Friday, January 28, 2011

Stacking the Deck with JAQK Cellars Syrah

New labels seem to pop up every week. When I first started in the wine business, about nine years ago, this phenomenon was rare and seemingly relegated to the high end, cult Napa cabernet labels. Back then, every six months brought a new, $100+ bottle sourced from the apparently inexhaustible supply of cabernet sauvignon grapes Napa Valley produces.

I think it's a fair summation to say that I became skeptical of these "amazing" new producers who "expressed the soul of cabernet sauvignon" through "meticulous vine management and vinification techniques". In other words, it all starts to sound like the same shit. Fast forward a few years, the real estate bubble bursts and the money propping up the new, lacking-of-track-record labels evaporated like the value of a San Diego duplex. Grapes are now everywhere, you throw a stone in Northern California and you hit grape vines (and probably a vineyard owner/manager too!). Hundreds of new labels are popping up, at lower prices but equally good quality as before. Vintners aren't going to let a little Global Financial Crisis change the way they make wines and the fruit is still grown by the same vineyard managers in the same vineyards.

My point is much more brief than the rant you have just read through. There are a lot of grapes available and a lot of very talented winemakers looking to turn those grapes into delicious wine. One of those winemakers is Craig MacLean. Crag has produced award winning wines at places like Cain Vineyards and Spring Mountain Vineyards, so he obviously knows how to make great wine. His latest project, which I just recently became aware of, is JAQK Cellars.

Last week I was invited to a tasting of wines from JAQK Cellars down at the Wine Bank in downtown San Diego. While prior commitments prevented me from attending, David Dees, their national sales representative was able to leave me some samples to taste. I'll be featuring each of the six wines in this blog and talking about why I think, as new labels go, the JAQK Cellars wines are the real deal.

2007 JAQK Cellars Soldiers of Fortune Syrah Napa Valley - Opaque purple at it's center, light at the edges and with some elegant legs. Some wines have stage presence in the glass, this is one of those wines. Stick your nose in the glass, earth, spice box, graham cracker come back at your face! A touch of heat tickles the nostrils and at 15.1%, the JAQK is potent! Syrah, when done correctly, exhibits grippy but integrated tannins instead of super creamy vanilla oak. See Washington state for good examples, and see this 2007 Soldiers of Fortune too. I bet another five years in the bottle would be great, the tannins would soften and allow some fruit to come out. As it stands, the palate is dominated by dark chocolate, dried black cherry, earth, and crushed pepper. I'm digging how everything goes down, there's a ripeness yet a complexity in harmony here. Absolutely solid juice. A- and a BUY recommendation. Check the $43 SRP but find it for less with research!

Beau Carufel

Monday, January 24, 2011

My First Israeli Wine, Chardonnay from Pelter Winery

When is the last time you had a wine from somewhere new to you? How many wine drinkers can honestly say that it was recently?

I'm like most and aside from the domestic wines I consume, I stick to a few well-established areas. France/Spain/Italy, Chile/Argentina, and Australia/New Zealand are the bulk of both my collection and my daily drinking selection. Rather than being opposed to tasting wines from outside these areas, I just tend to stay within a comfort zone I've established.

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Right. So I got some wines from Israel recently. I've never had Israeli wine before, and for many, I suspect that is true as well. Collectively, if the rest of the Israeli wines are as good as the 2009 Pelter Unwooded Chardonnay, we're missing out. Consumers might be intimidated by the obscurity of the Israeli wine industry or the fear that the wines are all Kosher, with the associated horror stories behind that designation. That isn't a knock on Kosher wines at all, just an acknowledgement of consumer lack of information. The 2009 Pelter I tasted tonight doesn't have any kind of Kosher designation on the bottle, anywhere. This leads me to believe the winery is not Kosher, whether that's good or bad though, I leave up to you.

After getting my hands on some fresh basil, pesto seemed like the logical thing to make. Of course, that calls for some pasta and garlic bread too. While not necessarily a pairing I'd think of right away, the thought of unwooded chardonnay proved too much of a temptation. If the Pelter Chardonnay had been aged in oak barrels instead of steel tanks, the flavor composition could have been very different and this pairing would not have worked out at all.

That being said, I should now talk about the wine itself. The juice is pale, seriously pale. We're talking as pale as a Sancerre! Not that golden-straw color a glass of Kistler or Rombauer might have, far from it. Hell, this is almost as pale as a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.

