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Tag Archives: Wine

Affordable wines that will tickle your palate

The SF Chronicle put out its list of 100 “Top Wines” a few days ago. I’m always a bit wary of these types of lists… after all, can you really pick 100 wines that are the absolute best of the year? And doesn’t it depend what you’ll be eating and on which occasion? I’d prefer to see wine lists that are more specific… such as ”
The best 10 wines to pair with lamb” or “The top 5 wines to drink without food.” After all, you could have a stunning Cab, but without the proper meal, it will just turn into a stunning tannic monster.

I did like their list of affordable wines… at least that allows us normal people to try some of these “amazing” wines without breaking the bank. Schramsberg, Copain, Qupe, Domaine Chandon and Tablas Creek are all good bets.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2010 in Wine

 

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James Suckling to Launch Wine Website

Via The Passionate Foodie

THE WINE WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT VOICE NOW HAS A FACE ON JAMESSUCKLING.COM

Respected journalist and critic James Suckling teams with Hollywood veteran James Orr to create a groundbreaking website that gives the public a new look at wine, vintners, and vineyards around the world

(November 30, 2010; Los Angeles, CA)—James Suckling, the respected journalist and wine critic who spent close to 30 years as Wine Spectator’s European bureau chief, partners with Hollywood producer, director, and writer James Orr to launch JamesSuckling.com, an all-access pass to the wine world. The newly launched site focuses on delivering wine information in a cutting-edge style—relying on high-quality video, with Suckling giving subscribers a visual guide to wine tasting that goes beyond simple ratings to include tasting notes, vintner interviews, and rare access to wineries around the world.

With Orr behind the camera, Host James Suckling’s extraordinary zeal and wine knowledge is brought to life in exclusive video content, bringing viewers a firsthand account on all aspects of the wine industry. The focus of the website is to report on many of the best wines of the world through tastings in vineyards and in cellars with winemakers, vintners, and owners, which allows viewers to see through their own eyes the place, the people, and the rating process. The site will deliver viewers a new video every day of the year.

“The launch of JamesSuckling.com fills a niche that has been missing in the wine media landscape—merging new media with Suckling’s extensive wine knowledge and industry contacts into an approachable format so subscribers can gain access to wine information like never before,” Orr says. “The site focuses entirely on outstanding quality wines, regardless of price or origin.”

The site is a combination of free and paid content, with both subscribers and non-subscribers having access to written and video posts. Subscribers will have the ability to view premium videos, including exclusive wine ratings, tastings, interviews, and retail and winery visits. Subscriptions to the site are $14.99 per month or $143.90 per year. The site will air at least one new video everyday, 365 days a year. Non-subscribers will be able to read blogs, join discussions on the forum, and watch a selection of videos.

About JamesSuckling.com

JamesSuckling.com is the brainchild of journalist and wine critic James Suckling and Hollywood producer, director, and writer James Orr. The focus of the website is to report on many of the best wines of the world through tastings in vineyards and in cellars with winemakers, vintners, and owners, which allows viewers to see through their own eyes the place, the people, and the rating process. The site brings a fresh, new approach to the way consumers receive their wine news and information. Please visit http://www.jamessuckling.com to learn more or to subscribe.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Food Reads, Wine

 

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The Rundown: SF Vintner's Market

It was tough to tell whether there was more sloshing around inside or outside. Under clouds of sopping, pouring rain, winemakers poured glasses of wine at the SF Vintner’s Market this last weekend. The event, which allows people to buy wine at the actual event, was held at the cavernous Fort Mason exhibition hall and was chock full of Napa and Sonoma wineries. Cabs and Zinfandels dominated the event — rich, dark, ripe wines dripping with sunshine and caramel-chocolate notes. The crowd was snappy and very young — it was hard to find a soul over 40 in the large hall, which made for a loud and boozy crowd.

