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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Review: Jac Cole Mosaico Napa Valley 2015

Regular readers on my blog may have already figured out that Jac Cole is one of my favorite winemakers. Jac has an impressive resumé with experience at a number of well known wineries. He now makes wine for NakedWines.com, and everything I’ve tasted from his line has been spectacular. Jac is largely responsible for my turning in my ABC card, after tasting his magnificent Unoaked Chardonnay, and then his equally amazing Oak Fermented Chardonnay.

In the red wine category, Jac crafts a rich, decadent blend, called Mosaico. The 2015 vintage was recently released, and I was fortunate enough to receive a sample for review. This is the third vintage of Mosaico I have tasted and reviewed. The 2013 and 2014 reviews are here and here. Like the 2014 vintage, Mosaico 2015 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot.  This is a big, bold, juicy wine. With sufficient aeration, Mosacio 2015 is drinking nicely now, and has tremendous aging potential for many years to come.  Here’s what I thought of it:

Mosaico 2015

Another Mosaico vintage, another masterpiece. Jac continues to amaze!

I tasted this over two days. On day one I decanted, took a quick sniff and sip right away, and was blown away. This is a rich, decadent blend with aromas and flavors of ripe, crushed blackberry, raspberry, black cherry, and vanilla. After about an hour of air, the flavors are deeper, with white pepper and spice notes, and the tannins are already soft and smooth.

On day two, the nose is bursting with fresh cherry with soft oaky notes. The flavors are balanced with cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and a bit of cranberry, with spicy black pepper at the back. Tannins are firm, which is expected for a big, young wine, and there is sufficient acidity to keep it bright and lively. The finish is long, with dark berry, spice, black pepper, and earthy tobacco.

Pair this with a big, juicy slab of meat on the grill, sit back, and enjoy. This is a wine that is drinking nicely now, and will improve with age over the next several years.

4.5 out of 5 stars now (92 – 94 points), improving to 5 stars (95+ points) with cellar time.

MSRP: $34.99, Angel Member Price: $17.99

If this sounds like your kind of wine, you can get it exclusively at NakedWines.com. If you’re not a member, you can follow this link to receive a voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

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Form and Function: Avina Wine Accessories

It only takes one or two times. You arrive at the beach, or the picnic, or the hotel, thirsty for wine. You grab the bottle and reach for the corkscrew. The corkscrew. Where’s the corkscrew? Oh, no! You forgot the corkscrew!

It’s happened to me, and I bet it’s happened to you, too. Eventually, you commit to always having a tool at hand to liberate that wine from beneath the cork. Personally, I have two corkscrews in my car (glove box and trunk,) one in my picnic ice chest, and one permanently packed in each suitcase. I have become a fervent proponent of the notion that you simply cannot have too many corkscrews!

Then there’s that rare dilemma: leftover wine. What to do? You can shove the cork back in, but there is risk of leakage. If only there was a reliable, leak-proof, compact bottle closure.

Corkscrews come in a variety of shapes and styles. Some I like, some I don’t, and some I’ve never actually tried. I’ve also used a number of bottle closures over the years, with mixed results. So I was delighted when I received an email recently from Avina Wine Accessories, inviting me to try some of their products. They even offered me a choice in sample products. I’m partial to two-stage waiters corkscrews, and have never actually used a wing-style opener. (My folks had one when I was a kid, and I liked to play with it, but back then it was usually a jet plane or spaceship!) They graciously sent me both styles!

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The first thing I noticed when opening the shipping box was the attractive, high quality packaging. Glossy, color images on the lid evoke a sense of luxurious extravagance waiting within. The lid is snug, and once removed, the corkscrew and bottle stopper were securely held in place by a form-fitting foam insert. Very impressive!

The next thing to grab my attention was the modern and fun design of the corkscrews. Both are very attractive and aesthetically appealing. The Swan Easy Grip Wing Corkscrew is a satin blue color (also available in pink) with a full cylinder body; so much more attractive than the stark, stainless steel models I’ve seen before. Then I opened the box for the waiters corkscrew. Can a corkscrew be sexy? I say, yes! The Rhino Easy Wine Waiters Corkscrew is a beaut! Sleek design with incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail; the form, fit, and finish is a sight to behold! And to back the design with the quality, all Avina Wine Accessories products come with their “You Break It, We Replace It” lifetime guarantee.

So how do they perform? I decided to try the Swan Easy Grip Wing Corkscrew ($24.99 retail) first. As I mentioned, this was my first time actually using a wing-style corkscrew to remove a cork. It took an astute observation by my dinner guest that one really shouldn’t hold the wings when inserting the cork. (Translation: “You’re doing it wrong!”) Once properly positioned in my hand, the worm smoothly entered the cork, and with a gentle pressure on the wings, the cork started to emerge, finishing with a satisfying “pop!” This corkscrew performed great! It is smooth and easy to use, and fun, too! As with most wing-style corkscrews, the top doubles as a bottle opener, too, for those occasions when you want a cold beer. And when you’re not using it to open bottles, you can use it as a jet plane!

