Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Verdad Grenache Rose

During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, all the blogosphere and Twitterverse was abuzz with what kind of wine to pair with the big feast.  My intentions were to get a little bit adventurous and open a Rhone blend or a Tempranillo.  As I was shopping, though, I was once again lured by Edna Valley.  This year's turkeyfest was abetted by a Grenache rosé.

Verdad Winery and Vineyard is the labor of love of Louisa Sawyer Lindquist.  She happens to be the wife of Qupe's Bob Lindquist, and happens to have some pretty substantial winemaking ability of her own.

Verdad means "truth" in Spanish, and the truth is: I could hardly have made a better choice for the Thanksgiving wine - if I do say so myself.  Lindquist's fascination with and love of Spanish grape varieties comes to fruition in California's Central Coast - Edna Valley, to be exact.

The Grenache grapes for Verdad rosé - Tablas Creek clone - are grown in two vineyards in Edna Valley, the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard and the Ibarra-Young Vineyard.  The former is farmed biodynamically while the latter is organic.  The grapes are grown specifically for rosé, and early picking results in a lower alcohol content - only 12.1% abv.  Stainless steel fermentation gives the wine a pure fruit profile.

First of all, the wine is a beautiful salmon color.  The nose is fabulous, showing strawberry and an herbal component.  A faint cherry-candy aroma adds a festive note.  On the palate, it's lip-smacking good.  Strawberry, cherry and raspberry come together like a riot in the orchard.  It feels so full and round in the mouth, and delivers a nice zing of lime on the finish.  The cherry flavor seems to hang around the longest.  The acidity is not razor-sharp, but it's healthy enough to carry turkey and stuffing crisply.  I found that out the easy way - at the dinner table.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Tenuta St. Peter Riesling Alto Adige

If you're like me, when you hear the words "Italian Riesling," something just doesn't sound right.  Of course, the Alto Adige wine region of northern Italy is really more Germanic than Italian.  It borders Austria and is known for its grapes that are more often associated with Germany and Austria.  Gewurztraminer and Riesling are produced in this Alpine area in which the wine industry is comprised largely of small, family-owned wineries.
Some degree of difficulty usually greets me when I try to research small Italian wines.  Such is the case with Tenuta St. Peter Riesling.  All I know is what I remember seeing on the label at Il Buco in Beverly Hills, which sports one of my favorite wine lists in Southern California.  Their collection of Italian wines has never let me down.
This Riesling is 13.5% abv and shows a pale golden-green color in the glass.  There is a strong aroma of minerals or wet rocks on the nose, and a secondary smell of melon - like a canteloupe, but not just the fruit.  I smell the rind and all.
The palate gives a very restrained sense of pears and honeydew, with an overriding minerality.  The acidity stops just short of being bracing.  It's a very smooth quaff which paired quite well with the salad featuring tuna and lentils.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


stealth wine

Maybe you've been shopping for wine and have come across a brand you've never heard of before.  Maybe the merchant told you it was a good deal, because it was wine from a very famous winery which has been bottled under a different brand.

An article by Dave McIntyre, which appeared in the Washington Post recently, explains that this can happen when the wine is sold in bulk by the winery to another party who bottles it and sells it as his own.

According to the article, "stealth" labels, as they are called, are appearing a lot in our down economy.

Wine producers that may sell, for instance, a Cabernet Sauvignon for $75 a bottle, sell the wine in bulk to another party.  This party then bottles it with his own label and sells it for $20 a bottle.  Same wine, better price.

The thing is, it's hard to know what's a stealth label and what is not.  Purchasers usually make a secrecy agreement with the winery.  This protects the original brand.

It also gives you an opportunity to pick up some real bargains - if you can spot the stealth labels!  Ask your wine merchant to point you in the direction of these good values.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Stanza Gewurztraminer

Browsing the wine racks recently, I had the notion that I'd like to find some wines which might be nice for the holidays.  I spied a Monterey Gewürztraminer from Stanza and thought I'd give it a spin.
Stanza is apparently part of Delicato Vineyards of Manteca, CA.  It retails for $14, but I bought it at a two-for-one sale.
This wine shows a pale golden color in the glass, and has a nose that's floral and sweet, with the aromas of peaches and nutmeg making a statement.
The palate is also floral, with pear notes, a gentle spiciness and a lovely acidity, although it's not really bracing.  What I remember most is the finish.  It is so full of zesty lime and minerals - what a treat!  That finish lingers quite a while, too.
While the nutmeg profile in the nose had me thinking of adding it to my holiday list, I decided it was really too faint an accent for that, so I'll keep looking for those holiday whites.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Gifts for wine lovers

Certainly the best gift for someone who loves wine is - wait for it - wine!  But if you don't know what kind of wine to give, or what kind the person likes, you might consider a wine club membership.

Wine clubs send a package of wine to their members at monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly intervals.  It may be a grab bag of different styles, only red, only whites, etcetera.  The cost varies widely, as does the quality of the wine.

There's a seemingly endless supply of clubs to choose from.  You might select one from a good wine store or a winery the recipient likes.  Most wineries offer wine clubs featuring their wines.

Gift options vary from club to club, but you may be able to gift a month, a year or longer.  Keep in mind that when the gift subscription ends, it's up to the recipient to extend the membership.

Fancy corkscrews are a hit if your friend only has one around the house, but there are only so many corkscrews a person can use, unless they collect them.  The Rabbit Corkscrew (from Metrokane Wine Tools) retails from about $40 to $100 and claims to allow the user to open any bottle of wine in three seconds without any huffing or puffing.

Stemware is always a good gift for a wine lover, especially if it's special.  Austria's Riedel Crystal is generally regarded as the standard-bearer for quality wine glasses.  Look to spend $60 to $100 each for Riedel glasses.

Wine Chiller is something every wine lover would love to have. For under $20 you can find these items which employ a reusable cooling element you keep in your freezer until you need it. It can chill a bottle of wine in five minutes.

