Thursday, September 18, 2014

Underground Cellar

I received an e-mail to my blog address from Brian at Underground Cellar asking if I'd be willing to share the latest news about his venture with my readers.  

First of all I had to take a look at their web site to learn what they were about since I was not familiar with them. After doing some reading, as well as signing up on their site, I think it is a worthwhile site to write about. Note that the e-mail said they had "something special" for me if I chose to include them in this blog but that has nothing to do with their inclusion; for all I know they could be sending me a dead fish through the mail. 

Underground Cellar ("UC") has an interesting concept. Each day they offer a small selection of wines (four for today as I write this) for purchase. The interesting part is you select the bottle you want to buy but are then automatically given a chance for a random upgrade to a more expensive, and theoretically a better wine for that same price. 

For example, here is a screen shot for one of the featured wines, a 2009 Lake Sonoma Estate Zinfandel:

This particular wine is $21, shown above.  Once you order and pay for it, however, you just might be the recipient of a random upgrade to one of the higher-priced bottles.  

Unlike those discount hotel sites that don't tell you what hotel you are bidding on until you buy, UC lets you know what the other possibilities are, and also tells you your odds of receiving an upgrade. 

Above, it shows you that if you order the $21 bottle, you have a 38.69% of getting the more expensive Seghesio Zinfandel instead.  The different upgrades are listed - see the screen shot below.

Yes, interesting concept, I'd say. Is this a legit site?  It seems to be. They have reached the $1 million mark in seed money, including an investment by Shark Tank celebrity investor Barbara Corcoran.  The way the site operates will appeal to the gambling nature within us by taking a spin for an upgrade.  I like that idea (although what happens if you really really want the original wine and not the upgrade?). 

The option is available to defer delivery by having your wine placed in "Cloud Storage" - a temperature-controlled facility in Napa Valley, until you decide to have it shipped. You can order as little as a single bottle.  Shipping on six bottles is a flat $5 per shipment and a case earns you free shipping.  Therefore you could make several single bottle purchases and have them held in Cloud Storage until such time as you have a case, and then get free shipping.  The Cloud Storage is also very helpful for avoiding shipping in hot weather. 

Are the wines any good? You can see for yourself from the above that these are credible wineries with good reputations.  I looked at previous offerings and these not mystery wineries. My only comment is that some of the vintages are not current releases and some are releases from several years ago (such as the 2007 De Loach Zinfandel listed above) but assuming they have been properly stored, the buyer is getting the benefit of aging without having to pay extra for it. UC guarantees customer satisfaction, and they say the wines come straight from the winery so it sounds like a safe deal.  My Google search didn't reveal anything negative about them. 

Probably the best thing to do is visit their site and check it out yourself.  It's easy to understand what they are doing and it costs nothing to register, then see what is offered each day.  I signed up. I haven't bought anything yet since nothing interested me but I'm curious to see what comes up as time goes by. 

There is also a member forum but I have to say right now it seems pretty lame as not very many people participate and those who do seem to be the same ones in most of the threads. Someone from UC actively participates, though, which speaks well of their desire to be helpful. My two cents - the layout also looks too AOL-ish for me. 

As for the actual operating site - I think it's worth visiting and registering. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

power outage

The other day a planned power outage notification came in the mail from Southern California Edison.  Naturally the first thing I thought about was how this would affect the wines I keep in my three little wine coolers, especially given the hot summer we've had here in Southern California. 

The outage was scheduled for tomorrow - September 17th, from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Today when I got home from work, I discovered that SCE pulled a fast one and had the power outage today!  I thought that was pretty crummy of them to do this and not let anyone know so that they might prepare for it. Now, I am only guessing/hoping that today's outage was what originally was planned for tomorrow.  When I called SCE the customer service assistant was clueless.  She said it made sense that today was it, but tomorrow's outage was still showing on her schedule and had not been canceled. She told me to call back tomorrow.  

Well duh, I might as well just wait and see if it happens or not if I have to wait until the day it is supposed to happen. That really ticks me off.  I hope that today was the planned outage because two days in a row with temperatures near 110 is ridiculous to have an outage on purpose. The house was 93 degrees when I got home. 

Guess what?  I just checked SCE online and now it says that the power outage will be rescheduled: "Certain conditions have caused this outage to be rescheduled."  

Hmm.. maybe the "certain conditions" are that IT WAS DONE TODAY AND CAUGHT EVERYONE BY SURPRISE!!!  I imagine people must have protested an obviously bad idea of depriving residents of electricity on one of, if not the hottest days of the year so they sneakily did it today to catch everyone off guard. 

Anyway, that's not why I am writing this post. I wanted to let you know how my wine coolers fared on this 110 degree day with no electricity for 7 hours, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. 

First off, the fridge seemed pretty well insulated. The freezer, normally at a -2.2 degrees, went up to 12 degrees so the frozen stuff survived.  So did the items in the fridge compartment; the temperature there was about 42 when I got home, which is just a few seconds before power was restored.  Normally it is around 33-35 degrees.

