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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Happy 2017!

I often marvel at aspects of the human experience. At this time of year, we mark the passing of one year and the dawn of another. It’s really just another day in an expansive chain, yet it marks another full rotation around the sun, and in human tradition, the transition from past to future, and all the hopes and dreams associated with new.

future-past

2016 was, arguably, a very difficult year for many. We lost a number of celebrities, as well as some of our civility, kindness, and spirit. Many suffered personal hardships and tragedies; myself included. However, as humans, we persevere, determined to become stronger and better with the emergence of a new day; a new year.

As we stand at verge of 2017, I would like encourage you to join me in taking a moment to reflect on the good and positive things you enjoyed during 2016. I end the year much as I began it: healthy, of sound mind (though that’s debatable), gainfully employed, and with loving family members. Of course, since this is a wine blog, many of my thoughts are about wine. I tasted a lot of wine in 2016; more than 200 if my records are correct. I will not attempt to identify a “best of” list, though perhaps in future years I will do.

Without doubt, the highlight of 2016 was the five weeks I spent in Québec City, Canada. (If you’d like to read about it, you can find all five posts in the Destinations tab on the menu bar above.) The beauty and history there is spectacular. And the food! Poutine anyone? And there’s wine! Québécois wine, French wine, and many other selections. During the trip, I was able to taste and enjoy many wines that are simply unavailable here in Northern California. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend a visit.

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Regardless of what kind of 2016 you had, I hope your 2017 will bring you exceeding happiness and peace. Tomorrow night, as we escort 2016 to the door and usher in 2017, I’ll be joining a group of new Meetup friends for a Rockin’ Blues party featuring live blues bands and dancing. I don’t know what I’ll be drinking at the event, or for the midnight toast, but whatever it is; I know it will taste like HOPE.

2017-toast

Happy New Year to all! May you have a prosperous and joyful 2017.

Cheers!

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Review: Intertwine Merlot Napa Valley 2015

As the Merlot revival continues, each vintage of Bridget Raymond’s annual contribution to the NakedWines.com portfolio grows in popularity. I reviewed the 2014 vintage of Intertwine, and it is one of my most-read blog posts. So it was with eager anticipation that I opened the newly released 2015 vintage.

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The Intertwine Merlot Napa Valley 2015 is made with fruit from the Oakville and Carneros AVAs. Both are among the finest, and best known regions in the Napa Valley. Whereas the 2014 showed its youth, and required ample aeration to be enjoyed young, the 2015 is smooth and delicious out of the bottle, although a bit of air allows it to open up, with more flavors emerging, and becoming even more enjoyable. As with most young wines, it will continue to improve with several months or years in the cellar.

This is the fourth vintage of Intertwine that I have had the pleasure of sampling. My tasting notes sum up my appreciation for this delightful juice:

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This could be the best vintage of Intertwine yet! The color is deep purple. On pouring through a Vinturi, this is a blackberry delight! Plenty of juicy fruit on the nose with a hint of oak. Through sheer willpower, I let it breathe for about 30 minutes before allowing the elixir to touch my lips. Patience, rewarded. As the wine opens up, the nose develops some tobacco, black cherry, and cedar notes. When finally tasted, wow! Bold blackberry, Marionberry pie, and black cherry fill the mouth. Full, round, rich mouthfeel coats the tongue. The tannins are firm, but will soften with bottle aging, and the acidity is fresh and lively. The finish is long, with cherry, berry, cedar, smoke, and spice. I even got a bit of dark chocolate at the very end.

Food worthy? Oh yes! Intertwine 2015 took my roasted pork loin with poached pears to an entirely new level! Stellar!

4.5+ out of 5 stars (92 – 95 points)

SRP: $27.99, Angel Price: $13.99

Intertwine Merlot Napa Valley 2015 is available exclusively from NakedWines.com. If this sounds like your kind of wine, you can follow this link to become an Angel, and receive a voucher worth $100 off your first-time order of $160 or more. If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Cheers!

