Friday, November 30, 2007

2005 Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc

Made from 42% Viognier, 33% Roussanne, 19% Marsanne and 6% Grenache Blanc, this white Rhone-varietal blend weighed in at 13.9% alcohol.

Now that we got all the percentages out of the way, here's my impression of the wine:

Honeyed, floral, peach, citrus and cocoa butter scents on the nose - quite a combination, huh? Very pleasing to just keep giving sniffy sniffs. There seemed to be hints of cinnamon and baking spices in there also.

Not quite as complex on the palate, but still quite tasty. It reminded me of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum - not sugary, but that kind of fruity taste, mixed with minerals. Some pink grapefruit added a tart element on the fairly long finish, along with some alcoholic heat.

It had a crisp, clean mouthfeel with well-integrated acidity.

This bottle was $17.60 from the winery and I'd say it is worth it. Two thumbs up on this one.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Art of Wine - Ancient Manuscript Unearthed

Wine has been around longer than people have had the ability to write about their pleasure in partaking of it.

It may surprise some of you to know that the epicenter of winedom was not in France or any other European location, but in China.

Archaeologists recently unearthed an ancient manuscript dating back to the 6th Century BC written by Foo Yu, entitled The Art of Wine. Foo Yu was apparently considered to be the Robert Parker of his day.

His groundbreaking work contains 13 chapters, each dealing with one aspect of the wine tasting experience and how to make the most of it. In Yu’s mind, drinking wine was a constant battle between man, who sought to maximize the pleasure derived from this magical elixir, and the wine itself, that through some mysterious inner force, sought to hide its true majestic beauty.

Yu postulated that this inner force was inherent in grapes, acting as a survival mechanism lest the discovery of the rapture of wine cause all grapes to be harvested without any survivors to propagate future crops.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 4, on evaluating the aromatic characteristics of the wine:

Many a wine has proven to be reticent, even stubborn, in revealing its true aromatic composition. Often a wine will offer up a primary scent to placate the taster, after which he smiles and happily places the porcelain to his lips and drinks.

In such an event, the wine has been victorious.

What the taster does not realize is that the wine contains a multitude of scents, of varying degrees of strength, arranged in amazing complexity. It is just such an array that the wine desires to hide from the taster.

Ga Cha was standing at the tasting table, sampling various wines. I strode towards him, observing the vessels in which the elixir sat.

“Ga Cha,” I said, “tell me, how many different wines are you sampling today?”

“Four, Master Yu,” he replied. “Two red and two white.”

“More details, please,” I asked.

“A Pi No from the Yang Tze Valley and a Mao Lo from the Peking Fields for the red, along with Vo Ni Ha from the Shanghai Lil region and a Mu Kat from the Tsu Tse Wu Valley.”

“Four very distinctly different wines,” I noted.

“Yes, Master Yu.”

“Then tell me, Ga Cha, why then are all of the porcelain vessels you are using of the same size and shape?”

“Sir, that is what we always use for tasting.”

“That is what we always use, that is what we always use,” I mocked. “If we always jumped off a cliff would we do that, too?” I asked.

“No sir. If we jumped off a cliff we would only do that one time,” responded Ga Cha.

“Don’t get smart with me,” I reminded him. “You know what point I am trying to make. Just because we have ‘always’ done something doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it. Does it?”

“No, Master Yu.”

“Each of these wines deserves to have a vessel of particular shape and size most suited to enhance the delicate characteristics of that wine. That is one way the wine tries to hide its true character from us – by allowing us fools to continue tasting them with unsuitable ware. I have assembled containers made of the finest porcelain – paper thin – and each the correct size and shape to prevent the wine from hiding its true aromas and flavors from me.”

I then placed the appropriate vessels on the table and transferred the wines from the small, pathetic vessels into which Ga Cha had so foolishly poured the wines, into my own vessels.

“Now we can properly evaluate the wines,” I declared.

I instructed Ga Cha. “Now it is time to give the wine a sniffy sniff,” I said. He picked up the first porcelain vessel containing the Mu Kat and gave a tentative sniff.

“No!” I shouted. “Put that down! This is how you give a sniffy sniff!” I proceeded to demonstrate by taking the vessel and moving it in a most violent circular motion that caused the wine inside to resemble a combination tidal wave and whirlpool. Immediately I raised the vessel to my nose and inhaled mightily. “Ah,” I exclaimed, then motioned for Ga Cha to try it himself.

“Ah,” he exclaimed. “I did not know that wine was capable of such intense aromas!”

“And most people don’t. That is the wine’s secret. That is why you have to sneak up on it and give it a violent twirl. You take it by surprise. It is not expecting that you will cause such a movement and the aroma inside is helpless. It has no where to go but up to your proboscis.”

“Yu the Man!” declared Ga Cha. “We are the champions.”

“Come, you have much to learn,” I told him. “This is only the beginning.”

The Art of Wine will be released for sale on December 11, just in time to be a stocking stuffer treat for all wineophiles. Check out Amazon.com for the pre-release information on this ancient granddaddy of winophilia.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

If You Were A Wine, What Wine Would You Be?

I thought it would be interesting to ask this question of the leading presidential candidates:

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?

Knowing that none of them would give an honest answer - all that would come gushing forth would be politically correct rhetoric - here is what the shadow knows: what they would really be thinking, not what they would say.

Hillary Clinton: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or even a Savennieres. Very crisp, refreshing, dry, stony, lemony, cold, austere, pungent, aggressive, with mouth-searing acidity. Not a shy or feminine-type wine, that’s for sure.

Barack Obama: Barrel sample of a Classified Growth Bordeaux. There is a lot of potential there but it is still young, unproven and subject to factors affecting the wine before it goes into the bottle.

