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Monday, July 27, 2015

Lenné Estate: A Sense of Wonder

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ― Franz Kafka

That sense of wonderment, do you still have yours? Or has it been beaten out you, by a seemingly cynical world? Many of us may recall those bygone years; with our mouths agape looking at this amazing and wonderful world we all live in, but perhaps a bit differently now. I got to thinking about that sense of wonder, on my way home from the Oregon Wine Trail last year. 

I was waiting to catch my flight back to San Diego last year; thinking about all the different and unique styles and variations of Pinot Noir I encountered over the course of a week. Sitting at the gate, I watched two small boys playing on the 'people mover' [boys will be boys] they both were so amazed by this ingenious contraction [a god-send for weary travelers]. They were running on it the wrong way, only to give up for a moment, returning back from whence they came. But they were undaunted in their efforts; they'd try it again, and again. All the while, big ear-to-ear smiles on their faces and carelessly laughing, even though they knew that swimming upstream would result in a return trip, back to where they started. 

It's with that sense of wonder that I introduce you to Steve Lutz from Lenné Estate who I had the great privilege to meet last year during a one of many press trips I took last year before I started working fulltime as the Wine Steward for Vons.  
Lenné Estate is a premium Pinot Noir producing 20 plus-acre vineyard site near the town of Yamhill, Oregon. Just speaking with Steve, you quickly understand, his passion for making world class Pinot Noir and having tasted a good deal of his wines he produces, I'd have to conclude, even after a rocky start in the beginning, his vision has paid off in spades. His operation fits in very nicely with the likes of WillaKenzie, Shea Wine Cellars & Vineyard, Solena, Soter Vineyard and the very well-known Beaux Freres.

Steve, like those kids at the airport I mentioned above, never allowed several of the challenges [35% of the vines were lost in the first year, ouch!] he, his wife and his partners faced just attempting to establish the vineyard in the early days, deter him from his dream and as he has said, "I didn't choose Lenné, it chose me". 


"There are many gray areas in wine, but if there is one truth, it is that great wines come from poor soils." ~ Steve Lutz


He believed in the site and knew deep down, if he could just get those vines established on that awful clay-like, rocky soil called Peavine, [a nutrient poor soil] then his Pinot producing dreams would be realized. Peavine soil is similar to Wilakenzie soil and Steve says, "It's the worst organic soil in the country" it's so inhospitable to young vines, but once established this very unforgiving soil, can impart unforgettable expressions of Pinot Noir, that keep folks running back for more.  

As you can see from the image above, the steepness of the site made farming difficult and the vines were dry-farmed from the start. As a result of the crazy 2003 heat spike, they lost a few acres of newly planted Pommard vines. As our group [myself, another wine writer and Steve’s PR guy] walked through the vineyards with Steve, you could see, he was undaunted by these set-backs and was determined to capture the amazing potential this site offered, but only if he was patient. A lesser person may have given-up and thrown in the towel. Speaking with him in the vineyard, looking at a part of his site he named "kill hill" you could hear in his voice and see in his eyes, he still had that sense of wonderment, you knew he could see the beauty of this site, far beyond what we were looking at in this moment. 

As we were sitting around the table tweeting our hearts out, during a live tweet and taste at Lenne Estate, Steve commented that "I wouldn't trade this site for any other spot in Oregon" and went on to say, "I'm where I want to be". And looking out from our view, sitting on the tasting room deck, we could see nothing but the beautiful Oregon country side, making his point for him in spades. 

"The site started to reveal why you grow Pinot Noir in difficult places: to produce delicious wines totally reflective of one specific place." ~ Steve Lutz

For folks curious about whether or not, Lenné Estate is "organic" or sustainable or maybe even Bio-dynamic? I'll let Steve answer that question, in his own words “Being organic isn't a goal, making great wine is and doing it in a sustainable way is just common sense to us.” I love this straight forward answer to what seemingly is the first question out of every wine writers mouth these days. There is no reason that sustainability and profit [today's bogeyman] can't walk hand in hand, it's a model I've not only heard spoken of, but one I've seen with my own eyes being put into action at many wineries across this country, both large and small. 

This is a very young winery, and vineyard, it was nothing but a gentle sloping pasture back in the early days of the 21st century. After having tasted a bevy of Steve's wines, sitting on the deck of the tasting room, on a brilliant Oregon day [the weather, the week I was there, in two words, picture perfect] I have to conclude this 21 acre parcel has to be one of the very best in Oregon, the Pinot Noir I tasted spoke to me, quite eloquently,  struggle is part of life and sometimes you get to taste the sweet success of perseverance. 



2008 Lenné Estate Karen’s Pommard Yamhill-Carlton District: Steve remarked, that he thought “this 2008 was the vintage of the decade” and that was not the first time I've heard that same comment from many other winemakers in Oregon.  After putting a small splash in my glass, wow the nose just popped, with aromas of fresh baked cherry pie, damp-earth, wild-flowers and sweet spice from time spent in oak.  

The sweet invitation offered by the nose, had me easily surrendering to the first splash down on the palate, boom dark cherries, black cut-tea leaves, brooding tannins, lively acidity easily carrying the abundant red/dark fruit to a lengthy polished finish. This wine sells or sold for $55 but with only 49 cases I’m not sure there is much left to be found.  I scored this wine 92 points; it’s a showcase of Peavine perfection. 


The 2010 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District: Wow, a brilliantly ruby colored wine, shimmering in the glass, gorgeous aromas of sandalwood, summer ripe cherries and fresh cut wild-flowers. 2010 was not a perfect growing season, by any stretch of the imagination, marked by late October rains and a long, cool growing season, leaving the grapes to struggle to find the perfect ripeness. You can taste these factors a bit on the palate, a bit rustic than the 2008 and completely different then the fruit-driven 2009. 