As for the wine coolers: 

The thermometers showed the room got as hot as 96 according to one, and 93 according to two other ones. I tend to think the two at 93 are more accurate. Now that's hot!  

The latest wine cooler, a 24 bottle dual zone Wine Enthusiast brand that has 12 spaces each in the upper and lower compartments, registered a high of 76.6 degrees in the upper space and 70.5 in the lower. The upper space was measured with the thermometer that had the higher room temperature reading than the other two, though, so I am thinking maybe the max was a degree or two lower than the 76.6 reading. It's a thermoelectric cooler.  Normally the top is around 56 degrees and the bottom 55 degrees.

The 16 bottle cooler, also from the Wine Enthusiast is a 4x4 slot single zone thermoelectric cooler. This one hit a high of 65.7 degrees. Normally it is in the 54.1-54.5 range. 

My Vissani cooler, the oldest one that has a compressor, normally shows a mid-56 temperature.  It went up to 64.4 degrees. 

I'm relieved.  While this increase in temperature did no favor to the wines, at least it didn't get warm enough to damage them.  Assuming 76.6 was the warmest any compartment got, that isn't bad at all considering 7 hours without power in 100+ degree outside heat and 90+ degree indoor heat. 

Looks like the Vissani has the best insulation, warming up by only 8 or so degrees, whereas the Wine Enthusiast units ranged from 10 to 20 degrees.  As far as cooling back down, the power came on at a little past 4:30. It's nearly 9:30 and they haven't yet gotten back to where they normally are - not even the Vissani.  They're close but not on the mark. The Vissani is full whereas the others aren't at capacity. Yet. 

The house isn't back yet, either.  The thermostat is normally at 80 degrees and it's 82 in the house with the air conditioning running.  

I just don't want to put these appliances through that test again. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

more on points

The other day I wrote about wine ratings and the point scale.

Today I ran across a nice example of how subjective the whole thing is.  Here is what someone in Cellar Tracker had to say about the 2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel (I X'd out the person's moniker):

9/14/2014 - xxxxxx WROTE: 90 points

Didn't seem to age well. OK, but nothing special

So a wine that is merely "OK, but nothing special" merits 90 points?  

I was wondering if perhaps that is because it is the Esprit de Beaucastel that is being rated and thus any vintage automatically warrants at least a 90 due to its stellar reputation?  

Would an "exceptional" bottle of Two Buck Chuck warrant 85 points, simply because it is Two Buck Chuck and thus could never warrant a score of 90 or above? 

Just some food or wine for thought. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Last night my brother in law brought a bottle of 2012 Melville Syrah, Verna's Vineyard to a family dinner.  Despite the less-than-ideal glasses, I thought it was a very good wine. 

Giving it a slight swirl (as much as could be expected given the tiny glasses) and sniff, my nose was hit with the aromas of bacon fat. Lots of it.  

I asked my wife what she thought it smelled like.  

"It smells like grapes."

"You don't smell bacon?"

"No, it smells like grapes."

Then I asked my sister in law on the other side of me what she thought it smelled like.


"You don't smell bacon?"

"Bacon?  There's bacon in this wine???" 

My brother in law interceded.  "Beef blood."  Then he started looking up Parker's rating and review on his iPhone while my sister in law was looking at the wine in her glass.  

I could taste the beef blood in the wine but for me bacon aroma was the most outstanding characteristic. I said this would go great with a steak.  I told her the reason it smells like bacon and beef blood is because instead of people stomping on the grapes to crush them, this winery used pigs and cows. 

Anyway, the only people in my wife's family who drink wine other than when my brother in law brings some to dinner are my brother in law, his wife (not the same sister in law as the one sitting next to me), and me. Generally at least 1/2 the bottles he brings go unappreciated as some of the family mixes the wine with soda, or puts ice cubes in it or even mixes it with tea. 

As for the "smells like grapes" comments from my wife and her sister, it made me wonder if maybe us winos just make ourselves smell things, anything besides grapes, when we sniff a wine.  Or is it that folks who don't normally drink wine just smell grapes because they know that's what it is made from. Or maybe they just don't care.

Who knows. But I did think it was a nice bottle of wine. Good complexity, balanced with a firm backing of acidity, a long finish and nice weight/texture.  I'm glad my brother in law brought it. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

changing direction, part three

In part two, I mentioned I had made a list of wineries to check out from ones mentioned in Jon Bonne's book, The New California Wine

Some of the producers made wine available to purchase only to those on their mailing list, and many of those had wines available by allocation only, at certain times of the year. 

I put my name in on several of these mailing lists; for some, I had no real clue how much the wines cost but I figured when the time came, I'd find out. Just recently, I did find out and talk about sticker shock - I wasn't prepared for some of the prices I saw when notified of my allocations. 

