As some of you may have gathered The Two Wine Brothers (Terry & Brad Johnson) are seriously geeky about wine. I've been known to go to extremes in my (Brad) attempt to immerse myself in wine - literally during the harvest and crush.
So it isn't too much of a surprise to learn that I am a vocal advocate and promoter of local wines.
During the past year I have launched a wine industry e-zine, called Winedustry: wine news for the "other" grapes. Focused on new wine regions and grapes, the ones you may have never heard about, Winedustry is intended for the nontraditional, non-vinifera wine community. Winedustry readership continues to grow each month, because in large part of our volunteer contributors (writers) and state field editors.
During the past few years I've taken my wine education more seriously through formal education. During this time I've expanded my knowledge of my personal wine making, then as of the past few years working at a commercial winery, and throughout collaborating with innovative wine industry folks.
One of those collaborations is now blossoming into a new project: Midwest Wine Review. Modeled in part by the successful regional wine competitions and from mainstream wine magazines, Midwest Wine Review will bring together skilled, knowledgeable and professional wine evaluators. The goal is to replicate, in the best way possible, the wine scoring systems of major magazines, but for new wine regions.
In the planning stage, Midwest Wine Review will conduct quarterly (or as needed) sensory descriptive analysis sessions and rate wines using an updated 100 point scoring system. This scoring system is a familiar metric for many wine consumers. The rating scores and accompanying brief description will be available to participating wineries. (See Midwest Wine Review story describing process).
Not long ago, I was communicating with my Winedustry Maryland Field Editor ((find her on Twitter as @ourgirl) or at her blog (http://thevineyardwife.com/)) about badges for Winedustry. She possesses extraordinary graphic artist skills and I asked her to design an image, a badge, to support local wine consumption and purchases. She came up with this image (see above). She elaborates on the creative process of making "I Drink Local Wine" badge - please READ STORY!
Nearly immediately, after posting a copy of this image (above) on Facebook, it went viral! Support for local wines is huge and this image has been shared more than 100 times in the first day! (Feel free to copy and use on your blog, facebook status update, or website).
New wine regions, places like Iowa, Missouri (which has a very long wine making history), Virginia, Michigan, Maryland - just to name a few - are making amazingly good wines. In many instances, you won't find a traditional varietal, and that's fine. Good is good...and Great is Great! Give new wine regions a chance and allow your own palate to be the judge.
Let us know what you find!
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The Barossa Valley continues to provide to provide superb examples of what the Shiraz grape can render when the vintner is not afraid to enhance the grape with the roundness of the Merlot and the intensity of the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Such is the case with the Tait Shiraz blend, the aptly named, "The Ball Buster". The Tait Shiraz was one of a number of wines which I recently enjoyed at the Blue Wind Gourmet during an very inexpensive $6.00 tasting of 12, or so, wines.
My impressions: Very dark garnet in the glass. Dark berries, cherries, spice-box and cocoa prominently on the nose. Moderately acidic: balanced nicely with the immense fruit serving. Mildly tannic leading to a huge, warm, lingering finish which goes on forever.
It is a superb wine. It is full bodied and was a delightful dining companion with grilled steak. If you can find a bottle of the 15,000 cases produced you'd do well to buy it.
77% Shiraz, 12% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon.
$15.99 at the Blue Wind Gourmet.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
This past weekend my wife I and visited another Maryland winery and purchased several more bottles. It was an interesting visit for a number of reasons: beautiful hillside location, sunny day, mild temperature, good wine and the words carefully selected by the woman hosting the tasting.
The woman presented each bottle in a practiced manner first pointing out the label, providing the source of the grapes and then a description of the varietal characteristics. It was the description of the varietal characteristics which I found most telling.
I didn't take notes at the time, and as I drove away I wished that I had. Working from memory, her description of their Chardonnay was something like this: "...it is a beautiful straw color...you'll taste pronounced fruit in this year's vintage with substantial hints of apple and lemon...it is a medium bodied wine and you'll notice the aggressive acidity at the finish..."
It was like this with each wine: as though she'd prepared a detailed listing of the grapes varietal characteristics and recited them for each potential wine buyer.
Of course, as the tasters sipped the wines she'd nod knowingly and re-affirm the characteristics, "Taste the fruit?", as we worked our collective way thorough the pour. Her actions reflected her earlier description and made the tasters co-conspirators in her vineyard propaganda.
When I disagreed with her description of their Shiraz offering as, "...huge and powerful..." she dismissed my comment with the wave of her hand.
The power of recently heard words is significant and their carefully crafted use in the tasting room was impressive to behold. I have never been so smitten during a wine tasting.
