Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 New Year's Resolution

Here it is the last day of 2007. What a busy and event-filled year it has been, and also what a fast year!

My resolution for 2008: To improve at identifying specific scents and tastes in the wines I drink and to be able to describe them better. Right now I don't feel as though I do an adequate job. I can definitely remember an aroma or taste that I have had before but when it comes to describing it that's when things fall apart.

To that end, when I scrape together some $$$ after the recent wallet-debilitating Christmas gift season, maybe I should spring for a Le Nez du Vin kit.

So you may be wondering why the picture of a lizard for a wine blog. That's an Ameiva, to be specific, and I used to have one of those. Actually it was for the kids and we kept it inside of a fish tank. It looks kind of ferocious but the one we had was a big chicken. It would go nuts if anyone tried to touch it, much less pick it up.

Anyway, either the lizard or the tank had a certain smell to it. Then one day we were having dinner with my wife's family at a Chinese restaurant and one of the dishes they ordered was chicken in black bean sauce.

The dish smelled exactly - and I mean exactly - like the lizard/tank. I started laughing out loud when I took a whiff of the food.

Now you probably thought I was going to say that it was Ameiva instead of chicken in the dish but nope, a pound of that lizard cost more than a pound of chicken so unless it happened to fall in the pot that was not the case.

The point is, I do remember aromas, but I just can't describe them too well. However, if anyone should ever ask me what an Ameiva smells like, I can confidently tell them, "like chicken in black bean sauce."

Have a happy and safe New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2007

2006 Angove's "Nine Vines" Viognier

Apparently I am the only one using Cellar Tracker who has this Viognier from South Australia, which is a shame because it is a darn good bottle of wine.

This bottle came from Domaine547, cost $11.99, weighs in at 15.0% alcohol and is finished off with a screw top. The particular page for this wine can be found here.

I drank this over the course of three evenings and it remained pretty consistent.

Aromas: Apricot, honeysuckle and flowers. Similar on the palate. On the first night the main impression was grapefruit mixed with lemon lime but after some airing and on the 2nd and 3rd nights, apricot was prominent, giving way to honeyed tropical fruits while the grapefruit disappeared.

This wine has a nice, lush texture with balanced backing acidity, and lots of fruit leading to a lingering tropical fruit and herbal finish. Although the label said the alcohol content was 15%, it was not at all apparent.

The only "negative" I have is that the wine at times seemed slightly "sugary" as opposed to having really pure fruit but like I said, that impression was very slight. Lovely, full aromas, very flavorful and it has good varietal character. This wine rates two thumbs up without question. At $11.99, it's got excellent QPR.

*edit* - oops, I was going to include a music video "review" of each wine in this blog and I forgot to do it when I originally posted! Well, here is the music video for the Angove's Viognier:

*** By the way, in my previous post I mentioned getting a bottle of Argan oil for Christmas. I haven't tried it yet but I did open it to take a sniff. Mmmmm, this is nice. Concentrated, rich aromas of roasted nuts. My wife said "sesame oil" and it does have that component also, but it is much richer and more complex. There's more to it than the nutty component but I would say the first word that comes to mind when smelling this is "rich." This is good stuff!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Santa Was Nice

Well I hope all your stockings were stuffed with delightful things for Christmas! I have to say Santa was very, very nice to me.

Two items in particular relate to this blog - one directly and one indirectly, that I thought I'd mention here. Both came from my son, who obviously must have paid attention to my wish list!

Decanter Magazine - If I were going to subscribe to any wine publication, this would be the one. I admire Robert Parker but I really wouldn't put his reviews to good enough use to justify the subscription price. Wine Speculator - eh. And everything else is either too expensive or not interesting, but Decanter presents a great overall balance - at least for me.

Argan Oil - This isn't wine, it's some very limited production culinary oil but I found out about it from an e-mail I received from a wine vendor. The wine vendor was selling it from a different source than the one I received, but his flowery description was so tempting that it piqued my interest enough to put it on my wish list. You can read about it by clicking the Argan Oil link above (that's who produced the bottle I received). Also, I have taken the liberty to reprint the wine vendor's e-mail message below so you can see why I got interested in the first place:

Dear Friends,

One of the world’s most mysterious and therapeutic foodstuffs is at your fingertips – pure Argan oil – a delicacy all of you should experience.

Argan oil has been used for centuries in Europe and beyond as a mystical healer both externally and internally and you know what? They may be on to something.

Produced only in the far south of Morocco, the Argan tree dates back between 25 and 30 million years and is one of the oldest species of its kind to remain. It only grows where the desert soil (in this case the Sahara) mixes with the more traditional soil of Morocco on the very fringe of the Sahara – a very small line. This sub-soil is very thin and difficult to maintain and the desert has its eyes set on winning the battle by overlaying the critical rich topsoil with pure sand – an act that will cause the trees to perish. Each tree that dies basically cannot be replaced as the root structure required to produce fruit (the Argan nuts that produce oil) need to be extremely deep and aged (many of the trees are over 200 years old). For this reason, each Argan tree is now under watchful protection of the Moroccan government. Moroccan’s cannot imagine a life without Argan oil – it is that important.

