Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to Be a Good Wine Distributor

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Have you ever bought a car? You needed four wheels that moved when you wanted them to and stopped when you said so. Therefore you went to the used car lot, because why go for the newest, top of the line model when it will be devalued $5k the moment you drive it off the lot.

And then there's the car salesman.

He (or she - we are all about equal opportunity here) is a pleasant person when you first meet them, but that's the last time you think they are your friend. After that they grate on your nerves to buy this most excellent green car, or look this grey one has a sun roof! What about this one? No don't worry about the mileage, it's a great car, I promise...

You know exactly what I am talking about.

It is a trap that sales people fall into all the time. You want to make the sale, but it's really not a natural way of speaking when you start waxing on how much this one product is so awesome, and so is this one... oh and this one is also amazing.

What if it was your job to listen to people trying to sell you things every day?

Welcome to my world.

That's right, that is what a Wine Buyer does. It is actually in my job description to interact with these people who are trying to sell me their wares. The best distributors are the ones who effortlessly show me their wines or spirits, enjoy a moment of time with me (perhaps not even talking about wine) and then leave.

The worst want to tell me their life story and then the life story of each product they have. They want to know when I am going to buy from them. They want to know why I am not buying at that very moment. They want to know why I did not like this product that they think I absolutely should have. They want to know why...

Chill. I will buy when I am ready to buy. There are hundreds of reasons why I am not buying right then and there. The primary reason is that I don't do that. Then there is 'How much money for inventory do I have to play with?' Then I need to make sure we have a need on the shelf for that product. Just because I like it does not mean I think it will sell (which is another thing I need to think about). Then I need to run it by the boss. And then, if it is sunny and warm outside and we are feeling particularly good, we might decide to put in a small order. That is if your company does not have too high a minimum purchase for your products. If there is, then we are involved in a whole 'nother ball game, which might require another few months of tasting and considering.

If you are not willing to put up with that, then do not come knocking on my door.

Do I break my rules? All the time. The circumstances? If I have the budget and we have a need for that particular product in the store.

And if you think you have a product that I NEED then see the paragraph above about the car salesman.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Response to the Passionate Food Rant

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I posted this comment on the Passionate Foodie, a friend of mine who is extremely knowledgeable about wine and especially Sake. However, I disagreed with his position about carrying niche wines. You can see the original post here:

Below is my comment:

I am forced to admit, there are plenty of stores in the world where all they carry are name brands that have been around for decades because that is what people buy. Yellow Tail, Mondavi, Louis Jadot... we all know the names and they sell because the average wine drinker barely knows the difference between a Cabernet and a Merlot (and I think there was this movie about Pinot something, but I can't remember).

But just because the store carries these items does not make them unworthy. Just because a store does not carry wines from the Jura, or the newest vintage from Nicolas Joly, or a Zweigelt does not mean they do not know what these wines are and their value. But there are harsh realities. The rent bill comes every month, and if you have not sold enough wine, then you can close up shop and all your stock of grower-producer Champagne and Margaret River Chardonnay is not worth a rusty penny.

The reality is that the number of people that really know wine and are interested in those niche products equal a tiny portion of the number of people buying wine. They are great if they can be relied on to come in once a month (that's right, once a MONTH would make it worthwhile), but if they can't then the wine sits there.

The answer of more tastings and more hand selling? There is already a huge amount of that going on with any number of wines that SHOULD be walking off the shelf without a hand sell. I'm talking about simple wines like Riesling and Vaqueyras. You start telling someone about the oxidative nature of a wine from the Jura and you've lost them long before you get to the brilliant flavor and balance.

If I had the budget to stock $2 million worth of product, hell I would have a little bit of everything! But economics are real and limiting, as is shelf space and the number of cases that I have to buy in order to keep the prices sane for customers (because distributors do not give you a good deal when you buy one case, it usually has to be 10 - 25 cases). Storage is a problem. Operating capital is a problem.

I am not saying there aren't mercenary wine stores in existence. I am just saying that just because a store does not carry a niche wine does not prevent them from being a troubadour for the wine industry at large.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Too much a Chilean

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Sometimes I think having worked with Chilean wines gives me a slanted point of view. As I am now buying for a store, my initial impulse is to fill the spots I have open with Chilean wines. Slowly I think I am learning that too much Chile can be a bad thing.

That being said, I recently wrote another article on Chilean wines. Feel free to check it out at:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Taste: Olson Ogden Wines

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Sometimes it takes me a long time to taste wines. Right now I am working on reviewing wines I received in July. The Olson Ogden wines I received back in May and am sorry it took me so long because these were really delicious.

2008 Olson Ogden Marsanne Margaret's Mandate, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley, California - The name is a bit of a mouthful when you add in the vineyard, but once you put it in your mouth, you'll want more. I promise.
Appearance - Clear, medium - intensity, lemon-green color, with a pale rim
Aroma - Clean, a medium + intensity, youthful, aroma characteristics: Pear, peach, light minerality, and butterscotch and vanilla.
Palate - Dry, medium + acidity, no tannin, medium alcohol, medium + body, medium + intensity, flavors: More peach and honeysuckle with toasty pears and a creamy butter. The length is medium +
Conclusion - This is a very good wine that is ready to drink but I think can definitely develop more in the bottle. I would put the price at premium ($30+) and it is at $35 suggested retail price.

2008 Olson Ogden Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino, California - I tasted this wine with a healthy bunch of other Pinot Noirs and it stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
Appearance - Clear, medium intensity, a ruby color, and a pale rim.
Aroma - Clean with a medium intensity. The wine is developing with aroma characteristics of raspberry, vanilla and a rich smokiness.
Palate - This is a dry wine, with medium acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol, and medium body. The taste is very intense at medium + and has similar flavors to the ones found on the nose.
Conclusions - I think this wine is very good and is ready to drink but can develop more in the bottle. The taste to me says premium price ($30+), mostly because good Pinot Noir is rarely inexpensive. At $38 a bottle, this does not break the bank the way many Pinot Noir's can, but it is definitely above an everyday drinking wine.

