Archive for the ‘Wine STUFF’ Category

Ying Yang Wine

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

As the US rep for Israel’s Carmel Winery I have many responsibilities…beyond increasing sales.  I am proud to be working for Carmel as Carmel the winery has followed nicely in the wine progression.  Recent years have seen the winemaking at Carmel move beyond the fruit-bomb, powerhouse wines to finesse, more elegant wines.

If you are a wine lover who enjoys big robust wines you are no alone.  The truth is, depending upon my mood, I too love these wines.  But at this stage in my wine progression I have come to appreciate the subtle elegance of wines that have not been aged in lots of new oak, that do not have 15% alcohol, whose acid is still quite apparent and that might actually be overpowered by a big rare steak (my favorite food) – something that would NEVER happen to a Cabernet Sauvignon.

I bring this up (again) as we will be unveiling a new Carmel wine here in the US in the coming weeks; Carmel 2007 Mediterranean.  The wine, as its name might indicate is a blend of (mostly) Mediterranean varietals made in a subdued style with very little new oak.  This wine is not a fruit bomb and is not robust.  While it does have a nice extraction, I worry that consumers will try it and be disappointed.  It is easy to put a big, brawny wine in one’s mouth and say WOW – this is good.  But it is much more difficult to fully appreciate a wine that doesn’t scream at the top of its lungs.  The restrained wine may possess an endless amount of brilliance, but in a world of muscle-neck wines the quiet wine could easily get lost.

There are many wine critics out there and the ones that have been most successful seem to advocate on behalf of big, robust wines.  I wonder if they truly believe that these are “better” wines, or if they have come to realize that these wines are easier for the masses to appreciate and as such would prefer to recommend this style to a style that might leave people wanting more.

Who knows.

What I do know is that the Carmel “Mediterranean” is a well made wine that will require a lot of hand selling.  But I look forward to talking wine with those who are truly “wine curious” and I hope I am able to enlighten some of these people to the benefits of a restrained and elegant wine.

Happy non-fruit-bomb wine tasting!


Sommel… YAY or NAY?

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

NY Times wine writer Eric Asimov wrote last week about Sommeliers at restaurants who take the first sip of wine to ensure that it is sound before arriving at the diner’s table.

Alder Yarrow in his wine blog Vinography, wrote “let sommeliers do their jobs“.

To get the full background you should read the Asimov piece & if interested the Vinography piece.  But in a nutshell, the issue revolves around Sommeliers tasting wine that diners order prior to the diners tasting the wine.  The taste is small and the motives of the sommelier are good –  both Asimov & Yarrow seem to be advocating for this practice.

WHAT! I’m flabbergasted!!  True I have the experience to detect many flaws that those who don’t make wine their life might not have.  And yes, I believe that providing this service to diners IS valuable.  BUT, my belief is that the sommelier should ONLY taste the wine once invited to do so by the diners…AFTER the bottle has been presented to and opened in front of the diner(s).

I DO think that many diners might be wise to ask someone with a more experienced palate to try a wine they are not familiar with.  But what of the bottle presentation?  What of the opening of the bottle in front of the customer?  What of the smelling of the cork (I save corks but don’t fancy smelling them)?

I hear the points my colleagues are making, but think they are missing the point.  Wine service in a restaurant is a time honored tradition.  Part of this is the presentation of the wine to the diner in a restaurant.  If this bottle is being presented to a sommelier to taste in a kitchen only to be brought out to diners already opened, this tradition is being broken, and much like the screw cap, the romance of wine as we know it is fading away…

Maybe I’m missing something here as I admittedly don’t typically dine in five star restaurants with sommeliers and the like.  But if I’m not missing anything, there is something very wrong here.

Happy Sommelier-less restaurant wine tasting!


Anything But Chardonnay

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Yes, there is an “Anything But Chardonnay” club, dubbed “ABC”, that from what I gather is anti anything Chardonnay.  While I am not a club member, I have become mostly disenfranchised with Chardonnay.  Or at least Chardonnay NOT from Burgundy.  Chablis, the steely crisp Chardonnay from the Chablis region, or White Burgundy….YUM – Love it (or at least some of it)!  Yet much (but of course not all) of the other stuff – POSERS!

I’m no Francophile,  but I do believe that there is something magical about the wines of Burgundy.  Pinot Noir’s best expression seems to come from Burgundy.  Sure I’ve had some other charming Pinot Noir, but none has ever seemed as magical, complex, primal, balanced & long-lived as some of the Burgundy I’ve been fortunate to taste.

