Saturday, November 24, 2012

T-day recap

Ended up bringing a Torrontes, a rose from the Loire, and an Anderson Valley pinot noir. The Torrontes didn't get opened, as the hosts had already popped a Kendal Jackson Chardonnay, which was quite lovely, and a super bargain at around $10. Food & Wine came to the same conclusion in their recent issue. Generally speaking, I avoid wines made this widely, since they usually overdo the oak (or oak chips, put in bags that are soaked in the wine, instead of more expensive oak barrels) and end up tasting like popcorn butter straight from the spigot. This wine was very lovely though, aged in French Oak (imparts more subtle hints of vanilla and other spices than American oak), with a good balance of tropical fruit, vanilla and baking spices. I'd like to buy a case of this as a house white. The rose was forgettable -- as they usually are. The red was a non-vintage pinot noir from Lazy Creek Vineyards. Didn't expect too much from this wine either but it was a pleasant surprise -- light, great acidity, perfect match for the smogasborg of food without being flashy or getting in the way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


OK, this is going to be a lame post. Lame because every wine columnist publishes a Thanksgiving column about what to drink during this holiday, and they either ALWAYS recommend Riesling and Pinot Noir, or try to find some obscure varietal that wine hipsters are currently hot on. This year, I bet it's white zin -- and not the crappy kind, the new hipster bottle being made by Christina Turley. It's something wine geeks like me are excited about because it's so contrarian -- high end white zine! You can only get it at the winery, or at restaurants like A16. A friend of mine visited the winery and got me a bottle -- they're not too expensive, about $20 each. I've been holding on to mine to try with another hipster favorite, a foodie version of mac & cheese or grilled cheese. What better combo than two typically low brow items done upscale? Sorry for the tangent -- back to T-day. We're going to a relative's house, and my task is to bring a light app and wine. I'm also on a tight budget with three kids, so I need to find good values that can also impress. Ideally, I'd like to bring three bottles -- a sparkling wine, a rich white or rose, and then a red. Preferably a J Vineyards sparkler, maybe a Jordan Chard, and then a Beaujolais But I have to rely on what I already have on hand. So that probably means a Torrontes, a Barolo and perhaps a sweet Bordeaux dessert wine (white). Still figuring it all out though.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some misses

Two bottles in a row! Not fun. I'm talking about opening wine that Just bad. And not bad, but foul, very off. Both bottles are ones I got at a discount store. One has been pretty good in the past, but this particular bottle, a grenache from Australia, tasted sour, and very bubbly. I've drunk a lot of wine, and plenty of bad wine, but this was just awful. Spit it out, dumped it. Because the wine tasted a little like fermenting wine, I'm assuming that the fermentation got stuck and never finished off. The second was a cab, also from Australia (trend?) It didn't start off bad, but the finish just fell apart -- had a figgy, flat flavor that seemed like it was ruined somehow. My powers of description are failing me tonight, but trust me, none of these were worth trying again. Hate wasting wine though.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Should you decant?

Yes! I should just end this post here, but to expand briefly -- decanting can add elements to a wine that aren't present initially when you pop the cork. Sometimes there's a foul odor or off flavors that disapate, other times the exposure to oxygen can bring more life to the wine. I wanted to post this as an add-on to what The Reverse Wine Snob said on his site yesterday -- see here. The key thing I wanted to point out in his post was that he doesn't review wines until they've been decanted for a day. I tend to drink wines for a few days as well and update my notes as I go along. While this process probably wouldn't work if I was reviewing wines full time for a pub like Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast, given the amount of wines they need to taste a year, what you loose in that process is the changing nature of wine over the course of a few hours or days. When you taste, it's a snapshot in that wine's brief exposed life. It's a picture in time that's constantly changing. I've had numerous wines that tasted bad for a few hours or even a day, not revealing themselves until enough air had been able to work it's magic. And I've had wines that I liked better four days later (although rare). Without waiting, or with a quick sip and spit, as critics often do at big tastings (myself included) you can sometimes miss the gems. Just something to keep in mind.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Amazon Wine

