Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Edition

I don't get it. Why do people go so freaking nuts over Halloween? I doubt if a large majority of the people wearing costumes and drinking/eating themselves into a diabetic coma have even researched the origins of Halloween. I typed "Origins of Halloween" into Google, and got back 1,670,000 results. (By the way, isn't Bing supposed to give you a more precise search? It gave me 5,880,000 results!) According to, my source for all truth and knowledge (kidding), Halloween started as a Celtic celebration marking the new year, and also the oncoming harvest and cold season. They thought that the lines between the living and the dead got a bit blurred on the night before their new year (which started on Nov. 1), and that ghosts would be running around. They would throw a big party, and dress themselves up in animal costumes. People who were freaked out by the thought of either dead grandma or Casper walking down their street would dress up like ghosts themselves, so as to blend in- kind of like when the living people acted like zombies in Shaun of the Dead. They would also put bowls of food and wine on their doorsteps to appease the mischievious ghouls. Later, the Pope declared November 1st as All Saints Day, and October 31 as "All Halloweds Eve", as an attempt to put a Christian spin on the celtic party. This later morphed into "Halloween".
Okay, I get that part, assuming it's somewhat accurate. How did we get from that to a holiday where many women think its great to dress like skanks, and kids gorge themselves on Pixie Sticks? Maybe I'm just bitter that I wasn't allowed to Trick-or-Treat when I was a kid, or maybe it's just that there's too many tempting bowls of candy and cupcakes to derail my current weight loss plans. It's not that I don't like Halloween. I just really don't care about it. My wife likes it, which is fine. When we have kids, will they go Trick-or-Treating? Sure, if they want to. Which brings up another point- after about 6th grade is too old. Middle schoolers and older should be able to buy their own candy.
If I sound grumpy, I'm not. Just confused.

Have a great day. Drink an Oktoberfest beer, and enjoy the weekend.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

French wine- part one

Since we have looked at Italy fairly thouroughly over the last several Thursdays, I will move on to probably the most important wine growing region in the world- France. When I was studying for my sommelier exam, I asked what would be the most important things to study. The response that I got from my tutor was "France, France, France, Italy, Italy, and America." Point taken.
The reason France is so important is multilayered. Not only does it have the history, but the impact of France on the rest of the world is undeniable when it comes to wine. A majority of the time, when people are talking about bubbly wine, they call it "Champagne". Almost every wine lover has heard of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone. French wine terms such as veraison, sur lees, and terroir are part of every wine geek's vernacular. We even argue over French vs. American oak treatments.
The French were some of the first people to develop an appellation system. Again, this is a government-regulated system that denotes specific areas in the country where specific grapes are grown for wine. The wines are then named after that area, and rarely the grape. In France, The system goes from Vin de Table (Table wine), to Vin de Pays (Country wine), to VDQS (Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure), to AC (Appellation Controllee) in order of quality. Vin de Table wines are the simple, sometimes home made wines that are "everyday drinkers" in France. They are usually of low quality, and rarely exported. Vin de Pays wines are becoming increasingly more popular, as they have less governmental regulation, and can be produced fairly inexpensively. A large number of these are in the retail stores- some are really good, some are terrible. VDQS wines are basically those waiting to gain AC status, and account for less than 1 percent of French wine production. Chances are you won't see them at a store. AC wines are the big ones- these are the ones that the government controls such things as varietals, harvesting dates, sugar levels at harvest, winemaking techniques, etc. They are at the top of the French quality pyramid, and seeing "AC", "AoC", or "Appellation (enter region here) Controllee" is usually a sign of quality on the label. Note the use of the word "usually".
France is really broken into two major climate areas- the Southern portion is a sunny, warm, Mediterranean climate, and the north and western portions are more Continental- affected by the Atlantic Gulf Stream. France is the second largest country in the world, next to Spain, in regards to the amount of land being cultivated for vines, and is almost always in the top three countries for wine consumption per capita.
Over the course of the next several Thursdays, we will take a look at the different wine areas of France, and what they contain. It will be confusing, and full of funny words, but I hope you will enjoy it.
All this being said, go buy yourself a bottle of French wine (we aren't still mad at them over the whole war thing, are we?), and enjoy.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

short and sweet

In other baby news, my great friend Spencer and his dear wife just welcomed their firstborn into the world. I guess I'm at the age where all of my friends are having kids.

This blog is short and sweet today- evidently wednesdays are a busy day for me. When you are cooking Chili this fall and winter, try these two ideas- fry up some really small chunks of bacon, and add it to the chili for a smoky flavor. Also, instead of adding sugar, try a few glugs of red wine.

To drink with chili, we always like Port Cider- basically mix apple cider, port, cinnamon, and nutmeg, warm it all up, enjoy.

Cheers! Have a quality day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tiny little buggers

Today I'm going to talk about small things- Babies and aphids.

It seems like babies are falling from the sky in my immediate circle of influence. Congratulations to Jeff and JJ, friends of mine and owners of 33 wine bar- they welcomed their first child into the world on Sunday (which was also their anniversary). Also, a belated congrats to my friends Ashley and Brian (co-founders of Shhhh...), as Ashley is pregnant, and due next summer.

