The Other Moonwalk

Still from the 1902 silent French Film Le Voyage dans la lune

Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong took his one giant leap for mankind.

Veraison comes to Napa Valley wine grapes

Over the weekend we noted the wine grapes have started to enter the next phase in the annual march toward maturity and harvest.

For those that would like a refresher, in March we saw budbreak, in May we saw flowering and in June the grapes were bright green.

Veraison is the phase when the bright green grapes begin to change color and darken, a signal that they’re moving from the growth stage to the ripening stage.

Here are a couple shots taken in a small five-acre Cabernet Sauvignon lot in the heart of Yountville this weekend.

Veraison 2009

More Veraison 2009

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Becker’s Strawberry Delight

Sunday's usually comprise of soccer in the morning..and every 2 weeks my radio show in the evenings....As I am still carrying an sport at the I spent the day watching England on top of the Aussies at cricket
(England eventually won)..and the Open Golf Championship in England ('oldie' Tom Watson blew it at the very end). In between I doo
dled and googled..and had time to plan a good bottle. No
reason..just a feeling of wanting something special.
Friedrich Becker Spätburgunder Schweigener
Sankt Paul Grosses Gewächs trocken 2006
Pfalz, Germany

Top producer....and the 2005 had hearing that this was as good..if not better...I prepared it (stood it on the table so I could walk by it and drool)...Opened
..and a wine drop was left on my finger..a quick lick...oh yes....this is a 'biggie'..spends time in new oak barrels......first 'nose'..mmmm..this is real class..think Burgundy here..and to those who don't know..the grapes are grown 'over the border' in France....but Friedrich Becker needs no help to make great Pinot...a sensational perfume..strawberry, strawberry & strawberry..heady as in 'intoxicating'...sniff this forever..super soft and sexy on the palate..with excellent acidity pushing the fruit upwards & onwards..a gentle tannic glove..and you have a top Spätburgunder here...can everyday be Sunday please....
Points 18

US Navy, wine and coke, Brazilian ice wine, Starbucks – sipped and spit

constablesSIPPED: raging keggerThe crew of a US Navy frigate “made history” by delivering wine to the Tower of London! Yes, check out the size of that barrel in the reduced sized crop of the AP photo to the right! The ship was the first foreign ship to participate in ceremonial festivities wherein all passing ships must render some cargo for protection from the Constable. The crew had the option of giving rum, oysters, mussels, cockles or rushes but opted for the wine instead. But which wine was it? [AP]

SPIT: wine and coke
Bulgarian authorities found bottles of Bolivian wine (yes, it exists!) to contain massive amounts of liquid cocaine! According to, all but 68 of 1,020 bottles of Bodegas Kohlberg wine were found to be liquid cocaine. Wow, that would have been a shocker to open one of those from your local store! More evidence that mixing wine and coke is never a good idea…

SIPPED: Department of What The…
Decanter also reports that a winery in Brazil (yes, there are some!) will be making its first ice wine. The Perico Winery is making the wine for export in 2010 from a vineyard 1,300 meters (4,265 ft) above sea level.

SIPPED: Grande Pinot
Starbucks is going local. In a store rolling out this week in Seattle, the chain will be trying out a “coffeehouse” format, eschewing the ‘Bucks name and logo. According to a story in the Seattle Times that includes tales of their local snooping, the location “will serve wine and beer, host live music and poetry readings and sell espresso from a manual machine.” But will they have grande nonfat Pinot?


Part 1: The Ultimate User’s Guide to Portuguese Cheese

Catavino CheeseLike wine, cheese is an important and valued part of Portuguese cuisine, and one that is typically overlooked by much of the world. Portugal boasts of various high quality artesanal cheeses, which are primarily produced in the central mountainous and plateau regions using sheep’s and goat’s milk.  The islands of the Azores are also famed cheese producers, but unlike the mainland, cheese is mainly produced from cow’s milk.  Most cheese production occurs in the winter months, when the “temperature of the women’s hands is cold enough to work the cheese in the typical granite cold cellars”, in the northern regions of Portugal, but small production still occurs in the spring, summer and fall months throughout the country.