But still, this wine did not fail to impress me with an interesting layer of minerality [ancient sedimentary soils of the Yamhill-Carlton District] swirling about in the background, red berries and dark blackberries mingling nicely with the baking spices and vibrant acidity. This wine sells for $45 and there appears there's still some available for purchase. I scored this wine 90 points.


The 2012 Lenné Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District: A completely different expression of Pinot than the others, most likely one of Oregon's most perfect growing seasons and also that of many West Coast Pinot Noir producers. This wine is currently not available for purchase, but you should look forward to putting in your order soon as it becomes available. This one will go fast, have no doubt. 

The nose is alluring, sweet baking spices, sandalwood, ripe blackberries and summer florals tease and tantalize the first sip. On the palate you find plenty of freshly baked cherry pie, vanilla accents, softly textured tannins and more mimicking of the nose seem to invite sip after sip and perhaps even the eventual slurp oh-my. I scored this wine 93 points, it has the stuffing to age, but the immediate approachability of this wine, will make being patient difficult. 


The wines I experienced here, were truly impressive and I'd invite you find out what all the fuss is about for yourself, because tasting is believing. I'll certainly be updating and adding the Lenné Estate to my wine tasting recommendation list. I don't want any to miss the opportunity to taste what hard-won success looks like. So if you're in Oregon, tramping around on the Oregon Wine trail, make sure you stop-by and see Steve Lutz in his new tasting room, which should be finished in the very near future. Until next time folk, remember life is short, don't settle for commodity wines, sip long and prosper cheers!





Sunday, July 26, 2015

Oregon Uncorked: Matello Wines

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

While some wine-writers only sit in front of their computer screens giving their opinions about the wines sent to them from PR agencies, still others venture out to see the place where the wines are made, speak with the wine-makers, taste the wine out of barrel and trod upon the soil where the vines grow. Travel gives writers unimaginable perspective, one simply unattainable by simply reading a book, the back label or a mere web-page. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to do just that last year, travel, quite a bit and in more locales than I thought imaginable. I hope to do more of the same this year.

In fact I went to Oregon twice last year, to get a closer survey of the wine-scene, one which is ever changing, but in some ways it's staying the same. I'm hoping to head out to Oregon again this year, I've an invitation for the harvest on the table and I can barely contain my excitement over the prospect, so I look forward to making my way back to Oregon once more in the near future.

Now about the winery in today's spotlight Matello Wines. I was given the heads up by a good friend, his name is Frank Morgan, all around nice guy, and fellow wine-blogger of Drink What You Like fame. He said, "Bill, if you're going to Oregon [lucky-dog] then you need to check Matello Wines and speak with Marcus Goodfellow.  So because I trust Frank, I made the appointment. Wow, I'm so glad I did. Again wow, I was very impressed by the overall quality of the wines presented that day and I'm sure you will find something that you just can't be without yourself.

Marcus, opened at least 7 different bottles of wine that afternoon and each one of them had an enjoyable quality, I really wanted to take one of each home, but Mrs. Cuvee was there to make sure I showed some restraint [buzz-kill]. And besides I had limited return space in my checked-luggage, even with the addition. We got to taste the Vio, Riesling, a White Pinot, a four different Pinot Noir's. The Riesling, made is a dry style was very good, pear, apple, wet-stone and well balanced.

But their 2010 Duex Vert Vineyard, Viognier really wowed me, I'm always a sucker for this varietal, but find it's rarely done right. But this wine had me at the nose and it really delivered on the first quaff, boasting of ample structure and natural acidity. This wine had some very sexy aromatics, fresh peaches and a pop of white flowers. The first slurp was, wow a pitched-tent of near summer-ripe nectarines, citrus and white peach flavors  which combine for a suave blend of richness and energy, coupled with great length. I scored this wine 91 points, it's really out-standing example of cool climate Viognier.



I know my friend Frank is partial to the Durant Vineyards and I can see why, but my palate told me that the Whistling Ridge was the place I needed to be and took two of those bad boys home. The 2010 Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir

This wine offers generous upfront fruit, right along its exceptional structure. Factors that will easily make this wine a keeper for my collection, but it’s sufficiently balanced in its youthful exuberance that it could be enjoyed immediately. The wine is fruit forward, but without being over-opulent. It hits your mid-palate and digs a well of elegant, and yet persistent flavors, baking spices, rich earth, red-fruits, cola. 

The tannins are nicely integrated and the finish long and lasting. I scored this wine 93 points, this wine is a prime example of what Oregon Pinot can deliver in the right hands. Selling for just under $40 is an amazing deal. Not sure he has even released this wine yet, but stay tuned folks, because once he does, this wine will sell quickly, don't miss out! Okay folks like I said, if you don't know about this producer, in my opinion you should and if you read to the bottom of this article, now you know. So if you've not sampled his wines yet, I'd beat a path to his door quickly. If you're in the area, make an appointment if possible or just wait until he releases the wines I've referenced above, you won't be disappointed. Until next time, slurp long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Castello di Amorosa



 “I'm reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose.” – Kobe Bryant


Learning to move forward, is an important concept to learning about and appreciating wine. It's hard to move forward if you simply dismiss, with the wave of hand, all California Chardonnay as a monolithic mess of over extraction, oak soak, and malo. I like to keep an open mind when it comes to wine, for the most part; I do have my prejudices and would be lying if I said differently. But for the most part, I'm willing to give it go, especially when it arrives on my doorstep, albeit unannounced. Unsolicited, but nonetheless a very welcomed #sample

Although I did leave a business card with them, the last time I visited back in 2012. I'm pretty sure some serious reflection was done in preparing this wine, it's far better than the typical 'California' style of Chardonnay and for that reason alone, it's my wine of the week. I like to say, "where there's is passion, there's fire" the effort that went into this wine reflections the passion and energy of the vineyards, the folks who worked the field during the harvest, and the winemaker['s] who put the final touches on the harvested grapes. 


