Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Final Taste: Michael David Wines

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

At this point I have tasted a good selection from Michael David Winery, with all of their wines coming from the Lodi region. I tasted some deadly Zin, some tiny elephants, and more. Today I am finishing up my samples from the winery with the 2007 6th Sense Syrah and 2006 Incognito. The winery has made a good run at creative names and interesting wines, both of which span the gap between heaven and hell.

The 2007 6th Sense Syrah was a very easy drink. On the nose there was a very floral note, almost too much like nail polish. Then it calmed down into milk chocolate and sweet red fruit smells. The taste was very sweet up front, moving into cinnamon and chocolate. This is a very smooth drink, although not as much lingering fruit as I would like.

Tasting the 2006 Incognito was one of the strangest experiences I have had with wine. If I had closed my eyes I might have thought I was smelling and tasting a white wine. The nose was full of apple cider and peach, and then smothered in a spice cabinet. The taste is similar and it is just... strange.

Overall, I like what Michael David Winery is doing. They have a clever marketing sense and some interesting wines. They are not wines I would reach for automatically, but I would never turn away a glass.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quick Taste: Altanuta

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I profess not to be a lover or Pinot Grigio. Too often I find it watery, or strained with tropical, or simply flawed. Therefore, when I find a Pinot Grigio I like, I find it to be almost a miracle.

Altanuta Pinot Grigio is good wine. From Valdadige, Italy this Pinot Grigio is the real deal. This is a delicious wine that I can see myself enjoying during a meal or just sitting around on an afternoon. There is a grassy, lime and creamy smell to the wine, with lots of minerality. The creamy smoothness comes out on the palate and is joined by soft pears and peaches.

I received this wine as a sample from Total Beverage Solution.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New does not mean bad

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

So many wineries point to their long heritage as a reason to buy their wines. It is as if hundreds of years of doing things the same way makes a better wine. For some wineries that is true, and I cannot fault them for their inflexibility. When you make damn good wine, why change what you do? But when the wine is not truly amazing, why not tinker with the recipe?

Then there are the hundreds of wineries that spring up every year. There is new land being put to vine, new juice being crushed from young berries, and new wines hitting the market every year. It is impossible to keep track of it all, and plenty of the wine you really do not want to keep track of.

But then there are the gems that appear each year. Hop Kiln Winery, certainly not new to the winemaking game, is making some delicious wine. I was sent some samples and was really impressed, enough so that I send their PR rep an e-mail with questions for the winemaker. I really loved the 2007 HK Generations Pinot Noir. It started off with just a fantastic strawberry red color and continued from there. The nose had delicate red fruits, rich in raspberry and strawberry. Then the taste was ripe and balanced, with a bit of jamy fruit and great vibrant minerality.

From the 24 year old winemaker, Chuck Mansfield:

The HK Generations (HKG) wines are exclusive productions meant to highlight the Hop Kiln Ranch's affinity to produce excellent Pinot Noir. I currently make both the HKG line as well as the wines of Hop Kiln, which total just under 10,000 cases. The vast majority of that production is the Thousand Flowers blend and the Big Red blend. These grapes are sourced from Mendocino, Sonoma, and El Dorado county.

HKG has been produced since 2005. My philosophy is pretty simple, you cannot make a great wine without truly great grapes. So my winemaking begins in the vineyard. I am blessed to have a site where the soil profile ranges from only 18 inches deep near the Russian River's banks, to a hillside made of thick fractured sandstone. We strive to keep each clone ripening evenly, so when we harvest there is little need for additions or manipulations on the crush pad. Pinot Noir clones really show their site specific characteristics, and I try to blend wines that highlight these differences.

I also tasted the 2007 Hop Kiln Big Red. Definitely not as impressive as the HKG Pinot Noir, but was still nice. This wine had sweet plum and black pepper combined with juicy berry notes. The taste had plenty of jammy red fruit with good bright cranberry on a backbone of easy tannins.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Quick Taste: Elephants on Parade

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I received the 2007 Petite Petit from Michael David Winery and on the label were these two wine drinking elephants in front of a circus big top. The bottle itself had a heavy (one might even say fat) bottom. Both of these things sent one very clear message: this will not be a small wine.