Now on to matters of science. Anyone who knows about my high school course of study knows that I have always been a bit of a biology nerd. That's why I can tell you what the Krebs cycle is in a cell, but can't tell you the difference between a 2-cycle and 4-cycle engine. This naturally leads me to be interested in the science portion of wine. That being said, let me introduce you to one of the enemies of wine, Phylloxera. This nasty, tiny little bugger just about cratered the world of wine in the 1870's. It is a tiny aphid, about 1/13 of an inch long that feeds on the roots of grapevines. Eventually, it sucks all of the necessary things that the vine needs out, and the vine dies. Much like the scourges on the earth that McDonalds and Survivor are, this pest originated in America. In the 1860's, it hitched a ride over to Europe on some vine cuttings (unbeknownst to anyone), and proceeded to decimate the vineyards over there. It literally destroyed the wine industry in France, Italy, and most of Spain. The reason that we didn't know much about it before is that American rootstock wasn't susceptible to this louse. Therein lied the solution. Over the course of the end of the 1800's and beginning of the 1900's, almost all of Europe was replanted on American rootstock, then the grapes they wanted were grafted on. Wineries in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa had to follow suit, as Phylloxera wreaked havoc there as well.

America wasn't totally immune. In the 1980's and 90's, a new form of this bug did damage in California, Washington, and Oregon. The problem was that we had planted a bunch of vines on a rootstock called AxR-1 that had ancestors from Europe. Americans thought that it would be resistant to phylloxera biotype B. They were incorrect. Since then, at a cost of almost $2B, we have replanted the vines here, and carried onward. One interesting side note- one of the only countries that hasn't really dealt much with Phylloxera is Chile. Many think that this is due to the sandy soils, which the louse can't move through.

Today, raise a glass of Glaetzer "Wallace" to our defeat over Phylloxera. This wine is made by a truly talented winemaker in Australia, is a blend of Shiraz and Grenache, and should cost you around $20 retail.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A congratulations, and a secret dinner

First of all, a big congratulations to Angela and Jordan (followers of this blog, and dear friends). They have been going through the adoption process, and their boy that they will be adopting was born yesterday. I foresee a congratulatory bottle of Champagne in your future.

Friday night, we had the October meeting of the Saint Louis Chapter of the Super Secret Double Probation Dining Club (Also called Shhhhh). It was a really fun, relaxed evening. Our theme was Mexican-inspired food, and here is the menu, along with drink pairings:

Homemade chips and salsa
Pairing: Sol, or Tecate beer, also Watermelon Agua Fresca

Shrimp and Mahi Ceviche
Pairing: "Paloma"- Tequila, Lime, Squirt soda

Street style tacos with roasted pork and homemade corn tortillas,
Grilled Corn with this awesome spicy mayo sauce
Homemade refried black beans
Pairing: More beer, margaritas

Ancho Chile and Chocolate creme brulee
Pairing: It started out being called "Peligro es mi nombre medio"(Danger is my middle name), but by the end of the night that had morphed into "Donde estan mis pantalones?" (Where are my pants?)- Patron XO Cafe, Creme de Cacao, Half and half.

It was a fantastic night, and we were really glad we went. I recommend you start a dining club too. Just make sure to invite me.

Cheers, and have a great day.

Friday, October 23, 2009


So, I'm grumpy today. Last night, buddy of mine and I went to Growler's in Sunset Hills to get a beer and a quick bite to eat. What I thought was going to be an $18 event has now cost me at least $300. This is because, upon getting to my car afterwards, we discovered that the back window had been broken out, and my Sip of Knowledge cell phone was stolen. Besides the fact that I am trying to save as much cash as I can for a project I am working on, it's just an irritation having to get the window fixed (right now, I'm totally riding hoosier style with syran wrap all over it), get a new cell phone, vacuum broken glass out of my car, etc.

At least the beer was good at Growler's.

Enough negative vibe- tonight we have a meeting of the Saint Louis Chapter of the Super Secret Double Probation Dining Club. That's right, you don't know about it...because it's secret. Are you jealous? Each person/couple cooks a course, and brings a drink to match it. I'm making a ancho chile bittersweet chocolate creme brulee, and pairing it with a desert drink that has Patron cafe tequila, creme de cacao, and cream. Now I know you are jealous! I will give a full report on Monday, with dishes that were made and drink pairings.

Have a great weekend folks.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wine Class Announcement

Hey friends,
I wanted to let you know that I will be teaching a class at the new Ernesto's Wine Bar. Here's the scoop:

What- Old World Vs. New World wines- I'm going to take you through 4 different varietals, and show you Old and New world versions of each one.

