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Monday, December 8, 2014

Myth Busted: The Top 5 Myths about Sulfites in Wine

“A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence.” ― Rollo May

Invariably any number of folks who work in the wine-biz or wine-trades, whether it's your favorite tasting room in Napa or the wine-bar down the street, will be asked about the health effects of sulfites in wine and its supposed link to headaches.This has become even more a question in our health-conscious nation, where even the question of where their food comes from and whether it's ethical are a topic of daily discussion. Since food and wine are so tightly tied together, it's only natural that questions about chemicals that perhaps is potentially lurking in our vino, should also be addressed. Thus the focus on sulfites has become more mainstream, especially since a law was introduced and passed forcing producers to add the phrase "contains sulfites" to the ominous warning label found on wine bottles.

The team at Vine Crowd has compiled a list of the top five myths about the sulfites found in wine we all drink everyday. Done in a style, which I believe to be a similar [style or fashion] to the folks on the once [hugely] popular show Mythbusters. A fascinating show, where they take a common sense approach [aka. scientific method] to prove or disprove popular recurring myths. So, sit back, buckle-up as it's going to be a bumpy ride in the wine-wagon today on our way to discover together what is really going on in our wine and like some popular nineties show once proclaimed, "the truth is out there".

1. You or someone you know is allergic to sulfites.
NOPE, not true. Someone’s been badly misinformed. Sulfites are something that our body naturally produces at a normal rate of about 1,000mg a day. Compare that to the average 10mg per glass of wine and it’s pretty clear that if someone was allergic to sulfites, their problems would be a little more severe than a life without wine. There are, however, individuals that have high sensitivities to sulfites. We’ll get to that in a second.

2. The sulfites in wine are extremely high.
Again, not true. Sulfites are a part of the winemaking process all around the world. They are added in moderation in order to preserve wines for aging. They are also added to other foods for the same reason – anything from the vegetables in a salad bar to dried fruits will contain added sulfites. Sulfites in an average glass of wine will measure 10mg, whereas a 2oz serving of those bright orange dried apricots typically has 112mg. Yep, over 10 times as much as a glass of wine.

3. Sulfites give you headaches.
FALSE. Probably the biggest myth of all. There has been no link to sulfites and headaches in research groups – even among people with high sensitivity to sulfites. Even among the highly sensitive people, adverse reactions (mainly asthmatic) only presented themselves when subjects were given four times the normal amount of sulfites in a single glass. This is not to say that some people don’t get headaches when they drink certain types of wine or alcohol, it just shows that it’s not the sulfites that are causing them. New research is showing that headaches may be related to the type of yeast used in fermentation.

Clarification: "I wanted to clarify that the infamous ‘red wine headache’ is very real for some people, but as mentioned above, it’s not the sulfites that are causing them." ~ Jennifer Kaplan

In the June issue of the Harvard Health Letter, it says ''The red wine headache is a real if poorly understood phenomenon." and according to Marian Burros that quote is what she would call "a masterpiece of understatement."

4. There are less sulfites in white wine.
It’s probably safe to say that we all know someone that doesn’t drink red wine “because of the sulfites.” In reality, white wines have slightly more sulfites than reds.

5. There are more sulfites used in American wines.
Surprise, things listed in bold are still NOT TRUE. Though winemaking practices differ in each country and region, the amount of sulfites used in winemaking tends to be the same among Old World and New World countries. Several studies show that sulfite levels are similar throughout Europe and the US specifically. The fact that the US has a sulfite warning label but Canada and European countries do not tends to add to this myth.

Other Resources: For more information on the topic there's a great article posted entitled; Eating-well the puzzling red-wine-headache by Marian Burros who writes for the NYT. And one other insightful article on the subject; Red Wine Headaches vs. Sulfite Allergies.

This article is cross-posted at and posted here courtesy of the author Jennifer Kaplan who was gracious enough to allow the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog to post it here in its entirety. I believe the information contained in this article is important and will be helpful for the vast wine swirling and slurping public to get their heads around this sometimes controversial topic. Jennifer Kaplan article, does just that with a very common sense approach to dispelling the myths about sulfites.

