Friday, April 29, 2011

San Diego Wine Mafia Sip, Smoke, Savor event!

The First Ever San Diego Wine Mafia Scotch Tasting!

Recently, the San Diego Wine Mafia got to participate in a truly special event. Our friends at Sip, Smoke, Savor brought out some stunning Scotches for us to taste and learn about. After, we indulged in cigars and conversation until the wee hours. This was an awesome event and I learned a lot about Scotch.

The layout of the various Scotch whiskies before we tasted

Highlighting how seriously the Sip, Smoke, Savor people take this!

1. Glenmorangie Nectar D'or - Highland Whiskey 12 Year Old - Sublime nose of vanilla bean custard, hints of orange zest..smooth at first on palate, builds a wall of spice, sweet taste finishes off, so nice and smooth - I get a botrytis note on the finish. Fascinating!

2. The Balvenie Madeira Cask - 17 Year Old - This Scotch sees some American Oak aging..smells harsher up front and I detect more peat than the first one. It also smells like vanilla to me, but used in a fresh baked pastry, hints of a fresh bouquet of summer flowers. Salty, with vanilla smoked peat on the palate, hints of fruits through the finish. More complex than I imagined!

3. Bruichladdich - First Growth Cuvee D - 16 year old Scotch matured in Chateau Haut-Brion barrels. Peat, fruit notes, very much a wine note on the nose. Across the palate you get more peat, earthy notes, hints of bananas and oranges. Very good, spicy alcohol throughout.

4. The Balvenie Portwood - 21 Year Old - Matured in ex-bourbon barrels. Oaked on the nose, very enjoyable, hints of sherry and warm wood. Also tasted tawny port on the mid-palate then it reappeared on the finish much to my delight. One of my favorites of the entire tasting.

5. Glenmorangie Sonnalta - 12 Year Old - Matured in American Oak and finished in sherry casks. smokey, forest fire oak notes. Fruity through the mid palate, very sherry-like. My favorite of the night!

6. Bruichladdich - Sherry Edition - 1992 - Peaty nose, absolutely lovely because it's complex and delicate. Delicate earth flavors on the palate, elegant even. The alcohol seems more subtle here, but no less potent.

7. Aberlour A'Bunadh - Fruity nose but hard to get anything past something of a burn from the alcohol. I want to say berries are present but it's definitely something sweet and almost ripe. Vanilla dances around, a little spice and caramel too. Pleasant to be sure.

Deep in discussion on what exactly we're tasting

All of these were fairly pricey, some extremely so. Being able to taste through each one and explore the flavors was very valuable, something I hadn't done since I visited Scotland a few years ago. I think the entire San Diego Wine Mafia crew was delighted with this event. A huge thanks go out to Frank and Marcia for their gracious hospitality and for putting up with the San Diego Wine Mafia. They made this night awesome and I took a lot away from the tasting.

Beau Carufel

Tasting Some Amazing Craft Beers With Friends

About a week ago I got to taste a lineup of craft beers with some friends of mine who are definite hop-heads. One of them, my buddy Walker, has cool beer blog where he's chronicling his quest to taste the top 100 beers in the world, as rated by the users of Check out Walker's site here, and follow along. Lucky for me, I get to help him out every once in a while when he tastes. My friend Blayne and Lauren also came by to taste and sample some beers with us. They brought the Lagunitas and Great Divide beers, I contributed all three Trader Joe's Vintage Ales, and Walker had the Listermann, KBS, and Iron Fist.

Listermann Wild Mild Ale - 4% abv.
Lots of carbonation is present, but you can't feel it on the palate. Smells like hot metal, hint of MSG (savory), very basic aromas. Tastes of burnt oats/malts, more of the metallic sensation too. Very fat through the mid palate but falls utterly flat on the finish. Bitter notes add a pleasant note but mainly because it's just something additional to the party. Mildly unimpressed. Not a lot going on. C+.

Iron Fist Brewing Velvet Glove - 9% abv.
Nice mix of fruit and florals on the nose. Can't tease out any malts, bittersweet chocolate or other identifiers of a dark beer. Incredible mouthfeel! I can see where the name Velvet Glove comes from. Huge, thick through the mid-palate. Supremely balanced beer, the flavors all match each other in intensity. The progression of each flavor through my palate is superb. Loads of dark fruit and spice. Nice charred oak or malt too. One of the best dark beers I've ever tasted. A-

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2008 - 9% abv.
Smells like apple cider and baking spices. I get faint hints of baking yeast too. Lots of sediment. Also hints of wood glue. On the palate...Astounding. Complexity for days. Notes of caramel, wood glue, apple peel. The acidity and carbonation make this stuff amazing. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the delicate flavors and the way they're all integrated. A

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2009 - 9% abv.
Smells like lemon ginger tea to me. Lovely bouquet that has really mellowed since the last time I had this. Great spicy flavors but it's too thin still, not enough structure for me. The 2008 had more of a firm presence on my palate. The 2009 by contrast does more with its bubbles to create a sensation of body. I got cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar in the scent, some of those carried through to the mouthfeel. Also present were hints of malt and perhaps some orange peel. B

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2010 - 9% abv.
Smells like lots of baking spices and pumpkin pie too. The pumpkin in my tasting notes contributes a sense of sweetness, richness. Very dark color especially compared to the 2008. Tons of spice on the palate dominate everything. Some hints of a dark chocolate and bitter roasted malts but the alcohol does sweep a lot of it away. Immature at this point, needs a few years. C+

