Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Holiday Tasting brings out the classics, A special Report by Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

 By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

Some quick tasting notes on a classic night of tasting wines in December 2009 over my good friend and fellow wine buff's home. Wil put together quite a spread a brought out some excellent wines that were ready for some serious drinking.
These are in the order we tasted. Among many things; we had ribs, Iberico ham and eel from Spain and great cheeses, sausages and cakes.

**These can essentially viewed as re-tasting of great wines on a great night!

1995 Silver Oak - sweet deep blackberries, crisp, fragrant, good fruit

1996 Hertz Cellars Martha's Vinyard - Firm and fleshy, fullish body Licorice with a citrusy twist, good tannins surprising

1997 Justin Isoceles - Vert balanced, very supple, black fruits, currants soft entry with rounded mid palate and nice landing on finish

1996 Schafer Hillside Select - Nice nose, solid backberry core, rich and balanced wine chewy and beautiful

1996 Mouton Rothchild - Barnyard, black fruits, peppery mocha, pretty intense seems like it can go a while longer

1996 Opus One - lots of blackberries and earthy aromas, still plenty of oak, full body and clean

1997 Insignia Joseph Phelps - lean, black plums, black fruits and bit of smoke and sweetness

1996 Penfolds 707 - Eucalyptus, bright, dusty, blackfruits and intense

2005 Torre Muga - rich flavors great acidity, firm and rich

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book Review - Bottlenotes Guide to Wine – Around the World in 80 Sips - 2008 – Alyssa Rapp

Bottlenotes Guide to Wine – Around the World in 80 Sips - 2008 – Alyssa Rapp

Although it borrows heavily from The Everything Wine Book by Barbara Nowak and Beverly Wichman; this well connected entrepreneur has crafted one of the best guides in the last few years. The book covers Napa, California; Italy; Chile, Argentina, Australia; Lebanon; Israel; China; South Africa and more! Wine is global!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who is really the best judge of wine?

Who is really the best judge of wine? Is it Robert Parker? Is it Janice Robinson?  Is it the Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast magazines? Is it the wine experts at the 5 star restaurants?

Probably none of them!

The reason why is that when you look at them… most all of them disagree with each other.
One recent year there was this big wine tasting and with 40 wines and 2 of the world’s most heralded wine tasters. They were rating on a 100 point scale.  When it was all said and done they disagreed on 90 percent of the 40 wines. Some of the disagreements were minor but 25 percent of them, they disagreed by more than 5 points.

What to make of this…

I say there can be only one true wine expert…and that is you!

Even if you think that you do not know enough about wines…Sure there are a lot of folks that know a lot more about tasting wines.

…and remember nobody has ‘your’ preference for certain flavors.  

Look...all your life you've smelled all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers so it's feasible that you may have developed a knack. Think about quality.... Is it balanced? Is there acidity? Is it dry? How does it finish? Is it a clean finish? Is it a bitter finish? Is it intense? Do you want to drink some more? Think of these while considering the overall 'profile' of the wine. So these are some of the relevant questions that you might encounter.

Remember this too, a wine buff can help you find wines; educate you on why things are acclaimed or particularly attractive.  Heck!  Some wines are so delicious; it’s a no-brainer. The wine buff may surely help you enjoy a wine and fill you with all the nuances and details about what you are tasting.

….but they can’t tell you what you should enjoy. You are the expert!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

California’s Napa Valley…the new revolution is still just getting started.

California’s Napa Valley…the new revolution is still just getting started.

After the Napa Valley Californian’s defeated the French in the famous 1976 wine completion and the re-run completed recently; it is still the shot heard around the world.  It is a real awakening and the new revolution is still just getting started.

California’s warm and dry climate during the growing seasons make it ideal for wine making and with the diversity of soils and climate just about any wine can be made. If you think about that on its own it’s pretty incredible.

Many areas in California are still in their wine making infancy. So we are certainly going to see more varietals as the years go on. The best way to think about it is that the more you can a lot of people are going to get to taste a lot of different wines. It’s the probably the only place that is allowed to be all things to all people. …and really mean it. The best thing California has going for it is the lack of regulations because you can try to grow anything anywhere…well…kind of …There are AVA’s and sub AVA’s and all that. It’s an optimistic place.

Now hear this…In Napa Valley,  it’s only 1/8 the size of Bordeaux and produces only 4% of the wine made in California. But it’s 25% of the sales.  Sounds crazy?...we sure all drink a lot of wine. 

Napa has 14 sub appellations. All with its own distinct combinations of soils, elevations, microclimates and landscapes. That makes for a lot of wine styles which is very important. The wine can be very deep and layered. The wine has also a good degree of concentration.  So it’s plain to see why Napa Valley has achieved ‘Geographic Indication’ status in the European Union. People like the wines and they hold up. Cabernet Sauvignon classics such as Diamond creek, Shafer, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Heitz, Cos du Val, Chateau Montalena , Caymus, Dunn, Spottswoode and course the Reserve Mondavi  to name a bunch can really have staying power against the great French classics.

The French are slowly figuring that out and a lot are relocating, collaborating or starting projects.  Not just Opus One, Christian Moueix’s  Domunus Estate and BV’s Georges de Latour…Which is great for us the consumer.

…more on Napa Valley and California in a future article.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A disorderly guide of explaining the process of making red wine

I wanted to make a disorderly guide of explaining the process of making red wine.  A little unruly so I can sneak in as much info as I can into a small writing space. Like Coltrane’s ‘Sheets of Music ‘! Now I am losing you…

The reason I want to do that is because making red wine can be technically intense…and there is so much information… but somehow to the average eye it doesn’t look that way. If you catch my drift..Anyways, I hope you get the point.