When- Monday, November 16, 6-8 pm

Where- Ernesto's Wine Bar- corner of Lynch and McNair in Benton Park

Cost- $20/person

If you have any questions, email me at


Italian wine finale- The Islands

We have gone through the main wine growing regions of mainland Italy- I skipped a couple of the minor ones that aren't as important on the wine scene. Today I want to talk about the two Italian islands- Sicily and Sardinia. Looking at the map, Sicily is the "ball" that the "boot" of Italy appears to be kicking. Sardinia is about 300 miles NW of Sicily, in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Sicily, the land of Vito Corleone, is an area that has suffered an image problem because most of the wine that comes from there is basically table wine. Probably the most famous wine from Sicily is Marsala- a sweet, fortified wine. It is made from mainly the catarratto, grillo, and perricone grapes, and gets its unique taste from oxidation. Most of the versions here in the U.S. are cheap supermarket brands, but the higher end ones can be really delicious. The only other wine of serious note from Sicily is Nero D'Avola (also called Calabrese). These are deep, dark, earthy, leathery, delicious wines. Try the Cantine Barbera, if you can find it at a retail store.
Sardinia is even more remote, and less important on the wine scene than Sicily. Because there have been a succession of countries that have ruled the islands, there are influences on Sardinia that are not only Italian, but also Spanish and Middle Eastern. The Spanish influence can be seen by the production of Carignano (the same as Spanish Carinena), a decent "grapey" wine. The main grape for winemaking in Sicily is Cannonau- think of low to medium range cali cab, and you have a similar taste profile.

Well, that does it for Italy. Next Thursday, I'm going to launch into the wine regions of France.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wine and movies

These are two of my favorite things. Obviously, you know that I'm a wine fanatic. However, I'm also a fan of great movies. I like the Indy-type stuff, and big budget stuff.
With that in mind, I'm going to offer wine suggestions for what to drink while watching some of my favorite movies of all time. I hope you enjoy, and your comments are welcomed!

Godfather 1 and 2 (not 3):
Obviously, something Italian. Because this is a long movie, no matter which one you watch, you need something to sip- not gulp. Because Vito Corleone is from Sicily, I'm thinking that's the best way to go. Red, not white, leads us to Nero d'Avola. Pick out a producer at your local market, this will be a medium bodied, easy to drink, inexpensive red.

It's a love story, a war story, and everything else. You need a wine that is rustic and complex, and also not to expensive (William Wallace despised all things of Royalty). I'm going to go with Boreaux, but not one of the big houses. Get a Bordeaux appellation, not one of the high-dollar guys.- probably made from mostly Merlot. Check out Chateau de la Taille, or Chateau Courlat.

Public Enemies-
My first inclination is to suggest whiskey, because that's what John Dillinger drank. However, the style of this movie calls for Champagne. Try A. Margaine demi-sec. The slightly sweet, sultrty bubbly will make you want to rob a bank, but do it in style.

The Hangover-
Don't drink anything serious, because it will likely shoot out of your nose when you laugh during this movie. You also need to consume copious amounts if you are staying in the vein of this flick, so start with an inexpensive white (Crios Torrontes), and then gulp down some inexpensive but good tasting red (Ben Marco Malbec).

This movie should charge you up, and make you want to shout your barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world. Drink a wine that is applicable- Tikal Patriota. Plus, when you are finished with the bottle, you can use it as a weapon to help bring down the Roman Empire.

Fool's Gold or Music and Lyrics-
Before you say anything, I'm listing these movies because they are some of the only "chick-flicks" that my wife and I can watch together without one of us complaining. Start with something light and easy to drink, maybe Mosel Riesling. Then move into something a bit more (but not too) substantial- how about some Oregon Pinot.

Star Wars-
We all have it memorized, so you can pay a bit more attention to the wine. Chateauneuf.

Raiders of the Lost Ark-
Again, you know the movie backwards and forwards. Maybe red Burgundy.

Red Dawn-
Gentlemen, this one is for you because theres a 99% chance that your wives will leave the room anyway. Nothing says "Wolverines" quite like big, bad, bold California Cab. Give Snowden or Nicholson Jones a try.

What do you all think?

Cheers- tomorrow we talk the Italian islands.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sip of Knowledge website up and running

If you have read this blog much at all, you know that I have started a side job as a wine consultant. My website is now up and running, please check it out:
I know there are a few kinks that need to be worked out (like getting the GoDaddy ads off of the top of it), but I'm really pleased with the outcome!

Today's suggestion- Take a breather, sip on a glass of Rutz Chardonnay, and check out the website.

Thanks y'all!

