Archive for November, 2009

organic, biodynamic & sustainable wines

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Being out on the street talking to people about wine, lots of people are interested in hearing about wines that are made organically, biodynamically or wines (wineries) that are sustainable.  Modern technology has allowed people to “perfect” (depending upon who you ask) winemaking with pesticides in the vineyard & manipulation in the lab.  These 3 buzz words; organic, biodynamic & sustainable are on the other end of the spectrum.

Wine Spectator clears up some of the differences between the 3 winemaking methods/practices…

A: These terms vary in the way they’re defined and regulated, but here are some definitions for the ways in which they’re most typically used.

The U.S. government regulates use of the term “organic,” but “sustainable” and “biodynamic” have no legal definitions. There are two types of organic listings on wine bottles. Wines can be made from certified organically grown grapes, avoiding any synthetic additives, or, to take it a step further, “organic” wines are made from organically grown grapes, and are also made without any added sulfites (though naturally occurring sulfites will still be present).

Biodynamic is similar to organic farming in that both take place without chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, and also accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. A biodynamic wine means that the grapes are farmed biodynamically, and that the winemaker did not make the wine with any common manipulations such as yeast additions or acidity adjustments. A wine “made from biodynamic grapes” means that a vintner used biodynamically grown grapes, but followed a less strict list of rules in winemaking.

Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. (Sustainable farmers may farm largely organically or biodynamically but have flexibility to choose what works best for their individual property; they may also focus on energy and water conservation, use of renewable resources and other issues.) Some third-party agencies offer sustainability certifications, and many regional industry associations are working on developing clearer standards.

In a world where things come full cycle, these “traditional”, “old fashioned” or “hands-off” wines were “improved upon” (again, depending upon who you ask) by modern technology.  Of late, there has been a movement away from “manipulated” wines instead preferring wines made using one of the aforementioned practices.  I can’t say that all wines made any certain way are either good or bad, but I would say the wines made with additives, chemicals and in a lab, do seem to lack character, personality or a real uniqueness.

Happy organamicainable made wine tasting and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!


The Cali Cab that wasn’t a fruit bomb

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

I’ve had the wine before.  It is a kosher Cabernet Sauvigon from California.  Not Napa Valley, but Alexander Valley fruit.  Having tasted previous vintages of it, I was not surprised to hear that it was awarded 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.

2005 Herzog Special Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

For those of you who do not know, The Alexander Valley is in Northern Sonoma County just North, Northwest of the more famous Napa Valley.  Like Napa it is littered with wineries where they produce great wines.   And while the nuances of the wines made in Napa & Sonoma are different, my experience has been that the styles of wine are similar.  Big, extracted, fruity, high (but generally balanced) alcohol, etc.

I’ll make a confession here…I like big fruity wines.  As a matter of fact my favorite meal is a rare steak & big bad cab.  Sure these tooth staining wines will overpower the flavors of most dishes but it goes oh so well with steak and other hearty rich meats, stews & chops.

So the 90 point score was of no surprise to me.  A big Alexander Cab got a high score.  But then I tried it…

WOW.  This wine reminded me immediately of the wines from another California winery;  Edmunds St John.  Steve Edmunds makes leaner, lower alcohol, terroir driven wines.  And his “Rocks & Gravel” GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend is a favorite of mine – when I’m not eating steak 😉

So tasting this lean, earthy, minerally wine was a real treat.  A Cali cab that I can enjoy with more than just a steak.  At 13.8% alcohol with its nice tight structure, this wine wont overpower some of my other favorite foods like chicken, salmon or pasta.  My wife commented on the pretty floral nose while I enjoyed its clean, tart,  forest berry flavors.

And to top it off this wine is mevushal (flash pasteurized).  But no stewed or cooked fruit.  Just real lean & fresh.  Beautiful.

So if you are looking for Cali Cab that got a 90 from the critics but isn’t a fruit bomb go check out the Herzog Special Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Happy non-fruit bomb Cab tasting!


go work out, old vine wine & turkey talk

Monday, November 16th, 2009

You know, writing and maintaining a blog is a lot like going to the gym.  Once you lose momentum, it can be real hard to motivate to get going again.  Speaking of which, I have got to get my growing ass back into a gym.  Sure my surgically repaired wrist has been a convenient excuse, but it is not like I can’t exercise other muscles.  Heck, I forget what the inside of a gym even looks like.  Come on…motivate Wine Tasting Guy!!!!

My writing focus is all out of whack.  Nothing overly compelling to write about, so I suppose I might as well talk about the compelling wine I drank the other night.  It was an old vine carignan and it was quite spectacular.  From Carmel vineyards in Israel, this wine comes from 35-40 year old vines – some of the oldest in Israel’s modern day winemaking world.