But let’s talk about what really matters, the wine:

Fogline Vineyards, which is sourcing from Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and the Sonoma Coast (near the Petaluma Gap) was pouring their 2009 Fogline Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, which at $35/bottle, is a great deal. The wine effuses delicate florals, particularly violet notes, has a bright, zingy acidity and a long balanced finish. Really great deal, particularly since the fruit seems to be of high-quality. The winery is still in its infancy — the total production for the Pinot is only 145 cases — but there’s lots of promise. Their 2009 Fogline Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel also showed the kind of restraint I like — there was more delicate fruit and less chocolate/cocoa. Again, at $24, it’s a steal.

Boisset Family Wines had a lavish display and was pouring from their various wineries (from France and Napa). The winner of the table was a 2003 Savigny-les-Beaune Pinot Noir ($47). The wine had aged very well — it didn’t have the shiny, new fruit flavors of a younger wine, but there was still some nice gentle fruit, along with nice juicy tannins and some leathery notes on the finish. It was the kind of wine you really want to pour on a rainy winter night — it doesn’t shock your system with ripeness and fruit, but rather soothes you into the evening. Also from the Boisset family was a nice 2009 Raymond Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley($28). They blended in10% semillon grapes, giving it a more lush, rich texture and honeyed character, and aged it in oak. The result is a wine with creamy strawberry and tropical fruits on the nose, but sweet, rich, caramel and honeysuckle notes on the palate. Deliciously long finish.

A nice little gem I found from the Sierra foothills of Yuba County was a 2005 “Heart of Stone” Syrah-Viognier blend from Clos Saron ($35). Slightly richer than its Northern Rhone cousins, this blend still exhibited those lovely dark brooding blackberry, tobacco, blueberry and leather notes, but had some light floral notes for balance.

Heidi Barrett and her daughter Remi were pouring the La Sirena wines over in the “Reserve Corner.” For those not-in-the-know, Heidi Barrett is the acclaimed winemaker of Screaming Eagle wines and now has her own label. The 2006 Barrett Vineyard Syrah ($80) was my favorite of the table. Dark and earthy, with ripe, juicy blackberry notes and a long sensual finish, this is a wine I’d like at my Thanksgiving table. Also pretty damn amazing was the 2007 La Sirena Cabernet Sauvignon ($150) — velvety, balanced, brimming with dried cherries and cranberries — this is the wine that Heidi Barrett is famous for.

In their inaugural year of production, Beltrane Ranch, which supplies fruit to Cakebread, poured their 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. With a honey-lemon nose, the wine displayed a rich but crisp texture and was dominated by citrus on the palate — it is definitely what I would call a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

The stars of the Cabernet Sauvignon show, however, were a couple of winemakers tucked in a corner of Demuth Kemos. Up in the “True Sonoma Coast,” their vineyards sit above the fogline (1700 ft. of elevation), making for windy, windy days and warmer nights. These guys are still young: their first vintage was in 2004, but they are making some stellar wines. Their 2008 Demuth Kemos Bei Ranch Syrah was definitely less inky and intense than those I’d tried earlier, but exhibited a true sense of terroir. This wine was no tannic monster; instead red berries balanced out the typical Syrah notes of blackberry and blueberry in a lighter-style wine. My favorite Cab of the night was their 2007 Demuth Kemos Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($60). Unlike many overripe Napa-style Cabs popular today, this wine had nice bright notes sparkling with acidity; bright, clean fruit; and light but noticeable tannins. This is the kind of wine that can really withstand some aging without getting flabby. Also stellar was their 2007 Demuth Kemos Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($75), a blend of two blocks. It’s a little bit on the riper style, but the acidity was still high, there were some lovely plum and raspberry notes on the palate and some noticeable florals. These guys aren’t messing around with their terroir: their fermentation is 100% native.

On a final note, I also found a nice 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley coming out of Delgadillo Cellars up in the Calistoga area. The wine had crisp, bright notes and lots of juicy fruit — impressive for a wine that had aged nearly 10 years. Lots of cherry, dark plum and tobacco on the palate.