I know, I know, I've heard all the moaning and groaning among the so-called wine intelligentsia who love to mock and scorn the audaciousness of a modern day castle built in wine country [from imported Tuscan stone] of all places. The [infamous] 'they' say it just smacks of the imperialism and at the same time flaunts capitalism oh-my. Besides that, I've heard from those same folks [via blogs and tweets] all the wine made there, is over the top or just missing the mark completely [sour grapes]. But if I had the coin [like the Sheriff of Nottingham] to build a castle like this one, I definitely would. Yes, it does have a real moat as well. I love it, the views from the top are as amazing as the expansive great hall inside. Instead of dismissing the wine because I may not like where it came from, I'll give it a go, examine it solely on its merits and then let the chips fall where they may. It's the very reason folks are still reading this blog, although I hear wine blogs are now out of fashion [I've heard this one before] again.


Now that I've flushed all the bilge water from the bowels of the castle, it's time to review the wine in the spotlight. Love, love the fruit produced from this vineyard site located in the gorgeous Santa Maria Valley. It's hard to recall the last time I had a wine I didn't appreciate in some way or another from this site. Whether it's Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, this amazing appellation has much to offer the the average vinosapien looking for a cut above the ordinary, factory Chardonnay. In this bottle, the judicious use of oak has been employed with only 50% new and 50% second use. Loving aged Sur Lie [on the yeast] and stirred for 10 months. The suggested retail price point may be a bit high for some at $38, but I believe it's worth the price of admission. Only 453 cases were produced, these bottles will quickly disappear. 

It's not often that I give domestic Chardonnay this kinda praise, but one deserves it. In both flavor and texture this wine is rich and creamy. Prepare to be dazzled by an a Chardonnay that delivers intensity and a depth of focus I rarely see. Bosc pears, peach, sweet tangerine delight the senses, nutmeg and vanilla scented oak take a back seat, while zesty acid drives the soccer moms minivan. Full bodied, vibrant and the finish is memorable. Drink now and drink often, my score is 93 points. That's it for today, all the best to you, until next slurp long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

J Wrigley Vineyard: One Stick at a Time


"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." -- Frederick Wilcox

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the Wrigley's a couple of weeks back, while visiting Oregon's Wine Country on a press trip. The primary goal of my trip was to get to know the McMinnville AVA  [also affectionately known as the Mac AVA] much better, I feel I accomplished that goal in spades. I stayed with the Wrigley's for two days, in their tasting room [which you see above, bathed in the glow of the rising sun] and more specifically the 'media-room' reserved for visiting writers and such.

The 'tasting room' is primarily constructed of re-purposed materials, a work in progress which John likens to the progress of a beaver building a damn, it's "one stick at a time", I believe from my observations, that he takes this philosophy into his daily life as well, as he and his wife Jody are building a winemaking legacy, one stick at a time.

As the quote above indicates, you can't steal second, while keeping your foot safely on first base. There can be no "playing it safe" if want to progress in life. John and Jody Wrigley, know and live that quote everyday in spades. John still works full-time and the vineyards command much of his free time, while Jody manages the other aspects of running a winery, marketing and raising the children. The vines planted are coming up on their fifth leaf and from what I've tasted thus far, this winery is going places.


Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.~ John Steinbeck

Above is the picnic table, which sits just outside the tasting room door, looking into the Proposal Block. A place where all guests are invited [albeit indirectly] to take in the view after or before their tasting, to enjoy a picnic at their leisure and to take in the spectacular view. On this particular morning, I awoke early to catch the brilliant Oregon sunrise come up in the cool, clean and crisp morning air, where you can watch the fog banks roll around in the valley below. It's a take your breath away moment, one I will cherish in my wine-tasting travels memory banks for years to come. 

You can just imagine the grapes growing in these idyllic conditions, soaking in the warm, but gentle morning sun, the temperature slowly rising over the course of the day, and then cooling down in the evening, sealing in the vine ripened perfection day in and day out, until the harvest. 


“Success always looks easy to those who weren't around when it was being earned...!”

Having spent a couple days up here, I can certainly see why the Wrigley's chose this spot, it's a premium vine growing region located to the South East side of the Mac AVA. In the picture [corner left] above, way off in the distance, you can see the Van Duzer Corridor, what some call the 'freeway' for maritime breezes.

You'll find the Mac AVA is located Due west of historic downtown McMinnville, home to top-notch restaurants, charming boutique wineries and urban wine tasting rooms, you could spend a week in the down to earth town of thirty five thousand folks and just begin to scratch the surface of all it has to offer the thirsty vinosapien. The only thing, I think I would add to enhance some of these amazing rolling hills would be a zip-line. They have one in Sonoma County and it's a blast. 

Now for the wines, I believe I tasted everything they have to offer, my overall impression is outstanding. I was duly impressed, with the overall complexity, finish, freshness and abundant acidity. The 2011 as many folks are painfully aware was a vintage which tested the will of many good-to-great winemakers all over Oregon. Now that said, the 2011 Proposal Block, composed of Pommard, 117 and 115 clones I tasted, will need to see a bit of time in the cellar, before it's ready for prime time. My tasting note, wet, damp earth, and cracked pepper.

The cross flow filtration, helped to suss out some of the reticent cherry, cranberry and the subtle baking spices. I did find this wine more approachable and enjoyable the second day. This bottle sells for $45, again I believe it will develop further with extended time in the cellar, where the patient will be rewarded.




Now the 2012 Proposal Block Estate Pinot Noir, I tasted that same day and again experienced the same bottle again the second day was a stunner. I also was offered and I accepted a sample of this wine to take home, to share with @MrsCuvee. She also gave this wine a big thumbs up, pronouncing it very good. Now here valuation scale is a bit different than mine, she has okay, good and very good. 