Cheers- and more to come tomorrow, busy day here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The misunderstood young blackbird

In the world of wine, there are kings and there are pawns. The kings are the grapes/wines that people clamor for- Cabernet, Barolo, Brunello, Red Burgundy. The pawns are those that people mutter under their breath, drink as a last resort, and make fun of- White Zinfandel, "Chablis" in a jug that was made from California, anything made by Yellow Tail, and Merlot. I want to defend the grape that is translated in french very loosely as "the young blackbird"- the fair Merlot.
Truth be told, Merlot held center court in the 70's and 80's as the wine that most people drank. It is easy to pronounce, fairly cheap to produce, and has user-friendly taste profiles of plums, cherries, tobacco, and mint. In fact, it is one of the 5 "noble grapes", and the most widely grown red grape in Bordeaux, and does very well in Southern France, Australia, South Africa, California, and Washington. Somewhere along the way, Merlot fell out of favor, and Shiraz took stage (followed by pinot noir and then malbec). There was even a scene in Sideways where Miles proclaims "I'm not drinking any f*&%ing Merlot!"- a proclamation that was later reversed when he is shown drinking a 1961 Cheval Blanc- a wine that is roughly 50% Merlot.
Miles's flip-flopping on merlot is something that a lot of wine fans do. They say they won't drink it, but show them a Cheval Blanc, Le Pin, Petrus, or Galatrona (all made from Merlot), and they will be the first to reach for a glass.
One of the good things that has happened with Merlot falling out of favor is that sweet, ubiquitous juice that was once the norm has all but disappeared. Producers have figured out that, if they are going to produce a merlot, it had better be pretty darn good.
In that spirit, I say you go out, grab a bottle of merlot (try Leese Fitch from California- good juice for less than $10 or something from Saint Emilion in France), and raise a toast to the misunderstood young blackbird.


Friday, October 16, 2009

My dream meal...

I texted my sweet bride this morning, and asked her what I should blog about today. Her first response was "The most fun you've ever had with your family". I don't want to bore people with a vacation story from Mexico where we ate good food, caught fish, and got sunburned. Her second response was "If you could eat anywhere in the world, with anyone in the world, what would that meal be?" This I like. I'm assuming money is no object, and that I need to pick people that are alive (hey, it might happen...who knows.)

The guest list:
My Wife
My Parents/Inlaws
My Brother, sister, and respective spouses (Sorry, nieces and nephew- kid free zone)
A couple of my good friends (I'm not naming names, so as to keep the peace. If you think you are at the table, then sure- I was thinking of you.)
Kevin Zraly, wine expert and nice guy
My old bosses, BA and Rick Moore
Ron White (because he's hilarious)
Tim Tebow (the best college football player of all time- I just want to hang with him)
Brittney Spears (just to see what would happen)
Matthew McConaughey (to keep the ladies distracted)
Bar Refaeli (to keep the guys distracted)
Anthony Bourdain
My pastor (just to keep things somewhat under control)

...I'm sure if I made this same list tomorrow, it would be different, but that's what it is for right now.

The Setting:
a couple of long tables overlooking a vineyard in France at sunset

The Chefs:
Each course prepared by a different chef, including Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Stephanie Izard, Guy Fieri (yes, I'm serious- I actually want to meet the guy), Charlie Trotter, Gerard Craft, Josh Galliano, Kevin Willman, Chris Schlesinger, and a host of others

The Menu:
Each chef prepares two dishes- their "best" dish no holds barred, and their favorite dish to make. All dishes served family style. There would be copious amounts of beef, foie, truffles, cheese, duck, etc, etc, etc.

The Wines:
I wouldn't pair wine with each course- too restricting. Instead, Doug Frost would be there to serve and talk about:
Buckets of Champagne
plenty of different vintages of Mosel Riesling
lots of White Burgundy
lots of Red Burgundy
loads of Chateauneuf- ready to drink of course
gobs of Cabernet
Some Syrah
for dessert- Sauternes and a vertical of vintage ports.

That's it. It almost gives me heartburn thinking about it. See you there!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Italian Lesson Postponement

Due to traffic, Elvis sightings, weather, the economy, my dog, oversleeping, Big League Chew Gum, hangover, my grandma dying, the running of the bulls, facebook, getting married, bounced check, ninjas, Dan Quayle, the release of the 2011 Ford lineup, the World Series, the World Series of Poker, stomach ache, H1N1, getting a tan, vacation, and batteries running out, I will not be able to blog about Italy today.

Stay tuned tomorrow for what I'm sure will be a fabulous post.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm confused.

So you may notice that, even though I eat out a lot, I don't put a whole lot of restaurant reviews on here. The reasons for this are multi-fold: First of all, I don't know how to write well about food. I trust other local food blogs and critics to wax poetic about how good or bad a place is. I also sell wine to a lot of restaurants. If I gave my honest opinion about some of the places I sell to and the owner found out, I would likely be selling them much less wine! Finally, this is a wine-based blog, so that is where I want to put a lot of focus. If you ever want an honest opinion about a restaurant, just email me.
Once in a while I come across a place that I don't do business with that just prompts me to write about it. Such is the case when I went to lunch at Molly's in Soulard. This is the new project that Eric Brenner of Moxi semi-fame consulted on, that expanded into the space where the old Norton's was. I first walked into the bar on the right hand side of the building, where the "open" sign was blazing. This was at about noon, and the guy setting up the bar looked really perplexed when I walked in. I asked him if I could get lunch, and he just mumbled "no- you have to go to the other side." Nice customer relation skills. I walked through a really nice little courtyard, and right into a 1890's style parlor. The dining room was really nice, plush, and comfortable. This is where the confusion started. The bartender and waitress were dressed in t-shirts, jeans, and ballcaps. Not exactly what I was expecting, but whatever. I sat at the bar, ordered a beer, and looked at the menu. The bartender launched into a pre-rehearsed specials spiel, of which I understood about 40%, as she was talking so fast. I ordered a cup of gumbo and a shrimp po-boy. To say the service wasn't professional is an understatement. The waitress and bartender were snipping at each other, and at the cook, the entire time- in full earshot of the 6 other people eating there besides me. The food was okay, and that's it. The gumbo was underseasoned, and served lukewarm. The shrimp po-boy had a wierd consistency to the bread, not the crunchy stuff I have been served in a hundred better spots on their versions of the Cajun delight. The shrimp was cooked fine, but unremarkable. My beer was done half way through the gumbo, and the bartender never bothered to ask me if I want another. When I asked for my check, the same bartender slid the check holder all the way down the bar, hitting me in the arm, then laughed about it. Are you kidding me? The tab was $23, which seems a lot for a cup of gumbo, a beer, and a sandwich. I paid and left confused.
I'm just wondering why they would have sub-par service and food in such a great looking spot.