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Dinner Guest: “Um, I don’t think you’re supposed to hold the wings.”

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That’s better!

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After that satisfying “pop!”

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Beer me!

Next, I grabbed the Rhino Easy Wine Waiters Corkscrew ($26.99 retail) and gave it a whirl. This is one of four models of waiters corkscrews offered. The serrated foil cutter blade sliced through the cap smoothly and with ease. The worm and fulcrum were flawless as they aided me in accessing the nectar trapped within the bottle. Again, if you have a crown cap to open, just flip the Rhino around and use the bottle-opener end.

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Now that I had two bottles open, it was time to try the Wine Bottle Stopper ($12.99 retail.) When you buy a corkscrew, a Bottle Stopper is included for free, but you can also purchase them separately. While these are not vacuum caps, they do seal tightly, preventing additional air exchange. They snap firmly into place with the lower clip. To put the “no leaks, no spills” claim to the test, I laid a half-full bottle of red wine on its side, over a white paper towel, for 12 hours. The Avina Wine Bottle Stopper performed as promised, without so much as a drop leaking out.

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12 hours later and not a drop!

Whether for yourself, or as a gift to the winelover in your life, you can shop the entire line of Avina Wine Accessories at their website, or at Amazon.com. For a limited time, at either site, use the code AVINA15A at checkout to receive 15% off!

Cheers!

Disclaimer: All products listed and described were submitted as samples for review. I received no other compensation, and all opinions are my own.

Destination: SF Vintner’s Market

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Its like a farmer’s market, but for wine! Can it get any better than that?

Twice a year, winemakers from all over Northern California converge on the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco. A sprawling warehouse space, the Festival Pavilion is part of the Fort Mason National Historic Landmark District, located right on the bay. One a clear day, like this past Sunday, the views are absolutely stunning! But inside the Pavilion is where the action is!

The SF Vintner’s Market started in 2010 to provide a venue for independent winemakers to sell directly to wine lovers, and get some market exposure to trade reps. With up to 200 wineries in attendance, this is a wine lover’s dream. Some are well-known brands, but many are small, family owned producers, making some very limited quantity cult wines. This is a great opportunity for someone (like me) who has a smallish wine budget, to try wines that are otherwise out of range for purchase.

There are three levels of admission: General, Reserve Room, and Cult Lounge. By some amazing good fortune, my friend and winemaker, Bridget Raymond, was in attendance with her wines, and offered me complimentary entrance at the Cult Lounge level. Bridget makes an amazing Merlot wine, Intertwine, for NakedWines.com. (I’ve reviewed a couple of vintages of Intertwine on my blog.) In addition, Bridget has two personal projects under her Courtesan label. Her Brigitte line includes a Bordeaux-style red blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. The current release of the signature Courtesan wine is a Cabernet Franc-based blend. You can find her wines at Courtesanwines.com.

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That’s Bridget on the left. I’m blurry and I haven’t even started tasting yet!

I started the day in grand fashion, driving the two hours from my home to San Francisco, where I met my son and a friend for brunch. They live in The City, so they know all the best brunch spots! After our visit, I was off to the event. In my efforts to get hammered taste wine in safe and responsible manner, I left my car at my son’s, and took Lyft to Fort Mason. I also managed to leave my notebook and phone charger in my car. As a result, I was only able to take so many pictures, and my tasting notes are all from memory. Accordingly, they are mostly from the earlier wines I tasted. Surely you understand.

It was a beautiful pre-Spring day in The City, with temperatures unseasonably warm in the low 70’s. Upon entering, I headed straight to Bridget’s table to check in and say hi. Situated upstairs in the far corner, the view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge was simply spectacular! An amazing venue for enjoying some amazing wines! Naturally, I tasted the Brigitte and Courtesan wines first.

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Brigitte Oakville Red Wine 2014

Fabulous Bordeaux style blend. Blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and oak. Soft tannins and rich mouthfeel. Definitely ageworthy, but enjoyable now.

Retail: $29.00

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Courtesan Napa Valley Proprietors Red Reserve 2012

A Cab Franc based blend, this is a spectacular wine now, and will continue to improve for several years. Classic Cali Cab Franc, deep purple color with blackberry, black cherry, and green bell pepper notes. Soft, smooth tannins and perfectly balanced acidity. Long, satisfying finish of dark berry.

Retail: $125.00

Moving on, I enjoyed a number of superb, hand-crafted wines; mostly Napa Cabernet. Along the way, I came across a sensational Syrah Rosé by Scalon Cellars. After so many big, hefty red wines, a light and lively Rosé was just the ticket!

