The Ultimate Wine Book?

Thudding in at 8.21 pounds, 926 pages, the revised edition of Wine stops a door cold and doubles as a weight for deadlift exercises. It is a formidable use of paper.

Wine is also a great read. The concise, unassuming title is deceptive--unadorned with self-aggrandizing attachments as "Bible", "Encyclopedia" or "Atlas". Yet, few if any topic on wine escapes its pages. I never thought it possible but it rivals the two go-to tomes on my shelf: The World Atlas of Wine and The Oxford Companion to Wine--perhaps even surpassing both.

Want to know about French oak forests and barrel-making? It's there. Biodynamics? Yup. Grape varietals? Check. Wine tasting methodology? Covered. Viticulture, including pruning methods and grape ripening? Yes. Terroir? You bet.

But the meat of the book are the chapters detailing the world's winegrowing regions with visually illustrative maps and color photographs of vineyards and producers. Major and smaller wine regions are treated with equal passion. Mediterranean countries with long winegrowing histories--Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco--are discussed well, instead of skipped over as in other books.

But what I love most of all is pages are crammed with information. Sidebars highlight key topics as the confusing German Wine Law, obscure regions as the Coteaux de Pierrevert in Provence, acreage of each appellation in the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits, and sustainable winegrowing trends in California.

Edited by Andre Domine, who has been a contributor to the Culinaria series, and authored by him and seventeen other wine writers, this is a masterful wine book that is hard to put down despite its heft.

Edited by Andre Domine
Published 2008 H.F. Ullmann $59.95

Beer Bourbon, and BBQ at National Harbor

The world's best bourbon was on display at the 2009 Beer Bourbon, and BBQ at National Harbor, as well as Tennessee whiskey, rye whiskey, rum, tequila, and cognac. Then there was beer - from local brewers to California and all the way from Thailand. If that wasn't enough, there were informative seminars regarding these products as well as music and an entertaining bean eating contest.

But for us, the focus was bourbon - and what a selection. We started at the Maker's Mark tent where a long line had already formed to have their glasses dipped in the trademark red wax. We had just received our Maker's Mark Ambassador cards in which we will post soon on the perks associated with this membership - plus updates on our personally labeled bourbon barrel. But getting back to the Maker's Mark, the distillery really produces a unique bourbon based on its grain composition and warehouse strategy.

Moving on, most of the major premium brands were represented: Blantons, Bakers, Bookers, Hancock, and Elijah Craig. Our all time favorite, Black Maple Hill was not available - but our next two favorites Pappy Van Winkle and Old Rip Van Winkle were. On a good day, a single Blanton's would be compeltely satisfying, but on this glorious afternoon we went nuts. Many of the brands are hard to find, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, Noah's Mill, Rowan's Creek, and Rock Hill Farms to name a few. That's the beauty of this festival - if you find a jewel, get your local supplier to order it. Unfortunately - or fortuinately - we didn't even get through the entire selection of bourbons or even to the Jack Daniel premium whiskeys.

But one whiskey we couldn't overlook were the Wasmund brands from
Copper Fox Distillery. Rick Wasmund has been producing an interesting Single Malt Whisky for number of years now out of his Sperryville Virginia distillery. The interesting flavor is partly the result of using apple and cherry wood chips, along with oak, to smoke the malt. We have learned over the years to add at least a drop of water to a glass to enhance the aroma and deaden the alcohol and we learned that Mr. Wasmund explicitly produces the whisky to that affect. For that's how he normally likes his Scotch. As an added bonus, he was pouring his latest creation: Wasmund's Rye Spirit. Basically rye grain alcohol, no barrel aging, but remarkable smooth. However, he recommends using this spirit as a blending agent, as in a Bloody Mary. And look out for a future Single Barrel Whisky - coming in a future release.

One a final note regarding spirits, the promoters organized a series of excellent seminars designed to give attendees a rudimentary understanding of Tequila, Rum, Cognac, and Bourbon. We hope to publish a similar series, starting with Tequila after we have a chance to discuss the topic with Jaime Salas, National Tequila Ambassador. But it was nice to have other spirits represented, particularly the Cruzan Gold - I needed a taste of the tropics.

