Friday, December 25, 2009

2005 Morgan "Double L" Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands

Terry post:

It was in July of 1980 when I was first in France that I drank red wine from Burgundy. I was traveling from Naples, Italy to Den Helder, Netherlands via train when I stopped over in Paris for three nights. Staying at a one-star hotel above a butcher’s shop I explored the city, ate well and drank well for not much money.

As a young man from rural Michigan I’d not experienced anything remotely like the wine which I enjoyed that trip. My experience with red wine was limited to marginal Italian reds and California reds. I remember two things vividly about that moment twenty-nine years ago: First, the overwhelming mouth-filling flavor of the wine and how it seemed to be everywhere in my palate. It was rich, ripe and flavorful: more so than I’d known before and without the overly acidic or overly tannic flavors which characterized much of the low-cost California reds which I’d consumed up to that time. Second, was how common and accessible the wine was even at inexpensive side-street cafes. I was having lunch at decidedly non-upscale restaurant and the wine was listed as, “Vin Rouge - Burgundy” on the menu. As I dined at that sidewalk cafe my appreciation for wine changed forever.

I preface this review of the 2005 Morgan Double L Pinot Noir as this wine is a close to any French Burgundy which I have enjoyed originating this side of the Atlantic. It is simply a wonderful wine which strives, quite successfully, to emulate the great French pinot noir’s of Burgundy.

My Impression: Medium plum in color. Intense but not overly so. Cherries, raspberries and spice box with just the right amount of acidity. Closing out with a luxurious, long and lingering finish that goes on forever. Superb.

The 2005’s are at their peak right now and should be consumed in the next year or so. Only 800 cases of the 2005 Double L were produced and it is available on-line for prices between $49 and $56 per bottle.

The 2005 Morgan Double L Pinot Noir is, at it’s price point, a “trophy wine” and the sort which is reserved for special occasions. And that is a shame as great wines are to be enjoyed in any circumstance. It is the wine that makes the meal special!

Christmas Eve I paired it with homemade pizza and boiled chicken gizzards, firmly believing that for those few fleeting minutes that no man on earth was dining as well as I.

~ Terry

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wine Diamonds: The Untold Story

Brad Post:

The adage goes something like this "diamonds are a girls best friend" but what about wine diamonds?  Perhaps you've encountered crystalline structures attached to the underside of your cork or maybe noticed sediment in the bottom of your wine glass and wondered what was wrong with your wine.

Are Wine Diamonds the new best friend of girls or are they indicative of bad wine?

Some background. Wine contains three primary acids: Tartaric (most abundant), Malic, and Citric (least abundant) and are responsible for the sour taste in wines.  There are preferred ranges of total acidity (TA) for white wines (6-9 g/L) and red wines (5-7g/L) - (notice white wines acidity is higher).

In the Midwest, the cold-hardy varietals that we are able to grow, and make into good wine, tend to push the envelope of high acidity. (The Frontenac grapes from this year were picked at 21 Brix and 16 g/L TA - crazy-high!). Reason for high-acid?  Either the grapes were harvested before they are fully ripened or may just be an artifact of the varietal being grown.

Back to the questions:  Are wine diamonds the new best friend of girls or are they indicative of a fault?  No.  No, is the answer to both questions.  Although interesting to look at and harmless to consume, wine diamonds are simply Potassium Bitartrate salts (or Tartaric Acid crystals) more commonly known by their kitchen cupboard name - cream-de-tartar. These crystals are soluble in juice but less so in wine. And this means that the acids in the juice are invisible (much like sugar dissolved in Kool-Aid) but in wine they can begin to crystallize and precipitate (fall out of solution) and ultimately collect on the cork or inside at the bottom of your bottle of wine.

In my next blog, I'll explain how winemakers try to minimize the chance of crystal formation and explain what I do around the winery to aid in the stabilization of wine.

Brad Johnson is a contributing writer for Make Mine Wine Magazine, an artisan winemaker, researcher, teacher, and proud member of the Eastern Iowa Wine Club. He Tweets as "Iowine".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NV Harthill Farms Cabernet Sauvignon - California

Terry post:

The first thing you should know when you visit Wholefoods Market is it's nickname: "whole paycheck". Wholefoods Market is an expensive place to shop for your groceries. The Porches, Mercedes and Volvos in the parking lot tell you all you need to know about the demographic which shops at Whole

So imagine my surprise when I saw a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon at the endcap of check-out counter for $4.99. The wine, a non-vintage Harthill Farms is a California appellation is of an unknown origin. I tried searching for Harthill Farm Winery on the web, and all I could find was a horse farm in Ocala, Florida. I am left with assuming that some middle-man has aggregated a lot of juice and brokered a high-volume deal with Wholefoods Market. Think of Harthill Farm as the upscale version of "Two-Buck Chuck".