Speaking of wine, check out the Plungerhead Zinfandel. It has a cheesy label, and the name leaves something to be desired, but the wine is legit. Most any retailer in the area can get it for you, and it should be less than $20. Enjoy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How long does wine age?

I get asked this a lot, and quite frankly the answer is tricky. According to Kevin Zraly, author/teacher/wine badass, only 4% of wine is meant to be drunk more than 1 year after its release, and only 1% can improve with more than 4 years age. That means, in it's most simple form, drink most of your wine now, and don't worry too much about it. Not a helpful answer, I know.
If you are looking to age wine, you must first determine what your goals are. Let's surmise that you have the wines that you want to drink in the next year or two taken care of, and you want to know what will age more than that. This depends heavily on the producer, the grape, and the vintage that the wine comes from. Some of your safest bets for really long term wines are ports, madeira, and sherry. The producers have already beat the tar out of these wines, and they will last indefinitely. I have drank madeira from 1898, and it was wonderful. Next, look mainly to Europe. This is because they usually build their wines to last a bit longer over there. I would loook into high quality Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti, and Barolo if you want wines that will run the course. You do, however, have to look into the vintage. For example, 2003 was really hot in France. This means that the grapes were a lot riper and had more sugar at harvest. As a result, the wines are bigger, fleshier, and will drink better in their youth. Compare this to the 2005 which was a bit cooler year, and the wines will last a lot longer in your basement.
Other wines from across the pond that will do well with age are quality German/Alsacian Riesling (nothing in a blue bottle- drink that stuff yesterday), and some from the Loire (Coulee de Serrant, Quarts du Chaume). Many spanish reds, particularly from Rioja and the Ribera del Duero will go nicely for 10 years or so.
Finally, don't count California out. Some of these producers are finally pulling in the reins on their wines, and making cabs and pinots that will go a long time. As Americans, we tend to pop the cork on the newest releases way too early. It's okay, let that Pride Cab go for a few years, you will be amazed by the difference. If you still have some doubt, the best way to tell if a wine will age is to buy 3 or 4 bottles of it. Drink one now, one in a year, and one in 5 years. If you are keeping good notes, you will really see how the wine progresses. Sometimes you will be right, sometimes a wine will surprise you - and that's part of the fun!

Today is the day to go out and buy a bottle of port for the cold weather. Go find yourself a 10-year tawny from Taylor Fladgate, Dows, or Gould Campbell. Drink a small dram tonight with the wind and rain, and save the rest to sip on over the next few weeks. Delicious.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Blind Tasting Club

There's a wonderful group of people that gets together on a semi-regular basis to blind taste wines. I have had the opportunity to taste with them a couple of times, and then hosted the group on Saturday night at my house. These tastings are a blast, and I am honored to have been included in them- and to get to know some great wine lovin' folks.
Basically, everybody brings a bottle or two of wine that are covered, and we try to guess vintage, varietal, and country of origin. On Friday, we each contributed a bottle of red, and a bottle of white. Unlike traditional "professional" tasting groups, we don't always spit. In fact, we rarely do. This means that we are faily accurate on the first few wines, but it goes downhill from there. Here is the lineup from the Friday tasting, in no particular order:

Gruet NV Rose (palate primer, not tasted blind)
2001 Heinz Schmitt Leiwener Klostergarten Eiswein
2003 Eagles Trace Cabernet (375 ml, not tasted blind)
2003 Rotlan Torra "Tirant" from Priorat
2004 Nicolas Joly Coulee de Serrant
2007 Shane "Villain" Syrah
2006 Rock "Hudson Vineyard" Syrah
2004 Domaine de Lises Crozes Hermitage
2007 Domaine de Lises Crozes Hermitage (my favorite "value" wine of the night)
2002 Leroy Montagny (over the hill)
2002 Penfolds RWT (stunning!)
1999 Donhoff Nicherhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese
2007 Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse
2004 Eagles Trace Latitude 38 (375 ml, not tasted blind)
2007 Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay (used to demonstrate the proper use of a Porron)

As you can see, there wasn't a dog in the bunch. After glasses were broken and pizza was ordered, I'm glad that everyone made it home safely.