Because of our fascination with bourbon, we were not able to concentrate adequately on the many outstanding beers. We didn't even bother approaching some of our favorite brands - the Clipper City and Heavy Seas brands; the Sierra Nevada ESB and Summerfest; Dogfish Head Raison D'etre and 90 Min IPA; and the Pyramid Hefeweizen. Instead we sampled brands we had never tasted and found a few worthy to compare to those above. Particularly the Belgium style beers from Brewery Ommegang. The Ommegang Witte Ale is unbelievable; the quality of an import but at a lower price. Our new summer beer. This was by far our favorite and we probably overstayed our welcome sampling over and over and over again. Look out Cooperstown, a road trip is coming.

From out of Thailand we sampled Singha Beer, a lager beer made from barley but with a little hopiness for this style. I, ts a refreshing beer, with a touch of sweetness. Wonder how it pairs with spicy Thai food? That's probably easy to find out since this beer is currently only available in Thai restaurants; but they hope to expand distribution to beer stores in the near future.

Moving closer to home, we found a replacement to our Topper's Hop Pocket that has gone AWOL since the days of Old Dominion Brewpub. Clay Pipe Brewing Company, from Westminster Maryland, produces a hop infested Hop-Ocalypse India Pale Ale. The beauty of this beer is that the hop characteristics are refreshing and not overly bitter. Like the Hop Pocket, this beer is versatile - good with lunch or just to guzzle after mowing the lawn. Another local brewery we discovered was Delaware's Evolution Craft Brewing Company. They brewery is only a few months old but they already have a nice Pale Ale. Plus they are practically on the route to Ocean City - just deviate a little north of Salisbury and purchase tax free beer. Sales tax that is. And finally there was a nice English style brown ale from Lake Placid Brewing, the UBU Ale. This beer was refreshing even with the heat.

All in all, the Beer Bourbon, and BBQ festival series is worth every cent - whether held in Maryland, Virginia, or elsewhere. The only complaints at this event was the result of holding the event in a parking lot, the asphalt gets hot, and the long lines for the bbq. Otherwise, we look forward to next year's sampling of fine bourbon and beer.

Cover Crop and Vine Growth

Cover CropA few months ago I planted cover crops: field peas and oats in alternating vineyard rows.  Over the weeks after planting these seeds, I noted that I hadn’t done a terrific job of removing the grass from those rows and it looked as though the grass was going to smother out the crops.

Well, all is well in the cover crop rows.  Yes, there is quite a bit of tall grass, but there’s also an abundance of oats and a modest, but healthy, growth of peas.  Additionally, some wonderful wildflowers have turned up as well – including this stand of daisies in the foreground.  And as I did more research after planting the crop, I found that these indigenous weeds are generally great for attracting beneficial insects.  I’ve also planted lots of loca wildflowers near the vineyard for precisely that reason.

Healthy Vine GrowthMeanwhile, the vines are as healthy as they can be in the current weather.  With way too much rain, and not enough sun for much photosynthesis, the disease pressure is high and the vines are a bit pale and weak.  Not an ideal combination, but so far I’ve escaped disaster.  Whenever there is a dry period, I’m spraying with organic JMS Stylet Oil and I’ve also applied a natural foliar fertilizer made from hydrolyzed fish.  More on fish products in the vineyard at a later date – I’ve got lots to share.

TN : Green Point Pinot Noir 2007, Domaine Chandon, Victoria, Australia

Green Point was originally named after pioneers who observed that the location remained green long into the summer. The site was established by Moet and Chandon in 1986. The vineyard soils are deep alluvial. This wine is sealed with a screwcap.

The Pinot Noir vintage started in early March with the harvest of the Maroondah block, located
adjacent to the Green Point winery, and finished a month later with the harvest of the Petgra Windy block at Yarra Junction, 40km to the South and 300m higher. There were approximately 14 individual parcels of Pinot Noir made in 2006, each contributing to the blend due to subtle variations, derived from altitude, clone, aspect or soil type. Each separate parcel was destemmed into open fermenters and cold-soaked at 10 degrees for three to four days prior to the commencement of fermentation, with gentle plunging each day to gently extract the colour and tannin from the skins. Once fermentation commenced, the cap was plunged by hand three times a day and the temperature was allowed to reach 30 degrees. After fermentation finished, the wine was pressed, settled for a day and racked to French oak barriques for malolactic fermentation and maturation. After eight months in oak, the wine was blended and bottled in January 2006. An analysis show a pH of 3.50 and a TA of 6.79 grammes per litre.

