If My Stock Picks Were As Good As My Wine Picks…

Au Bon Climat - top 101 WineriesI just received a PR release about “The 101 Best Wineries in America” from The Daily Meal.  Of the nation’s 8,000+ U.S. wine producers, the top 101 were selected by surveys from American wine and food professionals (methodology details can be found below).  So I was pleased to see the list contained NINETEEN of the wineries I’ve introduced to my club members!  

If I had as much skill in selecting stocks I could retire and tour the vineyards of the world year-round.  Hell, I could own a couple dozen.  “Call me Mr. Foley”.  Until then, I’ll spend my day copying the top 10 wineries (below), followed by the publisher’s notes and methodology.  

Note, of the 101 top wineries, 24 do not meet my wine club’s criteria for price or production criteria.

The Top 10 Wineries in America (highlights = wineries introduced to my wine club members)

1. Ridge Vineyards — Cupertino, CaliforniaTop 101 Wineries - Copain
2. Au Bon Climat Winery — Santa Maria, California
3. Calera Wine Company — Mt. Harlan, California
4. Littorai Wines — Sebastopol, California
5. Woodward Canyon Winery — Lowden, Washington
6. Dunn Vineyards — Angwin, California
7. Heitz Cellars — St. Helena, California
8. Matthiasson Winery — Napa Valley, California
9. Sandhi Wines — Santa Barbara, CA
10. Copain Wine Cellars — Healdsburg, CA 

In addition to these three top-ten wineries, my wine club members have enjoyed discovering wines selected from 16 of the remaining award winners (listed alphabetically):

Andrew Murray Vineyards — Los Olivos, CaliforniaTop 101 Wineries - Andrew Murray
Arnot-Roberts — Healdsburg, California
Beckmen Vineyards — Los Olivos, California
Bonny Doon Vineyard — Santa Cruz, California
Caparone Winery — Paso Robles, California
Corison Winery — St. Helena, California
Foxen — Santa Maria, California
Gruet Winery — Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hanzell Vineyards — Sonoma, California
Hirsch Vineyards — Cazadero, California
Mount Eden Vineyards — Saratoga, California
Peay Vineyards — Cloverdale, CaliforniaTop 101 Wineries - Tablas Creek
Qupé — Los Olivos, California
Saxum Vineyards — Paso Robles, California
Tablas CreekCreek Vineyard — Paso Robles, California
Wind Gap Wines — Sebastopol, California 

To see the full story and list of all 101 wineries from “The Daily Meal”, click here.

For more information on my wine clubs click here and discover your next favorite!

PUBLISHER’S NOTES:
While California remains indisputably the wine capital of the country, the number and variety of truly beautiful wines being made in America has grown exponentially in recent years: wine is now produced in all 50 states. This list is largely a reflection of that, and celebrates those wineries that are simply doing it best (many of which are quite unexpected!).

Methodology

The wineries on our list were nominated by experts in the field: the wonderful sommeliers, wine writers, chefs, and restaurateurs who were kind enough to gift us with their opinions about wineries around the country. After their initial nominations, these experts returned to vote on the wines based on the three values we deemed most important: wine quality, consistency, and value. Poring over the voters’ results allowed us to shape the final list of wineries you see here.

We’ve thoroughly plumbed the rich and diverse depths of the American wine landscape, and we are proud of the following list — and of course, grateful to the experts who aided us in determining which American wineries stood out to them.” – Jess Novak, drink editor, The Daily Meal

Spring Has Sprung – Notes from a wine club shipment

Spring came early to wine country this year.  As I write this, the short-lived lupines are out in abundance, providing a purple-blue stage for the prima-donna golden poppies springing up in their midst.  And in the vineyards, bud break came early too.  Now the growers are sweating out the possibility of frosts for another month – we should be out of the woods if we can make it through Memorial Day without falling below 32°.  It was 36° last night.

Serving temperature guildelines

And gardens are burgeoning with fava beans, asparagus, snow peas and edible greens – springtime vegetables providing a welcome change from winter fare.  And when our foods change, so do the wines that go with them.  So this month’s selections were chosen with an eye (or tastebud?) toward springtime ingredients – a Sauvignon Blanc (always a favorite), Chardonnays, a lighter style Cabernet, and of course, the ever-flexible pinot noirs, among others.

But with Spring comes the promise of heat.  If it hasn’t already arrived in your neighborhood it’ll be moving in soon.  And heat impacts how we experience a wine.  As “room temperature” increases to its summer-time norm, a wine quickly becomes too warm to show its best stuff.  And for those of us without wine cellars, that means calling your refrigerator into duty for calculated periods of time until your wine reaches its ideal temperature.

To make this task as easy as possible, I’ve provided the following guide (right).  In summary, to move a bottle of wine from room temperature to its ideal temperature, count the number of degrees you need it to move and multiply by five minutes – that’s how long you’ll want to leave it in the refrigerator.  Easy.