For her to say "very good' it is near the equivalent of her being at least 95 points on a wine. But of course I can't speak for her directly. To say the 2012 Proposal Block "wowed-me" would be a bit of an understatement, but that said, I was very impressed and I highly recommend this Pommard Clone dominated wine to you. This wine is made for drinking now and drinking often, but that is not to say it couldn't hold its own with more than a few years in your cellar. 
Over the period of another lovely week in Oregon's Wine Country, I had the good fortune to taste a good many of the wines from the MAC AVA and I'd have to say that self-taught winemaker John Wrigley has winemaking skills sharply honed after just more than a handful of vintages under his belt. Kudos sir, kudos! 

Jumping into the 2010 J Wrigley "Mac" Cuvée, Extended Barrel Aging: I found it a bit lighter in the core, than 11 or the 12, a light garnet color. On the nose, baking spices, cracked pepper and broken wet earth. On the palate cut black tea, rose petals, bright recently ripened cherries. A rustic, short to medium finished wine, its high toned profiles makes it a better food wine, than the flashy cocktail hour dancer some Pinot Noir's tend to be. 

Now on the other side of that Extended Barrel Aging coin, the 2011 was greatly enhanced by the EBA it experienced. All those latent flavors missing from the non-EBA "Mac" Cuvée were out in spades. A silken texture, broadly approachable dark and red fruits, baking spices, black tea, and a brightness and refreshing quality, which invited sip after sip, and perhaps even the eventual slurp or two when no one was looking, oh-my.

One of the more interesting aspects about their property, the majority of which is east and south facing slopes, the large abandoned [amphitheater like] quarry you see pictured above. From this vantage point you see the various soil types which the vineyards are planted in. The property starts at the 210 foot elevation and is 740 feet at its highest point. Their vineyards sit in various soils, which are currently classified as Jory, Nekia, Yamhill and Peavine, although those designations are subject to change via the upcoming USGS reclassification of Oregon soil types. 


But as John is fond of saying, "we are happy that we have both volcanic and sedimentary soils, and he is happy let others chose what the correct name should or will be in the future. If you ever wanted to have an in depth conversation about soil types and the soil diversity found within the Mac AVA, then John Wrigley would be your man. He can talk to you about the soils at great length, similar to the way I could go on and on about the Packers chances this year, after the draft and trade picks have been made. Oy, so don't get me started, I'm only hopefully optimistic, but more on that for another time. 


You know I meet quite a few great folks, who find themselves in the wine business for one reason or the other, but in meeting John Wrigley and his wife Jody, seeing their passion, tasting their wines and the down to earth demeanor, hearing about their struggles and successes, it's my hope this winery takes off and launches into the wine stratosphere with all the best of success, that I think they deserve and have earned. 

In the picture above you see John Wrigley and I feel awful forgetting to have Jody jump into that picture. But what you see above is their simple tasting room, a quiet, off-the-beaten path, place where you can experience world class quality MAC AVA Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, if you find yourself in the McMinnville area, give them a call and then pay them a visit.  Until next time folks, remember as always, life is too short to settle for the ordinary, when for a few dollars more in many cases you can experience the extraordinary, slurp long and prosper cheers! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beauty Comes with Age

"We want to make wines that age, and we want some of the tannins you get from the seed, as well as flavors from the skins. Not a lot, Just a touch. We don't make wines that are meant to be showy today and fall apart tomorrow. We want built-in structure." ~ Michael McNeill Hanzell Vineyards via Matt Kramer's "Age before Beauty" article in WS. 

Whether we are talking about Barolo in Piemonte or one of Sonoma's very best Chardonnay producers, aging potential in wine, is now a key component I look for in wine today. Typically for me, when evaluating its long term potential; I'm not considering aging a wine for more than 10 years, but at the very least, up to that point. I readily admit, when I first started tasting and drinking wine, the thought of aging a wine to its full potential, was not top of mind, when choosing a wine to bring home. But now that I've been collecting wine for over ten years, having a bit of hindsight, pulling some of the gems out of the cellar, they're simply stunning. Easily making the point, beauty does come with age; but beauty is not the only thing which comes with age, perspective is also a bonus.Perception is not reality, reality is reality. The wine you see above has that potential, in the short term it's more beautiful, than gorgeous.

It's not the uber hot-gurl in the bikini or stunningly short, shorts. No this wine is seducing in a far more subtle, seductive way, one which allures you with it sophisticated charms, bonus, it won't break the bank. Although it's not a cheap date, seeing the price of admission is $35-$40 and like Hanzell [of which I have two of their labels] is one of the curated wines which sit on the store shelves of my store. I've been fond of saying on this blog, I know how to pick winners, when it comes to wine. All of which sounds like bragging, but when it can be backed up by sales at the cash register, and the awesome feedback of satisfied customers who continue to come back for more suggestions, then you know you're onto something. 


But what do I know, I'm just a wine blogger, a curator [if you will] of wine, a wine-steward who works for a 'grocery-store' in La Jolla. When it comes to insanely obscure wine knowledge, you know, the type of information used to trip-up those aspiring to become a sommelier, that's not my forte. Picking and writing about amazing, soulful wines, that will rock your wine world to the core, is where I feel most comfortable. I'll leave the mindless, drivel about commodity wines to those who just can't seem to say 'no' to whatever pops out of the PR sample case. So no, not every wine I taste is a sample, because I see few these days, but I'm not trolling for them either. Why take this tone and tenor here, inside this review, I'm not sure, I guess I just wanted to vent a little via my soapbox.

It's time to talk about the wine, the 'real' star of the show. Hold the phone, amazing soul and substance from thee most amazing Piemonte vintage of recent note. This wine, which I just ordered for my store, is like a majestic equine, power under control. In the glass, a delicate cherry core, the rim hitting a light brick colored note. On the palate, this wine hits a very delicate, but powerful note. Cherry, strawberry, sage and sweet-tar play a gorgeous melody; this wine is firm, yet harmonious. This wine is dry, but the power is there, The tannins are a bit bracing, but time in the decanter will even them out, best yet, give this wine a year or two in the cellar and your patience will be richly rewarded.