Cultivated almost exclusively by the Berber woman, completely by hand with a traditional organic method, Argan oil is known to be not only one of the most therapeutic oils in existence but also one of the rarest and most expensive. To obtain one liter of oil, 20-50 kg of nuts need to be hand pressed – an extreme amount.

So why bother? Argan oil (with an appearance similar to olive oil) cosmetically is known to be one of the richest antioxidant moisturizers with some of the highest known levels of natural tocopherols (mostly Vitamin E) and also of saponins (which give the skin vibrant clarity) of any known substance. It is 2-3 times heavier in its concentration of tocopherols and of linoleic acid than the best olive oil – and that’s just as a skin moisturizer.

As a food oil, that’s where things get very interesting. With one of the most perfumed, soil-tinged fragrances and flavors of any oil, Argan oil is not only potentially medicinal from an antioxidant standpoint but it is also a culinary masterwork bringing out flavors you never knew existed in cheese, bread, meat, vegetables or fish. In Morocco, kings have ordered it combined with lemon and salt to form a potent marinade for grilling meat but it is best used after the cooking process is over, sprinkled on your chicken, lamb or even roasted vegetables fresh out of the oven. Argan oil is also used to top fresh baby greens or other to give you an exotic dressing that is second to none. Too precious to use as a cooking oil, its spirit is best appreciated in the natural, unadulterated state it was pressed into (similar to how you would use your best olive oil on vegetables or fresh fish).

We have one of the finest pure, organically pressed Argan oils to offer you from the south of Morocco. If you’ve never tried this incredible foodstuff, it is an ingredient that has become all the rage in the top restaurants in Europe and beyond making an appearance in some of the most celebrated kitchens in Paris and London - I cannot recommend it highly enough.

This glass bottle is approximately 7 oz (slightly more than .2 liters) and that is considered a fairly large bottle.

This oil is coming to Garagiste directly from the source with the least amount of travel and exposure as possible – it has the same impeccable provenance as our wine.

I'd never heard of this oil before but with a pitch like the one above, how could I not be interested? Now I have to think of wise ways to use this precious liquid - and also avoid accidentally knocking over the bottle!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I will refrain from my usual verbose self and make it simple: may you all have a truly joyous and blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Trees of Christmas Past

Today's post has nothing to do with wine but I did want to take this time to wish all of you who are reading this a very merry and blessed Christmas!

What's up with the aluminum Christmas tree in the picture? When I was little, that's the kind of tree we had. Each year my mom would get out the box that held the aluminum branches and tree base, and we'd decorate the tree - just bulbs, no lights. Red bulbs.

I always wanted lights on the tree and my parents told me you can't put lights on an aluminum tree. Well being the pest that I was, one Christmas I convinced them to give it a try. We strung lights on the tree, plugged them in, and nothing happened. No lights. The reason it doesn't work, they said, is because the tree was made of aluminum and aluminum is metal.

That's something that has never made sense to me since if the lights on the cord are insulated, then what difference would it make what the tree was made of? But apparently it does. Perhaps one of you who has electrical knowledge can post a comment to explain this.

Meanwhile, I know aluminum trees were a tacky symbol of the '50's and 60's but for me they are a fond memory of Christmases past. It's not so much what the tree was made of, but what is symbolizes. I'll always have nice, warm memories associated with that aluminum tree.

Have a merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

2004 Escafeld Petit Verdot

This is the wine to drink with Oreo Cookies.

Actually, I didn't try that combination since I didn't have any Oreos around but that's the thought that came to mind on evening #1 of enjoying this wine.

As other tasters have mentioned, I found coffee, coffee grounds, mocha and berries on the nose, with a similar palate impression. There was also a savory meat juice aspect in the finish. That was evening #1, when I had my Oreo revelation. This wine just seemed to combine the best aspects of the combination of the two wafers holding the tasty creme inside, with the dryness and smooth texture of the wine being the perfect foil for the sweetness and crunch of the cookies!

Over the course of four evenings, the character of this wine changed. I detected some cranberries on evening #2 along with shaved chocolate. There was a nice, chewy aftertaste of coffee and cocoa.

On evenings 3 and 4, the coffee/mocha character dissipated, replaced by lots of blueberries that led into a cranberry-type finish. The fruit character of the wine was much more pronounced than the first evening. The aromas became more reticent over the course of the four evenings, also.

The wine is drinking very nicely now. I purchased this from WineQ for $19.99 and it gets a solid two thumbs up.

