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!
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