Not an audacious bragger, not a cocktail for afternoon drinks. Oh no, selling for under $40, this wine will wow those who consider themselves in the 'know' and for those who don't, it will leave you scratching your head, wondering what all the 'fuss' is about. Love #Barolo like I do, but the price of admission is too steep? I feel ya, I'd grab this one for the cellar, you won't be disappointed. My score for this beauty is 93 points, it's highly recommended. Not a sample, it was paid for by cold hard cash, the old fashion way. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oregon Uncorked: Patricia Green Cellars Revisited

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” -Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The quote above from Hemingway, is the same quote Mr. Anderson used to launch into his description [via the PGC Newsletter] of the vintage that was 2006. I had my first taste of Patricia Green way back at the beginning of my early fascination with wine. Mrs. Cuvee and I decided to take advantage of the proximity of our time-share which is ideally located on the amazingly gorgeous Oregon coast. We spent an unforgettable week taking day trips to different wineries. We made a few appointments ahead of time and PG was definitely one of those places we had read about and knew we had to visit. This is a place for folks who just can't enough of sniffing, swirling, sipping and getting to know this amazing varietal better.

"Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, right. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet." ~ Miles [Sideways]
No matter what you thought of the movie [good, bad or indifferent] or some of its more painful inconsistencies, I believe this line [seen above] from the movie was spot on. There are, really, only a few, small tucked away, corners of the world where Pinot Noir can deliver its fullest, breath taking expressions and one of those places is called the Willamette Valley. When we arrived for our appointment, we were not even sure where to go, there were no real signs, as we drove up to the property we even wondered if we were at the right place, again no signs.  

We drove slow onto the property, on a very cold Oregon day, early in the year, February 2006 to what looked like a quaint farmhouse, with out lying buildings, nothing that really said, "you've arrived at a winery". I was finally brave enough to slide one of the doors open, peer in, and say hello. Finally a reply came back, and we were met by Mr. Anderson, a couple winery dogs and welcomed into their barrel room [aka. impromptu tasting room]. Mr. Anderson is big fan of the Red Sox, but definitely not a fan of Wine Spectator or too many other wine publications for that matter. Although, I've noticed of late, they've [PG Cellars] have taken quite a shine to Stephen Tanzer. And if you'd like to hear the story behind a bottle of wine they call "Notorious" please ask Mr. Anderson about it, he tells the tale in an amazing fashion.



That day in the barrel [tasting] room, it seemed so much colder than it needed to be, even with the thick coats and sweaters we had on, we were freezing, but not quite as cold as the other couple who shared our tasting appointment window with us. If you've ever seen newlyweds you know what I'm about to tell you, it should not be too surprising,  that other couple who we didn't know, but shared our tastes in wine were not quite prepared for how cold it would be in the barrel room, the guy wearing a short sleeve shirt, was just managing to stay warm, by enjoying the large pours and the old fashion body heat method, sticking his cold hands down the backside of his new wife, who says chivalry isn't dead. But they way these two were carrying on, it left my wife and I with one thought, we expressed to each other once we were back in our vehicle,  we looked at each other and we both said, "sheese, buddy get a room" and of Mr. Anderson we thought, okay so how bad were you 'really' tortured at Tori Mor? 



In the picture above are the wines we tasted that day, we did take a few bottles home with us and were glad we did. As you can see from the image, each bottle was from the 2004 vintage, which represented the majority of wines we tasted all over the valley at the time. Both Mrs. Cuvée and I were very impressed that vintage year and we still are, sadly we don't have even a drop of 2004 left in the cellar [tears]. Our visit occurred early in the year of 2006, far before this blog was in a glimmer in my eye, when the price of gas was still an inexpensive $2 bucks a gallon. 

Those were the days, when I thought spitting was silly, when I thought tasting meant drinking and taking notes about the wines I encountered was a waste of time. That couple we met at the PGC tasting that day, we saw them again later that day, after we departed for an appointment at Bergstrom, but that is not the end of that story, if you'd ever like to hear the ending, just let me know the next time I see you in person, trust me it's a tale worth re-telling a thousand times. 

But of the wines you see above, the one which really caught our attention that day, one of the real highlights was the 2004 Eason in a word,  my only note from at the time, was wow. Later, when we got home and most likely a year later we opened that bottle we had purchased for a mere $30, and again the only place I left a note about previous wines consumed was in a journal,



one I still have, the journal that got me started writing my notes in an electronic journal, and became what is now known as the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog. I just now blew the dust of years off that old journal, which is rarely crack opened, and found a bit more detailed note about my second experience with the PGC 2004 Eason Pinot Noir. The score I gave it back then 9.3 and I wrote, "a powerful, yet elegant Pinot Noir, wonderfully structured, abundant fruit and plumed nicely with just the right amount of acid, to give it a sweet balance, and the finish sailed on and on". As you can see I was quite taken with this wine, as I was when I popped the corked on the wine in today's review, the 2006 Goldshcmidt, Dundee Hills

Now to the reason why I chose that amazing bottle from the cellar in the first place, my son Jake was visiting from out of state, and I wanted to share with him, one of my first experiences I had with wine, from one of Oregon's best known and loved producers of Oregon Pinot Noir. After his first sip, I could see the lights go on, he looked at me and said, "I can't wait to take my own trip Oregon, some day" and I thought mission accomplished, another thirsty vinosapien is born, and who knows, perhaps the next author of the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog in the future, only time will tell. 

The story of how this wine came to be, is told wonderfully on the PGC back-label, the wine I shared with my son and of course the lovely and talented Mrs. Cuvée is produced from some of Oregon's oldest vines, the few which survived the onslaught, of the still present danger, phylloxera. The Goldscmidt vineyard was planted in 1974 and 1975 the following years after Nixon had resigned from office. The vineyard itself can be found on Worden Hill Rd, perched perfectly at a 500 foot elevation, atop a deep bowl, with southern exposure over looking the now famous Dundee Hills of Oregon, in the Willamette Valley.   