Colour : Light red

Aroma : Strawberries, spice, ginger, raspberry

Taste : Spice, raspberry, strawberry, herbs, oak, some ginger on long finish, more spice than fruit

Alcohol : 13%

Price : 149 SEK

Mark : C+

Website : Green Point

TN : Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Vinho Regional Estremadura, Portugal

Quinta de Chocapalha is located in the surroundings of Aldeia Galega and spreads over the sunny hills of Alenquer, a delimited region in the northwest of Lisboa, Portugal. Its historical vineyards date back to the 16th century and once belonged to Diogo Duff, a brave Scottish man who received the "Tower and Sword" insignia from King João VI.

Alice and Paulo Tavares da Silva bought the estate in the 1980s and made significant investments in its 45ha of vineyard. Their daughter, Sandra Tavares da Silva, is now in charge of the Oenology Department.

The grapes were fermented in lagares and stainless steel vats for 14 days and then aged for 18 months in French oak barriques. 5600 750ml bottles were produced.

Colour : Dark red

Aroma : Oak, blackcurrant, leather, plums, dried raisins

Taste : Oak, plums, blackcurrant, leather, herbs, astringent bitter tannins

Alcohol : 13.5%

Price : 139 SEK

Mark : C-

Website : Quinta de Chocapalha

Friendly gruner veltliner


photo from Laurenz website

I’ve got a few more videos left from the London International Wine Fair. I know it may seem like they’ll never stop coming but just one or two left. Some people complain that the show is too big, too much, too impersonal but I always have a great time and meet great people.

I’ve had the Friendly Gruner Veltliner before, at Bibendum’s tasting at the Saatchi Gallery a few months ago, but here I had the opportunity to speak with the winemaker himself, Laurenz Maria Moser V. As you might be able to tell by the V., Laurenz is a descendent of the famous Lenz Moser clan of Austria. His grandfather was the legendary Professor Doctor Laurenz Moser III, who invented the Lenz Moser Hocherziehung trellising system now used all over Austria.

Laurenz decided to branch out a few years ago and focus entirely on gruner veltliner. His goal is to produce “elegant and charming” wines, wines that are subtle and elegant yet still retain the spiciness that gruner is known for without losing it’s playful edge.  To that end, he is currently producing 3 different wines, the Friendly, Charming and Sunny Gruner Veltliners along with the Silver Bullet, a biodynamic gruner like no other.

I had a quick chat and tasting with the very elegant and charming Laurenz himself….

Posted in Austrian wine, Videos, Wine events, Wine Video, winetasting Tagged: Austrian wine, gruner veltliner, Laurenz Maria Moser V, Lenz Moser, LIWF, wine tasting, Wine Video

TN : Cuvee Prestige Bourgueil 2006, Domaine des Chesnaies, Lame Delisle Boucard, Loire Valley, France

The vineyards are situated along the banks of the Loire river near the famous chateaux of Villandry and Azay le Rideau. The wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvingon.

Colour : Red/blue hues

Aroma : Oak, blackcurrant, raspberry

Taste : Fruits of the forest, oak, talcum poweder smooth tannins, blackcurrant

Alcohol : 13%

Price : 100 SEK

Mark : C+

Website : Lame Delisle Boucard

Room 11

There is a new wine bar opening up soon in Columbia Heights. Room 11 will be at the corner of 11th and Lamont. You can follow their progress on their construction blog.I love the look of their patio…can’t wait to do a wine club event there 🙂

Leading a revolution with a boisterous Pinot Noir

Mark West Pinot Noir (2007)
Mark West Winery
Pinot Noir
You would never guess by the unassuming bottle and its lack of pizazz that the people behind this Coastal Pinot Noir are planning a revolution. But more on that below, let's talk grapes and locations.