Since the bottle says the varietal is chardonnay, it should come as no surprise that this wine smells like chardonnay. Beautifully aromatic, I'd liken the nose to fresh summer flowers, lemon tart, lime juice and a whiff of fresh sea-breeze. When you buy this wine, I recommend an experiment: smell the wine when it's chilled and make a note of how lively and zingy it is, then later on, take another whiff as the wine has warmed a bit. I think you will find a fascinating difference.

Bright is a word I like to use to describe a wine's personality, so I'll use it on the 2009 Pelter. To me, a "bright" wine has acidity that washes across the palate, making the wine accessible but also complex. In the Pelter, the acidity shines, at once refreshing while also a structural element. Within the acidity, a smooth, round core of lemon creme. Limes, tropical fruit and the subtlest mineral tones create a complexity I admit to being unprepared for. In other words, a wine that is lip-smackin' good!

How should I sum up a wine I am so impressed with? Since I cannot literally force you to buy this wine, there's no way to ensure you give it a chance. Look beyond the region, throw aside whatever pre-conceived notions you might have. Drink the 2009 Pelter Chardonnay and then go back and note that it's from Merom Golan, Israel. 706 cases were produced. In the United States (especially California), buy it at Israeli Wine Direct. They've got the best price I could find. As for me, I rate this wine an A- and a STRONG buy recommendation.

Beau Carufel

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tasting Sparkling Wine With The San Diego Wine Mafia

Last month the San Diego Wine Mafia held our first ever sparkling wine tasting. Harnessing the power of Twitter, we were able to get a great lineup of bubbly wine (to go with our bubbly personalities of course!) and each member contributed some food to pair with said sparkling wine. While we were able to accumulate 22 bottles from France, Spain and the United States, I think it would be pointless to list each one with the accompanying tasting notes. That and there were multiple bottles of sparking wine that I just didn't like. However, the San Diego Wine Mafia did taste a bunch of winners. At it turned out, the prices of our favorites ranged from $8 to $95 and from the Columbia Valley to Champagne itself.

Here's a list of my favorite sparkling wines of the night:

Delamotte 1999 Blanc de Blancs: Well balanced, veers a bit towards florals, hints of yeast, luxurious as all get-up.
A- $95

Domaine St. Michelle 2004 Luxe: Fresh baked apple tart on the nose, I dig it! Good balance of acid and creamy yeast on the palate. Washes clean with subtle apricot on the finish. Delivers above it's price point.
B+ $18

Domaine St. Michelle Brut:  Very traditional flavor profile, totally loved the interplay of dryness and fresh baked bread. Great acidity and bubbles, nice hints of yeast. What a QPR killer!
A- $8

J Brut Rose: Nicely fruity with raspberry and strawberry wrapped in leather. A classy dominatrix? Yea I dig it, but not the price. While I love pink sparkling wine, I'm still trying to figure out the California examples.
B-  $30

Paul Cheneau Blanc de Blancs Cava: Nice nose, great flavors of citrus and hints of apricots. Great acidity that carries through to the finish, really happy with this one. Not a QPR-buster but you get a delicious wine at a good price.
B+  $17

Mumm Napa Brut Rose: Another California rose, one that is solidly made, great balance of fruit and acidity. You can tell it's got Pinot and that is a damn good thing. One of the better rose sparkling wines I've had lately.
B+  $18

Woodbridge Brut: Nose brings the funk, palate has some awesome yeasty notes but also fruit notes, rich, really nicely done. Delivers above it's price point and far, far above it's label. This is why I love blind tasting!
B+  $10  

Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2005: Well done! Impressive balance between bubbles and bright acidity, wish there was more of a nose though. Still, a nice effort and the fruit shines through the mid palate then carries the finish. I'd drink this any time, it delivers for under $30.
B-  $27

I want to say thank you to all the wineries and PR groups that sent us sparkling wine, the response was wonderful! I'm deeply appreciative that I was able to taste so many sparkling wines in one session. The prices quoted here are either the Suggested Retail Price or the price I found on the winery website. Often they're available for a bit less at your local fine wine shop.

Beau Carufel

Friday, January 14, 2011

2007 Robert-Denogent Macon-Fuisse Les Taches

Admittedly I'm a sucker for Burgundies. Best chardonnays on the planet, in my opinion. The implication there is that it's difficult to retain a sense of impartiality whenever I taste wines from that region. The (not so) consummate professional in me struggles with the gleeful, excited side of me that can't wait to taste a wine I know I'll love.