John Edwards: Big, overblown, in-your-face Aussie Shiraz or, as Gary V would say, an Oak Monster-infected California cabernet. No subtlety or complexity, just big, overwhelming flavors that go for the points rather than substance.

Rudy Giuliani: California Pinot Noir. Became famous because of all the attention gained in the media (the movie Sideways) but so far has exhibited a variety of styles and really hasn’t proven itself other than having been made legendary by the movie and the resultant media attention.

Fred Thomas: Older Classified Growth Bordeaux. Subtle, takes time to appreciate, requires a lot of patience, edges are turning a brick/brown color and perhaps the wine has seen better days and is now on the decline. Generated a lot of enthusiasm upon release, however.

John McCain: Chardonnay. Tries to be a wine for everyone, sometimes blended with other varietals to emphasize certain characteristics. Has been manipulated so much that you can’t tell what the variety is supposed to taste like.

Of course, the above is all subject to change depending on the wind on any given day.

Now let's ask the majority of voters what wine they thought the leading candidates would be if they were a wine:

If Two Buck Chuck made a White Zin, that's what they would be.

Ok, some or most of you are probably offended. Let me just say that I don’t like any of the candidates mentioned above so I have given them all equal blog time!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just ONE More Bottle...

Yesterday’s 30 Second Wine Advisor e-letter from Robin Garr’s Wine Lover’s Page was of interest to me.

The topic was the worth, or rather, worthlessness of those mini-wine storage/coolers that now seem to be popping up all over the place. Specifically, he was addressing the small units, those that hold 12-16 bottles.

I guess I’m under the radar, LOL, as my little Emerson cooling units, the “Emerson Suites,” as I like to call them, manage only to hold 8 bottles. But since I have two of them I’ll consider them to be in the same genre as the subjects of the article.

Basically, the point of the article was that such small units are not worth having. They take up space, have inadequate storage capacity and also are lacking when it comes to sufficient cooling power. The advice is to wait and buy either a large-capacity unit or dedicate some portion of your dwelling to being a real wine cellar.

The little units might be handy mainly for display purposes or when you don’t feel like going down to your cellar to bring up the wine, says the article. The other advice is if you don’t plan on keeping your wines for more than a year, just store them in a cool, dark place in your house under the air conditioning. Or put the wines in the fridge.

There is also a link in the article to the topic on the Wine Lover’s Forum, where it seems most posters were in agreement with the article.

I can understand that, but then that’s easier said than done if you live in Southern California. How many of us have cellars? Or a cool spot in the house during our summers, which seem to get hotter and hotter each year? We have central air in our house but with electricity rates being what they are, we are not going to set the thermostat anywhere near a temp that is wine-storage friendly.

That said, Mr. Garr does have a point. He says that those small units are useless because if that is all you are depending on to store your wine, you will soon outgrow the capacity.

And isn’t that the case – with so many tempting wines out there, don’t you find that your collections keep growing and growing and growing? The forum posts were full of messages saying how the poster purchased a cooling unit only to have to purchase a larger one and then a larger one or find an alternate method of storage because their purchases soon exceeded their storage capacity.

I find this has happened to me. I started out with the best of intentions, telling myself if I have capacity for 16 then that is what it is and that’s the limit. Ha! I have had to resort to a small offsite storage space which, I am now telling myself, is the limit.

Ask yourself these questions:

(1) Is ANY capacity unit really large enough? Don’t we all wind up exceeding our capacity and having to secure MORE space?

(2) How many of you have already purchased more wine than is reasonable to assume will actually be consumed before either it goes bad or you do?

Haha, it never ends.. (by the way - that isn't my cellar in the picture - wishful thinking - it's just some picture I found on the net).

Monday, November 26, 2007

2005 Piqueras Castillo de Almansa Garnacha Tintorea

You would think that this wine was made from the Grenache grape but you be wrong. Garnacha Tintorea is another name for Alicante Bouschet (how do I know this? From reading Dr. Deb’s tasting note in Cellar Tracker, as well as being told this by Jill of Domaine547 – otherwise I would have thought it was Grenache).

I also need to point out that this bottle came compliments of Domaine547, gratis as part of an order I had placed. It is listed for $7.99 on their website.

Does this taste like a $7.99 wine? Nope. I was very pleased with this.

The initial aromas were reticent but included strawberry, plum and an earthy, mineral component. After some air time I also sensed something like Dr. Pepper and his distant relative, white pepper.

There was clean, ripe fruit on the entry after which earth and minerals emerged and remained through the aftertaste.

After an hour, the wine became more plummy, and I detected hints of soy and milk chocolate along with a meat juice character.

After two hours the fruit began to fade and the soy, meat and mineral components took over. I’d say this wine was best after airing for 60-90 minutes. This wine is drinking well now and I don’t think there’s any benefit to letting it get any older.

There was quite a bit going on in this wine (it needs a bit of time to air, though) and I enjoyed it. The low price of $7.99 makes it an even better deal; it’s got great QPR and deserves two thumbs up. Thanks, Jill!

Friday, November 23, 2007

2005 Tablas Creek Antithesis Chardonnay

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I sure did - so much to be thankful for.

On this Black Friday with all the doomsayers out there saying what a bad retail year it is going to be, I think the only ones for sure who will make big profits are the door repair companies. Just think of all the busted doors they will be fixing today after all the "doorbuster sales" being advertised by every single store that ran a Black Friday ad in the paper!

Back to business, this week's review is of Tablas Creek's 2005 vintage of their estate chardonnay, which they call "Antithesis." This bottle cost $21.60 from the winery.

Day one: Very nice honeysuckle and peach aromas with an underlying streak of gingerbread/brown sugar. Creamy but not heavy on the palate with kiwi, pear and grapefruit tastes mixed with minerals. Lingering finish of grapefruit and pear. This did not seem like a typical chardonnay.