I mentioned yesterday I was going to try and match the wines I review to music via a Youtube video, and here's what I think goes well with the wine:

If you can't see the video above, click here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Points, Inflation and Miscellany

Today is another sort of odds and ends day, meaning I was just too lazy to think of anything of real substance. Most will perceive little, if any difference from my regular postings.

As I drove home yesterday I heard the standard BevMo (Beverages and More) radio ad that has been playing for at least many months. For those of you unfamiliar with this chain, it’s a store that carries a large selection of liquor, much of it wine and I think most of them are located in California or maybe the western United States.

The commercial features people posing as a consumers, the first happily observing how when she shops the aisles at the store, there is such a high percentage of wine rated 90 points or higher. Other consumers add their two bits, mentioning how their confidence level of choosing a great wine has been raised because so many 90-point wines are on the shelves.

First of all, there’s no mention made of where these 90 point ratings come from. They could be from anyone. Secondly, the commercial distills the art of choosing wine into picking by points. Now there is sense to such methodology but on the other hand one person’s 90 is another person’s 80. Points, points, points.

As what happened with the 4.0 scale of grades that now offers higher than 4.0 for exceptional performance even though 4.0 is supposed to represent exceptional performance, are we going to see that with wines, too? This is a 115 point wine on a 100 point scale so I can buy this with total confidence!! Imagine the 2012 Olympics and the award of an over-perfect or over-the-top “11” to the winning gymnast.

And points being everywhere, expect to hear on the radio, “Sit and Sleep will sell you a mattress rated 90 or above or your mattress is freeeeee!”

Anyway, enough grousing for today. It’s Christmas season and I don’t want to sound like I just got back from the mall in a foul mood or anything like that..

In yesterday’s post I mentioned matching wines with music videos as a sort of “review” of the wine, like the way Chateau Petrogasm uses pictures. I think I’m going to try that, beginning with this week’s wine which will be reviewed tomorrow. Actually, it’s matching the wine mainly with music but since the easiest (i.e., laziest) way to get the music is to link to a Youtube video, that’s what I’m going to do. Or attempt to do. Match the wine to accompanying music. I’ve already got the first piece picked out!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Music to Savor Wine With

Okay, I know the title is making the grammar police cringe. They're asking, savor with what?? It should be "Music With Which to Savor Wine," (or something to that effect) but it sounds better the way I have it, at least thinks I.

Chateau Petrogasm has wonderfully clever graphical reviews of wines. Why not a music/video review? Like, have you tasted a wine equivalent of Derek and the Domino's Layla?

Here's a suggestion for this Christmas season: take out that bottle that's perfectly ripe and mellow for drinking now, uncork, decant if need be, pour a glass for yourself and someone special, click the play button on the video above and then relax and savor the wine and the season.

(note: if you can't see the video above, click here - just like watching It's a Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas, this is something everyone should do each Christmas season)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BS Investigates the Red Chardonnay

Today’s issue of Barrel Sediment brings you another exposé of seedy practices within the wine community – this time focusing on an unusual wine from DownUnder Cellars.

You’re browsing the wine section at the supermarket. You see the catchy label on the bottle. It has an abstract drawing of a kangaroo, and it tells you that this wine is a “Red ‘Roo’ 2006 Chardonnay. Then you do a double take. Inside the heavy, clear Bordeaux-shaped bottle is a red wine!

Mistake, you think? Read the back label on the bottle:

Your eyes don’t deceive you, mate. That’s a wine of the color red you’re looking at in this very bottle but it’s a chardonnay for sure. A full, rich, robust wine typical of the type you find down under and that’s why we’ve got our name on the bottle. DownUnder Cellars, El Centro, CA.

What gives??? A red chardonnay??? Actually it’s a rather deep purple to be exact. We contacted DownUnder Cellar spokesperson Abby Gilroy to explain this weirdness and were able to gather a brief interview before she slammed the phone down on us.

BS: Tell us, Ms. Gilroy, what is the method or madness behind marketing a red chardonnay?

AG: You’ve got “white zinfandel” and “rose of cabernet” among other wines, so why not a “red chardonnay?”

BS: But chardonnay is a white grape. How do you get a red wine from a white grape?

AG: That’s the law.

BS: The law?

AG: Yes, the law. The law says that to be called a varietal, like chardonnay, 75% of the grapes used in making the wine have to be of that variety. So 75% of the grapes in that bottle of Red ‘Roo are chardonnay.

BS: And the other 25% must be some really dark grapes. If they’re even grapes, that is.

AG: That’s pretty insulting.

BS: I get the idea that you are trying to fool people into thinking this wine comes from Australia when in fact this is a California wine, according to your label.

AG: We’re in El Centro, California, the southernmost city in the state. You’re going to tell me that’s not “DownUnder?”

BS: The name of your winery combined with the drawing of a kangaroo.. what’s up with that?

AG: Are kangaroos only in Australia?

BS: They’re not in California.