Pinot Noir is a red grape variety that is best known as the grape of Burgundy, France. These iconic French wines are often light in color with moderate acidity, and flavors ranging from cherry and strawberry to smoke and truffles. Prices can range widely from cheap, large sourced table wines to exclusive age-worthy, single vineyard bottles. Annually the Hospices de Beaune holds a charity auction that sets the price-level for many of the region's wines at the Hôtel-Dieu with its tiled roof and Flemish inspired architecture.

Being a well-traveled grape though, it is also responsible for some excellent wines in Oregon and New Zealand to just name a couple locales. Oregon's Willamette Valley, a the same latitude as Burgundy, is well known for excellent, fruit-forward vintages. The cooler growing climates found on New Zealand's south island produce wines with higher acidity and depth of aromas and flavor. They are becoming more and more distinguished as rivals to the Burgundian big guns. Pinot Noir is the third most planted grape in this new-world wine country, behind Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

All this taken into account, we can not exclude California's best sites for this grape which include the Russian River Valley, Carneros, and other cooler coastal areas. This bottle of Mark West is labelled as simply "California," meaning the grapes can be sourced from any region in the state. Per the tech sheet for this vintage, this is the blend: 58% Central Coast, 14% Mendocino County, 12% Sonoma, 2% Napa, and 14% Other. Such a blend wouldn't necessarily imply the style of wine, but given the Mark West rallying cry - Pinot For The People! - one could expect something that appeals to a wide spectrum of drinkers.

Appearance: Clear and darker than any French Pinot Noir. Cranberry red in color -very bright.

Nose: Clean nose with some development, as indicated by more earthy/vegetal aromas. Black cherry, raisin, plum fruits - almost fruit that's been gently stewed. Licorice, vanilla, and spice. Mushroom, soil, and a funky cabbage aroma are behind the fruit, and create a nice sense of depth. This is a little more complex than the average fruit-bomb you'll find along the west coast.

Palate: Dry with acidity and alcohol edging the high end of medium. Tannins are noticeable on gums and around teeth, but don't cling harshly. Flavors of tart fruit - cranberry, crab apple - and light oak. I'm hesitant to say, having been so long since I've tasted it, but there's a slight hint of bacon to this wine as well.
I really enjoyed this bottle more than I had expected. Being that it wasn't sourced from a particular location and cost less than $12, I wasn't expecting anything mind-blowing. While it certainly isn't wine Nirvana, it proved to be better than my assumptions, which is extremely pleasing. Looking for additional information on the wine, where it was from, and the winery itself I never expected to find a manifesto!

So what's this uproar of communism-inspiring Pinot Noir all about? As I mentioned, the bottle was quite unassuming however taking a look at Mark West Winery's website you get quite a different feel for the goals they've set. Between their cause and manifesto they well illustrate that by buying better grapes - sometimes regardless of source - and investing in better wine rather than large fancy productions they will provide quality Pinot for any occasion. They are self-described revolutionaries, and you can almost hear a crowd cheering after the line "For too long we have waited for affordable Pinot."

So what does this all prove? Unequivocally that appearances can be deceiving. A hodge-podge California Pinot Noir might be just what you're looking for, and isn't necessarily inferior to Burgundy, Oregon, or New Zealand wines. A $12 bottle might prove to be a great buy as well when compared to some of the higher price points found in those regions. And certainly, a conservative yet elegant label might just be a front for a radical group of Pinot-Power vigilantes. You just never know - so why not give it a try?


Upcoming Festivals and Events

Here are a few local festivals and events that we plan on attending this summer. You can suggest events that we should attend in the comments section.