On succeeding days, the gingerbread/brown sugar aspect became more prevalent in the nose. I was thinking it was also like the Bit O'Honey candy bars (do they still make those?). The grapefruit aspect mellowed out on the palate, joined by pear, apple, some peach, and a butterscotch/gingerbread/brown sugar component. Don 't serve this one too chilled or you will miss out on the fine complexity of flavors it offers.

The Antithesis was a very flavorful and aromatic wine that possessed a nicely blended complexity of flavors and was well-balanced. I liked this very much and it gets two unhesitating thumbs up from me.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Crystal Clear Crystal

(above: if you wanna know how to make something look great, ask a fanatical car buff)

The other day I was perusing various product pages at Amazon.com and I came across the Riedel Large Microfiber Crystal Cloth, made for drying stemware.

Being that I never seem to be able to dry my glasses to a completely smudge-free state (this reminded me of a posting in Dr. Deb’s Good Wine Under $20 blog back in September), this product piqued my interest, especially since 5 customers had raved about it in their reviews.

Unfortunately it was out of stock. The price was rather steep, also - $12.90 but discounted by Amazon to $10.32 (still pricey).

Then I got to thinking.. microfiber. You know who makes good microfiber towels? Meguiar’s, the car care people. I don’t think you can get more finicky than the fanatics who lovingly and painstakingly polish their car’s finishes to a deep liquid shine and are totally intolerant of any scratches or swirls in the paint. And Meguiar’s has a legion of fanatical fans (like in the above picture). If it is that gentle for paint, it should be gentle enough for my Riedel crystal.

I’m also a fan of Meguiar’s although I am surely much lazier than their average customer. I had some of their microfiber towels sitting in a box in the garage. But I didn’t think I had any new ones so off I went to the auto store.

Kragen’s was the first stop. I managed to buy the last one in stock (and probably ever in stock) for only 63 cents! They told me this had been discontinued so it was on sale – normally $3.99 – too bad they only had one left.

I stopped at Pep Boys, another Kragen and AutoZone looking for more with no luck.

Then I came home and discovered I still had a brand new towel in the box so now I had two of them. That should last me for a while.

The last thing to do was to try it out. I guess I should have been more prudent and used a less valuable test glass but instead I got out the big one – the Grand Cru Burgundy stem I bought last week – and washed it. Then I pulled out the Meguiar’s microfiber towel and.. excellent, as Montgomery Burns would say. Super absorbent and left not a streak or a smudge! Since they absorb water so readily they don’t slide over glass as freely as does a cotton towel – there’s a bit of “traction” as you dry the glass.

Perhaps any microfiber towel would yield excellent results but for me, I stick with Meguiar’s. I’ve purchased other brand towels and they are of lesser quality.

While your mileage may vary and you may not find it for 63 cents, it can still be had for under $4.00 and an even better bargain is to get a 3-pack which Amazon or Meguiar’s sells for around $7.00. These are plush, generously-sized towels and they do a great job on crystal – at least as far as I can see. What took me so long to think of that?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Presidential Debate You Didn't See

(above - "and I do the hokey pokey and I turn myself around..")

The heated debate last Thursday among the democratic presidential candidate hopefuls has generated a great deal of buzz and rightfully so.

But there’s part of the debate that most people didn’t see.

Prior to the televised, “official” portion of the debate, the candidates gathered on stage for a warm up session to make sure their political hats were on right.

Mark Sanger, the food and wine reporter for the Cincinnati Observer started it off. He put forth this simple question to the group: “What wine would you recommend to serve on Thanksgiving?

Without further adieu, here is a transcript of what followed as the candidates responded to the query:

Clinton: Merlot.

Biden: Pinot noir.

Obama: Pinot noir.

Dodd: Pinot noir.

Edwards: Pinot noir.

Kucinich: Pinot noir.

Richardson: Pinot noir.

Sanger: Thank you all. It sounds like pinot noir is the overwhelming favorite among you, 6 votes out of 7.

Clinton: Excuse me, Mark, but I didn’t necessarily mean I would serve merlot.

Obama: Excuse me, Hillary, but you just did.

Edwards: Question asked, question answered. I’m a successful attorney, you know. We all heard it – there’s tons of witnesses. I made millions filing actions on matters like this.

Clinton: That is not what I said. Mark, I believe you asked, ‘What wine would each of us recommend to serve for Thanksgiving?

Sanger: Almost, Ms. Clinton. The exact phrase was, ‘What wine would each of you recommend to serve on Thanksgiving.

Clinton: Thank you, Mark. I did answer the question – I said I would recommend merlot. That does not necessarily mean that I would actually serve it.

Biden: Well now just what did you mean, then? I think we all heard you plain and simple.

Clinton: I meant what I meant and yes you did hear me plain and simple or was your hearing aid turned down?

Obama: Well if you meant what you meant, how can you first say you would recommend serving merlot the first time and then say that isn’t what you meant the second time?

Clinton: Read my lips, Bar-

Obama: From which side of your mouth, the left or right?

Clinton: What I am saying is that merlot may or may not be the wine to serve on Thanksgiving. It depends on a lot of factors that need to be taken into account, like what sort of stuffing is served, the side dishes, etc., and my answer is only to be taken as a generalization.

Richardson: Oh brother, now I’ve heard everything. Can’t you just give us a simple answer and stick to it?

Clinton: I would have to see the menu first to give you a more definite answer.

Sanger: Gang, gang, I see our time is up for that question and things are getting out of hand anyway.

Kucinich: Yes Mark, give us the next thing we can ravage each other about.

Sanger: Candidates, what would you do if the wine that you chose for Thanksgiving was made from grapes picked by undocumented aliens?