For example $160 bottles from Kongsgaard.  Mind you, I am not complaining or being critical since prices are all relative and who's to say what any bottle is "worth." I wasn't expecting such a high tariff is all. Yesterday Favia released their wines.  Bottles for $145, a bit less than Kongsgaard.  I scratched those two off my list.  I had raised my wine budget but that was far above the ceiling I set. 

One winery released their fall lineup and I logged in to see my allocations. I was met with a statement that I had no allocations at that time.  Oh, well. Again, not complaining because I understand the spoils go to the loyal, repeat customers and that's how it should be. Maybe next time they'll have something available. 

There were also a few wineries to whom I wrote with questions and never received a reply. I won't mention who they are, but I scratched those off the list as well.  They were just simple questions, nothing touchy or requiring a detailed answer so as to why they never bothered to respond is beyond me.  Now that, I'm complaining about.  How hard is it to reply?  The vast majority of wineries sent back a response. 

I think I ended up with a pretty good list.  Darn good, I'd say. Next time I'll start mentioning the wineries and what made me either join their wine club or, if they don't have a club, to place an order. Most of them I've never even sampled any of their wines but they just sounded good. I can't wait to give them a try. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

the point spread

Do you use some sort of rating system or scale to score the wines that you have tasted?  Like for example, a 100 point scale like Robert Parker and others use, or maybe a 10 point or 5 point scale, or letter grades or just something like Outstanding, Excellent, Very Good, etc. 

Much has been written about the utility of a 100 point scale - such as, how can you really define a difference between an 88 versus 87 point wine?  That's a good question. 

On the other hand, any sort of scoring system is going to be subjective and one person's "A" or 94 points might be a "B" or 87 pointer to someone else.  

I will often look at the tasting notes that are posted in Cellar Tracker to get an idea of what people thought of a certain wine or winery and I find it to be quite helpful.  It uses a 100 point scale for rating wines and, despite the issues about how fine a gradation can you really assign when scoring a wine, I find that scanning the scores tasters assign will give me a good rough, overall assessment as to what people think of a wine or winery.  A bunch of scores in the 90's seems more promising than ones in the 80's.

What I've noticed, however, is that the majority of scores in Cellar Tracker seem to fall in the range of the high 80's to low 90's.  Not even a 10-point spread, but less. 

So even though a 100 point scale is in use, most of the scores seem to be around 86 or 87 to 92 or 93.  What's the point of having such a wide scale if only less than 10% of the range is used?  

One might argue that the wines being tasted are all uniformly good and thus the narrow range of scores.  Could be, but to me there is often little correlation between the notes themselves and the scores, with some folks finding a wine to be just awful and thus meriting "only" an 87. Or a wonderful wine being scored a 93 or higher if it's a Cabernet but the same sort of positive remarks eliciting only an 89 if it is a Rose, because a Rose just can't be as complex or intellectually stimulating as a Cabernet. 

On other sites I see the use of word ratings, such as "outstanding," "excellent," etc., but then there is also the use of "+" or "-" appended to show that something is a little better or little less than the word rating.  

As for me, if anyone really cares which they probably don't since they don't read this blog anyway, I use a 100 point scale and have to laugh at myself because my ratings are usually as narrow as the ones I mention above.  I guess I am part of the group.  A decent wine rates somewhere between 86 and 89 and if I really like something then it gets elevated to the 90's. 

So then why do I use a 100 point scale?  Got me.  Maybe because giving a really good wine a score in the 90's seems the most impressive way to acknowledge it?  

Friday, September 5, 2014

changing direction, part two

In my last post I mentioned how the gift of some very nice bottles of wine from my son and daughter in law influenced me to up my own wine budget.  Around that same time, I received an e-mail from Tablas Creek Vineyards announcing the they had recently inaugurated a couple of new wine club options, that of red only and white only. 

Several years ago I belonged to their wine club but canceled.  It had nothing to do with their wines, as they are still one of my favorite wineries, but that the prices were going over what I wanted to spend. 

Good timing with that e-mail - it was obvious to me that it was time to rejoin their Vinsider's Club, and that's exactly what I did. I'm happy to be back. You can't go wrong with anything from Tablas Creek.

Now wait a minute, in my previous post didn't I say Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays were my favorites?  Tablas Creek is known for their Rhone varietals, so what gives?  Well, gotta leave room for some variety, right?  

A couple of other things I did was to check out an online article by the that listed their choices for the 101 best wineries in America, and purchase Jon Bonne's educational and incisive book, The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste.

I must confess, my winery education the past few years has come pretty much from looking at the wine selection at Costco.  I was also aware of the established producers but the two sources up there listed a bunch of wineries that I'd never heard of before.  I made a list for further exploration and eagerly went at it, looking at the producers web sites, tasting notes on Cellar Tracker and whatever articles came up in my Google results. 

I came up with a pretty good list of suspects.