So that’s what you missed! For those attending next year — get there early. The crowds were a bit thick and the pours were generous, making for some raucousness at this event, which is a bit of a turnoff if you’re there to actually taste the wine and not just drink. As we were leaving, several guys threw their wine glasses on the floor to make a scene. Sigh… seems like not everyone comes to savor the wines — some come to gulp ’em down. But the wines represented were definitely of very high quality, so certainly a worthwhile weekend event.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Wine

 

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Could the end of Two Buck Chuck be near?

A couple of California lawmakers want to raise the taxes on beer, wine and spirits in the Golden State. The proposed taxes would:

“Raise the excise tax on a 750 ml bottle of wine from 4 cents to $5.11, push the tax on a six-pack of beer from 11¢ to $6.08, and raise the total tax on a 750 ml bottle of distilled spirits from 65 cents to $17.57.” (Sonoma Valley Sun)

Who are we, Norway? Alcohol is so extremely regulated there that you have to go to a state-sponsored store to buy your wine — and you can’t touch the product before buying it. You’re only allowed to rummage through a catalog before making your selection.

This comes at a fatal time for the California wine industry and it is unbelievable that California lawmakers would even propose such a tax. The lawmakers argue that alcohol is responsible for a slew of accidents and costs taxpayers thousands in accidents, etc. The arguments are similar to those made by lawmakers who aimed their guns at cigarette companies.

But wine doesn’t cause cancer like cigarettes do — in fact, it may help PREVENT heart disease! Additionally, there is no responsible cigarette; each puff blows toxic air into your lungs and the lungs of others. There is, however, responsible drinking. A nice glass of wine with a meal, a lovely cocktail shared with friends.

We already have a plethora of laws to curb drunk driving, and I am all for more enforcement.

But please, don’t add a regressive tax to our wines. A $2 bottle would have a 250% tax. A $10 bottle of wine would have a 50% tax — does that make ANY sense?

Don’t make Two Buck Chuck a Seven Buck Chuck.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2010 in Wine

 

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Does Labeling Wines as "Eco-Friendly" Hurt Wineries?

Consumers generally flock to “organic” and “eco-friendly” products, but when it comes to wines, “eco-friendly” and “organic” wines fare worse than wines that do not put these types of green labels on the bottle.

A study published in the journal Business and Society found that wines priced over $25 with an eco-friendly label commanded lower prices than similarly rated wines without “green” labels. Check out this US News & World Report story by Meg Sullivan for complete details about the study.

Why would this be?

Consumers are still wary about “organic” wines because for a long time, wines that were labeled as “green,” “eco-friendly” or “organic” were thought to be produced by hippies who didn’t focus on quality. The majority of consumers who are purchasing wines over $25 are still more conservative folks who are primarily interested in one thing when purchasing a bottle that is expensive: quality. They may be wary of a product that is “eco-friendly” because they may think that quality may have fallen by the wayside.

Excellent producers who have always been organic, such as Sanford Wines, keep their organic practices mum. I applaud them for helping out the environment without greenwashing, but I do wish that more consumers would reward environmentally friendly wineries.

One interesting place where this is also the case is in bottle selection. In general, more expensive bottles of wine tend to have thicker glass and be heavier, giving the consumer the impression that they are worth more. But heavier bottles also require more fuel to ship, and are therefore less eco-friendly.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2010 in Wine

 

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Does Labeling Wines as “Eco-Friendly” Hurt Wineries?

Consumers generally flock to “organic” and “eco-friendly” products, but when it comes to wines, “eco-friendly” and “organic” wines fare worse than wines that do not put these types of green labels on the bottle.

A study published in the journal Business and Society found that wines priced over $25 with an eco-friendly label commanded lower prices than similarly rated wines without “green” labels. Check out this US News & World Report story by Meg Sullivan for complete details about the study.