Review: Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc 2013

Last Sunday, December 4, 2016, was the second annual Cabernet Franc day. There are celebratory days for several popular wine grape varietals throughout the year. However, the regal Cabernet Franc grape had been overlooked until 2015. Enter Lori Budd. She and her husband, Michael, are the proprietors of Dracaena Wines in Paso Robles, California. Much more than a winery owner, though, Lori is a champion of Cabernet Franc. To bring attention to this oft overlooked grape, she established December 4th of each year as Cabernet Franc day. You can read Lori’s story about the creation of Cabernet Franc day here.

Cabernet Franc is a grape many wine drinkers have never heard of. Of those who are aware of it, many know it only as a blending grape used in red Bordeaux wines. Surprisingly few people have experienced Cabernet Franc as a stand-alone wine. That is a shame, and Lori is doing all she can to remedy that problem.

While anybody who has taken even a passing notice of wine is familiar with the King of Grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, many do not know that Cabernet Sauvignon is a naturally-occuring hybrid. DNA testing in the 1990s revealed it is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

So what happens on Cabernet Franc day? A lot! Social Media is inundated with hashtags like #cabfrancday, #cabfranclove, and #lovecabfranc. In the wine blogger community, blog posts about Cabernet Franc abound. The day culminates with a Tweet-up on Twitter, with the hashtag #cabfrancday. I participated in the Tweet-up – my first one ever – and it was a lot of fun, and very informative! I had no idea there were so many producers making stand-alone Cabernet Franc, in so many styles.

I’ve had a few Cab Francs before, but haven’t really explored the grape in depth. All the wines I’ve had have been excellent; medium bodied with black fruit, tobacco, and spice, with the classic bell pepper on the finish. It is a very food friendly wine, and pairs well with basically anything you would serve with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

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Cab Franc Loves Beef Tips and Mushrooms!

To celebrate Cabernet Franc day, I had the good fortune to receive a bottle of Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc 2013, from Beth, the Traveling Wine Chick. The Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc will blow your mind! It is crafted from 100% Cabernet Franc aged in 100% French Oak, and is rich, deep, and full bodied.

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Look at That Color!

From the Ehlers Estate website:

A beautiful, 100% Cabernet Franc with great structure, firm, mature tannins, and compelling flavors. Black and red berries, black cherry, toasted coconut, browned butter, and slight vanilla, this wine is pure Franc from a stellar terroir. Mouth-filling and built to last, with a long chewy finish, this is a perfect change-up to your best Cabernet Sauvignons. Off the charts.

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Here’s what I thought:

A delicious way to enjoy #CabFrancDay! Deep purple with a ruby rim. Aromas of ripe raspberry and soft cedar and pencil shavings. As the wine opens up, I got a whiff of bell pepper, too. On the palate, this is a juicy, balanced delight. Ripe raspberry, blackberry, cedar, and spice. Tannins are soft and smooth, with vibrant acidity that makes my mouth happy! The finish is long and satisfying, with black and red fruit. Outstanding!

5 out of 5 stars (95+ points)

Retail: $60

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With such famous lineage it is surprising that Cabernet Franc is so often overlooked and forgotten. If you haven’t tried this grape on its own, please go to your favorite wine shop now and buy some. Then join us every December 4th for the annual #cabfrancday festivities!

Cheers!

 

 

My Winestory – #MWWC29

I can’t say exactly when I had my first taste of wine. As a child, Sunday dinner was a formal affair. We’d come home from church and change out of our “Sunday” clothes, only to dress again that evening for dinner. I clearly remember pot roast. Lots of pot roast. I also remember wine. My parents always served my sister and me a small glass of wine with Sunday dinner. I’m sure it was no more than an ounce or two. I assume that started around age 11 or 12. Mind you, this was wine from a jug, from one of the fine estates of E&J Gallo, Almaden, or Carlo Rossi, but wine it was.

Skip ahead a few years to junior high. In health class we studied a unit on alcohol, including a section on alcohol abuse and alcoholism. In one lesson, we took a quiz and to my shock, my parents’ drinking habits ticked almost all the boxes that indicate possible problems. Around this same time, I have vivid memories of my dad, passed out in his recliner after dinner. His normal habit after coming home from work was to toss back a couple of gin & tonics, then have a few glasses of wine with dinner. After dinner he’d retire to his recliner to watch TV, and within minutes, he was sawing logs. My sister and I laughed at it this first, but as I got older, it stopped being funny. One night, I tried to wake him up so he would go to bed, but I couldn’t, so I turned off the lights and went to my own bedroom to read.