AG: Didn’t you ever go to the zoo?

BS: The point is, the name of your winery – “DownUnder” and the drawing of a kangaroo on the label and the name of the wine – “Red ‘Roo” – all combine to give a misleading impression of the wine. Not to even mention the fact that the wine is red! The only thing “DownUnder” about you are your business practices!

AG: So what are you trying to say?

BS: I just said it.

AG: Then I don’t believe there’s anything left to discuss. Good day. [hangs up]

Well there you have it folks, another shady, bottom of the barrel practice in the wine industry exposed by Barrel Sediment. Get the jump on DownUnder Cellars before they get the jump on you! Here’s some advice to remember: Don’t eat yellow snow and don’t drink red chardonnays!

Serious note: The picture on the wine label came from this site, which has some good-looking artwork. At least I thought so. Very interesting.

Monday, December 17, 2007

'Tis The Season

I don't have a wine-related post for today. I wanted to mention something nice from the weekend, though.

On Saturday my daughter and I returned to Bollini's restaurant in Monterey Park, a rare bird being that it is excellent sit-down Italian food mired in a sea of Chinese restaurants and fast food. I hadn't had a pizza since September and figured it was time to pig out.

And pig out we did, ordering two 12" pizzas: The Nonna, with sausage and mushrooms; and the Cal Twist, topped with shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted peppers. Both were excellent. And I guess it really wasn't pigging out that much since these were very thin pizzas. Like quesadilla-thin. That's the Napolitana style that chef/owner Chris Bollini specializes in.

What I wanted to mention is something we observed while we were devouring our pizzas. Two young kids came in and were talking to the pizza chef (not the owner, though) about pizza. We weren't paying too much attention to their conversation until towards the end when it became obvious they didn't have enough money to buy anything.

The chef asked them how much money they had and was told $2.00. So he told them, "Okay, I'll make you a little pizza for $2.00. What would you like on it?" They told him pepperoni and so he made them a little pepperoni pizza from scratch and put it in a box. Those were two happy kids.

My daughter and I thought that was really nice of this guy. While we were eating, we heard him talking to other customers waiting for take-out orders and it was obvious that he loved what he was doing. He also mentioned that in a couple of months Bollini's will expand into the adjacent space which will give them much more room. Right now the restaurant is very narrow and the kitchen area is larger than the eating area. Along with the expansion will come an expanded menu, too.

Before we left I spoke briefly with Mr. Bollini and he confirmed that he's just waiting for the next door tenants to move out and then they can proceed to knock down the wall and expand. That's definitely good news because this place has terrific food, a great attitude, and the San Gabriel Valley can use some more non-Asian places where you can sit down and relax rather than get your food from a drive-thru window. I'm Asian myself but I'd like a little more variety, pleeeeze!

Anyway, I just wanted to put in a good word for the place because of the nice gesture the pizza chef made. There's some George Baileys out there!

By the way, they don't have a liquor license but I've read BYOB is okay (I didn't confirm it with the folks at the restaurant, though).

Friday, December 14, 2007

2005 Paraiso Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands

The wine this week has a classy-looking label. It's the 2005 Paraiso Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. This set me back $16.99 at Costco.

This was a pretty magenta color in the glass, a shade dark for pinot noir. On the nose were cherries, earth (like potting soil), white pepper and vanilla creme. Very nice and pinot-like.

On the palate I found more cherries, white pepper, a twig or underbrush component, and after getting some air time, a slight bit of chocolate and soy. Tannins were integrated and nicely chewy, and overall this wine took on quite a silky texture with airing.

This was a nice bottle of wine. It wasn't spectacular but it was well-made. I especially liked the aromas. On the palate the cherrry fruit dominated. Two thumbs up.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Letter to the Editor - Disgruntled Reader

Dear Monkeywino,

I been reading some of the most ridiculous things
I ever heard of in your website and finally I had to put my foot down and write to you even though my wife said to be polite and leave well enough alone because you’re from California and can’t help yourself.

You are just plain stupid. You’re what I call an idiot.

I could go on and on but I’ll just mention one thing that irks me no end: how you let this snooty sissy named Jay Addison sell a bunch of useless nonsense on
your website. Let me tell you, I got some things of my own that I use and they don’t cost near as much but if fools like you want to pay a lot for them then be my guest!

I sent you a couple of pictures. That first one with my hand in it shows me holding my own “wine aerator.” It don’t cost me but $1.19 for a 100 of them from Wal Mart but you can pay me $119 each for them.

See what I do is I insert one end into my glass of wine and the other end into my mouth and then I blow. And you see them two fingers on my “win
e aerator?” Them’s what I call my “air flow regulator” that scientifically lets me control just how much air goes into the wine. You know what? It works just fine!

And unlike them idiotic contraptions you sell that can only do one thing, my “wine aerator” is reversible. I can blow in reverse and make the wine come up into my mouth. Ain’t that amazing!