People who can't wait for their wine to chill probably can't wait for their wine to breathe, either.  A Wine Aerator is what they need.  Vinturi makes one that goes for about $30.  The wine breathes while it's pouring into the glass.  Is that fast enough for you?

No matter what kind of wine the person on your gift list likes, anybody can use a nice bottle ofChampagne.  Dom Perignon has a special release this year honoring Andy Warhol, which goes for around $150 a bottle, special label included.  Buy the three labels separately, or as a set - forreally good friends.

By the way, the cute little items in the image can be found at San Antonio Winery in downtown Los Angeles.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Queen Of Hearts Pinot Noir

The label and name on this Santa Barbara County red wine were unfamiliar to me when I picked it up at Whole Foods, but I couldn’t help but notice the Queen Of Hearts winery address was given as Buellton, CA.  Buellton is sort of a “gateway to wine country” town located just off the 101 freeway between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
Turns out, it’s a Lucas and Lewellen Vinyards brand.  Winemaker Megan McGrath promises a nose of blackberry, black cherry and cola, with flavors of plum, strawberry and spice.

This Pinot Noir is a medium ruby color which I can see right through.  On the nose, raspberry and strawberry lead the way.  There’s an awful lot of heat noticeable in the aromas, even a half hour after pouring.  On the palate the fruit is as bright and perky as it can be, in fact it’s delicious.  An alcohol burn, unfortunately, spoils it.

It finally settles down after an hour.  Again, the taste is so bright and fruity, it’s hard to find fault.  But as juicy and fruity as it is, there is a decided lack of minerals.  An earthy layer would really add another dimension to the wine’s taste.

To compound things, the wine seems overoaked and fakey.  Fighting through the alcohol haze on the nose are a boatload of spicy aromas.  The spice and alcohol mix for a medicinal smell. 

In fairness, after two hours, this wine is much more approachable.  Two hours, however, is a long time to wait for a glass of wine to become drinkable.  Even on the second night it was open, the wait was over an hour before it was pleasurable to drink.  And it still seemed somewhat overoaked.

All this would be unremarkable in a wine that cost $5.  Queen Of Hearts sells for $15 - not a lot for Pinot Noir.  Still, I couldn't help but wish more had been delivered.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Sparkling Wine

Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and assorted other holiday parties - then New Year's Eve - it seems like there's a good excuse for Champagne around every corner.  There's certainly nothing wrong with a good Champagne from Moet & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Piper-Heidsieck, Mumm, Nicholas Feuillatte and a host of others.  With prices for real Champagne - from Champagne, France - getting in the over-100-dollar range very quickly, you may want to look into some good domestic options that are just as festive, but a little easier on the wallet.

From Calistoga, California, Schramsberg is America's first sparkling wine house.  They've been tickling noses since 1965.  Their 1998 J. Schram Rosé sells for over $100, but they offer a wide range of current releases all the way down the price list to the $20 range.

Napa Valley's Domaine Carneros offers a variety of sparkling wines for around $25 to $85 per bottle.

Sonoma County's Gloria Ferrer Va de Vi has a bit of Muscat thrown in and sells for about $20.

Laetitia, in California's Arroyo Grande Valley, has a several Central Coast sparklers ranging from $20 to $35.

Bonny Doon's Riesling To Live was produced for club members, and those members swear by it.  A sparkling Riesling wine produced in méthode champenoise, it sells for about $35.  They say it's a good "Riesling" to join the winery's club.

Massachussetts winery Westport Rivers offers several acclaimed bubblies costing between $25 and $30.

Kluge Estate, in Virginia, makes sparkling wine a specialty of the house.  Their Kluge SP Rose 2007 goes for just under $30.

Segura Viudas, a sparkling Pinot Noir from Spain, usually runs about $20.

Chateau Frank, of New York's Finger Lakes Region, has sparkling wines that go for $20, $25, $30 and $35.

A sparkling Riesling from New York's Finger Lakes region took the top prize at the 2010 New York Wine & Food Classic competition.  Swedish Hill Riesling Cuvée NV, which sells for about $18, was awarded the Governor's Cup for best in show, according to Decanter.com.  The wine's production was very limited, so it may be a little hard to find.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Sparkling Wine

The holidays and the year end celebrations have turned many wine lovers' thoughts toward Champagne, the bubbly celebratory drink that hits its stride around this time of year.

It's a good time to note that "Champagne" technically comes only from the region in France known as Champagne.  From anywhere else, it's sparkling wine.  Spumante is the generic name for sparkling wine in Italy.  In Spain, it's Cava.  Germans and Austrians call it Sekt.  It's Cap Classique in South Africa.  Even in France, if it's not from Champagne, it may be called mousseux or crément.

Wherever it's from, and whatever it's called, the common denominator is all those bubbles, which are produced by carbon dioxide formed in the bottle during fermentation.

Champagne is produced using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, while mousseux and crémant may use other grapes.

Asti, in the Italian wine region of Piedmont, produces a spumante from Moscato grapes, while Prosecco grapes are used for the Italian sparkler that goes by that grape's name.

In Spain, Cava is made mainly in Catalonia from Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada.

Sekt is made with Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes in Germany, Welschriesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes in Austria.

There are those who feel a day isn't complete without a little bubbly, and others who save that treat for the holidays, or special occasions - liking ringing in the new year.  Wherever you fall on that spectrum, no doubt there'll be a bottle or two of Champagne, sparkling wine, crémant or Cava in your near future. 

Just don't forget about it once the bowl games are over.

Tomorrow, some suggestions for "bargain bubblies"!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Bianco y rosso at Terroni

After a busy Sunday of running all over the rather unfamiliar terrain of downtown Los Angeles, Denise and I decided to stop at Terroni on Beverly Boulevard.  Truth be told, it’s a place where we often would like to stop and dine, but it always seems so crowded and there are never any parking spaces available on that rather restaurant-y stretch of Beverly.

This time, as we passed by: No crowd!  Parking spaces!  Let’s eat!

Terroni started in Toronto - there are still three locations there - and spread to Los Angeles a few years ago.  We love the southern Italian cooking there, and the Italo-centric wine list that pairs so well with it.