I bought this wine for $25 from about a month and a half ago. Usually I avoid buying wine online because the shipping charges are expensive, especially from the East Coast to San Diego. Luckily for me though, free shipping was offered on any purchase, for a limited time. Not wanting to (ok I really did want to) spend a ton of money on a lot of wine, I resolved to buy a couple of bottles of wine and have it shipped cross country, during the "snowpocalypse" to my warm apartment.

After relaxing in my wine fridge for a few weeks, it was time to put up or shut up. I was cooking again last night. There was sweet potato gnocchi with butter and sage, garlic-herbed-chicken, sauteed spinach, and a bowl of sauteed cabbage, green onion, red onion, sun-dried tomato and garlic. This wasn't complex but it was tasty and paired extremely well with the Macon-Fuisse.
You can find the gnocchi at Trader Joe's in the frozen section, it's ridiculously good stuff. The rest of it was all made from scratch, just to see how all the flavors would go together. Next time I will be using less sun-dried tomato in order to concentrate more on the herbs and vegetal flavors of the spinach, onions and cabbage.

The Robert-Denogent had a classic nose of flowers, lemon custard, lime juice and wet rock. Bingo! We're in olfactory heaven with this. I will say, if you enjoy chardonnay from California, do yourself a favor and check out a few from France. You can find some inexpensive examples from Macon, Chablis and Beaune. No need to spend a lot of money on a Chassagne-Montrachet or a Puligny wine.

My tasting notes for the 2007 Robert-Denogent are here: "what an approach! glides into your mouth like a grand dame making an entrance in an evening gown, then that gown comes off and a modern, chic dress is underneath. Replete with acidity and structure while retaining curves in all the right places. Beautifully put together!"

I hope that sounds good to you. A- and a STRONG Buy recommendation. For $25, I feel that the 2007 Robert-Denogent Macon-Fuisse Les Taches delivers above it's price point. Try a bottle or three, especially if you're planning on cooking trout or sea bass. Hell, this stuff could kill it with fish sticks!

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Cork'd

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Today I noticed some tweets regarding Cork'd, one of the first social media/wine reviewing/interactive websites I became aware of. Way back in 2007, almost exactly four years ago, I joined Cork'd and posted up some reviews. The site had a good core group of wine people and often featured interesting articles in addition to the reviews. As it stands today, I was able to post 61 reviews from cheap stuff like Bishop's Peak to high end Cabernet like the magnificent 2001 Jarvis.

While I drifted away from reviewing wines on that site, it was always a good way to see how different every one's opinions were regarding wine (and obviously everything else). So it was with some sadness that I saw Gary Vaynerchuk announce that Cork'd was winding down operations. The CEO, Lindsay Ronga, is moving on to other opportunities, Gary and Senior Editor Jon Troutman just don't have the time to commit to the site. You can see Gary's video here.

As I write this article though, I can't help but reflect on one thing I learned from Cork'd that continues to affect me and my interactions with fellow wine lovers. Back in 2007 I'd notice a review of something like Beringer White Zinfandel on the site, with a score of 92 points. I'd see people raving about how amazing this wine was and it would make me laugh with contempt. Who were they, these wine "lovers" who'd dare use the 100 point scale to rate a white zinfandel? How dare they even post a review? Admittedly an arrogant attitude, one wholly self-centered. Sadly I still see that all over the internet, but for me a change occurred when I realized that those wine lovers actually thought their white zinfandel was delicious.

I learned that as someone with a bit of knowledge about wine, it's my responsibility to encourage people to drink what they love, not what I think they should love. If person A loves merlot and person B loves white zinfandel, who am I to tell them they need to be drinking a Bordeaux or a Tavel to be taken seriously? That's a fundamental truth that often gets overlooked in the blogosphere. I still make the mistake of writing off people who don't care to open a White Burgundy and are happily content with their supermarket California Chardonnays. I'm getting better at catching myself though, and doing a better job of listening to what someone likes instead of listening to them not know anything about wine.

For that, I have Cork'd to thank. 

Beau Carufel

Good Wine, Good Cause, Just Need Your Support!

I'm a sucker for wines that support a good cause. Such is the case that there are some wineries out there doing great work raising money and building awareness for any number of issues. I've talked already about Cleavage Creek and their work funding breast cancer research. Recently I learned of another wine built around the notion of wine and people plus charity equals results. The Charity Case Foundation is based up in Napa California and operates entirely on donations. Literally everything from the grapes and equipment time to the corks and bottles is donated by winemakers and other industry people.