But I digress…

Getting back to Chardonnay, I attended a tasting of white wines last week.  We started the tasting with 5 Chardonnays – all made in Israel at different wineries.  The first two were “unoaked” Chardonnays.  I do enjoy a good crisp white, but these unoaked Chard’s underwhelmed.  The focus seemed more on the acidity (a vital component) than the fruit, and the resulting wines seemed bitter and unbalanced.  Two of the next 3 were oaked, but sadly the oak dominated and masked any fruit that may have been hiding underneath.  I did enjoy 1 of the 5 Chard’s.  It seemed to have the right balance between fruit, acid, oak & cream.

Now I mention cream, but no, there was no dairy product added.  In addition to the primary fermentation (that converts sugar into alcohol) in wine, there is a secondary fermentation known as “malolactic” fermentation that converts bitter “malic” acid into CREAMY “lactic” acid.  This is where the buttery or creamy flavors in Chardonnay come from.

I don’t want to get too carried away with the technical aspects here, but I do want to tie in to the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) club.  Chardonnay is made in cool climates (apples & peaches), moderate climates (honeydew & pears) and warm climates (pineapple & lichee).  It can be 100% oak aged, or it can be partially (33%, 50%, 66%, etc.) oak aged.  It can have a full malolactic, or a partial malolactic.  It can be bready as a result of “sur lie” – a process whereby the dead yeast cells are left in contact with the wine and stirred around to add complexity & yeast flavors.

There are so many ways Chardonnay can be made.  Personally I think the best examples originate in Burgundy.  Yet while I may not be a fan of lots of the Chardonnay out there, I am often surprised by a winemakers ability to make the right style Chardonnay for his fruit.

So if you have had a bad Chardonnay & have considered joining the ABC club, I implore you not to give up.  Keep an open mind, taste when you can, and when all else fails pick up a White Burgundy.

Happy Chardonnay Wine Tasting!


Dirty Pinot

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

One of my bosses recently asked me to taste a bottle of Pinot that we import from New Zealand.  I asked him why and he indicated that there were a few people who recently let him know that they didn’t like it – it wasn’t fruity.

Anyone who knows my wine preferences or has been reading my blog long enough knows that I don’t particularly care for the new style of Pinot – big, rich, clean & fruity.  Those California Pinots getting the high scores – I can’t stand them.

Back to the New Zealand Pinot  – I was also showed a response by the winemaker to an inquiry about the wine from my boss.  It was really brilliantly written by a talented winemaker who has been making New Zealand Pinot for about 20 years.  In essence he said that Pinot is a strange and oftentimes unpredictable animal – ever evolving between clean pure red fruit to earthy, barnyardy & even a flat out dirty wine.

It is that Pinot complexity and unpredictability that attracts me and I would suspect so many others to the varietal.  As wine coincidences would have it, I recently read a piece by Robin Garr in the 30 Second Wine Advisor.  Garr’s “Pinot Theory of Evolution” speaks to Pinots amazing evolution in the glass… and I couldn’t agree more.

I am often blown away by the Burgundy I taste with my wine club.  The good ones are elegant, (not overpowering like so many new world Pinots), multi-dimensional (so many different characteristics) & complex (changing in the glass over time).  Sadly, Pinot is a tough animal and as good as the good ones are, that is how bad the bad ones are.

I tried that Pinot my boss asked me to taste and you know what, it was somewhat Burgundian in style…and it was spectacular!

Happy dirty & evolving Pinot Wine Tasting!


CRUSHPAD is tasting wine online…for charity

Monday, April 19th, 2010

I received an email over the weekend.  It seems to have come from an employee of Crushpad, an urban winery based in San Fransisco that I have been casually following over the years.  The sender told me about an upcoming live online (on twitter) wine tasting event.  A portion of the proceeds from this online event will go to a charity supporting children’s literacy (, so I was happy to help promote the endeavor.

To hear (via video) or see more about this tasting event, you can go here.

Several aspects of this story really peak my interest.  I like the idea of tasting wine & supporting a good cause.  I think tasting wine online with others is kind of cool.  And I really like that the four samples will allow people to compare (and contrast) wines that are made from the same fruit but have been made differently.

The way I understand it, participants will receive four mini-samples (50 ml.) in total – consisting of 2 different wines.  Each of the two wines however had some that has been moved into oak barrels for aging, while some remains in their original “home” – stainless steel tanks.

This is a great way for people to learn about the effects oak barrels have on wine before it is bottled and made into its finished product.