Unlike them stupid glasses you talk about that d
irect the flow of wine onto different parts of your tongue because you taste it different depending on which part it winds up on, I can do the exact same thing with my “wine aerator.” I just move it to the front or move it to the back or the side of my mouth. And it don’t cost me no $75 like you paid for that stupid looking candle holder that you think is a glass, you durn fool!

I tell you, you people in California is a bunch of nuts. Don’t you have no sense in your head? From reading your website and getting madder and madder by the second, I guess not!!!

By the way, I’m sending you a picture of the other simple invention I use that maybe you might want to take over and charge hundreds of dollars for. Say hello to George, my “decanter cleaner.” Let me explain.

You got them funny-shaped fancy decanters that you can’t even stick your hand in to clean them and you get all them stains inside because of that. Didn’t the durn fool that made them think about how can you clean them before he made them? Either that inventor is from California or France.

Well George is my solution. I just pour me some purified water into the decanter after I have my Chateau Lafoot, then I take George out of his cozy little tank and put him inside the decanter. That little catfish just scoots around and eats everything off the glass and makes it clean as can be!

Then I take him out of the decanter and put him back in his little home and he’s as happy as a fish can be, just bumping into things and swimming upside down and stuff. Every time he sees me with a wine bottle and my decanter he gets all excited and tries to jump out of his tank!

Now Monkeywino, my “wine aerator” and my “decanter cleaner” didn’t cost but a few bucks and I get hundreds of uses from each of them. Don’t you think you can get some sense in your head and stop selling them sissy things for so much money? Let's all do our part to reduce our big budget deficit!

With Genuine Sincerity,

Jim Royale
Common Sense USA

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Les Yeux du Vin - The Wino Hedonist Returns

J. Addison of the Wino Hedonist here. I know it has been a while since you’ve heard from me but I just finished settling the last pesky lawsuit so better late than never.

If you still haven’t found that perfect gift for the wine enthusiast(s) in your life, I have it for you right here, right now.

You’ve surely heard of Le Nez du Vin, the kit containing samples of aromas most commonly found in wines. I have to say that is an excellent idea and I wish I had thought of it sooner so that my own imitation set (I was going to call it The Nose Knows) didn’t make me wind up in court, but I have something even better for you.

The first thing a truly professional wine taster does is not smell the wine, but instead examines the appearance of the wine. Yes, that is correct, the looky-look comes before the sniffy-sniff. The appearance is just as important as the smell, if not more so since I am not an authorized dealer of Le Nez du Vin nor am I allowed to market a similar product.

I now present for your acclaim, Les Yeux du Vin – “The Eyes of Wine.” In this remarkable collection I have assembled tubes containing samples of the most common colors and appearances of wine that you can compare against the actual wine in the glass to see how accurate you are in your descriptions.

Below are a few of the sample colors you will find in my comprehensive kit (there are 24 total colors each for white and red wines):

Raspberry Red
Lemon Yellow
Orange Orange
Cornflower Blue
Indian Red
Purple Haze

Along with the colors are 12 tubes containing the most common appearances that you will find when examining wines. Among these appearances are:

L.A. Skyline

No one else but the Wino Hedonist could produce and offer you such a magnificent collection for your wine enhancement experience. Order by December 19 and I will personally guarantee that it will arrive on time for Christmas.

Each incredible set includes a quality picture book as well, demonstrating which colors are best suited for particular types of wine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Art of Wine - Camouflage

Here is another excerpt from the recently discovered ancient Chinese manuscript The Art of Wine by Foo Yu. At the rate presales are happening, it looks like the entire book is going to get reprinted here.

Chapter 9: Camouflage

It is not practical to attack a customer and force him to hand over his hard-earned yuan in exchange for a bottle of wine that he may not want. A physical attack is the most difficult means to defeat the consumer, as it deploys the most resources, carries the most risk, and may backfire if the customer is skilled at martial arts.

Deception is a much more efficient method of winning over the consumer, so much to the point that the consumer doesn’t even realize a battle has taken place and he has lost.

Ga Cha provided me with the perfect means to demonstrate this principle.

Ga Cha, in his usual distressed state, ran up to me babbling about a current crop of grapes that he feared were too diluted to make wine suitable of a character that would sell successfully.

After calming him down, I explained to him that all was not lost. I then fetched a particular vessel of wine from my dwelling for him to sample.

First was the swirl then the sniffy sniff. “Mmmm,” hummed Ga Cha with a broad grin on his face. “This smells good.” He then drank some and proclaimed it to be very rich and full, a very powerful wine.

“You like?” I asked him.

“Oh yes, Master Yu, I like. But what does this have to do with my dilemma? I have very poor grapes this season and here you pull out wine made from very fine grapes for me to sample. I don’t understand.”