There are approximately 15 known styles of Portuguese cheese, most of which have been given the designation of Denominação de Origem Protegida (DOP) ou Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In the same vein as the DOC or DO for wine, the DOP guarantees that the cheese is produced within the demarcated region using the traditional methods and ingredients.  These cheeses are named and labeled with their city or town of origin and the DOP label of approval.   However, one can find numerous other cheeses produced in the same style that are produced in nearby towns or regions without the DOP designation, and are therefore labeled with either with the larger regional label or simply sheep, goat or cow’s milk cheese of a particular style.  And like wine, many of these “non-DOP approved” cheese are as good, if not better, than their DOP counterparts, and of course, sold at a much lower price.

As I’m a die-hard cheese fan, I’ve come to adore the wide range of Portuguese cheeses available here in Lisbon, but unfortunately, many people are not familiar with the incredibly diversity available when visiting Portugal. Hence, I’ve decided to do an in-depth “special report” to provide you not only with the basics in terminology, but in style and flavor as well. In part 1 and 2, I will give an overview of the most renowned and loved cheeses in Portugal of which the majority are DOP designated. However, instead of classifying them by region or type of milk used, I’ve broken them down into 4 categories, each grouped with cheeses similar in aroma, flavor and texture.

In this post, I will cover 2 of the 4 categories, “A Lil’ Stinky But Smooth And Creamy” and “Not Too Soft, Not Too Hard And Not Too Stinky”. Below I have also included a foreigner’s guide of translated Portuguese cheese terms commonly found on packaging and menus, so that visitors will be able to easily select order or purchase a cheese that’s right for them or their wine without a problem.

The last post will be an accumulation of locals and non-locals interviewed on their favorite Portuguese wine and cheese pairings, which will also include both Catavino’s and my favorites as well.  So sit back, relax and let me introduce you to the real and wonderful world of Portuguese cheese!

Queijo Flamengo: Portugal’s “equivalent” to the generic American cheese*: Artesanal cheeses play a big part in the Portugal’s diet but just like the pre-packaged, pre-sliced yellow American cheese we use in the US for everyday sandwiches, the Portuguese have Queijo Flamengo for theirs.  Flamengo, meaning Flemish in Portuguese, is a direct copy of the Dutch Edam and the most popular style bought in supermarkets around the country.  If you order a sandwich or “tosta” at a local café or restaurant here, this is what you’ll get.  But high quality Flamengo does exist and is sold in wedges or rounds; the most popular brand being Limiano from the city of Ponte de Lima in the northern region of Minho.

Know Thy Cheese Terms in Portugal!

DOP- Like DOC in wine, designated to cheeses produced in their traditional area Velho- Old, designation given to cheeses that have been aged at least 90 days or more
Curado, Semi-Curado- Cured, Semi-Cured Amanteigado- “Smooth Like Butter”, good for spreading on bread!
Mole/ de Pasta Mole, Semi-Mole- Soft, Semi-Soft Duro/ de Pasta Dura, Semi-Duro- Hard, Semi-Hard
Seco- Dry Leite (“lite”)- Milk
Leite de Vaca- Cow’s Milk Leite de Ovelha( “o-vayl-ya”)- Sheep’s Milk
Leite de Cabra/Cabreiro- Goat’s Milk Cru- Raw
Gordura- Fat (in foods) Picante- Spicy
Casca- Casing, wrapping, shell Ligeiro/a- Light (in consistency and/or flavor)
Sabor Suave- Smooth Flavor Sabor Forte- Strong Flavor
Queijo em Barra- Block Cheese Queijo em Fatias- Sliced Cheese

#1: “A Lil’ Stinky But Smooth And Creamy”!

serra de estrelaThe cheeses I selected for this category all have about the same consistency as soft, (but sticky) butter.  No slicing allowed for these! The traditional and easiest way to serve them is by cutting off the top of the rind and using a spoon to scoop out the cheese. These types of cheese are perfect to spread on crusty bread or cracker. And even though they tend to give off a pungent barnyard aroma, they renowned for their intense and memorable flavors!