But there is something else here that fascinates me; the little 50ml. (about 1.75 ounces)

I’ve spent several years running around “tasting” (sampling) wine professionals on wines I was selling.  I’ve also watched critics open bottles of wine that barely have a dent put in them before they are unceremoniously poured down an unappreciative drain.  And finally, the expense of mailing journalists wine samples can be so cost prohibitive that some wineries skip the effort & stories often go untold.

The aforementioned uses for these mini-samplers just scratch the surface of their potential uses.  I’m curious how these test-tube like vessels are filled.  Is it done manually or do they have a special bottling line?  Either way this can only be a further positive development for the wine industry & something to keep an eye on.

So go out there, get your very reasonably priced ($14) 4-pack of samples & participate in this educational online wine tasting event!

Happy educational & charitable wine tasting!


Confessions of a wine blogger

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

I’m preparing to fly to KC to lead a wine tasting in a few days.  But not before I head to Boston to do a wine training.  I was recently asked my opinion about a wine by the CEO of a multi-million dollar wine importer.  And today I was asked to be a contributing writer to a well regarded wine website.  SO WHO THE HECK AM I???… (more…)

Wintertime soup wines…

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

This article was originally written for…ENJOY!


Winter/Soup wines

It has been a cold winter of late in the Northeast and given the option I’d like to spend every evening curled up in front of the fireplace with a steaming hot bowl of rich hearty soup.  Give me an “everything soup” – start with the chicken & herbs and simply throw everything you can imagine in – ahh, the best.  Now you want to have a nice glass of wine in front of your fireplace with the aforementioned bowl of soup, but which wine to choose?

Pairing wine with soup can be a challenge for wine lovers; with the overpowering nature of a rich soup and the similar liquidy texture between the two.  The first rule, as always, is to drink whatever wine you like.   But if you want to work a little outside the box you can turn to some underappreciated wines; sparkling & fortified.

When considering sparkling wine the associations are automatically champagne & celebratory events.  I’d encourage you to consider trying a sparkling wine any time and turning to those made outside of the Champagne region of France (similar to champagne but legally not allowed to be called “Champagne”), such as Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, or simply sparkling wine made in places such as Israel or California.  When done right, the texture of the little bubbles in a sparkling wine combined with its bracing dry acidity make sparkling wines “food neutral” – as in they compliment ANYTHING.  Looking to the “old world” you can seek out the French Blanc de Blanc by Herzog, the slightly sweet Bartenura Brut Prosecco from Italy or the bone dry ELVI “Adar” Brut Cava from Spain.

Another option for fireplace sipping, also unheralded, is “Port”, a fortified wine from Portugal.  Often sweet and generally fortified with a neutral grape spirit such as grappa or brandy, this wine screams warm slippers & fireplace sipper.  The fortification of the wine leads to a higher alcohol level than regular table wines.  And said heavier alcohol makes for a similar textural contrast as the aforementioned sparkling wines – making for a heart warming combination with soup.  Try the Porto Cordovero from Portugal or Israel’s Vintage Port made by Carmel.

It’s cold outside but these underappreciated wine styles paired with that steamy bowl of soup and a crackling fireplace can ensure that you are nice and warm inside.

Happy Cold weather soup sipping and alternative wine tasting!


How big is your cork?

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009


Shooting for a little subliminal New Years humor as we prepare to POP THE CORKS of bubbly or whatever alcoholic beverage you will be imbibing in this New Years.

This picture was taken while enjoying some special wines with good friends while on a business trip in Israel.  Although the differences may appear to be small, it is amazing how long that cork on the right is. Though the most interesting (albeit somewhat oxidized) wine of the night was this one…

95 bru

But back to corks for a quick second, these extra long corks are used so that they can absorb a LOT of wine during bottle aging and still maintain a proper seal & prevent oxidation.  Though I wonder how long it would take that long cork on the right to get fully soaked & for any seepage to take place…

Remember folks, it is not the size of the ship…

Happy NEW YEARS wine tasting!


Avoid the hangover – drink clear spirits

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Ahhh….the holiday season is upon us (as is the COLD in NYC).  Which means lots of partying.  Lots of partying means lots of drinking.  And lots of drinking means the likelihood of the infamous HANGOVER.

But is there a way to avoid a hangover?  I think when it comes down to it, if you drink too much and don’t have sufficient food/fluids in your system, you will suffer with some form of hangover.  I would recommend drinking with your meal & if possible, having a glass of water with each drink.  But researchers from Brown University have a different idea…drink clear spirits.

