Sunday, August 24, 2008

Next Wine Tasting

I am willing to host the next tasting. I suggest we capitalize on the good fall weather of September and have a tasting the last weekend of September, Saturday the 27th. The weather may be good enough to be outside, at least we can enjoy the post tasting affairs by the fire pit.

Please let me know if the 27th works for everyone.

August 23rd Tasting Results

We had a hell of time this past saturday tasting 7 wines, 2 whites and 5 reds while dining on various cheeses, London Broil and Tortellini. The wines we tasted and rated were:

Mercouri Estate Red, 2004, Greece
Kellerei Gries LaGrein Griese, 2005, Italy
Warwick Pinotage, 2005 Pinotage, South Africa
Forstreiter Gruner veltiner Schiefer, 2006, Austria
Karauserhof Decimo, 2005, Austria
Crios, Torrentes, 2007, Argentina
Nebbiolo, Il Vecchio, 2003, Paso Robles California

Okay, to start, here are a few pics of the event:

All the participants:

The Losers!
Kellerei Gries LaGrein Griese, 2005 Italy & Mercouri Estate Red, 2004, Greece.

And, your WINNER!:

Martin & Weyrich, Nebbiolo Il Vecchio, 2003, Paso Robles, California

The average rating scores were as follows on a 1 to 5 scale:

#1 Nebbiolo Avg. Score: 4.125
#2 Torrentes--Avg. Score: 3.125
#3 Decimo--Avg. Score: 3.0
#4 Lagrein--Avg. Score: 2.375
#5 Pinotage--Avg. Score: 2.375
#6 Gruner veltner-- Avg. Score: 2.25
#7 Mecouri--Avg. Score: 1.375

****Special Thanks to Paul Santinelli for picking and Contibruting the winning wine. Way to go Paul!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The LaVista Scale: Wine Rating Scale of the Future?

Lately I've read a lot about the age old debate over the standard industry 100 point wine rating scale. Some say it's time for a change, others are loyalists to the bitter end. Well, it got me to thinking. Why not create my own wine rating scale? One that would answer my prayers in terms of what I wish the scale would tell me. Give me important relatively objective factors that I can use in selecting a wine for an occasion of passing fancy. Now, I'm not fooling my self into thinking that I've come up with a completely objective scale. I know that we all have our own pallets with different likes and dislikes. No rating scale can account for that. However, I think my idea, though a little complicated, may be the first step on a path to accomplishing my goal.

The LaVista scale, as I so humbly call it, it designed to identify a "well made" wine. A wine that a true lover of wine can appreciate no matter what his or her personal preferences are. It is based on a 20 point score which is the culmination of adding up 4 sub scores that range from 1 to 5. The four sub rating categories are what I find important to the overall wine experience. They are Nose, Flavor, Length, and Smoothness. 5 being the highest score in each sub category. Lets go through these categories one by one.

First there is the Nose. Yes, the "sniffy sniff" as Gary Vaynerchuk would call it. No wine drinking experience would be complete without this opening volley. In rating the nose, I would look for two factors: Multiplicity of odors and the strength of those odors. Obviously a wine with a very tight nose and little odor would be rated a 1. A wine with a variety of recognizable odors that are strong enough to last throughout drinking would be rated a 5. Notice, it doesn't really matter if the odors are to the tasters liking or not, thus the objectiveness of this subcategory.

Second, there is the Taste. This is similar to the Nose in the sense that I would rate a wine with a rainbow of flavors that are easy to taste a 5, those with very little flavor or watery would be a 1. Obviously if the taste is legitimately unpleasant it would rate a 1. But when tasting one would need to make a sincere effort to remain objective. It's not whether you like raspberry, for example, that should determine your rating, but how close the taste is to raspberry that will land you at a score.

Third, is the Length. This is a combination of the wine affecting the front, mid and back pallets as well as how long a taste will linger on the pallet after the drinking is done. Wines that have an affect on all 3 portions of the pallet as well as staying power woould warrant a 5.

