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Category Archives: Wine

Organic & Biodynamic Wines and the Environment – #MWWC36

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Sometimes procrastination pays off. As I was pondering the topic for this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, Environment, and trying to determine what I would write, the Keystone Pipeline leaked some 210,000 gallons of oil. That’s about 5,000 barrels! Regardless of your opinion on the pipeline, I think we can all agree that spilling crude oil is not a positive event for the environment.  

What does this have to do with wine? Nothing, really. However, it got me thinking about how we can continue to function in the modern, industrialized world while being good stewards of the environment in which we live. Therein lies the connection to wine.  

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Modern agricultural operations, including vineyards, incorporate the use of things like chemical fertilizers and genetically modified organisms. Opinions vary on these topics, often passionately, and I am not here to argue any particular viewpoint. I simply want to lay a foundation and present some facts. “Just the facts, ma’am.” 

Just the Facts Ma'am

The use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have had positive effects on farming over the years, by increasing yields, and reducing damage done by insects and other pests. However, these same chemicals can leach into water tables or run off into nearby waterways, which can cause damage to desirable plants and animals, and contaminate  food and water supplies for human consumption. In recent years, many farmers have become more environmentally conscious, and are turning to natural or organic methods to control pests and increase yields.  

In viticulture, organic and biodynamic farming practices have taken root (pun intended 🙂) and are becoming more and more popular. Both methods are chemical-free, and emphasize soil health to ensure optimum growing conditions. Increasingly, consumers are seeking out organic or biodynamic wines, which encourages farmers and producers to consider these practices from both an environmental and a social responsibility perspective.  

Organic farming is regulated in the United States by the Department of Agriculture, or USDA. In vineyard management, certified organic grapes are grown without the use of any synthetic additives, such as pesticides or fertilizers. All aspects of winemaking are included in certified organic wines, including yeast strains, fining agents, and any other materials used in the production of the wine. In the wine world, organic wines may have various degrees. From certified organic wines, to those made with organic grapes but may include non-organic additives. Biodynamic wines are, by their nature, also considered organic, but are taken to a higher level. Any and all of these farming techniques reduce the amount of harmful chemicals being used and released into the environment. 
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When I first heard of Biodynamic farming, I was a little skeptical. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement…I thought it was just weird. Hippie-dippie stuff. I mean, come on, planting and harvesting based on the phases of the moon and stars? Burying cows’ horns filled with manure? Seriously? However, the more I’ve learned about biodynamic vineyard management, the more I become a believer. Or at least accepting.  

Biodynamic Horns

Biodynamic farming embraces the idea that all things are interconnected in the universe. It takes the “Butterfly Effect” to the ultimate extreme. Applying this belief involves achieving balance between the vines, earth, moon, and stars. In practice, this holistic approach to farming includes such activities as adhering to a biodynamic calendar for farming activities, and yes, burying manure-filled cows’ horns (never a bull’s horn, apparently) in the ground over the winter, and then spreading the manure in the vineyards in the spring. The biodynamic calendar identifies four categories of days: Root, Fruit, Flower, and Leaf days. Fruit days are the best for harvesting grapes. Root days are for pruning. Flower days are rest days for the vineyard. And Leaf days are for watering. Some even extend the biodynamic calendar to the finished product, by drinking these wines only on Flower or Fruit days. Those ardent followers believe this is the reason the same wine may taste differently on different days.  

Do organic or biodynamic wines taste better? I’ve never noticed a difference. But then again, I’ve never done a blind tasting, comparing organic, biodynamic, and conventional wines. Perhaps I’ll do just that, and share my findings in a future blog post!  

Whether organic and biodynamic wines are better quality or not, the practices employed in producing them are arguably better for the environment. In my opinion, anything I can do to be a better steward of the planet on which we live is worthwhile. After all, it’s the only environment we have.  

Have you tried organic or biodynamic wines? Let me know, in the comments, what you thought of them. 

Cheers!  

  • By Kent Reynolds
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The Daily Meal Article: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Meal Requires Oregon Wine

Here is a fantastic article by Michelle Williams, of the Rockin’ Red Blog. Like her, my Thanksgiving table will feature a variety of wines, though not all from Oregon. We will enjoy Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau, Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, and of course, Bubbles!