Terroni’s space is big and informal with a mix of high bar tables, big wooden tables and small round kitchenette-style tables with plastic Eames chairs.  It’s a family place, and when we walked in on a cloudy-dark Sunday afternoon, there were several families with little ones at the table having a Sunday supper while keeping one eye out the window awaiting the apparently imminent cloudburst.

We all enjoyed our meals and made it home before the rains came.  Denise and I enjoyed a pair of wines which paired quite well with the food, while tasting great on their own, too.

I had the wine on the left,  the ‘09 Erste & Neue Pinot Bianco Weissburgunder, Prunar, Südtirol Alto Adige d.o.c.  In addition to being a mouthful, that's a $12 entry on Terroni’s wonderful list of biancos and rossos.  This grape seems to go by its Italian name as well as its Austrian one, Weissburgunder.  It’s from the Alpine region of Alto Adige.

Light green-tinted straw in color, the nose features minerals, lots of ‘em.  The smell of wet rocks near a stream is what I call it.  Pineapple aromas make an appearance, but they have to fight their way out from under those huge, wet rocks.  Pineapple and minerals dominate the palate similarly, with an almost-bracing acidity and a fruity finish.

The mineral-laden white wine paired perfectly with my spaghetti ca’ muddica, with anchovies, black olives, cherry tomatoes and breadcrumbs.

Denise had the wine on the right, the ‘06 Zerbina Torre di Ceparano, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore, Emilia-Romagna d.o.c. at $14 by the glass.  Emilia-Romagna lies right across a mountain range from Tuscany.  The region is known for its dry Lambrusco - nothing like the sweet type Riunite made famous - and its own clone of the Tuscan Sangiovese grape which has a tendancy to take on much darker characteristics than those of its Tuscan cousin.

The wine, sure enough, is quite dark, and the nose shows black cherry, blackberry and anise.  On the palate, raspberry and black cherry join hands for a velvety smooth walk.  The smooth texture and full mouthfeel somewhat disguise the great acidity this wine shows.  It produces a slight mouth-puckering effect without the tannic edge.

It was delicious, and great as a match with her agnolotti filled with braised beef in a butter, Parmesan and sage sauce.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Wine News!

On this weekend's CBS Sunday Morning, Barry Petersen did a report which included some comments from a UC-Davis professor of brewing, Charlie Bamforth.  He’s a beer man, and he made some comments that were downright inflammatory about our favorite beverage, wine.

For starters, Bamforth claims beer is a more sophisticated drink than wine, but I’ll limit my comments to those statements of his which merit them.

He states that Thomas Jefferson was a brewer, which may be so.  Some important documents may have been written in pubs over a few pints, but Jefferson devoted his life to wine.  He grew grapes in an attempt to make wine.  He traveled several times all over Europe in an effort to find great wines and, in the process, made volumes of notes about their winemaking processes.  It’s folly to think he cared more for beer than wine.

Bamforth talks about how beer is the Rodney Dangerfield of beverages - it gets no respect.  In many cases, he’s right.  But there are literally hundreds of quality beers readily available to beer drinkers these days.  Why is the top three still Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light?  Oh, sure, wine sells to a lowest common denominator audience, too.  We’ll call that a draw.  Suffice it to say that when a beverage-based parallel is needed for low-class vs high-class, Joe Six-Pack does not live in the Champagne District.

Finally, when Bamforth compares beer tasting to wine tasting, he chides wine tasters for spitting out their samples.  “We swallow,” said Bamforth, “none of that ridiculous spitting.”  It’s worth pointing out that when you are at a wine tasting event where you expect to taste 50 to 60 different wines, even at one ounce per taste, without spitting, you would be consuming a gallon of wine!  After that kind of bender, you would be in no shape to drive home.  So I think Bamforth should back off on his derision of wine tasting habits which are actually beneficial to society.

It’s a good-natured rivalry, this wine versus beer thing.  But really, there’s no need to take potshots at one another.  Drink what you like.  Whether it’s beer or wine, good for you!  There’s plenty of enjoyment to go around!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Bridlewood Viognier

Although Italian food calls for Italian wine, Denise and I knew we'd be waiting a few minutes for Guido, so I decided to break tradition and go with a good old Central Coast white as a pre-meal refresher.

Sprazzo - on Westwood Boulevard in Los Angeles - has a good, but not great, wine list.  It does have its high points, though.  One of those highlights is the Bridlewood Viognier.

Winemaker David Hopkins blended several different lots of grapes from Central Coast vineyards for this lush wine.  Destemmed grapes - 90% Viognier, 4% Chardonnay, 4% Marsanne and 2% Roussanne - are fermented and aged in stainless steel, so it's fresh, clean and crisp.  The alcohol content is 14.2% abv.

This Viognier is very pale, with a greenish tint.  Matching that hue are aromas of limes and a slight grassiness on the nose.  There's quite a floral element, too.

The mouthfeel is full and creamy - it just feels delicious - and there's a wonderful acidity, which seems downplayed at first but comes on stronger at the finish.  Soft flavors of grapefruit and a citrus zestiness give the wine a very refreshing character.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Clean Slate Riesling at Fabrocini's

A beautiful, sunny Friday provides a great excuse - as if I need one - to hit Mulholland Drive and make my way over to Fabrocini's Beverly Glen.  This Italian restaurant in the Beverly Glen Center has my favorite dish for lunch.  Their calamari and scungilli salad is on the short list of things for which I live.

It was extra good this time, with less lettuce and more of those tentacled creatures from the deep.  There might have been a better choice for wine, but I was in the mood for a Riesling.

Clean Slate takes its name from the slate stones in the vineyards. They describe it this way:
"The thin slate stones of our vineyards in the Mosel River Valley are a critical factor in crafting a Riesling of exquisite balance.  So precious are these stones that those which slip into the river are carefully carried back up the treacherously steep vineyard slopes and returned to place.  Reflecting and retaining heat, the slate is essential to ripening the grapes in this cool climate..."