Cheers! 

Dave                                                            

My “Grand Cru” Club Selections ($150/quarter)

Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc Crocker & Starr, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.  $32 (all prices before member discount)

What were you doing in 1971?  Charlie Crocker was planting grapes in Napa Valley.  You would have too, if you were a 3rd generation Californian and great grandson to the railway magnate.  Charlie’s family has a Midas touch. Great Grandad helped bring the world to California, turning it into an economic behemoth.  And there was something about a rather large bank too.  And he created and sold some successful technology companies.  You might say the Crockers were visionaries.  Which is why he planted grapes in an unknown place called Napa, way back in 1971.

The “Starr” of the show, however, is Pam Starr, noted winemaker and co-founder of this blessed venture in 1997.  I still remember the buzz surrounding this new partnership back in 1998 when I was working weekends in a Napa tasting room.  Though one can find delicious Sauvignon Blanc for a lot less, I think you’ll agree this is an intriguing and memorable rendition.  And a perfect wine for the foods of Spring.

Ghost Block Est. Cab LabelGhost Block, 2010 Oakville Estate Cabernet.  $66

If you’ve toured Napa Valley, you know the town of Yountville.  Home of the French Laundry, Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, Chandon… and Napa’s first wine grower, George C. Yount.  This wine comes from a vineyard that abuts the historic Pioneer Cemetery, and the wine’s name comes from the local lore in which Yount’s ghost wanders the area “overseeing” the modern development of the industry he began.  Sounds to me like the sort of local lore a marketing department might create.

The very antithesis of ghostly, this wine is typical Napa – big and bold, expressing blackberries, cherries, mocha and sweet pie spices.  A sure hit with any Cab lover, and a candidate for meats and veggies off your summer grill.

The winemaker – Rob Lawson – is very much alive and well.  Hopefully, he has many more years before he joins Yount on his moonlit tours as ethereal overseer.  This wine has just been released, after spending 24 months lounging in oak before bottling.  Always allocated, it’s particularly rare this year, when only 800 cases were produced.  Sadly, I have very little left, and with the approach of graduations, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and weddings, I suspect it will soon be as ethereal as Yount’s ghost.

David Fulton P.S. label 2David Fulton Winery, 2009 Petite Sirah, Old Vines, Napa Valley.  $45

Another wine of historical significance in Napa, this rare gem hails from “the oldest continuously owned and operated family vineyard in the state of California”.  Today, David’s winery is run by his Great Grandson, Fulton, and his wife, Dink.  Yes, Fulton and Dink – names almost as rare as their wine.  When I read about this wine and its historical significance, I called to see if any were available for you.  Sadly, it was not.  But then Dink contacted me with the good news that they could provide just enough for my club members.  Rare in more ways than one, Petite Sirah can age like nobody’s business.  If you can resist the urge to open this wine, lay it down for ten to twenty years.  You’ll be amazed by the complexity it develops, and only wish you’d been able to buy more.  Me too.

 Love their tagline “One vineyard.  One wine.  Made great.

Pinot Selections ($75 bi-monthly)

Affordable anderson valley pinot noirElke Vineyards, 2010 “Croppy Fetcher” Anderson Valley.  $29 (all prices before member discount)

Scene: You’re touring Anderson Valley wineries, sitting at a picnic table in Boonville as you wait for your travel partner (TP) to come out of the local coffee shop with picnic provisions.

(TP sticks head out door) Do you want a horn of Zees

(You) Whaaaaa???

(TP) You know, to ward off the chill before these Brightlighters drive out to the briny to visit the Fog Eaters for a while before checking into our hotel for a little bilching.  You can even break out the branding irons if you like.  Then we can go for a drive and watch the croppy fetchers train for the upcoming trials, or maybe even join the abbers.

Clearly, your travel partner found the crash course in Boontling while shopping for provisions.  Boontling is a dialect created by the residents of Boonville in the 1800’s.  Local winemakers often pay homage to the dying language, now spoken only by aging hippies and cunning linguists.  I can tell you that “Croppy” is the Boontling term for sheep, and a “Croppy Fetcher” is a sheep dog, but to decipher the rest of your travel partner’s paragraph, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boontling

The Croppy Fetcher shown on the label was Mary Elke’s sheep dog, Ben.  He patrolled the Elke vineyards for years before his demise last year, just a week before the wine was bottled.  This wine pays homage to Boontling as well as Ben, so enjoy it with his spirit in mind – joyful, simple, smart and full of life.

Rusian River PinotSmall Vines, 2011 Pinot Noir, Russian River  $55.00

When I read about a wine over and over, I want to know about it.  Especially when what I’m reading comes from multiple sources.  And they are all credible, and all say good things.  That’s how I came to spend a Friday afternoon in a small office/tasting room in remote Sebastapol sipping the Sloan Family’s pinots. 