I have also heard wonderful things about the Syrah from this winery, but I have not tasted the recent vintage.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Landmark Vineyards: A John Deere Legacy

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It's a tough life I lead. Seriously, sometimes the work I do is incredibly difficult and tedious, but someone has to do it. Like when I had to meet with the proprietor of Landmark Vineyards, Mary Calhoun and her daughter Damaris for lunch at Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar. Mary and her husband, Michael Deere Colhoun, run the business of Landmark while Damaris, who has recently taken a part in the family business, is the Eastern Regional Sales Manager.

Both Mary and Damaris were lovely people, although perhaps a bit higher bred than myself. When we got to talking about their yearly vacations to Austria I knew I was a little bit out of my depths. What really engaged me was the family story about Landmark.

The winery was originally founded in 1974 in Windsor, Sonoma County. As Windsor began to be taken over by urban sprawl, the proprietor at the time moved the winery to a piece of land at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Sonoma Valley. The proprietor at the time was Damaris Deere Ford, Michael Deere Colhoun's mother. Damaris was the great great granddaughter of the man who created the steel plow, Mr. John Deere. With such strong agricultural roots, Damaris convinced her son, Michael and his wife Mary to move from the east coast and join her as partners in the winery.

The wines that they are making are really excellent quality. Here are the wines I tasted below:

2007 Overlook Chardonnay - A nice soft fruited wine. There is a lot of good yellow apple and lemon citrus in the wine, which is especially expressive because of the happy absence of too much oak.

2008 Overlook Chardonnay - The current vintage on the market, this wine is a very different style from the 2007 Overlook. The wine has much more malolactic fermentation done, giving the wine a creamy and ripe sensation. The acid is not as noticeable and the flavors are more baked apple and pear.

2007 Damaris Reserve Chardonnay - Named for the first Damaris, this is a special wine. The flavor has a spicy note to it, somewhere between white spice and an almost almond flavor. Definitely some honeysuckle and tropical citrus fruits as well. A very impressive wine.

2007 Lorenzo Vineyard Chardonnay - A dry farmed vineyard in the Russian River Valley, here is a wine that is very expressive of where it comes from. There is a crispness to the wine of lemon citrus and some orange rind, with mineral notes and a slightly yeasty finish.

2008 Grand Detour Pinot Noir - Wow. Here is Pinot Noir. This wine is Sonoma Coast AVA and is sublime. A delicate floral aroma, with bright fresh red berries and a light minerality, a perfect drink and pairing wine. I wanted more when I tasted it, much much more...

2008 Steel Plow Syrah - This is an extremely young Syrah. The color was a violet and ruby, and there was a depth of rich bright red fruit. Definite structured and peppery, I want to taste this wine again after it has had some age.

Sometimes I just do not know how I get out of bed in the morning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shana Tova

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It is very interesting to see what people buy for Rosh Hashanah. Obviously I expect people to purchase more kosher wine, but I am not sure why. Many of the people that take off during the Rosh Hashanah are the same people that buy plenty of non-kosher wine. If you are not going to drink kosher year round, why start now?

It might be more symbolic. One thing that continues to be true, no matter where in the country I am living, is that being Jewish is a community affair. Especially in New York, where at least one of every four people is part of the tribe. According to Wikipedia (which may or may not be accurate), in 2001 there were 1.92 million Jews in the city limits. Pretty impressive for what is a tiny fraction of the world's population.

Whatever your reason, I want to wish you all Shana Tova and I hope that the year 5771 is sweet and fruitful.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Quick Taste: Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Since I am currently taking WSET courses at the International Wine Center, my tasting analytics have changed slightly to include more minutia. I hope that you do not mind (and if you do, let me know) since I am going to start using the format to report my Quick Taste posts. The format is very simple, you first analyze appearance (clarity, intensity, color, other), nose (condition, intensity, development, aroma characteristics), palate (sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, body, mousse, intensity, flavors, length), and conclusions (quality, price, readiness to drink). Remember these are all things as they present to me. You might have a higher tolerance for acid or a lower tolerance for alcohol so they may be slightly off from your own palate. There is only one way to find out... taste it yourself and let me know what you think!

These analytical steps have definitely made an impact on how I perceive wine quality. It has also given me more to think about when I taste, so each tasting note is more involved.

So, without futher ado:

2008 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc "B" - Marlborough, New Zealand
Appearance - Clear, medium intense, lemon color, pale rim
Nose - Clean, medium + intense, youthful, aromas: grassy, lemon citrus, grapefruit citrus, wet stone
Palate - Dry, medium + acidity, no tannin, medium alcohol, medium body, medium + intensity, flavors: grapefruit, grassy, fresh herbs, stony minerality
Conclusions - Good, high-priced ($20 - $30), ready to drink now but can keep

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something New - Zierfandler from Austria

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I love finding new grapes to try. I know many bloggers have done the 100 grape challenge, or the century club, or whatever you want to call it. I know if I listed out all the grapes I have tasted that it would be more than 100 and possibly more than 150. Simply through my Italian tastings alone I could probably do 100. So I do not feel the need to keep a list. But what I do like is finding grapes I have never heard of and finding that I like them.

I was invited to a tasting by a representative from Advantage Austria the Austrian Trade Promotion Organisation (ATPO), a group that has the laudable job of promoting all things Austrian. A week before the event I had gone to the Wines of Austria Grand Tasting, with the intent of finding a Blaufrankisch and Gruner Veltliner for the store. At the ATPO I found a producer that made a Zierfandler, a grape I had never heard of. Zierfandler is a white wine grape that can also be known as Spätrot ("late red") because the grape turns red towards the end of its growing cycle. The grape is best grown in Thermenregion, a small region just south of Vienna.

The wine made from Zierfandler that I tasted was from Stadlmann, whose wine comes from the Mandel-Höh Vineyard. These vines are over 45 years old and the age of the vines gives this wine an amazing amount of grace and style. I almost want to compare this wine to the American-Asian dish, a classic combination of sweet and spicy. The nose is all tangerine, with mineral notes and white pepper. The taste is more so, with a touch of marzipan and quince. The complexity is awe-inspiring and grabs you. This is the kind of wine to get your wine geek son or daughter (mom, I'm talking to you).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Charitable Wineries: Cleavage Creek

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I am always a big fan of wineries that support causes. And there are few causes I support more than the eradication of breast cancer.

