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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wine Of the Week: 2008 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo

Time to uncork another wine of the week; in the spot-light this week is Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo, a wonderfully expressive Spanish grape, known as the Cabernet Sauvignon of Spain. 

I was surprised to find this one was grown and produced in Lodi, Ca. but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this wine. Especially considering this wine had been not only gassed once but a second time with Argon food-grade gas to preserve it quality from oxidation.  

A beautiful garnet candy colored core dances in the glass, on the palate a smorgasbord of flavors and aromas; rustic strawberry, Bing-cherry, baking spices and a splash of freshly wrapped cigar tobacco. 

A great foodie type wine, showing off a nice vein of acidity and a smooth tannins. This wine sells for a suggested retail price of $21, but you can still get this wine from the "Vault" for under $20, a great price for a really well made bottle of wine. The recommended pairing Canapes of Boquerones; which is much easier to make than it sounds.

I had the chance to give this wine a swirl while I was at one of San Diego's best wine-n-dine locations; the Wine Vault and Bistro and easily found as it located right off the I-5 Washington Street exit and a quick left up to India Street.

If you have not had the opportunity to dine here, boy are you missing out. I'm always impressed the depth of their menu, the great wine-makers walking through their doors, fantastic service and how many times the proposed pairing works out rather fabulously. 

By the way if you want to have the best Martini that I've ever tasted and according to Chris the best Martini ever made, then you need to ask for one the next time you stop in. He calls it the Voyager Two-ooh-Nine. A $15 dollar Martini, well worth the price of admission. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Purple Teeth and Purple Feet: Julian Grape Stomp

Roll up your pant legs and tie up those skirts folks; it's time to jump in with both feet during the upcoming Julian Grape Stomp Festa this Saturday, September 3rd. It looks like it will be fabulous weekend weather as we heading into the fall season and what better way to celebrate the last hooray of summer then by participating in Julian's Annual Grape Stomp. 

There will also be Bocce Ball competitions, wine tasting, great activities for the kids, Italian-themed music and don't forget to to take home a fresh-baked apple pie while you are there. Julian is also famous for cider and it's not just for kids either [hint-hint], so guys don't forget your growler or just pick a few six packs. 

I found this pretty funny scene from the "I Love Lucy" show where Lucy gets a taste of grape-stomping but watch as it turns into full blown smack-down challenge, which still makes me laugh every time I see it. I hope I will see you in Julian this weekend; until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun: 2008 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo [update]

  1. "Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy."--Bertrand Russell
Oh-my I heartily concur with that thought. This is one of my all-time favorite wine producing regions in the world called; Toscana, Italy.  Well known for many things like fab-food, Chianti Classico, Brunello and an array of fantastic olive oils. 

It's also home of the Super-Tuscan. A style of wine that it has been said; has broke the mold of traditionalism and whose winemakers were billed as daring risk-takers, while the wines themselves screamed experimentation. 

Many will argue that Super Tuscans are not a wine that shows "place" and perhaps you'll even be invited to an unsolicited rant about terroir. The retort back is of course, yes you are right, that's why they call them "super"  as they supersede the boundaries of tradition, while still giving homage to their Tuscan roots.

This style of wine is a blend of non-native varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah with Tuscany's native grape Sangiovese often playing minor role.These wines were forced to be labeled Vino da Tavola [table-wine]. Most folks find that this wine lean a bit more toward being a fruit forward style of Chianti in character and flavor.

Boy do I love this place, I spent just a little over week there two years ago during the harvest and man-o-man it was hot and muggy. Perhaps not the best time of the year to visit, but a trip to the Chianti region is one I would highly recommend anyone who would love to get a first-hand peek behind the Chianti-Curtain. 

Italians are very friendly and welcoming of guests, producers of Brunello really "get" the touristy New World approach in creating the tasting room experience and have made getting around in Montalcino so much easier than their counter-parts in the Chianti Classico [my experience]. I guess the the main take-away here is to please make an appointment and then expect some over whelming. hospitality. If using GPS, I would recommend using the latitude and longitude for finding exact locations, as addresses don't seem to mean as much as they do in the states. 

Still my wife and I loved nearly every second of it, as with anything "new" there's that period of adjustment, which can take a vacation from the sublime one moment and give you anxiety attack like a "cherry" flying low over St Mere Eglise DZ in a C-130 Hercules for the first time, with the Jump-Master up in-their-grill, screaming to get the bleepity-bleep off his plane [not a pretty scene].

It no wonder the young lady checking in at the rental desk ahead of us was howling with crocodile tears after being informed that her vehicle did not come with GPS. Only after my trip was over, recalling my own experiences driving in Italy for the first time did I truly appreciate and understand her plight all the more. In thinking about some of my own experiences; I would use them as a voice of caution and not a road-block to your wine-swirling adventures abroad.

Now regarding what makes a "Super-Tuscan" so super and what they are all about, honestly there are plenty of resources on the web to find this info, so I won't be going into the detail here. Simply put, Super-Tuscans are brilliant Italian wines found with the IGT classification. If you want to read more on the subject, I did cover this topic with a little more depth on a previous article entitled, "Putting the Super in Super Tuscans"

I also wanted to point you to a site [Tuscany and Wine] that has the skinny on the subject, so click here for the details. I also came across another interesting article which you should take a look at, seeing that it has been about a decade since the rise of the "Super-Tuscan" the author Lettie Teague [WSJ] takes a look back to discover that the once highly-prized and sought after wine is perhaps a victim of its own popularity and maybe in decline.

Time for the review, seeing this wine while shopping a couple of weeks back I was really interested in giving it a swirl. It had a few good reviews and seemed very promising.  So the wine in the review spot-light today is the 2008 Tenuta Sette Ponti "Crognolo".

Th Slurp Down: After more than an hour in my the decanter just before dinner, I poured myself a little splash and wow a beautiful ruby colored core from this Sangiovese [90%] and Merlot blend. Snuffing my fat half-Irish nose down into the glass, a bit of muted flavors of cassis, plum, tar and a shot of earthy tones, not impressive so far. Now time for a splash down, nothing but silk and tight beam of ripe red and dark fruit flowing to the lush finish. It weighed in at 13% abv and will pair perfectly with any Tuscan themed entrees.

The Score: This wine may will definitely improve with more time in bottle, five in 6 months to a year before I would recommend approaching again. This wine achieved a score of 84 92 points and gets the "why-bother"  coveted, drink now and drink often recommendation. I panned this wine initially, but after opening the second bottle which I sat on for six months, I have to admit my initial impression was wrong. This is really amazing juice. So yes folks I got it wrong, chock it up to bottle variation or jumping to conclusions [your choice].