I know the label to the right is a bit too small, but can you see the logo at the top?  At first glance it looks like a mirror reflection of two opposing grape vines.  Look closer and you see a grape vine and its ROOTS – not surprising once you learn that Paul Sloan started his wine career with a vineyard management company.  His firm still manages vineyards for some of Sonoma’s top properties, and the grapes for his wines come from these hand-picked growers.

Their wines are not the typical Russian River pinots, notable for their fruit-forward personalities and relatively short-lived (5-7 yr) aging potential.  These are wines for the ages, and will improve for years to come before stabilizing and then slowly diminishing – beginning ten years from now.  Only 300 cases produced.  Unfined/unfiltered, 13.9% alcohol, 15 months in oak (33% new).

Collectible Selections ($55 bi-monthly)

Dry Creek ZinfandelOusterhout Winery, 2010 Zinfandel, Bradford Mountain (Organic).  $31 (all prices before member discount)

Gamine – French for “a girl with mischievous charm”.  In San Francisco, it’s also the name of our local French Bistro, where Stephan, Susannah and Alex cater more to regular locals than tourists. And, oh by the way, they make the perfect French fry.

So I’m there a lot. Such as the day I stopped in for a quick lunch at the counter. Not particularly memorable, but on this particular day, at that particular time, a particular wine salesman made a delivery. Turns out he dropped off the Joseph Jewel Pinot Noir.

What are the odds? Earlier that week, our “Pinot Selections” club members had received that same said wine. It proved quite popular. So I stuck out my hand and struck up a conversation. Turns out JJ’s partner/winemaker, Micah Wirth, also crafts a Zinfandel for a San Francisco cosmetic surgeon, name of Ousterhout.

Turns out the wine is good. And so’s the price. Turns out I decide to use the wine for my “Collectible Selections” club members. And finally, turns out you made it far enough to read about it. Now it’s time to buy the wine – you won’t regret it. If you like Zins, that is. This one is classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – cracked black pepper without over-the-top fruit. Delicious and satisfying.

South Africa red wine blendRED ONLY – Fable Vineyard, 2009 Syrah/Mourvedre “Lions Whisker”, South Africa (Biodynamic).  $29

First, there’s the package. Striking. Beautiful. Enticing.

But that’s just the outside. Inside is the wine. Distinctive. Nuanced. From Biodynamic vineyards. Following ‘Rudy’ Steiner’s strict practices is challenging enough. But doing so in South Africa, in a vineyard 1/3 of a mile high, where leopards, baboons, venomous snakes and brush fires add challenges of their own… well, that’s just bonkers.  One taste and you’ll be glad that partners Rebecca Tanner and Paul Nicholls are just bonkers enough to persevere.

A blend of Syrah and Mourvedre (83/17), note the flowery, dusty fruit in the nose that gives away the wine’s feminine side. Then taste the fruit, tobacco and mocha that brings a masculine yin to that yang.

As the name implies, ‘Lion’s Whisker’ has a fable behind it. “Two sisters, who had always been very close, found out one day that they would be marrying men from different villages. Distraught that they would be separated by some distance and concerned they would grow apart, the sisters went to the village healer and asked if he had any potions to help cement their bond for life. He told them that yes, he did, but he would need a lion’s whisker to make it. The two sisters spent many weeks lingering near where the lion drank from the lake so that he would eventually trust that they meant him no harm. After many weeks, one of the sisters finally reached out and pulled a whisker from the lion, and they took it to the healer. “Alas,” he said, “there is no potion after all, but if you have the dedication and bravery to make a lion trust you, you already have everything you need to keep your relationship strong forever.”

Carneros chardonnayMolnar, 2011 Chardonnay, Carneros.  $25

After more than a decade of eschewing Chardonnay, I’m coming back into its fold.  It’s not me who is changing, it’s the wine – lower in alcohol and post-harvest manipulations, the wines are more nuanced.  These layers of flavor make a wine interesting beyond the first glass.  And the 2011 vintage helped – long and cool, it allowed flavors to develop while maintaining natural acidity without spikes in sugar.

Look for Chardonnay’s tell-tale citrus zest, orange blossoms, caramelized sugar and warm vanilla cream.  Molnar is a Hungarian family, and the only winery I know of that uses only Hungarian oak barrels (33% new, in this case), which bring a uniquely delicious sweet spice note without being over-powering.  1,070 cases produced, 14.3% alcohol.

Crowd-Pleasing Selections ($35 bi-monthly)

affordable california cabernet Heron, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino.  $14

Think climate change hasn’t impacted your wine?  Here’s a sobering stat – Since 1980, the average Napa Cabernet has increased from 12.5% to 15.5% alcohol – a 24% increase.  But Laely Heron marches to her own drum.  Seeking Cabernet from cool, high-altitude vineyards she crafts lower-alcohol food wines that still boast of phenolic ripeness.  That’s a snooty way of saying they don’t taste weedy. 