DOP Azeitão (Estramadura): Named after its little town of origin, Azeitão is just a 40 minute drive south of Lisbon and is the closest cheese area to visit from the capital. The cheese is made from sheep’s milk, wrapped in vegetal paper and then cured for either 20 days if produced in the summer or 40 days if in winter. The rounds are made on the smaller side, of 100 and 250 gram sizes. The flavor is  strong but tends to be the most palatable of the “stinky” cheeses for many.  Azeitão is also produced in the neighboring towns of Setúbal, Palmela and Sesimbra without the DOP classification, which offers plenty of other culinary delights to savor while you’re there.  I have already mentioned their Tortas de Azeitão and Jose Maria da Fonseca’s Manor House Winery and Tour in previous articles, so there’s no problem finding plenty to see and do here for a great day trip!

DOP Serra de Estrela or “Serra” ( Beiras): Produced in the beautiful “Star Mountains”,  Serra de Estrela is considered one of the best cheeses in Portugal.  Although Serra is made exclusively from sheep’s milk of two native species of sheep, you might also encounter Serra produced with a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk without the DOP classification. The cheese is cured with cardoon flowers, an indigenious mountain plant, and is made into large rounds between 1 and 1.5 kilos, but can be sold in half rounds with its soft core seen oozing out. Serra is also produced in the velho style, which I tend to think is more astringent than the younger version; yet both styles are equally as pungent and perfectly delicious! There are several other towns nearby that produce non-DOP cheeses made in the same Serra style, one commonly known as Queijo de Seia.

-Amarelo da Beira Baixa (Beiras): Called the “Yellow of Lower Beira”, for its distinctly yellow color, this cheese is made from raw sheep and goat’s milk and is aged between 45-90 days.  However, some Amarelo’s are left to age longer and are then labeled and sold as “velho”. The aroma is intense, but once you place a slice in your mouth, the flavor is light and silky. Similar cheeses made in the same region of Beiras are Castello Branco, Idanha-a-Nova and Vila Velha.

#2: “Not Too Soft, Not Too Hard And Not Too Stinky”

(Semi-Duro ou Duro; Curado, Seco)

These cheeses range from a semi-hard and creamy to a hard and dry consistency, with the ones hailing from Alentejo being cured and purified with thistle flowers rather than rennet. The majority of these cheeses are less pungent than the first category, but the flavors tend to be equally as intense.

DOP Évora (Alentejo): This semi-hard to hard cheese is made from raw sheep’s milk.  The core comes out dotted with tiny holes resulting from a long curdling process. Aged over 60 days, it’s produced in small rounds of between 100 and 150 grams, and even smaller queijinhos that tend to be softer and may be preserved in olive oil. The flavor is medium strong, with a savory, black pepper flavor, which intensifies with age.  It is normally served as a tasty entrada (appetizer) in the Alentejo.

DOP Nisa (Alto-Alentejo): Like Évora, this semi-hard to hard cheese is also made from raw sheep’s milk. Similar to the Évora, Nisa cheese also contains small holes, but the flavor tends to be softer with an acidulated edge to it.  Made in the higher region of Alentejo, the cheese is produced in small rounds of between 200 and 400 grams, as well as larger ones of between 800 and 1,300 grams.

DOP Serpa (Baixo-Alentejo): This award-wining cheese of lower Alentejo is made from raw sheep’s milk and aged for a minimum of 4 months to 2 years. The consistency can then range from very soft and creamy to hard dotted with small holes. The rind has a very distinctive brick-orange color, resulting from its regularly brushing with olive oil mixed with paprika and is produced in small to medium sized rounds.  The flavor is a unique mix of strong, spicy and slightly sweet-tart, as a result of the paprika, and has gained distinction from the Slow Food movement as one of the most extraordinary products in the world.