My Impression: Medium red in color. Thin nose with very little fruit across the palate. Moderate soft tannins on the woody finish. It is a pretty simple wine without much going on other a little fruit and a respectable amount of tannins at the end. No real flaws.

I paired the wine with a bowl of chili this evening. In boxing terms, the wine was fighting outside of it its weight class. While I found Harthill Farms Cabernet Sauvignon acceptable, it did not have the intensity to stand up to the spicy beef, beans and tomatoes. All-in-all, at $4.99 for a 750 mL bottle with no critical faults the NV Harthill Farms Cabernet Sauvignon is a very good value and worthy of a try. Just be careful when you park your truck next to the Porche.

~ Terry

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun Wine Marketing Data

Terry Post:

Some interesting quotes from a 2007 report on wine produced by Marketing Intelligence (MINTEL):

Wine branding though fun labels has emerged as an important attribute to attract American consumers, especially the younger ones, and drive growth in the market. The brands with fun imagery, such as animals and critters, and tongue-in-cheek titles such as Fat Bastard seemed to connect better with consumers

On premise consumption...accounted for nearly 50% of the total sales...Liquor stores remained the biggest off-premise channel accounting for 22% of the total wine sales. Supermarkets...accounted for 18% of the total sales.”

The imported wine segment exhibited 56% increase volume sales growth - four times the sales growth achieved by domestic wine segment...Although Italian brands accounted for the highest volume share (35.2%) of the imported segment, it is Australian brands that drove primary growth. Australian Yellow Tail, the best selling imported brand...accounted for 26% of the total volume growth.”

37% of women are likely to drink wine, compared with 30% of men.”

Around 40% of the respondents aged 55-64 are likely to drink wine - exhibiting the highest incidence...while respondents aged 21-34 exhibited the lowest incidence of drinking wine.”

Wine consumption significantly increases with household income of respondents. Around 46% of respondents reported drinking wine in the highest household income of $100k+, compared to 23% of respondents with household income of $25k or less.”

~ Terry

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2007 SKN Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Terry Post:

Gotta love the name: SKN which is an abbreviation for Screw Kappa Napa. I have been aware of the brand for a few years and first tried a SKN Sauvignon Blanc a last year.

SKN is another of several affordable down-market brands for Don Sebastiani & Sons. Other DS&S brands include: Smoking Loon, Mia's Kitchen, b-Side and and Pennywise.

My impression: Garnet to dark plum color. Red fruit and a hit (not unpleasantly so) of grass across the palate. Finished by long, soft, and lingering tannins on the dark berries. Very pleasant. It drinks like a more expensive Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon.

I am serving this wine with Beef Burgundy this evening. I think it would pair nicely with all of the typical pairings: beef, bison, lamb etc.

I paid $8.99 for my bottle at Dover Air Force base package store. Locally, I have seen it priced at $9.99 and $10.99 - so they are trying hard to keep it affordable. At this price and quality, the 2007 SKN Cabernet Sauvignon is an outstanding value.

~ Terry

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Wine Q & A

Terry post:

Some questions which I have fielded recently:

Q: Is it appropriate to combine wine and egg nog?

A: Good question. I tried this at home and the answer is a qualified “no”. I say it is qualified in that I limited my egg nog blending with a dry white wine. The wine blended easily into the nog, with the resultant beverage being slightly curdled. If I were to try this again, I would blend with a Madera or a Port Wine: I think they would blend more comfortably with the egg nog. I did a little internet research and could not find a posting which had a favorable result with this combination.

Q: What wine pairs best with roasted turkey?

A: My personal preference is a either a non-oaked Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc. It really depends on how the bird is prepared. The Chardonnay would be my choice if the turkey is served with rich sauces or gravy (think fat or butter or cream based). The Sauvignon Blanc would be my choice if I were eating healthier and passing up on the fatty gravies and sauces. As a wild card, I continue to advocate Champagne and sparkling wine with virtually any entree.

Q: What wine works best with baked ham?

A: I have never been satisfied with any wine with which I paired baked ham but here the wines which I have tried in decending order of personal preference: Pinot Gris (Italian), Pinot Grigio (U.S.), Sparkling Syrah (Australian), dry Reisling, and Sparkling Wine. Ham is really challenging because the meat is typically salty and it is served with overly sweet preparations and side dishes. If it were my table and my wine-selecting "cred" were on the line, I'd punt and serve sparkling water!!