Clinton: I would license the wine.

Dodd: I would confiscate all of the bottles and prevent them from being sold.

Edwards: You can’t possibly round up every single bottle like that. That is not a practical solution. I say go back to these wineries and make them pay a fee.

Obama: Let’s focus on preventing this from occurring in the future. Meanwhile, I would propose some sort of amnesty or grandfathering clause to exempt the bottles already on the market from being confiscated.

Clinton: I would not allow these wines to be sold.

Richardson: Now wait a minute, didn’t you just say you would license the wine?

Clinton: Licensing it doesn’t necessarily mean I would allow it to be sold.

Sanger: I’m sorry candidates, but our pre-debate time is up so we will have to end it here. Thank you for your time and your thoughtful answers. I will now turn the microphone over to Wolf Blitzer for the real thing.


Monday, November 19, 2007

The People Magazine of the Wine World

(above: mob starts to get ugly waiting for their local wine shop to open in hopes of snagging something, anything, a crumb, from the 2007 Wine Spectator top 100 wine list)

There’s a link over at Wine Life Today to an article by Mark Fisher in the November 13, 2007 edition of the Dayton Daily News entitled, “Vanity, thy name is Wine Spectator.” Please take a look at the article. Basically, Mr. Fisher is critical of all the hoopla surrounding the WS unveiling of the 2007 Top 100 wines and asks the readers if anyone really cares.

Personally, I don’t even read the WS. I used to subscribe but never placed much reliance on any of their reviews.

But do people care? Yes, I think so. Wine merchants, in particular, probably care very much if they happen to stock any of the 100 wines that made the chart. I’ve been reading the Chowhound post about the list and people are reporting how the prices of wines in the top ten have skyrocketed. And before the announcements, speculation drove the prices up on wines thought to have the best chance of making the list. Sort of like the stock market, when prices jump up in anticipation of a favorable earnings report.

A lot of people stand to benefit from the release of the top 100 list.

There are the trophy hunters, either those rushing out to bag the wines after the announcement, or those trumpeting their foresight in already purchasing and possessing said wines.

We all know how numbers-crazy people get, so the WS is just another vehicle to unload a whole bunch of wine to consumers either scrambling for whatever is on the list, or to provide the push to get someone to buy it. Retailers love it.

And the WS knows exactly what they are doing and smiling all the way to the bank. Smart move on their part!

But for the serious wine buff, does this make a difference? Only for the fun it creates in trying to guess what’s going to appear on the list (like the chill out it’s only a list with some numbers contest over at Domaine547 which I thought was great – please check it out). Otherwise, though, the true wine enthusiast will have long ago already sought the truly outstanding wines whether or not they wind up on the list – he or she doesn’t need the WS to tell them what is good or what isn’t. There’s much better sources out there for that, not just other reviewers like Robert Parker or Burghound or countless others who are more reliable than WS including the many bloggers out there, but just as, if not more importantly, the trusted wine merchant.

The Wine Spectator and the pomp and circumstance surrounding the top 100 makes them the People Magazine of the wine world. But they know that already. And like I said, they’re smiling all the way to the bank.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Woo Hoo! New Toy!

Well after watching Gary Vaynerchuk wave it around at the camera, finally I could resist no more so I went out and got one of my own. I'm a sucker for a shapely glass.

Topline Wines and Spirits, Glendale, CA - beats any price I could find on the web by a good amount. They must think I am weird because I never buy wine there.. that's where I get my Private Preserve, extra Vacu-Vin stoppers, and now the Big A Burgundy Glass. Took a short break from work yesterday, drove over there, popped in, said "I'm the one who called about the Riedel Grand Cru Burgundy glass," the guy said "oh, yes" and went to get it, opened the cannister and unwrapped it from the tissue to show me, I said I'll take it, they rang it up, I paid, got in my car and drove back to work. 20 minutes.


Friday, November 16, 2007

2005 Barreto Cellars Verdelho

Onewineperweek gets back on track with this week's wine, a 2005 Verdelho produced by Barreto Cellars. This bottle was a sample, received compliments of Marshall at WineQ; it is not something currently carried by WineQ but is available direct from Barreto for $15.99.

What I really liked about this light straw-colored wine were the aromas. It was a pleasure to keep swirling and inhaling generous scents of honeysuckle, citrus blossom and apricot, mixed with a lesser bit of peach and a subtle grassy component.

When it came time to taste, it was markedly different on the palate than the nose. An initial fruity sensation gave way pretty quickly (as in just 2 or 3 seconds) to a load of grapefruit. While crisp, it continued to become increasingly tart and led to a tart, sourish grapefruit finish mixed with grassiness.

That was the first night. On two subsequent evenings (preserved using Private Preserve), the aromas were consistent but the grapefruit quality on the palate smoothed out and some pear emerged.

Verdict: One thumb way up for the arresting, fresh and pure aromas. One thumb tending toward the other direction for the rather simplistic and overly-grapefruity taste, which I really didn't care for. On the other hand, I must add that it would make a good match for spicier foods. It's like two, two wines in one!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Snake Oil or Doltified Palate?


Yesterday I recounted my experience of drinking the Simi 2004 Alexander Cabernet Sauvignon three ways, using an Eisch breathable glass; poured through a Vinturi wine aerator into a regular glass; and plain vanilla in a regular glass. Aside from a relatively brief (initial 15 minutes or so) difference in the aromas from the Eisch, all three seemed the same to me.

As an aside for the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with the Eisch glass or the Vinturi aerator (sorry, I just assumed), both are supposed to do what decanting does for wine, except in much less time. Both products claim to aerate the wine at an accelerated level.