Beer Bourbon, and BBQ at National Harbor
National Harbor, Maryland
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest
Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia
From Saturday, June 27, 2009 To Sunday, June 28, 2009

Trent Wagler & the Steel Wheels
Blue Mountain Brewery
From Sunday, June 28, 2009 To Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Concert Series: Skyla Burrell Blues Band
Adams County Winery
From Saturday, July 04, 2009
The Floyd Fandango Beer and Wine Festival!
Floyd, Virginia
From Saturday, July 04, 2009 To Sunday, July 05, 2009

DC's Wine Country - Food and Wine Festival
Whitehall Manor in Bluemont, Virginia
From Friday, July 10, 2009 To Sunday, July 12, 2009

Afternoon in Tuscany
Three Fox Vineyards
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seth Fromal - Live Music!
Notaviva Vineyards
Friday, July 17, 2009

Linganore Wine Cellars
From Saturday, July 18, 2009 To Sunday, July 19, 2009

14th Anniversary Party!!!!!
Stewart's Brewing Company
From Saturday, July 25, 2009

LIVE in the Cellar! - Bo Weevil
Frederick Cellars
Saturday, August 01, 2009

17th Annual Wine & Food Festival
Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Seven Springs, PA
From Saturday, August 15, 2009 To Sunday, August 16, 2009
Bluemont Vineyard's 2nd Annual Peaches and Dogs Festival
Bluemont Vineyards
From Saturday, August 15, 2009 To Sunday, August 16, 2009

6th Annual Celtic Festival
Spyglass Ridge Winery
From Saturday, August 22, 2009

Linganore Wine Cellars
Saturday, August 29, 2009 To Sunday, August 30, 2009

PR Zin makes me want pancakes

Incredible Red (2006)
Peaachy Canyon Winery
Paso Robles, California
So even before I get too far into talking about why this wine makes me crave breakfast, let's take a quick look at the grape variety - Zinfandel. This "American" grape came up in a post not long ago, being related to both Primitvio as well as the obscure Croatian variety, Crljenak Kaštelanski. However, this is Zin in my preferred format - and it's not pink! Disturbingly, White Zinfandel, still perpetuates the minds of many Americans, and makes it rather hard to talk about some of the amazing wines the grape produces.

In California, some of the choice locales for Zin include the Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys, and the ubiquitous Lodi AVA. For some reason the latter is the one I think I see most commonly in shops, though after our 2008 California trip, I must profess a die-hard bias for Dry Creek wines. In general, the grapes produce full bodied, juicy, ripe flavored wines. The epitome of new-world fruit forward reds, and a killer pairing with BBQ and dark chocolate alike. Some can reach fairly high alcohol points given their high sugar levels, not to denote them as sweet by any means.

Grape edification out of the way, here are my notes on this particular bottle from Paso Robles.
Appearance: Clear, bright wine with intensely ruby red color. Lighter than most Zinfandel I've looked at and noticeable staining of the tears on the glass. Lots of color!
Nose: Clean nose with medium intensity - a touch of heat/alcohol - and some age. The aromas are characteristically jammy: blackberry, boysenberry, plum. A soft spice note like clove or cinnamon.

Palate: Dry with medium high acidity and alcohol, medium body, and a moderate length. The tannin in astringent, and grippy along the gumline. I'm reminded of my friend Beth's wine snob impersonation: "the tannins boggle my mind." Flavors are similar to the nose - lots of berry, black fruit, and jam. Black cherry, plum, black raspberry and blueberry. Preserves are almost more in line here. A very small note of black pepper behind all the fruit.
So hopefully you can see why I really want to reduce this wine on the stove top and use it to drizzle over pancakes, waffles, crèpes, and ice cream! I know, cooking wine down seems like such a waste - but it occurred to me. It is fruit-tastic, and with some really interesting ones that I would normally associate with types of syrup. Sauce pot aside, I think this would be a great wine to have with grilled or smoked meats, a fresh berry pie, or just a hunk of dark chocolate.

Paso Robles, which is located mid-way between LA and San Francisco, is part of San Luis Obispo County. Grapes have grown here since the late 1700s, but the area wasn't recognized as an AVA until 1983. Originally a large area for Zinfandel, much of it was replaced in the 50s and 60s with French varieties. Commercialization and growth of the wine industry has spurred the development of nearly 170 wineries in the region, the majority of which were opened just in the last 20 years. This area is also well known for being the home of the Rhône Rangers, a group of oenophiles who advocate the use of Rhône varieties such as Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, and Mouvèdre.