I was contacted by the good people at Cleavage Creek, through their twitter handle (@CleavageCreek). We talked a little and they sent me a few bottles from the 2006 and 2007 releases. This October will be the fourth vintage that their wines have been released, and the winery continues to make impressive contributions to research and to helping patients cope with breast cancer. A fuller explanation of the winery and their mission can be found here.

I love their mission. One the front of every one of their bottles is a breast cancer survivor and every bottle of every vintage is different, which goes a long way to show how far we have come in fighting breast cancer.

Unfortunately, the wines have a long way to go before they are truly ready to compete with the rest of the wine world. I think they have started on the right foot, none of the wines I tasted were bad. They were all simple and relatively tasteless wines. I find this often with 'wines for a cause.' They get the cause right and they get the price people are willing to pay for the cause right. The quality of the wines is simply missing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

News I Find Interesting

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from the US Champagne Bureau, which represents the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) saying that the Australian Government had come to an agreement with the EU regarding the labeling of "Champagne, Port, and Sherry" on Australian wines. CIVC is the governing body in France of the region of Champagne. They have been on a crusade for at least the last decade to eradicate the use of the word "Champagne" on any sparkling wine not from their soil.

I expect an e-mail from the Secret Sherry Society (not so secret) any moment now.

In return, the EU will recognize nearly 100 Geographic Indications (the Australian version of Quality Wines Produced in Specific Regions). I seriously doubt that up until this point the major regions were not recognized, but now it is official, and the CIVC gets to crow about it a little.

The main argument that the CIVC makes is that it protects to consumer. When someone sees "Champagne" on a label, you want it to be REAL Champagne instead of some imitation from California, Australia, or elsewhere. I agree up to a point, since Champagne is now used by consumers to indicate all sparkling wine. But I think such usage makes Champagne even more elite. When you think quality bubbly, you think Champagne and visa versa.

The main issue is the price of Champagne. Consumers want Champagne, but they also want it to cost $20 or less or at least this is my experience as a wine buyer for a retail store. So when they walk into a store looking for $19.99 bubbly, they pick Cava or Prosecco or sparkling wine from California. I think if I can find a bubbly from Champagne that is in that price range that tastes even halfway decent, people would buy it by the truck load.

I will see more when the holidays come around. Maybe the Champagne market has thawed out and more $40 bubbly will walk out the door.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TTL: Nautilus Estate Wines

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Way too long ago I participated in a Taste Live event that featured the wines from Nautilus Estate. This winery hails from New Zealand and the line-up was very typical of what you would expect from the country. We tasted the winery's Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Notes can be found below:

2008 Nautilus Pinot Gris - Floral and light, with some light lemon zest. On the palate the minerality shoots out of the glass and dances on my tongue. A little bit of creamy butter floats in and then a really interesting salty sea air finish.

2009 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc - Classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The grassy aroma is all over this wine, with some spicy jalapeno and lemon citrus. The taste is the same, with a little more grapefruit citrus and even some lively kiwi! I thought this wine was so good that I brought it in to be carried at my wine shop.

2008 Nautilus Pinot Noir - Another classic wine from New Zealand. The red raspberry flavors are a little overwhelmed by toasty oak, but there is also a wonderful crushed rose petal smell. The taste is rich, with soft flavors that blend nicely together.

Disclaimer: I received these wines as press samples.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lunch: Cecchi Family Estates

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

The world is full of people. Even better, the world is full of people trying to make something new, exciting, and refreshing. I find that this is especially true in the world of alcoholic beverages, especially wine.

I was treated to a press lunch where roughly ten other journalists and I tasted through the offerings of the Cecchi Family Estates, imported by Banfi Vintners. Cecchi started as a négociant family, lead by Luigi Cecchi. Today's Luigi Cecchi, grandson of the first, began purchasing land throughout Italy, including vineyards in the famous Chianti Classico region.

Andrea Cecchi, the current generation proprietor along with his brother Cesare, lead the lunch and expounded on the family philosophy of earth driven wines. Tasting through the wines I could see what he meant. They all had a lot of rich and rustic qualities, certainly wines that screamed for food.

There were three wines that stuck out to me at the tasting. The first was the aperitif wine, the 2009 Litorale Vermentino Maremma Toscanna. This white wine was beautifully floral, with a light perfume of red grapefruit, lemon zest, and soft minerality. It was very pleasant to drink and had I not known there were bigger fish coming down the stream, I might have indulged myself unhealthily.

The second wine I took note of was the 2006 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva. I almost did not want to take my nose out of the glass and taste the wine, it was that good! Rich tea leaves, a soft mix of red and black fruits, and a spicy complexity made me go back again and again to see what I could find. I was absolutely shocked when I was told this wine sold for under $25. Incredible value.

The last wine was really the spotlight wine of the afternoon. The Cecchi Family's new wine, COEVO is a quintessential super-Tuscan. The name means "contemporary" in Italian and also alludes to an "EVOlution." On the bottle is one of the famous quotes from St. Augustine:
Time does not exist. It is only a dimension of the spirit. The past is past. The future does not exist, as it has yet to happen. And the present is only one instance of separation between past and future.

Whether you feel philosophical or not, this wine is certainly worth seeking out for the experience. With a strong Sangiovese base, the 2006 COEVO is a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The wine is huge, larger than life fruit with a dry background. Definitely in a more modern style, I believe this wine may need a year or two to integrate the flavors together.

Disclaimer: This write-up is a direct result of a press lunch.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quick Taste: Rocca Family Vineyards Bad Boy Red

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I am so jaded by marketing gimmicks. I see funny names, wacky labels and stupid stunts in wine every day. Maybe even twice a day. A few days ago a very good customer came into the store asking for Effen Vodka. Why did she want it? So that she could give it as a gift and say, "Here's an Effen Vodka. Now make me an Effen drink."