Let me know what you’ll be serving with your dinner.

May you have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving day! Cheers!

ROCKIN RED BLOG

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It is a day that centers around possibly the most important meal of the year. It is also a complicated meal featuring a wide variety of textures, spices, and flavors. A daunting meal to prepare, much less pair with wine. Some try to go the dangerous one wine route. I like to have multiple wines on the table to make the most of each component of the meal. In my latest article for The Daily Meal I share how four high quality wines from Willamette Valley will meet all your Thanksgiving meal needs.

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Celebrating National Zinfandel Day in Lodi Style

Though Zinfandel is not the most popular varietal wine, it is certainly one of my favorites! I may have waded into my wine journey pool with Pinot Noir, but when I first tasted a quality, red Zinfandel wine, it was like diving head first from the high dive!

Today is the third Wednesday in November, which means it’s National Zinfandel Day! In celebration, I encourage all of you to drink some Zinfandel today. You’ll be glad you did! Done right, Zinfandel is a balance of bold, fruity, and spicy. It is a great wine to pair with food, especially casual fare, making it the perfect bottle to crack open on a Wednesday evening. Pizza, burgers, barbecue, steak, and even rich chicken dishes all pair with Zinfandel.

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Photo Credit: VinePair

The Zinfandel Events website, powered by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), has this to say:

“Bold and celebratory, independent and unpretentious, versatile and individual, Zinfandel has charted a course all its own, and National Zinfandel Day offers many ways for our members to chart their own course to help celebrate and draw positive attention for America’s Heritage grape.”

“Zinfandel Day is a worldwide celebration of the Zinfandel grape variety, intended to give Zinfandel lovers around the globe a platform to express their passion for grape and the wines made from it.”

Throughout California, Zinfandel grows well in a number of regions. It was introduced in the Sierra Foothills during the California Gold Rush by resourceful entrepreneurs who realized the hoards of miners were getting mighty thirsty in their backbreaking quest for riches.  They were right. Zinfandel gained a strong foothold, and is now knows as “America’s Heritage grape.

One of the most famous Zinfandel regions in California is Lodi. In fact, Lodi has declared itself the Zinfandel Capital of the World. Roughly 40% of the Zinfandel grapes grown in California come from the Lodi AVA. That’s about 110,000 acres under vine, tended by 750 grape growers!

Over the years, Zinfandel’s reputation has ebbed and flowed. We all know about the White Zin craze that started in the 1970s. In fact, I’d bet that White Zin was the first wine many of you tried. I know I drank my fair share of it before my first Pinot Noir encounter! As more wine drinkers started embracing red Zinfandel, and production increased in the Central Valley, many Zinfandels produced were in the jammy, high-alcohol, fruit-bomb style. You know the ones; open with corkscrew, consume with tablespoon! Jammy! While the masses loved this style, more discerning wine lovers abandoned Zinfandel. (Is my snobby showing?)

It is true that during this time, more subtle and restrained versions of Zinfandel were available in other California regions, and even some from the Central Valley, they were somewhat difficult to find, and often outside the price range of the average consumer. In recent years, however, a group of Lodi producers have started to revisit the more nuanced, minimalist approach to Zinfandel. The Lodi Native Project started as a collaborative project by six Lodi wine growers who are committed showcasing the merits of the heritage plantings. Their goal is to highlight the terroir of the vineyards themselves, and to produce small, artisan wines that reflect the character of the grape.

Just in time National Zinfandel Day, I received two samples of Lodi Zinfandel for review. Both were subtle, restrained, and delicious. I can heartily recommend either, or both.

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Fields Family Wines 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel – Family Vineyard

Mokelumne River AVA

Retail: $28.00

Brick color with pale ruby rim. Earthy nose with restrained raspberry and cherry aromas. On the palate, bright, juicy flavors of raspberry, bing cherry, and plum, with spice, black pepper, and a hint of licorice. Medium body and tannins with a bite of zesty acidity. The finish lingers with red fruit and spice. We paired this with Margarita pizza and it was delightful. A very nice example of what Lodi can do with a lighter, more restrained version of Zinfandel.