Kentucky Breakfast Stout - 11.2% abv
Flat out amazing. Complex bouquet of all dark flavors including beef jerky, bakers chocolate, absolutely amazing. Still amazingly diverse on the palate. Hershey's chocolate syrup, beef jerky, sweet flavors..The way each flavor integrates and progresses is impressive and speaks to the power of stouts. This is perhaps one of the toughest beers to find anywhere and now I understand why. One of the best beers I've ever tasted, period. A+

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti - 9.5%
Crazy opaque. Cannot see through it at all, but I love that aspect. Great flavors of charcoal, burned malts, wonderful. The cayenne is nice, but it hits real quick and is done. Overall I really enjoy how complex the flavors are. Well made beer, the dark flavors of chocolate and bitter malts really restrain the sweeter flavors. A-

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - 9.87% abv.
Slightly overripe mango on the nose, great mouthfeel though. The acidity and dry hoppy flavors keep the ripe fruit in check. Good sweetness is tempered by the acidity and hops. A nicely balanced beer with a great component. Well worth the price. B

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot - 7.8% abv.
Typical hoppy IPA nose, lots of ripe fruit and floral character. Very much like other IPA's but with some additional character. Vibrant acid that keeps all various flavor elements in check. Clean, crisp entry and a nice burst of hoppy green keeps the ripeness in check. A little bit disjointed for me, seems that it might be better if more of the floral and hops showed up instead of the little core of sweet fruits I was getting.  B-

So of these beers, many are not available and that kind of sucks. The Lagunitas beers are readily available at places like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. The Oak Aged Yeti is available at good liquor stores and I've heard people say they can find it at Beverages & More. Luckily for us San Diegans, Iron Fist is a local brewery and their beers can be found here in town. The Trader Joe's Vintage Ales are gone, those are snapped up quickly right after their release date, usually between November and December. Good luck with the Kentucky Breakfast Stout...

Beau Carufel

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Wine News Bits & Pieces

A couple of news articles caught my eye today. One, via Dr. Vino aka Tyler Coleman, seems to confirm something I've felt since before I got into blogging. The other was more wine-oriented and dealt with Foley Family Wines and their seemingly ceaseless acquisition activity.

The title of the first article: "Social Media Has Almost No Effect on Online Retail" may come as a shock to some or a kind of vindication to others. A report was issued by Forrester Research and GSI Commerce that showed, using hard data, how social media interaction rarely leads to online purchases. According to the data, less than 2% of online purchases were made from a social network. 2%..That's a minuscule number from a percentage angle but it does represent hard dollars, to a degree. What went through my head after reading the article was whether that 2% of sales would have taken place had it not been for the seller's social media presence.

As I thought about that, I also looked at my own online behavior and purchasing habits. Most of my purchases, wine-related or not, don't come from social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace. Hell, I don't even have a Myspace account anymore. The point is, and this seems to match with the report issued, is that a portion of my online purchases come from emails and the rest come from me going directly to the portal, be it Amazon, Ebay, or iTunes. Occasionally I'll see something on one of those networks that prompts a purchase, but even then I am likely to already know about said "deal" from email or the originating site itself.

So that led me to wonder if this report will gain any traction and what could happen if it does. All around us, companies are scrambling to establish social media teams and create Twitter accounts. Is it all for naught? Perhaps the views on social media's utility for a firm need to shift towards a more long-term approach, where the platform is used to spread the brand message and increase consumer awareness in the hopes of creating buzz and at least increasing the potential for future online (or offline) sales.

It's clear from the Forrester report that social media is not an instant-sales engine, but another channel to create relationships between brands and consumers. What exactly the outcome of the relationship is remains the $64,000 question...Will it lead to a sale (and increased revenues) or just a happy feeling because the company tweets a lot? I hope people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Joe Roberts respond to the report and it's implications.

Next up on the list was that the winery-buying-machine-known-as-Bill-Foley has set his sights on Australia. The article, posted here by Wine Spectator, reports that Mr. Foley has now bought a stake in Aussie wine company Wineinc. The wines that Wineinc makes are mostly low end value-priced, not the mid to high end wineries that Foley has been gobbling up here in California. Personally, I wonder if he'll run out of money..or time.

Does the guy want to own every winery on Earth? He's essentially steering the wine business into any other one, where mergers and acquistions are the name of the game. Granted, this did start in the 80's, but there's still something romantic about opening a bottle of wine made by a family-owned winery. The sentimentalist argues that wine should be made with passion, and selling your winery for a gazillion dollars to a mega-corporation is basically selling out...Like artists do in the music industry.

Foley claims that he plans to allow the Wineinc wineries to continue to operate independently, for the most part. I think he's lying and eventually we'll start to see operations at all of them streamlined to increase "efficiencies".. The premise is that Wineinc gets access to the Foley Family Wines distribution network here in the United States. I think there's more here than meets the eye but any changes he wants to make will take a few more years to develop.

Since he's obviously in the wine business to make massive amounts of money, the day could come when Foley makes all those great boutique producers use one single bottling plant and one single, giant facility to make the wine in. Within that gargantuan facility will be smaller-yet-still-massive aging rooms for each winery under the corporate umbrella. Sure, the vineyards will be spread out everywhere, as they always have been, but in the end the grapes will just be trucked to Modesto or someplace equally shitty in Australia and the wines will be created there. This is a bleak future, yet one that is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Just look what Fred "I cheated once before and got caught" Franzia has been doing...

