the blog and read some of my musings about one of my favorite subjects, I'm humbled and extremely thankful.

New Friends: I've met so many folks this last year who are just winetastic people via Twitter and Facebook, who I not only talk to online, but many of whom I've met in real life. They are as genuine and real online as they are in real life. Not sure how I got over 4K in followers on Twitter and over 300 Friends on FB, but I have really enjoyed have conversations with almost everyone, that I've come into contact with. One the more meaningful friendships that I've embarked on this year is with a group of local winebloggers, who are now known as the San Diego Wine Mafia. Not just a bunch of wino's either, but appreciators of all types of adult beverages [like fine Islay Scotch]. They all bring a different perspective to the subject of wine and while most of never fully agree on a particular wine worthiness, we do have a seriously good time evaluating and joking about some the things we all have seen and heard.

Advertisers: Last year I had advertisers come to the CCWB and ask me if they could sponsor some of my posts. I was really surprised by the request and of course quite flattered [thinking huh, maybe someone is reading this blog]. So last year I added three advertisers to the CCWB and it's here I wish to thank them all personally for their support. One of my advertisers is Wine Chateau who is the sponsor of this post and it's my hope you will give them a swirl. If there are any other advertisers out there who may want to have their banner displayed on my site please connect with me via the "about me" page.

Time to Move: The CCWB is getting too big for it's britches and needs to move to my own domain. A place I can really call home. Starting this blog just over two years ago, I never thought it would go where it has gone. But the time build is now, so this year I'm going to reinvest some of those advertising dollars right back into a new website. One with far more depth than I currently achieve on this platform. This current blog platform does not has the capacity or capability I need to grow and get better. It will still be called the CCWB, I did float out some other trial balloons [names] out there but was told [my many folks] to stick with the CCWB as it's already branded.

Well folks that will wrap up some of the CCWB highlights from 2010, it has been a great ride and I look forward to all that 2011 offers in terms of opportunities to grow, learn and expand the CCWB empire. I have a mountain of new reviews to write and new wines to explore. So until next time sip long and prosper.
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