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Tizona by Bokisch 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel – Kirschenmann Vineyard

Mokelumne River AVA

Retail $32.00

Deep ruby color with brick rim. On the nose, soft aromas of blackberry bramble, black cherry, and a hint of anise. This is going to be something special! On the palate, the magic continues with a soft, round mouthfeel and flavors of blackberry jam, black cherry, white pepper, and baking spice. The tannins are silky smooth, and there is light acidity. The finish goes on for days, with raspberry and spice notes. This one went down way too easily with a combo pizza. Noticing a trend? We really don’t eat that much pizza! But…Zinfandel! This easily falls into the category of best Zinfandels I’ve ever had! Spectacular!

Head on over to the Zinfandel Events page for five suggestions on ways you can participate in the celebration today. On the top of the list, of course, is “Share a Bottle with Your Friends!” I can’t think of any better advice!

Please share in the comments what bottle (or bottles) you opened for National Zinfandel Day!

Cheers!

(Both of the wines in this article were submitted for review. I received no other compensation, and all reviews, opinions, and observations are my own.)

  • By Kent Reynolds

Pulling the Cork on WBC17

It was a dark and stormy night.

Snoopy

That seems an appropriate way to open a story about a trip to Santa Rosa, home to the Charles Shultz museum. Charles Shultz, of course, was the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, and everybody’s favorite beagle, Snoopy.

Our “easy” drive to Santa Rosa was hampered by the first significant rain storm of the season. The roads were slick, and glare from oncoming headlights was blinding, so everyone was driving extra cautiously. And slow. But we made it, and spent the last three days enjoying the activities and adventures of the 10th Annual Wine Blogger’s Conference, #WBC17.

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It was our first time attending WBC, but it will not be our last! It was a fun, informative, and engaging event. This post will be a general overview of events, with more detailed posts of the highlights in coming days and weeks.

Our first event was an excursion to Hanna Winery. Located on a hilltop with gorgeous, sweeping views of the valley, Hanna Winery has been in operation since 1985. We were greeted by our host, Christine Hanna, who gave us some history, and then winemaker Jeff Hinchcliffe took us down to the barrel room for some tasting. Following this, we enjoyed an amazing lunch, paired with several Hanna wines. Welcome to Sonoma County, indeed!

Upon our return to Santa Rosa, we participated in a Wine Discovery Session with Mark Beringer, Chief Winemaker at Beringer Vineyards. He led us through a tasting of their Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, starting with four of the single vineyard wines that go into the final blend. Once we had established the baseline, we “worked” our way through a decade vertical tasting of the Private Reserve wines, starting with 2014 and travelling back in time to the 2004, 1994, and finishing with the 1984 vintage. The evolution of these powerhouse wines was amazing to behold.

Later in the day, we journeyed around the world with A Study of Pinot Noir. Our tour guide was Senior Winemaker John Priest, from Etude Winery. He took us from Sonoma County, north to the Willamette Valley, then all the way south to New Zealand in our exploration of this incredibly versatile grape. It was a wonderful trip!

The wine education sessions were followed by an opening reception, where we met many of the bloggers we have been following, as well as new friends. Thus ended day one!

The following day, we attended educational seminars covering writing tips, legal and ethical issues, wine vocabulary, and developing relationships with wine companies. Lunch was hosted by El Dorado Wines. Nearly 30 El Dorado County winemakers lined the back of the conference room, and then poured samples of their wines.

After lunch we enjoyed a Wine Education Seminar, presented by Lyn Farmer, about the “Region to Watch,” DOP Cariñena in Spain. We were immediately enamored with the region, and have added DOP Cariñena to our list of “Must Visit” destinations. We tasted through an amazing flight of Garnacha, with one Cariñena varietal wine (you may know it as Carignan) mixed in for interest. These are some amazing, affordable wines. You’ll want to try some as soon as possible!

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Following a captivating keynote address by Doug Frost, we participated in our first Live Wine Blogging event. Wineries get five minutes at each table to pour tastes, and we blogged, Tweeted, or Instagrammed our impressions of the wines. It was kind of like speed dating, but with wine! A high-energy and raucous time, we tasted some amazing wines! The Friday speed-tasting was whites and rosés.