Anyways that's my rant, and the other side of the coin is that perhaps Mr. Foley's infusions of cash into the wineries will allow them to create better wines going forward. IF that is the case, I'll be happier than a college kid with a case of Four Loko.

Beau Carufel

Kramer Vineyards Makes Sparkling Muller-Thurgau, You Should Drink It!

I've been talking to Kimberley and Becky Kramer of Kramer Vineyards via Twitter for a while now. It was one of the stops I had wanted to make when I was up in Oregon last September but unfortunately I just didn't give myself enough time. That being said, I'm planning another trip to Portland in late May or June and will make a point to stop in and hang out. The Kramer sisters and their folks know I'm a big Oregon wine fan, and they were gracious enough to send me some samples to try. I've got a bottle of their 2008 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir to taste soon, but tonight I wanted some bubbly.

The Kramers make a sparkling muller-thurgau, which I bet most of you have never tried before. Heck, I bet most have never tried muller-thurgau in any version. I know I've had two mullers (as the cool people call them) in my life, this is the third and has bubbles! After a long work-week capped off by an utterly horrible day today, I needed something to pick me up. I'm always amazed at how sparkling wine can do that, the pearlescent bubbles, the pop of the cork, that fizzy tickley feeling in your mouth..How can you not smile? I'm sure from the tone of my post, you can tell that this was a much needed treat for my taste buds and perhaps more importantly, my pysche.

Imagine smelling some freshly cut apples, ones you bought at your local farmers market in June. Also imagine someone left a bouquet of jasmine and honeysuckle on the table where your apples are. Finally, think of how yeasty bread dough smells. There you go, that's how this wine smells. Beautiful, accessible, fun, friendly are all  words I'd use to describe the Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Muller-Thurgau.

How does the wine taste? A lot like bottled deliciousness. More of the ripe apples, creamy yeast, a touch of sweet flowers too. I figure there's some residual sugar here but the combination of acidity and bubbles keeps that as a supporting flavor versus the wine becoming too sweet. I think it would be interesting to experiment even further with a drier version though, to see what pure, mineral driven flavors muller-thurgau is capable of.

Put simply, the Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Muller-Thurgau flat-out rocks. It's drinking incredibly well right now and is a way for you to experience a fresh twist on a very sparsely planted (and vinified) species of grape. This costs all of $15 from the Kramer Vineyards website. At that price, it's easy to buy an armful of this to have on hand to wow your guests and create some fun pairings. I made some simple quesadillas and the crisp tortillas, creamy cheese, and bubbly muller-thurgau went together like Beau and wine! A nearly perfect pairing if there ever was one. So give the bubbly a shot, support a family owned and operated winery, and drink good wine!

This was sent as a sample from Kramer Vineyards.

Beau Carufel

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tasting Ceja Vineyards Wines: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Red Blend

The Ceja Vineyards story is wonderful, one of those increasingly rare instances of a husband and wife deciding to move somewhere for better opportunities for their family, then succeeding through passion, perseverance, and real honest work. The first generation of Cejas left Mexico to settle in the United States, picking the St. Helena area of Napa Valley to create a new life. This was way back in 1967 and the ensuing years has seen the Ceja family thrive. In 1983 the family bought their first piece of land, 13 acres of prime grape growing land in the Carneros area. Since then, the Cejas have become a mainstay of their community. They've branched out into art shows and even opened a restaurant called Bistro Sabor in Napa that is not to be missed. Some of the tastiest Mexican cuisine I've had outside of Southern California! To hear more of this remarkable family and their story, click here to visit their website's family history section.

So now let's get to the wines. I was sent three different bottles to taste and over the course of about a month, I went through each wine, tasting it twice over two days and noting my impressions. While I had heard that the Ceja wines were quite good, I admit to being a bit skeptical too. As you'll see, the wines weren't merely good, they were excellent, a worthy addition to your cellar.

(photo credit Liz Mendez

2008 Ceja Chardonnay Carneros - Gorgeous pale straw color, nice depth and clarity. I loved the nose, there was a bit of a vanilla aroma, green apples and hints of citrus. Also a very interesting aroma of freshly opened crayon boxes. I can't say I've ever smelled that in a chardonnay before and I suspect it comes from the time spent on the lees. Don't mistake my tone for a negative one, I was enjoying the bouquet like crazy. Despite the lack of malolactic fermentation, the '08 Ceja chardonnay retains a creamy, rich mouthfeel that is downright luxurious. I got layers of coconut, vanilla and honeycrisp apple, with even hints of lemon zest and pear. Those last two flavors gave the wine some zing and kept the richness of the coconut/vanilla in check. This wine drinks smooth all the way through and the finish once again shows loads of apple. The one word I kept thinking off was "classy", which describes how I felt while drinking the wine and how it approaches the palate. Overall a superb effort. Easy A- and STRONG BUY recommendation. $34 SRP, 13.5% abv. 1,100 cases produced.