This Riesling has a pale yellow-green tint and a pretty nose that's fruity with pears and white peaches.  Nice and full in the mouth, it tastes of peaches and pears with a squeeze of citrus.  The minerality - no doubt owing some debt to those slate stones - is very refreshing.  It has a good acidity, but it doesn't come on really strong.  A nice finish leaves a slate and citrus feel on the palate.

Clean Slate Riesling is sold by the glass at Fabrocini's for $9.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Bartles and Jaymes

While we're rummaging through YouTube to find old wine ads, we might as well devote a page to a series of commercials which was warmly embraced back in the '80s and is still fondly remembered today.

Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers were hawked by a pair of homespun "winemakers," Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes.  The pair were reportedly loosely based on Ernest and Julio Gallo themselves.  The 30-second spots were comedic in nature and always ended with the Frank Bartles character saying, "Thank you for your support."  In fact, it was Frank who said everything.  I don't remember Ed ever having a spoken line.

E & J Gallo still produce the wine coolers and malt beverages that make up their Bartles & Jaymes line of products.  Nowadays, they come in a whole slew of flavors, too, like Blue Hawaiian, Mojito and Sangria.

So, crack open a wine cooler, sit back and enjoy some bona-fide 1980s television.

Bartles and Jaymes Ad 1 

Bartles and Jaymes Ad 2

Bartles and Jaymes Ad 3

Bartles and Jaymes Ad 4

Bartles and Jaymes Ad 5

Bartles and Jaymes spoof on Conan O'Brien in 1994

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

California Chardonnay- big, bombastic white wines full of oak and all that implies - is a style many wine drinkers have been shying away from in recent years.  The swing toward unoaked - naked, if you will - Chardonnays which emphasize the flavor of the fruit and the effect of the earth has left many old-line California Chardonnays holding the oak.

I’ll admit, I love the purity and minerality expressed in an unoaked or low-oaked Chardonnay.  Burgundy found long ago how much was to be gained by letting the terroir do the talking.  There are times, though, when you want a Chardonnay to get all hedonistic on you.  For me, the holiday season is that time.

After months of austere whites and fruity, bone-dry rosés, the arrival of that lip-smacking prelude to the Thanksgiving feast puts me in the mood for a big, creamy, buttery Chardonnay.  And I look to Edna Valley.

A place responsible for many of those austere whites which refreshed me through the summer, Edna Valley is also home to one of my favorite over-the-top Chardonnays, Edna Valley Vineyard.

A San Luis Obispo County favorite, the ‘08 Paragon Vineyard Chardonnay has a nose full of vanilla spice, richly layered flavors and a near-bracing acidity to make it a more than capable holiday choice.  It’s great with food.  Turkey is a snap for this wine, which even turns a handful of peanuts or almonds into a gourmet delight.

I had a bottle early in the spring, and it put me in mind of a holiday spread even then.  “The wood comes through in healthy fashion,” I wrote, “with strong notes of vanilla and traces of holiday spice.  This would be a great white on the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table.”

The wine shows a golden straw color in the glass, one that suggests there may be some oak at play.  The nose further reveals that influence with the spiciness.  Pears and some of those Edna Valley minerals also are apparent.”

The incredibly full palate is dripping with the sweet fruit flavor found in a can of fruit, like pineapple, pears or peaches in heavy juice.  There's more than a trace of lemon zest, too, and a razor-sharp acidity despite the creaminess of the mouthfeel.  So big is the taste, it may make you think there's an extra portion of something on your plate.

My bottle was on sale at a discount store for $13.  Its 13.9% abv, is a fairly moderate number, something many of us like to keep in mind during holiday entertaining.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Holiday Wines

Maybe you're already so frozen with anxiety about selecting the wine for your holiday feast you haven't even given any thought to the dessert!  I hope that's not the case.

First of all, if you don't have the time or the inclination to get all wrapped up in selecting a wine for Thanksgiving - or Christmas - dinner, just drink what you like.  As long as you're with people you love, that's all that really matters.

Secondly, this tip from Roberto Rogness at Wine Expo in Santa Monica, California is too good not to pass along.

Roberto says, "whichever pie you serve, garnish it with whipped cream that has about one part in ten of a nice dessert wine whipped right into the cream!"  He suggests using Moscato for pumpkin pie, Sherry for pecan and Porto for fruit or chocolate pies.  "Just whip the wine right into the whipped cream!"

That sounds so delicious I may have to try it before the actual holiday arrives.  I think I owe it to my guests to make sure it really is good.

Inexpensive choices for these wine pairing suggestions abound.  Barefoot Moscato is under $10, and so is Taylor Dry Sherry.  Dow's Fine Ruby Port is available most places for $15 or less.

Monday, November 15, 2010



Two Twitter-based wine tastings will occur on Wednesday November 17, 2010.  Unfortunately for taste'n'tweet fans, they both are set to happen at the same time, meaning tasters will either have to choose one in which to participate or try to keep a hand in both at the same time.  The latter choice could get confusing.

Whole Foods Market invites wine enthusiasts to join their first-ever Twitter Tasting, when national wine buyers Doug Bell and Geof Ryan will taste six wines from the grocery chain's Top 10 Holiday Wine list.  The featured wines for the Twitter Tasting include: De Chanceny Crémant LoireRömerhof Riesling,Simonette-Febvre Saint-BrisDievole Dievolino Sangiovese di ToscanaValley of the Moon Syrah, andPaso A Paso Organically Grown Tempranillo.  You can follow along by using the @WFMWine handle or the hashtag #WFMWine.

The Four Seasons hotel group presents three of its top sommeliers to lead their tasting event on Twitter.  Dana Farner of the Beverley Wilshire in Los Angeles, James Tidwell of the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Texas and Mark Sayre of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas will taste and tweet about Dr. L Riesling by the Loosen Brothers, Paraiso Syrah andChappellet's Mountain Cuvee.  All three wines will be discussed by the experts and questions will be invited.  Follow the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #FSWine. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!