More next time. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

changing direction, part one

My son got married in June, and he and his bride honeymooned up in Napa Valley. They had an enjoyable as well as educational time which seems to have started them on the path of starting a small collection.  

I saw them when they returned and they gave me three bottles purchased during their journey. I was familiar with two of the wineries but had never heard of the third one.  I thanked them for their generous gift.

Naturally I had to look up the producer of that third bottle whose label was unknown to me. I was horrified to discover this particular Cabernet Sauvignon had set them back $125.  The other two bottles were no cheapies either, showing prices of $50 and $35. 

Later, when I thanked them again, I also said they shouldn't have spent so much money. They were raving about the Cabernet, of which they had bought a bottle for themselves.  The response to me was to just accept it and enjoy it.  

That's like what my mom would always tell me - when someone gives you a gift, just take it and say thank you. I believe that's good advice. 

So I took it.  Those three bottles are resting peacefully and staying cool in one of my wine coolers. 

That got me to thinking - maybe it was time to up my wine budget a bit.  My son and daughter in law are by no means rich. They're doing okay, and while I don't think they can afford to keep buying $125 or $50 wines (how many of us can?), they figured something was good, so they went for it. 

For several years I've been buying nearly all my wines at Costco.  The selection is small but contains many nice wines, and the prices are great.  I'd been doing very well adhering to a budget with a $20 limit. 

That said, my two favorite varietals are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Costco has some decent selections within my budget but those selections don't change that often and, truth to tell, it gets sort of boring. I figured what the heck, I'm not getting any younger, I can afford to raise the budget, and it's time to get some stuff I REALLY want to get. It's time to just go for it. 

Thus, a change in direction.  More on this the next time. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

hawking wine at Costco

A short while ago I was perusing the wine section at the Costco in Westlake Village.  We were returning from a short and much appreciated vacation and I wanted to check out the wine selection since it was right off the freeway. 

A wine rep approached me as I was looking at the various bottles and told me about how wonderful the Goyette 2011 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon was.  A magnificent wine, she raved.  I asked if it was drinking well now.  "Oh yes, definitely," she replied.  She went on to tell me how this wine was being released prior to some wine publication giving it a really high score after which time the price would shoot up accordingly.  

At that time the sticker said $14.69.  I thought what the heck, I'll give it a try, so I bought a bottle. 

There's no doubt that a high score from an influential critic is a sure recipe for moving bottles and moving them at a higher price.  On the other hand, what this woman told me really made no sense because if a very favorable review was indeed soon to be published then why not wait to release it at that time and jack up the price?  

It's like how nearly every piece of audio gear is a "bargain" because it is comparable to (i.e., worth as much) as gear selling for 3x, maybe even 5x its price.  Is that really the case?  If so, is there anything that is truly priced appropriately? 

Getting back to the wine, I recently popped the cork on the Goyette and gave it my usual four day tasting. 

The rep was right, it was ready to drink.  Was it anything extraordinary?  Not really.  It was soft and smooth on the palate, with some tea, red berries and spice on the palate. The nose did have an interesting component, something sort of like mustard greens or bok choy. That sounds weird but it was very subtle and to me was a plus and not a minus.  Would I buy this again?  Nope, because nothing really stood out.  It was decent, no flaws, but that's about it.

At the Costco where I usually go, every so often there is a rep from Cameron Hughes.  I always think it is unfortunate that he can't offer a sample, same as how the Goyette rep couldn't offer any either.  I also wonder how effective they are and if the cost of paying them for the day is a worthwhile investment in relation to the sales they generate that otherwise wouldn't have been made.  Do they work on commission?  

I do think the "personal" touch of conversing with a rep does help to drum up business but at the end of the day I wonder just how much business that amounts to. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Short post today.  I use Cellartracker for looking up consumer tasting notes for various wines and wineries. I've noticed that the word "salinity" seems to crop up quite frequently these days. I don't recall its usage being that prevalent before, but now, lots of folks are using it. 

My observation is that certain terms or descriptors go viral in the world of tasting notes. Salinity is one of the new buzz words?

That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with using that term, or any other term, if that's the best way to describe a wine.  And just how many terms can there be?  I get tired of using the same ones over and over again and wish I could be more creative but on the other hand, what is better: to be creative or to be accurate?  I guess creatively accurate would be best but the inspiration for the synapses in the brain to fire full force isn't always there. 

Same with the audio world.  Over there, everyone likes to use wide soundstage as a positive way to describe the sound of gear they like.  In fact, the wider the better and if you can say it sounds like it extends 50 feet outside the physical boundaries of your speakers and even into the next door neighbor's house and beyond, all the better.  Or pinpoint imaging - like you could get up and point to exactly where the instrument or vocalist was located, even to the size of a dime (never mind that people and instruments are larger than dimes). 