2007 Ceja Vino de Casa Red Napa Valley - Ceja's table wine, this is a blend of 40% pinot noir, 40% syrah and 20% cabernet sauvignon. While the image of "table wine" can often bring to mind notions of a cheap, factory-made bottle of crap, the Vino de Casa is anything but that. For starters, only 2,000 bottles were made. Also, the wine saw 23 months in French and American oak barrels, no floating bags of oak chips to be found. When I smelled the Vino de Casa, I could find distinct traces of each varietal starting with some pepper and cherry cola that I find in syrah. More aromas included a dusty minerality coupled with plums - from the cabernet, and a baking spice/rhubarb I always find in California pinot noir. Although I felt the aromas were jostling for space a bit, the complexity was wonderful. The palate is bursting with ripe red and black berry fruits, baking chocolate, black pepper and some sweet vanilla oak. Compared to how the wine smells, it tastes a lot more harmonious which came as a surprise considering all the pinot noir present. I thoroughly enjoyed the Ceja Vino de Casa, and at $20 suggested retail, it's well worth the low price. B+ and BUY recommendation. 13.6% abv. 2,000 cases produced.

2007 Ceja Vineyards Pinot Noir Carneros - When I was first talking to the lovely Amelia Ceja about sampling her wines, this was the one I secretly hoped she would send me. I've heard from multiple wine-friends that the Ceja pinot noirs are not to be missed. From vineyards on the Sonoma side of Carneros, all of 1,000 cases are made. As with the Vino de Casa, the pinot spends 23 months in oak, this time only French oak barrels. Another note, this is 100% pinot noir according to Amelia. I admit, that made me smile happily (on the inside). Color-wise, there's no mistaking this for a Burgundy or even Chilean pinot noir, it's all California. Hints of smoke, dried wood, spices and red cherries all kept my nose in the glass for far longer than is appropriate. Words like elegant, sensual, and curvy all crept to mind. Tasting a remarkably balanced pinot like this is always a treat. Great flavors of beef jerky, cherry preserves, white pepper, spice and a subtle oak note on the finish lit me up like a Christmas tree. Fabulous stuff! I was delighted with the tangy acidity here too, never letting the riper flavors get out of line. This is an example of how high-end Carneros pinot noir can be. A-, STRONG BUY..And please, when you do buy a bottle or two, lay them down for a few years, I have a hunch about the 2007 Ceja Pinot Noir..Just trust me on this. 13.8% abv. 1,000 cases made. $40 SRP.

At this point it's obvious that I enjoyed the wines, each of them was enjoyable to drink and paired well with the foods I had made at the time. Speaking of food and wine pairings, I should mention that Ceja Vineyards and Chef Robin White are doing a live, virtual wine dinner on June 18th. It looks to be a lot of fun and Chef Robin has put together a list of dishes to pair with the selected Ceja wines. Click here to get more information on the virtual wine dinner.

Coming up over the next few weeks here, a review of a 2005 Bordeaux, argon gas wine preservers, a wine book and move California reds and whites at reasonable prices. Stay tuned!

All Ceja wines were received as media samples with the intent to review.

Beau Carufel

Monday, April 25, 2011

Parducci Surprises Me With Their 2009 California Pinot Noir!

One of the fun aspects of writing about wine is that you get samples to taste and share with whomever reads your blog. Like many bloggers, I really enjoy getting these samples of wine, be they $5 or $100. For my purposes, it's a chance to hone my skills as a wine evaluator and share something I'm passionate about with anyone who clicks on the google/yahoo/bing link to my site. The point is that getting wine samples is great, no matter what price they sell for. For example, you're about to read of a Parducci pinot noir that has a suggested retail of $12, an actual retail closer to $9, yet blows other pinot noirs that cost twice as much clean out of the water. It's almost not fair how superb this wine is, considering it comes in at way under $20.

The tech sheet/winemaker's letter I got with this states that Parducci produced 26,900 cases of pinot noir for this vintage. Also, this pinot truly is pinot, 100% of it to be precise. Of all the juice used to make the 2009 vintage, 69% of the grapes came from Mendocino County. The rest, well who the hell knows? Since the label says "California" that could mean that pinot noir is grown on the majestic Interstate 5 corridor that runs through the middle of this fine state. Nah, that's where the valdigue is grown that goes into all the Two Buck Chuck shit you see people drinking.

Parducci's 2009 pinot is light, a soft ruby color and pale too, I can see right through the glass. There's none of the burnt garnet I see in Burgundies but still, when I look in my glass, I don't doubt that Parducci's winemaker did not add any other varietals. That and it states in the nice letter that there is only pinot noir in the..well..pinot noir.

Aromatically this is textbook pinot noir. Great spices combined with a sour cherry and red currant note, rhubarb and a tiny bit of oak present as well. When I sniffed my glass for the first time, my face lit up. While it's not going to make your nose twitch with unbridled pleasure the way an aged Burgundy will, the fact that Parducci's pinot noir is so true, so varietally pure can't help but entice us to taste it.

Certain wines, really good wines, hit your palate in a way that I struggle to put into words. Better authors than myself can do this with ease and it makes for great reading. What I'm trying to describe is a combination of things, a sense of depth and weight in my mouth coupled with a savory quality that can be described as lip-smackin' good. It's when the voice inside your head tells you the wine is just damn tasty.

