Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pairing Decision

Terry post:

I noted in another blog that I write, that I enjoyed a "moderately immoderate" dinner this past Saturday evening.

The appetizer was Oysters roasted with creamed aromatic greens (served on the shell).

The entree was Sea bass. The fish was topped with lump crab meat, grilled and served in a jus of boiled lobster shells and saffron.

Trying to balance between the two courses, I was torn between what I considered to be the two obvious choices for the wine: Peter Franus Sauvigon Blanc 2004 or a NV Moet Chandon White Star Brut Champagne. I chose the Sauvignon Blanc. The Champagne would have been better with the Oysters but not quite as good with the sea bass + saffron. The Sauvignon Blanc was okay with the Oysters but really shined with the fish.

This is the sort of issue a lot of diners face. Buying one bottle of wine while dining out is a luxury and very few individuals will pair a bottle for each course. We are forced, therefore, to compromise.

What other wines types should I have considered? Any thoughts for next time?

Yes. I know that this is the sort of problem that most people want: but, trying to encourage discussion at the expense of my wine-selecting reputation.

~ Terry

Friday, February 20, 2009

Atlantic Hotel: Second Place

We got the word yesterday that we placed second in the bidding to assume contol of the operations of the Atlantic Hotel and Solstice Restaurant. While this is not specifically a "wine" thing, it is close enough in my opinion to rate some discussion.

The winning bid came from a local multi-millionaire who owns several hotels and restaurants locally and on the Gulf Coast. He visited the property on Sunday and made his offer on Tuesday: money will help you with that. He was certainly more nimble than we were.

Two other bidders were rated below our offer. The owner's representative said that our culinary expertise rated us tops in that category, but the rich guy's money trumps expertise seven days a week.

So what did we learn?
- Be nimble.
- Have a great attorney. We had an average one.
- Have your business plan ready before the opportunity arises. Yes. I know how this sounds, but it is true.
- Have your financial "angels" line up in advance.

Bottom line: Great experience and we are sure to better next time a similiar opportunity avails itself.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Numb Tongue - A Tasters Nightmare!

Brad Post:

Last fall our winemakers club, Eastern Iowa Wine Club, hosted a regional amateur wine competition at the Benton County Fair. Initially, we hoped for a modest turnout and crossed our fingers that we would have 25 entries. Since this was the first time we had ever planned, organized and executed such an important event -- it is to us, anyhow -- we secured two judges. One judge was a professional winemaker with several years of experience and his own winery/vineyard (Eagle City Winery) and the other a fellow enology student my instructor suggested.

Our competition was quite successful with 55 wines for our professional tasters to evaluate. We allotted two hours for our judges to taste a wide array of wines (from kit made wines to elderberry and from Cabernet to rhubarb). Our judges patiently and carefully tasted their way through the kaleidoscope of flavors and picked some real winners. Throughout the tasting they cleansed their pallet with water and crackers, took occasional breaks, and chatted quietly. While I watched them I couldn't help but wonder if their tongues were on fire (due to differences in pH and acidity and quality). But they kept on sipping and evaluating for nearly 4 hours!

Last weekend we were invited to a wine party (for non-winemakers) and enjoyed several varietals (from sweet whites, dry sparklers - both pink and white, to dry reds). Each of us had a card to evaluate the 20 wines which were hidden underneath a blue or red velvet covering. This was a great opportunity to "play" wine judge and quickly found my tongue was not the delicate instrument worthy of evaluation - rather my tongue was loosing the ability to distinguish one white from another or if it was a Zinfandel, Malbec or Cabernet I was tasting! Argh!!!!

By the end of the night, as I was curled up with my umpteenth glass of port on the cozy chair of my host, I reflected back on our wine judges and of the difficulty of thier task. As I philosophically contemplated the ability of all wine judges to replicate their findings (as we should expect of them) - of our wine judges, of me trying to discern a flavor constituent of god knows what I was tasting, I must conclude - not unlike Socrates, "all I know, is that I know nothing" -- or then again, was that Descartes?!? :)

Happy tastings!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Corks?

Terry Post:

Or a better question is "Do corks need to be made of cork?"

When I was a kid I drank some really, really bad wines: the ones which came with screw tops. I'd mix the wine with some carbonated beverage and create some God-awful concoction that was fizzy, fruity and would get me a slight buzz. What more could an 18 year old (legal drinking age at the time) desire?

A screw top is a superior way to seal a bottle. Cork is an agricultural product with a wide degree of variability in production. A plastic and aluminum seal is virtually foolproof.

The curiosity in this matter is that innovation usually originates with the market leaders, but in this case innovation began with high-volume, low-quality products. And perhaps that is the entire issue. There is reluctance from the buying public to embrace a technology that was not originated with the high end products.

Perhaps it is more basic: premium wineries are like lemmings. Not enough have yet lept off the cliff.

I see screw top enclosures on the top of small brands and I think that is how it will continue for some time. Wineries without a lot of cash and seeking to extend their brand will be practical and efficient with less concern about the loss of the uncorking ceremony.

Think of Steve Martin (the overly snooty wine captain) asking Ms. Piggy in the first Muppett Movie: "Would you like to smell the cap?"

~ Terry

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sesame Street and Wine?

Brad Posts:

Found an interesting article by Jo Diaz (Wine Blog) about Wining and Dining the Millennials and how to market to these new wine consumers.

She emphasizes concise statements without superfluous wordiness using text with primary colors - to direct these attention deficient younger consumers. Today's wine is sponsored by the letter "R" and by the color "Red".

She may have a good point. I think about the times I've gone to an ice cream counter only to be overwhelmed with the number of choices. Perhaps limiting the number of options and directing the new consumer toward specific wines would encourage more people (millennial or not) to give these specific wines a try.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tidbits and Factoids

Brad Posts:

We visited the good folks at Fireside Winery yesterday and one of the owners related a story about a vintners conference he attended in California. As only one of a handful of couples (owners of wineries) from outside California they mingled among the crowds of upper crust winemakers/growers who chuckled about Midwest wines (much like the French did of Californians some years ago, I might add) - not really giving them the time of day. So, when our friends were seated for a formal awards dinner, they happened to be seated at the head table with the gods of the industry. The next day, the folks who could not give them the time of day - the day before - were now going out of their way to get to know the new insiders! Interesting.

Here are a few Factoids I pulled from Wine Business Monthly (the magazine - Feb. 2009):

1. Iowa ranks 14th among US states for the number of wineries! (pg. 72)
2. E&J Gallo Winery bottles 67,000,000 cases of wine/year -- 67 Million!! (p. 20)
3. The Coppola Companies bottles a mere 900,000 cases/year -- that's 10,800,000 bottles! (p. 20).
4. "Hot Small Brands of 2008" - #1 Graziano (CA), #2) Four Vines Peasant (CA), #3) Becker Vineyards (TX), #4) Red Tail Ridge (NY), #5) Sojourn Cellars (CA) (p. 62).

Question to consider: What is the relationship between quantity of production and quality of product? Gallo vs. Coppola? Gallo vs. one of the "Hot Small Brands of 2008"? Gallo vs your local winery?

Share your thoughts.

Happy Tasting!