The day I opened this wine, was the very last evening of my Son's visit and I wanted him to depart with dreams of Oregon Wine Country bouncing about in his memories, as a sweet good-bye for now and a invitation to say, I hope to see you again soon Son. 
"Let’s just stipulate that in the hierarchy of pleasures, people come first. Now that we agree on that, good food and drink can help make any party better." -- Eric Asimov
And of course we've already made plans to do some wine exploration in one of my other favorite wine destinations Washington State, where we will check out the still unknown to me, the Lake Chelan AVA. The anticipation is already ratcheting higher and higher. I do love exploration, so glad I get to share this adventure with my son. 

Now regarding the stunning wine in today's review, a wine which was reviewed by more nineteen folks at Cellar Tracker, averaging a score of 91.5 points, I too concur with their thoughts and scoring, but I scored this wine 95 points, and it's my opinion that this bottle of wine is an ideal representation of what Oregon Pinot Noir is and should be. In the glass, a brilliant cranberry color, and a bit cloudy. On the nose, that signature 'funk' wet damp earth, freshly picked mushrooms, and wet earth still clinging to the stem, bright cherries and spice. 

Sipping and slurping my way through the first pour, more cranberries, baked cherries over silky, well integrated tannins and layers upon layers depth and complexity. The finish went on and on, a true master piece. Nicely done PGC, nicely done and if you somehow know a place I could score a few more bottles, please let me know. Until next time folks, remember life is short, please for gawd's sake don't settle for pedestrian commodity wines and never stop exploring, sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2011 Domaine Trotereau Quincy

"Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it." ~ William Shakespeare

Many of you may have at one time or the other have celebrated and/or promoted Sauvignon Blanc Day? Sure I had my invites to do so, but as I've said before, this is not one of those faddish wine blogs, with a big splash in the pan, only to fizzle out a few months or a year later, silently falling below the glittery limelight. That said, while my participation in the process has slowed a bit, my passion for extolling the virtues of drinking well has assuredly not. So if you fancy yourself a swirler of Sauvignon Blanc, then you'll be sure to want to give this gem in today's dusted off review of a wine that will knock your socks off, don't doubt me. 

I'm not sure when it happened, each and every varietal having its own 'day' but it's an irritating trend, driven no doubt by PR firms desperate to get their clients a bit of social media attention. Now that said, it's my hope that after reading this review, that this wine will become a new favorite. Especially so, when searching for a Sauvignon Blanc, that is as far off the [the everyday commodity] reservation as it could possibly get and the reason I'm so excited about this fantastic expression of Sauvignon Blanc. 

The wine in today's spotlight really had my attention from the first whiff to the last drop [which I spit out] and even though I wasn't drinking that day, I was only there to taste [In my opinion, an important distinction] this wine still "wowed" me. 

As I was sampling this wine for the first time, it really struck-me as the kind of wine I want to bring to your attention, something completely different [from my perspective] and off the beaten path, far away from the usual suspects on commodity wine row. 

It's with that idea in mind, that this unique wine comes from an area in France, one of which I was completely unfamiliar to me before sampling this wine. I will confess there's no way I couldn't have pointed it out on the map either. But what I do know is that this very inexpensive bottle of wine from the very small appellation of Quincy in the Loire Valley, a dry white wine will wow you at each turn and twist in the road. You won't be able to put it down, its exciting fresh and most likely as new to the average vino-sapien as it was to me on a warm Wednesday afternoon. 


If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm not much of Sauvignon Blanc fan [excepting cooking] by any stretch of the imagination. This is precisely why you may find it quite ironic, that I'm jumping up and down with excitement about this fantastic expression of Sauvignon Blanc, oozing with a honeyed, full-bodied texture and a just a pinch of lemon-peel oil component.  

Oh you could just keep on drinking the garden-variety domestic Sauvignon Blanc or the same hackneyed kiwi Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps you could step outside the box just this once to experience something completely new? Consider this your invitation to do so. This wine selling most places for $16 to $17, a wine I've rated 93 points, it's a wine you need to try for yourself to see what all the fuss is about. 

While I was at work a gentlemen came in looking for the owner, I asked if I could be of service? Yes of course, he said and introduced himself as Mr. Malk [who no doubt many of you are very familiar with his wines] and asked if I could recommend some [other than his own of course] Sauvignon Blanc. I knew the wine I had in mind [the Quincy] was not what he was looking for, but I took the risk introducing him to the Quincy instead. He took one bottle that day, and then days later he came back to acquire more I'm told. 

I like to think of myself as charting a course of wine-diversity, I want to discover all that the wine world has to offer a thirsty vino-sapien and I want each one of you to join me on that path to discovery; I want you my readers to drink better as well. 

I'm told that the appellation of Quincy was the 2nd appellation in France to be recognized in 1936, second only to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where many of the vines are over a century old, while some have been more recently planted in the mid-eighties. 

One of the more compelling reasons for adoring this wine so much is because it really didn't have many of the usual suspects in the nose or on the palate. I was immediately surprised by the nose, aromas of white-flowers, honeysuckle, white peach, sweet-quince and whiff of bell pepper which quickly fades to the background. 


Then jumping into the wine itself, wow, again the mouth-feel is flamboyant, intense aromatics, honey, wet-stone, [the whisper of lemon oil] is followed by a full-bodied, exuberant, dry white wine that must be tasted to be believed. I suspect this offering has some aging potential, but why risk it when this wine is drinking ever so nicely right now. 

