Riesling. A divisive grape, to be sure. Most people either love it or hate it. For many of us in the United States, Riesling means syrupy sweet, low quality wine. Yet the greatest Rieslings are actually dry, with low residual sugar, and layers of complex flavors. Renowned wine expert Jancis Robinson calls Riesling “the wine world’s greatest underdog.” Of course, she is referring to dry Riesling, but even sweeter styles have their qualities, and are appealing to a vast segment of wine consumers who prefer sweet wines. My dad is one of them; a sweet Riesling is his favorite style of wine. Indeed, many wine experts assert that Riesling is the world’s greatest grape variety.
Riesling is a versatile grape, and can be made into sweet, dessert wines, or crafted into dry, refreshing dry wines, or anything in between. Many Rieslings produced in the U.S. are sweet, which leads to much of the confusion about the varietal. When all you know is one style, you assume all labels are that same style. Riesling originated in Germany, and the fact is, German producers did themselves, and the grape, no favors in churning out barrels of low-quality Riesling back in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Today, quality has improved, and there are many high quality Rieslings readily available to consumers.
I had the privilege of tasting one such German Riesling recently. As a member of NakedWines.com, I ordered a bottle of the Klein Riesling Trocken 2016. Admittedly, German wine labels are among the most confusing and confounding on the planet. Just remember this: “Trocken” means “DRY.” And dry this wine is! Winemaker Peter Klein is a rising star in the German winemaking scene. He is a 14th generation winemaker! (Read that again…fourteen generations!!) He was runner-up in Germany’s “Young Winemaker of the Year” competition this year. And his Riesling Trocken is all that!
Pale straw color. Aromas of pineapple and pear. On the palate, crisp acidity and flavors of pineapple, quince, pear, and white peach. Definitely fruit-forward, but not sweet. We started ice-box cold and let it warm as we drank it on the patio. As the wine warmed, enticing floral aromas emerged. We enjoyed this sans food, but it would be an excellent accompaniment to spicy Asian food or local, German cuisine.
If you have always assumed all Riesling is sweet, get your hands on a Trocken, chill it down a bit (but not too much) and get ready to experience the greatest grape in the world. If this Klein Riesling Trocken 2016 sounds like a good place to start (and it is) click here for a voucher worth $100 off your first NakedWines.com order. You’ll be glad you did.
By now you probably know that I am a long-time customer of NakedWines.com. One of the things I like about the NakedWines.com business model is that the company encourages employees, who have an interest in winemaking, to pursue their dream. A number of wines available through NakedWines.com are made by winemakers who also hold staff positions within the company. One such winemaker is Alexandra (Alex) Farber, who produces her wines under the Miriam Alexandra label. Alex’s first wine was a 2014 California Chenin Blanc. Prior to tasting that wine, my only knowledge of Chenin Blanc was my memory of the jugs of cheap wine my folks would drink when I was little. My first taste of Alex’s Chenin opened my eyes to the wonder of today’s Chenin Blanc, and sparked an appreciation for this amazingly delicious wine! I’ve enjoyed three successive vintages of Alex’s Chenin Blanc, each one better than the last. This year, Alex released her first red wine, a 2015 Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon. When I saw it, I knew I had to try it.
I have had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Alex on several occasions. Recently I had the opportunity to ask her about her story, and her journey into winemaking. My first question was about the label name, Miriam Alexandra. The “Alexandra” is pretty obvious, but where does the “Miriam” name come from? Her response is interesting, and sheds some insight into her entry into the wine business.
Miriam Farber was my great-grandmother. She was an Art institute of Chicago graduate, and an incredible artist. She did lots of watercolor, and that is where the inspiration of my label comes from. Alexandra, was my mom’s first choice of first names for me, but didn’t like the way Alexandra Miriam sounded, and liked the idea that on a resume my name could be written as M. Alex Farber (gender neutral!), so I could go under the radar and be a successful female in business. Times have changed a little bit since then, so showcasing my full name was very important to me. Hence, Miriam Alexandra on my label.
How long have you been in the wine business, and how did you get your start?
I went to Davis for college and entered straight from high school into the V & E program. I worked my way through every quarter getting further away from all the pre-med pre-rec. classes and closer and closer to the wine classes. They were so interesting, challenging, and fun. So, I just kept going. Eventually graduating and getting an internship in Napa.
Do you have a family history in wine?
There is no family history in wine, other than lots of drinkers! I come from a family full of insurance brokers, bankers, lawyers, and accountants.
When did you bottle your first wine, and what varietal or style was it?
My first wine was bottled with NakedWines.com, my Chenin Blanc! I learned to make Chenin Blanc during my three year stint with Pine Ridge Vineyards as their Enologist. I spent those years in the Clarksburg Chenin Blanc vineyards and it is the wine I really wanted to make on my own with my own twist.
