New World Barbera has become a favorite in my home. We are fortunate enough to live in close proximity to both the Sierra Foothills, and Clarksburg AVAs in Northern California. Both of these regions have proven to be suitable for Italian varietals, and many of them thrive here. The latest example I had the pleasure to enjoy was the Heringer Estates Barbera 2013.
Heringer Estates is located in the Clarksburg AVA, specifically at The Old Sugar Mill. I wrote about The Old Sugar Mill a couple of months ago in my Destinations series. Home to 11 wineries, it is a fantastic location to visit if you are in the Sacramento area.
The Heringer family has been farming in the Clarksburg area since 1868, when John and Geertje Heringa arrived in the region from Holland. In 1973, the Heringer family planted their first grape vineyards, and the Heringer Estates winery began operation in 2002. The entire operation of the Heringer Estates winery is located at The Old Sugar Mill, from crush to retail sales. 
As good fortune would have it, my parents are members of the Heringer Estates wine club, and arrived at our house on Christmas day with a bottle of this excellent Barbera. We opened it, naturally, and it paired beautifully with our roast pork loin dinner.
Delicious New World Barbera. Rich and full bodied with aromas of black cherry and blackberry. Cherry and berry flavors, with notes of cedar, black currant, and clove. The finish is dark berry and spice. Quite smooth and nicely balanced. This paired nicely with roast pork loin.
“I’ve read a lot of reviews for this wine, so I gave it a try. A solid California Cabernet, for less than $15! Purple-Ruby color, aromas of blackberry and black currant. On the palate, these flavors are present and joined with black pepper and spice, with some cedar notes, and a fruit-driven sweetness. The finish is spicy with a bit of earthiness. This is a medium bodied wine, with moderate tannins. I found the acidity a bit high, but with bottle aging this may soften. All in all, a nice Cab at a good price.”
This is how I described the Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 on Vivino. As I mentioned, I’ve seen a lot of reviews on this wine recently, ranging from other Vivino users, to friends and fellow wine aficionados, to The Reverse Wine Snob (2010 vintage). If there’s an app that tracks trending wines, I have no doubt this one would be high on the list. There is good reason for this. As a “California” Cabernet, as opposed to being AVA-specific, Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes all over the state. This allows the winemakers to blend and achieve the exact result they want; one that is smooth and easy-drinking, and will appeal to the masses. The more demanding connoisseur, who prefers only single-vineyard or AVA-specific wines, may not favor this as much, but the average consumer will enjoy it. At around $15, it is a good everyday Cabernet, and would be an excellent choice for newbies who want to try a Cabernet for the first time.
“The 2013 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon has aromatics of mocha, roasted blue fruits, plums, and cherry spice. The wine enters sweet on the palate, well-structured and with firm tannins mid-palate, followed by a long, balanced finish.”
Joel Gott himself narrates a short video describing the wine, and the processes that went into making it. He even includes some food pairing suggestions.
If you are looking for an affordable California Cabernet Sauvignon, that is approachable and easy-drinking, give Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 a try.
The debate over which is the best method for sealing a bottle of wine may never be resolved. Beyond practical matters, there are traditions and emotions that come into play. While there are many types of alternate closures, including synthetic corks and glass stoppers, for my purposes I am only examining traditional corks and screwcaps. There is a wealth of information on this topic available on the Internet. My challenge in this post is not one of finding enough to say, but rather it is keeping it short enough to be interesting, and keeping it out of “TLDR” (Too Long Didn’t Read) territory. I hope I’ve succeeded!
First, A Little Background
Throughout history, man has sought the best method for sealing and preserving wine. The earliest known vessels were animal skins – ancient relative of today’s bota bag. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used amorphae; tall, slender clay pots. Amorphae were sealed with clay stoppers, but these weren’t air tight, so shelf-life was short.
With the rise of the Roman Empire, the Romans adopted wooden barrels. Thought to be invented by the Celts or Gauls, barrels are less fragile than clay amorphae, and with flat bottoms, rather than the pointed bottoms of amorphae, barrels proved better for long-distance transport. In addition, oak barrels can enhance the quality and flavor of wine.
Barrels are great for making, storing, and transporting wine, but in the modern world, they are not practical for the individual wine drinker. By the 1800’s, glass bottles arrived on the scene, providing an improved method for household wine storage and serving. The cork stopper was a natural companion for glass bottles, with the ability to cut the cork to the correct size to snugly fit in the neck of the bottle. ,
Corks have been the preferred method of sealing wine bottles for more than 100 years. However, cork has its faults, and in man’s ongoing quest for perfection and technological advance, alternative closure methods have come to market. Most popular among them is the screwcap. Cue hotly contested debate.
The Cork versus Screwcap Debate
Purists argue that cork is the only reliable method of sealing a wine bottle, especially for long-term aging. Cork does have a long history of success with keeping fine wine safe and secure for the long run. However, much of the argument in favor of cork is based in tradition and romance. The elegance of inserting the corkscrew, the long, slow, anticipatory pull, and the satisfying “pop” of the cork as it emerges from the bottle cannot be matched by a metal screwcap.
However, screwcaps have their advantages, too. Among the most obvious is convenience. I have a collection of corkscrews…in the glove compartment in my car and my wife’s, in our picnic bag, in my luggage (per the TSA website, you can carry-on a corkscrew if it does not have a blade), and several others scattered around. Why do I have so many corkscrews? Because I have forgotten corkscrews so many times, and had to buy a new one to open a cork-sealed bottle of wine! Screwcaps eliminate the need for corkscrews entirely.
Environmental and economic concerns and cost also weigh in favor of screwcaps. Although cork is a renewable resource, it takes up to 27 years for a cork tree to mature until it can produce stopper-quality bark.Once harvested, it takes nine years before the bark is ready for harvest again. Corks cost an average of 11 to 13 cents each, while screwcaps cost around 7 cents each. This may not sound like much of a difference, but consider that a winery producing 10,000 cases of wine will save up to $7,200 per year by using screwcaps.
Yet perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of screwcaps over natural corks is the elimination of the risk of cork taint. Cork taint is caused by a natural, chemical compound known as Trichloroanisole, or TCA. When a wine comes in contact with TCA, it damages the wine, resulting in stale, musty odors and flavors. These odors and flavors are often described as “musty”, “wet dog”, “wet newspaper”, or “sweaty gym socks.” Not pleasant. When a wine is tainted in this way, it is known as “corked.” (Many wine newbies innocently refer to wines sealed with a cork as “corked” wines, but when used properly, the term clearly has a much more insidious meaning.) Cork fans will argue, accurately, that TCA exposure can occur in other ways, including “cellar taint”, in which the TCA is present on other places in the production process, such as barrels or other wood surfaces. However, the consensus is that the majority of tainted wine results from corks.
Yet despite all the screwcaps seem to have going for them, there remains the question of aging. Natural cork allows miniscule amounts of air to enter the bottle. Not enough to oxidize the wine (usually – see my post, Oh No! A Bad Bottle!) but enough to allow the tannins to soften and mellow, and the wine to age gracefully. Early screwcaps did not allow for this. However, more modern screwcaps seals do allow for some oxygen exchange. Still, screwcaps continue to have the reputation of sealing only low quality plonk (Thunderbird, anyone?), cheap jug wines, or entry-level wines from emerging, Southern Hemisphere wine regions. I contend that this is not a fair assessment.
Certainly, corks have a much longer track record, but with more than 40 years of usage, we are starting to see the results of some long-term aging of some high quality wines under screwcap. Plumpjack Winery, in Napa, is a well-known producer of high quality wines. They were an early adopter of screwcap closures, and shocked the wine world when, as part of a study in conjunction with the University of California, Davis, they sealed half their production with screwcaps. After 10 years, the wines were tasted by experts in double-blind tastings. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, and currently the Lieutenant Governor of California, is also a partner in Plumpjack Winery. In an interview with Steve Heimoff, posted on October 6, 2015, Mr. Newsom discussed the results of the tastings:
“Yeah, so many of these double-blind wine tastings, and all these experts all around us, and they’re absolutely convinced this one’s a screwcap and this one’s a cork. Without exception, the one consistent thing was the inconsistency. The outcome is challenged by the variability in the bottles that confounds you when you say “Screwtop’s not going to allow you any oxygen, or less oxygen, than the cork, so this is not going to age well,” and then you find out, when you taste it, the exact opposite.”
So even renowned wine experts from all over the world could not tell the difference between an aged, high-quality wine sealed with a cork compared to one with a screwcap.
Randall Grahm, the famed Rhone Ranger, is another big proponent of the screwcap. So much so, that on October 2, 2002, he staged a Funeral for the Cork in New York City, complete with eulogy by Jancis Robinson.,  Mr. Grahm also co-wrote and produced a humorous video in support of the screwcap (complete with cameo at the end):
Into The Future
I do not know if, or when, this great debate will end. In my interactions with other wine lovers on the topic, there are varying opinions about which closure is better. Sometimes discussions become animated; people can get awfully passionate about these things. Yet one thing that we can all agree on is this: more important that what is at the end of the bottle, is the quality of what is inthe bottle. I’m fine with screwcaps. In fact, I prefer them in some situations. If you think cork is the only true way to seal a bottle, then only by cork-sealed wine. It’s really about personal choice and preference. In the end, whether it’s sealed with a cork or a screwcap, drink what you like!