So describes the 2009 Parducci. I enjoyed the bright red fruits and vibrant acidity. There was a tiny bit of oak present, doing a great job tempering the acidity and lending some length to the finish. I enjoyed the taste and mouthfeel, and the pairing tonight worked out great too. I picked up a frozen mushroom and black truffle flatbread from Trader Joe's, figuring the earthy mushrooms and creamy cheese would be a great contrast to the bright acidity, lo and behold it worked!

It's clear Parducci's winemaker, Bob Swain, did a wonderful job with this vintage. At nearly 27,000 cases made, there is plenty to go around and I've seen Parducci at Bevmo and local supermarkets if that fails, check out the website I've linked throughout this blog. Easily a B+ (88+ pts) and a STRONG BUY recommendation. Do yourself a favor, taste this and you'll realize what pinot noir used to be like and that sometimes it really doesn't have to cost $20 or more to be wonderful.

This wine was received as a sample for review purposes from Parducci Winery via Boss Dog Marketing.

Beau Carufel

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nestling Up to Another Beaujolais, Courtesy of Louis Jadot

Last Friday night I became acquainted with the 2009 Joseph Drouhin Morgon, a sublime bottle of gamay at the ridiculously-cheap price of $13. It was recommended by my friend David, during a discussion of the merits of the 2009 vintage in Beaujolais. Critics feel that the '09 vintage is superb, producing wines with a balance of ripe intensity and clean acidity. Traditionalists lament the ripeness, wishing for a return to the austerity and "purity" (as they call it) of previous, less heralded vintages. It doesn't hurt that Beaujolais is enjoying a moment of glory amongst the sommeliers, bloggerati/Twitterati, and wine geek crowd.

You may ask, and rightly so, why there's a "villages" on the end of the Beaujolais. That is a differentiator meant to indicate a higher level of quality, mainly in the vineyard. In this instance, Louis Jadot makes a huge amount of wine from Burgundy and Beaujolais, including a "regular" Beaujolais bottling and this Beaujolais-Villages bottling. Here's to hoping I get to taste more wines from this wonderful producer.

The color is beautiful, a deep rich purple like you'd see in some medieval tapestry hanging in a 700 year old French church. It isn't opaque, I can see through to the bottom of my glass yet that just manages to work for this wine. Since I'm new to actually evaluating wines from Beaujolais, I keep finding myself making the comparison to Burgundy, which is erroneous because the varietals are different beasts entirely. What I'm trying to say is that I like the color, it appeals to me on some level beyond just the topical "oh how pretty" aspect.

If you can imagine taking fresh, ripe plums and mashing them in a bowl then tossing in some river rocks and baking spices, that's what this wine smells like. I can also get a whiff of oak, but it's very integrated. Monsieur Lardiere, the winemaker for Louis Jadot, aged it for about ten months in French oak barrels. Nice bit of a floral component, but flowers with dark petals, like violets. I like this Beaujolais, the nose is appealing in a way that makes the wine seem alive, inviting but also something else. This isn't a big, bombastic assault on your nostrils like you'd get in an Australian shiraz or California cabernet. Right now the word I keep thinking of is "alluring" but that seems overplayed. Seductive adds too much of a sexual connotation to the wine, this Louis Jadot isn't seductive. If I could just figure out what to call that quality. Je ne sais pas!

What a contrast from the 2009 Drouhin! Way more minerality here, in a sense more austere. You have to fight with the gravel and oak to find any kind of fruit. When the wine finally gives up the fruit, it's again a plummy, black currant kind of flavor. I don't mean to suggest the flavors are under-ripe, merely that they're harder to discern. The acidity here is a bit less focused than my last Beaujolais, I get the sense of it being somewhat spread out and not as linear but nevertheless it remains very potent and definitely grabbed my attention.

Overall, the 2009 Jadot is good stuff, a lot of fun to drink and explore. I think perhaps it is veering towards the wine-geek side versus the casual drinker side though. Maybe another six months to one year in the bottle will allow some of the more potent minerality elements to recede, allowing that lovely fruit and floral to shine through. Since Easter is approaching, a great pairing would be a rack of lamb that's been baked with lots of herbs. Alternatively, some prefer ham with Easter meals but I'd caution against a honey baked ham, the pairing doesn't seem like it would taste good at all.

For a suggested retail price of $13, and a real-world retail for as little as $9, this is a QPR winner and a wine you should pick up as a way to explore outside the typical "new world style" wines you might drink. I highly recommend it, giving a B and a STRONG BUY recommendation. While that may cause wine geeks and wine experts to scoff a little bit, they would be well served to remember that we all must start liking wine at square one, and our journey takes different paths for each individual. To experience a great sense of terroir balanced with a winemaker's talents at a reasonable price, this is something you should buy. Where can you find the Louis Jadot wines? Everywhere! They're imported by Kobrand and distributed across the country. Try your local Beverages & More or supermarket.

This wine was received as a sample for review purposes from Kobrand

Beau Carufel

Thursday, April 21, 2011

California Loses A Wine Legend, Jess Jackson Passes Away

This morning we learned that Jess Jackson, founder of Kendall-Jackson winery, passed away after a battle with cancer. He was is to Sonoma what Robert Mondavi was is to Napa Valley, leading the charge to elevate California wines to levels never before imagined. Over the course of his 81 years with us, his tireless drive and energy inspired Californians and indeed, people from around the world, to produce world class wines while respecting and caring for the land that gives us such a bounty.