So when I received a bottle of 2007 Bad Boy Red from Rocca Family Vineyards, I was anything but enthusiastic. There it is, with that shadowed cowboy looking down as his hat covers his eyes. It screams marketing, which tends to mean that the juice in the bottle came as an afterthought.

I tasted the wine and did a double take. I needed to make sure the wine I had poured in the glass actually came from the bottle I had in front of me. This was a serious wine and I had been treating it like crap since I got the bottle! The nose had beautiful violets and black fruit pouring out of it, soft and smooth. The taste was velvety with excellent blueberry and blackberry, topped by a spicy kick in the finish as the alcohol warms you up.

I was seriously impressed with this wine. It goes to show that you never know what is in the bottle until you taste it. The price on this is about $30, and worth every penny.

Disclaimer: I received this bottle as a media sample.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quick Taste: Dubonnet Rouge Grand Aperitif de France

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I must admit, that I am rather unfamiliar with the world of aperitif drinks. I know that there are a few out there, but they never appealed to me as a drink. There is always a white or sparkling wine that would work in the place of an aperitif. Do not misunderstand me, Dubonnet is a wine and according to the website is a "aromatized" wine, one that has been fortified and flavored with botanicals.

I received a bottle of Dubonnet Rouge to taste and was immediately thrown by the note on the bottle that said, "Serve Chilled."

Well, being the good drinker that I am, I went and put the bottle in the fridge for a while. And then completely forgot it was there (doh!).

When I finally pulled it out, I had to sit down and taste it. The aromas were of sugared prunes and smoky oranges. Definitely a fortified wine. There was even a little nuttiness, but not overwhelming. The taste was similar, with more of a cloying sweetness to it. I am not sure I would have this wine before a meal, but it might be a nice pairing with desserts.

A bottle costs roughly $10-$13, so if you are interested in trying it, the purchase will not hurt the wallet.

Disclaimer: I received this bottle as a media sample.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quick Taste: St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It is possible to over-do a wine. I think that is what happened with the 2007 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel. I was excited by the nose, with some cranberry, and even a spicy note that I thought was fresh cut horseradish (one of my favorite smells... yup, I am a little weird). However, there was also a heavy blanket of butterscotch and caramel, indicating that this wine had seen some oak.

I did not really know how much oak until I tasted the wine. The initial taste of the wine was all sweet raspberry that faded quickly into an extremely dry finish. I wanted more fruit or at least more of a balance between fruit and the structure. That said, just the other day I had a customer ask me for this wine specifically in the store. Always interesting to see what people's tastes are. That is what makes

Disclaimer: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quick Taste: Domaine de la Perriere Sancerre

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I am way behind on reporting on my tastings, so for the next few weeks expect a ton of short, "Quick Taste" segments until I get caught up. I have plenty of longer posts to write, but for now here are some of the samples I've tasted.

I was sent a bottle of the 2008 Domaine de la Perriere Sancerre by the importer and was reasonably impressed. This brand is one of the Guy Saget portfolio of wines, one of the larger producers from the Loire Valley. Since this is from Sancerre, the grape in the bottle is Sauvignon Blanc. The smell was extremely mineral with a healthy background of flowers and rich herbaceous aromas. The wine had a racy acidity, with lots of lemon citrus, and steely minerals. The average price is about $22. I think this is a good quality wine, although perhaps slightly pricey.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One Tequila, Two Tequila

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Drinking tequila to excess is the quintessential American rite of passage. At bars across the country, 20-somethings are giving each other cheap shots of Jose Cuervo or Sauza. However, the super-premium category of tequila has grown by almost 33% since 2002, which means more people are thinking of tequila as a premium liquor and not just as a binge drink.

The base fruit used to make tequila is the blue agave, a spiky succulent (a plant that retains water. eg. a cactus) that is related to the yucca plant. The plant requires between eight and fifteen years of growing before it is ready to harvest. When you consider how much tequila is consumed at frat parties, there must be an extremely large area where the blue agave is grown (some people call it Mexico).

Tequila has several types that it comes in:

Blanco ("white") or plata ("silver"): clear spirit, aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels and then bottled
Joven ("young") or oro ("gold"): is the result of blending Silver Tequila with Reposado and either Añejo or extra Añejo Tequila
Reposado ("rested"): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels
Añejo ("aged" or "vintage"): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in oak barrels
Extra Añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged"): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels

Like Spanish wine regions, Mexico has a governing body that oversees the production of tequila called the Consejo Regulador del Tequila. The Consejo enforces the regulations regarding the aging and labeling of all tequila and allows the use of its mark, which is the letters CRT inside of a box, to show that the tequila has met the requirements for how it is labeled (Blanco, Reposado, etc.).

So how is tequila doing? Just fine I think. I sat down with two expert taste specialists with many years of tequila experience, Leah and Heather. That might be over stating the truth slightly, but regardless we had some interesting insights. For this tasting we did not have a very wide selection to taste from, but I thought you might be interested in our notes. Each of these tequilas we tasted by itself with a splash of water (<1 oz) to release flavors and aromas.


1800 Silver - Our first thought was, "yup, that smells like what I remember." Sweet tropical fruit on the nose, with the taste being very 'hot' from the alcohol. Similar to a sugared lime flavor.

Partida Blanco - A much lighter style, with a good deal of mineral aromas. It reminded me of the smell of rain. The flavor was earthy, with a smooth heat that added another enjoyable level to the flavor.

Dulce Vida Organic Blanco - Tropical fruit smells with a nice minerality in the background. The taste was rounder, with more mineral and grassy flavors than the other two.


Partida Reposado - The nose had great candied apple, rich with caramel and an overall floral background. The taste was smooth and light, confirming on the palate what was on the nose.

Dulce Vida Organic Reposado - Layered with caramel, cedar box, and lighter mineral aromas, carried by a smooth heat. The taste was a little hotter as the alcohol began to show through, but the caramel overture was well integrated.


Partida Añejo - Here the alcohol started to take over. The smell was all hot caramel and toasty aromas. The flavor was much sweeter, showing caramel, vanilla, and slightly singed sugar.