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I see salinity used in tasting notes a lot more now than before.  The reader should take that observation with a grain of salt, however.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another New Arrival - Wine Enthusiast 24 Bottle Wine Cooler

Back on July 5, my post was about a 16 bottle Wine Enthusiast brand wine cooler (model 272-03-16A) I'd just purchased from Costco.  So far so good with that one - I have it set for 55 degrees and the separate thermometer I use for an independent measurement is pretty much always in the range of 54.1 - 54.5 degrees, with 54.3 being the most common reading. 

Since then I've added my 3rd wine cooler to the stable, again from Costco. It's another Wine Enthusiast model, this time a 24 bottle unit. I don't have a need for it just yet but I will in a month or so (that's the subject of an upcoming blog post).  I had a sneaking suspicion that this one wouldn't be available that long because it seems Costco is the only store that carried this model (I think it was 272-03-24-2A); it isn't even listed on the Wine Enthusiast site. Sure enough, when I checked today Costco doesn't list it anymore so I'm glad I snapped one up.

[edit: as of today, 8/26/14, it is back on the site and you can see it by clicking here.]

The reason I bought it from Costco is their excellent return policy. If anything goes wrong during the warranty period, I just take it back to the brick and mortar store for a refund - no muss, no fuss. 

Thankfully the cooler arrived safe and sound. It was very securely packaged, with generous use of dense foam padding.  

It's a dual-zone cooler, 12 bottles on top and 12 on the bottom, 3 bottles wide, with a thermoelectric panel for each section.  I like the slimmer footprint (14.25" wide x 19" deep x 33" high) as opposed to having a four-bottle width. Here's a picture:

Oh good grief, what's that silver stuff on the front, you're probably wondering. 

It's aluminum foil. 

The foil is there to keep the light out.  It's only on top because the bottom half has some black plastic thing inside the glass to block the light. Take off the foil and it's a pretty attractive unit with a solid glass door.  I'd say Costco's price of $199 shipped is a bargain. 

As you can see, I monitor the temperatures using a pair of thermometers; the one of the left which also has a hygrometer, is for the top and the one on the right is for the bottom.  Both panels on the cooler are set for 56 degrees. The thermometer readings are typical, with a variance of about half a degree in either direction during the day. The probes are set in the middle of each section. 

It's a hot summer here in Southern California and the ambient temperature goes as high as 87 during the day.  This cooler does an admirable job of maintaining a constant temperature.  The only complaint is a constant soft buzz that emanates from the electronic section.  It's not loud but it is audible. 

The racks are serviceable.  Nothing special and in fact they don't seem to be perfectly straight so they wobble slightly unless there are bottles to weigh them down. They're wide enough to hold Burgundy bottles side by side, although it's a tight fit. 

I've only had it less than a week so far but at least it performs very well.  I don't know if they're temporarily or permanently out of stock at Costco but I'm happy I was able to get one. 

As for what's going in it, I'll blog about that soon. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wowzer Pinot Noir from Toretti's Family Vineyard

During a short vacation up north we visited several Costcos along the way.  I spied the object of today's review at their Santa Maria location and thought about buying it but passed. After we left, even though I'd never heard of Toretti's Family Vineyard, I kept thinking I should have bought it because it seemed interesting.  Don't ask me why some wines look more interesting than others; they just do.

Well, I was redeemed with a second chance at the Goleta Costco.  That same wine was sitting there in the bin. There was another bottle that looked interesting too. Being that I had already bought some bottles earlier, I decided I would just get one.  I asked the guy in charge of the wine department which one he would recommend, saying I was looking for a more Burgundian style.

Without hesitation he pointed to the Toretti bottle, telling me it was a good one. Not one of those overblown fruit bombs. So without hesitation I purchased it.  This was back in May.

The other day I popped it open.  Good recommendation!  This is one mighty fine Pinot Noir that has plenty of varietal character. I guess I ought to specifically identify it - the Toretti's Family Vineyard Pinot Noir Inocencio Pinot Noir, 2009, Santa Barbara County (there's a picture of the label below).

I sensed it was going to be good when I saw the color - very light, somewhat translucent, like a Pinot Noir ought to look, rather than those opaque things that California likes to produce. The aromas - like the title of this post says, wowzers. It had that barnyard funk but very well integrated with strawberries and other red berries and an earthy character.  I just loved swirling the glass and waving it under my nose.

The promise of the color and the aromas followed through to the palate.  Nicely concentrated flavor, great backing acidity and a long, sort of peach pit minerally aftertaste made this all in all one really nice wine. The good thing is I am writing this after only consuming the first 1/4 of the bottle so I have my three 187 ml shares left to enjoy.  Of course the wine could just fade away over the next three days but I doubt it. I got so excited about how good of a Pinot Noir this was that I had to write about it right away.