I can distinctly remember drinking and selling Kendall-Jackson wines for my entire wine career, even at my current job we stock the chardonnay and pinot noir. One incredibly telling way to determine your brand is successful is when consumers adopt nicknames for your products. I've been hearing "do you sell K-J?" or "I'd like a glass of K-J" for a decade now, evidence that Jess Jackson created something that consumers want and keep wanting. Kendall-Jackson posted a lovely message on their blog offering a way for us to extend our condolences to them and Mr. Jackson's family.

Perhaps his most enduring legacy will be the momentum that he imparted upon this state and its wine culture. I raise a glass to Jess Jackson and thank him for creating something that has so impacted my life and will continue to do so forever. Cheers, Sir. May you rest in peace.

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sicilian White Wine, A Fun Discovery!

Have you ever had the grape inzolia? I have not, to the best of my knowledge. The varietal is grown in Sicily, among other places, and creates a wonderfully light, aromatic white wine. Thanks to the awesomeness of Twitter and my friend Melissa, I found out that the grape is blended with other native varietals including: Greciano, Catarratto, and Grillo. Also it's used in making of Marsala, which old people drink and everyone else uses to cook chicken Marsala with.

 I was sent a sample to taste recently, from d'Alessandro winery via Colangelo Public Relations. The d'Alessandro winery is relatively new, dating back to 2006 Giacomo d'Alessandro left the family tourism business to make wine. It's located in the southwest of Sicily close to the city of Agrigento. According to the press materials I received, d'Alessandro wines are available in New York City, California, Massachusetts, and Florida, along with some other selected markets across the country. The importer is Vinifera, who import some of the very best Italian wines available into this country. I have sold a lot of their wines during my near-decade on the retail side of the industry.

Enough with the chit-chat, time to look at what's in my glass!

Pale with a very small amount of green tint, reminds me of a pinot grigio from the Venezie region, way up at the top of the boot. Oh stepping slightly off topic for a second, why the hell is there so much cheap, insipid pinot grigio being lapped up by consumers today? That's one thing that bugs the hell out of me because the grape is capable of making some truly delicious wines, yet I see the $5 shit selling like hotcakes. At that point, why bother? Just add alcohol to water and you're set, because the taste will be pretty much the same.

Back to the wine in front of me...

Beautifully scented nose that reminds me of pineapple, lime juice and fresh Granny Smith apples. I'm really enjoying the aromatics and it's easy to close my eyes and imagine a cafe in Sicily right on the seashore, sipping this wine under a springtime sun while I ponder a citrus-marinated grilled white fish resting on a bed of polenta. Seriously, it's such an easy thing to picture and that mental image just feels right. Or I could be waxing poetic about a dream vacation I really want to take. Which do you think?

Since I don't have much (if any) experience with white wines from Sicily or the grape inzolia, placing the d'Alessandro into the proper context is difficult. I know we wine bloggers aren't supposed to admit things like that but I did anyways. I'm trying to evaluate this wine in the context of a light, food-friendly, inexpensive white wine.

In that regard, it succeeds...In spades. If acidity in a white wine can be elegant, the d'Alessandro embodies that theory. The wine has life, a zippy seam of acidity that mixes around with toasted almonds and lime juice. Around the edges of those two primary flavors comes some weight, a glycerin component not entirely different than what I've discovered in some wines from Soave. Vibrant, ripe apples on the finish make up the sweet fruit component while that seam of acid gently fades away, giving a very pleasing linear feel. The 2009 d'Alessandro Inzolia kicks ass. Probably the main reason this inzolia remains so fresh is because it sees no malo-lactic treatment or oak barrel aging, rather just four months in stainless steel tanks and two months in bottle before it is released.

I used to see if I could find anyone in the United States selling the 2009 d'Alessandro Inzolia, but that didn't work out. From what I could glean, the wine sells for about $15-20 but might be a touch less depending on your local taxes. Price aside, this is a B+ and a SOLID BUY recommendation. Pick up a bottle and pair it with fresh fish, sushi (YUM!!), light pasta dishes (basil pesto?!) and even vegetarian pizza. Just goes to show that the Italians truly do know how to make wines that are meant to be enjoyed with food.

This wine was received as a sample for review purposes from Colangelo Public Relations for d'Alessandro Winery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2006 Mischief & Mayhem Pinot Noir Bourgogne

My friend Monica raves about this wine. She stole a comparison I make between elegant, classy, sexy wines and actress Grace Kelly. Besides using my awesome comparison excessively, she swears up and down this wine is a Grace Kelly wine. Love ya Monica!!

I was thirsty this evening, as often happens when I feel that writing is in order. Leaving my recent bout of writer's block behind along with my nasty bleeding ulcer and gastritis, I decided to open a red wine and just say "to hell with how I feel later, I want a glass!"

First let's talk a wee bit about the Mischief and Mayhem. They're a negotiant based in Burgundy and make a bunch of different wines from many sub-appellations in the region. This is their entry-level Burgundy, made with grapes sourced from the entire region. Monica bought some from a retailer on the East Coast and was kind enough to give me a bottle. For more information on the Mischief and Mayhem 2006 Bourgogne, click this link.

2006 Mischief and Mayhem Bourgogne Pinot Noir

I love the color, it's something I think anyone will notice right away. Palest ruby, clear to the point of looking like a dark rosé. Under the light, the color grabs your eyes and refuses to let go. My imagination conjured up words like: "elegant, delicate, nuanced, classical", and "yay" to describe what I saw.