Price & Purchase: This wine can be purchased from a number of online purveyors, who are selling about $35 most places, but I picked mine up at local San Diego Costco for somewhere south of $28 at their Morena location. This wine is well worth the price of admission, those hard earned dollars would be well spent on this Tuscan Treasure. For best results, my advice would be just lay this wine down for 6 months to a year, it will improve immensely.

Other Voices: Wine Speculator, had this to say about this wine, "Very silky and fine, with currant and berry on the nose and palate. Full-bodied, with a wonderful mouth-feel. Clean, fresh and direct" and scored it 92 points and went on to say, it Offers very, very pretty aromas of crushed berry and green coffee bean. Full-bodied, with super well-integrated tannins and a polished, caressing mouth-feel. Right on point!

That's it for today folks, stay tuned for the next post as a little spring is about to be sprung in the next review, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Vintages: Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon

"With affection beaming out of one eye, and calculation shining out of the other." ~ Charles Dickens 

This quote many us know comes from a "Tale of Two Cities" where in Mr. Dickens wonderful prose evocatively relates to the reader, a vivid comparison and contrast of two cities that had much more in common than either could have imagined. 

So it is with that in mind that I want to dive into a comparison and contrast of two different vintages from the same producer. One has fawning approval from the folks over at WE, who have dubbed it an "Editors Choice" and the other hand is their "newly" released 2008 which is once more sporting the "crest" label, tossing aside the old familiar label with the grape-press [seen above].

I was sent a sample of the 2008 [full disclosure] with the new label you see pictured above. I went out to my local Costco here in San Diego and picked-up [purchased for $17.99] the 2007 with the old label.

Why? I did so because I wanted to make a comparison and contrast of the two vintages.  To draw a line of distinction; between the highly touted 2007 [fawning praise] and the yet to be reviewed 2008 [A review which you will see here first]. So yes, I'd like to say a scoop-alert is currently in progress; once more demonstrating  the power of the [agile] New-Media  [citizen bloggers] versus our traditional glossy-magazine counter-parts [dinosaurs]. 

I want to preface this review with the following statement; I am a fan of Franciscan wines [overall] and have been for quite a while. When I started drinking wine [7 years ago], I started collecting labels from the bottles I enjoyed greatly, first up in my book was a 2004 Franciscan Estate, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Underneath each label, I would scrawl-out a few unsophisticated notes about why this-or-that wine had made-the-cut to be in my wine scrap-book [geek]. This book became part of the genesis of how this blog got started in the first place. So yes, I still scrawl out unsophisticated notes and blather [drone] on and on about wine, but now it's done via a keyboard and a few well placed snapshots instead of scraping labels [okay, I still sometime do that].    

In today's review spotlight, two wines. The first is the 2007 and the second is the 2008 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon:

2007 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: I popped the cork on this wine last night and decanted for a hour or so before giving it a swirl. This wine is still pretty tight even after decanting. In the glass great garnet color like my an old beret I once wore. The nose is mostly muted except for some earthy tones and dark plum aromas. The wine has great structure, it's a bit austere at the moment, but you really get a sense of how much finesse is ready to be unleashed for those who are patient. You do get the typical earthy, pencil lead, mocha, dark cherry, black berry and a load of ripe plum flavors.

But the finish is a bit shorter than I anticipated. I think you should lay it down for 6 months to a year. The WE score was 94, but my score would be a solid 90 points. I just was not as wowed as I thought I would be. This wine can be purchased at your local Costco.

2008 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: This is the wine I received as a sample for the review process. The one thing that was surprising to me is that both wines have the identical ABV percentage. Both wines are blended with 13-14 percent of Merlot, both spent the same time maturing in oak. But where the difference lies for me between the two is that the 2008 has a bright beam of red cherries, cocoa, rich earth, fresh leather and a shot of tar, leading to a plush finish. A much rounder mouth feel over-all, and loads of low-hanging fruit.

The folks I shared it with thought, "oh-wow great juice" [I concur]. I also decanted this wine in a similar decanter as the 2007 for about hour or so. One other difference; the 2008 has just a drop of Cab-Franc, while the 2007 does not. This wine also has great structure and will improve with some aging [don't go crazy]. But really, why lay it down as it's drinking rather fab right now.

A wine which paired nicely with grilled meats [NY Strip] or even perfect-partner for a burger and fries night while watching classically bad B-movies. My score for this wine is 92 points and gets my coveted drink now and drink often recommendation. This wines SRP is $27, it looks like the folks at Bevmo have the 08 in stock for $22, but they still have the old label pictured. I would call to make sure.

So that's all I got for you today, if you have had both vintages and would like to comment below, it would be great to hear from you, until then sip long and prosper, cheers!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Get it to Go: Vineagogo

As I have newly begun to assert I am an explorer when it comes to wine and anything associated with the wine-biz. But I am also a devout skeptic of new things. Is that a contrary position? Perhaps, but I do embrace both sides of that coin thoroughly [or at least I like to think so].

That said when I got invited to attend a Vineagogo intro-party at a swanky La Jolla location. I was to say the least skeptical, if not dubious about another start-up wine club [slash] soon to come wine store that will be making a splash upon the San Diego wine scene. Especially seeing a converted 1960 era Milk-Truck [called, Merlot] sitting in the drive way, splashed with the Vineagogo logo and dressed to the nines. 

But when the first wine they rolled out was a delicious 2008 Mont Marcal,  Brut Rosé produced from 100% Trepat [a new grape to me] which impressed me beyond belief, I thought "wow" these folks got something going on. They put the group on a course that evening for a "Traveler's Guide to the Universe" in wine terms, man I was so glad I had a ticket to ride.

See folks I don't usually, wait almost never like every wine in any line-up. But I truly liked, if not loved every single thing they poured that evening and then asked in my best Oliver Twist like voice, "May I have some more please?".  I'm so glad they didn't say no. Because the next four wines I tasted were all rock-stars of flavor and finesse. Proving my point, you can pay more but you won't necessarily get more.

Thinking back about the experience, I came up with three take-aways from the event. One, their selection of wines represent the perfect foodie type vino, which are easy pairing partners and compliment your food, rather than get in the way, Two, all of the wines I tasted that evening were in my mind truly representative of place, terrior driven. Third and probably the most important on most folks mines these days; is that a good deal of their selections represent a great values, with a tasty selection falling just under [or at] the $20 price point.