The Petite Petit is a blend of Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot (get it?), both of which tend to make wines that are very tannic, very juicy, and very large (which means, bring a steak with you). This particular wine was no exception. This wine was big and juicy with lots of blackberry and cherry fruit. There were also some nice floral notes to the wine, giving it a very pleasant bouquet. The taste was pure fruit, with plenty of backbone. That said, it was quite balanced in my opinion and easy to drink, although I would seriously suggest having this wine with food.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pretty but missing something

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It amazes me how old Europe is. I can only say that as an ignorant American in his mid-twenties, but when I compare some wines in California, many of which where non-existent before the 1990's, and the wines from Italy or France, many of which have history going back to the 1600's, it just boggles my mind.

That is how I felt when I received samples from Tiziano. In the About section, Tiziano talks about how old the Chianti Classico region is and how lucky Tiziano is to be part of that tradition. Somewhat misleading, since what I really want to know is the age of Tiziano winery. A pretty website, with very little information.

The wines somewhat echo that sentiment and being almost done. The winery makes a Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, and a Pinot Grigio. Below are my tasting notes:

2008 Tiziano Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy - Starts with bright kiwi and fresh cut flowers in the glass. The taste is extremely light and grapy, with a slightly metallic taste upfront.

2007 Chianti - Earthy and rich with blackberry and slightly barnyard characteristics. Yes, that's a good thing. The taste is light and a little creamy. It is a simple wine, but easy to drink and destined for Tuesday night with pasta marinara.

2006 Chianti Classico - Fresh raspberries and stawberries are almost growing out of the glass. Such fruity sweetness on the nose! Then there are notes of dark chocolate and toast that mixes with the fruit. The only thing holding this wine back is the mass of woody dryness that cuts away the fruit on the finish.

2005 Chianti Riserva - Not sure what happened with this wine, but it was not my favorite. There is a super sweetness to this wine which is almost immediately dropped and dissapears. I tried two different bottles and both had the same result.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wine For Haiti by Palate Press

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I was worried about repeating the news on my blog about the Palate Press Wine for Haiti fund raiser. Thoughts like "would anyone care?" and "this is already on the Internet, is posting it again really necessary?" crossed my mind.

Then I watched the news and I got seriously choked up. Listening to the droning voice of Brian Williams on NBC was not the most emotional presentation, which might have made it more powerful. I watched the stories about children with broken bones that need to have their arms and legs amputated, babies being flown out of Haiti to Miami because there are no facilities in Haiti that can accommodate their injuries, and a husband who found his wife until tons of rubble who had survived for six days without food or water. That last one was probably the most powerful for me.

So now I am doing what I can.

For the wine bloggers who read this: Spread the word! This is social media at its finest, where we can reach millions of people together at once. Post it on twitter AGAIN, post it on Facebook AGAIN. Make sure that there is no one that you know who has not read about Wines for Haiti and had their chance to decide to donate a bottle, or bid on a lot.

For the winery representatives and PR people who read this: Consider donating a bottle, a mixed case, a visit to your vineyards, a dinner with your winemaker, a signed label, a corkscrew, an imprinted wine bag, ANYTHING. Your donations are what will make this a truly worthwhile fund-raiser. Right now the brands that have donated product have been listed at Palate Press and bloggers everywhere are linking back to it. That is my marketing background speaking. I also know that samples are sitting in your back offices and that this is a worthwhile cause to put that product to.

For wine lovers reading this but not necessarily connected to the wine industry: Think about bidding on a lot. Right now the American Red Cross has raised over $20 million through text message fund raising. That is truly incredible. Keep doing that. But this is also a great way to not only donate to the cause be get rewarded for it.

For Everyone: Tell someone. Spread the word and keep people talking about it. . Do not let it dwindle, because there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in Haiti and there will still be need in Haiti for weeks to come.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Devil's Cellar

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I know you have seen this bottle before. Concha y Toro is the largest producer in Chile, and was one of the very first to establish themselves in the US market in the 1950's. The Casillero del Diablo brand was created in 1953 and is now a staple of thousands of wine shops across the world. With twelve varietally labeled wines made under this brand, the company sells over one and a half million cases worldwide annually. And that does not take into account the other brands that Concha y Toro has.