All the net proceeds go to local non-profit organizations that focus on providing services to children in need and their families. I was impressed (obviously) and jumped at the chance to sample the two current releases, a rosé and a sauvignon blanc.

2008 Charity Case Rosé 

The first of the two Charity Case wines that I tried, I was just in a rosé kind of mood. It's when you want a wine with some body, a bit of oomph yet you desire a lightness too. There's a middle ground to be struck and for me, rosé can hit that spot perfectly.

Right off the bat the nose smelled of many grapes, which gave me the impression that this rosé was made from a lot of different wines . While the exact blend wasn't available, the website does suggest that this is a blend of varietals and regions within Napa Valley. A bit riper than I had anticipated, perhaps some more residual sugar than I am used to. My nose easily picked out ripe strawberry and herb-garden aromas and I could taste the red cherry, raspberry and acidity. While a 14.1% abv rosé doesn't usually make me happy, the wine-making team led by Jayson Woodbridge (yes, that Jayson Woodbridge) did a very nice job avoiding any heat or bite. This has to be one of the most food-friendly rosé's that I've tasted in a long time. Solid B and you really should buy this wine because it supports such a wonderful cause. For $12 a bottle, come on! This is going to be a wonderful spring sipper, something to pair with pizza or a fresh mixed-green salad.

2009 Charity Case Sauvignon Blanc 
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The Sauvignon Blanc came from all fruit originating in St. Helena, just up Highway 29 from the city of Napa. What makes it rather unique amongst New World examples of this grape is the barrel fermentation it underwent. That tends to soften the acidity and add a lush, velvety texture versus a crisp, clean edge to a steel tank fermented Sauvignon Blanc. France produces some amazing barrel fermented examples from Graves, outside Bordeaux. The connection here is that Charity Case used new French Oak barrels, which can avoid adding a vanilla note, instead just rounding out the wines.

I smelled loads of lemon custard, rising bread dough and apricot which surprised me. That's because I hadn't looked at the press materials yet. There's a simple reason for that, to avoid any bias that might creep into my initial impressions. Once I recognized those tell-tale signs of barrel fermentation though, I was able to put this wine into context. If you like your Sauvignon Blancs on the lush side, soft and almost luxurious, you'll thoroughly enjoy this wine. For my palate, it felt too flabby and heavy-handed. I will say that I think a fettucine alfredo dish would pair beautifully, but alas that night I ended up eating reheated leftovers. I still love the cause, but not the wine. B- from me, but if you like richer, plumper Sauvignon Blanc, do yourself a favor and check out the 2009 Charity Case Sauvignon Blanc. 

One bit of information I gleaned from the fact sheets I was sent is that Charity Case makes their wines in the spring. Despite the appearance of snow across much of this country, especially the "snowpocalypse" taking place in New York, we have spring to look forward to and some upcoming Charity Case Chardonnay that will be released. I suppose if I've been a good boy this year, I'll get a bottle to sample and share with you.

Beau Carufel

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Pinot Noir Central Coast 2009

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Another wine from Trader Joe's. This is one of their private label wines, of which there are multiple designations (and price points). The Petit Reserve is one of the cheapest of the "Trader Joe's" labels, usually somewhere between $5.99 and $8.99 per bottle. At the upper end are the "Grand Reserve" wines, around $12-14 a bottle. One can find gems hidden in each segment, but most of the wines are for me, pretty boring. There's nothing necessarily wrong (from a technical standpoint) with these wines, they are just not that interesting for a wine geek to taste.

The usual story given out is that somewhere in the world, a famous, well known producer needed to sell some of his wine and heroically of course, Trader Joe was there with a briefcase of cash and a custom labeling facility. Joe promised not to disclose who the producer was, but did promise to take all xx,xxx cases off said producer's hands and re-brand it as Trader Joe's wine. In trying to track down who does produce a lot of these private label wines, I've often come across shell companies, fake wineries, and even good old Fred Franzia's Bronco Wine Company. As for the 2009 Petit Reserve Pinot, I didn't do a lot of digging but was assured the wine was from a top Pinot Noir producer making "big labels" up in San Luis Obispo.

Interestingly, and perhaps telling, was the fact that 4.8% of the wine is actually Souzão. Grown primarily in Portugal, Souzão is used in the production of Port wines, often to add color and flavor. Makes sense to add such a big, dark, heavy grape to Pinot Noir, right? No, it doesn't. But I'm not the big name producer or Trader Joe's so I don't make the rules here.