I hope everyone found this article at the very least helpful and make others feel a little more comfortable about the sulfites found lurking in their wine glass. I believe we can say this myth was emphatically busted. So until next time, remember to sip long and prosper, cheers!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bubbly, Sparkling Wine or Champagne?

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right" Mark Twain

"In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it." -- Napoleon Bonaparte.

"Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it." -- Madame De Pompadour

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully." -- Graham Greene

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Orange is the New Black

“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” ― Coco ChanelChanel

While l love to quote the rather outspoken Ms. Chanel, I have to disagree with her this time, because in the case of Pinot Gris Orange from Beauregard Vineyards [Santa Cruz Mountains[ orange is the new black. This is a standout wine, for it's unique approach to Pinot Gris, its unique aromas and flavors. This was the first time, I've had the opportunity to sample a wine like this, frankly I had no idea what to expect. I really did like where it took me tho. 

This wine represents the perfect last review of the month of August, while it's hot and steamy outside, my insides were treated to the summertime sipping delights of the Regan Vineyard, Pinot Gris Orange. The nose itself I thought was quite captivating, it again reminded me of another Chanel quote. 
"Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.
The nose is pretty unique, burnt dried orange-peels, new baseball mitt [freshly oiled] but not off putting, a funky-monkey that will captivate and compel sip after sip and perhaps even the occasional slurp. It's a wine best served chilled, but not too cold. On the palate, bone-dry, high-acid, more citrus and a distinctive dried orange skins, textured tannins and a fine ground minerality. On the long lasting finish, a very compelling blood orange thang. 

For those who like to keep scores, I gave this wine a crisp 88 points. I've not had enough wines of this style to form much of an opinion, but this wine was extremely well executed, firing on every cylinder. If you'd like to grab a bottle of this wine, it can be purchased directly from the winery for $33.

In response to the question posed via #winechat "as whether this style of wine is a love and/or relationship" my immediate thought was that, "it's definitely a niche item, but a great #wine for adventurous minded vino-sapiens."
"Typically, red grapes are left on the skins during fermentation, while there is no skin contact when making white wines. However, sometimes a winemaker will choose to let macerated white grapes ferment on the skins. The result of this process is known as an orange wine."
But I'd definitely say further, most wine drinkers don't use the word the word "hate" when speaking of wines they don't like, [with the possible exception of cheap bulk wines posing as the real thing] they tend to use words or phrases like, "that's not my cup of tea" or I don't prefer that style of wine. Something greatly akin to my general disdain for much of the domestic Sauvignon Blanc I encounter. 

The recommend pairing for this wine is Havarti Cheese, because of its creamy texture, wines high acid and red wine like tannins are perfect pairing partners. I unfortunately did not have any of that cheese on tap, seeing I'd not done the required shopping ahead of time. But what I did have was, what they call in Hawaii plate lunch something which is varied as the islands themselves. 
“The cultural significance of the plate lunch is that it illustrates Hawaii as a special place where all of our mixed cultures share their foods with one another,”  Matthew Gray, Hawaii Food Tours
Thanks to the lovely and fetching Mrs. Cuvee I've got this dish dialed-in good as any you'd find while traipsing across the islands. I had prepared fresh made Chicken Katsu Curry. I use fresh chicken breast instead of thighs, it's a bit healthier. It's served with white/brown rice, that's sprinkled with Nori Komi Furikake and the "golden" curry [which comes in different heat levels] which comes in bricks you break off, and bring to a boil in water. 

The preparation of the chicken is key; cut the breast into strips, rinse in water, dredge in flour, dashes of salt and pepper, then the chicken is then thrown into a bowl of beat eggs [1-2 max] and then it hits a bowl of panko [Japanese style bread crumbs]. Once those steps are complete, then it's time to "fry" best done in a large skillet, filled with 3/4 cup Avocado Oil. The fillets cook rather quickly over moderate heat, so have a paper towel lined plate ready to go take on the perfectly cooked fillets. 