After my experiment, I went to Amazon.com’s listing for the Vinturi and read the five reader reviews of this product, all of which glowingly raved about what a positive difference it had made on their glass of wine. Even Two-Buck Chuck tasted smoother and better, said one reviewer.

That got me to thinking, are my senses really dull, or “doltified” as I wrote yesterday?

Admittedly I have a hard time finding the exact word or term to describe what I am smelling or tasting but I feel I do pretty well knowing if I have smelled or tasted something specific before, and also pretty well being able to tell the difference from one wine to another.

So I was wondering, why do these people find such a noticeable difference and I can’t even find a slight one?

It may have been the wine. The Simi was already pretty smooth and supple, plus it was also pretty simple – what I smelled and tasted at the beginning didn’t seem to change either from rolling around in the mouth a while or with getting more air time. So maybe that was a bad wine to choose for a sample.

But maybe there just isn’t any difference.

Let’s take the Vinturi for example. When you pour the wine through it, it makes a loud gurgling noise that lets you know in no uncertain terms that it is doing its job: thoroughly mixing air with the incoming wine. Theoretically, all this aeration ought to alter the wine, same as giving it a long decanting. I tasted the wine 5 minutes after pulling the cork so there was no previous exposure to air.

But just how much extra air does the wine get from a Vinturi as opposed to being given a vigorous swirl in the glass? And I love to swirl. I guess that’s up to some scientist to measure.

As for the Eisch, while these are nice-looking glasses I am still skeptical of the claim that they are “breathable.” How is that accomplished? Are gas molecules smaller than liquid molecules and, somewhat similar to the claims of the Roach Motel (“roaches check in but they don’t check out”), does the air get in but the liquid doesn’t get out? I don’t see how that would work.

Again, how much difference would being in an Eisch make as opposed to a vigorous swirling in the glass to aerate the wine?

Now perhaps if one used the Vinturi or Eisch and didn’t swirl the wine at all, there might be a difference. But who doesn’t swirl their wine? The only ones who don’t are the ones who wouldn’t buy these products, anyway. Or you could take a Vinturi with you when you go to a restaurant that uses those crummy little wine glasses where they pour the wine to the top and you can’t swirl without it spilling all over the table.

Anyway, to make a long post even longer, I am going to try this in the future when I run across a wine that needs some smoothing out, and see if it makes a difference. Being that I try to open no wine before its time (drinking one wine per week means you have to choose carefully), that would mean I chose the wrong wine and have to do something to rectify my error.

Yesterday I also mentioned the similarity to the controversy that takes place in the audiophile world, where people debate the merits of cables and connectors and power filters, etc. Some say they can hear a significant difference between using a cheap connecting cable (or speaker wire or even power cord) versus an ultra-expensive cable that costs 100x as much or more. I side with those who say it is a bunch of bunk.

Jack left a comment yesterday saying that the $2 cheap cable and the $100 Monster cable are the same thing. Well I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are exactly the same thing materials/look-wise, but sound-wise, I agree. When it comes to stuff like that, I say it is snake oil. The claims they make plus the explanations behind them are laughable.

When it comes to these gadgets and devices for wine, however, I’m still withholding judgment until I can try it out on more samples. I do wonder, however, how the Eisch glass manages to work especially when they are so secretive about their process. At least with Riedel there’s no secret – the shape of the glass is obvious. And for the Vinturi, I still wonder how much more air time the wine gets from this versus from being swirled around like crazy in the glass.

My sister made a comment to me that her office is attempting to go “paperless.” Good thing this blog is paperless because a lot of trees would have had to suffer for all the writing I do!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eisch vs. Vinturi vs. Au Naturel

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and finally I did: a comparison of the same wine sampled three different ways. One, in an Eisch breathable glass; two, poured through a Vinturi; and three, poured from the bottle into a normal glass.

For the two non-Eisch glasses, I used a couple of Riedel sommelier Montrachet stems since those were the closest I had to the same shape as the Eisch. The Eisch had a larger bowl, however.

The guinea pig wine was a 2004 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. I don’t know how much it cost since it was a gift but the average cost reported on Cellar Tracker is about $18.00.

I uncorked the wine and immediately poured equal amounts into each glass – no decanting, no air time. I put the cork back in the bottle and let the unused portion sit on the counter.

First impressions: the color was the same in all three cases, haha.

Aromas: After five minutes, I started with the plain glass, moved to the Vinturi and then the Eisch. From the plain glass, I sensed very nice berry and plum aromas mixed with some vanilla and a small bit of smokiness. The Vinturi sample was no different, as far as I could tell. The aromas from the Eisch glass were similar but I also detected a clay and earth component not present in the other two. Thinking maybe the glass was dusty or something, I poured out the wine and refilled it. Nope, not dusty – that same component was there.

Palate: Nice, silky and smooth mouth feel. The taste was similar to the aromas, with plums being the most prevalent flavor. The finish was rather short, with the fruit disappearing and replaced by a watery/minerally taste along with what reminded me of chewing on apple peels. Oh, I forgot to tell you which glass that was. Well, it was all of them. I don’t think I have a golden palate so maybe that accounts for it, but I really could not detect a consistent difference between the different glasses.

I sampled the wine about every 10-15 minutes over the course of 2 ½ hours, spitting it out each time. After about 20 minutes the clay and earth I initially sensed from the Eisch glass had disappeared. From that point onwards there really was no difference in aromas or taste throughout the tasting session. When I thought there was a difference, going back and forth between the glasses in various orders made me conclude there was no consistent difference that was identifiable with any one sample. All in all the Simi was a nicely balanced, straightforward wine with nice fruit but not much complexity. Personally, I wouldn't pay $18 for it.