No official tasting note taken, but this rich extracted wine, with its notes of berries, herbs & bittersweet chocolate is a great alternative to a Cab or Merlot.  I think that among the special things one is rewarded with from an old vine wine is complexity.  And these complexities generally show themselves as the bottle is open for a little while.  This bottle was enjoyed by MANY (and I do mean enjoyed) at a large meal, so it did not have a chance to fully open and show its complexities, but I am sure to revisit it.

Finally I want to start talking a bit about the pending arrival of one of my favorite holidays – TURKEY DAY.  Thanksgiving is a short 10 days away and I am psyched.  The thanksgiving wine articles are starting to appear and I’ve begun to think about what wines to suggest to friends and what wines to open up at my meal.

But before I divulge what wines I DO suggest and which wines I might pop the cork on I figure lets start with what wines NOT I will likely shy away from.   Though some of my favorite wines are the BIG, ROBUST, FRUITY tannic reds, these are wines I will probably steer clear of.  These wines (and their big fruit flavors) will tend to overpower most meals,  let alone a nuanced meal centered on turkey.  These wines do real well with stinky cheeses and fatty cuts of beef.  An aged red will be softer than its younger counterpart and could be a better match, but you might want to reserve those young Napa Cabs for your weekend roast or Sunday BBQ rib-eye.

More on the wines I think do compliment a Thanksgiving meal soon…

Happy old vine sippin’!


Getting back on the saddle with WhiskeyFEST!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

It is about time for me to resume my regular posting.  It has been almost 3 weeks since the wrist surgery and while it does get sore every once in a while, I am back to typing away.

So what better way to (attempt to) resume my regular WINE posts than with a post about WHISKEYFEST!

That is right.  There is an open to the public festival where whiskey producers from all over the world come to show off their goods.  And they are goooooooooooooooodddddddddddddd……

Single malt scotch, blended scotch, Rye, wheat whiskey, Irish whiskey and my favorite bourbon.  These distillers brought out their best.  And the attendees, whiskey glass in hand were sipping (and shooting) it up.

I have never before attended a tasting of whiskey and was confused with how to handle the issue of sip or spit.  I discussed it with some “experts” who all seemed to agree that whiskey is not spit the way wine is.  UH, oh…  With this I decided to focus primarily on my brown spirit of choice – bourbon.

I did not take tasting notes, but what can I say – I was in bourbon heaven.  I really enjoyed speaking with the people about the different blends, barrel selection processes, different proofs (range from 80 to 120+ proof) and just about anything they would share with me about the distillation process.  My favorite bourbon (or at least the one I was most excited to be sipping) was the Pappy Van Winkle 20 yr. bourbon.

Not much else to share about the event other than it was very well attended.  Probably about 99% male.  And for those considering attending in the future, I would highly recommend it.  Just about all of the top distillers from around the world were in attendance & most of them were pouring a special premium whiskey in addition to their standard whiskey.  My only advice, eat a lot before arriving and dress for a room that gets HOT.

Happy whiskey tasting!


Road to recovery

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

It has been 10 days since surgery and all seems to be going well.  Pain is subsiding, I’m not in a cast & I get my stiches out in 2 days.  Is it possible I may be able to bath like a human being again soon??  I understand that if I commit to babying the wrist and remaining in my wrist gaurd that the doc may not require a new cast.  WOOHOO!!!  Two handed showers, here I come!

wrist gaurd

So wrist stuff is going well Wine Tasting Guy, but what up with the wine????

Plenty of wine stuff to discuss.  And staying close to the heart, it is all Israeli wine related.

This past Friday night I opened up a couple of Bordeaux style blends from Israel.  Both were from the 2003 vintage and both considered to be top notch wines from value wineries.  I’m excited to report that both were showing complex secondary characteristics and were drinking quite beautifully.

Though the two have nothing to do with each other (Israeli wine & mevuhal), I just heard about some new MEVUSHAL Israeli wines hitting the market.   Anyone who has followed my posts over time knows that I take issue with mevushal (flash pasteurization) wines (why would anyone want to heat up a wine?).  That said, for caterers & restaurants, places where ONLY mevushal wines are allowed, new quality Israeli offerings are welcome news.  I’ll report more as soon as I’ve had the chance to try them.

Finally I want to let you know about a wine tasting event TOMORROW night.  Some information about the event can be found here.  In a nutshell I’ll be leading a tasting of high end, small batch Israeli wine.  Hard to find wines from Saslove, Sea Horse & La Terra Promessa wineries will be tasted.  And as an incredible bonus,  Chef Eran will be pairing these Mediterranean beauties with his exquisite cuisine.  The tasting has only 5 spots left (as of this writing) so please RSVP ASAP if you’d like to join us.

Happy two-handed Israeli wine (dare I say even mevushal) tasting!