Friday ended with what was the absolute highlight: a Wine Cave Dinner at the Thomas George Estate. It was a first class affair! It was an amazing, “check-it-off-the-bucket-list” adventure. We’ll write more about this later, but suffice it to say this was among best meals we have ever had!

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Saturday opened with more educational sessions, including Social Media tips, photography and video, and panel discussions covering relations with PR firms, and ideas for monetizing a wine blog. (If you’re into that whole, making money doing what you love thing.) We also attended a presentation about the devastating wild fires that ravaged the area only one month earlier. The destruction was unprecedented, but the recovery and rebuilding has begun, and Wine Country is open for business.

Following lunch, we returned to Spain with our host, Lyn Farmer, to explore DO Rías Baixas, and the spectacular Albariño wines being produced there. We tasted through 10 (yes, ten!) different expressions of this amazing white wine. I can’t say enough about Lyn Farmer and his friendly, comfortable teaching style and encyclopedic knowledge of Spanish wines.

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After another round of Live Wine Blogging, AKA speed-tasting, this time with red wines, the conference concluded with a banquet hosted by NakedWines.com. As you probably know, I am a long-time customer of NakedWines.com, so it was fun to see many of the winemakers and staff I have come to know over the years.

Even with all the fun and wine (did I mention we had wine?) the biggest take-away for us is the comradery, support, and encouragement that exists in the wine blogging community. From big name bloggers and writers, who have thousands of followers and are making a living writing about wine, to brand new members who have yet to post their first blog, we were warmly welcomed and embraced as part of the family.

Finally, the dates and location for next year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference were announced. Walla Walla, here we come! We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

 

We’re Off to the Wine Bloggers Conference #WBC17

And away we go!

Tonight I am packing for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference. What to pack? What to wear?

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#WBC17 will be held in Santa Rosa, California, in the heart of Sonoma wine country, from Thursday, November 9 through Saturday, November 11. I’ll be in the company of my associate and fellow wine lover, Robyn Raphael. This will be our first time attending a Wine Blogger Conference. Last year, it was held in Lodi, just 45 minutes from my home, but scheduling conflicts prevented attending. Fortunately, the 2017 event is still local for us; just a 2 hour drive away! An easy trek compared to the cross-country or international travel many of my associates will endure. We are excited to be going, and looking forward to meeting so many of the bloggers we have been reading for several years.

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As you may be aware, Santa Rosa, and much of the Napa and Sonoma wine regions, was ravaged by wildfires last month; historic fires that were the most destructing and deadly on record. Yet, the people there are resilient and strong, and are already in the process of rebuilding. The bloggers who will be descending on the region will be helping in the recovery in one of the most practical ways possible: visiting wineries, buying wines, and dining in the area restaurants. While the conference has been planned for more than a year, the timing, relative to the fires, allows attendees to dig deep and support the region.

Among other activities, we will be going on a wine excursion to Hanna Winery, complete with wine-pairing, catered lunch; a wine cave dinner at Thomas George Estates that will cross off a bucket-list item (dinner in a wine cave); and a banquet at the host hotel hosted by NakedWines.com. We will attend wine education sessions, including one hosted by Beringer Vineyards, in which we will experience a vertical decade tasting of their Private Reserve Cabernet, from 2014 all the way back to the iconic 1984 vintage; and an exploration of Pinot Noir, hosted by Etude Wines. There will be gourmet foods, and spectacular wines. I anticipate we will not want to come home!

Through it all, we will be attentive to the destruction, loss, and hardship around us. We will honor the resilience of the local residents. We will contribute to the recovery and rebuilding with our words and our wallets. We will unite as bloggers and journalists, and meet new friends. All in all, this will be an amazing weekend! We are grateful to be able to attend, and look forward to experiencing every moment.