Have you worked at any wineries other than NakedWines.com?
Yes, I started as a harvest intern the summer/fall after I graduated from Davis at Trefethen Family Vineyards, I then went down to Chile and worked for Veramonte Wines, came back and was harvest enologist for Trefethen (for a year!), then did a very short time over the summer with Round Pond Estate, and finally took a full time job as Enologist for Pine Ridge Vineyards. Ultimately, I wanted to do something more than just be in the lab, I wanted to be in the vineyards, work with winemakers to learn more, and contribute more to the wine industry, that is when I found NakedWines.com, and I have been working here since then. Both as a winemaker and now as our Head of Planning.
What is your favorite grape varietal? Why?
This is such a tough question for me to answer. If you are asking me what I like to make the most, it’s probably Cabernet Sauvignon. It is so expressive of place, it tells its own story through the winemaking process, and I love the age-ability. If you’re asking me what I like to drink the most? It’s Grenache, Syrah, Rhone Varietals, Pinot Noir, Champagne – a variety of its own :).
When Alex isn’t busy making wine and fulfilling her staff duties at NakedWines.com, she is committed to giving back to the community. Two projects she is passionate about are Service Dogs, and empowering young girls to become strong, independent women. To further the first passion, Alex is raising Maui, an energetic and adorable Black Lab puppy. She told me how she got involved in this project:
I have been involved with puppy-raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind out of San Rafael for quite a few years now. I took a break after having shoulder surgery, and recently wanted to get back into it. An opportunity came up with a fellow guide dog raiser, who is now training diabetic alert dogs, to take Maui for a few months as a puppy. He is now about 8 months old, and is well on his way to becoming a canine diabetic alert dog for a type 1 diabetic child.
In Alex’s other project, she serves on the board of directors of the Napa and Solano County chapter of Girls on the Run. Alex said that she wanted to get involved in the non-profit world so she could give back to the community in a way that would provide life-changing impact on young peoples’ lives. She found Girls on the Run, an after school program for girls in grades 3 through 8, that teaches life skills and promotes individual identity. Through exercise, discussion, and teaching, the 10-week program empowers the girls, develops an appreciation for health and fitness, and provides important skill they will carry throughout their lives. Alex started as a volunteer Life Coach, meeting with girls twice per week. Once she started her job with NakedWines.com, she had fewer hours available to volunteer, so she became a board member. She’s been on the board for about three years now, and says the organization will impact more than 1,000 girls in 2017.
Finally, I asked Alex if she wanted to add anything else about her exciting journey into winemaking. Here’s what she had to say:
Because of NakedWines.com, I had the opportunity to become a winemaker much sooner than I had ever dreamed of, and it has been so incredible. I had four vintages of wine as a winemaker under 30! Without the support of Angels, and their trust in me as a winemaker, I wouldn’t have ever been able to make the wine I get to make today. It’s been such an honor and I can’t wait to continue making wine.
So now that you know a bit more about Alex, the winemaker, let’s explore Miriam Alexandra Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2015, the wine.
The wine is a deep purple color with a brick colored rim. The nose is a delight of blackberry, cassis, and oak aromas. On the palate, I was greeted with flavors of fresh blackberry, cherry, cassis, oak, and vanilla, with some red currant and chocolate notes. As expected for such a big, yet young wine, the tannins are firm and edgy, providing a mouth-drying punch but offering a deep, pondering complexity. The tannins will soften with age, but if you can’t wait, I recommend at least an hour decant before tasting. With medium acidity and mouthfeel, the finish lingers long with black fruit, spice, and vanilla. With aging potential of 5-10 years, or longer, this is a spectacular value for a Napa Cab.
I brought this to a house party a few weekends ago, and we opened and tasted it sans food. Everybody enjoyed the wine, and commented on the solid fruit structure and compexity. Once we drained this bottle, the hosts opened a different Napa Cabernet, a 2012 from a small boutique winery in Napa. They boasted that their bottle set them back $80 (4x the Angel price for Alex’s offering.) While the 2012 was nice and had good fruit flavor, it lacked the oomph, complexity, and structure of the Miriam Alexandra. I can imagine that in a blind tasting, Miriam Alexandra would beat out the older boutique wine.
Though I didn’t get to taste this bottle with food, this is a wine that would pair exceptionally well with a marbled rib-eye or prime rib. The fat would help tame the tannins and the wine would enhance the deliciousness of the meat. Fortunately, I have a few more bottles, so I can experience the magic of the meal I just recommended.
If you would like to try one of Alex’s wines, click on this link, or the logo below, to receive a voucher worth $100 of a first-time order of $160 or more.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Tonight I am packing for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference. What to pack? What to wear?