Boy Meets Girl Pinot Grigio 2015 is a NakedWines.com exclusive. This delightful white wine comes to us from Central Victoria, Australia, and is crafted by the husband and wife team of Adrian and Rebecca Santolin. Their story, described on their NakedWines.com winemaker page, is one of love and mutual vision. Adrian, the boy, met Rebecca, the girl, in 1999. They shared a dream of one day making their own wine. Together, with Adrian as winemaker and Rebecca doing the marketing, they have realized their dream. With experience at a number of Italian and Australian wineries, Adrian has an impressive C.V. His work includes helping with several award-winning projects. Their relationship with NakedWines.com has allowed them to take their winemaking dream to the next level.
Boy Meets Girl Pinot Grigio is their only wine currently available in the U.S. market, but in the Australia and U.K. markets, they have a complete portfolio of wines including a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and their 2015 A & R Shiraz/Viognier blend, which won a gold medal and a trophy for “Best Red Blend” at the 2015 Victorian Wine Show.
But enough about their other wines. The 2015 Pinot Grigio is delightful. Made in a European, Pinot Gris style, they give the wine some time on the skins to impart more color, complexity, and texture. The name and label illustration impart fun – and a wine like this should make you happy when you enjoy it – and the embracing couple represents Adrian and Rebecca’s story.
I reviewed this on Vivino, but it’s an abbreviated version due to the 512 character limit (yea, I get a little wordy sometimes.) Here’s my full review, posted on NakedWines.com:
A beautiful liquid gold color in the glass, this Aussie Pinot Grigio delights the nose with aromas of stone fruit like apricot and white peach. These flavors are present on the palate as well, along with some light floral (elderflower?) and a bit of honeysuckle.
The mouthfeel is rich and creamy, more than other Pinot Grigios I’ve had. It is medium bodied with pleasant sweetness offset by subtle acidity. On the finish there is a bit of citrus; white grapefruit and lemon. Delightful, refreshing, and delicious!
This is a very well balanced wine; noticeably sweet with stone fruit flavors, but I wouldn’t consider it a sweet wine. Yet it’s not a dry white, either. This may be the perfect wine to try if you are a sweet wine lover who is interested in expanding your wine profile. Give it a try!
One of the benefits of being a part of NakedWines.com is that we get to correspond directly with the winemakers. Rebecca replied to my review, and confirmed that the wine has low residual sugar, and that the sensation of sweetness is entirely fruit-driven.
It’s a day that is anticipated and celebrated by excited fans everywhere. The third Thursday in November, at one minute past midnight, Beaujolais Nouveau Day begins. On that day, at that time, thousands of cases of new wine are shipped from the vineyards, in the Beaujolais region of France, to Paris, and then on to the thirsty masses all over the world. The tradition evolved as a regional event in the early 20th century, and the day was originally designated annually on November 15th. However, in 1985, as the celebration gained in popularity throughout France, this was changed to the third Thursday each year. With no more inconvenient Monday or Tuesday release dates, it became possible for revelers to celebrate over a four-day weekend. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!
Here in the United States, Beaujolais Nouveau Day happily coincides with our Thanksgiving Day. With a taste and body profile not unlike Pinot Noir, a bright, lively, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau pairs very well with the traditional turkey dinner.
Beaujolais Nouveau is about as un-snobbish as you can get in a red wine. It’s not made for high-brow, serious, sniffing-and-swirling tasting events. It’s an easy-drinking, fun wine meant for a party! Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be consumed young. Unlike most red wines, that are aged for several months or years, Beaujolais Nouveau is unaged, and released just weeks after harvest. In production, the wine undergoes a short fermentation process, with the skins in contact with the juice for only a brief time. This results in a light, acidic wine with minimal tannins. In this way, it is often compared to a summery white wine, rather than a more traditional red wine. And like a white wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is best served chilled. As a light, low-tannin wine, the recommendation is to enjoy your Beaujolais Nouveau within six months.
This year, my Beaujolais Nouveau selection was the Jean Claude Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrate Harvest 2015. Here’s my review, posted to Vivino.
Delightful and lively. Beaujolais Nouveau is always a fun wine. Purple color in the glass, the aromas greet the nose with raspberry, strawberry, and cherry. The flavors on the palate are raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and red currant. The tannins are light and the acidity is brisk. This wine wakes up your mouth! The finish lingers with red fruit and a bit of peppery spiciness. Definitely a gulpable wine!
Purchased at Total Wine & More, $9.99
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
If you haven’t tried Beaujolais Nouveau yet, it’s not too late. There’s still some in stores and it would be a great addition to a Christmas dinner table, a New Year’s Eve party (before the bubbles, of course), or for any other reason you can think of to celebrate! If you miss out, don’t fret. The next Beaujolais Nouveau day is on November 17, 2016. Mark your calendars now!