If you are attending WBC17, we look forward to meeting you in person. If you aren’t, stay tuned for live-blogging updates, and follow along on Instagram or Twitter for up-to-the-moment coverage.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael, 11/7/2017

Review: Vacanti Spirale Wine Glasses

I’m really enjoying the upsurge in artistic, yet functional wine accessories. From corkscrews, to decanters, to stemware, form is becoming as important as function. Recently, Patrick Vacanti contacted me with exciting news about his new, innovative wine glass. The Vacanti Spirale wine glass is designed to capture sediment and solids in a specially designed reservoir at the bottom of the glass. If you enjoy aged, unfiltered, or rustic wines, but don’t care for that gritty last sip, this could be the glass of you.  

Patrick and his wife spent five years developing this glass. After sending out more than 600 samples out for review and feedback, and two patents, they recently launched sales of the Vacanti Spirale wine glass on Kickstarter, or via the Vacanti Wine Glasses website.  

My pair of Vacanti Spirale glasses arrived in an unassuming brown cardboard shipping box. Yet, when I opened that box, I was greeted by a beautiful, burgundy-red package declaring my two wine glasses were waiting inside. Opening this product box, I was impressed to find my glasses tightly nestled in dense foam packing, keeping them safe and secure.  

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Each glass is hand-crafted, giving them a unique, individual feel. Like an individual bottle of wine, each Vacanti Spirale wine glass is distinctive; similar to others in the batch, but uniquely different. When I lifted the glasses out of their traveling nest, I was amazed at how sturdy and strong they felt. They are quite hefty, thicker than most wine glasses I’ve handled. However, they maintain an elegant flair due to their attractive design.  

Beyond the aesthetic appeal, however, is the functionality. We put the Vicanti Spirale wine glasses to the test at a special occasion dinner at home. To accompany our grilled Rib Eye, baked potato (with all the trimmings, of course), and fresh green salad, I opened a bottle I’ve been holding awhile, for just such an occasion: 2007 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley.  

Once poured, the red wine makes the Spirale reservoir much more visible at the bottom of the bowl. The design of the glass makes swirling and sniffing a breeze, and efficiently delivers the delightful juice from the glass into the lucky recipient’s palate. As the wine rests in the glass between sips, any sediment in the glass settles to the bottom where it is captured by the swirls in the Spirale reservoir. When the inevitable sadness descends as the wine runs out, rather than ruin that last sip with a mouthful of gritty muck, the sediment remains in the reservoir. Genius!  

An excellent addition to the stemware collection for any serious wine-o, the Vicanti Spirale wine glass is as artistic as it is functional. If you enjoy unfiltered or aged wines, but abhor the sediment, pick up a pair of Vicanti Spirale wine glasses and give them a whirl!  

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Thank you note included.

* The Vacanti Spirale wine glasses I received were submitted as samples for review. No other compensation was provided. All reviews, comments, and opinions are my own. 

My 100th Post

For my 100th Blog Post, I was planning on something reminiscent, like revisiting the wine that started my journey all those years ago.

However, with the devastating fires ravaging Northern California’s wine country, it seems more appropriate to share a way you, my readers and fellow wine lovers, can help.

I’m moved by the bravery of the first responders. You may not know this about me, but  I am former law enforcement. As such, I know what it is like to leave loved ones behind during a disaster and give of oneself to help strangers.

Living in NorCal, but well out of harm’s way, I’m very impressed by the resilience of the human spirit already arising out of the wildfires. Even as the fires rage out of control, people are looking ahead toward recovery and rebuilding. I am amazed and appreciative of the groundswell of support that has started. I’ve seen GoFundMe pages, numerous national and regional charities, and now NakedWines.com stepping up.

 

As you probably know, I am a supporter and customer of NakedWines.com. Champions of winemakers around the world, NakedWines.com is hosting a site where you can donate to support those affected by these disastrous wildfires. Many of the other donation sites I’ve seen are area-specific, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The NakedWines.com effort covers the whole region. The main recipient of the funds raised will be the Napa Valley Community Foundation, but others will include the Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies in the greater region.

Follow this link if you’d like to contribute: https://us.nakedwines.com/fire-recovery You don’t have to be a NakedWines.com customer to donate, but in doing so, you will truly be an Angel to those in need.

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Please give generously to help those affected. If you would prefer to give to a different charity, please do. This is not a competition, and I won’t be offended.

That post about my first taste of good wine? That’ll have to wait until post number 101.

Thank you.