As for the rice, that is so easy. First put away that box of Uncle Ben's and bust out that rice cooker you received when you were married the first time. Bust out the bag of Cal-rose [Japanese rice] pour in two cups and then add water [rinse twice] from tap, put your finger into the bowl touching the top of the rice. The water level over the rice should meet the first crease [critical] of your finger, hit the cook button and in about 20-25 minutes you'll have perfect sticky rice. 

You're now ready to get those fillets on the cutting board, take a sharp knife and cut the fillets into bite size pieces. Cover it with piping hot curry, add a small scoop of rice, hit rice with the Furikake, add some steamed edamame and you're all set to have plate lunch perfection. Now going back to the wine, its dryness and crisp acidity paired perfectly with the dish. It's now my recommended go-to pairing. Give it a try yourself, and let me know what you think. Until next time folks, remember life is short so sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: This wine was sent as a sample for the review process. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wine of the Week: 2009 Foradori Granato

It has been said, "Wine buffs write and talk as though the food and wine will be in your mouth at the same time, that one is there to be poured over the other.  This is bullshit.  Gustatory enjoyment comes from food and wine and cigars of your liking.  So far no one has said that a Monte Cristo is the only cigar to smoke after Armagnac, Romeo and Juliet after Calvados ... but the time may yet come." ~ Clement Freud

Clement here makes some good points and he is right who am I tell you what to drink or eat for that matter? I mean c'mon we can all agree, that each of us should drink/eat what we like. But like the patrons who visit the wine store where I work, who often look for my recommendations and or opinions on certain wines before making their purchase, I only offer my impressions for your and their consideration; what you or they do with that advice is ultimately in your hands. 

I can tell you this though; many customers over the years come back to the shop and tell me how happy they are with my recommendations. I've even recommended wines while working the wine demo scene in a local San Diego Costco, only to have a customer who was visiting from Atlanta and who had purchased quite a few cases based on my recommendation to enthusiastically thank me via an out of the blue phone call. But again, please drink what you like, but if I may be so bold, if you'd like to drink better than the average vino-sapien, then please stick around for this review and the many to follow.

After being uncorked on a Thursday evening, and sealed up via a vacu-vin at the end of [COB] evening, opening the bottle again on Friday evening brought much joy. This wine improved significantly, the fruit was far more accessible, the tannins had mellowed and the fine ground minerality was much more evident. It's a bottle that just needed a few hours of decanting or uncorking the day before, to be fully enjoyed the next. I'm so glad I had another opportunity to get to know this fantastic Northern Italian gem better.

The 2009 Granato is 100% Teroldego [a new grape to me] comes from three different vineyards of the Campo Rotaliano in the Trentino-Alto Adige region in Northern Italy, very near the border of Slovenia in the appellation of Vigneti delle Dolomiti [IGT].

Many other reviewers have given this wine outstanding scores and praise, I echo a few of those sentiments but slow my roll just a bit, when it comes to the use of the word phenomenal or other jumping up and down adjectives. This wine is a beauty no doubt, offering gorgeous aromas of blackberries, dark cherries, herbs, and stiff but drying tannins. You also may notice subtle hints of coffee and lovely fine ground minerality and a vivid underlying acidity bringing the balance.

While this wine demonstrates amazing depth, underlying power and a medium sized finish, it does require patience. It’s not a wine that comes dressed to impress right away, it’s a bit of a wallflower. To fully enjoy this wine, bust out the decanter many hours before you plan to get out onto the dance floor via your empty wine stem. 

This wine is a real beauty, consider honestly seeking it out. It's a unique experience that will bring you much joy. I can't go 94 points on it, like so many have, but I'd give it at least it a solid 91 points. It sells for $54 most places and is bottled under a cork closure. Until next time folks please remember life is so short, don't settle for the ordinary when you can have the extraordinary, slurp long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wine of the Week: 2011 Elk Cove, Mount Richmond Pinot Noir

“He who knows how to taste, does not drink wine, but savors it secrets” ~ Salvador Dali

There were more a few secrets which needed to slowly be unfolded from what turned out to be quite the tasty Pinot Noir I had hoped it would be. It did take two bottles tho to discover it, as Capt. Obvious was no where in sight the first time I uncorked this wine. Some wines while excellent [or at least very good] like the one pictured above take time to understand the distinctive character they possess, if we are patient enough to see them unfold. 