Here we go.
First the red grapes are picked and the grapes are then taken to big containers and crushed. Sometimes with the stems removed and sometimes not.  At this time a little sulfur may be added as a disinfectant. But it’s not always done. The crushed grapes, juice skin and seeds are then pumped into a big tank.

Note*** If you are making white zinfandel you add sugar at this point to make things sweeter (this is called chaptalization)The French do not like this…

Oh, and by the way unfermented grape juice is called ‘Must’(Rose wine only goes up to this point it only spends the crush time with the yeast). Any unused ‘Must’ becomes ‘Marc’ which I explain below…

Now, Yeast is added and fermentation begins.

Sugar plus yeast  =  alcohol plus CO2(Oh! Carbon Emissions, can you believe it!)

Just so you know…when alcohol content goes up to 14% the yeast dies and winemakers especially in California like to tinker wth the alcohol levels.
Just so you know…the ripeness of the grapes comes from the photosethysis of the sun.

Fermentation continues until all the sugar is gone. About 14 days.

Malolactic Fermentation can also begins now or you can do that later or not at all.  Basically you are stirring things up againto ferment some more (to turn the feel of the wine from apple juice to milk, I know that sounds weird but think of how each feels in your mouth when you drink it).
After the liquid is fermented, you take the skin caps and pump them over the fermented liquid which helps ‘extract’ maximum color.

Now you get to the ‘Free Run’ point or as the French would say “Vin de Goutte”…

You let almost all 4/5 of the wine run out of the vat(tank) without pressing it into the barrels. The other bit you press and you squeeze. The French call this “Vin de Presse”. The liquid is deeply colored and tannic(a dry sensation like tea or walnuts it makes you pucker up).This "Vin de Press" stuff is kept by winemaker for blending into the ‘free run’ after barrel aging. So the winemaker can tinker with his juice!
The left over stuff that's not used. The last bit of dry pressed skins is called ‘Marc’ and can be use to make Brandy, a distilled spirit or it makes great fertilizer! How about that !?!

Finally the wine is racked from one barrel to another and it can be filtered further if the winemaker wants to  idealize the juice.

After it’s all said and done and the wine is in the barrels for the determined time…it is then bottled.
There you go! An undersized and unconstrained explanation on how red wine is made.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tasting wine is not only SEXY... but for the mind as well. How great is that!

One of the great things in life is that everybody is capable in a distinctive way to relate to qualities (like taste, color, odor, and feel) of a body (as a delicious meal or a great sea breeze) that arouse the sense organs. Sounds sexy!?! That’s because tasting wine is sexy.  It’s not only sexy but it’s also for the mind as well. How great is that!
Wines vary in color, texture, strength, body, smell and taste.  Everybody has tolerances and feelings to the various components that make up wine that are not the same. For example, one taster may be sensitive to acidity whereas a second taster may be sensitive to tannins while a third taster could be sensitive to smelling any sulfurous aromas.  

A taster takes all of this into account…
All this goes a long way in explaining why you may like or not like a wine. It also goes a long way in explaining that someone may like sweet wines and other have revulsion to them. It also gives a clue to why some folks feel great while tasting the harshest tannins of a Bordeaux they can find, while that same wine would impair another’s appreciation or enjoyment of what is appealing.

What’s more challenging than appreciating or enjoying a wine is communicating the sensations.
Note this factoid…Other than bitter, sweet, sour and salty all the words describing taste are borrowed from other senses! So the best way to clarify what you are sensing is to try to describe it and don’t be afraid of what you think you smell.

Given that, it's totally conceivable to find a wine that you loathe—yet it’s perfectly well-made, and is representative for the grape varietal and/or style of wine… A total classic!
Why is this? Here’s the catch…When it comes to wine we smell tastes instead of taste them…

You see smells stir up memories a lot quicker than other sensations and that’s because the receptors are found right next to the temporal lobe in our brain which where our memories are stored.

Experienced tasters often rely on their immediate reaction of their memory to the first sniff of a wine.  The real pleasure comes from the cross references, the stirring of memories, the comparisons between similar and yet subtly different products or products from the same or neighboring grounds…or even how varietals from different years or countries compare…

Whatever!!! Here is a system to get you tasting with bravura!

The Five S’s of tasting:

1. See the wine – get a good look at the color

2. Swirl the wine- soak that glass and watch the viscosity and makes some esters

3. Smell the wine – get your nose in the bowl and get a sense of the aroma

4. Sip the wine – get a nice mouthful

5. Savor the wine – let’s see what occurs and arises while you react to what you are tasting


Monday, April 6, 2009

Thirsty Work 2005 – Matt Skinner

Thirsty Work 2005 – Matt Skinner
Primarily known at first as Jamie Oliver’s Wine guy. The reason why he’s great is that he brings it down to the essence; Non-discriminatory. Hands-on; It can be inexpensive wine or a fine wine. It’s all good. Everybody can drink wine well. This is how it should be…no fear in wine!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Today's Choice - 2004 D' Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz

This a wine that has a lot of potential. D’ Arenberg puts out some really good wines. I like this 2004 Footbolt Shiraz because it is just retrained. You can tell its going to get better. It’s a wine with deep crimson and violet hues. There is a lot of graphite on the nose. It’s huge and spicy. The spiciness boosts the fruit with a lively berry and vanilla foundation. This Shiraz has excellent acidity. It can be drunk now with BBQ or roasted meat…. but it also can be laid down for several years. This is a good one to buy a few of and drink over the years. I am doing just that....Also I have tasted the 2005 similar profile but more pronounced blackberries not as vibrant and closed up as the 2004.