Why would this be?

Consumers are still wary about “organic” wines because for a long time, wines that were labeled as “green,” “eco-friendly” or “organic” were thought to be produced by hippies who didn’t focus on quality. The majority of consumers who are purchasing wines over $25 are still more conservative folks who are primarily interested in one thing when purchasing a bottle that is expensive: quality. They may be wary of a product that is “eco-friendly” because they may think that quality may have fallen by the wayside.

Excellent producers who have always been organic, such as Sanford Wines, keep their organic practices mum. I applaud them for helping out the environment without greenwashing, but I do wish that more consumers would reward environmentally friendly wineries.

One interesting place where this is also the case is in bottle selection. In general, more expensive bottles of wine tend to have thicker glass and be heavier, giving the consumer the impression that they are worth more. But heavier bottles also require more fuel to ship, and are therefore less eco-friendly.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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What are you really drinking when you knock back a glass of wine??

Most people assume that wine is made up of grapes and yeast. Maybe a little sulfure dioxide — both a natural product in wine and added to prevent microbes from having a party. But there are plenty of other ingredients added to wines that never make it on to the label.

Why? Because unlike with other foods, the FDA is not the main regulatory agency in charge of wine. The TTB, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, is the one who regulates the alcohol industry, and thanks to a landmark case (See Lehrman Beverage Law for more info), wineries do not have to declare what is inside the bottle.

So what could be lurking inside? Let’s take a look:

1. Water

A little known fact is that many, many Californian wines have water added to them during fermentation to bring down the alcohol levels. It is perfectly legal to do this in the United States, although it is illegal in France. In Australia, winemakers are only allowed to add up to 3% water by volume.

The term is called “watering back,” and the crazy thing is, although no one wants to talk about it, many wineries do it.

Does it change the flavors? Many winemakers would say that because water takes part in a complex chemical reaction during fermentation, it doesn’t really “water down” the wine. Winemakers in California tend to pick grapes when they are very ripe in order to get rich, concentrated flavors. The downside is that alcohol levels can get very high, making the wine taste “hot,” a term used to describe wine that burns as it goes down your throat, or the high alcohol can even obscure other flavors.

2. Egg white proteins (albumin), cheese proteins (casein), dried fish bladders (isinglass) and other fun stuff…

These proteins are added during a process called “fining.” They are added by the winemakers in small amounts so that the proteins bind to unwanted flavor or aroma components, precipitate, and then drop to the bottom of the barrel, where they can be removed.

Do they add any flavors of their own? Not really, since they precipitate out, but there are some concerns that people with severe allergies could be affected by these fining agents. Molecular amounts could end up in your wine, which could be an problem.

3. Acid

When the acid balance isn’t right, a wine will taste “flabby.” To prevent this, winemakers might add acids such as citric or malic to correct the balance. Is it right? Well, it’s not naturally in the wine, so some see it as over-manipulation or “cheating,” but because they don’t have to declare what’s in your glass, you’ll never know.

4. Copper

Now why, you ask, would winemakers add copper to wine?? The reason? Stinky rotten eggs. Sometimes, when you stress yeast out, they produce hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct. This can give wine aromas of rotten eggs, cabbage, burnt garlic. Yeah, not so great. So winemakers add copper, which immediately binds to the hydrogen sulfide to produce copper sulfide, which forms a black compound that sinks to the bottom.

But sometimes, winemakers can add too much and the levels of copper may be unacceptable. In 2007, a wine from New Zealand was rejected by the European Union because the levels of copper in the wine were too high. For the majority of us, copper toxicity is rare, but there are people who have a genetic mutation where copper can accumulate in the body and cause toxic effects.

Do you care? Would you like to know what’s in your wine?

For more excellent coverage on the issue, check out “What’s In Your Wine — and Should They Tell You?”

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Wine

 

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