After uncorking this wine and pouring myself a glass into an expressive Riedel Pinot Noir stem, the wine seemed very closed and quite standoffish to the point, that I knew I'd have to open something else until this wine was ready to go. I grabbed my handy-dandy Riedel decanter in hopes that a bit more air would/could coax this wine out of acoma. I knew there was still a pulse, but it was slow and shallow. As I leaned into close to the wine being decanted I thought I could hear it faintly saying, "Decant me for two hours or more first, then enjoy all my rustic charms long into the night!!". It was this wines rustic charms, which convinced me to feature it as the Wine of the Week [a highly coveted title]. Yes indeed, a classic example of what can often be expected from the 2011 vintage. 
“The 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot is a perfect example of a wine that has tons of fruit, but still has great characters other than fruit.  That’s when you know you’ve had low yields and hillside farming on great vineyard sites” – Winemaker Adam Campbell
I know it was two years ago, but if you will recall that 2011 was the year the entire West Coast had no real summer. The majority [blanket statement: meaning most, but not all.] of the growing season was bathed in only cloud-covered sunlight and as we all know, sunlight plays a major parting in the ripening process. 

"Mount Richmond Vineyard sits on Willakenzie soils in the heart of the Yamhill Carlton AVA. Mount Richmond sits at 300-500 feet elevation, lower than the vineyards planted at the winery, which allows for earlier ripening."
After a couple hours of decanting; the nose became much more expressive, and very pretty. I'd even say it became elegant, a vibrant note of elegance, possibly hinting at the lovely complexity waiting to surprise me? On the palate, notes of cranberry and other dark berries, spice, black-tea and briar nuances add some tantalizing breadth. I found the wine light, with raspberry fruit hitting a nice drum solo mid-palate, while veins of stem and earth play bass in the background. It’s nicely balanced, a bit rustic, but true to the variety. The finish was a bit short and sweet, but the gentle tannins and the lingering floral influences and [baking] spice notes bring it all home. Once I had this wine paired with a brilliant mushroom risotto and baked chicken drizzled with a light plum sauce, I thought the wine soared to its highest point of the evening, quite good.

Winemaker, Adam Campbell, comments,“the late and cool vintage really highlights why we choose to grow grapes on the viticultural edge. Extremely long hang time gave us wines with concentrated ripe fruit flavors, beautiful freshness and lower alcohol. These wines are why we love Oregon!”
I did receive this wine as a sample earlier this year and this is the second bottle I'm enjoying. But I'd have to say, to be quite honest that after having rested the second bottle another few months, it's showing much better than my previous experience.This vintage is unfortunately sold out; it was available through their website, selling for $43. The release of their 2012 should be due out very soon, [being a relative term] so stay tuned. If I had to speculate about the possible quality of the soon to be released 2012, it would be "wow" followed by you'd better hurry to place your order before they all disappear. 

For those of you interested in scorekeeping, I scored this wine 90 points. A wine well worth the price admission and a wine worth seeking out if you could get your hands on it. Until next time folks remember life is too short to drink bad wine, so choose wisely, drink only what you like, then sip long and prosper cheers!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Champagne Blanc de Blanc: Mumm is the Word

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully." -- Graham Greene

Some say "Grease is the Word" but in this case, with this brilliant Champagne I think someone may want to rewrite the song. Here's my suggested rewrite, what-do-ya think?
"They think our love is just a growin' pain….Why don't they understand? It’s just a cryin' shame…..Their lips are lyin', only real Champagne is Champagne…...stop the fight right now, we all know how it makes us feel - Mumm is the word!"
Today's Wine of the Week: G.H. Mumm "Mumm de Cramant" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is one beautiful Blanc de Blanc, which easily shows off its lacy sumptuous texture immediately, mad sex appeal found here. I'm so glad I avoided enjoying this Champagne in a flute and instead I enjoyed it from one of my new Bordeaux stems and yes I enjoyed this bottle with a seemingly pedestrian meal of Fish & Chips, but they did make beautiful music together. Mumm is the Word!