Sticking your nose in the glass reveals this is no California pinot noir, syrah-added or otherwise! Bright acidity jumps out in the form of a fresh sour cherry aroma. From there, baking spices and a hint of rhubarb even. Whenever I smell a Burgundy, without fail I detect a beautiful earth component. Some may call it minerality, for me that aroma is evocative of damp, freshly turned dark brown soil.

Finally after the hemming and hawing over the color and aromatics, I get to taste the 2006 Mischief and Mayhem Bourgogne. Right away, lots of acidity that is very well integrated with red berry flavors, a ghostly hint of oak and beautiful spice elements. There are some silky smooth tannins present, manifesting all around the sides of my mouth. Like the acidity, they fit well, enhancing the mouthfeel of the wine rather than distracting me from other flavors.  One of the few knocks on the wine was the all-too-quick finish, I was hoping and expecting something longer, more drawn out considering the wine's origins. Not a huge knock, but obviously I noticed this enough to feel like I had to comment on it.

Ok I admit, it's hard not to like this wine. The fine people at Mischief and Mayhem did a great job in a solid vintage, producing a delicious pinot noir. For those who aren't familiar with Burgundy and the style of pinot noir produced there, this is a nice, inexpensive introduction. At about $25 the 2006 Mischief and Mayhem certainly won't break the bank, yet it has quality written all over the bottle. Well not really, more metaphorically I mean. I easily give this wine a B+ and a STRONG BUY recommendation. A note of caution, I'd use to find any of the Mischief and Mayhem wines, as they don't seem to make it to the West Coast in any quantity.

Beau Carufel

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Friday Night and the Morgon Beckons

2009 Joseph Drouhin Morgon
100% gamay, as that is the only grape that you can legally use in the appellation of Beaujolais. Looks like someone took the color purple and ran 10,000 volts through it. Smells like crushed violet petals, spices, gravel, and smashed grapes. You want to shove your nose into the glass as far as it'll go, you want to spend an hour just smelling the wine, searching for every nuanced aroma you can find.

Don't do that, you'd be depriving yourself of something sublime. Take a sip! Feel the velvety ripeness slide into your arms and whisper words like "plum, spice, minerals". In your arms, feel the curves in all the right places, making you want to hug this wine closer to feel its embrace on a deeper level. But wait, here comes something slinky, equally seductive yet leaner, more focused. Your palate can't help but notice acidity and the way she gracefully slides between you and ripeness. Every part of your palate tingles with her presence, yet she too is fleeting. While you sit and ponder what's happening, she slides away and there's nothing you can do about it beyond admire the elegance and grace with which she recedes from view.

So you sip again, once more you experience something wonderful, a wine with soul. There's beauty here, an expression of a grape manifesting as an event. The synergy between emotion and consumption reminds us that  wine does hold a special meaning in our hearts.

Beau Carufel

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chilean Syrah and Pinot Noir Come to the Party in a Big Way!

Last night I took part in a tasting of Chilean cool climate red wines consisting of four syrahs and four pinot noirs. I posted a quick preview of the tasting here, before it got started. Today I'm recapping each of the wines I tasted and highlighting the ones I recommend you seek out. I'll also talk a bit about how the format went and where I think it can be improved upon for next time.

Instead of tasting with my usual crew, the (in)famous San Diego Wine Mafia, I figured I'd give them a break from my obscure tasting note references and host some friends at my place. I was able to bribe (free wine) my mom into cooking up some awesome food including fried pork chops in a port reduction glaze and an orzo-herb salad. My friend Beth came over and sauteed up some sliced portobellos sauteed in myrtleberry chutney. We also had an assortment of cheeses, a Mancego, Port Salut, and an aged Gouda.

1. 2009 Valdivieso Reserve Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley -- Beautiful light ruby color, nice clarity. Bouquet of mixed sour cherry and strawberry. some vegetal aromas, spice and smoky wood. touch of heat but it's barely there. all the aromas flow from one to the next very nicely in a linear manner. spicy cranberry and zippy acidity were the first two things i noticed when i sipped the wine. I could feel acid all over my palate, giving the wine a lighter feel. there is a core of ripe fruit mixed with earth and smoke that i do like, however the near-effervescence is distracting to me. Hard to ilke this wine right now. B- $17

2. 2009 Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley -- Much darker than the first wine, closer to a Mendocino County zinfandel or California syrah. That intrigues me, I wonder how different the bouquet and flavors will be. Way more vegetal on the nose, black cherries and a plastic scent, smells like a hospital oxygen mask. The green scent overpowers most everything else though, however I can get a bare hint of dusty earth too. Much softer acidity and spices than the Valdiviseo and no green vegetal flavors at all. More round mouthfeel, spices, baking chocolate, chalk, black cherries. I like the mouthfeel a lot actually, would gladly have a glass of this with some food. B $20 **Smart Buy**

3. 2009 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley -- Very dark for a pinot noir, closer to a syrah-based northern Rhone wine. Smells like a funky Burgundy right off the bat. Also getting the quickest hit of red licorice and fennel. The funk is great, balanced by a sweet red fruit component. Much softer than the first two but with almots a white pepper heat in the background. Good complexity. Ripe red cherry, oak, spices, earth all playing nicely in the sandbox. Well done! B $20 **Smart Buy**