I don’t know if my parents met the clinical definition of alcoholic, but with that kind of upbringing and exposure to excessive alcohol consumption, by high school, I had pretty much decided I was never going to let that happen to me. Whether alcohol abuse is an inherited genetic trait, or learned behavior (nature vs. nurture) I do not know. However, I do believe that children of alcoholics are much more likely to become alcoholics themselves. My sister is an example of this. She is a recovering alcoholic who, with the support of her AA friends and family, recently celebrated 18 years of sobriety!

So how, then, did I end up here? Not only drinking wine (and beer and liquor), but blogging about it? Glad you asked.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

John Taylor, author of Pairs With: Life, won #MWWC28, and his Major Award was to select the topic for #MWWC29. He chose: Winestory. An opportunity for us to share our personal stories about how we got here, and why in the world we decided to start writing a blog. Having sufficiently (I hope) set the stage, here is my

winestory

Like any other kid in living in a college dorm, despite my convictions, I occasionally succumbed to peer pressure. That’s when I first learned about the joys of the sweet elixir. I’m referring, of course, to White Zinfandel. In the early 80’s, this fine juice was in its heyday, and priced right for starving college students! It was everywhere! Kool-aid with a kick, and all the cool kids were drinking it. But I still wasn’t hooked.

In our early married years, my wife and I were pretty much teetotalers. st-innocentWe might have a glass of wine when we went out for a special occasion dinner, and would buy a bottle for home maybe twice a year. However, one fateful December when we were living in Oregon, we attended a company holiday party at St. Innocent Winery. At first I demurred when the hostess offered me a glass. Sure, I knew Pinot Noir is what put the Willamette Valley on the wine map, but I truly subscribed to the (untested and erroneous) belief that red wine gives me headaches. The hostess assured me that St. Innocent’s wine would not give me a headache. She was right, and the wine was delicious. The rest, as they say, is history.

I started buying wine regularly, and joined a wine club, receiving quarterly shipments of wines from all over the world. My journey of discovery and adventure had begun! Soon, friends and family were asking me for advice: wines to buy, pairing suggestions, anything wine related. I was hungry for knowledge about wine. I subscribed to magazines, and enrolled in web-based classes. Then one day, I received a voucher in the mail. My wine journey was about to change, and go in an entirely new direction.

If you have read my blog before, you probably know that I am a member, and ardent supporter of NakedWines.com. (If you are unfamiliar with NakedWines.com, please follow this link to their FAQ page.) When that voucher arrived, I was skeptical. I had been disappointed by many of the wine clubs I’d tried, but I figured $160 worth of wine for $60 was worth the one-time risk. Once the wine arrived and I had my first taste from the first bottle I opened, I was hooked.

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Not the actual First Bottle. It was so good, I bought more.

One of the things that sets NakedWines.com apart from traditional wine clubs is the social media aspect of the company. Members, known as Angels, are encouraged to post reviews of the wines they drink, and interact with each other…and the winemakers…on the website. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing the reviews of the wines. Even more surprising was the fact that other Angels were reading them, and commenting on how much they liked them. New Angels were starting to seek out my reviews and opinions. They were looking up to ME! I’m no sommelier, no winemaker, or any other sort of expert. I’m just a guy who drinks wine, with a new passion for writing about it.

The natural next step, then, was to figure out this whole blog thing, and start writing. So I did. My main focus is on sharing those wine reviews, expanding them beyond NakedWines.com, to include all the wines I enjoy. More than just reviews, though, I like to tell a story about the wine, the region, and if possible, the winemaker. My goal is to engage my audience, and if I may be so bold, perhaps educate them a little. Keeping my childhood in mind, and cognizant of my family history, and remain vigilant on my consumption. Nevertheless, wine has become my true passion, and sharing it brings me joy.

What is a Proper Pour?