Here's how Mumm describes this beautiful bottle of bubbles: 
"Mumm de Cramant is a precious cuvée made in the purest Champagne tradition since 1882. A single cru cuvée of incomparable purity, blended in the time-honored tradition with a strict selection of 100% Chardonnay Cramant wines. Truly a great Champagne to grace any occasion."
Most of the time, these statements are just blah, blah, blah 'our wine is world class juice', but in this case I'd have to say I'm in 100% agreement with the statement above. This is my kind of lie detector, hook me up again and again. 

Tasting Note: You'll find this Cramant quite vibrant and creamy. Persistent, lip smacking acidity greets you with delightful flavors of fresh baked patisserie pear, bright honey-crisp apples, toasted almonds, a drop of honey and scented by acacia blossoms. This amazing juice is punctuated by a rich note of smoky minerality, quietly playing bass in the background, and a long sumptuous finish will have you thinking about opening another bottle.

Is this wine worth the price of admission? I'd like to say it succinctly and in one word, absolutely. If you'd like find out why Champagne can be so very captivating and why the word Champagne is so protected, it's because in my mind, a bottle like this one exemplifies what it means to be Champagne. There is no comparison. 

I've tasted many Champagnes and I've tasted plenty of domestic bubbly but nothing prepared me for what I'd find in this bottle. I scored this bottle 94 points, this folks is how you do it, and selling for average price of $59 at a few select retailers. Full Disclosure: This bottle was sent as a media sample. Okay that's all I've for today, I hope you have a great Wine Wednesday, pop some corks and enjoy, remember Mumm is the Word cheers!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wines of the Week: My Top Choices

"It's my contention that good food and great wines should not be the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we all strive to live-by!" ~ Wise Vinosapien

In the illustration above, you see a busy wine writer attempting to post his next article, the desk filled with more 'in' than 'out', it's funny how often that scenario plays out, in real life. Just this month, a couple cases have shown up on my doorstep, some expected and many, I'm not sure how or why they've arrived. I'm not the mass taster I use to be, tasting hundreds of wines and then regurgitating some notes on each wine. Now I like to slow down, take my time with a wine, so I can get to know it a bit better, a far better analysis than what just a one time impression would allow.

When it comes to my style and the way I do things, regarding wine reviews. I often like to say; it's my one man mission is to provide readers with current, objective, relatable content and hopefully even a wee-bit of entertainment about the wonderful world of wine. I'm continually spanning the globe [no really, just got back from Champagne] looking and eventually landing on the intersection of where great wine meets reasonable prices. I'm also fond of saying; "let the wine speak for itself and let the chips fall where they may" and if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I do just that. 

Now that said, today I'm doing something far too few wine-blogs [yes even the ones you may know and love, far more than the one you're reading now] are willing to do. What is that you ask? In today's wine roundup are wines I discovered via the traditional, ages old method of wine acquisition, the wines featured in today's review are wines, I paid good money, to have in my own cellar, and are selections I'm eager to recommend to each one of you. 

So instead of focusing solely on wines from public relations groups, samples and the like, today's review will be agenda free. I'm not going to make a nickel off the wines I'm promoting today, there are no advertisers here, pushing me to write this or that and there never will be, my opinion is NOT for sale. I want to bring these wines to your attention for a couple reasons, maybe even three. One, because, I like many people, really dig getting great bang for my buck, and while not all of the wines featured here in this review are inexpensive, many of them represent a fantastic value for the dollars invested. Second, these are all wines I'd happily purchase again. Especially so if the current lotto jackpot just happened to fall into my lap [wink]. 

The wine you see above is nothing but classic Burgundy, it's a wine I purchased to celebrate finding a new career path in the wine industry. It's another small step forward in the pursuit of goals to not only talk about wine here, but to expand those skills to the workplace where financial and professional rewards are both realized. Now that said, this wine is complex, textured, sporting that famous 2011 acidity [cool year] and still very taught tannins. 

