Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #55 – North vs. South

As one Wine Blogging Wednesday leaves, the next one is hot on its tail. For the next edition of WBW, our host is Remy of The Wine Case. His challenge, a comparison of the North vs. the South.

He’s not talking about the Civil War. He’s not talking about when Quebec City sent American troops packing in 1775 (of which all of us Americans DEFINITELY remember as much as the Canadians do… NOT).

No, the topic is much broader than that. The goal is to take two wines that are made from the same type of grape and compare one from a more northerly region with one from a more southerly region. That could mean a Cabernet made in Texas vs. one made in Washington, or a Pinot Noir made in Burgundy vs. one made in South America, or a Sauvignon Blanc made in New Zealand vs. one made in California. It might be interesting to try an Icewine from Canada with a sticky from Australia.

You get the idea. If you want to join the fun, just post you’re your review on March 18th. It’s coming up soon, so be quick in picking which wines you want to try together.

Also, a shout out to the founder of Wine Blogging Wednesday, Lenn Thompson founder and editor at LENNDEVOURS, who started all of this 55 months ago.

And now a word from our sponsors: If you are interested in using Chilean wine as your southern contender, let me know. I’d be happy to help support you in any way I can as a representative for Wines of Chile. You can find me on twitter or by leaving a comment below.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New York Wine Expo this weekend!

A quick reminder for everyone:

The NYWE will be happening on February 27th, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm and February
28th, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm. So if you are more of an afternoon “taster,” head there on Saturday, but if you are looking for a kick-start to your evening, try the Friday night special. There will be hundreds of wines to taste, knowledgeable people to talk to and dancing (well, not technically. But lets be honest, its New York and the only criteria to get in is if you buy a ticket… there will be dancing).

Tickets are $85. To order go to

I will be heading there tomorrow night. Will you be there?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recommendations from all sources

When it comes down to it, the best recommendation comes from the person next to you when you are in the wine shop. That is how I came to purchase a bottle of Valduero Crianza 2003 from Ribera del Duero in Spain.

I went into my local wine shop and asked for them to show me a good bottle of wine for a decent price. The guy in the shop, In Vino Veritas handed me this wine and it had a tag on it that noted that the Wine Advocate had rated this wine 92. The sales person really seemed to think this wine was a good one and so I took it. There was little else to recommend the wine over any of the others.

When I got home I went to check out the wine on the other major reviewing sites and I could not find it. I went to the International Wine Cellar, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits and I could not find this wine listed. Surely, if one of them had rated the wine as highly as a 92, it must be at least listed in the other publications, right?

Nope. I even took a look at Valduero website and the most recent wine listed is the 1999 Crianza. To be fair, I did find some other vintages of this wine listed and rated, but not with any consistency. However, this leads to the question of was the wine tasted and just not good enough to be rated? Is it possible that one reviewer rated a wine in the 90’s and another did not think it worth even a lowly 85 (usually the lowest a wine can be rated while still having its rating published).

It really shocks me how hard it is to find information about this wine. And this is not the first wine I have tried to look up with such poor results. It seems that even the simplest of ideas, that the winery’s website should be up-to-date with the most recent vintages of the wines (an activity that would at most take a half hour once a year), are simply too much for some of these businesses. With the blogosphere growing at such a rapid pace, and wine blogging becoming a part of this movement, company websites have become an important resource for those that cannot travel around the world to discuss the product with the business/winery.

I popped open the bottled and drank to the health of the clerk. It was an ok wine, I think perhaps a little past its prime. It definitely did not age gracefully. Perhaps when the wine was young, it could have been interesting, but at the moment I tasted it there was little left. The main component was a bit of vanilla and prunes. There was some fruit up front, but I found it to be choked off by new oak flavors.

When all was said and done, I can only blame the staff member at the wine store for the recommendation. Yes there was a 92-point recommendation from the Wine Advocate, but it turned out I didn’t like the wine all that much. There could have been other factors why this wine ended up in my hands. It is possible they had not tasted the wine, or had not tasted it lately. It’s possible that it was a wine they wanted to unload and I was the sap that walked through the door.