Thanks again to the crew that brought the wine!

Until tomorrow, Cheers!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bloggin' ain't easy, love over a jolly rancher

Something that I have realized very slowly is that blogging, much like Big Daddy Kane said about pimpin', "ain't easy". Especially if you try to do it every day. Fridays I have reserved for telling a little less about wine, and a little more about my own life experiences. Today, I'm sort of at a loss about really funny or interesting stories. With this in mind, I will go back to the same age that I spoke of with my Russian Stow-away impression, and talk about my first love- Jennifer Kaufman.
I have spoken of Jennifer before, as she was my first girlfriend when I was the ripe old age of 6. We used to go worm hunting in the gutters on Garfield Way, where she lived- a short walk from my palacial mansion on Harrison Circle in Littleton, CO. This was all fine and dandy, but the true testament to my love and devotion was that I gave her my Halloween candy. This may seem like something small to those reading this. However, when I was a child, my family didn't go trick-or-treating. I don't know if it was a religious choice made by my parents, or simply a safety issue. The lack of trick-or-treating meant that any candy that I could get a hold of came from pilfering from the basket we had to hand out to other lucky trick or treating kids, or from school. Quantities were small.
The other part of the issue was that I wasn't really allowed to take candy to school- my teacher wouldn't allow it, and my parents frowned upon it as well. What was a romeo-minded second grader to do? I needed to give my love the contraband candy she deserved, but I would have to sneak it out of the house. Luckily, these were the days of the Member's Only jackets. That's right, I had one- chest pocket, neck strap, and all. I loaded the candy into my chest pocket, and headed out the door. My mother stopped me to say goodbye before I headed to the bus stop, and give me a kiss and a hug. I remember trying to move slowly so that the wrappers of the grape Jolly Ranchers wouldn't "crinkle" in my pocket as my mom was sending me off. This tell tale sign would have been the end of my perfectly thought-out plan. Luckily, Mom didn't notice.
I gave the candy to the girl I was sure would be the love of my life. I then wrote a note to my parents to let them know that I had a girlfriend- big step for this little guy. Eventually, love proved to be the cruelest of all teachers when Jennifer dumped me at the playground monkey bars for Ryan Polesky. Freaking Ryan. I later got my revenge when I hit him with my lunchbox and gave him stitches- an incident unrelated to him stealing my girl.
In retrospect, I'm glad that I didn't end up with Jennifer, as it would have prevented me from marrying the true love of my life. And I didn't even have to give her any candy!

Have a great weekend- go drink something at Ernesto's, the new wine bar in Benton Park that is opening tonight.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Italian Wine Primer- Emilia Romagna

Emilia Romagna is situated in Northern Italy, and quite honestly is known much more for their food (this is the home of the city of Bologna, as well as Parmesan Cheese and Parma hams) than they are for their wine. The main varietals that they grow here are Sangiovese, Barbera, and Bonarda. If you have never tried a Bonarda, find one and check it out- it's pretty cool stuff. In fact, it has really taken off in Argentina, where Italian immigrants brought it over and planted it to make wine.

The other wine that comes out of Emilia-Romagna is Lambrusco. This is the slightly fizzy, slightly sweet wine that has come in jugs in the past. There are some decent versions out there- try the Ca' de Medici if you can find it. It's wierd, but actually tastes pretty good when served chilled.

That's about it for today- sorry for the short post, but I have to taste wine with Terrene at 10 am!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Growers Champagnes

When I wrote about all things bubbly, I alluded to the fact that I am a big fan of "grower's champagnes". Today, I just want to explain what these are, and how you can become a fan too. Just like almost every other industry, Champagne is lorded over by a few large companies. There are many "mom and pop" shops that just struggle trying to stay alive under these larger corporations. The names of these larger companies you will likely recognize, as they produce such wines as Veuve Cliquot (or as I call it "Old Yeller"), Moet & Chandon "White Star", Piper Heidseick, etc. These are the Champagnes that you see the big displays of at your local liquor store with the glitter, ornaments and such over the next month or so. The problem with these Champagne houses is that they buy as many inexpensive grapes as they can, and turn out ubiquitous wine with very little touch from "real people". For example, Veuve Cliquot produces nearly 10 million cases a year of Champagne. That's a lot of juice.
Why should you care? Honestly, if you are just looking for something bubbly that will impress the neighbors, then you probably shouldn't. The big, factory champagnes taste fine, and there are many really happy people drinking them right now. I, however, like to search out wines with a name and a place. I like to think of a wine grower with dirt under his fingernails making my wine, not some big corporate conglomeration. As Terry Theise puts it in his annual Champagne Estate Selections catalog-

"You should drink it if you'd rather have a wine expressive of vineyard, and the grower's own connection to the vineyard, than a wine "formed" by a marketing swami who's studied to the N-th degree what you can be persuaded to "consume". Do you really want to be reduced to a mere "consumer" when you can drink Champagne like a whole human being?"