Vineagogo's Wine Director and Advanced Sommelier Joshua Orr has got it going on, this guy seriously knows his way around a wine bottle. As for the rest of their crew they represent two things in my mind from a consumers perspective; biz- savvy and very customer oriented service [rare these days]. I for one am very happy to introduce you to this new brand, that's already making a big splash on the San Diego wine-scene now and even more so once they open their proposed down-town location at the base of the Pinnacle Marina Tower [stay-tuned].

Now to the wines that were poured that evening and my thoughts on these tasty selections:

1. 2007 Mont Marcal Brut Rosé: This was a meaty rose that really popped with deeply fresh ripe strawberry jam spread on a fresh baked country biscuit. The kind of bubbly that could take on just about any appetizer plate, but still has enough stuffing to wrap itself around a plate of barbecue ribs with little to no effort and sells for $19.

2. 2009 Huber Dry Riesling: This wonderful mineral driven Riesling hails from Traisental, Austria. A nice round mouth feel fills the palate with a subtle waft of white rose, fresh cut peaches and a vein of thirst slaking acidity that will liven up your next trip to the Sushi bar quite nicely and selling for $18.

3. 2009 Kermit Lynch, Cotes du Rhone: A wonderfully well integrated red blend with Grenache fruit leading the way. Wonderful dark plum, dark cherry baked into soft puff pastry. This wine delivers on many levels, super approachable right out of the bottle, polished tannins abound in the rich earthy and leather hammock of yummy comfortableness. Great with nearly any slow roasted or grilled meats. Fantastic QPR on this wine selling for a mere $12, honestly this is case purchase territory folks.

4. 2008 Skouras, St. George, Nemea: If you thought you knew what Greek wine was all about and you're possibly making a face because you're thinking of those pine-resin like wines. Honestly, you could not be more wrong, because I'm pretty sure this wine was the favorite of the evening. This wine had all the characteristics of your fave Pinot Noir, light bodied, plush seductive baking spice, strawberry and cranberry type flavors, polished tannins and balanced acidity. Produced from 100% Agiorgitiko [St. George for short] and also popularly known as the "blood of Hercules". So do you want to drink a great PN tasting wine, without the PN price, than give this wine a swirl. It sells for a mere $14 a real stunner at this price point.

5. 2007 Blackbilly, Shiraz, Mclaren Vale: The name of this wine did make me chuckle just a bit, no not a giggle, like Anderson Cooper was recently caught doing on his 360 show. But go figure, that is Aussie humor for you. I've nearly given up on most Shiraz because too many have been over-oaked fruit bombs. But what you have in this wine is far different, subtle American oak, giving those baked vanilla spices, a few freshly chewed Eucalyptus leaves, light notes of blackberry jam, spread across a freshly toasted slice of bread on-board nicely polished tannins. This wine is very nuanced and so ready to take on many different food pairing duties, but I think you if you'd match it up with a slab of baby back ribs and some roasted root vegetables you would be a very happy camper. This wines sells for an even $20.

As you can see I was very happy with all the wines I sampled that evening, like I mentioned before I'm a skeptic and explorer. The wines poured that evening were part of a intro party I and other bloggers were invited to attend and there was no charge for admission. That said, I hope you will give these [drink now and drink often] wines a swirl for yourself and give the folks at Vineagogo a swirl as well. The wines poured that evening were fantastic at the price point offered and deserve a place in your own cellar, pantry or where ever you short-term cellar your wine. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and impressions, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wine of the Week: Carruth Cellars “North Coast” Cuvée

What do Pterodactyls, Surfing Madonna’s and a winery have in common? All three bring together the fun community “spirit” of San Diego's North Coast communities. 

But they also share something else and that is a community-conscience winery hidden among Carpet Super Stores, “cutesy” boutique shops and yoga studios in the heart of the Cedros Design District. 

A winery that could almost could be called a "garage" type operation, squeezed down the back-side of a long driveway is where you'll find the tasting room and their base of operations.

It’s a place called Carruth Cellars a Solana Beach community staple for the last 15 years, producing some of the North County’s best juice being vinted and bottled locally. With just over 400 happy Oenophile’s in their wine-club, I’d stop by and give their wines a swirl if you’re in the area. A great place to get to taste some locally produced vino, during a one-day get-away to San Diego's North County beach communities.

In today’s Wine of the Week spotlight I have uncorked their freshly bottled “Save the Ocean” Cuvée. Now Carruth Cellar’s has dubbed this wine the “North Coast Cuvee” however I think the alternate title could be a better fit considering $1 dollar of every bottle purchased goes to the cause to save the “Surfing Madonna” and also support for the Surf Rider Foundation.  

A blend of six grapes, with Syrah leading the way is a brilliant garnet color and light in body. The nose won’t really wow you as there’s not much more than some brambly dark and red fruit [perhaps because it was just bottled]. However, it's on the first slurp where this wine shows its generosity; smooth tannins welcome you in and the fruit plays nicely with the vibrant acidity. A great wine for just about any food occasion, but I’d hit it up with "the-works" from Oggi's Pizza or even better their tasty pulled pork sliders, which also make for a great pairing partner. 
Full Disclosure: This wine sent as a sample for the review process.

Where to Purchase: You can grab this wine directly from their Tasting Room in 
Solana Beach.

Price:  You’ll find this wine priced $40 for non-members and $32 for Members

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The 2011 San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

Hey Slurps-Up San Diego, it's nearly time to get your wine on during the one and only San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.The kind of event that brings together some the best and brightest winemakers and Chefs, presenting many tasty-offerings for  the wandering-wino or even the adventurous foodie to experience all the delights your palate could ever hope to encounter in one place. 

The Gist: Sip and slurp your way through a four day celebration of wine, spirits, craft-beers and chef inspired food tastings. It has become San Diego's quintessential gourmand experience for foodies and Oenophiles [wanna-be winos] alike. 

If you think of yourself as a wine and food junkie who's looking for their next "fix" like I am, then folks this event is the perfect opportunity. I mean c'mon where else can you sample, slurp, sip and spit your way through a smorgasbord of culinary delights and vineyards selections you may never otherwise have a better opportunity uncover. Basically if you love to experience great food and great wine you will definitely want to give this event an swirl. So do yourself a favor and grab yourself some tickets now, before the tasty-train leaves the station especially if you plan to take part in any of the upcoming festivities. Because it will be here before you know it and you don't want to get left behind, .