Bottom line: I am not certain that I made the purchases because I liked the wine or because I liked the words that she used to describe the wine. Time will tell.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
It has been several weeks since my wife and I got away for a short weekend vacation to Southern Maryland. The two highlights of the overnight trip were a visit to the Port of Leonardtown Winery and a $6 wine tasting at Blue Wind Gourmet.
Blue Wind Gourmet was a wonderful surprise as they were featuring a wine tasting of ten or eleven selections - I stopped counting after the third Chardonnay. Among the wines were some offerings which I'd never tasted before including the Whale River, Pinot Noir.
I tried "googling" up some information about Whale River and could not find a single hit: never a good sign. I am left to assume that Whale River is a brand without a vineyard. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. The French have a tradition of negociants bundling wine from anonymous vineyards and creating wonderful products. I'd just appreciate it, were this the case, with Whale River that the negociant be up front with that fact. Anyway, on to the wine...
My impressions: Dark cherry in color, not as deeply hued as most Pinot Noir's I have sampled. Medium body. Silky. Muted berries first on the nose with berries and a slight vegetal note mid-palate. Prominent acidity and a hint of tannic astringency at the brief cherry finish.
A good - but not great - Pinot Noir such as the Morgan "Double L", Pinot Noir - my current gold standard for the varietal.
$13.00 at Blue Wind Gourmet, Lexington Park, MD - a good value.
When I lived in Moscow, Idaho about a decade ago I had a neighbor, Heidi, who brewed her own beer, root beer, and made fruit wine from wild plums. Me, immersed in the quagmire of a PhD program, thought to myself “wouldn’t that be wonderful to do”? I even purchased a how-to book from the local bookstore and promptly placed it on my bookshelf, where it remained as I sank deeper into an academic black hole.
Fall 2005 arrived with me and my family settling in to our new home in Iowa. And on a late autumn day, my wife, left for a weekend science educators conference somewhere in western Iowa. Not knowing anyone in my new, little town, I picked up and dusted off that same book which five years ago intrigued me (and to be honest, kind of intimated me). It wasn’t necessarily a page-turner, but I couldn’t stop reading – I was hooked!
Since then, I’ve immersed myself in wine: wine making, wine growing, wine history, wine regions, oh, and let’s not forget wine tasting and drinking!
Shortly after my epiphany, or whatever you want to call it, I began making wine and not long after that I found others with similar interests.
- 2005 – Read home wine making book
- 2006 – Began making wine at home. First batch explodes in bottle.
- 2007 – With four others, established the Eastern Iowa Wine Club, an amateur winemakers group. Our group has grown to more than 100 followers and about 25 regular participants.
- 2007 – Started “Two Wine Brothers” as a way to stay connected with my brother, Terry.
- 2008 – Began taking wine science classes at Des Moines Area Community College. Also began volunteering at Fireside Winery. Fantasized about owning a winery.
- 2009 – Conducted market research for Iowa wine trail under Johnson Research Studio.
- 2009 – Started working part-time at Fireside helping out as winemaker assistant.
- 2010 – Launched Winedustry: wine news for the “other” grapes -- An online wine industry news, information and collaboration website for makers and growers living in nontraditional areas.
- 2011 – Launched Midwest Wine Review: An online wine review website for Midwestern wines.
- 2011 – Hired by Fireside Winery to serve as their External Relations guy. Will be working to maintain, build and expand wholesale program, and manage and grow public relations and social media.
What began as a hobby, grew into a passion, and continues to evolve deeper into the wine industry. I am thrilled and excited to be a part of this booming Midwestern wine industry and look forward to seeing how the next few years unfolds.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
It was in 2004 that one of our wine reps came through the door with an odd-sounding Shiraz offering from Australia: Mollydooker. I'd never heard of the brand and it was one of maybe nine wines I sampled that day.
Now almost seven years later I remember the tasting and my notes from that meeting: "...huge...powerful...amazing...dark purple - almost black in the glass...dark berries...tar(?)..."
We carried the wine for a year and then we took it off the list. The problem was that Mollydooker is a small brand and it was nearly impossible to keep it in stock. And in the restaurant business, it is better to remove it from the wine list completely than to disappoint customers who see it and want to buy it.
It is with that background that I opened a bottle of the 2009 Mollydooker Boxer this rainy afternoon on the porch, sat back and enjoyed.
My impressions: Very dark garnet in the glass. Dark berries and cocoa on the nose. Mildly acidic with noticeable tannins at the finish.
The wine is a powerhouse of flavors with dark berries and mild acidity being the most prominent attributes. It is a glass-staining giant deserving your time and attention.
$24.99 at Blue Wind Gourmet in Lexington Park, MD.