Q: How cold should I serve my white wine?

A: As a general rule it is my opinion that we drink our white wines too cold and our red wines too warm. Here is my suggestion for enjoying your wines just a little bit more. Refrigerate your white wine for an hour or more and then set it out 20 minutes at room temperature before you serve. Refrigerate your red wine for 20 minutes before serving. Simple.

Q: What is a good inexpensive sparkling wine for the holiday season?

A: I like Spanish cava's with my favorite value selection being Freixenet. The cava's feature sufficient fruitiness with a dry finish. At $8 to $12 per bottle they are a great value. I saw Freixenet at my local grocery for $8.99 last week.

~ Terry

Thursday, December 3, 2009

2008 Yellow Tail Shiraz: Wine for People Who Don't Like Wine

Terry Post:

It is a curiosity. The Yellow Tail wine brand accounts for nearly 10% of the imported wine market in the United States. Think of that! One of every ten bottles of imported wine consumed in the U.S. is from one Australian brand which is panned by the wine press. When is the last time you read anything positive about Yellow Tail in Wine Spectator? for that matter, when was the last time you read ANYTHING about Yellow Tail in Wine Spectator?

There may be a good reason for the dearth of positive reporting as Yellow Tail breaks with the popular conventions of the wine business because their product doesn't taste like a conventional wine. You have heard me talk about acidity in almost every commentary which I have posted. In some cases the acidity of the wine has made it a food friendly winner. And, in other cases the acidity has made it usable only as a drain cleaner.

Yellow Tail approached the wine market by taking aim at the segment which does not like the tartness or acidity which is typically found in wine. That is, they produce wine for people who don't like wine. By neutralizing the natural acidity in the wine they removed a barrier which kept the vast majority of individuals from drinking wine. In one article I read several years ago in Wine Spectator, the author estimated that only 15% of Americans actually like wine. If true, that means an overwhelming 85% of Americans do not like wine. At least they do not like wine as they know it.

My Impression: Monumentally huge, overwhelming cherries and oakiness on the nose and and equally flabby red fruit on the tongue with a brief almost sweet Luden's cough drop finish. For an instant I was transported in my wine-time-machine to the summer of 1974 and drinking Mogen-David Concord grape wine coolers at the Reno Bar in Greenville, Michigan. The Yellow Tail is like that: and, almost as embarrassing.

It is brilliant that Yellow Tail identified an under served portion of the market and developed a product specifically to address that segment. There must be marketing executives shaking their heads in disbelief that such a simple approach could succeed so easily. So, what is their secret? It is simple really: give people low-priced, low-acidity wines that are easy to drink.

At $6.99 for a 750 mL bottle it is reasonably priced. However you are part of that 15% of the American wine consuming public, you should pass on this low-priced Shiraz.

~ Terry

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fermentation: CO2 Gas and Climate Change

Brad Post:

(Copenhagen) Gathered together, for the past two weeks in an empty wing of the Parliament building, an unlikely assembly of climate scientists and members of the Federation of Oenological Leaders (FOLS) met secretively, in advance of The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss Carbon Dioxide emissions related to wine fermentation activities occurring throughout the world.

According to the United Nations “Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty -- the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.” Missing from the Kyoto Protocols, according to FOLS President Juan Antonio Tempranillo, is an “accord that doesn’t necessarily exempt the carbon emissions resulting from alcohol fermentation (a buy-product of winemaking) but provides a sequestration framework similar to other emitters.”

Emissions trading, also known as Cap and Trade, is an administrative process to control pollution through incentivizing reductions in carbon emissions. The International Association of Wine Regions (IAWR) recently proposed an innovative framework, based loosely upon the Cap and Trade system, colloquially regarded as a “Cork and Trade” approach. The Cork and Trade approach sequesters the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas that is produced during fermentation. The “captured” CO2 gas is held at high pressure for later use.

With the glut of still wine available on the market and world-wide demand for sparkling wine increasing exponentially, the IAWR regards the Cork and Trade system as a net-gain model of efficiency. In the words of Dr. Tempranillo, “the Cork and Trade innovations highlight the imagination of international winemakers by creating a new market for greenhouse gasses – injecting CO2 into still wine to create a new class of eco-friendly bubbly!”

The next few days are critical as climate scientists and wine industry leaders lobby hard for the incentive program prior to the Conference.

Brad Johnson is a contributing writer for Make Mine Wine Magazine, an artisan winemaker, satirist, and proud member of the Eastern Iowa Wine Club. He Tweets as "Iowine".