Yes, this is a big box winery. They make wine by the millions of cases each year. What I find to be most impressive is how good the wine is. Even after making millions of cases, the $10 tastes like $20 wine and the $25 wine tastes like $40 wine. It's value, up the ladder.

Now do not take that to mean that each of these wines is a life-changing experience, waiting to be uncorked. Concha y Toro has those, but it is unlikely that samples of those wines will come through my door. I am talking about the Don Melchor (now in it's 20th year of production), Carmin de Peumo, and Amelia, all three of which are "Icon" wines. No, these other wines from Concha y Toro are Tuesday night wines; easy to pick up at the store on your way home and even easier to consume.

I received the following wines as samples and enjoyed each one of them.

2008 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere - Dark and smooth in color with some rich red fruit aromas. There is a very characteristic herbal flavor on the taste, but surrounded by dark cherry and blackberries.

2008 Casillero del Diablo Merlot - A round and fleshy wine, with sweet plum, cherry and cinnamon. Nicely balanced with enough structure to make you want another sip.

2008 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon - An amazing value of a Cabernet. Such brilliant cassis and blackberry with smooth tannins and pretty balance. Too easy to drink the bottle and go looking for another.

I promise you that you will find these wines, most likely for $10 give or take a dollar.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quick Taste: Meet the Lindemans

By Rob Bralow

I am cleaning out my closet in order to make room for the 2010 samples (which are already coming in...).

I tasted the 2008 Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz and 2008 Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both of these wines are from Southeastern Australia and while I think that the suggested retail price of these wines is $8, I've seen it around the country of $5.

The Shiraz was OK. Best I can say. There was a lot of sweet plum, sugar cookie, caramel on the nose and a very sugary sweet taste, with just enough acid in it to call it almost balanced. I did not mind it.

The Cabernet was absent. There was a lot of fruity blueberry on the nose but it had not much taste. It disappeared almost as soon as it hit my tongue. There is nothing wrong with that if you are just looking for a beverage, but not if you are looking for an experience.

A Pinata Apple

Piñata apple on the left, big red apple on the right. Which would you rather eat?

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I was pitched a story about an apple and it intrigued me. I do not really write about food besides the occasional restaurant mention. However, this was presented to me as a pairing. What wine goes best with apples? I thought a sweet Riesling to balance the apple's natural acidity, or a muscat. I was given the suggestion of a Sauternes.

And then there is what to put onto an apple. Maybe a Roquefort, or Brie. Maybe some jam, or honey. Peanut butter? Plenty of different options.

I know very little about apples. I know there are several different kinds: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, etc. They have some different colors, different shapes and of course different tastes. I tend to know what to expect what the apple will taste like just by the skin and size of the apple. The smaller the apple, the more sour flavors I expect. The larger, the more fleshy and grainy I expect the apple.

The Piñata apple was created by Stemilt Growers. Stemilt created this apple to be diverse and hardy, able to withstand any culinary condition. The skin is thin and crisp while the flesh is hardy and satisfying. To me, this apple has a great balance of acidity and natural sugars. There is a fun interply between sweet and sour, with great classic apple taste.

The Piñata is a cross between Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and the Duchess of Oldenburg varieties. In Europe found under the names Pinova or Sonata, the Piñata is a result of nearly two decades of development at the apple-breeding program in Dresden-Pillnitz, Germany. Stemilt Growers purchased the exclusive rights to grow and market this new apple in the United States and changed the name to Piñata to better highlight the apple’s stimulating attributes.

Personally, I think the name slightly strange, as it brings to mind a brightly colored object, stuffed with candy, and hung from a tree to be swung at by small children and intoxicated adults.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wine of a KOZ

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I received some samples in the mail from someone pitching a story about charitable wines for the holidays. I honestly did not give it my full attention, mostly because I was rather distracted by my own worldly woes.

I then dug into my e-mails and found that I have received a ton of information about KOZ wines. KOZ wines is a collaboration between Grammy Award-nominated jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and Whole Foods Markets. 100 percent of Dave's proceeds benefit the Starlight Children's Foundation. Previously I've written about Humanitas Winery and One Hope Wines, both of which have deep ties to humanitarian charities. KOZ does go one step farther, but that is because famous jazz saxophonists probably do not need to make wine in order to make money.