The moral of the story? Find a retailer you trust and visit them often. Let them get to know you and your tastes. The stronger the relationship, the better wines that they will steer you towards.

And wineries, please update your websites. It is the simplest thing and will help you greatly in your goal of promoting your wines.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A sobering fat Tuesday

At the moment there is an almost manic intensity to go out and celebrate Mardi Gras tonight. Each $5 beer (yup, it’s New York), $8 wine, or $10 mixed drink I buy might keep one more person in his or her job for a little longer.

I just do not feel like celebrating tonight, as many of my friends were laid off this week and it feels wrong to feast during their famine. For those that have not seen it first hand there is a sobering reflective quality during a time when you know that friends of yours will need to find a new job. When it comes down to it, there are few things in life scarier.

There is definitely a consensus of the mentality that “it will never happen to me, I have produced and am good at what I do.” For you reading this who has not yet seen a friend lose their job, I know you are thinking this very thought. To have such bliss ripped from you is somewhat hard to manage.

I will be ok, the axe man missed my head this time. But when you know that it is not your performance that determines your fate, instead it is some other intangible economic factor; it changes your perspective of the business world.

I will listen to the President this evening with guarded hope and skeptical optimism. I will judge his words, not by my own experiences, but that of those friends of mine whose lives just got a lot harder.

It sucks to lose your innocent bliss.

I would love to hear your thoughts, your stories, your situation in the comments below.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A little Blue Fish swims in a great white sea…

There are no critters on the bottle of this wine, but I cannot help but feeling the strong hand of marketing as I hold an azure blue bottle of Blue Fish Original Riesling 2007 in my hands. The bottle is simply so blue that it shouts at you, with a relaxed yellow and blue label. The wine’s logo is well designed as the word ‘blue’ spelled out in the shape of a fish. Yes, kudos, very clever.

According to the Palm Bay website, BLUE FISH is a recent initiative from the enterprising growers of Niederkirchen in the Pfalz region of Germany, who first banded together to bottle and sell their wines more than 100 years ago. Today 466 families – almost every second family in Niederkirchen – participate in the venture, of which Blue Fish is the latest creation.

Blue Fish comes from the Pfalz region in Germany, located in the middle of the western edge of the country and bordering France on the south west. According to Wines of Germany, it is Germany's second largest wine region in acreage, but often has the largest crop of all. The word Pfalz is a derivation of the Latin word palatium, meaning palace. The English equivalent, Palatinate, is sometimes used to refer to the Pfalz. Only the Mosel region has more acres of Riesling.

Before I go much farther on this wine I want to take a step back and give some kudos to Palm Bay Imports. I have worked with them for the last couple years and they have always helped me get samples to journalists or for events or even charitable donations. I never realized until I started blogging how good a job they did with accessible information. I always try to look up and research the wines that I write up here and I have such a hard time finding information on any of them. Palm Bay has a fact sheet and winery notes on every wine that they import or distribute in the US. Very gratifying!

Right, back to the wine.

I found this wine for an average of $9 on Wine Searcher (my favorite wine search tool). For a wine in colorful packaging it was reasonably enjoyable. It was simple, a little sweet, a tad bit sparkling on my tongue, and plenty of fruit and acidity to go around. There was a lot of stone fruit and some good minerality that made it interesting without being a thinking wine. Really it was just pleasant to drink, which is everything I could have wanted in this wine and more.

Find it, enjoy it, and don’t let the color of the bottle turn you blue.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #54 – A Passion for Piedmont

I must admit I was so behind on this Wine Blogging Wednesday that I had to go back several times to remind me what it was about.

David McDuff at McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail hosts this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday. He noted that when talking about Italy most people are familiar with the region of Tuscany and the wines of Chianti and Chianti Classico.

Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, including the Monviso (Mont Vis), where the Po rises, and the Monte Rosa. It borders with France, Switzerland and the Italian regions of Lombardy, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna and Aosta Valley. The Geography of Piedmont is that of a territory predominantly mountainous, 43.3%, but with extensive areas of hills which represent 30.3% of the territory, and of plains (26.4%). Piedmont is the second largest of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, after Sicily.