That being said, let me suggest a couple of labels to look for out there:

A. Margaine-
These guys produce a meager 4,600 cases of Champagne per year. Made from 10% pinot noir, and 90% chardonnay, the wines have a "flowery" note that I really like. Check out the Rose, and the Demi-sec. You will know the wine because it has an old school label with a windmill on the front.

Gaston Chiquet-
I like this producer, because he uses a big dose of Pinot Meunier in his champagnes (otherwise known as the "other Champagne grape".) His annual production is about 17,000 cases, and his wines have a very distinct chalky minerality to them

Pierre Peters-
I like this guy because he gives glasses of Champagne to the policemen that come check on his vineyard in France. Made from 100% Chardonnay, this is a more refined style of Champagne. Come check it out at the "In the Vineyard" event to benefit the Edgewood Children's Home, I will be pouring it. His production is 13,000 cases.

See what I mean? I like supporting the "little guys" in their efforts to keep this art of making Champagne alive. Don't worry about price either. Most of these wines can be bought at a price that is equal to, or less than, the big boys.

That's enough suggestions for today- Cheers!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How do I get into wine??

Many people, when they learn what I do for a living, want to know how to "get into" wine. I think this is because the world of wine, much like the world of coffee, cars, furniture, or anything else that takes a bit of discernment in taste, can be extremely intimidating to a novice. Lucky for these folks, wine is something that can be gotten into with very little up front investment or knowledge necessary. One caveat- once you start down this slippery slope, don't be surprised to find yourself saying "Which of the new releases of Chateauneuf du Pape do I need? This one only costs $109, and it scored 97 points. The kid's college fund can wait for a week..." and so forth.
The first step is to find some friends that are interested in wine, too. I wouldn't seek out your wine-geekiest friend, as this will only frustrate you. Find someone who knows just as little as you do. Take said friend(s) to a liquor store, and buy a couple of bottles. They don't have to be expensive, but buy a variety of things. Start with riesling, chardonnay, pinot grigio, merlot, cabernet, and shiraz for instance. Then, arrange a time with said friends, open the wines, drink them, and WRITE DOWN your impressions. Write down what you liked about it. Don't worry about your wine-speak yet, you will get there. It's okay if you don't like them- just write down why. Also, don't worry about being able to taste every little nuance in the wine- for more help on this, read my blogs about how to taste wine.
The next step- Repeat. Seriously. Repeat this process, with different wines each time, as many times as you can afford to. Remember, just because you didn't like one particular bottle, don't write that varietal off forever. Maybe you don't like that varietal, which is possible, but it's more likely that you just don't like that particular example of that varietal.
Now, start going to wine tastings at retail stores. Don't be the person that goes to every single one, and doesn't buy anything. Go to a store that you like, and I wouldn't visit more than one or two tastings per week.
After you have spent weeks, months, maybe even years doing this, go out and buy a book about wine. Start with Wine for Dummies, or Windows on the World- these are great resources. Read the book all the way through (of course, while drinking a glass of wine). Then, go buy a copy of Wine Spectator or some other publication. You already did this, didn't you? You didn't buy a subscription yet did you? Oh, that's okay. We all do it.
Now start seeking out classes at your local retail wine shops. Some are free, and some may cost a small amount. These will really help you get to know what you like.
From here, the journey really gets precarious. This is where most people either really dig in, or just coast along (which it perfectly fine!). Now you are at the point where you start pulling up message boards, start talking about mailing lists, and buy special glasses to hold your burgundy. From here, you are in charge of your own wine-geeky destiny. It's a lot of fun! You will meet some of the craziest, obnoxious, fun people out there, but it's a blast. I'll see you at the bar.

Today, step away from the wine and toast the oncoming of fall with a Manhattan. That's right- the cocktail that your grandpa used to drink that made his breath smell funny. Mix 5 parts of your favorite bourbon with one part sweet vermouth, shake, serve either straight up or on the rocks, and top off with a cherry. This is the perfect company for a windy, rainy, cool fall night.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Wine Temperatures

One of the questions that I continually get asked is "How should I store my wine", followed by "what temperature should I serve my wine". I wanted to address these pretty simple questions as it is a Monday morning, and my head is still a bit foggy.
When storing your wine, it is important to consider what you are storing it for. If you are just buying wine to drink sometime in the next month or so, any old wine rack will do great. Don't set it near a heat source in your house (including the top of your refrigerator), or in the sunlight, and you will be fine. If you are keeping white wine, I wouldn't suggest leaving it in your refrigerator for storage- the corks tend to dry out. This is especially true for bubbly wine, as the slight vibrations in the fridge will eventually make the wine go flat. For storage of a month to about a year, one of those small wine fridges works well. Again, they vibrate, which can damage the wine over a long time. For anything longer than several months, I would suggest a wine rack in an area that is fairly dry, dark, and around 55 or 60 degrees. You know what works great? That's right...your basement. Lay the wines on their side, so the corks don't dry, and it should do fine.
Now on to serving temperatures. Most Americans serve their white wines too cold, and their red wines too hot. I don't know where I heard it, but I like the "rule of 30". Basically, take your white wines out of your fridge 30 minutes before serving them, and put your red wines in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving them. Most whites should be served between 50-55 degrees, and reds from 60-65. Dont freak out about it, though- I've seen people with thermometers trying to make it an exact science. This is unnecessary. Drink sparkling wine as cold as possible- otherwise it will foam out of the bottle when you open it.