Peachy Canyon Winery itself got its start in 1988 by two former school teachers, Doug & Nancy Beckett who relocated to the Paso Robles area. Te Becketts operate the winery with the help of their two sons and other staff members. While there are a number of different varietals offered, they seem to specialize in Zinfandel. You can see their current wines by visiting their website here.

Having enjoyed the Incredible Red, I'm interested to taste some of their others. This bottle itself is a quality find at the $12 price point, and represents the unique style of Paso Robles Zinfandel.


Brachetto and Cherries

At the midweek tasting this week I am pouring an utterly gorgeous wine from Piedmont, the Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG I Ronchetti from Casa Martelletti.

Brachetto, a grape varietal native to the Piedmont region, produces a light, bubbly, sweet red wine prized for its fragrance and fruity, refreshing taste. Fashionable in the nineteenth-century, Brachetto almost disappeared in the twentieth-century, replaced in the vineyards by the more productive Barbera. Fortunately a handful of Piemonte growers stuck to it, and by the late twentieth-century a revival was on the way.

Yesterday, I was tasting the Brachetto with a group of customers, including my friend Ben, whose knowledge and instinct on wine and food have always inspired me. Brachetto ranges in flavors from light strawberries to a dark cherry and plum style like the I Ronchetti. We were all captivated by it and everyone left the store with a bottle in tow, including Ben (2 bottles). The fragrance was like fading rose petals. Its ethereal effervescence made the fruity flavors dance in the mouth. A really joyful wine.

I love sipping it as aperitif with fresh stone-fruits like apricots and white peaches. Ben suggested pairing with sauteed or poached salmon. I also like to drink Brachetto after a big meal. Light and low in alcohol, its pure, fresh flavors invigorate the palate.

The Brachetto made us think about the wonderful cherries in season right now. For the past few weeks I've been coming early to our local farmers' market to shop for cherries. If there were a cherry vintage chart, this year and last year would be 100 points.

My favorite are Bing cherries, named for an Oregonian Chinese-American who helped develop the cultivar. Large, plump, and sweet, Bings are the king of cherries. Ben said to put them in iced water to make them extra crunchy. When I got home last night I did just that. Immersed in iced water for twenty minutes or so, the Bings firmed up and crackled in my mouth as I bit into each one. The thick flesh teasingly released a sweet, refreshing juice that made me remember the cool glass of fizzy Brachetto I enjoyed earlier in the day.

Seahorse Winery (Israel)

Ze'ev Dunie in the cask cellarMoshav Bar Giora, Judean hillsThe SeaHorse winery is located in moshav Bar Giyora. Seahorse is Suson Yam in hebrew, Suson meaning small horse and Yam, sea. We reach the moshav after driving along a very...

Summer Sips From the Rutherford Wine Company

Is it really summer? You would have a hard time determining that by comparing this years weather to the last few years, but now is the time we like to give a few summer wine recommendations.
Winexpression was sent a few wines from the Rutherford Wine Company, who own the Rutherford Ranch Winery (Napa Valley), Round […]

Barboursville Octagon 2005 rated top wine at Charlemagne Wine Tasting Club

At a wine tasting event yesterday evening at The Charlemagne Wine Club, a wine tasting organization in West Ealing, UK, I had the pleasure of introducing Virginia wines to this friendly and knowledgeable group. The theme of the evening was East Coast wineries. Throughout the evening, and interspersed with the wine pours, Robin Hall gave an interesting presentation on his research of East Coast wineries. I was also asked to talk about the exciting developments in Virginia, and the work of New Horizon Wines to introduce and distribute the best Virginia wines into the UK. Ten wines were tasted, including:

Barboursville Vineyards - Octagon 2005
Veramar Vineyards - Chardonnay 2007
Veritas Winery & Vineyard - Viognier 2007
White Hall Vineyards - Petit Verdot 2007

Using a 10 point system, votes were cast at the end of the evening. Barboursville Octagon 2005 was voted the best wine of the evening with 8.5 points - some say it should have been 9! :-).

For many of the members, this was their first exposure to Virginia wines. They were impressed with the elegance and complexity of the wines and the European style.