In fact I wondered silently if the wine I tasted was Sauvignon-Blanc at all, seeing it's so far afield from most other new-world Sauvignon I've come accustom to despising. How could a wine raised in stainless steel and enamel tanks and had its fermentation kicked off with indigenous yeast have this much body and substance to it and yet not have the typical lean flavors which will typically drives me away like a pack of ravenous hyenas. 

I just kept looking at the bottle, snapping the picture you see above and tasted it twice just to confirm my impressions and flummoxed with my own delight. But there it's, try it for yourself soon, I look forward to hearing thoughts and impressions. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rhone Zone Spotlight: 2010 Clos Saint Michel CDP


“If you only drink the same wines that everyone else is drinking, than you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ A wise Vino-Sapien

You're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Rhone Zone. —Rod Serling

Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone??  For some a timeless show which [in many respects] was way ahead of its time. It was a show which made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about this mortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic-license with the opening monologue [so sue me] but I did so for a very good reason.

That reason, to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before, but one you may not have had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see as much vino from the Rhone Zone as I would like to see in the US wine market place [with a few exceptions of course]. But when you have a chance explore, explore this vast and luscious wine landscape.


The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. Because I find the white wines from this exciting region to be every bit as fantastic as the reds. It can be thought of as split up; with south and north, each has its own climate and interesting topography.

The North: It's hilly, is influenced by a turbulent, strong wind, called the Mistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star[think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's finest wines, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.

It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness and silky tannins dominate the more value oriented red wines from the north.

The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands". The weather there, tends to be much warmer and the vineyards rise out of landscape typically covered by some strange stones called "galets" which make a significant contribution to the "uniqueness" and great quality to Southern Rhone wines. 


The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends, but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes, but Grenache is the kingpin grape here. This is the place you will find bottles brandishing a lavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.

The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's largest production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottle will typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone, as I like to call it; than folks this is your ticket to ride. A wine that will come out, shake your hand and you'll become fast friends. It will leave you wondering why you had not met sooner. Even the garden variety wine-twirler will get this wines easy going and easy to get along with personality. It's a wine that's easy as a Sunday morning, and is easy to please even the fussiest wine snob.

You'll find in this wine, a style which makes food pairing choices so easy and wonderfully fun. I can't imagine too many things that would not pair well with this wonderfully well-made wine from a stellar vintage. In this blend you'll be greeted by forty percent Grenache, which blazes the trail like an elephant through the tall grass, followed by equal percentages of Mourvedre and Syrah expressing vibrant blueberries, blackberries, olives and a meatiness which are caressed by underbrush tones; this wine is both complete and delightfully complex at the same time.

This wine from Clos Saint Michel, CDP has everything the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances, [you literally taste the vineyard dust] light engaging aromatics which draw you in for the first slurp. A food friendly wine with a gentle verve of dark and red fruits pulsing through its soul. After the first splash you're enthusiastically greeted by a generous nose; freshly picked blueberries, wild flowers and a hint of black olives. A dense ruby to simmering blackberry color core, expanding to a slightly paler rim. This wine is seamless, finely knit tannins, effortlessly woven into the fabric of this southern Rhone stunner and while it's not inexpensive, it's well worth the price of admission. Until next time folks here's to exploration, slurp long and prosper cheers! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2010 Mario's Vineyard, Trinchero Napa Valley

Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are... ~ RW Emerson

As many of you may know or have heard; I've stepped from behind the keyboard and onto the playing field as it was. Not only do I make recommendations from the lofty ivory tower of my blog, twitter, vivino, delectable; [soapbox] but I also take those opinions to the sales floor, where I get to mingle with fellow vinosapiens and the purveyors of fermented juice much to the delight of both. I do love this journey I'm on, and I look forward to even more exciting adventures in the wine business. I have gotten my bearings and its full steam ahead.

Honestly, I have far less time to write, but there are days like today, where I have the luxury of extra time to string together a few words and share with you a truly remarkable wine I happened upon languishing on my stores shelves. It was purchased [current sale price $32] a couple weeks ago, and allowed to properly rest in the cellar before being uncorked and its beauty revealed. It's a wine which comes from a great family who've I've not met, and whose property I've only driven by in the past.


The reason I'm compelled to share this wine with you via my long overdue wine of the week column is simple; with so few 'Napa' wines hitting the mark so surely, this folks is a textbook example of how it's done right. I dropped this bad boy in the decanter, and spilled a few ounces into a proper stem as well. Tasting this wine is a pure pleasure, it reminds me of a left bank Bordeaux; lean where it should be, vivid acid taming abundant fruit, tannins finely honed over time, and the wonderfully stunning minerality is found in abundance.

The finish is long and lasting, and its memory is still in my thoughts. The structure of this wine could easily go another 10 years. Plums, cocoa dust, blackberries, cassis, cedar and dried underbrush. You can spend more, but you honestly won't get more, until next folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2009 Chateau Franc Mayne, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

You know what they say, "you can spend more, but you will not always get more", never have words been more true or oh-so accurate, as in the case of this gem. I really had a hard time wanting to post this article, seeing I really didn't want the word to get out about this amazing juice, but I'm in a sharing mood for the moment. Since returning from my trip to Bordeaux in 2013, I've been smitten with its flavors and finesse. It offers so many different expressions; and it would seem to me that those expressions are timeless, but they're also evolving and until you take the time to slow down, taste its textures, flavors and breath in its aromas, you may have a hard time understanding what it is, I'm attempting to communicate here.

I know that for me personally when I was first exposed to wine, I was not ready for Bordeaux, I needed easier to understand wines, which required little thought or contemplation. In fact, I often thought, "sheese, what is all the fuss about anyway?” I just didn't get it and I frankly didn't want to back in the day, when I didn't have much of a collection to speak of. But now, you'd be hard pressed to drag me away from Bordeaux tasting, or any opportunity to make a few new discoveries. I'm like a kid in the candy store; there are so many new wines and producers to discover, and the older the wine, so much the better in most cases.