What would you expect?  Laely learned about wine in France, where alcohol levels are more reasonable.  These are food wines at a price that makes them an everyday treat.  Unlike most Cabernets, this wine easily treads the tightrope between bold and delicate – comfortable with stews, roast meats and braised dishes as well as lighter meals such as pork, roast poultry, pasta or grilled fish and veggies on the grill.

Affordable cabernet from paso roblesRED ONLY – Rock Hollow, 2010 Cabernet, Paso Robles.  $23

Cabernet.  You’ve tasted, what, maybe several hundy?  God, it’s a great grape.  King of Bordeaux and Napa.  Makes it difficult to introduce a notable Cabernet.  Which is what I’m always looking for – one that’s just a little better.  Unique.  Good value.  More than just fruit and alcohol and a high price.  Sameness stinks.

Well, this one is unique.  Affordable.  With 15% Cabernet Franc for greater complexity.  Alcohol under 14%.  So you can enjoy it with more than just steak.

Its Pedigree?  This is the value label for the Firestone family’s Curtis winery.  Yeah, THAT Firestone.  Tires.  The Bachelor.  Breweries.  Restaurants.  Wineries.  Guess I should say “THOSE” Firestones.  The family that brought fine wine – and Andre Tchelistcheff – to the Central Coast a few decades back.

I’d say we owe them a little gratitude.  You will too, once you separate the cork from this bottle.  Why are you still reading this?  Go get a corkscrew.  And don’t worry, there’s more where this came from.

affordable california chardonnaySonoma Oaks, 2010 Chardonnay, Sonoma.  $18

Rounding errors.  If you’re like me, you pay your bills to the nearest even dollar amount.  Anything less is just a rounding error.  If you’re like the government, anything less than a million is a rounding error. And if you’re the Bronco Wine Company, the production numbers on this wine are a rounding error.

But Chardonnay fans will find here an affordable friend. Despite the use of certain winemaker’s shortcuts, or perhaps because of them, this wine offers the iconic Chardonnay experience without breaking the bank. Hints of vanilla cream balance nicely with the more austere citrus; and its lower alcohol level makes it a well-behaved dinner companion for a wide range of lighter fare.

Community Wine Review – Regale Winery, 2008 Pinot Noir, O’Neel Vyrd, Russian River Valley


Regale, 2008 Pinot Noir, O'Neel Vyrd. Russian River Valley

Now THIS is a Pinot Noir!  Kudos to this winemaker.  It is nice to know that one can still be surprised after having tried hundreds of different examples of this varietal.   This vintage is something truly extra special in the glass.  

Straight out of the gate and a couple of brisk swirls in my Riedel stem of this racy vintage and I am gushing.   Immediately, a perfume of wild funghi, strawberries, sour cherries and even a slight nose of camphor jump into my sinuses and fill my head with delight.   No time needed to open up for this horse.  

My head begins to buzz and I ‘regale’ as the first sips bring on flavors so brilliant and ethereal.  A subtle detection of eucalyptus peeks through the bright fruit flavors.  The wine is big for a pinot because of the earth like notes but not overly acidic as some Burgundy’s can be.  Very polished but not silky.   No this wine is a cross somewhere between where the smooth attributes from the Russian River Valley align with the herbal, salty-misty air of the Pacific-Sonoma coastline, but a slight touch of the Santa Maria Valley is added in there somewhere… I think that is where I pick up the notes of strawberry and mushrooms from. 

Paired with a dish of fusilli pasta mixed with roasted eggplant, roasted sun dried tomatoes in olive oil and italian herbs, sliced black olives, sauteed zucchini, sweet onion & baby portobella mushrooms, pureed tomato sauce and fresh parmesan grated cheese, the dish tastes better and harmoniously bring out the wild pinot tastes.  

The biggest compliment of all is that I damn near finished the entire bottle myself over a couple of hours and I can still type straight.  

 Why have I never heard of this winery before and when can I buy more?!  Well done Dave.  Thank you.

 Seth P. (freelance blogger for Dave the Wine Merchant) Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

[Note:  Seth Pariser is a member of the “Pinot Selections” wine club, and submitted this review independently.  Among other things, Seth consults with wine collectors in the Northeast to help them build or maximize the value of their cellars.  To contact him, just leave a request in the comment section.  Oh, and more of this wine is available here.  Dave]

June, 2010 “Collectible Selections” Wine Notes

Increasing connectivity.  The richness of online media.  And your positive feedback.  All indicate it’s time to begin an electronic archive of my wine club notes.   Club members can now access my wine notes and recipes to answer your most frequently emailed questions, such as:

Q: “What’s the deal with that wine you featured in our club months ago?  We hid it under our bed and forgot about it.  Now we need to know what it cost, what to serve it with, and how to get more of it!”