Poured into my glass, this is a somewhat pale Pinot, especially for California and even San Luis Obispo. The cooler climate keeps acidity a bit high and allows more fruit nuances of raspberry and sour cherry to manifest. In the Petit Reserve Pinot, the nose gives hints of those fruits along with oak (presumably this is barrel aged) and some alcoholic heat. At 13.7% the alcohol is smack in the middle of the Pinot Noir I've been tasting for the past few years.

I think I could taste added structure the Souzão gave this wine, in the form of a firm tannic backbone that interacted with the acidity. More of the soft vanilla, sour cherry and bits of raspberry were playing on my palate too. More of the alcoholic heat too, which disappointed me to some extent. No strong flavors and nothing that jumped out, this is a weak wine structurally.

The finish was straightforward and brief, nothing lingered as if trying to draw out the experience. As I sat and thought about this wine, I was left with the singular notion that it didn't have much soul. I couldn't detect much terroir influence, rather this seemed to be a cobbled together wine. In essence, it was there to be sold and consumed without much thought. I graded it a C and Do Not recommend you try it, despite the very consumer-friendly $5.99 price tag.

If you must try this, pair it with a pizza or something equally simple. Even then, I'd rather open a Chianti or Merlot.

I'll keep my eyes open for more low-priced wines from Trader Joe's.

Beau Carufel

6100 Year Old Wine, What Would Parker Score It?

Upon checking my email this morning, I found a press release from the fine people at the UCLA Newsroom regarding the recent discovery of the oldest wine-making equipment ever found. In an article just published by the Journal of Archaeological Science, a team of UCLA researchers analyzed the discovery of some artifacts found in a cave in Armenia. A grape-press, fermentation vats and storage jars were all unearthed within said cave, with grape must, seeds, and grape vines found in the surrounding soil layers.

From the article: "This is, so far, the oldest relatively complete wine production facility, with its press, fermentation vats and storage jars in situ," said Hans Barnard, the article's lead author and a UCLA Cotsen Institute archaeologist.

I'm fascinated by history and of course wine, so this is of particular interest. Apparently the small village in Armenia by which the cave is located happens to be known for it's wine-making, locally at least. This wasn't day to day wine though, but rather wine used for ceremonial purposes. Evidence for this comes from the surrounding area which was full of tombs and grave sites.

Previously, the oldest evidence for wine-making had come from the discovery by German archaeologists in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian king Scorpion I. Dating back some around 3150 B.C., that evidence consisted of grape seeds, skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered on the inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine.

It's also important to remember that wine-making back then wasn't nearly the same, but the basic procedure has remained roughly the same for the past six thousand years or so. Often other things like resin (where we get retsina wines), honey, flowers and spices were added to the wines of the day, to make them more palatable.

In the case of the Areni-1 discovery, the equipment was rudimentary but somewhat close to what's used today. Take for example the 3 foot by 3-and-a-half foot basin, complete with a thick rim that would have contained the juices and a drain system which let the juice fall into a vat below it. Sounds an awful lot like a press, one that you climb into and stomp the grapes using your feet. Those are still used today in some parts of the world, including California. You can bet this stuff is the real "natural wine" that a lot of people are hollering about these days.

Analyzing the chemical composition of the grape remains at the site led the researchers to discover that the grapes were of vitis vinifera genus, the same genus responsible for almost all the wine-grapes today. Granted there are exceptions like the Norton grape here in the United States, all the good wine we drink comes from vitis vinifera. A DNA sequence will tell us exactly what species that grape is and I for one would love to try a wine from it. You'd be tasting a little bit of history!

Finally, Hans Barnard said: "The fact that a fully developed wine production facility seems to have been preserved at this site strongly suggests that there are older, less well-developed instances of this technology, although these have so far not been found." 

I for one hope that we find more ancient evidence in the coming years, discoveries like the one mentioned here only further our fascinating relationship with wine (and with fermented beverages) that seems to have been going on since nearly the dawn of recorded history.

Beau Carufel

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Is Underway!

So here goes 2011, beginning with a bang in some places, a whimper elsewhere. Fireworks bursting above you, perhaps a kiss shared with someone. Hopefully a night of great food and wine, great friends, and some wonderful memories. New Year's Eve for me has always been bittersweet, I tend to get nostalgic as the year ends and there's always that subtle current of trepidation winding it's way through my consciousness. It's as if I want to hold onto the previous year for a bit longer, and to only dip my toe in the New Year, to see if I like it or not. Reality soon sets in, as someone refills my champagne flute and (in a good year) I get a wonderful kiss as the clock strikes midnight.

