Archive for June, 2009

Wine news; wine counterfeiting & burnt rubber wines

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I try to stay current, but I am not a newspaper guy.  For a time I was, but the piles of newspaper sections I saved to read the next day (and never did), contributed to the “walls are caving in” feeling of a seemingly shrinking (small to begin with Manhattan) apartment and led me to give up paper and opt instead to get my news online.  One such online source is the daily email I get from the NY Times.  I also get several wine related alerts both from the NY Times and from google.

You were forced to suffer through that irrelevant dribble due to the source of the 2 news stories that caught my attention on this day – BOTH from the NY Times.

The first, an article sent to me by buddy Dave, is a piece written by Robin Goldstein.  In the article, “Are Empty Wine Bottles on eBay Being Used for Counterfeiting?“, Goldstein wonders whether (as the title suggests) purchasers of empty bottles are purchasing said bottles to refill them and pass them along to unsuspecting buyers as the real thing.  A rather unsettling thought given the exorbitant asking price for some of these collectible bottles.  Counterfeiting is not a new phenomenon, and I have read about technologies being developed to test the authenticity of wine in the bottles.  Either way, given storage issues, one must seriously consider the source they are buying from – whether buying a $20 bottle or $2,000 bottle.

Of further interest, an item mostly unrelated, but also in the NY Times, is that of the negative biased towards South African wines.  The article by Barry Bearak, “A Whiff of Controversy and South African Wines“, talks a bit about the biases (or stigmas if you will) that have developed as a result of some scathing reviews for South African wines.   Bearak tells of the wine critic who chastised a large group of South African wines for their off putting burnt rubber aromas.

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The result is an industry that has taken issue with its image when it seems that only a sample of (well intended but) seemingly improperly trained winemakers allowed certain sulfide compounds to develop in their wines, resulting in these off putting aromas.

While both this aroma issue and the resulting stigma are serious problems it leads me, and Israeli wine advocate, to wince in empathetic  pain.  Israeli wines have suffered the Manishewitz stigma for FAR TOO LONG. (Incidentally, Manishewitz is & always has been made in NY state – not that there is anything wrong with NY state wines.)  Countless articles about Israeli wines have begun with the line “this is not your (insert previous generation reference)’s Manishewitz – Israeli wines have improved by leaps and bounds…   BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  Prejudice, bias, stigma, generalization – whatever you want to call it, it SUCKS.  How about starting an article about Israeli wines by saying that “although unbeknown to most, Israel has been producing world class wines for nearly 30 years now”?

I don’t want to belabor the point.  But I do hope that people begin/continue to give wines from ALL OVER THE WORLD a chance just as they give cuisine from all over the world a chance.  Sure you might end up with something less than what you hoped, but at least you gave it a fair chance and were not influenced by archaic or minority samples that tainted the reputation of the whole.

Happy bias-free wine tasting!

WTG

Andes Peak Select – Box wine (part I)

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Two weeks ago, prior to heading out to the Bay area (of California) for the family gathering celebrating the birth (and bris) of my nephew Jonah, I received, on consecutive days, those pesky notes from a delivery company that they was attempting to deliver a package when I was not home to accept it.  I hadn’t ordered anything but speculated that it might have been a wine sample.  Sure enough I was eventually home to accept said package and it contained the familiar “contains alcoholic beverage – must be signed by adult…” label on the outside.  I am generally made aware of pending wine sample deliveries, but this one had no advance warning.  I try to open these packages quickly (even if I am unable to get to tasting them right away) so I can put them in proper storage – especially this time of year & even more so when a wine has been on the back of a truck for consecutive days.  So I opened the package and low and behold I had just been sent two 3-liter packages of boxed wine.

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I’ve recently spoken about alternative packaging, in particular as it relates to its smaller carbon footprint.  Also of special note in particular for boxed wine is its ability to remain fresh longer, given its  container.  It is actually a “bag-in-a-box”, and as wine is dispensed (from its cool spout) it releases wine but does not allow that wine to be replaced with air.  The bag simply contracts, keeping oxygen out and preventing any possible oxidizing of the wine.  Instructions on the side of the box tell the consumer that after opened the wine should be stored in a vertical position in a cool and dry place.  They say it should be consumed within 2 weeks, but I’d bet it will be “alive” for even longer – though it will likely lose some of its freshness.

This box is easily transported and great for taking to BYO parties, bar-b-Q’s or picnics.  It is recyclable, presents great value and while some might think me crazy for saying, damn fun to pour.  It reminded me of an old beer ball or other fun mini-keg gadget I used back in college.

But the bottom line is, how was the wine???

I must say, not bad.  not bad at all.

I have been hearing/reading positive things about Chardonnay from Central Valley Chile.  Hearing of their acidity, something I find imperative for chardonnay to be decent, especially in the summertime when I am looking for crisp refreshing wines rather than the heartier wines of winter.

Well, the 2008 Andes Peaks select Chardonnay (from box) has a clear straw color with a slight green tint.  It has bready and steely aromas, with light citrus notes. Flavors of tart green apple, lemon zest and hints of spice and melon were complimented by a refreshing bracing acidity and medium + finish.

Now I titled this post “part I” as I plan on re-tasting this wine several times over the next few weeks and look forward to reporting my findings.  I will also report on the 2008 Andes Peak Cabernet Sauvignon box wine.  But until then…

Happy bag-in-box Wine Tasting!

WTG

West coast for a brit milah & CA wine shops

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I returned to NYC this morning on the red eye flight from San Fransisco.  Usually when coming back from the west coast, in addition to seeing my sister and brother in law I make a trip to one CA wine region or another.  Close to my sister (in Palo Alto ) is Monterey County, a region I’ve written about before that I believe is making some great wines.  I was hoping to make a quick day trip to some Monterey wineries but this quick, family oriented trip did not allow for any wine travel.  Instead, I got to meet my new nephew JONAH!

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It is my second time an uncle, and first nephew.  What an awesome little man.  I just met the kid and he did not have a nice thing to say to me yet I love the heck out of him already.  So much so that I fed the 8 day old kid some wine?  I DID…I PROMISE…I have proof…

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(that is me with my little pinkie in the newborns mouth)

OK, so yes, I am a little wacko.  But don’t go calling child services, this was no form of child abuse.  I adore little Jonah and would never do anything to harm him.  I was simply following the very logical directions of the Mohel - yup, the guy with the long groovy beard.  Hey, he declared me the “Wine Guy/Anesthesiologist” – how could I not?!?! ;)

Seriously though it is all part of the Jewish “Brit Milah” ritual and all he got was a drop or two off my little pinkie finger.  I hope it helped to dull his senses ’cause seeing that nasty circumcision ceremony up so close gives a new perspective on why people find the ceremony to be barbaric.  It is said to be healthy, but boy did the little guy wail. :(

BUT, I digress.  Getting back to wine, though I did not visit any wineries while out west, one would have to lock me up and throw away the key to keep me away from wine.  I picked up a bunch of wine for the weekend with the family (even my brother from Israel came in) and along the way noticed something that hadn’t previously occurred to me.  To begin with, wine is EVERYWHERE in California.  The Walgreens pharmacy.  The supermarkets.  Even the little ethnic corner store seems to have at least a row of wine.  And of course the large wine/liquor chains.

While this may not seem unusual, coming from NYC where the state liquor authority is incredibly strict about who sells wine and what else those that DO sell wine are allowed to sell – this was a big deal.

But to me, the bigger deal was which wines they were selling.  The pharmacy and small corner store seemed to carry over 90% California wine while the supermarkets and wine/liquor specialty stores appeared to carry well over 60% California wine.

So what you say!  In France one finds predominantly French wine.  In Italy mostly Italian.  And so on…

SO, as a New Yorker, why is it so hard to find more than a few token New York wines?  True the NY wine regions are still in their infancy in terms of gaining recognition as legitimate wine producing regions.  But where is the loyalty?

Obviously NY wines must continue to improve in quality before we see them replacing their left coast counterparts.  But in recent tastings of NY wines I will say that many wineries are really getting “IT”, and I am confident that NY wines will continue to improve as the vintners learn which varietals do best in which locations and the best vinification practices for each varietal.

Happy local wine tasting!

WTG

Wine Enthusiast NY Toast of the Town – review

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I attended the Toast of the Town gala food & wine tasting last night.  It was held in the beautiful David Koch Theater in Lincoln Center and surprisingly to me (given the rough economic climate), was very well attended.

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Several hundred people, all dressed their best, turned out for this annual event.  With about 30 restaurants providing sample fare, as well as over 70 winery (or wine reps) pouring multiple offerings, there was certainly no shortage of food or wine.

The event opens with a VIP portion (that costs a premium to attend).  During this 2 hour pre-tasting, the wine people pour high end wines and the crowds are thinner.  Consequently people have better access to those pouring/serving, all in a more relaxed environment.

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And at 7PM, the masses come in.  And boy did they show up last night.

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As stated previously, despite the tough economic times and high price of a ticket, this event seemed just as busy as last year’s.  And the bottom line is that it is a fun event.  Early on in the evening while speaking with a pourer at the event, I pointed out that the tasting booklets did not leave much room for tasting notes, and the tables were in no specific order – things as a professional that I found frustrating.  And he said to me, “this is not an event for industry professionals, it is an event for mainstream NY wine & food lovers to get out and try all kinds of food & wine”.  And he was right.  Expecting this event to be like a tasting for professionals was my fault.  It is not advertised as such.   And with my expectations now modified, I realized that this is simply a really fun evening out.

SO, having clarified the difficulty I experienced trying to write proper tasting notes, without further ado, I’d like to make mention of some favorites, with only brief comments about each…

I started the evening with some friends from Admiral imports who were pouring some sparkling wines from Tosti.  The Tosti NV Moscato d’Asti was sweet and fun.  While the Tosti NV Bracato was a sparkling red with nice violet and cherry notes.  I haven’t had too many sparkling reds in my day so trying this one was a treat.

The 2006 Clos de Tart Grand Cru Burgundy was not the best choice for one of my first wines…cause it was darned good and set the bar quite high for the rest of the wines.  It had subtle fruit, some mintiness and minerality, all packaged in a soft elegant package.

In what I can only assume is a coincidence, some of my favorite wines of the night were Chianti Classicos.  My first of the night, the Carpineto 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva, had a very nice combination of earthiness, raspberry & minerality and was a very nice wine.

The Carmel valley of California does not carry the cache of Napa or Sonoma.  But some of the Monterey wineries are producing very nice wines, and my visit at the Bernrdus table included a treat.  I first tried their 2004 Marinus Estate red, a blend of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and the remaining 10% (or so) a blend of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot & Malbec (nice usage of the 5 Bordeaux varietals).  This was a big, crowd pleasing wine,  with notes of dark berry, mint & chocolate.  Somehow or another the gentleman pouring the wines figured out that I was in the industry and poured me a small taste from a single bottle of Pinot he had behind the table.  The grapes from this Pinot came from the Santa Lucia region and the wine was quite nice – strong words from someone who is not shy about discussing his distaste for new world Pinot Noir.  There was very evident fruit, but it was subtle and elegant.  The wine was soft and round, had just a touch of heat on the finish, but overall was a very nice Pinot Noir.

Speaking of new world Pinot, Jekel Vineyards was pouring some wines from their Sanctuary line of wines.  I enjoyed the 2005 Mariah Vineyard Zin, which was NOT typical Zin.  No huge alcohol & stewed fruit.  It was actually a light wine with nice acidity.  While the 2006 Sanctuary Bien Nacido vineyard Pinot was soft with subtle fruit, a little earth and a nice finish.

Staying in the new world, Hogue vineyards was pouring a bunch of wines.  One of the first bonded wineries in Washington, Hogue  sources all of their fruit from Washington State.  My favorite of the lot was a 2005 reserve Merlot from the Wahluke slope.  The wine is aged for about 2 years in oak, and comes from vines that are between 25-45 years old.  It had red & black fruit and a touch of mint, was soft and round and had a long finish.

Nearing the end of my new world favorites, I stopped by the Kunde Estate table.  Here my favorite was the 2005 reserve Sonoma county Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was soft, with ripe – almost stewed fruit that was big, but not overpoweringly big.   Nicely round with a touch of heat, this was a very nice showing from a winery that is known for good value offerings.

The last new world wine I will mention was a sparkling wine.  When working in Napa I visited Mumm winery, a winery that specializes in sparkling wines.  Pernod Ricard was pouring the Mumm Napa vintage 2000 DVX sparkler.  This wine had nice citrus, yeast and bready notes, in a soft wine with small bubbles and a clean refreshing finish.

Getting back to the old world, another of my favorite Chianti Classicos came from the “Da Vinci” winery.  I tried a bunch of wines at the Da Vinci table, and they were all nice, but my favorite (the one I felt was showing best last night) was the 2004 Da Vinci Chiant Classico.  This terrific food wine was light, with tart berries, some cherry cola notes and a nice medium to long finish.

The 2003 Castello di Querceto 2003 Chianti Classico Riserva had subtle fruit, some minerality, a touch of earth, with gripping tannins and a medium long finish.  While the Barone Ricasoli 2006 Brolio Chianti Classico had a spiciness to it, with blackberry, red fruit and a tart juiciness matched by a nice acidity and pleasant finish.

Another nice Italian wine was the Sergeo Alighieri 2005 Poderi del Bello Oville, a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 15% Canaiolo & 5% Cilegiolo.  Aged for 12 months in 600 liter barrels (of which 50% was new), this wine had nice red fruit, minerality and was crisp, tart and quite nice.  While the Tormaresca 2003 Masseria Maime Negroamaro had blackberry, earth and mint aromas with a round, soft long finish.

This modest writeup has become much longer than I initially intended.  What better was to end than with some Port?!?!  I tried 4 ports last night, but the best were some 20 year Tawny ports.  The first, Sandeman’s 20 year Tawny, was light brown in color with clear oxidation on the nose.  After trying Sandeman’s 10 year tawny I was blown away by how soft and smooth this port was.  With its sweet carmel and nutty flavors this was delicious!  But I think I preferred the Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 20 year port.  This light brown almost tan wine was also was very soft.  It had an oxidized nose with a nuttiness that I could not quite pinpoint on the nose as well.  Upon tasting this velvety wine I immediately thought of candies hazelnuts as its sweet, soft, minty and nutty wine had a lot of real good stuff going on.

Whew, that was a LONG one.  I am off to the Bay area tomorrow to meet my NEW NEPHEW!  Can’t wait to see the little guy.  And of course excited to see his parents (my sister and brother in law) as well as my brother who I recently found out is coming in from Israel for the Brit (pretty cool huh).  I do hope to sneak away for a quickie somewhere in wine country, so hopefully I’ll have something to report about.

Happy Toasting the Town with Wine Enthusiast!

WTG

Riesling & Co. NY 2009

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

I had the good fortune of attending the NY Riesling tasting organized by the wines of Germany.  The tasting was held this past Wednesday at the Tribeca rooftop in downtown NYC.  In attendance were wineries primarily from Germany, but there were also a few reps from Alsace & Austria.  I tasted wines made of Weiburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Rivander (Muller-Thurgau), Grauburgunder (Pinot Grigio), Chardonnay, Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and of course, the star of the show RIESLING…

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Riesling is a grape that I am still trying to figure out.  Sweet wines are often mocked in the wine world and not taken seriously and just about all Rieslings contain a fair amount of residual sugar.  Ranging from about 3-6 grams of RS (grams of residual sugar per liter) for the “dry” wines up to 120 grams of RS for the sweet, late harvest Auslese’s.  However it is the balance of a fine Riesling, its harmonious relationship between acidity & sweetness, combined with its sensual bouquet that I think is what has led to its cult varietal status.

Apparently over 50,000 acres or 60% of the worlds 85,000 acres planted in Riesling is grown in Germany.  Riesling, according to AC Nielsen, is the fastest growing white wine varietal in the US for the third staright year, with consumption growing by about 25% the past two years.  Riesling, in its different styles is a very versatile food wine, and of the 76 wines I tasted there was not (in my opinion) a bad wine in the batch.

Having stated all the positive I must now confess that I was not blown away at this tasting.  Last years Riesling tasting contained some older vintage wines and tasting the wines at 5, 10 and 20 years of age was eye opening, proved the cellar worthiness of these wines, and well…blew me away.  This tasting focused primarily on wines from the 2008 vintage.  The wines were fresh & refreshing.  They had lively acidity and nice fruit.  Many of them were kept in large ice buckets and the resulting COLD temperature made it difficult to properly assess their bouquets.  But overall not much that I would call UNUSUAL or that really stood out to me.

Given the state of our economy or at least the state of wine purchases in and around NY I was interested in finding some value wines.  And when I happened upon the Kendermann table and some friendly and familiar faces from last year I was happy to hear that many of their wines have a suggested retail price of $9.99.  All of their wines were tasty and refreshing.  The packaging is clean and modern.  And everything from their Riesling & Gewurtztraminer to their Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir, at $9.99 present excellent value for the price conscious consumer.

Of the others I was getting less of the cotton candy or bubble gum that I often get in a good Riesling and where I was able to pick up the aromas I was getting more floral notes.  I wonder if that has anything to do with the vintage or if it is more a reflection on the temperature of the wines.  I can see the appeal of the drier, crisp wines as good food wines, but several of them seemed to have tart or even bitter flavors.  Finally,  I was once again amazed at the acidity in some of the sweeter Kabinetts (~40 g RS), Spatlese (~80 g RS) & Auslese (~120 g RS).  That acidity really makes these wines lively, where their inherent sweetness could otherwise have made them cloying or flabby.

In all it was a nice tasting.  Maybe not the best, but there were certainly some very nice wines, some terrific value wines, and some producers seeking US reps whose wines I have not written about as in the coming days I will be speaking with and encouraging clients/colleagues to consider the possibility of importing some of their goods.

Happy Riesling wine tasting!

WTG

Toast of the Town 2009

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I attended this event last year and had lots to say about it.

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These events are truly special and unique opportunities for people with any level of wine interest to come out, try more wine than is humanly possible in one evening (remember to spit people), nibble on some tasty, freshly prepared food, speak with producers and enjoy a lavish food & wine Shmorg.

America’s premier wine & restaurant tasting” is coming up this Monday, June 15th at the David H. Koch Theater (Formerly the New York State Theater) At Lincoln Center on Broadway at 64th St in NYC.  There will once again be over 500 wines and food from over 20 NYC restaurants.

I am looking forward to seeing how (if at all) this event is relative to last years event.  I enjoyed the event last year and had little critique.  You may remember that I would have liked the tasting booklet to contain more space for notes as well as provide some sort of price guide (MSRP?).  I wonder if those changes/additions were considered.

Either way I expect to attend and hope to report back as soon as possible.  If you are going get in touch & we can try to meet up – though if this event is anywhere near as busy as last years that may be a challenging feat.

Happy Wine Enthusiast Toasting the Town!

WTG

Wine’s “COLD SOAK”

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Winemaking is a complex and varied process.  From the hands off approach of letting the natural yeast in the grapes (or more specifically on the grape skins) perform the fermentation to the highly controlled sorting, inoculation, etc.   Winemaking can be very hands on OR equally hands off.

I just finished reading a very interesting article by Tim Patterson in Wines & Vines about the “cold soak”.  The cold soak is performed on just harvested grapes (“must”) before fermentation.  Basically, one takes the MUST, and allows it to soak together with dry ice for as little as several hours, as many as several days or I have even heard weeks.

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(great pic of a cold soak from my friends over at stomping girl wines)

By maintaining a cold temperature, fermentation is supposed to be delayed.  And the soaking process supposedly does several things.  The cold soak is supposed to extract; better color, better aromatics, better flavors, and apparently even softer tannins.

Tim Patterson of Wines & Vines really investigates whether or not cold soaking actually accomplishes what it is said to accomplish.  And his finding seems to be inconclusive; without more studies we really don’t know.  There are those that swear by it and others who think it is a crock.  The article is a worthwhile read for those interested in the art of winemaking.

Though I am not one for scientifically produced wines, there must be some merit to mimicking a process done elsewhere that produced results one might be seeking.  So if the fermentation of Pinot Noir in Bungundy was done in cool temperatures, stalling fermentation and allowing a natural cold soak, then maybe attempting to scientifically recreate this atmosphere has something to it.  Either way…

Happy soaked or unsoaked wine tasting.

WTG

Phishin & Sippin’

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Tonight I was out on Jones Beach to see Phish…

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NEXT Thursday night I’ll be at the JCC tasting some fine Israeli wine

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If you have not tried an Israeli wine, or more specifically a Carmel wine lately, and you’ll be in the NYC area, you really MUST come check it out.  4 whites & 4 reds…light refreshments… for only $20/25…how can you go wrong?!?

Hope to see you there.

Happy Phishing & Carmel Wine Sipping…

WTG

Wine News…

Monday, June 1st, 2009

French wine is up…or is it down?

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It seems that consumption of wine in France has dropped by almost 10%.  While exports of French wine decreased by almost 10% in volume and almost 15% in value.

On the positive side, retail sales of imported ROSE wine was up OVER 40%!  A good sign for France as French rosé makes up over 25% of all rosé.

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Back to some more somber news, New Vine Logistics, a CA based company that helps its customers ship wine direct to consumer, has closed its doors. While no official reason was given for the sudden closure, there is speculation that it has to do with expectations the company had and hiring the company did in anticipation of its deal to handle all shipping matters of wine for Amazon.com.

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I have previously discussed the news (rumors) that Amazon was getting into the online wine sales market.  However, amazon has yet to launch its online wine venture, and many are now wondering how the demise of New Vine Logistics will effect Amazons plans.

Of much more immediate concern is how all those who depend upon New Vine for their shipping needs will be able to deal with this unexpected blow.  I wish all those involved, especially the small family run wineries/operations the best of luck and a speedy recovery.

Happy rosé shipped to your door wine tasting!

WTG