Charlemagne Wine Club was founded in 1974. Charlemagne members share a common interest in learning about and tasting fine wines.

Domaine du Castel (Judean hills, Israel)

Eytan Ben Zekan along the early Castel vineyardsRamat Raziel, Judean Hills The Domaine du Castel winery is located on the Judean hills in the vicinity of Jerusalem. It sits in the Ramat Raziel moshav (collective farm) in the place of...

Wine Wipes – The Answer to Wine Stained Teeth?

Stained teeth are unattractive, embarrassing, and now a thing of the past thanks to Wine Wipes, a product for cleaning up your crimson smile. A disposable pad is removed from the compact and the mirror affixed to the lid guides you as you rub off the stain. The package contains 20 wipes, a mirror, and […]

Hall Wines in Napa Valley

Next time you’re in Napa Valley, stop by the Hall St. Helena winery, which was just completed last fall. It’s now on our list of must-visits, thanks to my San Francisco colleague Erin, who recommended it when we were there a few weeks ago. The Cabs are amazing, the tasting room is beautiful and our host, Scott Herrmann, was friendly, passionate and knowledgeable.

Hall Cabs – there were several labels open when we stopped by – are incredible. But first Scott persuaded us to taste the 2007 T Bar T Sauvignon Blanc. I used the word “persuade” quite deliberately – regular readers of this blog know that we are not big white wine drinkers (except occasionally during the summer). Indeed, it was a hot sunny day in Napa Valley and Scott was absolutely right – it was a perfect start to our tasting. Part of this wine was fermented in French oak, while the majority was in stainless steel. The result is a clean fruit flavor with a light buttery underpinning. It could easily become our white wine of summer 2009!

And the Hall cabs – oh my. We could have spent the entire day there.

Each one we tasted was better than the one before: 2005 T Bar T Ranch Cab Sauv (inky dark with “poetic minerality”); 2006 Jack’s Masterpiece (an awesome wine with a blend of 94% Cab Sauv, 5% Malbec and 1% Merlot); 2005 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon (the signature Cab Sauv, smooth and robust, winning 92 points from The Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast); and last, but definitely not least, Hall 2005 “Bergfeld” St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon — best described a few months ago by Wine Enthusiast, which gave it 95 points: “This is one of those Napa Cabs that tastes glamorous. Even people who know little about wine will taste it and go, Wow. And the longer it sits in the glass and airs, the better it gets.”

Frankly, we can’t wait to go back to Hall Wines!


Wine Media Guild – Hall of Fame Dinner

Wine Media Guild DinnerLast night was the annual Hall of Fame Inductee dinner for the Wine Media Guild at Del Posto.  This was our first time attending since Tracy has become part of that group – and it was quite an event.  And I have quite the hangover to prove it.

The night began with a Champagne reception with about 25 options, many of which were vintage.  My favorite of the ones I tried was the 2003 Taittinger Comte de Champagne Ros é – which retails for a mere $250.  But for a much more reasonable $80 a bottle, my next favorite was the 1999 Gosset Grand Millesime.  We enjoyed these and several others along with passed hors d’oeuvres during the reception.

If the many (many) Champagnes was not enough, the dinner was BYO and the list of fantastic wines went on and on.  Seated at tables of 8-10 people, each table enjoyed what each person brought, and then we were encouraged to trade with other tables.  We brought a magnum of 1988 Château de Rochemorin which was well received by the table.  We also enjoyed a few Burgundies, Brunellos, a Reisling and a St. Emilion at our table before the trading began.

A white Pinot Noir was shared from another table and I wish I could recall the producer as it was really interesting.  Aged 15 months in barrel and another 18 months in bottle, it tasted of strawberry and oak character – a unique and very nice combination.  We were also blessed to get a decanter of 1988 Beaucastel poured from imperial and this was quite a wonderful wine.

And dessert did not disappoint with a 25-year old Cognac and a 1989 Sauterne to get us started.  But that was only the beginning as a 1977 Dow made its way from another table, an aged Madeira and the pièce de résistance – a 1959 Suduiraut.  All of these were fantastic, but if you think I have any notes by this point in the night, you’re crazy.