DOP Pico (Azores): Traditionally made exclusively from raw cow’s milk of the grass-fed cows on the island of Pico in the Azores, but some are supposedly now made from a mix of cow and goat’s milk. The cheese is cured and aged for a minimum of 20 days and produced in semi-large rounds of between 650 and 800 grams. The flavor of Pico is very distinct but very smooth and palatable.  It almost reminds me a bit of a slightly smoked, smooth Cheddar or Gouda and is one of my favorite cheeses in Portugal!

Have you tried any Portuguese cheese? And if so, what is your favorite?

Stay tuned for, Part 2: The Ultimate User’s Guide to Portuguese Cheese, featuring “Hard, Rugged and Nutty” and “ReFRESHing” cheese.


Andrea Smith

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State Of The Wine Industry 2009-2010 From Silicon Valley Bank

Grapes On Vine 2 When I first became passionate about wine a little over 15 years ago it was pretty much all about just tasting, drinking and enjoying wine.  It was awesome to learn from others, improve my palate, try unique wines from all over the world and generally just absorb all I could about wine. 

While my nose, palate and appreciation for wine improved I knew very little about the business behind the amazing wine I was experiencing.  To be honest, I probably still don't know very much about the business but In recent years I have begun to really try and invest more time in the business side of the wine industry and I have even had the opportunity to consult with a few wine producers as it relates to acquiring and retaining talent (I am a recruiting strategy consultant by profession). 

It is so awesome to combine your profession with your passions!

Silicon Valley Bank annually issues a State of the Wine Industry report and the 2009-2010 report was issued on May 1, 2009.  Yeah I know your thinking old news, surely most everyone who likely reads this has seen or heard about this report.  It took me until now to finally read it cover to cover and I wanted to share it.  It is an absolute must read for those in the wine business and anyone who has a passion for wine. 

The author is Rob McMillan, EVP and founder of SVB's wine division, and it is incredibly insightful, well written and shows an enormous amount of foresight as it relates to the American wine industry.  There is a cacophony of noise around the poor economies impact on the wine industry and most of it is just speculation and outright guess work from people who are not in the know.  Rob is in the know. 

SVB is one of the largest lenders to the U.S. wine industry (their winery and vineyard clients in the major wine making regions of the U.S.A number into the 300's) and therefore has access to information, data, business plans and strategies of those who actually have to execute and deliver results.  Bottom line is, if you care about wine, the U.S. wine industry and business in general you need to listen what Rob is saying. 

I am not going to insult your intelligence or pretend to know more than I do - you can read the report through the link above to really imbibe on all it has to offer.  But, if you just want a quick overview of the Good News / Bad News - taken directly from the Executive Summary of the report, it is after the jump. 


  • On a year-over-year basis, we predict slightly improved sales in Q2, flat sales in Q3 as the economy continues to bump on the bottom, and positive Q4 sales.

  • We believe the year will end essentially flat in terms of overall growth in the fine wine segment, and show modest growth in higher volume segments.

  • Wine supply is running in balance to short.

  • More electronic tools are available to support direct-to-trade and consumer sales.

  • Per capita consumption continues to rise in the U.S.

  • Credit is available for smaller wineries, though spreads have widened over Treasuries, the Prime Rate and LIBOR.

  • Cult wines sold out their allocations in Q4.


  • Q4 2008 was the worst Q4 in memory for the fine wine business.

  • Restaurant sales are depressed.

  • We expect higher unemployment (exceeding 10 percent by year end), higher foreclosures and depressed consumer spending through the year as we seek a bottom.

  • The economy will not return to the market experienced during the past decade.

  • Price points below $35 are selling, but wines between $50 and $125 are in a “dead space,’ with only established labels selling.

  • Some wineries will trade hands this year at bargain prices.

  • Distribution has all but ended as a viable sales channel for small wineries.

  • Large credit extensions to single entities are harder to find, and syndicated credit markets are nearly frozen.

  • The secondary market for collectible wines continues to soften.

  • Drought conditions persist in California.