The Pièce de résistance of the entire weekend [not to be missed] is the Grand Tasting on Saturday, November 19th, by the way ticket prices for this event did sell out last year. Here's what you can expect,  there will be just over 700 different wines to tempt your taste buds. For those of wondering about the food; well there's going to be just over 70 of San Diego's Top Chefs [local] who will be competing for 50K in top prize money, meaning they will be pulling out all the stops in preparing some tastiest dishes for you to discover. 

C'mon folks honestly after watching the Dow tank again and again, all the political wranglings about budget ceilings and the mudslinging about the upcoming race for the white-house you're going to need a drink by the time November rolls around just in front of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

The ticket prices start at around $45 for events like the "Wine-Rave" experience and the [not to be missed] Grand Tasting costs $125 for the "basic" ticket [$65 for a designated driver].There are also some great package deals being offered and as they size does matter. Listed below are a few of the event highlights, for more specific information please click here for the details.

Taste-Maker Dinner Series - Wine Rave - Cooking Classes - Wine Tasting ClassesWinemaker Dinners -Series - Industry Insider's Party - Reserve Tasting & Silent AuctionGrand Tasting Event -Chef of the Fest Competition - Celebrity Chef Luncheon and Live Auction; presented by Wine Spectator

The ticket prices are very reasonable [quite the bang for your buck] for the amount of wine and great food you will be able partake of, so get your tickets now before it's sold out! Many of the events also have a charitable component, so keep that in mind when considering the price of admission.  I've included a video highlight reel from previous events that should wet your appetites for your own gourmand experience. Hopefully I will see ya there and until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fermented Thoughts: Kicking Pinot Noir to the Curb?

We've have all at one time or the other have wanted to kick an old tired relationship or a bad habit to the "proverbial" curb. That's right the "don't let the screen door hit your ever expanding posterior on the way out" kind of punt. I know I have felt that way from time to time about past relationships and have even acted on those thoughts and feelings in one way or the other.

But when it comes to wine, I really don't think I could ever do that, especially in the case of one of my favorite varietals, which is Pinot Noir. Its seductive prowess is too much for most mortal vino-sapien to over-come, myself included. I can't do what is being suggested by Lettie Teague in her column this week;  Saying Goodbye to Pinot Noir—for a While. Perhaps her current love-affair with Pinot Noir can best be described by the Classic-Rock super-stars Led Zeppelin who had once sung, "You know I can't quit you baby, so I'm gonna put you down for a while". 

I read this article today and just thought "what"? As much as I like and appreciate her columns and with all due respect I thought; Oh c'mon these types of articles are nothing new, she [Lettie Teague] had written a very similar article a while back about how the "fad" of Super Tuscan's had faded away. Mainly because of the expense and secondly because these wines had ran their course [fifteen minutes of fame] and now it was time to move on to other varietals. Okay I totally get the "hey give other varietals a swirl" speech [variety is the spice of life], but to intimate that you will be kicking the varietal to proverbial curb for the foreseeable future, is in my opinion just plain silly.   

So with that said, I like to roll out for you ten Pinot Noir producers who are making staggeringly wonderful juice for under $40 [depending on where you shop] that in my opinion will impress the hell out of your palate. Because as I've personally experienced more than once and is reflected in my small cellar at home, "you can pay more, but it does not always mean you will get more". So with no further ado, here are some of my "fave" PN producers.

Give these wines a swirl and tell me if I'm dead wrong or right on the mark. I think you will come away with one thought, "Umm, kicking Pinot Noir to the curb is not something I ever plan to do". In the end I think most of us are explorers by nature and you surely don't need me to tell you where to take your palate on vacation. But, I would invite each and everyone you to continue to explore the diverse selection of wines that are just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Until next time everyone sip long and prosper, cheers!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wine Of the Week: St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel 2008

"When I look back now, it seemed summer use to last forever and if I had the choice, yeah I'd always be there, those were the best days of my life" ~ Unknown  That's what I love about "old-vines" Zinfandel, they remind me of summer vacations, friends getting together, family and fun. Beautiful old vines that have been around longer the most of the folks who sipping and slurping on what has become California's signature grape.

So yes while the tans may fade, the memories last forever. I get the same good, good vibrations every time I drink a tasty "Old Vines" Zinfandel,  Great memories of summers that come and gone, but the flavor remains the same. In my sample bag this week is the St. Francis Old Vine Zinfandel, reminding me that Summer is still here and isn't going anywhere.....Read More

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ten Wine Tasting Tips

So you want to pull the cork on your own wine tasting adventure this summer, cool because there is still plenty of time to get some sipping and slurping in before the summer ends. It's makes for the perfect get-away weekend activity.

And is also a growing segment of the travel industry especially for folks who consider themselves a wandering-wino. One option you want to consider is a "wine-tour", many different businesses offer a tour experience, where everything is organized for you and you leave the driving to the professionals.

The desire for folks to want to get their wine-on, has in no small way been spurred on by the continued popularity of the film Sideways. The month of August is typically a great time of year when many folks are thinking about a road-trip or just a day-trip to one of the local wine-scenes in their area.

The vines are at their best [popping with color and ripening grapes] this time of year and the photo opportunities are abundant. It's still a great time to do, because football season has not fully kicked into gear, you've already picked your fantasy football teams and Baseball season still has not hit its stride with September and Octobers play-offs.

Some of the traditional hotspots for wine tasting are of course are still Napa and Sonoma counties in  northern California. While folks outside of California and the more adventurous may possibly be thinking of places like the Willamette Valley in Oregon or Walla Walla in Washington State.

If you looking for a wine-tasting adventure outside the U.S many folks rightfully turn their eyes to Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, Montalcino [Tuscany] in Italy and the a trip to Spain is not complete without a trip to Navarra, Panedes or the Rioja wine regions.

Some wine-destinations currently flying under the radar, would include New York's Finger Lakes Ava, Paso Robles and SBC's Los Olivos where there's a slew of newly opened tasting rooms in this cutesy down-town area. But don't forget about the one my newly discovered favorite wine-stomping grounds in the lovely state of Virginia, The Virginia wine-scene has some very nicely laid out wine trails, which will only help to maximize your experience, I would definitely give it a swirl.