Beaujolais Nouveau occurs on Thursday, November 18, 2010.  This news is either met with glee and anticipation or, uh, something less than that.

It's a French happening, the day when the Beaujolais region may officially release the year's vintage of Gamay wine.  Some embrace the day and thirst for that young, newborn wine to take its first halting steps.  Others say "What's all the hubbub, Bub? The wine's too young!"

For those in the first category, here's a small selection of Beaujolais Nouveau events that will carry you through Saturday!

2010 Beaujolais Nouveau At The Wine Country
November 18, 2010
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
The Wine Country
2301 Redondo Avenue
Signal Hill, CA
Cost: $10
Tasting of the current vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais Nouveau At Rosso Wine Shop
November 18, 2010
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Rosso Wine Shop
3459 1/2 N Verdugo Road
Glendale, CA
Cost: $10
Taste the Louis Tete 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau with cheese, pate, charcuterie, cornichon and crusty bread.

FrancophoneFest Food & Beverage - Beaujolais Nouveau
November 18, 2010
7:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.
Spectra by Wolfgang Puck at the Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $20; $30 door
Celebrate food, wine, beer and spirits from Francophone countries (France, Armenia, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, etc.) Live international performers to help set the tone.

Beaujolais Passions 2010
November 19, 2010
7:00 p.m. - midnight
Beverly Hills Country Club
3084 Motor Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $42; $55 door
Keep the celebration going on the day after. Sample the Nouveau along with other wines from the Beaujolais region. Live entertainment and a DJ will spice up the affair. Ticket includes one glass of Beaujolais Nouveau plus bites from France.

Nouveau Beaujolais Wines On The Water
November 20, 2010
6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Harbor Breeze Cruises
100 Aquarium Way
Dock #2
Long Beach, CA
Cost: $32
One of Morry's wine sharing cruises. It's BYOBN, so bring a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau to share.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Coppola Rosso

Francis Ford Coppola has paid homage to his Italian ancestry many times in his career, both as a filmmaker and a vintner.  His trilogy of Godfather movies portrayed the strong sense of family that exists in the Italian-American culture.  Most of the characters may have been criminals, but hey, family is family.  His Francis Ford Coppola Winery is also an outgrowth of his heritage.

Coppola's family history, as with many Italian-American families, has a close link with wine.  If my memory serves, he credits his Uncle Mikey with setting the wine stage for him.  Wine was always on the dinner table, every night.  It was everyday wine, nothing special or fancy, but it was good wine.  Coppola's Rosso and Bianco labels are tributes to that tradition.
The '08 Rosso is a blend of 65% Zinfandel, 21% Syrah and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fruit comes from Lodi, CA and is vinted at the Coppola wine kingdom in Geyserville in Sonoma County.  It's billed as an everyday, food-friendly wine.  The alcohol content is a reasonable 13.5% abv and it usually costs around ten dollars per bottle.  I bought mine on sale for eight.
It's purple color is fairly light - you can see through at the core and it looks downright anemic around the edges.  The nose, though, is huge.  Bombastic, bright cherry aromas mingle with cola and a hint of brambles.  The palate is just as intense.  The cherries are joined by blackberries and framed by smokey cola and graphite notes.  There's a lot of cedar and spice in the flavor profile, too.  The wood makes itself known in no uncertain terms.  The finish is long and nuanced, with a red licorice flavor that really lingers.
Winemaker Corey Beck utilizes the aromatics of the Zinfandel, the spice of the Syrah and the heft of the Cab to craft a wine with so much character you might have to break with tradition and call it fancy - even if it is on the dinner table every night.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Wine Report

Do you have wineries in your area?  If you live in the United States, the answer is probably “yes,” because there are now wineries in all 50 states.  These wineries and the associated businesses that serve them are making a huge contribution to their states’ economies, and to the nation’s economic health.

The annual Vintage Virginia Festival is a good example of how tourism affects the wine industry.  The Virginia Wineries Association depends in great part on this festival for revenue.  The only other revenue stream the VWA has is dues from members, and they only have 54 members, according to Wine Business Monthly.  This wine festival is marketed heavily all along the East Coast and its success in large part determines how much good the organization can do for its member wineries.

The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association says that the wine and grape industry now has a 1.35 billion dollar impact on the Lone Star State.

Missouri Wines.org shows that Missouri’s economy sees a boost of some $700 million dollars annually from wine. - and those are 2007 figures.

The king of wine states in the U.S., California, receives an economic infusion of around 52 billion dollars a year from the wine industry, according to the Wine Institute, and the nation as a whole gets a 162 billion dollar shot in the arm from wine.   

WashingtonWine.org reports that wine is responible for three billion dollars a year to the state of Washington’s economy.  

A recent study, cited by Wines & Vines, showed how even local economies benefit from wine.  The study claims that hotels in Walla Walla, Washington have experienced a 25% growth in room occupancy since wines from their area have been receiving high scores in Wine Spectator magazine. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Bruce Willis

Let's stroll down memory lane again and check out some more of those wonderful TV ads for wine - or wine coolers, as is the case today.

My memory of the 1980s is somewhat vague - and I like it that way - but I would figure these Seagram's Golden Wine Cooler commercials to be from the latter part of that glittering decade.

The ads feature a very young Bruce Willis moonlighting as a spokesman for wine coolers.  He was a very hot property as a TV star back then, and I understand he made millions of dollars doing this series of commercials.

In these spots,

Willis talks:

Seagram's Golden Wine Coolers 1

Willis sings:

Seagrams Golden Wine Coolers 2

and Willis dances:

Seagram's Golden Wine Coolers 3

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Duchman Dolcetto

Texas has gotten some interesting notice lately for having some pretty good areas for the cultivation of grapes, in particular Italian varieties.  Duchman Family Winery, in Texas' High Plains AVA, has made quite a splash with several Italian varietals.  I wrote recently about their Aglianico (bottled under the previous Mandola label).  The Duchman's also provided me with a sample of their '09 Dolcetto.  This wine displays the new branding on the "painted-on" label.