#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.
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.
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.
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.
Franc Dusak has been one of my favorite winemakers for some time, and he continues to impress. Under the umbrella of NakedWines.com, Franc produces excellent wines from a number of different varieties of grape, and some out-of-this-world blends, too. One of my favorite wines in his portfolio is his Viognier. I’ve reviewed Franc’s Viognier before; the 2015 vintage. I recently acquired a bottle of his 2016 vintage, and I was so impressed I simply had to share about it!
Sporting a brand new label design, Franc’s Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016 is just as enticing, refreshing, and delicious as 2015…maybe more so! Franc reaffirms my newfound love for Viognier with this creation. In addition to being tasty and satisfying on a hot, late-spring day, it is quite versatile with food pairing and makes a terrific addition to a variety of dishes.
Currently the Head Winemaker for NakesWines.com, Franc is a third generation winemaker. The family hails from Slovenia, and Franc honors his family heritage and the original family winery on the label. In Franc’s Instagram and Facebook posts announcing the release of the 2016 Viognier, he explains:
“The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey.”
I contacted Franc via Instagram chat, and asked him about his vision as a third-generation winemaker. Here’s what he said:
“I think the most important thing for me is that I carry on the tradition of winemaking in my family. I make wine to enjoy and share with your family and friends. I am pleased when enthusiasts see the passion that I put into my wines, but my hope is that everyone can enjoy them. There is so much work and thought that goes into each wine, hopefully those who taste them can feel that.”
Personally, I clearly see the passion in Franc’s wines. Here’s my review of this amazing Viognier. I’ll be buying a case of this to get me through the long, hot summer!
Another Franc Dusak hit! Franc’s Viognier is always delicious and this vintage is no exception.
Golden straw color. Aromas of nectarine and honeysuckle. This wine is florally aromatic; it smells so delightful it could be perfume. On the palate, flavors of nectarine and peach, elderflower, pear, and floral notes. Started well chilled, as it warmed some apricot started to emerge. With a round mouthfeel, tangy acidity, and medium body, this is a great wine for food. We had it with grilled miso shrimp and asparagus, with spinach salad and it was amazing!
Make no mistake: this is not a “sweet” wine. It is fruit forward and floral, which may be perceived as sweetness. But it is a dry, delicious white wine. Franc, I tip my hat to you, sir!
This wine is still available from NakedWines.com. If you aren’t already a NakedWines.com Angel, click here, or the banner below, for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more! You’ll be glad you did!
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:
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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
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. We 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.
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.
The wine was flowing at Thanksgiving this year! My son and I were invited to spend the day with the family of his friend, Edward. With about 20 people in attendance, we blended in and had a great time. In addition to the four wines I brought, which I review below, several other people brought several bottles to share. Those included Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon, Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Talbott Pinot Noir, and William Hill Chardonnay. There were others, too, but I didn’t get a chance to make a note of which they were. In addition, a bottle of Dalmore 12-year Highland Scotch appeared on the bar. It would have been rude of me to not have a dram or two, right? It was absolutely delicious!
Dinner was a feast! There were two turkeys; one smoked, and one traditional; a honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, two green salads, and rolls. Dessert was equally varied and delicious!
Of the wines I brought, three were from NakedWines.com. The fourth was the just-released 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau from Georges DeBouef. With varying levels of wine-tasting experience represented, from “I’m here for the Scotch, but I enjoy a glass of wine once in a while, too” to a wine industry professional, all the wines were big hits. The hands-down favorite, with it’s soft, easy-drinking, fruit-forward profile, was the Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, that bottle was empty long before dinner was served!
These wines were all excellent companions to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. With Christmas just around the corner, if you are having similar cuisine, I can wholeheartedly recommend each of these for that meal as well!
Georges DeBouef Beaujolais Nouveau 2016
The hands-down favorite around the Thanksgiving table. A party in a glass! Bright purple color, bursting with juicy fruit flavors; boysenberry, cherry, plum, blueberry, and raspberry. Soft tannins and bright acidity made this a light, fun quaff before and during the meal.
4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)
$8.97 at Total Wine & More
Scott Kelley Oregon Pinot Noir 2015
Classic Oregon Pinot. Ruby color. On the nose there is raspberry, fresh plum, and soft smoke. Flavors of ripe raspberry, cherry, and strawberry mingle with soft oak. Tannins are soft and super smooth, with balanced acid, leading to long finish. Pinot Noir just the way I like it!
A well balanced Sonoma Chardonnay. Straw color in the glass. Aromas of apple and butter. On the palate, flavors of fresh apple and pear, with some caramel at the end. Medium body, very soft smooth with light acidity and perfect balance of oak and fruit.