WineCountry Staff: September 2007 Archives

High Hopes for Harvest

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By Robert Farmer

Wineries throughout Napa Valley have got that happy feeling--not just because it's harvest time, which always brings a smile, but because the harvest this season is looking particularly good--as good, in fact, as it's looked in a long long time.

The official (and unofficial) word among vintners is that the 2007 harvest season, which got under way about three weeks ahead of schedule, is shaping up to be the strongest harvest for Napa in at least a decade. This according to early reports in the industry and according to a panel of growers convened by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

On Second Thought: Putting Used Bottles to Use

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Anyone able to pull a cork is capable of enjoying the spoils of a bottle of wine, but it takes a truly savvy enthusiast to take the good stuff where few mere fans have taken it before. Read on for tips on re-using wine bottles – because your enjoyment shouldn’t end just because you’ve swilled the last drop.

Savvy Centerpiece
Pour the contents of a bottle of wine into a decanter in advance of a festive meal. Decanting works wonders when it comes to opening up young reds, and even helps some whites to show their full potential (it certainly doesn’t hurt ‘em), so pour away! If you don’t have a decanter on-hand, any clean, empty flower vase or water pitcher will do the trick.

Next, pluck some flowers from your yard or local florist shop and arrange them inside the empty wine bottle. Voilà – you’ve got a centerpiece with panache, and you and your guests can admire the bottle on the table while enjoying the wine from the decanter. If you’re pouring from the flower vase, you can also share a good chuckle over the ironic role swap.

Wine Bottle As Found Art
Those interested in taking their bottles to still greater heights of innovation can experiment with empty wine bottles as found art. More and more, wine bottles are turning up as decorative elements in lighting fixtures (wine bottle chandelier, anyone?) and wall dressings (making the phrase “wine wall” quite literal). Even better, planning for your art installation is a fabulous excuse to try new wines.

Message In a Bottle
One of the best things about wine is the way it brings us together with friends and family. For a great way to harness the memories you generate while enjoying a special bottle, jot down highlights from your gathering on a piece of paper, roll it up and slide it inside the empty bottle. Store this “time capsule” along with others from particularly memorable occasions, and plan a time to open them up and savor your memories – ideally, over more great wine.

I can’t think of a better excuse to start enjoying the good stuff this very moment.

contributed by: Courtney Cochran

Baja Begins - Exploring California's Other Wine Country

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By Courtney Cochran

You know a wine region is more or less off the charts when a Google search on the subject turns up a pop song before any meaningful news about the place. And while I'm happy that the band Fields of Wayne featured "Mexican Wine" in the lyrics and title of a recently released tune, I can't say that the gyrating ladies in bikinis shown in the song's video helped me much with my research (although, for the record, they did swill some vino of dubious origin at one point).

Fortunately, a little more digging unearthed more applicable facts about Mexican wine, sans MTV-style embellishments. Chief among these was the reason that we know so little about Mexican wine, originally brought to the area by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century.

Kisses (and Vino) from Rio

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By Courtney Cochran

The dating life is tough. Take, for example, an unfortunate coincidence that came up between two good friends of mine not long ago. Both ladies were living in Manhattan, working hard by day and - unbeknownst to each other - enjoying romantic dates with same dashing bachelor by night.

Both believed her relationship was "getting more serious," when in reality the guy was more interested in dating most of Manhattan than moving closer to any sort of commitment. It wasn't until said gentleman went on vacation to Brazil and sent both women flirtatious text messages signed, "Kisses from Rio" that they made the connection.

As you might imagine, they then promptly made a disconnection from the guy who became known infamously in our circle as "Kisses from Rio."

Dry Creek Zinfandel Recommendations

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Zinfandel has been on a rollercoaster of popularity for nearly 150 years - today's mad passion is only the latest peak for the bold-flavored red. Throughout most of that time, Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma has been a bastion of Zinfandel quality and tradition. A quarter of the valley's vineyard acreage is planted to Zin, yielding up an abundance of Zinfandels with "Dry Creek Valley" on the label every year.

While it's hard to go too far wrong with Dry Creek Zin, prices have crept up steadily during the grape's latest burst of popularity. There's also been a major move toward higher alcohol and more saturated color and flavor. So there's more reason than ever to choose carefully in order to find a Dry Creek Zin with a style and price you like.

Dry Creek Zinfandel RecommendationsZinfandel's more passionate adherents got some wind knocked out of them in 2002, when the premium wine grape they described as "America's own" turned out to be European - and from a never-heard-of-it neighborhood to boot.

In the years leading up to this discovery, Zin fans had become increasingly creative in defense of their chosen vine. When a southern Italian grape called Primitivo turned out to be genetically almost identical to Zinfandel, some Zin fans came up with a "reverse immigration" theory: the American grape was so good, they said, that Italian-Americans must have exported it back home to their winemaking cousins. (As if Italy, with more than 2,000 indigenous grape varieties, needed another one.)