  • Sin taxes are being widely applied to alcoholic beverages nationwide.

  • Distributors continue to drop small brands from their books.

It seems to me that this report is pretty spot on based on what I read and observe.  I am not in the wine business and I am "in the know" through any network connections.  The few people, and I mean very few, who I do know say this is spot on.  I know there are people in the wine business, particularly small wineries, who read this blog and I am REALLY curious to hear your thoughts and opinions on this report, or at least the executive summary points bulletted above. 

I hope you will comment and share your thoughts!

What’s In Your Folio?

View from the porch.

View from the porch.

Our very first stop on our last day of our most recent California trip took us to Folio Winemakers.  Now, I was only familiar with Folio through their tweets, but Thea of course had been there many times.  I’m trying to come up with a sentence about Thea getting around that doesn’t sound insulting, but I’m failing miserably, lol. Folio Winemakers is the newest (I think) endeavor from Michael Mondavi…yes those Mondavis.  Folio houses several wine companies, and a visit allows you to taste through the lot if you’d like.  The day we visited, a special event was going on, so many of the winemakers were on hand, making our visit extrodinarily cool.  Some day, I’d like to return and park myself in one of the chairs on the back porch with a glass of wine and enjoy the lovey view of the vineyards.

2008 Oberon Sauvignon Blanc: Lime zest, orange, tropical notes, grassy, citrus, pineapple, minerality, peach, lime.

2007 Spellbound Chardonnay: Buttery, apple skins, ripe peach, cream, oak, spice, apple.

2008 IM “Isabel Mondavi” Deep Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon: Watermelon, cranberry, white pepper, pomegrante, orange edges, green peppers, bright aroma, dry, red currant, red cherry.

2007 Hangtime Pinot Noir: Spiced, smoke, cedar, red berries, cranberry, bright, tart red fruit, red berries, red cherries, tart.

2006 IM Willamette Pinot Noir: Smoky, black pepper, red cherries, earth, violets, darker in the mouth, cherries, tart, a little sharp.

2006 Mayro Murdick Pinot Noir: Carneros. Earth, forest, vanilla cream, smoke, cedar, red fruit, red berries, red cherries, red currants, spice, tannins.  Really liked this one.

2005 Oberon Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon: Nice red nose, with some vanilla bean, cream, red berries, red fruit, tannins, spice, tea.

2006 Emblem Oso Cabernet Sauvignon: Smoky, black fruit, black plums, herbs, herbal, chocolate, black cherry, smooth, really bright fruit, tannins.

2006 Emblem Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon: Black cherry, black plum, pepper, spice, chewy, licorice, blackberry, black fruit, tannins.

2006 Salvia Tieria Cabernet Sauvignon: Dried black cherry, black fruit, nice structure, pepper, blackberries, dark, nice fruit, acidity, anise, herbs, long finish.

2006 Medusa Creekside Old Vine Napa Zinfandel: Boysenberry, spicy, pomegrante, smooth, redder fruit, nice structure, red fruit.

2006 Medusa Hoodoo Creek Zinfandel: Pepper, cedar, cranberry, black cherry, spicy, black plum, really peppery.

2005 Hangtime Mounts Vineyard Syrah: Black cherry, black fruit, black plum, some vanilla, nice fruit, a bit tannic, really well done. We took one home.

2008 Obernon Moscato: Pineapple, honey, apricot, honeysuckle, very nice, orange, blossoms, ripe peach fruit.
Somehow, I can’t find the photos of anything but the vines that I took!

Posted in California, Napa, Vineyards, Wine, Wineries

Frederick Wildman & Sons TTL Replay

This past Saturday saw yet another successful Twitter Taste Live! event, with the theme being Summer wine selections (read: value-priced, easy-quaffing vino) from Frederick Wildman & Sons, the venerable importing business that celebrates its 75th birthday this year.

I suppose it’s hard not to like a company with as diverse a portfolio as FW&S, but I think it’s even harder not to like a company launched by a man whose nickname was “The Colonel” and who once said:

“Business, and particularly the wine business, should be conducted as to bring pleasure, pride and friendship to those engaged in it.”