The wine itself got a bit smoother as it sat in the glass but I didn’t notice any major changes. At the end of the session, I poured a sample from the bottle that had been sitting on the counter. The fruit in the aromas was more intense and there was also a slight animal or barnyard character to them. The fruit also tasted a touch brighter from the saved bottle over the glasses but the character was the same.

Like I said, I don’t have a golden nose or palate so maybe the subtleties were lost on me but I did not find any appreciable differences between the wine in the Eisch glass, poured through a Vinturi, or just left on its own. Elsewhere, others have reported significant differences but I’m gonna have to pass on that one.

Another factor may be the wine itself. This probably would have been a better experiment had I chosen a young, tannic monster of a wine that had more potential to develop in the glass. The Simi was already quite drinkable. However, since I am the one wine per week person who normally only buys one bottle of any given wine, I didn’t have any other bottle to spare since that would have been my only one of that specific wine.

That reminds me of the controversy among audiophiles, some of whom claim they can hear differences between different cables used to connect their components, whereas others say it is a sham and a $2.00 cable sounds the same as a $100 Monster Cable. I fall into the latter camp – I don’t have golden ears, either, and haven’t detected any difference when I switch cables.

I guess that’s a good thing, huh? Or maybe not. To the good, it means there is no use for me to spend extra money on extra gadgets (even though I already have) but to the bad, maybe it means my senses are doltified. In other words, giving me very fine wine is like putting pearls before swine.

Oh well, all I can do is keep on tasting, right? In any event, it’s an enjoyable pastime.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wine For Life's Soundtrack

James Taylor is my favorite recording artist. Me and him go way back.. too many years for me to be specific, haha. Yesterday I received an e-mail from him! Well, it said it was from him but really it was his November newsletter and it focused on his new CD/DVD release (released today, in fact), One Man Band.

There was a link to his website, where there was more information about the new release, as well as an audio and a video sample. Unfortunately either someone goofed up the audio recording or something is wrong with my computer because when I clicked on the “play” button, it played back at double the speed and sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Thankfully the video sample was fine. If you’re a James Taylor fan, click on the link and check it out. He performs a very interesting version of “Slap Leather” and it is worth watching if just to see the drum machine he uses. Note: it took quite a while for the page to load, at least for me, so you may have to be patient. There's also a nice video on Amazon's product page that introduces the DVD.

What does this have to do with wine? Well, as Chateau Petrogasm does a wine review with pictures, I’d say you can do the same with music, too.

I love good wine and I love James Taylor. I haven’t found it yet, but I think that my perfect wine would be like sitting back and being carried away listening to Mr. Taylor, enjoying an integral part of the soundtrack of my life and reminiscing about the very best parts. One of these days I hope to tell you that I’ve found that wine.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Odds and Sods

Yes that's a somewhat distorted Gary Vaynerchuk holding up what he calls the "big ass glass" on an episode from last week focusing on Barberas. By the way, before I go on I thought I'd also give you a link to an even BIGGER glass: The Maxi Burgundy Riedel. Now that's getting kind of ridiculous if you ask me..

Anyway, as I was watching this episode I thought about the occasions when he pulls out that glass as opposed to the normal glass he uses, and it seems that whenever he wants to really give something a close evaluation, or he has wines he considers really special, he pulls out the BAG. It doesn't really seem to depend on the specific wine, either.

So does that mean he is not maintaining the proper Riedel spirit of an optimum glass for a particular wine? This is supposed to be a grand cru Burgundy glass and so far I haven't seen him taste any grand cru Burgundies (much less any Burgundies). Are these wines being put at a disadvantage by possibly not showing their best?

First of all, I think that huge bowl is good for any wine because of the maximum surface-to-air contact as well as the ability to swirl wine like crazy without it flying out of the glass. And there's a large bowl to retain the aromas, also.

Secondly, the shape of the bowl with it's outward-flared rim is kind of unusual and I can see that wine would be directed to a different area of your mouth than it would be with a more conventional glass. But does that really make a difference? He puts the wine in his mouth and then he chews it and moves it all around, so that while it might initially land on one part of the tongue, that is only for a millisecond (or even a nanosecond) and then the wine is distributed throughout his entire mouth. So how would actually drinking wine from that glass be any different from another glass?

If you drink water your whole mouth is gonna get wet. You can't confine it to any one part of your mouth. What I think makes a difference is when you drink the wine, you are also putting that massive bowl up to your nose so you are getting the aromas as well as the taste coming in and the shape of the bowl will then make a difference.

Anyway, after my usual writing-more-than-is-necessary habit, what I am trying to say is that it seems you don't have to be so darn specific trying to match glass with wine. Some glasses are just going to make the wine experience that much better, no matter what kind of wine it is (as long as it is a good one).

***

On a happy note, congratulations to Sonadora, whose Wannabe Wino blog celebrated its 1st anniversary last Saturday November 12! It's one I subscribe to and always enjoy reading what she has to say (or rather, write, I suppose), so I hope she keeps up her diligent posting schedule.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Show Us Your Rack Day

Well the above picture probably is too familiar if you've been reading this blog for a while (all one or two of you) but since Lenn of Lenndevours declared this the official "Show Us Your Rack" (wine, that is) day, that's what I'm doing. There's the two Emerson 8-bottle wine storage units - my "Emerson Suites" chugging away holding the temps around 58 degrees. I even turned the light on for you.

I took a look around and see that Domane547 posted a very nice-looking rack, as did Dr. Debs at Good Wine Under $20. El Jefe over at El Bloggo Torcido stayed in character with this post and this post. And Lenn set up a Flickr site just for people to upload pictures of their racks - go take a look.

All in all some very nice setups. My own is quite modestly humble by comparison, but even my present setup makes my old one pale by comparison - see below.