Finally, there is what I call Smoothness. This is how easily a wine goes down. Is it harsh and alcoholic or smooth and velvety? Obviously the smoother the better earns the 5 and the harsh, hot wine get the 1.

You tally up your sub scores and arrive a total. 16 to 20 is an exceptionally well made wine. A 10 to 15 is an average to good wine. 5 to 9 is a poor wine and 1 to 4 is just God awful. Hopefully combining these subcategories results in the reader identify well made wines that are worth buying and trying against your pallet. I intend to try this out at the next wine taste. I would hope others would help me give my system a dry run.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Casa Garcia Vinho Verde - Steal of the Summer

I know we"ve discussed this wine previously, but as I sit here on a gorgeous August afternoon quaffing a bottle of newly purchased Vinho Verde, I cant stop thinking what a steal this gem of a Portugese White this wine is. I purchased this at Bottle King for a mere $4.99.

Vinho Verde is generally dry with strong citrus and herb notes. Its not the most complex wine I"ve ever had, but its the perfect wine for a lazy weekend afternoon. It certainly does not represent itself as a "cheap" wine. This is one White I think Anthony would probably enjoy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Try Before You Buy--Marketing Brilliance Outside the Vineyard

I've been meaning to get back to Stew Leonard's for some time now to pick up a few more bottles of wine, having gone through a handful since mid July. I did pick up a pair of Spanish and Portuguese wines (one I've had before, one I haven't), but was interested in taking advantage of one of the numerous specials they have every week. Despite the reasonable prices, I'm often torn by which new one to try. Though I've seen it in my previous visits, I haven't tried out the wines on sale that were available for tasting at the samples bar. Today I decided to give the "try before you buy" approach a shot. Two wines were available for tasting--one was a $26.99 wine from France, the other a $10 from Italy, which I think I've had before (not recalling the exact name). I decided to try the French wine. It was a 2007 Cuvee Speciale Noble Sire Chateauneuf du pape--a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Picpoul Noir, Terret Noir, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarèse and Cinsaut (, 2008). I was told by the server the wine had been opened but not decanted for approximately 5 hours. It had an incredible nose of sweet ripened red berries, and was complemented by a deep red color with medium legs. The taste mirrored the aroma of red sweet berries, along with spicy (mint?) aspects to it (almost making it slightly resemble Black Cherry Soda with a bit more body and zing) . Otherwise I found it was extremely complex (after some initial acidity), had medium tannins, and had a nice long, consistent length--a length I hadn't seen in a red since I broke open my Vigneto Gallina a few months ago. The tremendous length ended with some heat, but hardly enough to discount this very, very goood wine. The notes from the winemaker stated that this wine could be usable immediately or put away for 5-7 years. Either way, trying it out removed the concern over spending the extra money, and I purchased this tasty wine--whether it can hang in there until at least 2013 or get consumed before the end of the summer remains to be seen, but it's nice to know whenever it is opened and given some time to breathe, it will exceed expectations! I rate this wine a solid 4.0 on our traditional 1-5 Scale (5 being the highest), and I would not be surprised that when sipping this after a few cuts of good fresh cheese (White Cheddar, Gouda, Irish, or even Manchego), this could teter on 4.5.

I would like to stress that with its strategy of allowing shoppers to taste various wines before purchasing, Stew Leonards is using a brilliant approach in pushing wines out the door that may otherwise sit as idle inventory. Granted this 'try before you buy' concept is hardly an original idea, retailers like this who take the sale of wine seriously in my opinion will develop a more faithful customer base, and should expect to thrive more so than competitors who follow a more "liquor/packaged goods store"model.

Monday, August 11, 2008

California Nebbiolo? Look out Piedmonte

When one thinks of the Nebbiolo grape, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of the Kings of Italian Red, Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmonte. And so it should be. After all, these magnificent regions have truly earned their reputations by making superb, powerfully tannic reds that, with proper aging, turn into velvety nectar. But did you know that Nebbiolo has been successfully grown in California? Perhaps you have: but to me this was surprising and hard to believe news. Then again, maybe it was just the wine snob in me rearing his ugly head and refusing to accept that my favorite grape could thrive anywhere but the Italian region of its origin.