A: Easy.  From my homepage (www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com), click the “Blog” link and select the category “wine”.  Then use the search box (look!  I’ts hanging out up there in the top left corner right now!) to find the wine you’re after.   Just type the vintage and the producer and you should find what you’re after (ex. “2006 Arcadian”).

Q: “I keep a notebook with all your notes and recipes from each shipment, but I can’t find the ones that go with (this wine). Before I pull the cork, what should I pair with it?  Is there an easy recipe for it?”

A: Another easy one!  From my homepage, click the “Recipe” link and use the search box to find my recommended pairing.

Q: I just found these great _(insert seasonal ingredient here!) at the farmer’s market!  What can I make with them and what wine should I pair with it?

A: Same as above – go to my recipe blog and use the search box to type in your ingredient, or the season, or just about anything you can think of.  Go ahead – give it a try!

Do you like this new format?  Hate it??  I look forward to your comments, below!

Cheers!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

866-746-7293

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My Three Collectible Selections

June, 2010 (Summary Listing)

  1. Cain Cuvee (NV6), Napa Bordeaux Blend.  $34 (member price starts at $30.60) (Buy it/Rate it Here)
  2. Lang & Reed, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Lake County. $22 (member price starts at $19.80)  (Buy it/Rate it Here)
  3. Staete Landt, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (Marlborough). $21.50 (member price starts at $19.35) Buy it/Rate it Here

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My First Collectible Selection

for June, 2010 (Join Here)

Cain Cuvee “NV6” Napa Valley

Buy It Here $34 (member price starts at $30.60)

A blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc, this wine drinks well now, but will improve for another decade!

Some 15 years ago, I splurged on a bottle of wine from Cain Vineyard. I saved it for years, waiting for a special night to justify popping the cork on this well-aged treasure.  Being single at the time, I had visions of this wine being an irresistible instrument of seduction.  But it was eventually opened one night on my own, after a particularly difficult day at work. By then it was ten years old, and the pleasure it brought erased the day’s stress so effectively that I even called some wine-loving friend so we could marvel over the wine’s amazingness. It was even better the next night – an indication that the mountain fruit in this wine would have allowed it to improve for many more years in bottle.

Cain Vineyard produces three wines of note – Cain Five (using the five Bordeaux varietals – about $100), the Cain Concept (about $50 – $60) and the non-vintage Cain Cuvee (NV6 stands for Non-Vintage, sixth year) which is is a blend of Merlot (to provide a broad, smooth base) and mountain-side Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which bring structure and aromatic complexity. 55% of the blend comes from the 2006 vintage, 45% from 2005. This wine will reward cellaring for another five years.

Food Pairings – This blend is more complex and softer than Napa Cabernets, this wine’s moderate alcohol and structure allows it to pair with a wide variety of foods.  But it also is delicious on its own, rewarding the curious palate with an evolving experience as the wine opens up over the course of hours.  A year-round wine, I think you’ll find it more attractive during the summer months if you serve it a bit cooler than during the winter months.

Buy It Here $34 (member price starts at $30.60)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My Second Collectible Selection

June, 2010 “REDS ONLY” Members (Join Here)

Lang & Reed, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Lake County

Buy it Here at $22 (member prices start at $19.80)

Lang and Reed specializes in Cabernet Franc from California fruit.  Taking inspiration for the world’s best Cabernet Franc regions, their wines have one stylistic foot in Bordeaux and one in the Loire. Try one soon, you won’t be sorry!

Cabernet Franc is common in the Right Bank of Bordeaux, where it is blended with Merlot. It is also common in the Loire Valley, where it is the primary red varietal in my favorite wines from Chinon, Bourgueil and many smaller areas. But the wines of these two regions are entirely different, with those from the Right Bank being riper and more robust wines, those from the Loire being leaner and earthier.

John Skupny (Lang & Reed’s owner/Winemaker, who named the winery after their two sons) combines California’s ripe juiciness with Cabernet Franc’s natural tea-leaf characteristics. The result is a cherry-inflected red wine that seemingly pairs with almost everything.

At Left, Lang demonstrates how to get a brix sample, from shots of his recent visit to the Loire region with his charming new wife, Megan.  Back on this side of the pond, the 2008 Lang & Reed comes from four vineyards – one in the heart of Napa Valley and the other three from the northern reaches of Lake County:

1. Stanton Vineyard: Though only a small percent of the assemblage, this fruit provides the bright, crisp, cherry aroma and flavors in this wine.

2. The High Chaparral Vineyard: Located high up in the red hills of Lake County, just north of Kelseyville, it was planted to Cabernet Franc back in the 70’s. It is planted on its own roots, a true Franc de Pied, which bring deep structure and tannin to the wine.

3 & 4. Cross Springs Vineyard & La Sierra Vineyard: Both vineyards are found above the 2,000 ft elevation in the High Valley appellation of Lake County, rounding out the assemblage of this 100% Cabernet Franc wine.