“You never do,” I sighed. “The grapes used in making this wine were some of the most miserable, diluted little fellows you can imagine. Yet, as your nose and tastebuds told you, they still made wine that you enjoyed.”

“How can that be?” asked an astonished Ga Cha.

“Let me tell you,” I said as I leaned over to whisper in his ear. “Plastics. Oh, wait, that won’t be invented for centuries. What I meant to say was, ‘new bamboo.’” I moved away from his ear and looked at him with a wink.

“New bamboo?” repeated Ga Cha. He sniffed the wine again and a look of recognition spread across his face. “Yes, I smell it. There’s lots of bamboo in this wine.” He drank some more. “The pandas are not going to be happy that you used so much of their treasured bamboo to make this wine.”

“Panda schmanda,” I said. “Let them open a restaurant if they don't like it. That’s the secret. You let the wine sit in new bamboo for a long time and that overcomes the effects of a poor crop. That’s half of it.”

“Half? Whasee udder half?” Asked Ga Cha, starting to slur his words. “Wow, I feel kinda woozy Master. I better siddown.” He plopped down in a chair.

“That’s the other half,” I told him. When the wine was fermenting, I dumped a lot of rice flour in the bamboo vats. That raised the alcohol level much higher than normal. Doesn’t that wine just keep tasting better and better with each sip?”

“Yur durn right, Yaster Mu,” he said as he swayed back and forth, giggling.

“There you have it,” I said. “This wine came from one of the worst crops in the Xian Valley and yet, you seem to think it’s great.”

“Xian Valley?” exclaimed Ga Cha, suddenly sobering up. “I’ve had lots of wine from Xian and none of them tasted like this. They all have a clay-type taste. There’s always a telltale terra cotta aspect to the wines from that area! Wha hoppin’?” He asked with a bewildered look. “There’s no terra cotta here.”

“You know wha hoppin’” I said. “New bamboo and lots of alcohol. Do that with that crop you were worried about and you’ll worry no more. You’ll have people beating down your walls for your wine.”
“Master Yu, you the man!” declared Ga Cha. “You saved me again!”

Ga Cha no longer had to chase people in the street and shake them down to buy his wine. They started coming to him because of the big, bold, Genghis-Khan-attacking-hordes character of his wines that made them return for more. These consumers had been won over and they didn’t even know there was a battle going on.

And that was an excerpt from chapter 9.


Hey, today is a milestone for OneWinePerWeek: Post #100!

Monday, December 10, 2007

2005 Smoking Loon Merlot

OneWinePerWeek has more than one wine to review! These were all one-night stands, though, not the usual drinking over the course of a week.

The pictured wine, a 2005 Smoking Loon Merlot, was purchased in a 2-pack from Costco for $11.00 ($5.50 each) some time ago and got kicked out of the Emerson Suites when I needed more room for more “serious” bottles (what a snob I am). It has spent the last several months under the bed although that doesn’t seem to have done any harm to it.

This wine had full, fruity aromas of mixed berries and a smoky component. On the palate there was plenty of ripe, smooth fruit and a slight bit of spice. The finish tailed off rapidly. This was sort of like wine Kool Aid, really.

I told myself ok, I am going to look for all sorts of different flavors in this wine and make myself think it is as complex as possible. In other words, I wanted to psyche myself out into thinking I was drinking a much more expensive and complex wine. However, try as I might there was nothing but fruit.

The Smoking Loon had more in common with a Beaujolais than a Merlot (maybe even sangria). If you want something really fruity and simple, this is the wine for you.

Our company’s annual holiday dinner dance took place on Saturday at the Brookside Country Club in Pasadena. On each table was placed a bottle of Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon (non-vintage) and 2006 Chardonnay, both the “Yulupa” bottlings. I looked this up on Kenwood’s website and found out these particular bottlings are intended for restaurants.

The Chardonnay was lemony and herbal on the nose, and similar on the palate with a hint of oak. It was served in one of those thick, small wine glasses that can comfortably hold only about 3 ounces so there wasn’t much swirling or breathing room. It had decent acidity, pleasant flavors, and was pretty decent for a banquet wine.

The Cabernet was also decent although a bit diluted tasting. Currants and some vanilla oak on the nose were followed by similar tastes on the palate. Tannins were light and this was a pretty smooth-drinking wine that had Cabernet character as opposed to tasting like a generic red wine. I don't know how much this or the chardonnay cost but I'm sure they marked it up plenty!

Friday, December 7, 2007

2006 Cameron Hughes Chardonnay Lot 57

I attempted to do a review of this wine in haiku but failed miserably so I'll just do it like normal.

What made me think I could write a review in haiku form? Because, like the simplicity of haiku, there was simplicity in the character of this wine: oak, butterscotch, and caramel. That's how it was on the nose and on the palate and initially the oak was pretty harsh.

Over the span of an hour, the wine warmed and rounded out; some fruit emerged but the same oak, butterscotch and caramel components remained dominant.