The researchers have said that dark drinks such as wine or whiskey have many times more chemicals called “congers” than lighter colored drinks such as gin or vodka.  And it is these “congers” they concluded that cause the infamous hangover.

“While the alcohol alone is enough to make many people feel sick the next day, these toxic natural substances can add to the ill effects as our body reacts to them,” Damaris Rohsenow, a professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, said in a statement.

OH BOY…I’m in trouble…90+% of my wine/beer/spirits collection are dark.  Dark beer, bourbon & red wine.  Thank goodness for ibuprofen!

Happy hangover free imbibing!


Is it worth it to spend $40, $50 or more on a bottle of wine?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

When is it worth spending more than $30 for a bottle of wine?  I would contend NEVER.  OK, maybe not never, but for 90+% of purchases I think it is silly.

Let me begin by saying that I am referring to wines bought at a wine shop, not in a restaurant.  Restaurants generally charge more, so that magic number probably goes up to about $40-50.

I have read several articles of late noting the decrease in sales of  “premium” wines ($30+) that has resulted as the economy has struggled.  Some speculate that as the economy recovers people will go back to buying these wines while others believe that consumers have found wines they like at lower price points and will not go back to paying more for a bottle.  But more importantly, SHOULD PEOPLE EVER spend $30+ on a bottle of wine?

To answer this question we must first discuss some of the factors that make a wine so expensive.

The most important component of wine is the grape.  To make a premium wine one must use the best grapes.  These premium grapes come from the best vineyards in the best wine producing regions.  When not used by the growers themselves, these grapes can cost upward of several thousand dollars per ton.  The high price for these grapes leads to a more expensive wine.  (This doesn’t even account for the cost of the land or the vines which often require 3-4 years before they reach maturity.)

The winemaker, though a debatable topic (for another time) is also an expense.  Those winemakers who have proven the ability to make premium wines command premium salaries.  Some of the best are actually contracted to be consulting winemakers and work with the full time winemaker to make the best wine possible.  This adds to the cost of the wine.

Finally, and the factor I believe plays the biggest role in this debate is the aging process – which further breaks down to time and device.  How long the wine is aged and in what vessel.  Every day wines might be aged in stainless steel tanks that can be reused year after year & kept there for only a few weeks or months before being bottled and sold.  On the other end of the spectrum are the wines that are aged in the finest oak barrels for as many as 24 or more months.  The cost of these barrels can exceed $1,000 & are they only fully effective in their first use – though they are often used for 3, 4 or more different wines.  That is 2 years of holding on to a product aged in $1,000 oak barrels before it can be sold – though it is often held for at least another 2-3 months after the wine is bottled.

SO, as you can see, these premium wines can cost their producer a lot of money to produce.

Then Wine Tasting Guy, you ask, I want the best wine there is and I am prepared to pay for it.

If your purchase is made for ego purposes stop reading now.  You are doing what you want and there is no logic I can provide that will (or should) change your mind.  But if you are really curious about whether or not your expensive purchase is worth it or not, read on…

In my (humble) opinion, these wines are similar to, if not LESS DESIRABLE than wines that undergo a cheaper aging process.  Huh?  If it is cheaper how can it be BETTER?  Well, 90+% of wines (I think the number is closer to 95%) are consumed within 48 hours of being purchased.  Therein lies my argument.   So many of these premium wines are being consumed THAT NIGHT…but they are made to be consumed in 3, 5 even 10 or more years.

Premium wine aged in fine oak barrels need time to reach their full potential.  A well made wine gains complexities as it ages.  And the barrel aging process leads to wine that tastes oaky and often “tight” in its youth (think of cold food that should be served hot).  HOWEVER, once these premium wines are given time (known as bottle aging) for the oak flavors/aromas to integrate well with the fruit component of the wine & are further allowed to develop secondary characteristics, these wines can be magical.

On the other hand, wines intended for early consumption, within about 3 years of the vintage date, generally have less new oak used and can reach their full potential much sooner.  So while some may argue that the potential of these wines does not hold a candle to that of the premium wines, at least they are being enjoyed closer (or at) their full potential rather than way before their potential has come close to being realized.

SO, if you are a wine collector who intends to age your wine (in the proper place, temperature, humidity, etc) then go for it.  Buy expensive wine…and invite me over to enjoy it with you ;).  You are likely to be rewarded!  But if you are like the other 95% of the population who consume wine within 1-2 days of buying the wine (or even within 6-12 months) then save your hard earned money and buy a wine in the magical $15-25 range.

Happy economically sound wine tasting!