I say classic, because there is abundant forest floor, think of licking wet mushrooms, or smelling a fallen tree branch that has been on the ground for weeks. Freshly cracked peppercorns and fresh summer bing cherries jamming on bass and did I say minerality? No, well there's plenty of that to go around as well. You could easily cellar this puppy for years to come, but it's enjoyable now. A word to the wise, decant is the word, sorry to disagree with the author of the wine bible, Karen McNeil who does not like to decant PN, instead she likes to see it evolve in the glass. Trust me, decant this puppy for a full flavored thrill ride. This wine is $54 and I scored it, 93 points. 

Jumping from Burgundy to Bordeaux, let's take a trip to tasty town via Chateau Teyssier, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru. This wine, of which I just ordered four more, is mind blowing good for the tiny $29 price tag. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, taunt tannins stretched out over a canvas of rich black fruit, blackberry, dark plums, cassis, some rustic minerality, beautifully textured, coupled with a long finish bringing it all home. It could definitely age for much longer, 2010 was one thee very best recent vintages in Bordeaux and in this bottle, you find out why that is true. My score 91 points. This is case purchase territory. 

I discovered this label on my very first wine blogging trip, one which I paid for, I was not a junketeer by stretch back in 2008. Nonetheless, the winemaker was a gracious host, inviting Mrs. Cuvee and I into his house, grabbing some pecorino cheese and a baguette and pouring his wines, we chatted for a few hours, and taking a quick tour of his property, we both quickly realized this was some of the best wines we've ever had before. I predicted back then, this label would reach super-star status and it has, but the prices have not shot as much as their winemaking fame has. I found the 2005 Pian Dell' Orino Brunello silky smooth on the palate, just a great mouth feel, but a bit more rustic than the great 2004 I brought back home. Still an amazingly authentic wine with real soul and substance, decant for an hour or more.

This wine was still in barrel when at the time of my visit, but seeing it in a wine store, I knew I had to have it. I found it wonderfully balanced, with good acidity and bonus Biodynamic farming practices to boot, way back in the day, before it was a buzzword. In a nutshell I would say that the wines made at Pian Dell' Orino offer the average vinosapien, an excellent picture into the heart of Brunello , lovely aromatics a have mouthwatering acidity, and a long finish. What more could you ask for? My score for this wine is 94 points, it sells for $59 most places. 

For those of you reading this, and fainting dead away because most of the prices above are more than $9.99, please stick around, because this is your wine. It's also one I've purchased a case of myself, an extraordinary Italian table wine, that is truly authentic, and possesses both soul and substance for just $9.99. I scored this wine 91 points, yes you heard me right, so if you want an authentic Italian wine experience without having to fly to Italy, than this is your wine. The perfect pizza wine. Great acid, beautiful light plums, floral, minerality, meaty strawberry and medium tannins. Drink now and drink often!

Another gem, I pulled from the collection a few weeks back. This wine for me, represents the joy of collecting wine and enjoying it later. I remember uncorking this bottle, and showing the label to Mrs. Cuvee. It brought back fond memories of our trip to Sonoma, where we met some like minded wine friends and had an opportunity to meet one of the few remaining Seghesio family matriarchs. Moments in time, captured by a bottle of wine, with good friends and amazing wine making trail blazers. This wine was inky, dark and brooding in the glass, throwing sediment you could see staining the side of decanter as it was poured. 

Blackberry, cassis. dark plums, blueberries, underbrush, painted across still taunt tannins, and just enough acid to carry the abundant upfront fruit. This wine is very textured, layer upon layer, opening up and evolving over the course of the evening. The San Lorenzo vineyard was purchased in 1896 by Frank Passalacqua for the sum of ten gold coins. The deed indicated a young vineyard most likely planted in 1890 and planted almost entirely with Zinfandel, but 17% of it's Petite Sirah and only bottled as this single varietal in very good years. It sells for $49.99 to $59.99 they were generous to extend the standard industry discount. I walked out this place with nearly a case. My score for this gem, 94 points. 

I acquired this wine last year, while on a quick press trip to the Napa Valley. I love 100% Cabernet Franc or near 100% wines so much, I purchased this wine at full price, their proceeds go to charity and they only offer industry discounts to other winery owners or employees. It's also owned by a nonprofit foundation that was founded to benefit international cardiovascular research. 