1. Appointments:  This is one facet of wine tasting you will invariably run into and is often done because some wineries don’t have a tasting room or they don’t have the staff to accommodate a regular Mon-Sun tasting schedule [winery staff and winemakers are some of the busiest and hardworking folks I know]. So don’t be discouraged by having to make an appointment, as this can be one of the best times you will have tasting wine, 

2. Drink or Spit: Another good rule of the thumb to follow; make up your mind beforehand, if you are going to drink or spit, especially if you're plan to visit more than one winery on the same day.  Other wise the wine will sneak up on you and before you know, you could lose your bearings. If you don't feel comfortable spitting, I would recommend  you do a little practicing before hand so you can become more comfortable spitting in public [not as bad as it sounds]. If you don't see one in sight, just ask and one of the tasting-room staffers will be glad to get one for you. 

3.Designated Driver: Okay for Pete's sake do the right thing before you head out, choose someone to be the DD. Do you really want to endanger others, yourself and your friends by not taking the proper precautions before hand. A DUI won't be the worst of your problems if you drink and drive. 

4. Have a Budget:  We've all been there before so play it smart, if you’re like me it is far too easy to go overboard. I recommend the idea of taking a certain amount of cash just for your wine purchases alone. When you run out of cash, you can’t purchase anymore wine. So stay focused and fastidious about what you want to purchase and zero in the ones you just can’t leave without. 

5. Tasting-Room Etiquette: Don't feel bad if you don't like the wine, just pour it out and move onto the next wine in their line-up. Not every wine poured will be your cup of tea, so don't be concerned with drinking the whole amount poured. This is why most tasting rooms will have spit buckets near by. 

6. There's Water in my Wine Glass: I've seen this one a million times and some folks think it's a good idea. But I would recommend that while you’re in between pours that you don’t pour the water sitting on the bar to rinse your glass or allow the tasting room staff to do that either. Doing that will only dilute your next pour, ideally you only want to rinse wine with wine [isn't that why most places produce Sauvignon Blanc?].

7. Non-Retail Wines: One other thing to consider is to ask for the wines which are not sold outside of the tasting room; if they are of a good caliber I would recommend purchasing those bottles over a wine which is available at your favorite wine retailer. Some wine is allocated, thus you have buy what you can right then and there or wait on the "list"for a year or more. Which is what you will experience if you visit Turley Wine Cellars in Paso Robles as many of their wines are sold only direct to the consumer in the tasting room or you can buy them online if you are a "Mailing List" member. 

8. Ship or Hold:  This will mainly be determined by what method you may have arrived at your destination. For example if you drove, you can save yourself some money on shipping and the price varies greatly [which is something I can't figure out]. If you've flown to your destination, you will most likely opt to have your wine shipped home, especially since you can only take so many bottles back in your luggage without additional fees and carry-on well just forget about it. The smart thing to as I've discovered is one; try to fly Southwest Airlines [no extra bag fees]. The second thing, is too ask a winery for an empty case box, makes it real easy to get your wine home as an additional piece of luggage. 

9. Stay Cool: There's nothing worse for your new wine purchase than to throw them in the trunk of car during the heat of summer. I recommend grabbing yourself a couple disposable coolers and filling them with ice before you head out. For example; the temperature swings between lets say San Francisco and Napa Valley can be huge and your wine will pay the price if you don't go prepared.  

10. Wine Clubs:  So there you are in the wine tasting room where you will see and hear offers to become a wine club member. Many times it's a great opportunity to stock up on wine you won't ever see at your local wine store, because of limited production runs. This is especially true if you find the quality of the wine you just quaffed was quite amazing and you want to relive that experience again and again [since it maybe sometime before you are back that way again]. Another great thing about a "wine-club" is that if you live close by, you can really benefit from going to pick-up parties, concerts and various other "wine-lifestyle" activities many wineries having going on during the summer months. So don’t wince the next time you hear the words, "join our wine club" embrace the wine club and you’ll save on average 20-30 % off a wine you would most likely purchase anyways.

I hope you found these few tips helpful and will take the opportunity before the end of the summer to hit the tasting room trail. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Get a Taste of Sonoma for Free*

There are so many things to do and a places to go in Sonoma County that it 's hard to pick just one thing to do. There just never seems to be enough time to do everything you many want to do and in this economy some options are just flat-out expensive.

So if you're looking for something to do for the weekend or a lazy mid-week day that's easy on the wallet and tasty to boot then here's an idea I discovered a couples years ago. 

Well I've an idea; how about spending some time in Sonoma County, getting your sip and slurp on in one of the many welcoming tasting rooms waiting to help you quench that thirst.

Now for the good new, if you happen to have a Visa Signature Card* then you are luck, as any holder of their card is going to be able to get a sip of the good life for free. Yep you heard me right "free", however see their website for all the details [because restrictions do apply].

The football season is approaching rapidly [finally], but honestly folks what better time could there be to hit the wine-tasting trail, veraison has kicked into gear giving the vineyards some great color.  And of course it's still pre-season plenty of time left to for a great weekend among the vines, remember guys if it's your idea you'll look like the hero [wink-nod].

And of course the best part is that wineries of Sonoma County worked out a sweet-deal with Visa Signature Card to defray the cost of wine-tasting. To make it even easier there is a printable map which directs you to all the participating wineries, over 70 included on the list. I'm pretty sure you'll find one that floats your boat. Perusing the list, I see many of my favorites, like Rodney Strong, Roth, Rued, Seghesio and Twomey Cellars to name a few.

Here are some of the possible benefits awaiting you: But you may want to hurry as this offer appears ending just before the beginning of the new year [participation varies, call ahead to confirm details].
  • Two complimentary tastings per cardholder 
  • Savings on wine purchased same day in Tasting Room and non-wine purchases
  • Savings on Reserve tastings and special wine-and-food pairings
Seems like a pretty good deal for the wandering wino and great way to kick-off what might otherwise be just a dull weekend. So your get your empty glass over to Sonoma and give those wines a swirl. 

The weather is perfect right now and again it's a great time to hang in Sonoma County. While you're there, I would recommend having lunch or dinner at the The Girl and the Fig, a sensory experience not to be missed. Okay folks that is all I have for you on a sleepy Sunday right before the official kick-off of the NFL season [Go Pack Go]. So until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Running with the Kingdom of Navarra: Part Two

I was asked the other day at a tasting, about how I view myself in terms of what my experience is with wine and how it effects what I write about it. I paused for just a moment and said, "I'm an explorer.” I can't say I'm a trail blazer by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm definitely open-minded about giving unknown wines and the grapes that produced them a swirl. 

Now some folks, who know me may point out that I am a bit of a skeptic and that is true. That’s especially so of emerging regions like my recent visit to the Virginia Wine Scene. But the explorer inside of me leaned into what they were pouring, gave their wines a good swirl, slurp and guess what I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the wine.  So much so that I'm very optimistic about the direction of the wine scene there and where it's heading, you should be as well. 