By The Numbers
Varietal Composition: 100% Cabernet Franc (95% Lake County, 5% Napa Valley)
Alcohol Content: 13.9% by Volume
Total Acidity: 0.53gm/100ml, pH = 3.90
Cooperage: 9 months in 60-gallon French Oak
Production: 3,086 cases

Food Pairings – Another great summer wine, with slightly herbaceous notes that suggest pairing with vegetables, and a richness that suggest said veggies be grilled.  Less structured than its old world counterparts, with a broader appeal and a wider list of food pairing possibilities.  Still, I recommend the usual suspects – goat cheese (especially toasted on crostini), anything with mushrooms, and for those not opposed – pate!   Serve this wine around 60 – 65 degrees – so pop it in the fridge for a half hour before popping the cork!

Wine #2 – the Lang & Reed, 2008 Cabernet Franc, Lake County

Buy it Here at $22 (member prices start at $19.80)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My Final Collectible Selection

for June, 2010 (Join Here)

Staete Landt, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (Marlborough)

Buy it Here $21.50 (member prices start at $19.35)

A premium Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, and well worth the price.  Rich and herbaceous, with racy acidity and pronounced grapefruit and citrus aromas.

When the Dutch Sea Captain Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand in 1642, he named it “Staete Landt”, which roughly means “Land discovered in honor of the Dutch Republic”. Today the name lends itself very nicely to this winery, founded and run by Netherland natives (and spouses) Ruud Maasdam and Dorien Vermaas.

I met Dorien recently at a large tasting, where her wines were among my favorites. I’ve brought two of their wines into my portfolio – their Sauvignon Blanc and their Pinot Noir – both of which are classic examples of the New Zealand style and terroir.

This wine is so rich and herbaceous, I enjoy it on its own. But it varies from the typical Kiwi mold for Sauvignon Blanc – they pick separately each of this wine’s six different plots of fruit.  The fruit from the earlier picking lends the herb notes and crisp acidity (pH is a low 3.14 – grapefruit is 3.0 – 3.3!) while the later pickings bring fruit with rich tropical fruit notes.  A summer porch wine, this could easily be your appetizer course!

Food Pairings – the citrus notes suggest savory foods with cooked with citrus ingredients.  But it overpowers fruit served on its own as the wine is not sweet, and a dry wine with fruit will seem austere and quite unpleasant.  Good with acidic cheeses such as goat’s cheese, try this wine with a great with grilled cheese sandwiches (use soft bread, buttered on the outside, good melty cows milk cheese, and a bit of bacon or other crisp meat!)  Better yet, take inspiration from the menu at San Francisco’s latest gourmet ghetto restaurant, the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.  Oysters also beckon, but they need lemon or lime juice and nothing more.  Grilled fish with citrus and capers, or chicken picatta are excellent choices, especially served with spinach wilted in a pan with lemon zest, garlic and a smidge of anchovy paste.

Wine #3 – Staete Landt, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (Marlborough)

Buy it Here $21.50 (member prices start at $19.35)

Pumping Iron – Why Fish & Red Wine don't mix.

05-29 Mercado (20) In this week’s edition of the ScienceNow Daily News, (full story, here) it was reported that Japanese researchers have discovered why fish and red wine so often clash.  Turns out there are minute traces of iron in some red wines, particularly those grown in soils high in certain minerals, and that these trace elements can leave you with a very unpleasant “fishy” aftertaste.  And I don’t mean the clean fish smell of the ocean, but more like the day-after fish smell of the trash bin.

The research also seems to answer why some red wines can actually compliment seafood and fish, while others make you run for the motion sickness bag.  The researchers identified an “iron threshold” of 2 miligrams per liter.  Any red wine containing more than this amount spoils the seafood pairing.

Scallops, perhaps the most notorious offender when it comes to foul red wine pairings, were used to test this theory further.  When dried scallops were soaked in wine whose iron content was below the threshold smelled fine, but those soaked in wine with iron above the critical 2 mg/L, smelled horrible.  Note, I’ve observed the same phenomenon when fresh scallops are rinsed using iron-rich water.  Now I know why!

Red Wine With FishBut I agree with Gordon Burns, the enologist who argued that the more compelling reason to avoid red wine with fish is that most red wines are big-bodied wines that over-power the lighter, delicate flavors of most seafood.  And that violates one of my key guidelines for food and wine pairing:

  1. Match high acidity in the food with high-acid wines
  2. Match sweet foods with equal or higher sweetness in the wine
  3. Pair light dishes with lighter wines, heavier dishes with heavier wines
  4. If the wine is high in fruit and alcohol, leave it on the cocktail bar when you go to the dinner table!

Others, such as Tim Hanni, M.W., suggest that simply adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of citrus to your fish dish will make it surprisingly compatible with your red wine.  And still others, such as David Rosengarten, in his famous book (right) simply focuses on finding lighter red wines that can compliment fish and seafood prepared with red wine-friendly recipes.  Of course, his book was written in 1989, when it was easier to FIND a lighter red wine, i.e., lower in alcohol (average then was just 12.5%) and body.