Well, that was easy.

Last night I drank a glass of 2007 Decendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos, from Bierzo, Spain. Made from Mencia, this little gem was delicious with its leather, earth, and dried cherry notes.

Cheers, and have a great week!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I believe...

Several of the posts this week have been more about my company, and less about wine. Yesterday, I had someone ask me what my philosophy on wine is. Since I have started my blog, I have sprinkled little tid-bits of my philosophy, but I want to sort of combine them all into one post. Stealing from "Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again," I'm going to list things that "I believe..."

Sing along.

I Believe:

that if you like a particular wine, then it is good (to you). Unless it's Charles Shaw or Yellow Tail- in that case, we need to talk.

that, if you BYO a bottle of wine to a restaurant you should expect a corkage, tip on the value of the bottle (at least 20% of the retail value), tip on the corkage, and leave a taste for the sommelier, waiter, or manager.

that you can drink rose' all year-round.

that sometimes wine out of a plastic cup is just fine.

that buying really expensive stemware for each varietal of wine you drink is ludicrous.

that you should have a once a day, week, month, year, and lifetime wines picked out.

that you should not drive drunk.

that most people think they know more about wine than they really do, and that's okay.

that if you are a wine geek, you should watch Sportscenter at least once a week so you can have a normal conversation with non-wine geeks.

that sometimes beer, a cocktail, iced tea, diet coke, or water is a better decision than wine.

that dry champagne tastes terrible with wedding cake.

that, if a restaurant is sold out of a particular wine, you shouldn't be upset.

that there's a certain protocal/etiquette to follow at wine tastings that you should follow- mainly, be polite.

that a big, fat, bold wine on a hot day doesn't taste very good, but the same wine while it is snowing might taste delicious.

that people should chill out with the "what did it score" when talking about wine.

that most people make up stuff when they talk about what they taste in a wine- me included.

that you shouldn't worry so much about what wine will pair exactly with every detail of your meal.

that riesling is a more intellectual grape than pinot grigio.

that there is plenty of wine out there for less than $50 that is really good.

that champagne should not just be drunk for celebrating, and that it tastes really good with potato chips.

that New Year's Eve prix-fixe wine dinners are a waste of time and money- stay home and enjoy yourself!

that a cheap corkscrew will open a bottle just as well as a really expensive one.

that Americans tend to drink red wines too hot, and white wines too cold.

that you should keep a case of inexpensive wine at home, just in case your neighbor drops by.

that trying to show off by bringing the most expensive bottle of wine to a party or dinner makes you look like a jerk.

that most restaurants have poor by-the-glass programs for wine.

that people should slow down, and enjoy their wine and food- post/twitter/blog about it later, not at the dinner table.

that screwcaps are the future of wine, and that's okay.

That I have gone on too long.

Cheers everyone- have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


My Mom now reads my blogs. Hi Mom!

Italian Wine Primer- Lombardy

In our moving around the Italian Peninsula, I forgot to talk about the area up North, between Piedmont and Trentino. This is the small area at the foot of the Alps called Lombardy. Whereas Piedmont is known for Nebbiolo grapes, and Tuscany is known for Sangiovese, Lombardy doesn't have a grape to call it's "own".
However, there are some pretty cool things coming out of the area. The first of these is Franciacorta. Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Blanc, this is Italy's only DOC with sparkling wine made from the Champagne Method (you may have to go back in my blogs to remind yourself what this means). Most of the rest of the bubbly in Italy is made by the Charmat Method. I have only tried Franciacorta once, and found it light, slightly bready, and really pretty refreshing.
Another cool area in Lombardy is Lugana. This is near Milan, and the best wines from here are made from trebbiano. They are really hard to find, but if you can, buy one and drink it with some white fish- you will not be disappointed.
The last major wine area in Lombardy is Valtellina. This is where some rustic, but delicious wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape (locally known as Chiavennasca). This is an area that is high altitude as it is in the foothills of the alps. It also gets insane amounts of sunshine- so much that there's a sub-region called "Inferno". Some of these wines can be pricey, but definitely worth it.

That's all the eye-talian I have for you today. Tonight, go and get yourself a bottle of Shiraz. However, I would avoid the 2004 Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz. I normally don't post wines that I don't like, but this one struck me funny last night. Normally, the Jim Barry wines are built for a marathon, and last a long time in the cellar. This particular bottle had been stored correctly, but the fruit had been stripped out, and my wife even commented on how "alcoholy" it tasted.

Instead, go look for Mitolo Jester Shiraz. Made by Ben Glaetzer of Amon Ra fame, this shiraz is deep, dark, and delicious. It will cost roughly $20 retail.