 A wonderfully vibrant, wine, packed like a summer picnic basket, the perfume of lavender and spice swirling around the top of the glass, and fresh raspberry, fig and blackberry fruit are easily carried by mouthwatering acidity and well-embedded structure. Lots of anise, spice on the finish. A tremendous wine, from a producer that turns many heads, with a near cult like following. This wine sells for $59 most places, I scored it 91 points. It's not thee most compelling CF, I've encountered, but neither would I kick it out of bed in the morning.

Another very good 2010, but a bit more of a modern style Bordeaux. Still it has a lovely vein of acid, which keeps the abundant red and dark fruit in check. Medium tannins and finish. Drinks like an mid to high priced Napa Valley Cab, which sells for half that price $29.99. With this kind of stellar QPR, you could easily buy 6 or [I know I have] more, and enjoy for years to come. 

Okay there you have it folks, seven more wines reviewed without anything being in it for me, my only hope is that you'll seek a few of these wines out for yourself now, or in the new future. Until next time folks remember, life is truly short, you never know when you may be uncorking that last bottle, so make it a good and please don't settle for ordinary commodity wines, slurp long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Paso Robles Uncorked

“Traveling; first it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” ~ Ibn Battuta

Many folks are starting to think about late fall vacations and or weekend getaway plans, and who can blame you, especially if you plan to be in California next weekend? So if your travel plans happen to involve visiting wine country, may heartily suggest to a trip to one of my favorite wine destinations in California, none the other than Paso Robles. 

A great little town, just north of Santa Barbara County, easily located right off highway 101. If you plan to leave from San Diego, may I suggest an early AM Sunday launch time, if not then take the I-5 and crossover on the 46W, it may take a bit longer, but you'll thank me later. 

Mrs. Cuvee and I go to Paso Robles pretty frequently, not as much as we would like to, but we were fortunate enough to visit twice last year, we always enjoy the great hospitality and the friendly down-to-earth small town feel. We had such a good time, discovered some new favorites and became reacquainted with others. We found a few new places to eat and also found a great spot to grab some sack time after a long day on the wine trail.

I've recently been asked by a couple of my friends, to recommend what I like to call hot-spots for wine-ing and dining. So what you have below, is a small, but well thought out list of some of my favorite wineries I like to visit, where I've purchased more than a few bottles and will definitely be back to see them, the next time I'm in town. I've also included places to stay and fun places to grab a bite. Btw, if you didn't know, many restaurants in town, will offer free corkage for any Paso Robles wine purchased from one of the wineries. But I'd check with them first, with a quick phone call, to confirm the policy. 

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." -Robert Louis Stevenson #whywetravel

Per Cazo: Just call ahead to let them know you'd like to visit. Their Petite Sirah is flat out amazing, a real high-light. A sit-down tasting is just the thing and the pairing with the cheese is excellent.

Tablas Creek [Rhone Zone] So many favorites it's hard to name just one.

Justin: The Savant and Justification [100% First-Run Cabernet Franc] are among my favorites each year.

Alta Colina: Their Syrah really takes flight, oh-my.

Bodegas Paso Robles [downtown tasting room] Some very good Spanish wines, I highly recommend giving a swirl, don't doubt this tip.

Lone Madrone: Their Tannat is among my favorite wines being offered, along with their outstanding 2006 Bolla, a 100% Nebbiolo. Tablas Creek and LM share the same winemaker.

Calcareous: Driving up [the long and winding road] to the tasting room, leaves little doubt about where winery got its name. Again the views from this winery are quite stunning and you'll love Syrah and Grenache. 

Herman Story: Tasting room on the east side of tracks in town. You’ll will easily get into the nuts and bolts of why their Grenache is so fantastic and other Rhone-Zone favorites not to be missed. 

Jada: Another Rhone-Zone stop that will not disappoint. Ask for the "Passing By" it's sensational juice.

DAOU: The view from the tasting room is quite stunning and the wines ranging from Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon are all quite good. You may even meet Daniel, their winemaker who's often found in the tasting room entertaining guests. All of their wines are 100% free-run.