What is a Proper Pour? The answer varies, and depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is who you ask. This question came up recently during a friendly discussion at work, and answers ranged from four to eight ounces. Though many of my coworkers drink wine recreationally, as the de facto in-house “wine expert”, I shared that many wine glasses are designed to hold four ounces of wine, leaving sufficient space for swirling and aromatics to maximize the enjoyment of the wine. One of my coworkers responded with: “If I ordered a glass of wine in a restaurant and they only gave me four ounces, I’d be [expletive phrase indicating dissatisfaction in the extreme.]” This got me thinking about this question, and what may influence one’s answer.

Glassware

Many of the standard sized wine glasses in my home cabinet are designed to accommodate a four ounce pour. Larger glasses can comfortably hold up to six ounces. While they can all hold much more than that, overfilling the glass inhibits the ability for oxygen to enter and release the enticing aromas. As the alcohol in the wine evaporates, the aromas are released into the air. Wine glasses are shaped to funnel those aromas to the nose, providing maximum concentration for enjoyment. Furthermore, swirling wine in the glass can infuse oxygen, causing more aromas to be released. Try swirling an overfilled glass and, rather than enjoying the aromas and flavor of the wine, you are now instead cleaning up a mess and hoping that red wine doesn’t leave a stain!

The general rule of thumb is to fill the glass “to the bend.” This results in a perfect pour for whichever glass you may be using. However, as with so many things, pop culture has influenced an increase in the size of the average wine glass.

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Wine drinkers should keep this in mind when shopping for glassware, and when pouring that third glass of the evening.

Social Setting

Where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing can all influence the size of the pour. Trying to look cultured at a frat party? At a friend’s house looking to get your drink on? In any other situation in which the primary objective is to get yourself good and hammered? Go ahead and fill that sucker to the rim! You might even consider one of these: bottle-glass

However, if you are hosting or attending a dinner party, trying to impress the in-laws who already worry their precious little snowflake made a bad choice in marrying you, or in any other social situation in which the wine is there to enhance the meal or general setting, consider scaling back on that pour. Economics can also be a consideration. A five ounce pour gets you about five glasses from each bottle. An eight ounce pour is only three per bottle. You do the math.

On the other hand, if you are dining out, or at a wine bar, let your server be your guide. If you are at a restaurant, the best value is a bottle, so pour size is less important. If you are ordering off the “by the glass” menu, then I would agree with my coworker and expect a 5-6 ounce pour. Most wine bars I have visited offer a three ounce half glass, and a six ounce full glass.

Individual Motivation

Related to Social Setting, Individual Motivation can strongly influence the size of your pour. Once again, if you are looking to get your drink on and become obliterated, pour away! However, if your objective is to savor the character of a particular wine, capturing the terroir, the nuanced aromas and flavors, and allowing the expression of the varietal to carry you away, then you will want to moderate the pour to take advantage of the design of your glass.

Wine Choice

Much in the same way as factors above, the wine you are drinking plays a major role in deciding how full to fill your glass. Two-Buck Chuck, or any bottom shelf supermarket deal-of-the-week? Fill ‘er up! But if you are tasting a quality wine, do yourself a favor and pay attention to your pour. It doesn’t have to be a Romanée Conte or Chateau Rothschild. Any well-made wine that is worth savoring, rather than chugging, deserves the respect of a proper pour.

The Medical Community

Finally, not to be a killjoy, but one must consider one’s health. The medical establishment, and the government, have established guidelines to identify the “serving size” for various adult beverages. Kaiser Permanente advises patients that a serving of wine is five ounces. This is based on the average alcohol content in each serving, so a serving of beer (12 oz.) is equal to a serving of liquor (1.5 oz. – Really? When’s the last time you had a cocktail with just 1.5 oz. of booze?) is equal to a serving of wine.

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Photo Credit: kp.org

In addition, Kaiser Permanente recommends no more than 15 servings of alcohol per week. If you drink daily, that’s just two per day, plus a bonus glass on the weekend. Once again, pop culture and social media would have you believe that limits are for losers, but excessive alcohol consumption can cause real health problems. Everything in moderation, folks!

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These memes are funny, but excessive alcohol consumption is no joke.

So what do you think? What’s your proper pour? 4 ounces? 6? 8? Or more? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers!