Archive for January, 2009

Vino 2009 – Italian Wine Tasting

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

This past Wednesday, January 28th, I spent my late afternoon and early evening at the NYC Hilton for Vino 2009, a HUUUGE tasting of Italian wines.

The tasting covered 2 (or was it 3?) floors and too many rooms to count (at least 6 different rooms).  There were representatives pouring wines from well known regions such as Tuscany or Piedmont, and from lesser known regions such as Lombardy, Abruzzo and Veneto.  Some of these producers were represented by an importer and other by the winemaker.  I very much enjoy meeting winemakers but for future reference, the wineries might be better served by sending someone that actually speaks the language of those attending the tasting (although I did overhear many conversations that I assume was Italian so maybe I was in the minority of those who do not speak Italian).

Overall it was a great tasting.  An opportunity for wineries already being imported to show off their goods to media and trade members, and an opportunity for those presently seeking US representation to speak and taste with potential business associates.

Making my way around at first with my friend & fellow wine club member Jeremy (who knows as little as I do about Italian wines) we went through several of the rooms and tasted lots of wines while asking questions of those pouring the wines.  I then spent some time with good friend and Italian wine (and otherwise) expert Fred who introduced me to some producers and shared some knowledge with me while we tasted some wines together.

Yes, i spit out ALL (or as much as possible) of the 50+ (I counted 55 but it could have been more) wines I tasted and there was one flawed wine, some sparklers (red & white) some sweet wines (red & white) a few white wines and a whole lot of the good old red stuff.  There are several hundred (or is it thousand) Italian varietals so gaining a firm grasp on Italian wines can take a lifetime.

It is now Saturday night and my girlfriend is gonna kick my butt if I spend the night in front of the computer.  So without further ado, some standouts from the tasting…

Casa Sola 2000 Vin Sante.  I am not very familiar with Vin Sante, but this wine reminded me a bit of sherry.  It had an oxidized, sweet & nutty nose, but was a dry and interesting wine.

Collavini 2004 Ribolla Gialla Spumante Brut Millesimato was a standout sparkler.  It had a nice melony nose, and upon tasting it I could think of only 1 thing; banana split.  Sure it has been a while since I have had a banana split, but this had creamy banana aromas and flavors and overall was a very pleasant wine.

Cecchi’s 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco Tenuta Alzatura made entirely from the (previously unfamiliar to me) Sagrantino varietal was a WOW-ER.  The nose made me think that someone took some old musk cologne and bottled it up for consumption as wine.  What a nose!!  This clear ruby wine had a musky, spicy (the whole spice rack) nose with mocha and earthy flavors, all which led to a mouth coating LONG finish.  GREAT WINE!

Casa Emma’s 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva, made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Black Malvasia is made in a new world style – new oak (although only 25%) and a ripe 14% alcohol level.  I had so many Chianti’s at the tasting and this one was probably my favorite.  A clear ruby wine with pretty berry aromas and flavors that led to a surprisingly long and very pleasant finish.

And finally, I tasted 6 of the  wines of Aldo Rainoldi with Aldo (and my friend Fred).  Aldo was a very nice guy and his wines were equally nice.  All produced from Nebbiolo, the standout to me was the “Sfursat”.  Apparently Sfursat is ONLY produced by about 12 producers in Lombardy, Italy and roughly translated means “hold long” (or something to that effect).  I think the name is derived from extra long hang time (fruit time on the vines) but don’t hold me to that.

The Aldo Rainoldi SRL 2004 Sfursat di Valtellina Fruttaio Ca’ Rizzieri had a very unique nose.  Influenced by friends around me at the time of the tasting (thanks a lot Fred & Dale!) I ended up conceding that the aroma was peach pit.  This clear deep red wine was very extracted and mouth coating.  It had flavors of dried fruit and earth and had a nice long finish.  A treat to be able to taste a wine that is only made by 12 producers in the world.

If you have any Italian wine questions – DON’T ASK ME (kidding)!  Seriously though , I am happy to inquire from one of my Italian wine expert contacts.  But in the meantime…

Happy Italian Wine Tasting!


Wine Judging

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Before I get to today’s post I just want to mention that I attended the “Vino 2009″ Italian wine tasting this afternoon in NYC.  It was a HUGE event and I got to taste lots of Italian wines – wines I know little about.  I hope to have time to review my notes tomorrow so that I can comment further on the event, the wines and mention some standouts.

But today I want to briefly discuss WINE JUDGING.

I have admitted to friends & colleagues as well as here in this blog that I am confident that I can judge what I believe to be poor, OK, good or even very good wines (although I do think this is somewhat subjective).  That said, I have a hard time really deciphering GREAT wines, or those deemed to be great that often command respectively great price tags.  I hope(d) & expect that as I continue tasting my palate will continue to refine and one day I will get to the point when I can truly tell the difference between a very good wine & a great wine.

And then I read about a paper whereby the author (Robert Hodgson) showed with extensive analysis how wine judging is a very inaccurate science.  Apparently he found that 90% of judges are not able to replicate their scores for the same wine.  Or as he put it:

“About 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.  Another 10 percent, on occasion, scored the same wine Bronze to Gold. Judges tend to be more consistent in what they don’t like than what they do.”

Felix Salmon for picked up on these findings and concluded “I’m beginning to think there’s really no such thing as a really good wine: there’s just really bad wine, and everything else”.

Felix my man, I think your conclusion is a bit extreme, but in many regards I think you are saying what many supposed wine experts do not want to admit.

Special thanks to wine buddy Marc for bringing this report to my attention.

Happy scores are worthless wine tasting!


weekend out west – Four Gates winery

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

WTG is out West in the Bay area for a long weekend.  My sister and her husband live out here in Menlo Park and my immediate family decided the Bay area in the Sunshine State is a good place for a family weekend gathering.

Super gracious cousins of ours put a bunch of us up in their spectacular Palo Alto home and the East Coast (parents & I), West Coast (sister & brother in law) & Israel based (brother, sister-in-law & niece) family members are all getting in some good family time.

Today, sunday, Wine Tasting Guy needed a break from the family madness and wanted to put in some professional time.  I have heard very good things about the Santa Cruz Mountains based “Four Gates winery”.  Given its reasonable proximity to where I’m staying and the winemaker’s warm and gracious personality, I made the 50 minute drive down south to visit Benyomin at his winery.

I first (and I’m embarrassed to say, last) spoke to Benyomin when i had a wine making question related to my garage wine about 1 1/2 years ago.  Having never spoken to me before I called him (he lists his phone number on his website) the warm Benyomin spent 45 minutes on the phone with me helping me out with my problem.

On this occasion he remembered me from our one conversation and gladly agreed to host me at his home/winery this afternoon.

I did not bring a camera or notebook (though a camera would have been a good idea) – instead, we simply sat, chatted & sipped his 2005 “MSC” Merlot.

The bottle had been opened up almost 48 hours before my visit yet it showed no signs of oxidation.  It had a pretty, floral and what seemed to be plummy nose.  The first thing that came to my mind upon tasting the wine was “mouth coating”.  Tipping the scales at over 15% alcohol this wine was not bashful.  But amazingly, there was no heat – the sensation one gets from an overly alcoholic wine.  While this sensation CAN be felt with wines that are even lower in alcohol, it seemed to me that the fruit, acid and body held up to this high alcohol level and the wine was quite nice.


In my little time spent with him Benyomin this afternoon there is truly so much I can write about .  Alas, it is time to get back to the family.  But I want to say that Benyomin is an amazing man for whom i wish fabulous things.  Making only about 400 cases in a remote area in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains, he is living out a fantasy of mine.  He works with no distributors and his wines can just about ONLY be bought by calling him.  So should you desire an upscale (yet not absurdly priced), well made, organic, kosher California wine – Four Gates is a great bet (if he has any left for you)!

Happy kosher, organic, California, hand made wine tasting!


Obama the Wino

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Guess what wine loving readers?  Our new president is a wine lover too!  He told me so himself!  OK, not really, but that is what Reuters is reporting in its article “Wine makers toast a new wine drinker in the White House“.

Apparently his OLD house (not the new white one) has a 1,000 bottle wine cellar.  SWEET!  I’ll drink to that…

OK, so he’s drinking beer.  I could not seem to find that picture of the two of us drinking that delicious Israeli wine 😉

Now let’s hope Obama’s love of wine is one of the many things we can be proud of from our new President.

Happy presidential wine tasting!



Monday, January 19th, 2009

“Why do we park on a driveway & drive on a parkway?”

This is the play on words joke I am reminded of as I prepare a quick little piece once again using the word “cork”.  In my last post I talked about “corked” wine.  And today I want to talk about “corkage”, or a corkage fee.

As the cartoon indicates a corkage fee is a fee restaurants charge guests who choose to bring their own bottle (of wine).  Not all restaurants offer this courtesy, but it is something certainly worth taking advantage of during these difficult economic times.

Some places that allow people to bring bottles for a fee are either restaurants that do not have their own liquor (or beer & wine) license.  Also, new restaurants that have not YET gotten their licenses will often allow guests to bring their own bottle – sometimes without charging a corkage.

People may be embarrassed to bring their own bottle but I read just today in “Wine & Spirits Daily” about a survey of women & wine with “Full Glass Research” wherein “55% (of women surveyed) stated that they are comfortable bringing their own bottle and paying a corkage fee“.

A final note about this convenient and practical option is WHAT BOTTLE to bring and pay the corkage fee.  Typically you can not bring a bottle that the restaurant already offers.  And inexpensive/generic bottles are often frowned upon.  May I suggest an unusual Israeli wine…

(Incidentally, Reuters in their review of the wine industry from 2008 said “Less well-known wine countries such as Israel … which (has) been making wine for millennia, (has) also seen (its) shares of the U.S. market gain a bit” – keep it up!)

Happy corkage fee wine tasting!


Announcement – NY Wine

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Wine Tasting Guy readers & fellow bloggers-

I’ve been working with Tony Karrer of  Tech Empower for a few months now to create NY WINE.

NY Wine is a content community that tries to collect and organize the best we have from our new york wine/food blogging community. The idea is to be a hub where Tony will pull together content from various members of our world and make it more easily accessible to people who are searching and/or who want to stay up to date, but who don’t use an RSS reader (or want someone to help filter).

As a blog reader in addition to writer I have put together a preliminary list of blogs I hope to include.  If you are a blogger and want to be included or if you are a reader of a blog you think should be included please do not hesitate to drop me a quick note.

I hope the site will officially launch within the next week or two.

Thanks for your continued support & I hope to continue to provide you with compelling wine writings!


Burgundy tasting #2 – corked wine

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

I’ve written before about my wine tasting group.  It is a great group consisting of some core members and others who join in on occasion.  Within the wine group, our organizer Jeremy has created focused wine tasting sessions.   Last month we did our first of what I hope is many double blind wine tastings.  If you haven’t read about it you should.  But things got serious a few months ago when we started a “Burgundy Wine Group” within our wine club/group/clique.

So last night was Burgundy tasting number two.  There are those that say that Burgundy is the holy grail of wine.  Yes, Bordeaux is still Bordeaux and probably more popular, but there is apparently something mythical, magical and even elusive about Burgundy.  So to regularly participate in Burgundy tastings with friends in a comfortable environment is really a great thing.

Last night we focused on a specific region within Burgundy; Morey St. Denis.  If I was a real Burgundy geek (umm – Jeremy) I could tell you about MSD, but I am not (at least not yet), so I can’t.  Sorry.

But I can brag about the lineup.  We tasted 7 wines last night.  Two were village wines, 2 were premier Cru wines and 3 were Grand Cru wines.  These labels are classifications given to specific vineyard sites with village being any vineyard located within Burgundy, Premier (or 1er) Cru being sites within Burgundy with a special status, and “Grand Cru” being the best of Burgundy.  The wines we tasted were as follows:

  1. Domaine Arlaud 2006 Burgundy
  2. Henri (or was it Philippe) Jouan 2006 Burgundy
  3. Domaine Francois Legros “Clos Sorbe” 1999 Premier Cru
  4. Domaine Magniene – Les Millandes “Recolte” 1999 Premier Cru
  5. Clos de la Roche “Virgile Lignier” 2001 Grand Cru
  6. Clos des Lambrays – domaine des Lambrays 1998 Grand Cru
  7. Clos des Lambrays – domaine des Lambrays 1993 Grand Cru

The wines were great.  A lot of what I express as “pukey” smell.  Probably not the most desirable aroma, but something I have come to expect and actually find quite interesting in Burgundys.  But rather than get into tasting notes I want to bring up something I eluded to in the title.  Corked wine.  Yes, one of our wines was corked.  It was one of the Grand Crus (not important which) and the group was pretty disappointed.  I had remembered once before reading that TCA (the abbreviation for the infection “trichloroanisole” in corks that affects the wine and makes it a corked wine) can be removed from a wine with plastic wrap.  Sure enough, as soon as I brought it up two other members chimed in that they had just read the same thing in the NY Times THAT DAY (what a coincidence!!!).  Eager to further enrich my wine related knowledge I went with a fellow member downstairs to a convenience store across the street (a NYC benefit – they are everywhere and open virtually 24 hrs.)  where we picked up a roll of plastic wrap.  The mention of it in the NY Times instructed that the “dank flavor of a “corked” wine, which usually renders it unusable even in cooking, can be removed by pouring the wine into a bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap”.  But I had remembered reading that you could simply crumble up some plastic wrap and throw it into the wine in a decanter – which is exactly what we did…

(thanks to Susan for the pic)

(thanks to Susan for the pic)

And sure enough – IT WORKED!!!  Well, mostly.  We were a bunch of skeptics and while most of us agreed that the cardboardy, dank smell was mostly gone, the wine’s integrity seemed to go with it.  Kind of like the fountain of youth – just a little something unnatural about it.  But pretty DANK cool nonetheless…

Happy TCA-free Burgundy wine tasting!