Looks like Amazon is finally selling wine. The company announced a few years ago it was going to make a big push in this area, but after looking at the logistics -- needing to have warehouses in many states, dealing with prohibition-era laws and regulations in a state-by-state basis, they decided to pull out. So apparently they think they have figured it out. Just checking out the site, you see that they are starting to deliver to some states right now, and will likely expand to more later. I also see they have a broad selection of variatels -- 25 tannats! and some big names as well, like Hall, Flora and Coppola. The key is, will they be able to compete with -- which just made its first profit after a decade in the business last year. And are online wine buyers (like me) too used to flash sale sites like Wines Til Sold Out, Invino, Lot18, etc that offer steep discounts to pay for anything that seems to be full price? We'll have to wait and see. Still, more competition can't hurt, so this should be a good thing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Been suffering from a bit of a cold this week, so my ability to accurately gauge scents and flavors of wine has been somewhat diminished. Doesn't mean I haven't been trying though! But wanted to talk about another important aspect of tasting wine -- what you drink it out of. Now some, such as Robert Parker, proclaim Reidel glasses can help a wine express more nuance than, say, a coffe mug. Studies have been done to prove this and they haven't backed up those claims. Still, when you're doing a comparison in person, it's hard not to smell and taste a difference from a proper wine glass versus a plastic cup or some other vessel. Is this simply the mind playing tricks on us? Whether the effect is real or not, I do like drinking from a wine glass with a big bowl, in order to do a vigorous swirl, and a short stem so it doesn't feel so tall and awkward in my hand. After going through several brands, I have found one that is my personal favorite: Schott Zwiesel Tritan Cru Classic. Not only are they big but delicate, they're also cheap -- roughly $10-$12 a glass. They're also dishwasher safe, unlike some of the higher end Riedel glasses -- one of their $100 stems actually broke while I was carefully hand washing it! Quite the dissapointment.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Had a chance to stop by a relatively new brew pub, Elevation 66 in El Cerrito today. They were out of their mild stout, but lucky for me they had a more intense one on tap, "Old 66," an imperial stout, with a 9.5 percent ABV. That's more my speed. While I typically prefer rich, dry and oily stouts in the colder months, today's high 60s complimented this beverage's lighter texture despite the high ABV. It didn't feel heavy on the tongue at all. I was actually surprised at how refreshing this beer was. Had notes of coffee and dark chocolate, as to be expected, but also some interesting fruit notes as well. The owner told me they're aging some of this in barrel as well and should release it in 8 weeks or so -- would love to come back and try that.
They also had on the board a blood orange apple cider from Two Rivers. I had to try it. Came out looking like strawberry soda. This very light and dry, unexpected for a cider, and the apple notes weren't that dominant. Instead the blood orange and other citrus notes really shown through. The carbonation reminded me of soda, very effervescent, big bubbles, unlike the craft beer I usually drink. Not sure I could drink a whole glass of this, but it was interesting approach to cider.
Finally, I got a sample of their Rye Barrel Red. I don't typically go for this style of beer, but wanted to see how it turned out with some age on it. I really liked it -- there was some slight bing cherry notes in the glass, and the hops came through clean and bright. I'd definitely give this a second shot. Oh, and the food was excellent as well - had some smoky pork tacos:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Well, it certainly has been a while since I've last posted on this blog -- nearly three years. What's kept me away? Mostly family -- I'm now up to three little children, 5 years old and younger, and getting sleep, staying coherent at work and of course, spending time with my family have erased most of my free time. But I really do miss writing about coffee and wine, so I'm gearing up to post again on a regular basis. I've had some amazing wine adventures during my blogging blackout, so I'll be sharing some of those (including tasting a 1947 Bealieu Napa Pinot Noir, a Domaine de la Romanee Conti Vosne-Romanee and countless verticals). On the coffee side of things, I've been exploring some new brands, like Roast Co. and Handsome Coffee Roasters. And My interest in other beverages has grown as well. I'm still a big fan of intense beers like IPAs and imperial stouts; and have fallen in love with the artisinal cocktail scene thriving in the SF Bay area. And while I'm not mixing and shaking and stirring my own creations at home, I have begun recreating historic punches for parties from David Wondrich's "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl." So expect to see more from me soon. OK, off to enforce potty time.