That said today's review will center on what could hardly be called a new region, but to say it's an emerging region would not be accurate either. I like to think of Navarra as a reemerging region. Having now been exposed to many of their wines over the past few months, I would have to say that this region is set to start turning heads in the Vino-Sapien world. What I would like to see is a little more visibility; meaning seeing it on wine-store shelves or on restaurant wine lists in the U.S. market place. Of the wines I've tasted, I will highlight a few [five to be precise] of my favorites, that I believe would make any wanna-be wino do the happy dance.

As someone that has done his fair share of abusing my liver in the pursuit of "finding great juice for a great price" by drinking, tasting, slurping and in some case spitting various wines over the years I'm really beginning to truly appreciate Spanish wine as a whole and the wines of Navarra in particular. Having visited Spain this summer for the first time, I've developed a real affinity for Spanish culture, even though I only got a quick glimpse. Which is why I'm excited to say I've been picked as one of the Navarra Five, to explore this region first hand. To say I'm excited would and could not fully explain how pumped I'm for this trip back to Spain. 

I was part of a recent online "live" taste event called the "Wines of Navarra" earlier this summer. It was a great tasting and nearly everyone involved really dug the overall quality profile of a majority of the wines in the tasting line-up. I had a few favorites of course and those are the wines I want to high-light for you in today's review. 

 1. 2009 Otazu Chardonnay: First this is the second time, I've had a wine from these folks and wow they impressed me enough both times to write a review. That said, this wine is extremely well made for its small SRP of $14. Crisp refreshing acidity from start to finish,  a nice vein of minerality running through granny-smith apples and bright citrus. Stainless steel fermented for that famous 'naked" fruit taste. This is a great food wine, sure to please a majority of palates.  

 2. The 2010 Señorío de Sarría Old Vine Garnacha: If you love a really good rosé this 100% Garnacha would be a great choice for the long dog days of summer, when you're jonesing for a refreshing quaff that taste like a basket of fresh picked ripe strawberries and dried rose petals. This wine has a nice substance to it and would also pair nicely with mochiko chicken and potato salad. It sells for a SRP of $16 and 14% ABV.

3. 2007 Albret French Oak: A blend of Cab, Merlot and Temp. The name on the bottle made me kind of scratch my head a bit, "French Oak" umm okay. I got past the quirky naming rather quickly as I started to evaluate the wine. I'm a huge fan of blends and this wine is no exception. In the glass you'll find a boat load of dark cherry, subtle plum notes, vanilla, woodiness and a touch of spice. The balanced acidity keeps the fruit from dominating and the low 13.5% ABV is a pleasant surprise. The finish is complex, but not lengthy. This is a great food wine that would pair with many tapas type dishes.  The best part is the SRP of $8, yep you heard me right, and the QPR is through the roof on this bottle.

4. 2008 Bodega Insurrieta SUR: What you have with this wine is very much the characteristic flavors of a Vino Joven [young wine] but the 6 months in oak casks threw me off the trail. A wonderful blend of Garnacha and Graciano fill your glass where you’ll find real teeth staining purple and violet hues. An odd faux candied aroma dance around dried sage wood on the nose. After the first splash down, plenty of raspberry and blackberry wrapped around smooth tannins and filtered through some rich earth, tobacco in the background, teasing with a medium length finish. The recommended partner would be barbecue ribs; it should marry with the marinade quite nicely. A very good wine for the small price point SRP $13. The ABV of 15% does give a bit of heat, but is quickly minimized with a decanting.

5. 2010 Ochoa Moscatel De Grano Menudo: Oh yeah, now it's time for dessert. If you got a hankering for something sweet or you are looking for the ideal wine to pair with a summer style dessert than you are in luck because this hits every note.  A few musky grape overtones, white peaches and floral flavors dominate, but are not over powering.  A nice vein of acidity, keeps this wine fresh. It's a bit viscous, I believe it would pair nicely with fresh fruit strudel [Hans and Harry's Bakery ]or a bit of fruit salad. But perhaps a bowl fresh cut peaches clinging to some vanilla ice cream would be ideal, I think so. It's selling in the 375ml bottle for a SRP of $20.

The wines from the Kingdom of Navarra represent great values in wine for everyday quaffing and beyond. You'll find a wonderful depth of flavors and many tasty pairing options are to be found in the vino you can find from this unique region. Seek them out, give them a swirl and please let me know what you think. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wine Of the Week: Bodegas Juan Gil 2009 Monastrell

Hey Spanish wine fans, here's another stunner from the shores of Spain produced by our friends at Bodegas Juan Gil in Jumilla.

A wine that's not only easy on the eye's but also on the wallet. Speaking of wallets, I know many folks took a bath the other day on the stock market plunge, but good news there still plenty of good juice on the for very reasonable prices to help you cope.

So hey forget about debt ceilings and political wranglings for just a moment, it's time to uncork another wine of the week and time to get your grill-on! We are in the midst of picture perfect weather here in San Diego, BBQ season is still in full swing. Read More:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The CIA Uncorked: Greystone Cellars Chardonnay 2010

When you here someone talk about the CIA or that they have been there [either to visit or not by choice] many things can come to mind; like espionage, intrigue, spy-games or perhaps a dangerous liaison or two.

One thing that usually does not immediately spring to mind is private label wine, found among chef inspired dishes. Unless of course we are not talking about the trench-coated spies of the CIA, oh-no this CIA is one of the most celebrated culinary art schools here in the states.

You may be disappointed to know, that you won't find any folks with dark shades skulking around corners, instead what you will find are students dressed in white-chef-coats, learning how to produce many of the finest culinary creations , just waiting to tickle the taste buds. The now well known, foodie approved CIA headquarters in St. Helena, California is located on what is known as the Greystone Campus. Upon entering the main building, it has a "Hogwarts" look and feel about it, walking through the front door, seeing the broad-beamed stair cases.

It's known to most "foodies" and wandering-winos alike as the Culinary Institute of America. It's a great place to visit the next time you find yourself in heart of Napa wine country [right off historic highway 29], if you not done so already. A wonderful respite from the hurried pace of the Napa tasting room scene to grab a bite of lunch [make a reservation], before heading back out to the next winery tasting room on your list.

The Culinary Institute of America has developed a "private-label" wine program. From that program has come one of the better values in California Chardonnay in quite a long time, which is the wine in this weeks spotlight. The Greystone Chardonnay and their current 2010 vintage, which I received as a sample. Using predominantly fruit from the Santa Barbara area, they crafted a really well made Chardonnay that something to offer every palate, I also found this wine an easy food pairing champion.

When it came time for pairing ideas, this wine had me thinking seared bacon wrapped scallops on a bed of linguine, a delicate white-wine sauce, a meal that would meld effortlessly with this Chardonnay. This wine is best served cool and is immediately approachable after being uncorked. You'll find pleasing tropical notes that play nicely with small bites of apple, laid over a silky body, finishing with toffee and spice.

This wine is currently [at the time of this writing] selling in the $8.99 -$10.99 range, you can pick this wine up for the lower end of the reasonable-range at your local San Diego Costco warehouse. You can also find this wine currently on the wine-menu at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant in St. Helena, selling for $30, a healthy mark-up. For the score hunters out there, I scored this wine a crisp 87 points, give it a hearty buy recommendation. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Obsessions: New World Record Set for a Single Bottle of Wine

Many folks have collections of one sort or the other. Wine of course is no exception of some folks need or just raw desire to collect things, classify and put them on shelves. Sometimes our need to trophy hunt or collect things gets in the way of good sense and we finds ourselves spiraling out of control in search that object of our desire. 

This guys pursuit of this bottle of wine appears to be a cap-stone of a life-long career in the wine-biz. Personally I don't see problem with this gentlemen paying a little more than a hundred grand for a single bottle of wine, after all it's what the market will bear. I'm not saying I would pay that kind of coin even if I could afford it though.

I'm just making a casual observation about a subject which has me curiously interested in hearing everyone's thoughts on this semi-interesting news story. Here's the story; "former sommelier and wine expert Christian Vanneque has acquired a single bottle 1811 Château d’Yquem for $117,000, setting the record as world’s most expensive bottle of wine". Read More at Wine Enthusiast.

Thomas Merton a Trappist Monk who lived in the 20th century had a word of advice about obsessions and I'm paraphrasing a bit, “We are so obsessed with obtaining the elusive, we have no time for imagination or left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have"   Interesting perspective, on today's material world.

I'm so glad to hear his reasons behind paying that kind of money on a single bottle of wine and I'm also very happy to hear he plans to uncork it relatively soon. So many collectors just collect wines with no intention to ever enjoy them or share them with others. I can't wait to hear his thoughts and impressions about a wine that was in the bottle when James Madison was still a sitting president in the Oval Office. 

But what do you think? Is paying that kind of coin just over the top? Or if you had that kind of discretionary income, would you spend it on a single bottle of wine? Of course I understand that this just isn't any bottle of wine, that it has a few unique qualities that make it different than just any bottle of Château d’Yquem. I look forward to your thoughts and impressions. Until next time sip long and prosper everyone, cheers!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cheese with that Wine: 2010 Zagarron, "Sandogal" Organic AirénAirén

I'm pretty sure we've all either said it or at the very least thought it, hey buddy would you like some cheese with that whine? Okay maybe there are a few you out there that have not done either, but you are the exception and not the rule.

To the more puritan minded folks in the audience may I remind you of the words of Napoleon Bonaparte who once said, "put a rogue in the limelight and he will act like an honest man."  While none of that may have anything to do with wine and cheese pairing, it is a fun way to introduce the topic at hand.

What topic is that? Well of course finding a great bottle of wine that pairs most wonderfully with semi-hard aged cheeses like Jarlsberg. Finding the right combination of acidity and fruit is what I would call the perfect pairing partner. A wine that will maximize the flavor profile of the cheese and quench your thirst at the same time.

If this is the kind of wine you've been looking for, then stick around I think I've found a wine that does all that and more. It's called  Airen, a wine with noticeable acidic streak. A wine that is could be considered one the most woefully misunderstood and under-appreciated grapes from Spain's most abundant grape growing region, called La Mancha.Once known as a place for making bulk wines, some winemakers there have taken a different direction for the better.

I've found in Airén  what I believe is the perfect combination of acid and flavors that makes semi-hard aged cheese's like the Jarlsberg really sing. The wine is not pronounced Aaron or Erin [like the three Erin's that are my new editors over at SD Mag], but instead it sounds more like saying the tool some of us use [not talking to the rag-bags in the audience] to straighten out wrinkled clothing called, iron or more like Iren.

I recently had the good fortune to give this wine a swirl and I was very much unsatisfied with its stand-alone flavor profile of high acid, sour apples, raw almonds and lots of floral aromas and flavors. Arrgh it was honestly just awful, but like I've have said many times and it bears repeating once more, "sometimes a wine is better than the sum of its parts, when it's paired with the correct food item."

Thus is the case with this wine, which is why I'm excited to tell you about the Zagarron, Sandogal Organic Arien. The bad new , unfortunately the one I sampled is not available state-side, but there are some great examples of the wine available here in the states and  I would recommend giving them a swirl.

Okay, now where to get it outside of La Mancha in Spain, for you San Diego residents you can occasionally pick up this wine at the Bacchus Wine Market a haven for hard to find Spanish wines. You'll find this wine to be very inexpensive and like a I've said before a great pairing partner with semi-hard aged cheeses like the Jarlsberg from our friends in Norway.

Folks who are on their own and want to enjoy this combination over a few nights, just grab one of those vacu-vin, that come with the insert [plug]. Keeps out the air, enabling you to enjoy an opened bottle over a few days. I hope you will give this wine a swirl and for those keeping score you can cross this varietal off your grape bucket-list. But remember on its own, you will find it's more a like a cheap date or like the guy who still lives with his mother. Neither are very flattering or appealing upon approach, but mixed with a little aging and fermented cow's milk anything is possible. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Photo credit: EatonAlive Productions   and this bottle was a Press Sample sent for the review process.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cabernet Day: Spot light on the Oakville AVA

Fame is a bee.It has a song, it has a sting, ah, too, it has a wing" ~Emily Dickinson 

In the case of wines from Oakville I would have to say more song than sting. With that thought in mind consider the Franciscan Estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which I received as a sample.

A majority of the grapes which went into that blend were from the "famous" Oakville AVA, a very similar "terroir"as the Mondavi 2007 "Oakville" Cabernet.

Many of the Cabernet's that I've encountered from this AVA over the years are among some of the best wines I've ever had the great pleasure to have in my glass and a few aging in my cellar [such as it is].

Most of Cabernet Sauvignon's from this area are what I would consider "cellar-worthy" wines that I'm sure you will come to love and appreciate as they continue to reward the patient and those who just can't wait alike on a very consistent basis.