The grapes for the Dolcetto come from the Bingham Family Vineyard, which also produces Trebbiano and Vermentino, in addition to Tempranillo, Viognier and Merlot.  From the sample I tasted, it appears the Bingham Family is doing a great job raising grapes and the Duchman's are doing a great job turning those grapes into wine.  If Texas isn't already on your wine radar, it should be.

The Duchman Dolcetto looks medium ruby in color when poured into the glass.  I had no trouble seeing through it.  The nose shows a strawberry-meets-raspberry characteristic - rather like a rosé at first blush.  The aromas start getting a bit darker only about half an hour after opening the bottle.  The darkening continued over a three night tasting span.

The tannins - lively at first pour - are still quite active after 45 minutes in the glass.  The wine is actually dry, despite the name of the grape, meaning "little sweet one" in Italian.  This Dolcetto has a rough-hewn nature, fitting for a wine made in Texas, even if it is from an Italian variety.

A raspberry flavor dominates the palate and those tannins never say die.  The finish is just as rustic.  It leaves you with a bitterness that is not the least bit unpleasant.  The second night the bottle is open, the wine is smoother.  The tannins, however, still let you know they are there.  On the third night, it is as smooth as silk.  The fruit flavors are still intact, but have become much darker and more brambly.

I like wines that evolve over the span of time the bottle is open, and the Duchman Dolcetto fits that description perfectly.  Decanting is recommended - the darker qualities and smoother mouthfeel are a delight - but it's a better than average wine even upon opening.

There is a fairly good streak of spice that runs through this wine, suggesting that it’s a good choice for the holidays.  It pairs with chocolate as well as it does with a steak.  With beef, the more marbled the better.  These tannins can handle anything a piece of meat can throw at it.

The Duchman Dolcetto has yet to be released, but it shows the new branding on the bottle, sells for $26 retail and carries a very moderate alcohol level of 13% abv.  The '08 vintage was a double gold medal winner at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, according to the Houston Chronicle's Dale Robertson.  I expect no less from the 2009 edition.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Twitter Icon

If you like wine, and you like Twitter, you might like to find out about a few wine people who are very active in the social media.  The website WeFollow has listed the most followed wine industry people.

Number one on the list is @garyvee. That's the Twitter handle used by popular wine videocaster Gary Vaynerchuk.  His tweets are followed by over 850,000 people, making him the most-followed wine person in Twitterland.  Be forewarned: he's a very active Tweeter.  You'll be kept apprised of nearly every thought that pops into his head.

Next on the list is @ablegrape, at just over 295,000 followers.  Doug Cook is his real name, and he says he's a computer geek turned wine geek, and that he's building the world's most comprehensive wine information search engine.  He’s the head of Twitter’s search initiative.  

After those top two, the numbers really fall off the cliff.  The third most followed wine Tweeter is@winerecipes with just under 68,000 followers.

@crushpad, "a state-of-the-art winery where you are the winemaker," is in fourth place followed by a little over 65,000 Twiiter users.

In fifth place with about 54,000 followers is @WineTwits, promising insider information and wine for sale.

Foodie and sommelier @RickBakas is number six, with followers numbering some 46,000.  Seventh on the list is @magillamax - otherwise known as Aussie John Newell - serving up tweets about wine, food, music, travel and marketing to 43,000 or so faithful.  Esteemed wine writer@JancisRobinson has 42,000 followers, @GetYourWineNews delivers messages to 41.000 and@winedinetv - the mother-daughter team of Judit and Corina celebrate wine, food, travel and lifestyle for 39,000 fans.

WeFollow also offers a listing that ranks wine tweeters in order of their influence, which does shake things up a bit.  On that list, @WineTwits knocks @garyvee out of first place, while @JancisRobinson moves up to third.  @WineEnthusiast magazine moves from #22 to fourth place and @GetYourWineNews rounds out the top five most influential Twitter users in the wine biz.

I scanned down both lists, but didn’t see my handle anywhere.  If you’d like to follow me anyway, send me a tweet at @randyfuller1.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Murgo Etna Bianco

A favorite spot for lunch should have two things, in my family’s estimation: great Italian food and great Italian wine.  As Denise and I have found on many occasionsIl Buco in Beverly Hills has those bases covered, and throws in fabulous service for a culinary hat trick.  It is the one restaurant in Southern California which has never let us down.  The food is always perfect and the wines seem to be chosen for their list with great care.

The Murgo estate has been producing wine since 1850.  Local varieties are used - in the case of this intense white, 70% Caricante and 30% Cataratto - and the Sicilian location southeast of the Mt. Etna volcano gives the grapes tremendous aromatics and tons of minerality.

There’s a huge mineral-laden nose on this wine and the taste is full and rich, with green apple and pineapple, both trying to escape from underneath a pile of wet rocks.  The acidity is razor-sharp and there’s a citrus zest flavor on the brilliant finish.

I had the Murgo with a grilled calamari steak salad, and it tasted great, if you like your flavors intense.  The intensity of the wine was actually almost too much for the gentle calamari.  With a tuna and anchovie salad, I think this would be just about a perfect match.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Le Cigare Volant T-shirt

Some wines are made to be aged. I have the feeling Le Cigare Volant is one of those wines.  Every time I have a bottle of it, I intend to leave it alone and try it a few years down the road.  "I'll set it aside," I say, "and see what some aging does to it."  I haven't found out yet.  I never make it past six months of cellaring before it starts calling out to me.

We were invited to a dinner at the home of some friends we hadn't seen in quite some time.  It sounded like a special occasion, so I dusted off a bottle of what I know to be a good "special occasion" wine.  Bonny Doon's Le Cigare Volant has been oohed and aahed at every table to which I have taken it.  This was no exception.

Natalie and Michael were both quite receptive to the wine.  They had even paid a visit to the Santa Cruz winery some years earlier.  Natalie disappeared and returned wearing her souvenir of that trip, a vintage - we won't say which vintage - T-shirt depicting the Le Cigare Volant label, flying cigar and all.