The good part: it was $18.99 at Costco, a total bargain for a Pinot Noir of this quality.  I don't know if they have any left.  It is still available from the winery but there it is $44.00.  Is it worth $44.00?  Given what wines of this quality and character cost these days, especially from smaller producers, my answer is yes, it is. The Costco price was just a very fortunate bargain for me but this wine is worth what the Toretti family is pricing it for on their site.

This is a darn good wine and it has the acidity and balance to last longer but it sure is good now.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


In my last post I mentioned how some of the wine-related links on my blog were out of date. Just now I went and cleaned them up so what you saw in this blog yesterday ain't what you are seeing now.

Over half of the links were deleted. A couple of them changed URL's so I updated those. I am glad to see that El Jefe of Twisted Oak is still writing his twisted blog posts albeit at a different web address and also with less frequency before.  I hope he isn't untwisting himself.

Some of the sites still exist but haven't been updated in a long time.  I was sad to see Dr. Debs Good Wines Under $20 site hasn't been updated since 2012 (almost as sad as my not even realizing this until just now since I haven't been keeping up with reading wine blogs), since that was always good reading.

Wine marches on, though. There's a whole slew of blogs out there that are waiting to be discovered and I need to get back into things.  Every day is so busy I barely have time to write this one, though, much less visit other sites but then that's probably a sign that I need to get my priorities straight!

Quick wine review - just finished the Kirkland 2012 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, and it's a very nice bottle especially for a very reasonable $12.99.  No point in holding it, this is ready to drink now.  I noticed that over my normal four tastings that the aromas seemed to subside a bit and the oak got a little more prominent, but overall everything remained in balance.

Aromas of ripe tropical fruit and blossoms were pleasing to me, and they carried through to the palate. The fruit, oak and zippy acidity balanced each other and it was just a nice, tasty wine to sip.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

more conscientious

As I have said before, and those of you who visit this blog regularly know, I tend to post sporadically. In bursts.
 In the beginning I was on fire, posting left and right but then I ran out of ideas and got stale. Then I slacked off and didn't post for long periods of time, even over a year.

 Just recently after another prolonged bout of apathy I started posting again and I'm gonna give it the old college try and be more regular about it going forward.

I was looking at the "wine related links" on the left side of the page just now. They've been sitting there unchanged for who knows how long, and who knows if they are all still valid? I confess that in general, I haven't been keeping up with other wine blogs and that's another thing I need to be more regular about.

One thing I do know - that sizable vertical banner featuring Budo Kun, courtesy of Domaine547, still works. I visited the site the other day and wow, has that wine shop grown since the day I put the banner on this blog. I don't know if Budo Kun is even around anymore, but Jill has got some truly great wines in stock that are well worth seeking out. I wish her all the best because she's a really nice person who has succeeded in a difficult business.

I also visited wannabee wino's site and she has truly achieved winodom! Sonadora's another super nice person who would be my model for how to faithfully keep up a wine blog.

I'm going to have to clean up the rest of the links and just leave whatever still exists. Meanwhile, y'all come back now, hear?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

coffee filters for wine?

With my standard practice of splitting a 750 ml bottle of wine into four equal parts to drink on four successive days or evenings, I never take the time to decant anything. Some bottles throw a sediment, which I carefully try not to make a part of the liquid I pour into the three 187 ml bottles for later, or the wine glass for the day.

I've wondered what the effect would be of using a coffee filter to weed out the sediment as I pour.  Would the filter affect the wine?  Googling this question results in various pages on which people have wondered the same thing, but I figure nothing beats first-hand observation, right?

Recently I purchased these filters from Amazon.

They were chosen after reading several reviews in which people praised them for not adulterating the taste of their coffee like bleached filters did.  These were the most "natural" I could find.

My "testing" was done with filtered water poured from a Camelbak pitcher.  The steps were:
  1. Rinse a clean glass with the pitcher water.
  2. Pour a sample of pitcher water in the glass.  Smell it and taste it. 
  3. Pour out the remaining sample and rinse the glass again with pitcher water.
  4. Pour pitcher water into the glass but through one of the coffee filters.
  5. Smell the water and taste it.
  6. Repeat until satisfied I could make a valid conclusion.
What did I find?  The pitcher water had no aroma and no taste other than the taste of plain water. When I poured it through the coffee filter, there was definitely an aroma. Not strong but noticeable, like the filter paper. The water still tasted neutral, however, and the aroma dissipated quickly.  It wasn't a matter of my nose getting used to it as after I let it sit and came back to it, there was still no smell. 

My conclusion: the filter did add odor to the water but it blew off quickly.  If it does the same thing with wine then I should be okay.  I haven't tried it with wine yet.  I'll do that and report on it next time.

Now, how did the coffee filter do with filtering out particles?  I used another filter and poured some finely ground spices into it, then poured water through the filter into the glass. 

Visibly I could see no spice particles at all in the water in the glass but the aroma of the spices was very strong. They didn't go away, either.  The coffee filter seems to prevent the particles from entering the glass but my guess is microscopic particles from the spices are washed off by the water and permeate the coffee filter. They are too small to detect with the eye, but the nose isn't fooled. 