On subsequent nights (saved using Private Preserve) the wine became smoother and hints of banana appeared in the aromas but it was still very much on the oak and butterscotch side. The finish seemed somewhat diluted.

I asked my sister to get this for me from the Costco near her since my local Costco doesn't carry it. She bought me the bottle I requested and added one to it. It's $10 at Costco or $12 direct from Cameron Hughes.

I think this wine needs more time to balance out. There's fruit under all that oak but for now it is overwhelmed and the wine is one-dimensional. If you're an oak and butter fanatic and that's all you want, this one's for you and at a nice price. For myself, I'm going to hold onto the other bottle for a year and see what it's like at that time because I think the fruit will gain a foothold. Thumb-wise, this wine gets one up for potential and one down for how it drinks right now.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Global Encyclopedia of Wine

I came across this book while browsing They had slyly included it as one of their “recommendations” for me and I couldn’t help but click the link to find out more.

The Global Encyclopedia of Wine is a massive work: 912 pages, 6.2 pounds (according to my digital scale), with 36 contributors whose contributions were coordinated by the editor, Peter Forrestal.

Unlike Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, which is arranged like a dictionary with its alphabetical listings, the bulk of the Global Encyclopedia takes us on a wine tour of the entire globe with separate chapters for each country or area, broken into subchapters for the regions within those areas.

The first 60 pages of the book are an introduction to wine: the history, wine trade, the different types of grapes, how wine is made, and aspects of enjoying wine such as how to taste and evaluate them.

The remainder of the book is devoted to sections by country or area and appears to leave no stone unturned.

Very nice color photography graces almost every page in the book, as well.

I have only been able to read a small fraction so far, but the chapters appear to be well-written. Being pretty much a layman, I am going more by what is included in the book rather than what is not there but it seems to me that this is a fairly comprehensive work for those interested in wine on a global level. Each country chapter discusses the viticultural history of the area, its principal grapes, and features selected domains. Some of the domains are obvious choices due to their size or reputation but others are less obvious.

I have to mark down the book because there is no mention of Twisted Oak Winery anywhere! Or El Jefe, for that matter. Robert Parker is mentioned only once, on page 666 (?) and not with respect to the Wine Advocate but instead as being part owner of Beaux Freres Winery in Oregon.

This book would nicely complement Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine. It takes a different approach going country-by-country and my feeling is that it is more for pleasure reading rather than a reference work. Having both of these volumes would not only have the potential of giving someone a hernia, but it would also provide a lot of reference material for whatever wine query one might have.

This isn't a new book and perhaps you've already heard of it. I had never heard of it myself and seeing as it is fairly recent (2001) I thought those of you who weren't aware of it might be interested.

Price: This book was originally published by the Wine Appreciation Guild in 2001 and is available from for $54.75, discounted from the retail price of $75.00. However, there are used and new copies from other vendors available from the Amazon Marketplace starting at $18.66.

Even better, the book has been reprinted as one of those deals that gets sold to book warehouse and overstock places and this version, the exact same thing as the original except it doesn’t contain a supplemental CD, can be had for as little as $5.40. I paid $9.99 for mine because I chose a seller who had very high customer satisfaction scores. I figure I don't need a CD.

I don’t think I would pay $54.75 for this book (cheapskate that I am, although it is nice), but it definitely has great QPR at the prices listed in the Amazon Marketplace. It’s got attractive photography and gives pretty good coverage of wine around the world.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

One Wine Per Week's Version of WBW

This is the One Wine Per Week version of WBW – Writer’s Block Wednesday! Today’s variety of writer’s block is: not taking enough time to think about what I was going to write, hence I am now in this predicament. Other WBW’s that might take place in the future may include: too busy, dog drank my wine, completely forgot, etc.

I could have used the excuse that I was bummed out over not having won that $500 bottle of wine on Gary Vee’s show yesterday but then after he admitted it was really only $475 and observing the way he kept shaking the bottle when telling us how much it cost, that spoiled my enthusiasm.

Actually I was going to do a review of a book I just bought but I haven’t had a chance to look through it enough to say anything intelligent. Not that this has ever had the slightest effect on me, however.

Just a couple of things I noticed while perusing the Los Angeles area Craigslist postings that came up when using “wine” as a search term:

First, someone up in the San Francisco area is selling several 750 ml and three magnums of the Wine Spectator’s 2007 Wine of the Year, the 2005 Clos des Papes CdP - $235 each for the regular size and $475 each for the magnums.

This same ad also lists “key words,” among them: kosta browne, sea smoke, turley, david bruce, dominus, lafite rothschild, merlot, bordeaux, foxen. There were more such words, and I assume that all of these “key words” were inserted in order to match the same search terms input by Craigslist users. Hmm.. could this seller be a bit desperate to cash out on these wines?