By contrast, today’s contemporary styles for wine often dictate alcohol levels in excess of 14.5% along with “gobs and gobs of ripe fruit”.  If red wine with fish is your culinary preference, I’d seek the lighter reds of Burgundy, Beaujolais, Northern Italy, the Loire and other cool-weather growing areas.

Seek out such wine, and I think you’ll be finding Nemo never tasted so good.

DSCN0419Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Quote of the Day
Fish, to taste good, fish must swim three times.  First in water, then in butter, and then in wine!”  ~Old Proverb

Upside to the Downside – Wine Discounts!

depression_charts1The stock market may be killing your 401-K, and you maybe you’ll be working five years longer than you ever thought.  But today’s dismal market has an upside – there are a LOT of good wine bargains to be had! Both online and land-based wine merchants are slashing prices on wines that aren’t moving – opting for cash flow over near-term profitability.

And what wines aren’t moving today?  The higher priced wines, for the most part!  Keep an eye out for wines from Bordeaux, second-tier California cult wines, and other wines slightly out of favor at the moment (domestic Syrah for example, which managed to go the way of Merlot in rather short order!)

My advice?  Seek value in the higher price range.  This is perhaps (and hopefully!) a once in a lifetime chance to gobble up some great Bordeaux and Burgundy and second tier California cult wines at prices I hope we’ll never see again (not that I’m opposed to low prices on great wine, just not fond of the economic conditions that create them).

As for sale wines priced below $20, my advice is the same as always – there is a lot of bad wine that has found its way into this price category!  But there is also some very good wine, wine you’d love to drink on a daily basis.  To sort these gems from the sludge, I recommend avoiding discounted wine unless its offered by a merchant whose palate you trust.

wine-sale My Online Specials: Save 10$ – 33%
My business is not immune from the foibles of supply and demand.  I have wines taking up valuable storage space, and I’m now offering them at tremendous discount.  See the Online Specials section of my store for today’s latest bargains, and save 10% – 33% on slow-moving wines.  Take a look at these examples:

You’ll find many more great wines at discounted prices at my clearance sale.

DSCN0419Enjoy!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Robust Red & Goat Cheese Lamb Burgers

Bistro RalphI took my first of many wine vacations in 1988.  I was staying in what was then the small town of Healdsburg, quaintly nestled in Sonoma.  When it came time for dinner, the owners of the Camelia Inn B&B directed me  to one of the few restaurants in town back then – Bistro Ralph.  I’ve been in love with that place ever since.

I recently introduced some friends to Bistro Ralph, where we shared a leisurely lunch.  The combination of this lamb burger and the Rhone wine we selected was so memorable, it’s become one of my favorite easy meals.

This recipe originally appeared in the December, 2008 shipment to our club members.  It played chaperon to a bottle of the Tous les Jours syrah from Andrew Murray Vineyards, and that youthful wine remained well behaved under its careful tutelage.

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
Olive oil
1 Red onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Crumbled Goat cheese, or to taste
1 ½ – 2 Lbs ground lamb
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
4 -6 Good buns
1-2 Heads Bibb lettuce

Procedure
Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat until hot, add the olive oil then the onion.  Sauté until well caramelized and dark but not crispy – 10-15 minutes.  Add the balsamic and integrate well, remove from heat and add the goat cheese. Stir to coat and melt slightly. Set aside. Can be re-heated

In a large bowl, combine minced garlic, thyme, cumin, pepper, and salt. Add the ground lamb and combine. Be careful not to over-handle the meat (and I caution those of you with dirty minds to get them out of the gutter right now) or the consistency of your burger will be mushy.

Form 4 patties, each about 3/4 inch thick. Place on a medium-high grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side, or broil or sauté for ~5 minutes per side.

Brush buns with olive oil, toast slightly, scrape once with a peeled garlic clove, and set aside.

Assembly – Place burger on bun, top with lettuce, then with onions.  Spread goat cheese on underside of top bun, pour a glass of wine, and call me if this isn’t transcendent.

Wine Pairings
For my recommended Syrah and other Rhone Varietals, click here
For Zinfandels, click here
For Pinot Noir, click here
And if your idea of the perfect red wine is Cabernet, click here

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Wine of the Week: "Right to the Moon!" (Tudor's 05 Pinot, now just $33.80)

to The Moon AliceOne of these days, Alice… Pow!  Right to the moon!

Though born in 1955 – an era more tolerant of misogynistic behavior – this phrase has become part of our national parlance.  Often shortened to the softer “To the moon, Alice!“, it was how a hapless Ralph Kramden (the inspiration for the animated Fred Flinstone)  struggled to maintain an even keel with his smarter, wittier, wife.  It was acceptable, even then, because underneath all his bluster ol’ Ralphie was a lovable, big-hearted guy.