Dulce Vida Organic Añejo - Here the fruit came out. Passion-fruit and sweet melon, with more barrel toasty aromas. The palate confirmed the nose, giving up lots of melon and caramel.

Flavored - It was almost unfortunate, but I was sent several flavored tequilas, obviously to be used in mixed drinks.

Tanteo Jalepeño - Spot on the money, with a big whiff of jalepeño on the nose. The taste was a little sweeter than pure jalepeño spice, but there was just enough spiciness to make my mouth heat up.

Tanteo Tropical - Hello fruit! Not sure what fruit, but definitely tropical. The taste was a very muddled grouping of sweet fruitiness.

Tanteo Chocolate - The smell was dried chocolate, like the powered mixes from Hershey's or Nestle. The flavor was like a weak Nestle Quick.

Premixed Products Probably the worst group we tasted, the premixed margarita substitutes, for when you don't have time to put the ingredients in a blender and would rather pull it directly out of the fridge and into your mouth.

SkinnyGirl Margarita - What is skinny about alcohol? Not a whole lot, but evidently the SkinnyGirl Margarita wants to appeal to the Sex and the City wannabe demographic. I thought this was absolutely disgusting, but the two girls I tasted it thought there was nothing wrong with the drink. Maybe I forgot to rinse my mouth out from the last tequila I had tasted, but this was not a pleasant experience. Maybe I just prefer 'Fat Ass Margarita' instead.

El Jimador Margarita - First of all, this came out of a can. Now, I enjoy things that come out of cans just fine, but I was skeptical to begin with for this product. I poured it into a glass and took a smell. Nothing. Then I tasted it. Slightly sugared fizz. Seriously, this could be the most dangerous binge drinking product I have ever seen. Completely odorless and tasteless with 5% alcohol (roughly a beer).

El Jimador Paloma - Same as above, with a slight tendency towards egg cream soda. If you have never had an egg cream, you are definitely missing something, but perhaps you should try one not out of a can and not made with tequila.

El Jimador Spicy Mango Margarita - Seriously, same as the first margarita from El Jimador, with maybe a hint more citrus. In a blind setting I am not sure I could tell the difference.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

PlumpJack Winery and its little brother CADE

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I sometimes think that I should put some serious limits on how I am treated by wineries, especially since I am now making some of the buying decisions for the wine store.

However, when a winery asks me to lunch at Del Frisco's Steakhouse it becomes somewhat impossible to turn them down. I wanted to tell you this up front so that you can decide for yourself if the food effected my experience of the wine. Let me tell you, you haven't had a Fillet Mignon until you have had a Del Frisco's Fillet on-the-bone. Delicious. I was there with several other wine writers from various publications, but wine specific and other lifestyle magazines.

At Del Frisco's I met Tony Biagi, winemaker at PlumpJack Winery and CADE Winery. One of my favorite parts of this business is meeting the different people and their different personalities. Tony was the type of guy you want to grab a beer with (or a glass of wine, I suppose). Down to earth, sports fan, easy to talk to, and knows his stuff when it comes to Napa Valley.

The main purpose of the lunch, besides tasting the wines, was to talk about how PlumpJack Winery and CADE Winery were converting to sustainable practices. During lunch the representatives from PlumpJack told us their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards had been certified Gold Sustainable, meaning that vineyard had achieved an almost completely harmonious balance as part of what could be a natural ecosystem. Of course this is not completely true, since vines would never have grown in such an organized way but the fact that fewer pesticides and chemicals were entering the system is definitely a positive thing.

The wineries, both owned under the PlumpJack Group by Gavin Newsom, are both well reviewed by the major wine reviewing publications. The PlumpJack brand has been around since 1992,  starting as a retail store and then growing to include an inn and two restaurants. The PlumpJack Winery did not exist until 1997, and the CADE Winery not until 2007. With the continual expansion in slightly less than two decades, I wonder if they are done growing. I would suspect not, especially if the group continues to produce quality products and experiences such as I had with their wines. Their biggest challenge will be to weather the current climate of value buying among consumers, until a time when the country is ready to buy wines above $100 again.

2008 CADE Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley - The nose was crisp and soft, with nice grassy notes and a little lime citrus. A pleasant wine until I heard it cost over $20.

2008 PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley - As pure a Chardonnay as you will find from Napa, with the tiniest touch of Oak. This is definitely my kind of Chardonnay as tons of pear and apple flavors poured through a herbal wintergreen overtone.

2007 PlumpJack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville - A floral, smooth and light blueberry aroma, this wine was a pleasure to drink. The acidity was so well balanced that instead of feeling weighted by tannins and fruit the wine was fresh and vibrant. I would love to see if it ages as well, but it is too rich for my wallet.

2007 CADE Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley - If the last wine was floral, this wine was all earth. White truffle and earthy rich aromas, lightly peppered with cassis and blackberries, this was a powerful wine.

2007 CADE Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain - This is a beautiful wine and obviously the star of the show. One of the things I crave when I am tasting Cabernet is a feeling of velvety smoothness while also enjoying an experience of fresh fruit and light earthy tones. I look for it wherever Cabernet is made, be it Bordeaux, Napa, or some other region of the new world. This wine is an experience, although an expensive one. Sometimes the price tag is well worth it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back from Vacation

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Wow, hi everyone. I have been WAAAAY absentee and most of the reason was getting ready and then going on a vacation to the Caribbean. I went to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras with my incredible and talented girlfriend. We went scuba diving for a week and I saw some incredible sights. I know none of this is wine related, but I figured it was interesting anyway.

Some of the highlights of the week:
  • Getting my open water certification, saying I can go dive anywhere, anytime I want and then missing the boat for my first solo dive without an instructor
  • Seeing some beautiful hummingbirds
  • Hot days with the trade-winds keeping me cool
  • Being the first to spot a giant crab, a lobster, and literally swimming with the fishes
  • Meeting, petting, and then being bitten by a dolphin
  • Seeing my first wild spotted eagle sting ray with a four foot wing span and a twelve foot tail
  • Meeting a ton of great people and learning a lot about the 'diving culture'
I could definitely go diving again.