Second thing: saw a couple of listings for Marilyn Merlot. One, a 2002 for $85, and the second one, $200 for the 1995 vintage. Both of these ads made it very clear that these wines have never been opened. That should put any potential buyer at ease.

Hey – I guess that's the post for today!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another New Woo-Hoo Wine Toy

Being lazy today so I am just posting up a picture of yielding to temptation and getting the Riedel Grand Cru Bordeaux Sommelier stem. The trick is to find good stuff to put in it because lesser stuff gets lost. If you're in Southern California and looking for this series, Topline in Glendale has prices better than anything I've seen on the web.

Random non-wine observation for the day: I love "Walk Like a Man" by the Four Seasons but don't you think it's odd that with lyrics like walk like a man, talk like a man, much of it is sung in falsetto?

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Art of Wine - Supply and Demand

Since it seems that response to the presale of the recently discovered ancient Chinese manuscript The Art of Wine by Foo Yu has been less than enthusiastic, truthfully downright pathetic, here is another excerpt from the book in an attempt to lure the unsuspecting.

Chapter 7: Supply and Demand

The battle between producer of wine and consumer of wine is never ending. On one hand the producer desires to sell all of his wares at the highest possible price and thus be fat and prosperous.

On the other hand, the consumer desires to purchase only the best wares, and at the leanest prices so that he may be fat and prosperous.

The battle can be made to favor the producer by taking strategic steps to induce the consumer to increase their level of purchases. Here is an illustrative example:

A distressed Ga Cha ran up to me. “What is wrong with you?” I asked. “You look like you’ve been attacked by a Ninja.”

“Master Yu, there is possible disaster at hand at the winery,” Ga Cha explained. “We have produced a large amount of wine this year but it seems to be selling very slowly and we are worried that we will get stuck with it.”

“Why aren’t people buying the wine? Isn’t it good?” I asked.

Ga Cha lowered his voice. “To tell you the truth, Master, this year’s crop is not as good as usual. I think people are noticing.”

I went to my cabinet and pulled out a couple of porcelain vessels. “Do you really think people can tell the difference?” I asked Ga Cha as I walked back carrying one in each hand.

“Yes, of course.”

“Here are two samples, my friend. I would like you to try each of them and then tell me your honest impressions.” I put two cups in front of him. Into the first cup I poured from an ornately carved vessel the ‘Empress Dowager Reserve Blend.’ Into the second cup I poured from the ‘Mode of Production Wine’ that was packaged in a plain gray vessel.

I noticed Ga Cha was also observing the price tags on each, which I had not removed. 75,000 yuan for the Empress Dowager and 2 buck for the Mode of Production.

I motioned for Ga Cha to try each wine, which he did. “Ga Cha, what do you think of these two wines?”

Ga Cha looked up at me. “Clearly the first, the Empress Dowager Reserve, is the superior wine, he declared. This other one, the Mode of Production, is weak and inferior.” He looked at me as if I had been asking a rhetorical question.

“Are you sure about that?” I asked.

“Yes, Master, no doubt about it.”

“Well Ga Cha, that is where you are wrong. Those two vessels contain the same exact wine, but I poured it into two different containers to play around with your shrunken brain.”

Ga Cha’s eyes grew big. “Get out!” He exclaimed. “They are the same?”

“Yes, the same,” I smugly repeated. “Your eyes have overruled your sense of smell and taste, automatically assuming that the more ornate package contained the superior beverage. But your eyes are wrong.”

Ga Cha shook is head in disbelief. “Well gollee,” he said, embarrassed. “I feel like an idiot.”

“True,” I acknowledged, “but you are not alone. You see what the difference in packaging did for your perception of the wine. Also I saw your eyes wander to the price tag and I am sure that also helped make up your mind about which wine was better.”

“Master,” he said, “please kill me. I don’t deserve to live!”

“So my dear Ga Cha,” have you learned from this?

“Yes, yes, Master Yu! I will go back to the factory and have them assemble more fancy packaging at once!”

“Here is something else you can do,” I added. I pulled out a small scroll and placed it next to the Empress Dowager vessel. Ga Cha looked at it. On the scroll it said, ‘Perfect 100 points.’ [editor's note: see placard next to the vessel in the above picture]

“Place scrolls like this next to the wines you are selling and people will shove each other out of the way to buy the wines,” I told him.

“Perfect?” Asked Ga Cha. “Who says it is ‘perfect’?

“Does it matter?” I said with a sly smile. “Put it out, my friend.”

“And what the heck are ‘points,’” Ga Cha asked.

“Make them and people will come,” I assured him.

That is an excerpt from chapter 7. If that doesn’t get you to order the book on presale, then I guess there will have to be another excerpt later on. Don’t forget, though, you will be ordering a book that has gotten 96 points.

On a more serious note, I did run across this article that mentions real wine being found in an ancient Chinese vessel, this one about 9,000 years old. Check it out.