Not a truly rigorous scientific experiment, but nonetheless enough for me to conclude that perhaps it would be safe to use a coffee filter to prevent sediment from entering the glass.  Like I said, I will do this with some wine and find out what happens.  I used water first since its taste is neutral and any filter effects should have been more evident. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

some short stemware

Actually the title of this blog post is misleading but don't sue me.  It's really not stemware.  It's short, but there's no stem - which is the main reason why it is short.

Normally I don't like to drink wine out of a glass that has no stem.  This latest trend towards stemless glasses is not popular with me.

Nevertheless, I ended up buying a couple of stemless glasses recently.  I couldn't resist. They had a nice shape and they cost only $1.50 each. I found them at Daiso, which is sort of the Japanese equivalent of the 99 Cents Only Store that is so familiar to us. Unlike the 99 Cent store, however, there are items of various prices although most are $1.50 and all are pretty cheap.

Here's the glasses (click the pictures for the full version, then click outside the picture to return here):

The shapes initially attracted me and when I saw the little insert that said it was "European Thin Glass" and even better, "Ultra Thin Glass," I couldn't help but inspect them.

Indeed, these both had thin glass and the ultra thin was thinner than the thin.  Here's a view from the top so you can compare the thickness:

No Libby's soda bottle bottom thickness glasses here!  These are thin and light. Being that they cost only $1.50, I don't have to be paranoid when washing them, either.

I plan on using them when (if) the weather gets cold. So far this summer has been so hot I expect it to only trail off slowly in the winter before getting hot again.  It's ridiculous!

I'm a sucker for a nice wine glass.  And a nice glass of wine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

really tall stemware

During a recent vacation, my wife and I stopped at a Ross Dress For Less store in Santa Barbara. I'm not big on clothes so while she perused the racks in the women's department, I did what I always do when at Ross - perused the home goods section.

Every time we go, I have hopes of finding some nice wine glasses, and every time I am disappointed because all they have are Libby-like thick-walled and rimmed glasses with short stems, small bowls and when you look through them everything is distorted.  But being the optimist I am, I still hope.

And lo and behold, this time I was rewarded, in the last chance clearance section, no less.  The box looked promising but you never know what's inside. I pried open the lid and was surprised to find some elegant-looking stemware sitting inside (note: click on the picture to see it in its entirety; afterwards click outside the picture to return here).

Excuse the poor picture.  I don't know why I chose this background; I thought it would cut back on any glare but it also cut back on showing just how attractive these glasses are (and no, that's not my sofa).

They came two in a box, $6.99 per box.  The one on the left is 12" tall and the one on the right an inch shorter. Both have 6" stems. These are the tallest wine glasses I've encountered. They're made of crystal, with thin bowls and delicate stems but they do have visible imperfections.  What do you expect for $6.99?

Unfortunately there was only one box of each, and the box with the shorter stems had one with a broken stem. The cashier took 1/2 off the box with one stem so I ended up with three nice glasses for about eleven bucks, including tax.

The manufacturer is Home Essentials and the model is Paul Revere.  I tried finding more online but it seems it is discontinued.  Small wonder, as I am guessing these were in the clearance section because there was too much breakage.

I even broke the bowl of one of the tall ones when washing it for the first time. Grrr..  that left me with one of each, and triggered visits to all the nearby Ross stores around our house when we got back.  I managed to find only one box, this of the tall stems, and sure enough, one of the two was broken.  At this particular Ross the manager would only discount the single stem to five dollars even though half the contents were busted.

But hey, I gladly paid those five bucks and would have paid a lot more. Now I have two of the tall ones and one of the shorter ones and believe me, I am going to wash them very, very carefully.

I appreciate a lovely wine glass.  It makes the wine taste better.  I just wish I had found more of these.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vissani Wine Cooler - Update

Yesterday's blog was about a 16 bottle wine cooler under the Wine Enthusiast brand that I recently purchased. The blog title was, "Another wine cooler."

That may have given the impression that I no longer have the Vissani unit that I wrote about a couple of years ago (click here for the review), but that's not the case. The new one is in addition to the Vissani.  By the way, my apologies for misspelling the name in the original article.  It's VIssani, not VAssani.

After two years, how is it holding up?  I am happy to report, knock on wood, that it is doing quite well.  I done the same to the glass door as I did to my new unit, which is tape aluminum foil over it to keep out the light.  My thermometer indicates that the inside temperature ranges from 53.6 to 57.6 degrees.  The control is an old-fashioned dial, not one of those digital electronic ones so you have to set the temperature by trial and error.