If you are interested, here's a slide show of my photos. Watch if you like, but don't blame me if you become insanely jealous...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guest Post - Long-Term Planning: Think Ahead, Enjoy Later.

by Lisette Bralow

The whole process of making, buying, keeping, and sampling wine is kind of a long-term exercise. Back in the old days, wealthy people “laid in” a case of this or a case of that at their mansions in the country, so they would always be able to find something at the last minute to have with supper. Thus came about the habit of having a wine cellar in one’s home, so the butler had a place to hang out.

In more modern times, most of us do not possess these “grand” houses and our basements are filled with old bicycles, old clothes, old projects we will get to someday. If we even have basements—new houses are built on slabs, so people use the garage for storage while parking on the street. And if you live in an apartment, you know all about space limitations. A wine cellar is still a luxury for the wealthy.

Still, if you do have a corner to pile up a case or two, you can start a wonderful family tradition. After our children were born, we went to a top wine store and we bought a case of very good Bordeaux for our anniversary year, and one for each of the children’s birth years. As it happened, our anniversary year—1978—was not a great wine year. And Rob’s birthday year—1983—was okay. But our younger son, Michael, was born in 1989, which was a banner year in France.

We bought good wines that we thought would hold up for 30 years: ’78 Chateau Talbot, ’83 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, and ’89 Chateau Talbot. We stored them carefully in a cool basement. And over the years we have pulled out a bottle here and there for special occasions, special birthdays, graduations, and other major family life events.

What we found is that even in the not-so-hot years, a very good winemaking tradition produces very good wine. All three have held up well, as we opened delightful, full-bodied, delicious wines. I have no doubts that the ’83 and the ’89 will prove to be excellent at upcoming 30th birthday parties and even beyond, if any bottles are left.

Our family has had many wonderful years tasting our “anniversary” wines. If you are starting a family, think about creating a legacy for your young children that you can teach them to appreciate as they mature. As with all other things, if you make some wise investments early on, you’ll enjoy a terrific and fun payoff.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Constructive Criticism

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Something that has come up a few times when I talk to people (in real life, face to face interaction instead of impersonal online interactions) about my blogging. The ones that read my blog always look embarrassed when they start the conversation with, "I hope you do not take this the wrong way, but I have some constructive criticism."

I understand that it is tricky to talk to someone about his or her are passion. You do not know if he or she will take it as insulting or constructive. One thing I do want to say is that I enjoy critique. If I am going to be willing to give my opinion on a wine, I think you should be able to give your opinion on my writing or how I am presenting my opinions.

More often than not the person giving me advice on my writing is my mother. She was a Medill graduate and worked as an editor for a long time, so when she tells me I have terrible grammar and that my spelling is atrocious, I smile and say, "Yes, I know. Ain't it great?!" And then I try and lift the quality of my writing. Sometimes it works. Sometimes.

But I welcome your opinion. No, I CRAVE it. I want to know how you think I can do better. For instance, this past week I was told by a PR friend of mine that the daily e-mails are too much. "If you could make it into a once a week e-mail, with more content, I think more people would be excited to read your blog."

I thought that was a brilliant idea. Especially today, when I know you are inundated with e-mails and information on an hourly basis.

Unfortunately, I looked at my settings on FeedBurner and I cannot find a way to limit the e-mail subscription to only send out e-mails once a week. If anyone has any suggestions on how I can manage this, I would be greatful. Instead, I am going to vary when I publish my posts. Usually my e-mails go out around 1:00 PM. Therefore, I am going to start posting one day at 3:00 PM, and the next day at 11:00 AM. This should mean that e-mails only go out once every other day, but each will have multiple blog posts for you to read.

If you have any additional suggestions for my blog, put a comment down here or send me an e-mail. I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking the Advanced Course at the WSET

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

For my birthday, Leah gave me a course at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. After looking at the courses, it seemed best for me to take the advanced class, as the Intermediate class looked like the Viticulture and Vinification course I already took at the American Sommelier Association. Eventually I think this will lead to my enrollment in the Diploma course at the WSET, but they will not admit me to that course until after I have taken their Advanced class, so here I am.

Tuesday was the first class, and the most immediate difference between the ASA and the WSET was the approach to tasting wine. The WSET takes an extremely analytic approach to every aspect of wine tasting, whereas the ASA was slightly less structured. However, I also need to keep in mind that the ASA course I took might have been at a lower level than this WSET course.

For every wine put in front of us, we are expected to analyze and determine the following characteristics:
Appearance - Clarity, Intensity, Color, Other Observations
Nose - Condition, Intensity, Development, Aroma
Palate - Sweetness, Acidity, Tannin Level, Alcohol Level, Body, Mousse (bubbles), Flavor Intensity, Flavour Characteristics, Length

Note that the flavor and the aroma come at the END of each analytic phase. After we are done analyzing the wine we are required to draw conclusions: Quality, Price, Readiness for Drinking. No where are we asked if we like or dislike the wine. I understand why, but I also think this might be a flaw. I feel I am capable of tasting a wine, determining that the wine is good, and also understanding that I do not like it.

The class itself was very interesting to me as well. The people are heavily skewed towards wine industry professionals, mostly thanks to 12 representatives from a beer, wine, and spirits distributing company. The rest of the class is made up of wine enthusiasts and industry wannabes, with a healthy peppering of finance or former finance professionals.

This journey is going to be a good one. I will keep you informed here from time to time about how the class is going.

Have you taken any wine classes? Are you interested in taking more professional wine classes (that is, classes hosted by a professional rather than Joe coming over with 12 bottles and opening them all)? What do you think about these classes?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elegance of Pinot Noir

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I have discovered a new love of Pinot Noir. I was not one of those who watched Sideways and then rushed out and bought up as much Pinot Noir as my wallet could handle. I still mostly drank Cabernet, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc (nope, never really got into Chardonnay). Never mind that I was almost 22 at the time and still drank wine from unmarked jugs.

Now I find myself really enjoying the delicate flavors and easily drinkable profile of Pinot Noir. This light-skinned grape walks such a fine line between a reckless abandonment of flavor for a tasteless alcoholic drink and a truly inspired beverage that compliments food and atmosphere. In my tastings I found a wide range of Pinot Noir that went from watery, tasteless grape juice to intense and aromatic alcohol. The true gems were the wines between the two extremes that were elegant and vibrant.

