Why I Don’t Sell Many Napa Cabs

As a rule, my wine club features unique wines.  Wines from more obscure producers, grape varieties, and regions.  But every now and then a member will ask why I don’t include some of the old familiar wines, wines of their youth, perhaps.  So I’ve come to include a mix of wines, including the occasional Napa selection from smaller producers like Four Cairn, Midsummer Cellars,  and Cathy Corison.  

In general, after reviewing wines from around the globe, I just don’t see the value in traditional Napa Cabs, unless your goal is to hold them for future sale (only problem is, few Napa producers are crafting wines to age these days!)  Don’t get me wrong, they still have great appeal, just not great value.

And this chart explains why – adjusted for inflation, Napa Cabernet grapes are at an all-time high of nearly $6,000 a ton!  

Source: NapaCabCPI-e1438036933854.png (1000×648)

Cheers!

Dave

Today’s Life Lesson – Always Pick Up The Phone!

McBrides #3

Always pick up the phone?  I know that seems like weird advice, what with more and more companies/charities/candidates employing an ever-expanding phalanx of thick-skinned sales people to call during the dinner hour all hours of the day.  It’s tempting to let all your calls go to voicemail!

But imagine what might have happened if you had ignored a call like this one, coming in from an unknown number…

“Hi honey, this is your father.  I know we’ve never met, but after your mom and I split I went away for a long time. Like your mom, I too have terminal cancer and want you to know before it’s too late that you have a half sister.  My brother and his wife are going to help you find her.”

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That’s essentially the phone call that reunited Andrea and Robin McBride as they told us their story over lunch at San Francisco’s Sens restaurant on Thursday.  The sisters now constitute a fair percentage of America’s female winemakers, and an even larger percentage of winemakers of color.  And if we slice that pie even thinner, they are the only American winemakers who can call themselves “African American sisters”.

After meeting for the first time in 1999 (one was raised in New Zealand, the other in Monterey, CA) they discovered many similarities, including a love of wine.  To make a great story short enough for the space available, in 2005 – the same year I launched the Sideways Wine Club (though their story is a bit more exciting) – they decided to become importers of New Zealand wine.

Their first shipment consisted of just a single pallet – about 55 cases, because that was all the cash they could afford to risk.  It was hardly worth the paperwork!  But they took those wines from account to account and through pluck, charm, intelligence and hard work, they leveraged that first pallet into a sizable import company with over a dozen representatives.  Along the way, they related stories of how their gender and race led some to assume they were “the assistants”.  They said they never took it personally, and just let their wine do the talking.

Their first venture into winemaking started in New Zealand, with a brand called Eco.love – three wines with a commitment to sustainable production that resonates with the female millennials that are their primary customers.  Now they’ve partnered with Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines to launch their California brand TRUVÉE (Tru Vay – poetically enough, French for “to find”), introduced in January of this year.  

The TRUVÉE brand has launched with two wines, each produced in quantities of about 10,000 cases, and each priced at $15.99 (retail).

McBride Sisters

TRUVÉE 2013 Chardonnay – this lightly-oaked wine (50% “with oak”, 50% Stainless Steel) is from a number of top Central Coast sources, Edna Valley, Bien Nacido, Chalone and others.  Their goal was to span the Old World and New World styles with a wine that was in the sweet spot for what our industry classifies as “Super Premium” wines (keep in mind that only 4% of wine sold costs more than $20).  This was a nice, every-day Chard that paired very well with all the dishes Sens served us on Thursday.

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TRUVÉE 2013 Red Blend – A Rhône-style wine that blends Grenache (primarily San Benito), Syrah (Chalone), Zinfandel (Paso Robles) and Merlot (San Lucas Valley).  Lighter-bodied and very approachable, I tasted the red wine with each of the dishes and it spanned nicely, the tannins sufficiently tame to pair well with Sen’s lower-fat Mediterranean dishes, and the acidity sufficiently high to remain refreshing.

All in all, I was pleased to discover the sisters and their wines.  There are many, many good wines out there, but I suspect that five years from now this brand will be among the winners.  Because even a good wine does better with a good story, and there is no better story than that of Andréa and Robin McBride.  I wish them all the success they deserve.

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Wine Video – Mas Grand Plagniol 2013 Dry Rosé

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In search of an affordable, dry Rosé you can drink from now until Thanksgiving? Look no further.

Aromas bound enthusiastically from your glass when you pour this Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault.  

Costiere-de-Nimes-wine

From Costieres de Nimes in the South of France (see map).  This region used to be part of the Languedoc, but was re-assigned to the Rhône valley because the region’s wines more closely resemble those of the Rhône than the Languedoc. 

Nicely crisp and refreshing. A staff favorite! Learn more here:

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It's hard work, but somebody's gotta do it
It’s hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it

 

Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

The World is waking up to German Pinot Noir!

I’ve been wondering how long it would take for this to happen.  German Pinots offer some of the most affordable and pleasurable discoveries any Pinot lover could wish for.  So it was no surprise to see this headline in today’s issue of “The Drinks Business” publication out of the UK.

According to chef Martin Lam, interviewed for this article, it has helped tremendously that German producers are switching their labeling from the traditional German word “Spätburgunder” (SPATE bur gunder) to the more internationally recognized “Pinot Noir” (same grape, different name).  But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I particularly liked Lam’s quote “…the top drops from Baden should be treated with the same respect as a top Burgundy“.  And while this quote dips its toe into hyperbole, the truth is that the grape’s German name is a direct nod to the vines that gave birth to their vineyards, and the style is similar in its lightness.

German States with major Cities - worldatlasbook.com
German States with major Cities.  Baden is Southwest, just above Switzerland.  Image from worldatlasbook.com

The Baden area (Southwest Germany, see map) is East and a bit North of Burgundy, and this area is home to some of Germany’s best Pinots.  I encourage you to ask for these from your favorite wine merchant, and to keep a watchful eye for some of them to appear in the Pinot section my own curated inventory at DaveTheWineMerchant.

Read the full article here – Lam: World is waking up to German Pinot.

Cheers!

www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

P.S. For a regular source of new Pinot Noir discoveries, please consider my Pinot-Only wine club – click here for more info!

Film Review – “A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE”

Year in ChampagneWhat a charming way to spend 82 minutes.  Read the rest of my review if you like, but I won’t be offended were you to opt instead for a quick download, a bottle of your favorite bubbly, your favorite movie companion and a quick call to your boss apologizing for some sudden 24-hour  malady.

Download this movie from iTunes here.

What?  You’re still here? Guess I’d better get on with the full review.

This film’s award-winning director, David Kennard (Cosmos, A Year in Burgundy) is based in Mill Valley, CA.  This factoid has nothing to do with the quality of the film and everything to do with my desire to tip my hat to the talent pool in the Bay Area.

In this, his second of three “A Year In _____” films, Kennard has replicated his success with “A Year in Burgundy”, also a joint project with the esteemed wine importer Martine Saunier.  

Martine has a fine palate – I lust after some of the wines in her portfolio – and she represents some of France’s finest producers.  The fact that the wineries in Kennard’s film are limited to producers she represents takes nothing away from the film itself. Though it likely makes other importers greatly jealous, she likely took more flack from other producers SHE represents who didn’t appear in the film.

I intended to watch this movie on my own, but our 12 year-old daughter wandered into the room as I was starting the DVD, and she was sufficiently moved to watch the film to its satisfying end, enjoying the process of making champagne as told in each of the film’s four seasonal sections.  She even asked intelligent questions, and for the first time understood how the secondary fermentation process creates bubbles in each individual bottle.  I also think the riddling rack might have its next young Riddler in the wings, at least, until she tries the repetitive job for about ten minutes.

Kennard’s film is poetic, a paean to the featured wine region, without being cloying. The music and the photography alone make it worthy of your limited free time.  But his film also provides intelligent insights into the essence of the region, into its wines, of course, but also the history, people and foods that are the foundation of these wines.

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This is not a film for learning ABOUT wine.  You can get the more raw information in far less time from any basic introductory text.  This is a film that lends a better UNDERSTANDING of wine, and what makes them fascinating and uniquely different, one from the other.  

Trust me, “A Year in Champagne” will leave any wine buff smiling.  Especially if you follow my suggestion to watch it with a bottle of your favorite bubbly well chilled and close at hand.

Happy Merchant

Cheers!
Dave

www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

 

Winemaker Cathy Corison Earns Raves From NYT

Corison 2011 NV CS - LabelWine collectors on my special calling list know of my ongoing love affair with the wines of Cathy Corison.  A lucky few were able to acquire a limited amount from my measly, preciously small allocation.

I’d discovered the sublime joy of Corison Cabernet almost two decades ago when I was lucky enough to attend a vertical tasting featuring five different Corison vintages.  I remember each wine being delightful in its own right, with a recognizable style that bound the very different wines together – like siblings that have a strong family resemblance but entirely unique personalities.

Well, as part of her anniversary celebration, Corison flew to New York for a vertical tasting of ALL TWENTY FIVE of her vintages – 1987-2011 (her current release).  Wine writer Eric Asimov tells you all about it here in the full article.

Cheers!

If my Lottery Picks were as prescient as my wine picks!

If my Lottery Picks were as prescient as my wine picks I’d be writing this from one of my homes overlooking a pristine beach.

What started my wistful thinking was the news in my inbox with the results of an interesting data analysis.  A Pinot producer that was one of my early “bets” turned out to be the top-rated Pinot Producer on CellarTracker, the world’s most extensive database of wine tasting notes and ratings from wine collectors around the globe.

Go ahead, guess who it was in the top spot… Kosta Browne?  Sea Smoke?  Kistler??  Peter Michael???  Au Bon Climat???  All good guesses.  But all would be wrong.

The top spot went to “Sojourn Cellars”.  