Sextant Wines: Is just to the south in SLO, but worth the drive, so worth it. If you visit their Edna Valley tasting-room, you simply must do the cheese and wine pairing, you won't regret it. There are so many great wine choices here; it’s hard to pick just one.

Turley: If you like Zinfandel, then a trip to Zinfandel Lane is the place to be. Many of the 2008's are tasting fantastic at the moment. You have to be a member to purchase wines outside the tasting room. So if you go, prepare to take as many with you as possible.

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

L'Aventure Winery Stephen does an amazing job, please don't miss an opportunity for a visit, you'll be tempted to take cases of his wine home. But your wallet may have a hard time accepting that idea. 

Kenneth Volk Vineyards: Which shares a tasting room with Lone Madrone, a two for one bonus. Again another stop not to be missed.

Linne Calodo Cellars: A winery known for producing seven to ten blends per year; some are heavy in Zinfandel, while others rest in a more traditional Rhone blending style. Visits are by appointment only, but worth the effort.

Denner Vineyards [Make an appointment] the owner Ron Denner is a great, the wines produced there, are in many cases stellar! Rhone-Zone and some very nice Cabernet Sauvignon as well, like the Mother of all Exiles. 

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines The tasting room is located in what resembles an old school house. I know this is huge brand, if you are already a fan, a visit will only further cement that sentiment. One of the few east-side wineries I recommend. 

RN Estate: Please don't miss an opportunity to visit Roger and the beautiful RN Estate [the view is amazing], call-ahead or email for the sit-down tasting. You can expect to find alluring Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and unique Paso blends, just waiting to tempt your taste-buds. 

Pithy Little Wine Company It's a fun tasting experience and they have a GSM [Elephant in the Room] which is out of this world-good.

Now if you want to go to Opolo [okay] their Summit Zinfandel is very big, super aggressive [high abv] but blackberry jam tasty. If you happen to visit on a Saturday they often [not always] have a barbeque just out-side the wide tasting room entry way, with many tasty treats that in my opinion pair ever so nicely with the wines being offered to sample.

Dining Options: 

The Paso Robles Inn: Is a great place to grab a steak for dinner or to have that evening night-cap. Bonus: If you bring a bottle of Paso Robles Wine with you to dinner they waive corkage and the best spot in town for a quick hardy breakfast. 

Cow Girl Cafe: Great for Breakfast and very large portions.

Artisan: Wow fine-dining to be had here, a great place to eat, they have a little bit of everything, with a reasonable corkage fee.

Bistro Laurent and Wine Shop: Wow, if you bring a bottle of wine in, they will pair a dinner around that wine. Great French style and flavors at its best. 

Il Cortile Ristorante: One of the very best Italian dining experiences, outside of Italy. Order a bottle of the Grechetto Bianco with your appetizers.

Thomas Hill Organics: Farm to table at its best. But please be advised [IMO] the portions are small and they don't offer bread. If you want my advice order some appetizers.

Villa Creek: Has bit of everything and food is freaking amazing.

Now if you're looking for some low-key dining options, there are also many to be easily found in and around the downtown [aka, the park] square, along with great local bars to help quench your thirst. 

Where to stay:

For me I like to stay at the Paso Robles Inn and I always choose the spa rooms. Everything downtown is within easy walking distance from the Inn, the pricing is reasonable. Do be aware that the natural spring Spa-Waters do have an uncomfortable smell, but once you put in the bath-aroma they offer, it's pretty fantastic. And as a bonus free wi-fi is offered.

If you do choose to stay there, ask for the rooms with the balcony over the big conference room. These rooms offer more privacy, more square feet, comfy beds, etc. If you want to use the spa, it takes at least 30 min for the tub to fill-up. And don't bother with the instructions, they seem to be a bit out of date.

Now if you want a more upscale experience [there are many to choose from], Per Cazo has a lovely bed and breakfast, nice and quiet. The rooms are well appointed and logistically it's much closer for visiting wineries. They're located about 15-20 min outside of town. 

I hope you find these recommendations helpful, please let me know how they turn out for you. Until next time, here's to travel and exploration, sip long and prosper cheers!

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