These wines are all made by Vinum Cellars, a company which makes about ten wines under their own label. Below are my notes from the KOZ wines that I received:

2008 KOZ Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley - This was a pleasant wine for drinking, but not much else. There was a fatness to the wine that made it something of a Coca Cola wine. You can drink it, and it tastes good, but there is not much else to it. On the nose there was some gooseberry and asparagus, both of which came out in the taste.

2007 KOZ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley - There is some real heat here, as there should be in a wine that has a 14.7% Alc. For me this wine was rustic and a little rough edged. There was definitely some fruit, blackberries and cranberries, but there is a woody dryness that just sucks away the fruit in the middle.

2007 KOZ Red Alto Blend, El Dorado - My favorite wine of the group. A wine with a mostly Syrah base, blended with Grenache, Mouvedre, and Petite Syrah, this wine really brought out the fruit. This was round and succulent, with fleshy red cherry pushing its way out of the glass. With good length and a nice balance, this wine makes you feel good both on the palate and in the fact that you are really giving to a children's charity.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quick Taste: Marchesi de Frescobaldi

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

The name Fescobaldi is one that is well known around the world of wine. According to their website, Marchesi de Frescobaldi has been making wine for the last 700 years. Napa has a little ways to go...

The wine I received as a sample was the 2006 Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina. That is quite a mouth full. And so is the wine! Unquestionably an old world style, with lots of damp earth, blackberry, and cinnamon. The taste is a good interplay between fruit and structure, with dark fruits and intricate spices that combine beautifully.

This is an easy wine to enjoy for $20, and well worth the price. It is no surprise to me that the bigger brother of this wine, the 2004 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino was 15th on Wine Spectator's top 100 list. Even if these lists are arbitrary, I would be more likely to pay the money for the more expensive wine, now that I know one of the entry level wines is so good.

A New Zealand Artistic Extravaganza

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I love art. I wrote about how when I was little I roamed the halls of the Philadelphia Art Museum. For me there is little more important than supporting the Arts, in all of their different fashions.

That is why I am happy to post this announcement from Kim Crawford Wines. KCW has launched their latest initiative to support the arts and bring people together - an online community and contest called The Artists’ Lounge as a place for emerging artists and those who appreciate the arts to share inspirations and artwork with each other.

All those who share an inspiration with the community have a chance to inspire and win original artwork created by one of the four “Artists’ in Residence”, and a trip for two to New Zealand. The Artists’ Lounge features four emerging artists representing the artistic genres of music, photography, print making and poetry who will be searching for inspiration within the community to create original artwork.

Below are a few additional questions I asked the winery representative:

WP: Is this a global contest or just US?

KCW: Only US residents are eligible to enter (except in California and Tennessee due to alcohol restrictions).

WP: How does Kim Crawford Wines fit into the arts, besides running this contest?

KCW: Kim Crawford Wines views winemaking as an art as it strives to capture the true aromas and flavors of New Zealand in each bottle by combining a passion for excellence with a vision for exploring new boundaries. As such, they are longtime supporters of the artist community and partner routinely with GenArt, the leading arts and entertainment organization dedicated to showcasing emerging fashion designers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists.

WP: Is there a charity aspect to it?

KCW: Kim Crawford Wines has extended The Artists’ Lounge off-line with a “Vintage 2009” art donation, including a piece from each of the Artists in Residence, that was auctioned off at GenArt event to support emerging artists.

WP: What other initiatives have Kim Crawford Wines been a part of?

KCW: Prior to creating the Artists’ Lounge, Kim Crawford Wines hosted the Music Lounge, featuring new emerging musicians every few months and providing free tracks to visitors. The Artists’ Lounge was created in its likeness to expand supporting the arts to more genres, including music.

The only issue is that entries for the contest close on January 18, so you had better get those creative juices flowing! Probably should pick up a bottle NZ Sauvignon Blanc though.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Convince Me

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

About half a year ago I wrote about how there are certain social rules for the various social media networks that everyone seems to be on. You have your twitter social norms, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Everyone has their own policy and if you want to know mine, go back and click on the link to my other blog post ("I am only sort of social").

Having seen a good start to it in 2009, which I am sure will only continue in 2010, Facebook has become one of the key centers of social media... ness. Everyone is there already, which means wine companies are beginning to make their presence known. Of course it is not only wine companies, but beer, spirits, toys, clothes, airlines, and "My Skool Need More Attractive Girls/Boys."