Some of these gems I found are listed below. As you'll notice there are only a few places where all of these wines come from: Burgundy, Oregon (Willamette Valley), and select places in California with cooler climates, such as Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley.

2008 Cloudline Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - This is the beginner Pinot Noir drinker's wine. There is plenty of soft redfruits, predominantly raspberry, tinged with smoky and toasty aromas. The taste is light and smooth, with a good dollop of sweet red fruits. My only critique is that the finish is a little weak.

2008 Benton-Lane Willamette Valley First Class Pinot Noir - This is the wineries top Pinot Noir and it definitely holds its own in the mid-upper price ranges for Pinot. This Pinot Noir is on the fruitier and fuller bodied style of Pinot Noir, with rich red fruits and smooth and silky acidity.

2008 De Loach Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - This is exactly what I want in a Pinot Noir that is around $20. There is plenty to like about this wine, but the fresh vibrant acidity and the earthy qualities really stuck home with me. Great red fruits like strawberry and raspberry combines incredibly with light toffee notes.

2008 De Loach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - The bigger brother of the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, this Pinot has twice the berries. It is like a fruit explosion on the nose and in the taste, held back by some great acidity. I found out later that this wine had some Syrah added to it to make it slightly more intense and I had a debate with myself on if I thought this was a good or bad thing. My conclusion is that since I enjoyed the wine, a little Syrah did not hurt.

2007 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune - One of the classic names in wine production in Burgundy, Maison Joseph Drouhin has been producing wine since the end of the 1800's. These are wines of delicate flavor and elegance. The Chorey-Les-Beaune is extremely soft and light, with a sense of earth and richness.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin - Moving to the Gevrey-Chambertin, this wine has balance of fruit and earth, while keeping its identity as an old world wine. The complexity of flavors and sensations are not worth writing down, but worth experiencing for yourself. This is not an inexpensive wine, but neither will it break the bank if you are looking for a wine for a special occasion. 

2007 Domain Drouhin Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - The Oregon property of Maison Joseph Drouhin, while independent, still keeps its Burgundian identity. This wine reflects both the difference in place and of the American palate. It is a heavier, juicier wine, but with all of the elegance of a French Pinot Noir. I would want this unique wine to age a few years before enjoying, so that the fruit flavors can blend more with the earthy ones.

2008 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - There is definitely a simple beauty in this wine. There is balance and poise, with enough fruit throughout a lengthy taste and a great freshness. 

2006 Flowers Sonoma Coast Andreen-Gale Pinot Noir - Here is another awesome wine. Combining several vineyards in the Sonoma Coast, this wine has a pure sense of California freshness that puts other heavier and flabbier Pinot Noirs to shame.

Disclosures: These wines were tasted over several trade tasting events as well as from press samples. In addition, I currently sell the lower line of Benton-Lane Pinot Noir at Blue Streak Wines & Spirits.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Did you miss me?

by Rob Bralow
, Wine Post Editor

Wow! It has been over a month since I last posted. I apologize to all of my readers, life has been a little busy.

Let me fill you in: I became the Manager of Events and Promotions at Blue Streak Wines & Spirits, started along the path of creating a sales website for the store, started going to more industry tastings in order to think about additional wines to bring into the store, adopted a kitty, planned a vacation, and generally ran around like a chicken with my head cut off. The boss is away right now, so I have some time in the mornings to do some writing.

So now I am back! And I have SOOOO many wines to talk about that I am not sure if I will be able to talk about them all (but I will sure try). 

Tonight also starts my first class at the International Wine Center. I have enrolled in the WSET Advanced Course, with the intention of moving on to their Diploma Course. This is the first step towards the coveted Master of Wine, but that is a long ways away, with many hurtles to go. It would be like having another college education or a law degree. My grandfather wants me to go back to school, although I am not sure this is what he was thinking.

So, stay tuned throughout this week, next, and the one after that as I talk about Pinot Noir, Italian wines, Austrian wines, and Tequila!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Lunch with Hourglass Vineyards

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

At the end of March, I sat down with Jeff Smith, the owner of Hourglass Wine Company. Jeff's father, Ned Smith, purchased six acres of land in 1976 and created a bed and breakfast along Lodi Lane, which Jeff claims was one of the first in Napa. Ned was not particularly interested in biting into the wine industry at the time, but decided to plant his favorite varietal Zinfandel, in hopes of trading grapes for finished wines. The Zinfandel vineyards were decimated by phylloxera in the early 1990's, at which time Jeff took over management.

"It was close," explained Jeff. "We were thinking of selling the land. But first I wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing. My friend Kelley Maher put me in touch with Dr. Mark Kliewer and said if we would host him for a weekend, he would evaluate our site."

Dr. Kliewer was the Dean of the viticulture program at UC Davis and one of the world's premier experts in grape growing climates. He concluded that the Smith property had the potential to produce some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. This high praise from such a prestigious source had Jeff planting Cabernet Sauvignon as fast as he could. By enlisting Bob Foley, already a noted winemaker, Jeff propelled the Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon to cult status starting with the very first vintage in 1997.

My favorite part during my talk with Jeff was when he described the land. Besides having fantastic visions of sunsets and cooling winds that come through the vineyards in the summertime, a newer property that Jeff recently purchased with several business partners has two blue-line streams (streams that run for most or part of each year) that run through the vines, creating a winery with a branded namesake "Blueline." Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc are currently planted in the Blueline Vineyards, with plans to add plots of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Each year an interesting occurrence takes place on the Blueline Vineyards:  Steelhead's (a type of Rainbow Trout) run up the river to hatch their young upstream. I would love to be there to watch it happen, but it is somewhat unpredictable and only lasts for a short period of time.