Yes, as you contemplate your rack just look at the above and know that things could be worse! I originally had something else to post today but in the spirit of things I switched to show my own rack for whatever that's worth. And with that, have a very fine (and for some, a three day) weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Finally, the DEFINITIVE Scoring System

Okay, today’s entry sort of goes along with my previous silly post about FedWine, except it is more serious.

The subject today is point scores for wine.

Every day those of us on various e-mail and snail mail lists from wine vendors are bombarded by offerings touting the numerical scores of the wines, most often from Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator. But heck, they’ll use any source they can find if it’s 90 or above.

Granted, we live in busy times and taking a quick glance at a score can tell us up front if it is worth reading any further. But woe to the wines that don’t have scores, or that have scores below the magic 90 mark. And increasingly, the scale has been going up and up so pretty soon, wines are gonna have to do more than just 90 to be thought of as special. Why look at a 90-pointer if there’s a 94 or 95 pointer next to it?

Well, I think we need to get a bit more precise. Now the following part ties in to the stock market aspect of my previous post.

A few years ago, stocks used to be traded in increments of 1/8 of a dollar, or 12.5 cents. A stock would be quoted, let’s say, at a bid price of 29 1/8 and an asking price of 29 3/8 (numerically equivalent to 29.125 and 29.375, respectively). We’re talking about 12.5 cents per share, which, for a stock costing 29.125 is .0043 of the share price.

Yet, psychologically speaking, I would sit there and hold out for that last 1/8 of a point, or 12.5 cents, either waiting for the price to come down 1/8 if I was buying, or it to go up 1/8 if I was selling. In the overall scheme of things, did it really make a difference?

Then, a few years ago, the market switched to valuing stocks in increments of a penny. So instead of seeing a stock bid price of 35 1/8 and ask price of 35 3/8, now it could be bid of 35.06 and ask of 35.08. That’s two cents! And it still psyches me out; I’ll sit there and wait over differences of a penny or two for the stock price to either go up or down depending on if I am selling or buying.

Our mind adjusts to whatever scale is in effect.

So why don’t we do this with wines? I propose that we add decimals to the scoring. So instead of a 90-point wine, we can have a range of 90.00 to 90.99. A 91 point wine would have a range of 91.00 to 91.99.

I think that’s a good idea. Why? Because sometimes you just can’t make up your mind, and if you are on a limited budget (like I am), then it makes it easier to decide because you can point to the 91.45 score over the 91.32 score. And feel good about it, rather than wondering which 91-point wine is really better.

Of course there are drawbacks to the system. You’re going to have a lot of people howling, especially the wineries, when they get an 89.99 score. Psychologically speaking, it’s the same as when stores mark the price $9.99 instead of $10.00. The price just seems cheaper. Along those lines, the wine will just seem not as good as the 90.00 wine.

But them’s the breaks. With so many wines out there, we need something to defend us against information overload and going to the decimal scale is just what we need.

Oh, and one more thing. I notice that, just as with the Olympics, there seems to be an increase in 100-pointers these days. Is this grade inflation? Give a wine 100 points and there’s no room for improvement.

Well, just like teachers used to give out and A+ if something was really good, I think we should also incorporate a system that allows us to award over 100 points but only for a truly, truly remarkable, outstanding wine. It can be a score such as “100+” but I was thinking more along the lines of just extending the scale, like giving out a score of 100.50. Or for something even more spectacular, 101.73. You get the idea.

The beauty of this system is that it always leaves room for the “wine of the century” because you just add a little bit more to the score. And still there is room when encountering the “wine of the millennium” also.

Now you might think this is silly and unnecessary, but so did those people who scoffed at the change of stock valuations to increments of a penny instead of 12.5 pennies. Now everyone operates on the system.

When we go to the much more useful and precise scoring system I have just outlined above, believe me, you will adjust to it. And it’s going to take a lot of the guesswork out of buying wine.

I’m also thinking that we only need to do this with wines that score 90.00 or above. Or, maybe include the 89’ers also because they are so close to the 90’s. But let’s say for anything that is less than 89 points there is no need to use the decimal points because no one cares about those wines anyway. An 88-point wine might as well be an 84-point wine might as well be a 77 point wine because either way the merchant is going to have trouble moving it.

Let’s spend our efforts where the payback is greatest – on the 90+ wines. Or rather, the 90.00+ wines.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Wine Sales to be Nationalized - FedWine

A bill recently introduced on the House floor may soon change the way the finest American wines are sold.

A bi-partisan joint effort by several members of the House, all professing to be hard core wine enthusiasts, the proposal if adopted would entail the following:

First, the establishment of a “cru” system for American wines similar to France’s 1855 Bordeaux classification that ranks properties/chateaus according to reputation and quality of their wines, on a scale of “first growths” (highest) on down to “fifth growths” (the lowest, but still classified).

The best American wines would be classified as “Tier One,” the next level “Tier Two,” and so on down to “Tier Five.” It is estimated that about 1-2% of wines produced in the United States would be classified in one of these tiers.

Second, the establishment of criteria that must be met for each tier. The bill as currently drafted calls for a new federal office to be created that would consist of a panel of experts, appointed by the President, who would develop and implement the criteria.

Third, once a wine was suitably classified within one of the tiers, distribution and sales of the wine would then become nationalized. The same government office created for the development of the classification tiers would also be responsible for overseeing sales of the wine to the public. For now, the makers of the bill are referring to this office as “FedWine Agency,” or simply “FedWine” for short.

While there are still many details to iron out, the basic provisions as set forth in the bill as it currently exists call for tiered wine to be bought and sold through brokers. The release price of a wine would be determined by a careful study conducted by FedWine, at which point all existing stocks of the wine would be purchased by FedWine.