Well this weekend, I had the opportunity to open a bottle of wine made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Paso Robles appellation of central coast California. A bottle of Adelaida, Nebbiolo 2004 from Glen Rose Vinyard, was sent to me by a good friend and Northern California resident, Paul Santinelli. He had recently taken a trip through the central coast wineries and in fact wrote an article for Winelegends describing his experience. see
In any case, I must say that my own tasting of this wine was quite pleasurable. Now, I'm not going to go as far as to say it was as good as a Barolo or Barbaresco, but I will say it was very good.

I tasted this bottle in a few ways, first right out of the bottle. It had a very tight nose. Slight hints of red cherry and various floral components. It had a very light body, reminiscent of a Pinot Noir, which I was quite surprising concerning that Barolos that I am used to are usually heavier wines. On the pallet, the slight cherry that was present in the nose was abundantly clear. The tannins were present but not as intense as I expected and I would call them medium. The tasting experience ended with a very interesting caramel flavor. I must say a negative was the high alcohol content of 15.5%, which was hot on the throat.

Next I tasted the wine with Gouda cheese, which did an excellent job of taming the tannins as well as the burn of the high amount of alcohol. The cheese certainly made the experience a lot smoother. Finally, I decanted a glass overnight to see the effects. Unfortunately, after 24 hours, the wine seemed to be turning bad, I would bet reasonable decanting of 2 to 4 hours would have had better results. I must point out that this was a 2004 vintage, and therefore had virtually no effects of aging on it. Would I open a fine bottle of 2004 Barolo tonight and expect it to taste amazing? Absolutely not. So with that being said, who knows what this wine would taste like if left to age another 6 to 8 years?

However, despite a couple of drawbacks, my opinion of this wine is that it is quite good and worth buying. Do the producers of Barolo and Barbaresco have something to worry about from California? Well, I wouldn't go that far, but I would rate the wine a solid 3 on our 5 point scale, meaning I would definitely buy a bottle in the future. I suggest you treat yourself a California Nebbiolo, you won't regret it. Many thanks to Paul for introducing me to solid wine.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wines of Austria 101

Perhaps it's Austria's proximity to wine giants like France and Italy that's to blame. Or maybe it's the fact that a nation with a similar sounding name (Australia) has made such strides in recent years. But no matter who or what is the reason, the fact remains that most people don't think of Austria when they think of wine. And it is indeed a shame since this small but very old nation has a lot to offer the wine world. So, in an effort to change this trend, I thought I'd write a little bitty on the basics of Austrian Wines.

Austria has four major wine regions, Weinland Osterreich, Bergland Osterreich, Steierland,and Wien. Weinland Osterreich is by far the largest region making up 92% of the total acreage under vine. These four regions are made up of 16 wine growing areas.

These regions are covered with the vines of 10 major grape varieties, 5 white and 5 red. The whites in order of popularity are Gruner Vetliner, Wielschriesling, Muller-Thursgau, Weifier Burgunder and Reisling. The red or black grapes are Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch, Blaur Portugieser, Blauburger, and Blauer Wildbacher. 75% of all wine produced in Austria is of the white variety, with Gruner Vetliner leading the way at 36.04%. The leader of the 25% red is Zweigelt at 9%. Gruner Vetliner grapes make usually pepper spicy and fruity but dry wines that can range from light to heavy. The Zweigelt wines tend to be fruity, velvety and smooth and can be left to age very well.

In terms of recent vintages, 2006 had a wet spring along with a hot July and a cool wet August. This translated into a reduced yield since the vines were not able to set the fruit properly. The season ended with a dry sunshine filled September and October which allowed for a nice recovery. The result was a harvest with little or no fungus botrytis or noble rot. All and all the vintage, though smaller, is said to have yeilded wines that are quite good, well at least winespector thinks so.

Winespector's vintage chart says the following about Austria:
2006: 96
2005: 92
2004: 89
2003: 88
2002: 90
2001: 89

An excellent paper on Austria and it's wines can be found at the following link, Statistics galore: