November 2009 Archives

Natural Is As Natural Does

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So-called "natural wines" are under the microscope these days
By Courtney Cochran
Twitter: @HipTastesMaven

The natural wine debate reached a fever pitch last week when the San Francisco Chronicle's head wine scribe, Jon Bonne, penned a blog post asserting that "natural wine is toast." At the core of his rant? The co-opting of the term - intended, at least initially, to describe wines made with minimal intervention - by marketers who wish to capitalize on its buzz-worthiness. The problem with buzz, of course, is that as soon as something becomes earmarked as "buzz" it's usually lost most of its potency anyway.

Wine Country Personality: Gina Gallo

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Gina Gallo: Winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards.

By Claire Gabaldon

Gina Gallo followed the footsteps of her grandfather Julio Gallo to find her calling as winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards. Today she creates award-winning wines from grapes grown by her brother Matt Gallo.

Read on for an intimate look into Gina's life, her earliest winemaking memories, wine she's most proud of, and what she does for fun!

Wine Spectator: Top 10 Wines of 2009

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Earlier this week Wine Spectator announced their top 10 wine picks for 2009. Watch the video and hear senior editors introduce each wine and explain what makes puts a particular wine on the top 10 list!

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Holiday Wine Deals

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chandonHolidayPack.jpgNeed fail-proof gift ideas for that hard-to-shop-for friend or relative. No worries! What could be easier than the gift of wine? Even better (and definitely faster) - order the wine directly online.

Our WineCountry.com elves have been busy finding fabulous wine deals to fit every shopper's budget. Read on and click to find that perfect gift for your loved ones. If you're lucky, maybe they will even share! Tip: When ordering out of state, remember to check if the winery of your choice will ship to that state.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery
Holiday Gift Collections - Choose from four elegant gift pairings that will make wonderful presents for the wine lovers on your holiday shopping list. Choose from our Classic's, Rhone style or Reserve designates. Each collection comes beautifully packaged with signature wines hand crafted by Winemaster Richard Arrowood.   

B.R. Cohn Winery
Holiday Wine Sampler - Planning a holiday party or joining friends and family at theirs - B.R. Cohn has you covered. Just order their 12 bottle holiday sampler which includes pairing suggestions to cover all your holiday foods. Currently they are offering a 25% discount on the case!

Domaine Chandon
Chandon has a variety of gift ideas for a wide range of friends whether they are a culinary expert (Epicurean 2 pk), a party host/hostess (Genuine Entertainer), or chic & savvy (The Sophisticated). And of course, you really can't go wrong with bubbles! Shipping is free on any order of $100 or more.

Deals on Champagne & Sparklers

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champagne2.jpgAccording to Paul Gregutt in a recent article for the Seattle Times, prices for Champagne and sparkling wine have decreased. In fact, worldwide demand has fallen by at least 10% which can only mean one thing for you and me - it's time to buy and stock up! And for those gearing up for the holidays, it couldn't be more perfect timing.

The articles suggests a few tips in what to buy:

(1) Be adventurous. Try something new instead of sticking to the brand you always buy.

(2) Buy a vintage Champagne rather than a brut

(3) Look on the bottle to see if the grapes are grand cru. Apparently grand cru vineyards are considered to be the best and well worth if it, even if a few more extra dollars..

(4) Splurge without breaking the bank. Purchase a half bottle

Paul also recommends asking the wine seller what is on sale. One deal out there right now is from Duval-Leroy where they have half bottles of brut at $18 and a full bottle of Cuvee Paris at $35.

Other articles on picking out sparklers for the holiday season:
Bubble, Bubble Everywhere



Cooking With Wine

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When You Actually Put It In the Food

By Deirdre Bourdet

Some may consider the deliberate pouring of wine into anything other than a drinking vessel or eager mouth a shameful, wasteful act.  While I see their point, wine-based cooking also happens to be one of the most delicious, easy, and traditional techniques for creating wine-friendly food.  A splash of red to deglaze your meat searing pan, a dash of white to loosen up those all-too-quickly browning onions, and you've suddenly added worlds of flavor, depth, and sophistication to your creation.
 
Then there are the truly wine-based recipes (coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, moules marinière, etc.) where the wine takes center stage.  Typically there is a great deal of reduction involved--simmering the wine with other ingredients to concentrate flavor and reduce the volume of liquid to a thicker, more sauce-like consistency.  These recipes make you confront the question of which bottle to use head-on, because the quality of the wine reduction really sets the tone of the dish.

Wine Country Personality: Winemaker Bill Anderson

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wcPersonalityChateauJulien.jpgThe Chateau Julien team has included Winemaker Bill Anderson since the Wine Estate opened in 1982. After studying enology at UC Davis, Bill joined Chateau Julien Proprietors Bob & Patty Brower with release of the first vintage of Chateau Julien wine - 1982 Merlot & Chardonnay.  Experience and consistency over the years highlight the essence of Chateau Julien wines. Today, over three-quarters of the winery's portfolio consists of its flagship Merlot and complementary Bordeaux varietals. Winemaker Bill Anderson has balanced the art of winemaking and a commitment to quality with each of the nearly thirty Chateau Julien vintages produced since 1982.