FedWine would then offer the wines to the public through licensed wine brokers who would establish prices based on current supply and demand for each wine. Consumers would issue an order to purchase a particular wine through a broker either at whatever the market price was at the time, or for a specified maximum price they would be willing to pay. A commission would be paid to the broker for their services.

An unusual provision in the bill also allows consumers to sell wine through the same brokers, either at the going market rate or for a specified minimum price the consumer would be willing to accept.

Confused? It is indeed a totally different system for purchasing wine, that’s for sure. Here are some answers to anticipated questions that may arise:

Q: Is participation in the tier system voluntary or mandatory?

A: Mandatory. Do you think Lafite or Latour had a choice when they were placed into the ranking system? A winery cannot elect out of this process.

Q: So in other words, the winery would be forced to sell their wine at a price set by a government agency, this so-called “FedWine?”

A: You got it.

Q: What if they undervalue a wine? What if they say the 2008 Dominus is only worth $15 a bottle?

A: I severely doubt such a travesty would take place. On the other hand, what if they overvalue it? It goes both ways. But FedWine will most assuredly have only experts within the agency who are well familiar with the market price of a wine.

Q: This sounds no different than the way the stock market operates. Wines released to brokers? Who then buy and sell based on a wine market?

A: That is correct. And why not? We are only talking about the top 1-2% of wines that are out there, and let’s face it, we all know these are nothing but trophies and people don’t really drink them. Or if they do, they only drink them to show off. Or, they are purchased as investments. It’s no different from stocks. So why shouldn’t they be treated as such?

Q: So what you are saying is that if I am currently on the mailing list of a winery whose wines get included in this tier system, say, uh, Sea Smoke for example, I will no longer be able to purchase them? I will have to submit to the mercies of the market and brokers?

A: Yes, that is correct. The top wines, which these congressmen who made the bill consider a national treasure, will be in effect nationalized.

Q: That smacks of communism to me.

A: Take it up with the people who made the bill.

Q: I can’t believe this. So what should we be looking for when this happens? The New York Wine Exchange in the Wall Street Journal showing the highs and lows for the day, bottles traded, 52 week high and low prices and the change from the previous day?

A: I couldn’t have said it better. With the internet, why even bother with the Wall Street Journal? You can get instant quotes off the web if you are so connected. Other less fortunate people will have to suffer a 20-minute delay.

Q: I have a bad feeling about this.

A: That’s not a question.

And so you have it. More will be passed along to you as the bill progresses; right now it is in only the very early stages and no one has tried to attach other unrelated measures to the bill that benefit their own constituency as of yet. For example, as of now the wine will not have to be transported from the wineries over a bridge to be built in Alaska for the purpose of transporting the wine. We’re not saying this won’t happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Musical Terroir

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the Keiko Matsui concert at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center. I’m not real familiar with her music; the concert was better than I thought it would be – I was expecting more “smooth jazz” with smooth equating to “tepid,” but it was an upbeat performance with superb musicianship that I enjoyed very much.

The theater itself is gorgeous with excellent acoustics and is not that large. Even with the relatively small size, the concert was not sold out. Ms. Matsui is not one of those hugely popular acts that fills us concert halls all along the tour route, but given her style of music I wouldn’t expect her to be.

What she does, she does very well. It got me to thinking, there’s a “terroir” to music, as well. Some are more identifiable than others. I am not a big enough fan of Ms. Matsui to be able to pick out her compositions/style that easily, but she does have a certain style that would enable me to make an educated guess if I were to hear her blindfolded. It’s harder with purely instrumental acts – there’s no vocalist to give it away!

I appreciate how much she loves what she does, the passion of her composing and performing, and also how all the components of the band came together to make it such an enjoyable evening. It took a lot of hard work. Sort of like appreciating a winemaker’s efforts brought forth when savoring the results from a good bottle of wine.

Her type of music is part of a genre (I suppose most aptly categorized as smooth jazz) but also has a certain style within that genre. It seems generated from a passion she has to create as an artist, rather than to sell to the masses or get good press reviews. She lets the “terroir” shine through.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Wino Hedonist Releases His 1st Wine

With my astounding line of wine enhancement products, it only makes perfect sense for me, J. Addison the Wine Hedonist, to proceed to the next step by introducing to you the enhanced wine itself.

I am proud to unveil to you my first offering today but first, let me tell you why it is so very special.

What you are looking at in the above picture is the vineyard from which the grapes came to make my superlative first release. Yes, the grapes that went into this fabulous wine are truly 100% organic and free range.

When I say free range, I mean free range. These grapes have been wild their entire lives, never having been captive on trellises or pruned back or subjected to being in regimented rows. These grapes are truly wild and undisciplined but that is what gives them their remarkable character. You might say they are absolutely uncontrollable and unruly.

They gave our chief winemaker one heckuva time, I might add. He even quit for a time but I was able to lure him back. Money does that.

So what sort of wine is the result of these free-range grapes? A fantastic wine. A wine that marches to its own tune and no one else's. This is one BIG wine that makes even the most jammy, extracted, fruit-bombiest shiraz fr
om Australia look like watery wimps. This wine demands attention. It is not one to be drunk with foods or anything else; it is most definitely a solo wine that insists on being the centerpiece, being under the spotlights. But then with such talented grapes in the bottle why would you detract from them by serving it with lesser accompaniments?

You may even want to consider serving this wine on Thanksgiving. By replacing the turkey with it. And then giving thanks because you will truly have something to be thankful for, that this fantastic wine is gracing your table.

I guess I have said enough. Now without further adieu, I would like to introduce the premier wine under the J. Addison/Wino Hedonist group: KobÊ!

By the way dear followers, be aware that when you look for this wine at your fine wine merchant, the colors on the label may have changed by that time so please make the appropriate inquiry.

Limited edition, only a small number of cases produced. $295.00 / 750 ml.