My last blog of 2010 listed things I intend to do this year, not necessarily resolutions because that implies a finality I am not ready to accept. If some of my intentions for this year don't happen, I won't feel like I've failed at something. Inspired by some other bloggers, I'm putting together a short list of predictions for this year, and next December 31st I will revisit this post to see what, if any came true.

1. Biggest "new" wine region: Tie! Austria and Washington. These regions aren't new to people in the wine industry or wine geeks/bloggers/enthusiasts. What I'm talking about here is more of an awareness seeping into the average wine consumers mind. This is the person for whom a $10 Merlot is just fine, they don't need to go out and buy a Cabernet Franc to go with their herb-rubbed beef ribs. I predict one or both of these regions, Austria with it's whites and Washington with it's blends, will gain a sort of acceptance within the general wine drinking population. How can I prove that? Keep an eye out for more Austrian and Washington wine appearing on the shelves of places like Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Safeway and maybe (though highly doubtful) Trader Joe's.

2. H.R. 5034 will be defeated and Tom Wark will be an incredibly happy man. Since most of my audience is already aware of the dangers H.R. 5034 poses to wine lovers all over the country, I don't need to go into a big discussion of why it's a load of bullshit written by lobbyist groups who want more money and control. For a great breakdown of the bill and the threat it poses, please click here. Since mid-September I've noticed some bloggers casually dismissing the Bill as "destined to fail" or "sure to fail", but I think the lobby groups are ready for a long, protracted fight. I wonder if Mothers Against Drunk Driving will do anything about it, because I've yet to see anything from them on TV or the internet.

3. Millennials will grow in force as a consumer group but not as much as in years to come. I think that there will be a movement towards further segmentation, along geopolitical lines, of the Millennial demographic. What this means for the wine business, where a lot of money is being spent on my generation, is that the impact of our dollars won't be as big as anticipated. One question that I've thought about a lot lately is how wine will avoid being just a passing fad. Millennials are more likely to adopt something, be it technology or bacon, for a short period of time compared to any other generation before us. I can easily envision the same thing happening with wine unless somehow, the "wine culture" is deeply ingrained in our (collectively) lifestyle.

4. Wine bloggers will break through and become a much more important source of information than they have been previously. This year, 2011, will see a sort of maturation in the wine blogosphere. People who think wine bloggers have some kind of huge, market-spanning influence are kidding themselves. Only a small percentage of wine drinkers actively read blogs on a regular basis. This year though we (bloggers) will be searched out, turned to for advice. I don't think it'll just be my generation either, the backlash against critics will drive older wine drinkers to the internet and blogs specifically. I look forward to this happening, for obvious reasons.

5. Grower Champagne! The darling of the bloggerati set and sommeliers, will keep expanding into the market. Lower prices, equal or better quality and new styles combine to get these delicious bubbles into more and more consumers hands this year. I can only hope I start getting some samples to share with all of you. Add to that, we'll see some more exciting examples of Cava make it to these shores. Last year I tried the Jaume Serra Cristalino and found a wonderful example of low price and high quality. Cava and grower Champagne will give us more sparkling wine choices than ever before.

6. A couple of trends will continue, two of the more noteworthy ones being the gradual return to low-alcohol styles of wine. Granted this is due in part as much to Mother Nature as consumer demand, it's a nice thing to see and I can only hope we see fewer 15% abv Cabernet and Pinot Noir. The other trend I like and thing will continue is the Natural Wine movement, or Wine Minimalism. It's not going to take the market by storm, and a lot of those wines aren't very good, but they are perhaps the purest expression of winemaking

I'm running out of steam with these and my friend is making some sandwiches so I'm gonna end at six predictions. On second thought, I have a couple of others. One, I believe we'll see a continue upwards pressure on the top 1% of wines, from Chateau Margaux to Screaming Eagle to Domaine Romanee Conti. This will be driven by the ever-expanding Chinese market, however the other side of the coin is that prices will start to come down on some previously expensive wines, bringing their availability to more people. Second, I think the bacon fad will slowly die out to be replaced by something else, my guess is going to be top quality poultry. Turkey, pheasant and goose come to mind. Also venison will come on huge.

So now that will wrap up my predictions blog for 2011. I look forward to writing again soon, and to be back with new wines next week. Stay tuned!

Beau Carufel