I really love Piedmont. It is actually my go-to region in Italy when I order off a wine list. My favorite grape is Barbera, with is why for this WBW I chose Guidobono Barbera D’Alba 2006.

The Barbera vine is very vigorous and capable of producing high yields if not kept in check by pruning and other methods. Excessive yields can diminish the fruit quality in the grape and accentuate Barbera's natural acidity and sharpness. In Piedmont, the vine was prized for its yields and ability to ripen two weeks earlier than Nebbiolo even on vineyard sites with less than ideal exposure. This allowed the Piedmontese winemakers in regions like Alba to give their best sites over to the more difficult to cultivate Nebbiolo and still produce quality wine with Barbera that could be consumed earlier while the Nebbiolo ages.

The Guidobono Barbera D’Alba was decent but not amazing. When I poured the wine I noticed a very deep red/purple color. Very inky. When I stuck my nose in I found a bit of sweet blackberry, very ripe with a nice fleshy smell. There is also some minerality that does a good job of holding back from being sharp. When I tasted the wine the fruit is a little lost when it hits my mouth. There is an immediate drying sensation while the wine is still in my mouth. There is a ton of acidity, almost over the top. I can pick out a fruit here and there, but the wine’s almost sour acidity covers it up. Definitely drinkable, but I want to have some food ready to soak it up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A time of Hope

The world has gone feverish for Hope. It’s the word that is lying in the back of everyone’s mouth as they talk about how bad things are right now. Businesses are closing left and right, especially here in New York where you can see empty storefronts and “Going out of Business” signs, where not 6 months ago there were fall line-ups and smug salespeople. Hope is what the world clings to, a way to convince yourself that tomorrow will be better. Barack Obama ran his campaign on a message that hope will see us through and that we will weather this stormy economy and life will once again be good, or at least as good as it was.

I found a winery selling hope, or at least finding a way to use it to help others. Hope Wine is a concept created by Jacob Kloberdanz in 2006 after he witnessed the sales power that teaming a wine business with a non-profit organization can have. Kloberdanz worked as a wine sales manager and would work with non-profit organizations on a monthly basis, not only to get that warm feeling when you help those in need but to also sell more product. After seeing these results, Kloberdanz decided to create a brand that donated to charity and helped raise awareness all year round.

Kloberdanz and a group of entrepreneurs out of Southern California, each with sales, marketing and managerial experience in the wine industry launched Hope Wines brand in early 2007. Their company partnered with Sonoma Wine Company to help create this private label. Today the company has five different wine varieties, with plans to expand into more varieties to support a growing selection of causes.

The wines, made by David Elliot (a 25-year veteran in the wine industry) are:

Sauvignon Blanc – Supporting the Environment
Chardonnay – Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness
Merlot – Supporting AIDS Awareness
Cabernet Sauvignon – Supporting Autism Research
Zinfandel – Supporting the Families of Fallen Troops

I decided to purchase some of these wines and try them out. It is great to see a company whose main mission is to help those in need, but are the wines also worth drinking in their own merit?

The Hope Chardonnay was quite good. I really liked the freshness and excitement in the wine. I was quite surprised to find that the wine had see very little oak and showed great apple and pear notes. It was very pleasant with the grilled shrimp I had with it.

The Hope Merlot on the other hand was not nearly as good. A perfectly drinkable wine, but nothing exciting.

I haven’t tried the Sauvignon Blanc yet, but when I do I’ll put up a note about it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cocaine, goes down like a fine wine

Why would you ever compare Cocaine to Wine? I asked that question when I read a quick note about it on Vinography regarding this story from the UK Telegraph.

It really never crosses my mind when I pick up a bottle of wine just how much cocaine I could have had instead. I consider the wine to be enough of a drug to appease the side of my personality that requires mind-altering intoxicants.

Really, what I want to know is what editor decided that title was the one they were going with. Is the UK so progressive in their drug habits that cocaine is now on the menu? Yes, I would like the Beef Wellington with a Chianti Classico and a side of cocaine. No, I have my own snorting straw, thank you.