I am not sure what that last one is trying to sell, but there are over 600,000 people who are buying it. And I am sure all of them are edumacated.

With all of these new fan pages there is a flood of people trying to build their audience through their friend network. At any given time of my 1,102 friends there are about 200 that will always join/fan/do whatever I send out. It is how I started my own funny page where I post anything I find funny (I like funny). If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you probably know what I am talking about, although my sense of humor is somewhat juvenile.

So the deluge continues and with it there becomes a dilution of importance. It then boils down to one important thing that most of these companies are missing.

Convince me.

I am waiting to be convinced, begging for it actually. I have so many people sending me things that only something that stands out will really catch my attention. There needs to be a reason for me to become a statistic in your marketing plan. Reasons can be very simple, such as: I know someone that works for you; I was sent a bottle of wine from your winery that I liked; I attended an event of yours; you are running a contest where I could win a corkscrew (well maybe not, I have plenty of those). This entire blog post was started because someone who is a friend of mine on Facebook asked be to become a fan of an organic winery in Dry Creek Valley. I have never been there, never tasted the wines, and never really had it in my mind to be added to the list of people receiving updates from them on Facebook.

My point is that asking me to be a fan of yours (or your company) is great. But I am getting fan requests from hundreds of people and companies. Now you need to go the extra mile and make me not only want to be a fan, but make me want to bring all my friends along with me.

It's a Gigondas!

By Rob Bralow

Remember that photo I showed you last week about the good packaging that came from Cotes-du-Rhone? It doesn't matter, I am going to show it to you again anyway.

Isn't that lovely? Simple and elegant. It actually inspired me to do a similar wrap on all of my bottle gifts that I gave for the holidays in artfully taped paper. Mine looked nothing like the photo above, I actually have no artistic talent, only taste (good or bad, it's still taste!).

I was very pleased to find that one of those bottles was the 2005 Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Romane Machotte . That's a lot of names for one wine, but what you need to really know is that the wine is from Gigondas, made by Pierre Amadieu. Got it?

Gigondas is a Southern AOC in the Rhone Valley in France. This AOC produces only red wines, with very little Rose as well. This particular wine is made from Grenache and Syrah and I could drink it all day.

The nose had a nice perfume with a mix of figs and dried cherries. In my mouth the wine was rich and vibrant, pushing red cherry, fig and some pepper through a steady structure and ending with a little anise. Really yummy, I would pick one up pronto. For $25, I think this is properly valued.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

See how they Sparkle

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It seems so long ago, but for New Year's Eve I tasted three very different sparkling wines with my friends. I think this is going to become something of a tradition, to taste a number of wines with people on New Year's Eve. It is nice for a group that does not really want to go out to the bars on NYE. We like hanging out with each other and not binge drinking with one or two hundred strangers.

We like binge drinking by ourselves. And we like doing it with something better than Bud Light. Quick someone get me a Yuengling...

NV Bagrationi 1882 Classic Extra Dry, Country of Georgia - It is not often I see wines from lesser known regions like the Country of Georgia. This wine is made from the grape varieties of Chinebuli, Tsitska and Mtsvane grown in and around the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. According to the winery, there is evidence of winemaking in the Country of Georgia dating to around 5,000 B.C.E. This wine is brimful of tropical fruit with undertones of brine. The taste is smooth olive and a little creamy. For me this wine does not linger long enough, but Leah enjoyed it.

NV Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz, Southeastern Australia - It is wines like this that constantly remind me that there is no expertise that matters more than your own taste. My friend Bren who joined us on NYE enjoyed this wine best of the group. I do not taste a lot of Sparkling Shiraz, but the ones I have tasted did not impress me. This wine, while good, was still not something I would reach for with any consistency. It is a fun wine, something to open up and say, "I'll bet you've never had something like this." The wine had floral and raspberry aromas and tasted a little sweet, but had a nice balance. The tannins bothered me a little, but it was not unpleasant.