The fine wine industry could use heaping portions of all three of those elements these days.  I suppose the pleasure part is easier for the wine industry than it is for most other business endeavors – but it’s the pride and friendship piece that reminds us that what we do needs to feel good in our heart-of-hearts and should ideally to foster mutual benefits (those last two also separate the Colonel’s description of the ideal wine biz from being able to describe prostitution using the same sentence…).

Anyway, let’s get off that topic before I get tempted to add pics of NYC street hookers in this post.  Following is a recap of the twitter banter that flew fast, wittily, and furiously as we tasted through six (yes, I’m hungover) FW&S wine selections…







Jackson-Triggs Ice Wine 2006

At only 10.5% alcohol and a mere 25cl bottle (a large glass of wine at most British pubs) this wine had to live up to a £11.44 price tag.  Yes, I know, only Costco could come up with this odd valuation.

Vidal in the saloon and a fridge....for some reason

This is, I think, the first wine I have tried from Canada and with grapes pressed at -10°C, maybe the first real ice wine.

There is the most intense floral aroma with a fruity taste.  Lavender, lychee and honey - highly intoxicating, unusual and extremely sexy.

Very impressive and probably the best wine I have bought from Costco, and certainly the best value, despite the tiny bottle.  It may look like a post-asparagus sample but, fortunately, it doesn’t taste like one - more like honey and manna from heaven.  Totally gorgeous with runny cheese.

BBQ and Wine


When people think of BBQ, or smoked meats, or even backyard grilling, the thought of pairing the food with wine is understandably not the first thing to cross their minds. Given the various kinds of wood available to cook or smoke the food, as well as many types of sauces and rubs used to prepare the food, it would seem to be a daunting task to find a wine that would pair well with the final dishes. A few obvious wines probably come to mind: Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache or Mourvedre.
But, likely as not, many people will not even try to find a match, preferring to roll out the beer instead. Well, it really doesn’t have to be that way. You just might be able to have your “Que,” and your wine too!

Join us as we talk with Craig Adcock, of Overland Park, Kansas’ Bellyup Bar-B-Que, about all that flavorful food, and the wines that will indeed match up to the task.

To find out more information:

Bellyup Bar-B-Que:

Sponsor- Pinpoint Tech, Mailing Lists

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Show #242
(50:28 min 36MB)

Tasting time in Beijing: Cedar Creek wines from Australia

By Brian Yao The Kerry Center Hotel branch of Top Cellar recently hosted a tasting of Cedar Creek wines from Australia. Guests in Beijing joined the wine maker Graham Cranswick from Cedar Creek to try three reds and three whites, including the winner in the red wine category of last March’s Grape Wall of China Challenge, [...]

Stirring of the lees. Unstirred.


Detail of a barrel with wine where one of the sides has been replaced by plexiglass so that you can see the deposit in the barrel, dead yeast cells fall down to the bottom of the barrel. Bodega Familia Schroeder Winery, also called Saurus, Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina, South America.

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What wine to pair with Short Ribs?

San-vito-valpclsup"What wine should I have with short ribs?" As a food and wine pairing expert, I am often asked about what to drink with what one eats. Recently I was offered a glass of wine "blind" (meaning I did not know its country of origin or varietal) and found it intensely flavorful and delicious.

My first thought was that it was an Amarone, yet it did not have the characteristic nose of an Amarone. Still the rich, succulent, luxurious flavors of chocolate, mocha, and dried fig led me in that direction. "Hmmm," I asked myself, still not knowing much about the wine other than that it was Italian and very Amarone-like in presentation. "What would I eat with this?"