When I first discovered their wine, six years ago, I knew they had something special going on.  Owner Craig Haserot stood in my kitchen and poured six of their wines for me, and I selected their 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot for my “Pinot Selections” Wine Club.  Despite their relaxation-inspired logo, they had just burst onto the wine scene with great gusto, and if you’ve ever met Craig you know that’s the only way he approaches everything in life. If you squint a little bit and employ just a modicum of imagination, his size and demeanor might remind you of another Sonoma pioneer whose surname started with “H” – one A. Harazthy.

A. Harazthy, early CA Wine PioneerCraig Haserot, contemporary CA wine pioneer!

According to the data analysis of Cellar Tracker, Sojourn Cellars out-ranked all of the prestigious producers listed above.  And their favorable reviews are not limited to the online pinotphile, they’ve caught the attention of professional critics as well, rarely scoring less than 90 points from the likes of Wine Spectator, Pinot Report, Wine Advocate, et al.  

I’m proud to have supported them in their early days, and to have introduced them to you, my friends.  Congratulations to Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley.

(Note: I currently have a very small quantity of one Sojourn Cellars Pinot in stock.  I recommend it highly. The 2012 Russian River pinot from Wohler Vineyard ($48)

Why is this man smiling?  Good times are about to happen...
Why is this man smiling? Good times are close at hand…

Cheers!

Dave

866-746-7293

“Honey, what was that wine we liked??”

That question is an increasingly common one among wine fans over 40.  I like to tell them they’re experiencing memory difficulties because they have a lifetime of memories stored inside their heads, like a hard drive that’s getting full, and it takes longer to scan through everything and access a specific piece of information when it’s needed.  (There’s actually some brain research that supports my theory, which is surprising as I thought I’d made it up)

But here’s a useful article that provides helpful clues on how to cement something into your memory regardless of its vintage.  If you’re taking the SWE/WSET/MS/Etc. certification exam, this is required reading.  If you’re just interested in a better memory then yeah, you too!

2/27/15 Food & Wine Article by Charles Antin “How To Improve Your Wine Memory

A Tasting Experience at the Intersection of Wine & Art

Creativity Explored - where art changes livesWhat are you doing here?!  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you reading my blog, it’s just that I’m going to ask you to do something more.  

Because reading about wine is all well and good, it is a fascinating topic and all, but it’s sort of like reading about sex – eventually, it’s best to set aside the academic study and experience the subject live and in person.  Which is what we’re doing every time we separate the cork from its bottle, and especially so at an organized tasting where wine becomes the center of focus, where it’s elevated beyond a pleasant background accompaniment to good company, good food or the (sadly) the T.V.

And on Thursday,  January 29th, we’re turning the usual tasting format on its head with wine inspired by art. It’s a whole different approach to tasting!

It’s not uncommon for an artist to be inspired by wine, of course.  That’s been common for centuries.  But wine inspired by art?  Come experience it with us – you’ll taste wine, and view the art that inspired it, with fresh and enlivened senses. We’ve paired artisanal wines with six different works of art by some of the developmentally handicapped artists working through the venerable Creativity Explored in San Francisco’s hip Mission District.  This worthy organization provides studio space and gallery/marketing support for dozens of such artists, some of which are able to support themselves from their proceeds.  Tickets are just $20 (available here).  Here’s a sneak peak at two of our pairings:

Biggy Cats... by Christina Marie Fong
Biggy Cats… by Christina Marie Fong inspired a pairing with Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare Blanc. Come learn more about this fascinating match!
"Big Tree" by Jason Monzon
“Big Tree”, by Jason Monzon, inspired a pairing with the wines of Mendocino producer Seebass. Come learn how the art inspired our choice!

I hope you can join us. Because as much fun as it is to read about wine, it is far more enjoyable to taste it!  So stop reading and hie thee to the shopping cart – Tickets are a very reasonable $20 per person ($38 for two)Click to Buy Tickets

 

Happy MerchantCheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Advice for Enjoying Edmunds St. John’s 2012 “Rocks & Gravel”

Edmunds St. Johns 2012 R&G Label

I opened this wine for last week’s customer tasting, and want to pass along what we found.  Just a couple of quick ideas can help you greatly increase the enjoyment of this profound wine.

The wine is aromatic and lively, even a bit frizzante at first.  The best glass of this wine I had all evening was actually the next morning, after the wine had been exposed to 12 hours worth of air.

To enjoy this wine to the fullest, break out your decanter (or any clean, wide-bottomed glass container), pop the cork and give this wine a good sloshing as you pour – this baby needs air – and some active swirling once decanted. If you can plan in advance, you’d be wise to decant two or three hours before pouring the first glass.

The Wine – A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (“GSM” 55/27/18%)  from Sonoma’s famed Unti Vineyard.  Give your glass a good swirl-n-sniff and you’ll get generous aromas of candied red fruits, sweet spices and dark fruits – blackberry and bitter cherries and delicious hints of sweet black licorice and cola. If you can find the willpower, this wine will reward a few years of quiet repose.  It is a baby right now.

For more info or to purchase, click here.

Cheers!