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Scalon Cellars Syrah Rosé 2015

Delicious! Bone dry, crisp and refreshing. Strawberry and raspberry with lively acidity. #roseallday!

Retail: $30.00

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Like I said, this was a great chance to try some wines that are way outside my price range. One such wine was the HL Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. It was toward the end of my tour, so…um…palate fatigue, yeah, that’s it, palate fatigue was setting in, so I can’t provide detailed tasting notes. However, I can tell you it was spectacular! At $375 retail, I think this was the priciest wine I sampled that day.

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In addition to all the wine; way too much to taste or photograph; there were food vendors in the house. I only sampled a couple of bites, but everything looked and smelled amazing! Alas, the battery on my phone was fading, so I couldn’t take any foodie pics. Trust me, it was all delightful!

The organizers of the SF Vintner’s Market really know how to throw a party. I definitely plan to attend again, even if I have to pay my own way in! (Thanks again for the ticket, Bridget!) If you’d like to go, visit the website for details. The next Vintner’s Market will be coming up on November 4 & 5, 2017. Mark your calendars, and I hope to see you there!

Cheers!

The Faith to Believe – #MWWC31

Walk into your local wine shop, and you are faced with hundreds of different options and choices. Which wine is the right one for you? How will you know? Unless you buy the same wines all the time, you are about to drop your hard-earned cash on a bottle that you may or may not like. Why?

faithAllison, the OkieWineGirl, wrote an amazing piece for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #30, and won the challenge. As all winners do, she had the honor of selecting the topic for #MWWC31. She chose: Faith.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Boiled down to its essence, faith is simply placing trust in someone or something. Sometimes that trust is given based on past experiences. Other times, it is with no prior basis or evidence for believing in the person or thing. Often thought of as a religious tenet; faith actually occurs in all aspects of human life. For example, I have faith that the meteorologist got the weather forecast right for my outdoor picnic. I have faith that my boss will pay me for the work I have done. When I get in my car, I have faith that the other drivers around me will operate their vehicles safely. And when I head into that wine shop, I have faith that somebody along the supply chain, with good taste, has sampled the wine I’m about to buy, and enjoyed it enough to recommend it for sale. In other words, I trust others peoples’ decisions and recommendations, and on faith, I am willing to try that unknown bottle.

This faith, however, begins long before I walk into those hallowed wine shop halls. At some point, a farmer looked at a plot of ground and had faith that a particular grape variety would grow well there. That farmer invested faith and dollars in planting and cultivating the vines; a process that takes years before recognizing any dividend. Over those years, that farmer nursed and tended those vines as they grew and matured, not knowing whether his faith will be rewarded.

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Next, a winemaker bought the farmer’s grapes, with the faith to believe that she could produce a wine that people will enjoy. In the same way that the farmer may rely on his farming skills, the winemaker may have a documented track record of skill in making quality wines. However, she needs faith to trust a new source or grape variety. She purchased the grapes, and on faith, started the winemaking process with them. Many factors beyond her control can conspire to foil the winemaker’s plans, and result in an unpopular wine. But she has faith to believe the outcome of her hard work will be successful.

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Once the wine was fermented, aged, and bottled, the winemaker presents it to her audience. At some point, this will include a representative from a distributor. This representative tastes the new wine, and likes it enough to recommend this new wine be added to the company’s portfolio. This, too, is an act of faith. Will consumers like the wine as much as the representative did? The distribution company itself has faith in the representative; that he knows and understands the trends and demands of what customers are looking for. Relying on that faith, the distributor buys pallets of the wine.

The next faith hurdle is the buyers from the myriad retail sellers. Our friendly distribution rep must introduce the wine to the buyers, who will taste it and decide whether they think their local consumers will appreciate it. Stocking an unpopular wine could result is substantial losses to the store. So the buyers must have faith to believe that their customers will enjoy and buy the wine. In the same way, once that wine hits the stores, the sales employees have to sell it. They must have faith in the buyers, and trust that they brought in a wine the local shoppers will like.

This brings us full circle to us; the wine consumer. If you are like me, you enjoy variety in your wine journey. When I walk into my local wine shop, eager to find something new and unusual – maybe even obscure – I have faith that the store associate knows the wines available in the store, and can provide reliable recommendations. Over time, I’ve learned which associates have similar tastes to mine, but even then we don’t always like the same things. Still, when I’m about to drop a portion my hard-earned paycheck (since my faith in my boss was not misplaced and he did pay me) on a new, unknown bottle, it is a leap of faith. Will I like it? Will I agree that it was worth the price? Will my dinner guests enjoy and appreciate it? So many variables exist that are out of my control, I simply must trust and exercise faith. Faith to believe.

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And finally, writing this blog post is an act of faith. I trust that people will read it (and if you are still reading all the way down here, I thank you most sincerely.) I trust that those of you who read this post will enjoy it; and that it may perhaps resonate with you. If it does, my faith will be rewarded.

Thanks for reading!