NV Casa Perini Moscatel Processo Asti, Italy - I am an absolute sucker for sweet wines from Asti. Seriously, they might be my favorite type of sparkling wine. Maybe it is because I grew up addicted to Coca Cola, but something sweet with enough acid to balance, and some tiny bubbles... yum! While the website is impossible for an english speaker to follow and find this wine, it is out there. I found this wine to have some sweet kiwi, raisons, and a little bit of bready yeast. The taste was all peaches and pears, with some citrus and raisons.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Have you confessed your Zins?

By Rob Bralow

I received a bottle of 2007 Seven Deadly Zins and I was excited about it. I had many friends, including my best friend's mother Liz tell me how much she enjoys this wine. She likes Pinot Grigio and pretty much anything under $10, so I took that for what it was worth: A very nice lady I know enjoys this wine.

I also met some reps from the winery at Wine 2.0. Nice people, and when I tasted the wines for the most part I enjoyed them.

I popped open this Zin and found an herbal freshness, with a little heat and plum in the glass. Once past the gums I found carmalized onions (which I love), some candied cherry and some pepper. But over it all was a very herbaceous blanket. I would have liked a little less herbs and a little more fruit, but when I am honest with myself, I probably would not turn down a glass. Although I might not go back for a second glass.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick Taste: Tempra Tantrum

By Rob Bralow

So you remember all my praise about the Tempra Tantrum yesterday? Let me quote you a little bit from that flashy, eye-catching, marketing exxxxxxxxxxxxxxxtravaganza:

"Tempra Tantrum is more than wine. It's an ode to originality, a hymn to passion, a praise to expression...."

Oh it goes on, but I couldn't bring myself to keep typing. That amount of flash and fluff makes people like me put the bottle back down on the shelf and walk away slowly.

These are critter wines, those wines that Australia made famous by putting a friendly little critter on the label and selling it for $10. Almost literally these are the same, with the same price tag, only from Spain. Right now there is a flood of this wine on the market because you (yes YOU out there) are drinking it. Don't ask me why, ask yourself.

For me, I would not buy these wines. They are sweet and sugary and not much else. However, if you like Yellow Tail, if you like Little Penguin, if you like turtles, doves, rabbits, dogs, cats, ostrich or any other animal you can think of on the labels of your wine, this might be right up your alley.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nice Package

By Rob Bralow

In November I wrote about how The Whole Package is Important, and I thought I would follow that up with some really great packages to show you how its done.

And you thought I was going to take you to see some other packages didn't you... sometimes knowing my mother is reading this is just enough a deterrent. Sometimes...

But, back to some spiffy packaging. Some are simple like this one from the people running the program for Cotes-du-Rhones:

You have probably seen their ads in the major wine trade publications, the ones comparing a fabulous meal with a pizza or a hamburger (which I might add is definitely one of the important food groups). The message is that wines from Cotes-du-Rhone are for every occasion. I think Fred Fanzia might have that market covered, but I think wine all the time is not a bad thing.

Then I received this from Grand Marnier:

Their new marketing campaign is La Vie Grand Marnier, very red and flashy and all about women. Seriously, if they were thinking of targeting men in this ad campaign they missed, but I think that all of the Chic clothing hits women in the jealous spot. I think. Honestly, I'm a man and know so little about these things that one would have to sit down and explain it to me very slowly... They did go to the trouble of creating a video, although I find it a little strange that there is no website attached to the campaign and no mention of it on the Grand Marnier homepage. And the contest that is on the homepage has expired...

And then there was Tempra Tantrum

I felt like someone had decided what the flashiest almost clashing colors on the color wheel were and threw them at this box. This is marketing at its finest. Fredric Koeppel at Bigger Than Your Head also received this gawdy package and had some great commentary. For me, a person who thinks about marketing and public relations for clients, I think this is beautiful. I mean, it has all of the information that an uninformed, novice in the wine world could possibly want to know about the wines in the box. And it even comes with Toñito, not the Spanish football player but instead a somewhat bullhorn shaped webcam. I won't talk about the wines (that's tomorrow's post), but I will say that from a marketing perspective this is a nice package.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

WBC already?

Now that it is 2010, those of you who read the blogs religiously know that many will start talking about the Wine Bloggers' Conference. At this conference hundreds of people will come together to talk about how social media is evolving, to taste as much wine as they can, and to form new relationships among fellow bloggers, marketing professionals, and wineries.

However, most wine bloggers are not well funded in what they do. In fact there are very few who make money at all blogging. Therefore, a scholarship has been established for qualified bloggers to attend this conference. Below is an excerpt from Luscious Lushes, a wine blog by my friend Thea, regarding this scholarship:

To kick this year off with a bang, I’m here to announce the 2010 Wine Bloggers Scholarship applications and donations are open! This year, we are headed to Walla Walla in June to talk about wine, blogging and social media. As with the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, this 3 day symposium brings together professionals, bloggers, winemakers and more to discuss the impact of industry and citizens bloggers, social media, and the adult beverage industry.

We will spend 3 days in Walla Walla drinking great wine, learning the basics of wine blogging, blogging live while tasting, touring the Walla Walla wine scene, and also doing a whole lot of networking. After the 2009 Conference in Sonoma, many connections were made, many bloggers blossomed, and several people got some killer careers going in wine. What could YOU accomplish?

In an effort to support bloggers that wish to attend to learn more, perfect their craft, or see what it’s all about, the WBC Scholarship sets out to raise funds to assist citizen bloggers (those unaffiliated with a winery or other professional organization) get to Walla Walla and participate in the event of the decade. Ok well the first year of the decade anyway.

To find out more about the WBC Scholarship, please visit our site at If you’re a citizen blogger and would like to apply for assistance, please see the Application page.

I think blogging is a wonderful and has really spurred a re-energized movement on keeping wineries, marketers, and each other more honest when it comes to discussions about wine. If you agree, then visit the page and make a donation of any amount. Some blogger (perhaps me!) we thank you for it.

Old Gristmill Authentic American Corn Whiskey by Tuthilltown Spirits

By Mike Feldman

I was recently on duty to buy wine for a dinner with some friends. Most of the guys coming to this shindig were whiskey drinkers, so I was also looking for something a little stronger than wine that might work out as a nice after-dinner drink. Sitting on the whiskey shelf at the liquor store was a slender clear bottle joy that I knew I had to have.

Labeled as a non-aged corn whiskey, the Old Gristmill Authentic American Corn Whiskey by Tuthilltown Spirits is essential a highly refined take on ‘shine. Don’t go digging for rich complexity here. Nose=refined sugar. Palate=refined sugar. This baby is sugary-sweet by whiskey standards, which is exactly what it should be. This is moonshine alright, white-lightnin’, clearer than my tap water, and packaged in a tall, slender, wax capped 375mL bottle that just says “look at me, I’m different,” and it is. What really surprised me here was just how smooth a drink this is. At 40% by volume, you’d expect at least a little burn…nope.

Would this be my go-to everyday whiskey? No. For the bourbon drinker, or for someone looking to learn more about whiskey in general, this is a great bottle to learn about what whiskey is before it goes in a barrel. Short of knowing a good friend with a pot-still and a great old family recipe, this may be the closest you can get to a high quality ‘shine. It just may leave you wondering how any sour-mash whiskey ever makes it in to a barrel to begin with.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are you kidding?

By Rob Bralow

Again, for the gazillionth time, I fell behind in my blog reading. I know what happened, and it was quite distracting, and if you ask me about it I'll tell you. But the fact of the matter is, if I let it go for even a day, that means there are 100 more blog posts than there would have been if I had just scrolled through my Google reader and gotten them out of the way.

Most of the blog posts were end-of-year recaps, which had top 10 lists, and best-of lists and any other list you could imagine. Some interesting, some not, but all were there. Amazing what happens when bloggers find themselves with a little time on their hands and a need to escape their families for a few hours.

Some thoughts that jumped out at me that I feel the need to write about. All are paraphrased from one or more blogs that I read on a consistent basis.

1) Consumers have more access to higher quality wine at lower prices than ever. - So what else is new? I saw this headline in 2008, and 2007, and 2006... There is a lot of wine out there and the competition is driving down prices. Oh and no one has any money to buy this wine, so the prices dropped even further. And then a huge wave of bulk wine has entered the U.S. market, with critter labels and creative marketing springing up left and right. So are we really in a buyers' wine market? I think "buyer beware" more than ever.