I also read a New York Times article today about Brazilians taking an excess of ecstasy. Evidently instead of only a stamp on the hand when you enter a nightclub, you also get a party pill.

There was another article on Argentina becoming softer on drugs for personal use. Personally, I think they have the right idea, even if they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

For a subject that in the US has lost a lot of its national focus, it seems that the rest of the world has begun to focus on dugs. I’m just glad that the rest of the world isn’t comparing its drug problems to wine.

Then again, check out this old story about someone smuggling cocaine into Australia in bottles of wine.

Wine Blogging Wednesday – Piedmont

I am so far behind in this one. For the last WBW (Wines of Breakfast) I was so good, I had reached out to the PR world and asked for input (and got LOTS). I thought about the meal I would prepare, I thought about the wines.

For this one, hosted by David McDuff, owner of McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail is all about Piedmont. I know a little about the region in Italy, and a little about the wines from Alba. I just need to get my butt in gear and find something.

So, Wine Blogging Wednesday is coming up on February 18th. We’ll see what I pull out by then.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sometimes a wine is just a wine

During the tasting I had of some sparkling wines I was able to taste a Lambrusco. Lambrusco is the name of both a red wine grape and an Italian wine made principally from the grape. The grapes and the wine originate from four zones in Emilia-Romagna and one in Lombardy, principally around the central provinces of Modena, Parma, Reggio nell'Emilia, and Mantua. The grape has a long winemaking history with archaeological evidence indicating that the Etruscans cultivated the vine. In Roman times, the Lambrusco was highly valued for its productivity and high yields with Cato the Elder stating that produce of two thirds of an acre could make enough wine to fill 300 amphoras.

The most highly-rated of its wines are the frothy, frizzante (slightly sparkling) red wines that are designed to be drunk young from one of the five Lambrusco denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) regions: Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, Lambrusco Reggiano, and Lambrusco Mantovano. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lambrusco was the biggest selling import wine in the United States. During that time the wine was also produced in a white and rosé style made by limiting the skin contact with the must. Today, Lambrusco is still one of the most consumed wines in the US, although there is plenty more Merlot and Cabernet than any other wine.

The Lambrusco I tasted was the Cleto Chiari Pruno Nero Lambrusco NV, from the DOC of Grasparossa di Castelvetro. It was slightly sparkling, not the full bubble that one would expect in regular sparkling wines. It was actually closed with a regular cork and foil, with no cage to hold it.

The smell turned me off. It had lots of sticky sweet liquorish, with little else. When I tasted it my face made such a reaction that it stopped other people as they were lifting the glass to their lips. It was extremely astringent. There was a thin prune juice flavor, kind of like a proem that had too little sugar in it.

Not a great experience, but hopefully I’ll try another Lambrusco soon to show me that good wines can be made from this grape.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What does Cheval Blanc, Krug, and the Andes Mountains have in common?

At this point it’s a winemaker, Nicolas Audebert, who worked with each of the great Champaign houses to learn the art of blending and then landed in Argentina to create a blend at the new South American property for Cheval Blanc and an Argentinean producer, Terrazas de los Andes.

Last night, at the retail store Sherry-Lehman, I was able to taste the 2005 and 2006 vintages of the Cheval des Andes and they do not disappoint. Both had a great character to them, showing off the skills of a talented winemaker and what the financial backing of one of the great French properties can do.

The 2005 was velvety, very smooth tannins with an impressive concentration of dark fruit flavors. The 2006 was rich and fleshy, really impressive for a young wine that has not hit the market yet. The tannins were light, with just the right amount of energy and brightness. Absolutely delicious. Both are made primarily of Malbec, with Cabernet Sauvignon and some Petit Verdot mixed in.

However, a bit of a pretty penny. Try $75 a bottle. Still almost $900 cheaper than the current release of Cheval Blanc, but a bit out of my price range for things to bring home for dinner…

Monday, February 2, 2009

Be Right Back

Sorry everyone, it's been a busy week and it doesn't look better this week. I'll be back to writing and blogging in the near future.

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