Both Pomerol and Saint Emilion [right bank] has really caught my eye of late, and I believe to the surprise of both Mrs. Cuvee and I, who had figured ourselves for more of a left-bank leaning inclination, but we have found the opposite to be true. Not that we'd kick a left bank gem out of bed, but our preferences seem to lie on the right bank. 

Another stunner from Bordeaux, a wine with true soul and substance. If you'd a taste of true Saint Emilion style and class, this is your ticket to ride. From one of the more recent great Bordeaux vintages, this bottle of Chateau Franc Mayne over delivers at the unassuming price of $45, you simply cannot get this quality from California in that same price range, a brilliant canvas of taunt tannins, painted w/ blackberries, dry earth, and ripe dark plums, and slightly dry taste of the skin. For best results, I'd recommend decant an hour or two before hand, as it evolves wonderfully with the proper amount of air. The finish is long and lasting, one you will not forget too quickly either. Until next time folks remember sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

About San Diego: Top 10 Wine and Dine Spots

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Andre Gid

Those little, yet delightful new discoveries which have been under your feet all along, can make it all the more exciting once you uncover them, even as you step unto the shore of the unknown. As I was leaving one of my favorite places to dine in San Diego, known to many locals, and conveniently tucked away, just west of the airport, is Island Prime. If you've not taken the opportunity to dine with them as yet, make plans to do so soon, the food, wine list and service are as delicious as the view of downtown San Diego. I had the good fortune last year to hang out with a new friend; from Wente Wines where we had a grand time discussing everything from wine to sports. On the way home, driving along the harbor, something which greets many visitors leaving the airport, billowing clouds forming overhead caught my eye. So I just had to stop along the waterfront to snap this picture with my iPhone

This picture you see above is just a snapshot of San Diego, my hometown, where I grew up and where I live, work and play. Did I fail to mention also to eat and drink well? If so let me set the record straight, I do my fair share of both, whether it's dining out or a casual meal at home. That said, when it comes to the Wine and Dine 'scene' here in San Diego; I believe I've a pretty good grasp of its top wine and dine destinations, one I'd like to share. Also if I may be so bold, the place where you can find the very best fish tacos in San Diego  period, end of story. 

I was asked back in July, by the Grape Collective to come up with a top ten list of places I frequent and would recommend to thirsty vino-sapiens and hungry carnivores. So I did just that, and you can check out that list I came up with here.  That said, I desired to do more than a quickie post, and instead do somewhat a bit more elaborate. So I decided to give that list a quick shake, then add some and remove some names, you understand, some quick editing as it were, so here it's enjoy.


1. ENO Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118 Grab a slice, grab a glass and breath in some fresh ocean breezes, because you're just steps away from the beach. As you can see I still managed to keep Pizza in the lineup, what is a great wine and dine list, without a little pizza? 

2. The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro, Address: 897 South Coast Highway 101, (760) 942-2104 If you want to have a tasty, wine paired meal or just want to grab a bottle to go, this is one of my top choices. 

3. Splash Wine Bar, Address: 3043 University Avenue, (619) 296-0714 A great place with small bites, and wine on tap, in fact over 80 different selections to choose from, and you choose the pour size, not the server. Quick, quiet [relatively] and comfortable found in city central North Park, where the locals go, who know what's up. 


4. Island Prime, Address: 880 Harbor Island Drive, (619) 298-6802 Like I said, this is great place for the views, especially in the evening, the food is very good, the wine list is well thought out and diverse, the service is always very good. Located just moments west of the Airport. If you're leaving terminal two, just head straight through the light, and once you see the water, hang a left, it is just at the end of the jetty. 

5. TJ Oyster Bar, Address: 4246 Bonita Road, (619) 267-4577 Now if you the very best fish tacos in all of San Diego, this is the thee place to go. Don't be taken in by any pretenders to the throne, boys and gurls, because this place is the real deal!  Seating is very limited, each taco is prepared once it's order, seating is limited, the line is always out the door and yes you can suck down a cold cerveza to take a bite out the warm sunshine. 


6. The Wine Vault and Bistro, Address: 3731 India Street, (619) 295-3939 Another great wine and dine spot in San Diego, it's a very popular location for vino-sapiens. Because this place is a one stop shop, they really do it all. If you want to arrive early for your dinner reservations, ask Chris to make you his famous and favorite Martini, the 409. You can also buy bottles to take home, if you happened to like a bottle of wine you had with dinner. 

7. The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro, Address: 16765 Bernardo Center Drive #1, (858) 673-7512 I really do love this place as well, if you just want to grab a glass of wine and relax with friends, they have a cozy area just to the side of the bar to hang out. If you want a bottle of wine with dinner, great, because unlike most places, the mark-up is just $5 above the retail prices of their attached wine shop. Great food and great service. 

8. Jaynes Gastropub, Address: 4677 30th Street, (619) 563-1011 Another North Park gem, not to be missed, the food is eclectic, the well-stocked bar is always buzzing and wine list is top notch. Do not miss an opportunity to dine here, and hang with the locals, guaranteed to be tourist free. Feeling a bit cramped inside; ask for a table in the seemingly secret back patio, a very comfortable spot to laugh loudly, pop some corks and raise some glasses.


9. Urban Solace, Address: 3823 30th Street, (619) 295-6464 This place is near a San Diego legend, again a favorite with the locals, a central city, North Park gem. Grab a bite, sip some wine, raise a glass to toast and enjoy a great evening dining out in one of San Diego's hot-to-trot dining destinations. 

10. The Smoking Goat, Address: 3408 30th Street, (619) 955-5295 And last but certainly not least, and as you can see from the address, this delicious dining location is found in North Park. A pretty good wine list, could use a bit more imagination, but the food is very good, the menu well thought out and the service will keep you coming back for more.  

That's all for today folks, there will be more Champagne in the next post, so keep that glass full, and remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

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