Bill's passion for the winemaking process began at the early age of eleven. Bill was fascinated by early childhood stories of his father making wine with friends during the prohibition period. One fall afternoon at his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, Bill eagerly set out to experiment with the fermentation process using apricots from their newly acquired family orchard.  He found an old porcelain 10-gallon crock in the garage, gathered apricots from the backyard and started mixing sugar, apricots and small packages of Fleishman's yeast. While the results tasted awful, the initial aroma of fermenting fruit never left his memory and ultimately led Bill to the study of enology twenty years later. 

His philosophy today continues to be as simple as the elegance he achieves in his wines. "Elegance is what I keep in mind in winemaking. Simple, straightforward, clean; the truth is evident without frivolity. If you have good grapes and treat them well, do all the details every day and let them do what they will naturally do, you will have a good product." 

Chateau Julien Wine Estate
8940 Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley, CA 93923
831.624.2600



Must-Have Glasses For Holiday Party Season

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Fusion-Infinity-placesetting.jpgby Deirdre Bourdet

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and while most people have started planning their menus, most people haven't given much thought to rustling up stemware for the hordes of celebrants about to descend.  Big gatherings tend to bring out those back-of-the-cupboard wine "goblets," or the ever-festive plastic glasses--both because of necessity (few people have 14 Spiegelau glasses on hand), and because no tears will be shed when the inevitable shattering occurs.

Having recently broken two Riedels at home myself, I decided it was time to check out the purportedly "break-resistant" wine glasses Wine Enthusiast stocks.  Fusion stemware is made of lead-free European crystal fused with magnesium, and is backed with a 10-year warranty.  If the glasses shatter from normal klutziness, Wine Enthusiast will replace it for free.  (See full details at wineenthusiast.com/Fusion)  Now obviously this is still crystal, so if you hurl it to the sidewalk in a fury, it will almost certainly break--and not be covered by the warranty.  But Fusion is apparently immune to those everyday backhands that bring down your glass and its contents in a cascade of splintered pain.  

What Wines to Serve for Thanksgiving

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Are you at a loss when deciding on which wine to serve for Thanksgiving? Rest assured, you're not alone! Surprisingly (or not), trying to pair the perfect wine to accompany the wide variety of food we encounter with this wonderful meal is a common dilemma.  The good news is, we can help! Watch the videos below and get expert tips from those who know best. Now, what to do with eccentric family members?  We'll leave that to you!





Hoax or No - Twitter to Make Wine??

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fledglingwine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

It's true, management for social networking phenomenon Twitter.com recently announced a partnership the company has struck with San Francisco-based Crushpad, the urban winery, to make its own brand of wine: Fledgling. Proceeds for the so-called social media wine - which has its own handle, natch: @fledgling - will go to Room to Read, a charity that supports international literacy projects. And with some 49,124 followers as of press time, it sounds like Twitter's Fledgling Wine is off to a buzz-worthy start.

Wine Country in Hong Kong?

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Sounds odd, but according to a recent CNN report,  Hong Kong is now home to a boutique winery by the name of 8th Estate Winery. It produces about 100,000 bottles every years and is currently selling 4 reds, 4 whites and 3 different types of dessert wines. As you can imagine, there is no space to actually grow grapes in Hong Kong considering it one of the largest populations in the world. As a result, the grapes are sourced from all over the world with 2007 vintage made with grapes from Washington and the 2008 vintage from regions of Italy. To ensure freshness, the grapes go through a flash freeze process before being shipped.

Of course the real question in all of this is - Is the wine any good?  CNN conducted a test with unsuspecting guests at a hotel bar who were served 8th Estate wine. Below are just a few of the comments:

"It's good, drinkable . . . it could be from some part of France." (Swiss man who lives in Hong Kong after tasting the Chardonnay)

"Very dry, very nice. No after taste. Is it from California?" (Miami, Florida man also in Hong Kong  after tasting the Merlot)

Guess it goes to show you, you can make wine anywhere!

CLICK HERE to read the full article


Parker Pandemonium

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parker.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

It's not easy being Robert Parker.

If the recent rash of criticism of the wine ratings czar is any indication, the lawyer-turned-world's-most-recognized-wine-critic isn't sleeping easy nights. Things first turned tough for Parker this spring when respected wine blogger Tyler Colman (AKA Dr. Vino) as well as The Wall Street Journal penned exposes on ethical missteps by members of Parker's tasting staff. And things have only continued to heat up since, with Colman penning follow-on pieces examining the veracity of Parker's so-called perfect tasting recall and discrepancies in the quality of wines rated in his publication, the Wine Advocate, and on the market.
By Courtney Cochran

Another ringer hit the wine industry recently when geologists gathering for the annual Geological Society of America conference in Portland declared there's little evidence the minerals we find in vineyards can be tasted in wines.  Perhaps most shockingly, the geologists said that "the concentration of minerals in wine is below the threshold of human taste and smell."  This all throws a major monkey wrench in the common belief held by critics and tasters-in-the-know (or so they thought) that mineral flavors can be tasted and smelled in many of the wines we quaff.  

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