I had presented the wine to our host and hostess thinking that I would get the chance to show off and explain the "UFO in the French vineyard" story.  I was beaten to the punchline.  It was a moment to remember.

The 2005 vintage is a blend of Grenache (50%), Mourvèdre (24%), Syrah (22%), Carignane (3%), and Cinsault (1%).  The wine was provided by Bonny Doon as a sample for review.

The '05 Cigare pours deep ruby red and shows very dark and earthy charcteristics on the nose.  Black cherry and a meaty aroma also waft up from the glass.  The palate is simply delicious every time I have it.  This vintage expresses the fruit very darkly.  Black plums and a mushroom aspect flow under a layer of earth and game, with cherry cola appearing on the finish.  The fruit is what the finish wants to show, though, and it does so at a lingering pace.

Maybe my next bottle of Le Cigare Volant will be the one that stays unnoticed in the rack.  It's not likely, though.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Holiday Wines

Whole Foods Market has compiled a listing of their top wine suggestions for the holidays.  Their choices are designed to target the $20-and-under price range.  That's fine with us - who doesn't want to find good wine which doesn't cost a lot?  I've been happy with my wine purchases at the Whole Foods Markets locations in the Los Angeles area.  I just wish one of them near me conducted wine tastings!

The food chain also has announced its first-ever Twitter Tasting for those who like to taste and tweet.  The Whole Foods Market Twitter Tasting is scheduled for Wednesday November 17th, 2010 beginning at 7:00 p.m. EST.  National wine buyers Doug Bell and Geof Ryan will taste six wines from the holiday list and you can join to give your tasting notes along with theirs.  Bell says, "The holiday wine Twitter Tasting is designed to be a fun evening where friends can get together to taste wines and share their thoughts with other wine lovers."

Whole Foods Market is also partnering with Snooth.com on a contest to win a VIP trip to California wine country.

Here are Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Holiday Wines, with Whole Foods' descriptions, suggested cheese pairings and recipes for dishes they feel are well suited to the wines:
De Chanceny Crémant Loire – Made for Whole Foods Market by a group of 30 families in France’s Loire Valley, this sparkler can be easily compared to Champagne costing two to three times the price.  This fresh bubbly is best shared with friends or paired with our Isigny Ste. Mere Brie.   Baked Apple and Brie Canapés

Römerhof Riesling – Made by the Heinz Eifel family that has been producing wines in the heart of the Mosel Valley for more than 400 years, this gorgeous Riesling is true to terroir, with apple and pear notes and a crisp finish.  Pair with Fourme D’Ambert blue cheese.    Sage Butter Turkey with Rice Rapini Stuffing

Chalone Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – A perfect wine to share with friends over good conversation and appetizers, this wine offers mouthwatering tropical fruit notes, mingled with a hint of lemon zest and grapefruit.  Pair with Whole Foods Market Organic Goat Cheese.   Savory Fig and Goat Cheese Tart with Arugula

Simonette-Febvre Saint-Bris – Splash this Sauvignon into shrimp scampi and then pour yourself a glass.  Pair its minerality and citrus zest with Cypress Grove Lil’ Ziggycheese.   Easy Shrimp and Grits 

Earthstone Chardonnay* – Sustainably grown by Rodney Strong, whose winery is Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery, this Chardonnay has a spicy vanilla touch and bright apple notes, perfect to enjoy with rotisserie chicken, roasted duck or Cowgirl Creamery Organic Buckaroo cheese.   Roasted Duck with Pomegranate Glaze

Louis Latour Pouilly-Fuisse – This scrumptious green-gold beauty is Whole Foods Market’s "Cellar Selection" for the holidays, offering seductive aromas and round, full herbal fruitiness on the palate that complements its crisp acidity.  Enjoy with lobster tails, creamy Hervé Mons Camembert.   Salmon Chowder

Dievole Dievolino Sangiovese Di Toscana – When Italian favorites like osso bucco and ragù are on the menu, tuck this one under your arm for the host.  This centuries-old winery produces this lively, ruby red with a hint of juniper, ideal forRobusto cheese.   Spaghetti Bolognese

Estancia Pinot Noir – This estate-grown, handcrafted Pinot Noir offers soft, luscious aromas of dark berries and ripe blueberry, black cherry and plum flavor, balanced by creamy vanilla to provide a rich finish.  Enjoy with Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor.  Cranberry and Apple-Stuffed Roasted Pork

Bubo Old Vine Zinfandel – Made from 30+-year-old vineyards, this Zinfandel has rich aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry, pepper and chocolate.  Enjoy with steak, roast beef and piquant Fourme D’Ambert cheese.   Vegetarian Chipotle Chili

Paso A Paso Tempranillo* – Making its second appearance in our Top 10 Holiday Wines, this floral, deeply colored Tempranillo offers huge flavor that pairs perfectly with slices of chorizo and Le Gruyère cheese.   Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell* – Like winter’s best comfort foods, this bold, elegant red wine takes off the chill.  Made from Spain’s Monastrell grape, the pleasant tannins are vibrant with Manchego cheese while you warm by the fireplace.   Classic Butternut Squash Soup
Valley of the Moon Syrah – Enjoy this soft, silky California Syrah with smoky pulled pork, roasted root vegetables or Rogue Anniversary Blue cheese.  Made from Sonoma and Russian River Valley fruit, this Syrah features concentrated dark berry fruit with earth and spice notes.   Roasted Ham with Maple and Orange Marmalade Glaze

*Produced by vineyards with organic and/or sustainable farming methods

The featured wines for the November 17 Twitter Tasting are:
De Chanceny Crémant Loire
Römerhof Riesling
Simonette-Febvre Saint-Bris
Dievole Dievolino Sangiovese di Toscana
Valley of the Moon Syrah
Paso A Paso Organically Grown Tempranillo

To join the Twitter Tasting, pick up one or more of the featured wines to open during the tasting.  Sign up for a free Twitter account at Twitter.com, if you don't already have an account.  Go to the TweetChat room set up for this event to tweet directly.  Taste, tweet and follow along with Whole Foods Market wine buyers and other wine enthusiasts at @WFMWineGuys and #WFMWine.