What does it mean when you see the term Oakville AVA on wine bottle label? The exact definition which I found in the Wine Lovers Companion says that; "A wine which has a specific AVA on the label must contain a minimum of 85% grapes grown within the legal boundaries of the AVA." in California.

But what does that mean to you the average vino-sapien out there scouting for a good deal on your next bottle of vino? In simple terms it forces wineries to produce wines using grapes from that very small 6000 acre parcel that composes the Oakville AVA; which ensures you that you are getting a premium product.

It also has another purpose it ensures the integrity of the brand for the long established winemakers and producers who depend on that designation to auger a few more dollars per bottle [I believe they call that a reputation defender].
Most wine geeks like me are excited about the wines produced in the Oakville AVA. Because it's home to some of the most famous labels in the Napa Valley like; Robert Mondavi, Harlan, Rudd, Opus One and Screaming Eagle just to name a few.

The famous Kalon and Martha’s Vineyard grow some of the most sought-after grapes in the state and are produced from Oakville fruit. So is it any wonder that a majority of the wines from producers liker Franciscan can produce some outstanding examples of Cabernet Sauvignon even in their inexpensive Franciscan Estate bottling for bargain prices if you know where to look.
For example you can pick up a bottle of Mondavi Oakville or Franciscan Estate with grapes sourced from the famous Oakville AVA for under $30.00, So run don't walk and pick yourself up one of the best value Cabernet's from Napa. These are just two representations of the 2007 and 2008 vintage that I've recently tasted. I think these wines are showing great promise for those who like to wait, but will also reward the drink now and drink often crowd as well. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Go Speed Go: WBC 11 Speed-Tasting Casualties

Go speed racer go, something many of us experience in our own lives each and every day. Frankly, I would much rather throw together a quick salad or slap a sandwich together versus taking the time to prepare more of a home-cooked meal after being at work all day.

When reading a magazine that just arrived in the mail, I like to flip through the pages [back to front] glance at the pictures, skim over article headlines and outtakes. Hell this is America, we are all in an F'g hurry, with to-do list a mile long and demands for our time pulling us six ways from Sunday. Good grief, Charlie Brown get out of the way. But hey, even Speed Racer needs to take a pit-stop now. So to we as wine-tasters and writers sometimes being in a hurry need to slow-down, speed is not always a recipe for accuracy.

It has been said, "There's three sides of every story, there's one side, the other and the truth" and I think that is true with this story. The story of Speed Tasting casualties is like anything else, there is always a grain of truth, but finding that grain is not always so easy to define.

Why? Because you've voices on one side; decrying the unfairness of the speed-tasting, especially to some wines that are a bit reticent in showing their wonderfulness until they had more time out of the bottle. Then there are still other voices proclaiming that this method is unfair to the folks behind the label, okay I don't disagree. I have even I've heard some folks behind the label voice their displeasure over the speed-tasting part of the program. Truly, I do feel for them especially if this is their only chance to make a good impression, considering the price they have to pay to be part of the program.

Still other voices questioning whether keeping the event as part of the line-up for future conferences is still a worth-while concept. That while once novel in the beginning is now tired and needing to be tweaked or thrown out. Then there still others who believe that having 5 minutes with a wine during a speed-tasting, is plenty enough time to get a good read on the caliber of the juice in question and don't see a problem with the Speed Tasting setup.

Let's get to it then and talk about the dreaded Speed-Tasting. I say "dreaded" because from what I've seen [on Twitter] is nearly nothing-but boat-loads of criticism and some whining about whether this part of the conference should be scrubbed or changed. So I wanted to add my two cents here, one because I undoubtedly will get a wee-bit of traffic [moment of honesty] and two because while I could spend all that energy elsewhere, I think a blog is best forum for having the discussion.

The Wine Bloggers Conference in Virginia presented me with the third occasion to participate in two rounds of Speed Tasting [similar to speed-dating] one for red and one for white. The folks pouring have about five minutes to pour and tell the tasters a bit about the wine. Tasters have those same five minutes to evaluate the wine, tweet about it, write a note and discuss with the folks pouring the wine. Tasters have a first impression and that is about all. Some wines really show well right from the first pour, but that doesn't mean they were the best. To me it means that some wines are just faster out of the blocks than other. Other wines, frankly need more time to showcase how wonderful they could be, but in this type of environment they don't have that opportunity.

Here's my take away: I don't think there was any real right or wrong with the speed-tasting. I enjoy the speed-tasting portion of the conference. For me it's often a good way to see the wines up-close that I may not see again and it helps broaden my perspective. If there were no speed-tasting I may not have not come came across the Montefalco Sagrantino [which showed rather fabulously in the white and red speed tasting categories]. I do believe however that it would be helpful for consumers to understand the context in which the wine being reviewed was encountered. That said; the speed-tasting could use some tweaking. What kind of tweaking? From my perspective, the event could be changed for the better by allowing tasters to have more quality time with each of the wines encountered during the speed tasting.

Here's what I suggest for next years even; instead of scrubbing it completely, just modify or tweak it a bit. My recommendation; immediately following the speed tasting it would be smart to have those same wines in lobby outside the conference room doors, with a small recommended food pairing and provide something beyond basic libby-style hotel stemware, give the wines a better chance show off.

For the folks pouring especially the red wines, if you know that your wine is a bit shy right out of the bottle, that it opens up after it has had a bit of air on it, then bring in the decanter and the empty bottle with you [or at the very least bottle shots we could access on your site].

This story is case in point; a very tasty bottle of Pinot Noir that would have been a speed-tasting casualty, because I would not had given this wine another look based on my "first" impression from the speed tasting. The 2007 Talisman Red Dog Vineyard, Pommard Clone Pinot Noir did not show well during the tasting, but fortunately a bottle of it made its way back to San Diego. I had a chance to sit down with this wine and watch it unfold.

Again after the first pour, sniff and slurp, I thought hmmm not much here. But as time went by, during dinner with some pan-seared mushrooms, risotto and wild caught sock-eye, the Talisman [from Sonoma] really kicked it into gear. A very complex wine, with layer after layer of tight raspberry, strawberry and baked cherry flavors laid over supple sandalwood and a silky long finish. A home run hitter for sure, this wine just didn't have the right place in line-up.  It sells for a SRP of $46 and was received as a media-sample for the review process. I highly recommend you give it a swirl, watch it do its razzle-dazzle followed by some razzmatazz. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

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