After talking about the vineyards for a while, we tasted the 2007 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. There are some wines that are like meeting a cheerful, bubbly friend of a friend. Some wines are like meeting someone who asks awkward questions at inappropriate times and you just have to smile and suddenly remember that you had to be somewhere else. This wine was like meeting an old friend on a porch while the sun is setting. The nose was silky, with blackberry and raspberry up front, moving to that pleasant smell I associate with walking into a tea shop. The taste was delicious: smooth with soft currant, blackberry, with a pleasant hit of black pepper and eucalyptus that stretched on and on and on...

After talking about the wine and the winery, Jeff wanted to ask me about my blog and what I do. I found this extremely interesting because the more I spoke to him, the more I understood that he did not quite get it but really wanted to learn more about social media. He put his trust in his PR agency to help him, which I always think is a good idea. Jeff was fascinated by my views on twitter and Facebook and bloggers. After the lunch, I think he was starting to understand that most bloggers have other day jobs and that the reason they blog is for the passion of writing about something they love, wine. Jeff could definitely relate to that.

Disclosure: This post resulted from a press lunch. 

I am also going to add an additional disclosure to my blog posts. Now that I am working for Blue Streak Wines & Spirits I am going to further disclose whether or not the store carries the wine or wines that I talk about. Discussing a wine on my blog will not automatically mean that the store carries them. That said, there may be some wines in the store that I will talk about here. As in everything, I will attempt to be as honest and transparent as possible.

The store does not currently carry any of the wines discussed in this article.

Monday, April 19, 2010


by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It has been a difficult road the last four months, but I am once again employed! I am pleased to announce that I have been hired to be the Manager of Events and Promotions at Blue Streak Wines and Spirits! Blue Streak is a retail store in Long Island City, literally on the water with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline.

My role will include marketing and promotions for the store as well as assisting in wine buying, community relations, and wine education programs for customers. This past weekend I was there and the customers were great: many enthusiastic foodies, flowering oenophiles, and experienced wine geeks. The wine selection in the store is a good mix of a little bit of everything, with a healthy dollop of spirits and sakes.

I am very exciting to be working at Blue Streak. The other employees are very knowledgeable about wine, spirits, and sakes as well as really great people to hang out with. I feel extremely lucky and I think that I found a great place to work!

If you are in the area, come on by and chat!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quick Taste: Campo Viejo Reserva Tempranillo Rioja

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I always like it when I find a cheap, cheerful, and widely available wine that I enjoy. That is what I found in the 2005 Campo Viejo Reserva Tempranillo. Before I get too lovely-dovey on the wine, let me go back to harping on an old pet peeve: the website needs some help. In the age of technology and information, every winery should have a website. Ok, good, we got that part right.

But then there is the information for me, the consumer (and pseudo journalist). I want to see how much wine is made there. I want to know the people that make it. And I want it expressed to me in a friendly, interesting fashion.

I dug around and found a second (and MUCH BETTER) website for Campo Viejo. They seem to have a separate UK Website for the winery. That puts us Americans in our place. I would say it is strange that a company has multiple websites, but it really is not. However, to have such vastly different branding on the two different sites is somewhat strange.

But back to the wine. I found the nose to be smooth cherry, raspberry and slightly rustic, showing off the Rioja style. The taste was smooth, with scratchy raspberry, blackberry, and licorice. There was a lot missing from this wine that I would look for to make it "interesting," but overall the wine is exactly as billed for $14.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quick Taste: Hall Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

The first time I was introduced to Hall Wines from Napa Valley was from a sample I received in the mail. It was a bottle of 2006 Hall Wines Katheryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. I did not really think too much about it. It had an attractive label, came in unattractive but serviceable packaging. Then I went to the 2009 Wine Experience hosted by Wine Spectator. Copies of the November 15th Issue were lying about everywhere, and I could not help noticing that the bottle that had just arrived in the mail was one of the three wines on the cover for the Napa Valley Issue.

I then got the chance to taste the wine during the orgy of wine that ensued. It was absolutely delicious. My notes can be found midway down the page at my blog post about the Experience.

When I received an e-mail asking me if I wanted to taste some more wines from Hall, I immediately said yes. I received a bottle of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa Valley.

2008 Hall Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley - Fresh in the glass, the wine has a strong pink grapefruit expression, with some rich herbal notes, like fresh cut tea leaves. The taste was very peppery, with white pepper and jalepeno, finishing on grapefruit and lemon rind.

2006 Hall Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley - I took this wine out to dinner with a few friends of mine, because I had some expectations for the wine. We went to a BYO Italian place, that I do not mention, because if I keep talking about it you might think I am shilling for them. I am not, I just love the place. Anyway, I opened this bottle there, with a few friends and found the wine to be as much the little brother of the Kathryn Hall Cabernet as I could hope. There was classic blackberry and cassis, with some ripe cherry and caramel. The taste was filled with cinnamon and chocolate, with some ripe fruit towards the end. The difference was that this wine did not taste as finished. The Kathryn Hall was pure bliss, while this was just nice to drink. The difference between a swiss chocolate and a bar that you picked up at Acme. Both of chocolate, and both are tasty, but one just blows the other away. In my next life I think I will be a chocolate blogger...

Disclaimer: These wines were both received as unsolicited free samples.

News Update: I wrote this blog post about a week ago and checked through my e-mail and found that on March 31st Hall Wines announced by press release that the winery has received Organic Certification from the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), one of the nation’s oldest and largest organic certification and trade associations in North America. The organic farming certification process spans three years and each of HALL’s six estates located throughout Napa Valley and Alexander Valley in Sonoma County follow the strict guidelines set forth by the CCOF. To date in 2010, 355 acres owned by the HALL’s have been certified organic. The last of the estate vineyards, known as the Hardester Ranch with 145 planted acres, will receive its organic certification on August 18, 2010.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Slightly Distracted

This is not a wine post, so if you were expecting the usual wine discussion, sorry to disappoint.

I did want to introduce you to someone new in my life. Her name is Mellon and she nearly a year old. Leah and I brought her home yesterday and we have been loving every moment of having her around. Well, perhaps I did not enjoy being woken up at 5:30 by whiskers and claws, demanding attention, but besides that everything has been extraordinary.

This week I will be returning to more wine discussion, with quite a few winemaker interviews. But for now, enjoy the sight of one adorable Calico kitty.

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