Is this 4-degree range bad?  I don't think so.  The cooler isn't constantly cycling on and off.  I figure the temp inside is probably 57 degrees.  The air temperature may have that 4 degree range but I think the wine in the bottle maintains a more stable or constant temperature.  I could be wrong, though.  So far all of the wines stored in it seem fine to me.  I wouldn't want to store a Richebourg in it, like Sandra Oh's character did in her wine cooler in the movie Sideways, but for less expensive stuff that doesn't need a real long storage I think the Vissani is fine.

That particular model is no longer available.  I see Home Depot recently had a successor model on sale for $198 ($49 more than I paid for mine) but this one holds only 28 bottles and has electronic/digital controls. The reviews are not very good, either.  As I recall, mine also had mixed reviews but so far it has worked fine. I suspect many "bad" reviews are from people who expect too much, don't use it properly, or didn't wait for at least 24 hours before plugging it in.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a 2-year update and say that the Vissani is still working properly.  In this crazy Southern California heat, I'm thankful for that!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

New Arrival - Wine Enthusiast 16 Bottle Wine Cooler

A few weeks ago I purchased a small wine cooler, the Wine Enthusiast model 272-03-16-A.  Here's a picture of it:

That's not my kitchen counter, that's the picture from the Costco product page. I taped aluminum foil over the door glass because I want no light at all shining on the juice inside. I was worried that perhaps the inside light might accidentally turn on but when the room is dark you can see the light at the edge of the foil if it is on, so I'm fine with that.

I bought this from Costco's web site since they don't stock the unit in their warehouse.  Why from Costco? For one, the price ($149.99 including shipping) was a lot lower than anywhere else I saw this, and more importantly, Costco has the best return policy in the industry.  I don't believe in spending a lot of money for a wine cooler since regardless of price, they are notorious for not lasting a long time.  Therefore, why put a lot of money into an iffy investment?  But at least buying from Costco gives me the peace of mind that if anything goes wrong, they'll make it right.

How's it working?  Fine, so far.  I ordered it on a Sunday evening.  They drop shipped it from the Wine Enthusiast in New York on Monday and it reached my office in Southern California on Friday in fine condition. No dents in the unit or the box. I have to say, this was very well packed with lots of dense foam padding - not the cheap, stiff styrofoam that splinters into pieces, but the flexible, dense kind that does a better job of protection.  There was plenty of cardboard bracing, too.

After letting it sit for a day I plugged it in.  After a few hours the unit cooled to what the LED dial on the front panel said was 54 degrees.  My own thermometer said it was lower, so I changed the setting to 55 degrees. Since then it keeps the temperature at 54.1-54.3 degrees most of the time. Checking the minimum and maximum temps reveals a range of 53.8 to 54.7 degrees, which to me is pretty darn good.  The thing is quiet, too.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it continues to perform in an admirable manner like that.  So far, I'm very pleased. It's attractive (though less so with my low class aluminum foil taped to the front door), fairly compact and works like it is supposed to work. The shelving is optimal for Bordeaux bottles (as is pretty much any other wine cooler) but normal Burgundy-type or Riesling bottles should fit with no problem. Egomaniac oversized fancy schmansy bottles or super tall bottles won't fit but then if you buy stuff like that then you should have better storage for them.  Oh, and Champagne bottles, same thing. I think most will fit if you don't mind a possibly torn label.

My rating on this unit is thumbs up.  For the price, it's a very good value.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Well here I am, back again after another typical extended absence.

When I first started this blog, I had all kinds of ideas about stuff and was eager to put them in writing and share. Then I started running out of ideas and got burned out and started forcing myself to come up with stuff which, in hindsight and even at the time I wrote it, wasn't all that good. I still think I came up with some zinger posts early on, though.

Then I got boring.

Maybe I'm still boring but I feel like writing again so we'll see just how long that lasts.

First off, though, I would like to issue a disclaimer.

The title of this blog, One Wine Per Week, is not necessarily accurate. Yes, sometimes I drink one wine per week but on average I drink more than one wine per week. I average about 1.5 to 1.75 wines per week using my system of splitting a 750 ml bottle into 4 portions, drinking the first one on day one and then the next three on subsequent days.

And also, the title of this blog is not a guarantee that I am going to be writing about one wine per week so there is no contract, either express or implied, between me and you, that should lead to any expectation on the part of the reader that I will be delivering one wine per week to anyone.

Now that I got that administrative stuff out of the way, it's time to get back into this blog.

Happy 4th of July to all! I recently had the Tangent 2012 Albarino, Edna Valley Paragon Vineyards bottling that I purchased from a Costco up north for a very reasonable $11.49. This would make a wonderful wine to celebrate the day, especially here in sweltering Southern California.

Right away it was agreeable. A fresh-looking light yellow-gold, it had nicely fruity and flowery aromas: honeyed jasmine is the way my nose thought about it (assuming my nose can think). It was lip-smacking good on the palate, with juicy pineapple, peach and apricot flavors set off with vibrant acidity. The Tangent web site says they make wines that are meant to be enjoyed young and fresh and they sure hit the mark with this one. It was delicious.