The answer was short ribs. Why? Short ribs are savory, and have a hint of sweetness to them, as does this wine. Ribs are also dense and meaty, another characteristic of this medium plus bodied wine. Uncovering the bottle, I saw it was 2004 Campo San Vito Valpolicella Ripasso from the Valpoliella AOC region in Northern Italy. These are the same grapes that make up the more expensive Amarone. The grapes are Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella. Ripasso is an Italian term meaning repassed. The unpressed grape skins used to make Amarone are added to the already blended and fermented Valpolicella, which adds body, transforming it entirely, This is a wine with a personality. Great value for $25.


The other night we opened a bottle of the 2007 Weinhof Scheu Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken, $16, Savio Soares Selections, a wine made from grapes perhaps better known to most of us as Pinot Gris. Imagine my surprise when there was no cork, no Stelvin (screw cap) closure either, no synthetic cork, but a little glass top that was vacuum sealed on the bottle. A little jiggling and it came out easily enough. And unlike a synthetic cork, I could easily re-seal the bottle using the same glass top.This thing is great, I think. Easy to open, easy to re-seal, much classier than a screw-cap, in my opinion. I wonder if allows a bit more oxygen than a screw-cap does to penetrate the seal? Anyway, I have never seen this kind of seal before. A little bit of searching the interwebs reveals that this alternative closure is called a Vino-Seal or a Vino-Lok. I prefer Vino-Lok, as it reminds me of a 1980's rapper's nom de guerre. In fact, I think that some one like Lyle Fass should seriously consider changing his name to Vino-Lok. That aside, I had never even heard of this. Apparently it's made by Alcoa, the aluminum production giant. And it costs more than other alternative seals.Like the screw cap, I'm sure this is meant for young-drinking wines, not the cellar-worthy stuff. I really liked it - the feel of opening and closing it, the look of it, the weight of it in my hand. And the wine was excellent too, which I'm attributing purely to the closure. Anyone else out there run into Vino-Lok? I don't mean the MC, I mean the alternative wine closure. Thoughts?

RK by Giaconda Chardonnay 2008

Beechworth, Victoria, Australia. Chardonnay. 13.5%. Screwcap. Approx $A40

Like its red twin this is only available at Vintage Cellars. It's quite convincing. Flinty and fleshy and smelling of struck match, grilled pineapple and peaches. Plump and almond meal like in the mouth with notable and lovely butterscotch and a trace of bitterness to conclude. Perhaps a touch short and round for more positive praise, but still, this seems true to the esteemed maker's house and is worth seeking out.

Very good.
Now - 2012.

Visits and tastings

Last Wednesday evening, a dinner and visit was organized at La Dominique for 6 Americans connoisseurs, wine-lovers and happy bankers!
We tasted: La Dominique 2006 -2007 -2008 (incredible wine !)
For dinner, we drank Blanc de Valandraud N°2 2007, Domaine Fayat-Thunevin Pomerol

Thursday, I spent the morning in the office and from noon to 2:30 pm, work lunch at Fleur Cardinale, following a tasting.
At 4pm, interview with the German TV station ARD, then RTL radio at L’essentiel for a quick piece (the crisis, prices and the classification).
6:30 pm at Clément Pichon with Barbara to host “VIPs” guests of Clément and Jean-Claude Fayat.

Then, hurrah for a quiet evening watching TV.

Fleur Cardinale

Every year, Florence and Dominique Decoster organize a meeting to review the up coming vintage (we already know that the yields will be low) as well as past ones. The guests, which includes all he consultants, Richard, Jean Philippe, Bob and I, tasted the 2006 blind.

The same wines tasted 2 hours before were very different and even 2004, 2005 and 2006 opened the day before for a group of young Swedish sommeliers, friends of Andreas Larsson, were very different than the ones drank and tasted immediately. Especially 2005 which showed the immense potential of this great vintage.

In any case, it is getting much harder to find the smallest detail which would improve Fleur Cardinale, except in the vineyards where the Jaguar, recently purchased (a machine which seems to be in the habit to burn – as it happened twice in the area), with its 3 wheels, compresses less the soil and is faster and more efficient in case of emergency.

What’s certain is that the property has already past 3 levels of quality and that the 4th is much harder to reach: increase the yields while increasing the quality!