2) The relevance of bloggers has sky-rocketed - Are you sure? How can you tell? John Mariani of Bloomberg expects wine blogging to increase but that most of these blogs will be focused on the cheap wine (yes, it is OK to call it cheap) and that they are not to be trusted. I think that has already happened, and that every PR rep or winery in the under ten dollar market is already sending samples to every blogger they can to get a buzz about their wines. In addition, the wine blogging world seems to be on a repeat cycle. Thomas Pellechia at VinoFictions outlined the most common gripes and questions that wine bloggers seem to have stuck on their minds. Really I think this is just a function of reading the posts of every other wine blogger. Everyone has to have their say on a subject, whether I want to read it or not. I do not think there is anything wrong with that, it just makes for very repetitive reading. I also think that Tom Wark had a good point about what happens when retailers start using quote from bloggers. Already I have had the idea passed before me of whether or not a marketing sell sheet (something to give to distributors to help them sell the wine to wine buyers) should include a glowing quote from a well-known blogger. What do you think?

There is clear evidence that wine bloggers do have the power to influence not only the market at large, but thousands of dollars in the process. Alder Yarrow at Vinography held his annual Menu for Hope and raised almost $78,000. Both Alder and Joe Roberts at 1WineDude have been taken on press trips to different regions, and both have come back with stories expounding on the virtues of those regions. ViniPortugal held a contest to bring a wine blogger over to Portugal for the European Wine Bloggers' Conference.

Wine bloggers are gaining force. People are reading, and watching, and learning, and going out and using the knowledge they gained. It should make every wine blogger out there keep writing. It should make every marketer pay attention. I certainly am.

CORRECTION: Menu for Hope is a campaign that Alder Yarrow participates in as one of several host bloggers, and the amount raised was from readers from all of these blogs combined.

Quick Taste: The Rest of Robert Oatley

By Rob Bralow

A while ago I received a bunch of Robert Oatley samples for a Taste Live event that I missed. I will not be missing many more of those in the future. It is a lot of fun to compare and contrast tasting notes with a bunch of other wine people. The group that most often does these tastings is a great group that likes to bounce off of each other.

Since then I received more samples from Robert Oatley, so I thought I would do a quick review of them here.
2008 Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc, Western Australia - This wine was bright, with lots of grapefruit, kiwi, and gooseberry. The wine had a lot of zing in my mouth, with grapefruit and white pepper ending on an herbaceous note.

2007 Robert Oatley Chardonnay, Mudgee, Australia - Was not my favorite wine. Muted nose, missing some fruit.

2007 Robert Oatley Shiraz, Mudgee, Australia - Sweet plum and blackberry with some vanilla on the nose. The taste as rustic and peppery, with blackberry and spice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Starting the New Year with Hope

By Rob Bralow

Hope Family Wines has given me new appreciation for the "value" section of the wine shop. They sent me a few samples from their Liberty Wines brand, each of which costs $14, and they were really good.

I mean really good. They were exactly what I wanted wines for $14 to be. The 2007 Liberty School Chardonnay had classic pear and apple notes. It was light and fresh and simple and very enjoyable. It was just pleasant and unpretentious and... beautiful for a $14 bottle. It is all relative, but I have had plenty of wines that I paid more for that I liked less.

Then there was the 2007 Libert School Cabernet Sauvignon, smooth and silky with blackberry and cassis. Again, a simple wine, but vibrant and able to match any food you throw at it.

In addition, this winery created an iPhone app called Wine DJ that is your music on the go. That and it ties itself to which wine you are feeling. Seriously, you feel like listening to Cabernet Sauvignon you can. You want to listen to a Syrah or a Merlot, or even a Chardonnay or a Marsanne/Viognier, you got it. Try it out, it's fun, but if you are looking for something that has not been branded up the wazzoo, then maybe this might be a little too much.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

By Rob Bralow

I wanted to wish you and yours a very happy new year.

This year I have no list of things I want to do, nothing I want to make better about the world or about myself. Instead I just want to focus on doing good. Nothing more specific than that. I want to simply be good this coming year. I want to make others laugh, I want to help those who cry. I want to exist in a better world and the only way I know how to do that is to be better myself.

Be safe this year. Keep you friends close this year. Do not forget to laugh and never feel ashamed to cry.

I am going to go enjoy this new year with my friends, sharing what comes my way.

Happy New Year! Let's make it a good one.
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