For more information about the Twitter Tasting and Snooth.com contest, go toWholeFoodsMarket.com/wine.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hope Family has been growing grapes in Paso Robles, California since 1978.  The Liberty School brand has been around since the 1980s, when Chuck Wagner of Napa Valley's Caymus Winery selected the Hope Family Vineyard as the source for his second label Cabernet.  The Hopes established their own winery - Treana - in 1996 and later took over the Liberty School label.  Since then, they have added a Central Coast Chardonnay, Syrah and Cuvee to the Liberty School line.

Last year I discovered on a trip to Las Vegas that Liberty School was the house wine at the Eastside Cannery Casino.  I thought then that it was a pretty good wine - especially considering it was going for only $6 per glass in that casino.  Now, Hope Family Wines has supplied me with a sample of their newly released 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon for review.

Still a bargain, the Liberty School Cab retails for twelve dollars per bottle.

The winemaker notes explain the wine is "barreled down by individual vineyard lots in a combination of French and American oak barrels, 10% of which are new.  The wine is aged 12 months and blended three months prior to bottling."

The nose is rather rustic, a quality I like a lot.  There's plenty of earth to go along with the blackberry and cassis aromas and flavors.  The dark fruit on the palate shows a trace of pencil lead that gets a bit stronger over an hour or so after pouring.  This Cab has great acidity and great tannins that speak up but don’t shout.  There is a bit of heat upon opening the bottle, but it dissipates after a time.  The wood effect is present but not overplayed.

I like the Liberty School Cabernet, and for twelve bucks, I’d say it’s a good deal.  It's great with steak, by the way, and considering its structure, it should work well with a variety of meats.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Orson Welles

The golden age of television wine advertising - for me, anyway - began in the 1970s with the series of commercials which utilized Orson Welles as the spokesman for Paul Masson Wine.  Welles' girth so filled the TV tube there was barely room for the glass of wine, about which he pronounced that Paul Masson would "sell no wine before its time."

Welles apparently would drink no Paul Masson wine at anytime, and he reportedly was fired from his cushy spokesman gig after announcing just that on a TV talk show.

Thanks to the modern miracle of YouTube, we can go back in time and see some of these again, as well as some rather embarrassing outtakes in which Welles appears to have consumed a bit too much of the product.

Paul Masson Wine TV Ad - featuring Orson Welles 

Paul Masson Champagne TV Ad - featuring Orson Welles

Paul Masson TV Ad outtakes - featuring Orson Welles

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Antinori Sangiovese Santa Christina

Pane e Vino, on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, has been a nice Monday evening dining option lately.  The food's great any night, but Monday the restaurant has been offering half-price wine from their list which features a healthy assortment of Italian options.

The Antinori Sangiovese Santa Christina is from Toscana IGT.  The Tuscan red doesn't bowl you over with brawn, but it drinks easily even for a young wine.

Medium dark color, this wine offers a nose of cherry and licorice with a tar component.  On the palate, I find cherry to be the dominant flavor.  It's not too rich, even a bit thin for my taste.  It does pair well with pasta, though, especially the dish I had with Italian sausage browned almost crispy.  At $7.75 it's a good deal. At half price, a steal.

My friend Chris commented that he had taken his Italian mother to Pane e Vino, and she was quite impressed with the food. He added that the cooking tastes as good as his mother's, which is high praise.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Duchman Aglianico

Most of the wines I drink come from California, which is by design.  California is where I live and I like to taste the terroir of my home in the wines I drink.  I'm certainly not opposed to trying wines from other places, though - especially when the place is one near to my heart.

I'm from Texas.  I've been transplanted in Southern California for some time now.  It was so long ago when I lived in the Lone Star State, the burgeoning wine industry there is a stranger to me.  I drank plenty of Texas beer in my days as a card-carryin’ Texan - plenty - but I had never tried a Texas wine, until recently.

The Duchman Family Winery - located just a bit west of Austin - was kind enough to provide me with samples of two of their wines made from Italian grape varieties - Aglianico and Dolcetto.  On today's Now And Zin Wine Blog, I'll tell you about the Aglianico.

The Aglianico grape thrives in dry places with plenty of sunshine.  Central Texas gets a check mark on both counts.  The grapes generally make a full-bodied, acidic wine with plenty of tannic structure.

The Mandola Aglianico - the winery has recently been re-branded as Duchman Family Vineyards- is labeled as "Texas wine,” and the grapes are from the Reddy Vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA.  Bottled in June of 2009, this wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged ten months in American oak.  The alcohol level is listed as 14.5% abv in the winery’s literature, but the label shows 12.5% abv.  I believe I’d go with the lower figure.  Total production of the Mandola Aglianico was only 150 cases.

I’m happy that the first Texas wine I taste is one with a taste as big as the state itself.

Right up front, the nose gives big aromas of red fruit - red plums and raspberry seem to dominate.  There’s more red fruit on the palate with an earthy aspect that increases the longer the wine has been decanted.  By the second night after opening the bottle, it was downright dark and earthy.  The flavor of spices did not diminish, though.  If anything, the spiciness increased a bit with time.

This wine has the tannins the grape is known for, and the acidity to allow it to match with a variety of foods.  Snacking with a handful of almonds, a piece of brittle and a chunk of dark chocolate, all three seemed to fit well in the scheme of the Aglianico.  This wine is really made for something a little more substantial.  Try it with an Italian sausage or lasagna.

The thing I was really looking for with this Texas Aglianico was the feeling of the Lone Star state’s terroir, and I think I found it.  Even though Aglianico wines tend to be somewhat “rustic” anyway, this one has a deeper, darker feeling than I was expecting.  To call it “brooding” would not be an overstatement.  To call it “wonderful” just about hits the nail on the head.  I think - just this once - a “yee-haw” might even be called for.

I couldn't resist sharing this image from the Duchman website.  Boots