But I’ve thought about Ralph Kramden’s famous phrase every tme I heard news about the anniversary of Apollo 11.  Monday,  July 20th, marked the 40th anniversary of NASA’s first lunar vacation.  And this week, as President Obama hosted the Apollo 11 Astronauts at our nation’s Casa Blanca, they naturally pushed him to invest in future NASA-led trips to Lunar Land, or perhaps Mars, or even an asteroid.

I’m sympathetic to such expensive but romantic explorations, having grown up in the era of the space race.  Kids on our block followed NASA’s rocket launches with a fervor and devotion now reserved for important national events such as American Idol.  Walking down the street of most suburban neighborhood in the 60’s, one would find every TV tuned to the rocket launch, bedtimes negotiated to allow youngsters to stay up as late as necessary.

rabbit earsAnd in July of 1969 I was at Camp Big Timber with a particularly ill-prepared and rowdy group of Boy Scouts.  We were gathered into the dining hall where several small black-and-white TVs had been brought in, their rabbit-ear antennae (their magical powers enhanced by strips of aluminum foil) providing a barely adequate window to the lunar surface.  Our pre-pubescent faces, lit by the bluish glow of the TV tube, watched in nervous awe as the Eagle was piloted to a new landing site, the original one proving too rocky, then set down just as the fuel gauge registered little more than fumes.

Our hair was on end and we were ready to see the moon walk!  But hopping out of the lunar lander took a bit longer than opening the door on the family car, so it seemed like hours before Neil Armstrong took his first step and uttered his famous quote.  Even though my memory of that step is blurred by rabbit-ear static and the haze of time, it is a memory I’ll take to my grave.

Miles Red1 2007-06Now I’m sounding like an old man.  And that was not my intent.  My intent was to tell you about a wine that will put you in orbit.  I have just a couple of cases of Dan Tudor’s stellar 2005 Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands.  The 2005 (and 2007) vintage is (are) the best for pinot noir since the famed 1986 vintage, and the Santa Lucia Highlands form Monterey County’s most renowned growing area.

Using space-age technology, this region has become known for its bigger pinots from the likes of Garys’ Vineyard and Pisoni.  So if you like your pinots lunar-sized  (and most peole do, it seems), you’ll love this wine. And the price is out of this world as well – reduced to $33.60 (which is 20% off the normal price of $42!)  until I’m sold out!  That’s the price club members normally receive on the purchase of two or more cases.

See?  It pays to be a subscriber!  Or to be more semantically correct – it saves to be a subscriber – but somehow  that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

While supplies last!

Tudor’s 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.  $33.80

I don’t know if our nation will ever support the expense of continued lunar exploration.  We have a number of pricey budget items that refuse to quiet down.  But if we do go back, I propose this wine as the one the astronauts should celebrate with.  And if we don’t go back, be sure to pop the cork before 2020 – this wine will be best from now through 2012.

Happy Merchant

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchnt
866-746-7293

Quote of the Day
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this time period will be more impressive to Mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space. And none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”  ~ President John F. Kennedy

Wine of the Week: Pacifico Sur, 2006 Reserve Carmenere-Cabernet (Chile)

pacifico-res-car-cab

Wine of the Week!

Click to purchase Pacifico Sur, 2006 Reserve Carmenère-Cabernet (Chile)
$14/Bottle or $151/case (10% case discount)
Member Price = $12.60/bottle or $143/case (15% discount)
Selected as a “Jack’s Crowd Pleaser” in June, 2009

This week’s featured wine is an interesting blend of 60% Carmenère (car men EAR) and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Carmenère was an obscure, almost obsolete, blending grape in Bordeaux until it found a home in the coastal vineyards of Chile. In these mountainous vineyard, this varietal thrives – an almost-extinct varietal now achieving its full potential. Carmenère is the backbone of the burgeoning Chilean wine industry.

This wine was one of two favorites of the eight we’d opened for a recent group dinner and tasting. If tasted blind, you’d think it costs far more than its miserly $14, and that’s my definition of a crowd-pleaser! Better yet, the price goes down to $11.20 for club members ($11.90 for non-members)

Look for aromas of plum with sweet spices, a touch of oak, and a hint of farm yard and fresh garden earthiness. A nice balance between the Cabernet’s fruitiness and Carmenère’s soft tannins and nice herbal notes. And with 13.5% alcohol, it is both food friendly and head friendly – split a bottle tonight and enjoy a clear head in the morning!

Click to purchase Pacifico Sur, 2006 Reserve Carmenère-Cabernet
$14/Bottle or $151/case (10% case discount)
Member Price = $12.60/bottle or $143/case (15% discount)

Happy Merchant
Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

.

Quote of the Day

“Wine is an art. Winemakers are the artists, growers provide the paint, and history prepares the canvas.”
~ Unknown