Red Wine & Beef – A Match made in Heaven

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Ahhh…I’m sure I have mentioned it countless times but such a pairing deserves to be fawned over time & time again.  Red wine & steak!

I bring this combo up today as part of a quickie post.  I stumbled upon a cool article “Beer and red wine marinade may cut cancer risk from beef”.  The title pretty much says it all, but in a nutshell, these marinades reduce the level of heterocyclic amines (formed during the frying or grilling of fish and meat – reported to promote carcinogenesis in humans) by up to 88 per cent.

Interestingly enough, the researcher then recruited people to taste beef marinated in wine, steak or not marinated at all.  Um hellooooo….I’m here and available any time you need another “test subject”…

In other news, the tough times we are experiencing is leading people to drink – but they are drinking more early & more cheaply.  People are hitting the bars at happy hour both to imbibe after a tough day and to do it at more reasonable prices.  I mean, can you blame us???!!!  This goes along with what I have heard about people drinking as much as during better times, just with the economy where it is people are drinking more at home than they are out at bars and restaurants.

Sorry for the grim news, but hey, go grab a bottle of fabulous Israeli wine, pop it open, marinate a steak for a few hours, and while you are savoring that bloody rare steak (I hope) try to forget all your troubles…

Happy marinated steak & wine Tasting!


TV Time – part 2

Friday, January 9th, 2009

so TV Time part 1 was dominated by TV talk.  And I really want to get away from any non-wine related writing.  That said, I can not resist a quick follow up.  After doing some wine sales out in Brooklyn this week I stopped by some friends who moved out to hipster Brooklyn.  It is a cool area and they have a great place.  And it was really good to see them and their young daughter.

BUT, I write about the experience as my visit came with a bonus.  They had just a few days earlier purchased a new TV stand.  Which means WINE TASTING GUY got a TV stand hand-me-down!!!


And following up on the wine, I did in fact open the Spanish Garnacha last night.  It was NOTHING like the Australian Grenache.  The Spanish wine (a 2005) was awarded 91 points by Robert Parker.  So yes, it was VERY extracted.  It was a little “hot” as well (“heat” is a term used when the alcohol in a wine in high and out of balance with the rest of the wine).  It did have nice fruit, but overall it is a wine style that I have gotten away from of late.

A final note about the wine is that there were large chunks of sediment.  While this is not unusual for a wine that was likely unfined & unfiltered, to have such large chunks in a relatively young wine seemed a bit unusual.  It is possible that the bottle I opened came from the end of a bottling “run”.

Have a fabulous weekend everybody & happy different varietal wine tasting!


TV time

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

It happened today.  The TV that was a hand-me-down to me in either 1993 or 1994 has finally gone to TV heaven.  It had been ill for about 2 years requiring some tender loving to get going.  And about a month ago its condition seriously deteriorated and it showed signs of volume-less-ness.  I have kept it on life support since but it became apparent to me the past few days that it was time to pull the plug.

I began researching a replacement for old faithful TV and found one I thought I could be happy with.  It was more than a financially challenged wine industry GUY should be spending, but what the heck right, I’ll hagel and get a deal.

So while leaving a work appointment today I walked into an electronics store conveniently located right near my appointment.  I went in and found the potential replacement.  It was priced higher than a competitor had it priced and I told the salesperson.  He offered to match it and I told him he should match it plus offer a further discount.  Long story short, I got the TV and for about $80 less than the competitor.

I spent the evening setting it up.   But this is just the beginning.  Gone are the days when a TV is a TV.  It is now plasma, Lcd, DLP, or who knows what.  There are hertz to count, response times and endless features the TV makers are marketing.  But the real kicker is what else one needs to buy to enjoy their new TV.  First you must upgrade your cable box.  Then you have to buy the right cables.  Of course then comes the Blue Ray disc player for movies.  Don’t forget the cable for that.  And of course the speakers on these TV’s leave something to be desired so you must get a sound system to hook it up to.

I miss my old TV.

What, this isn’t my diary…I should be writing about wine???  OH YEAH…

I opened a 2000 Australian Grenache last night with dinner.  It was blended with some Shiraz & Monastrell (not a variety I am all too familiar with).  It was quite light.  It showed its age with a brick orange color.  Yet it still possessed huge fruit.  It reminded me a lot of a fruit forward new world Pinot Noir.  The artificial fruit thing gets to me.  But I enjoyed this one.  I think the age mellowed the fruit out a bit and the structure was quite nice.  I have a Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) in my fridge I now have to open next.  It is much younger – a 2005.  But it can be a fun drill.

Speaking of which, wine is about having fun with friends, family & loved ones.  Go out and get some wine & have fun with the special people in your life!

Happy Wine Tasting…while watching your new TV…