4. 2008 Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley -- Very nice garnet color, excellent clarity through the glass. Gorgeous bouquet! Candied cherry, teriyaki, dark chocolate, and smoke are all wafting out of my freshly swirled glass. Absolutely amazing. Granted for $65, it better be. Graceful approach that turns into the taste of sour cherry gummy worms, campfire and baking spice. The tannins are very approachable right now, framing the wine beautifully. Very, very high quality finish too, it goes on and on, gently tapering off after many seconds. Superb juice. B+/A- $65 **Recommended**

5. 2009 Tamaya Reserva Syrah Limari Valley -- Last night I referred to this wine as "fresh Krispy Kreme donut drenched in blueberry jam". Today as I stare at the color, an opaque purple, I wonder if the same thing will be true. To an extent, yes the blueberry and sweet aromas are still there but they have been supplemented by ripe blackberries and dark chocolate along with a bramble component leading into some alcoholic heat. This is a big wine, right off the bat it has spice, fine grained tannin, hints of leather and tobacco along with a crushed pepper flavor dancing around the fruits clapping along to the beat. While I can smell the 3% viognier in here, I cannot taste it save for what might be right on hte finish, a slight oily twist. The Tamaya is begging for fire roasted beef and grilled vegetables. B $17

6. 2006 Loma Larga Syrah Casablanca Valley -- I can't see through this dark purple concoction in my glass, wow! Smells like vanilla, fresh baked pastry and black pepper. Something fruity too, dark and ripe like a black cherry on a hot day. Earth and bittersweet chocolate are there but a little difficult to detect for my nose. Loads of meaty goodness are the first thing I taste, followed by more black pepper, forest fire mixed with dirt, and some nicely grippy tannins that help keep all those flavor elements in check. I wish for a bit more carry-through from the grapey fruit flavors, they seem to get covered up by the dirty wood smoke taste. This is perhaps a bit more rustic than I anticipated but it has it's charm, perhaps because of that. B- $30

7. 2009 Undurraga "Terroir Hunter" Syrah Leyda Valley -- The Undurraga looks lighter than the Loma Larga, a bit more of a bright purple than a darker, brooding purple. Here we go with ripe berries and cream, this reminds me a little of the Tamaya's nose from last night. There are more berry scents here though, blackberry, boysenberry and the like. More of the green pepper or green bean aromas are coming out as well. Even a hint of black cherry candy, very interesting! I was struck by the softness with which the Undurraga announces its prescence, nothing loud or overbearing. Hints of cinnamon and oak, chocolate, firm tannins and a streak of acidity that keeps the wine lively. I get the feeling that this saw enough time in oak to mellow out that acid but still keep the tannins from being too soft. B $25 **Smart Buy**

8. 2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah Lolol Valley -- Very dark but appropriately so, this is syrah and looks like it. Sweet ripe fruit dominate, like a jar of mixed berry preserves next to some Balsamic vinegar. Again more of the hospital oxygen mask smell, easy to spot but hard to describe. Baked graham cracker crust is a cool new thing I rarely get from syrah. I was assaulted by loads of peppery spice and alcohol when I sipped and swished the Araucano, not quite a pleasant sensation. Despite that, I found good drying tannins, ripe black fruit and dusty earth notes. All very pleasant if my palate wasn't still reeling from the cudgel of pepper and booze that beat it into submission on the first sip. B- $14

A couple of things to bear in mind after you read through the reviews, each price is the suggested retail price, and I know the wines can be found for less. Also, I was told that all of these wines have nationwide distribution, the best place to start looking is and I've linked each winery website in the name, so you can search there to find a distributor list, if necessary.

After the tasting I used WineSave, so theoretically each wine was completely preserved until I pulled the corks today to re-taste. Trying to objectively taste, follow a chatroom, entertain guests, spit, tweet, and eat was just too many things to do last night. In the future I recommend the Wines of Chile people use a site like Tastelive so that our chat messages can be tweeted with a hashtag, saving us from having bounce between checking Twitter and the chatroom.

So to wrap this blog post up, I offer a few final thoughts. Each wine was well made and indicative of quality fruit. The styles varied widely, which helped me (and my palate) get a handle on what Chile is doing with syrah and pinot noir.

The ones I mentioned as smart buys are what I'd buy and enjoy. That doesn't mean the others were bad, just an indication of my palate preferences. Each is worthy of purchase and of enjoying a glass or two after a long day. Some though are going to be much better when accompanied by food, which I suspect might have been the goal of the respective winemakers. For example, a juicy steak or cheeseburger would pair wonderfully with any of the eight wines I tasted. The pinot noirs would be also wonderful with lamb and pork, while the syrah begged for venison, bison, or anything earthy and rich. This was the first Wines of Chile tasting that I was invited to and I had a great time, the blogger kits were extraordinarily well assembled and the wines were consistently good to excellent. I hope to be invited to more because as shown last night, Chile is producing wines that are on par with the best of the rest.

I was provided with these wines as a member of the press by The Thomas Collective for Wines of Chile

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wines of Chile Live Tasting - Preview!

Tonight is the Wines of Chile tasting, featuring eight red wines from all over the country. The event was organized by the Wines of Chile organization via The Thomas Collective of New York. You can follow along using the hashtag #ChileReds and the twitter account DrinkChile. A group of wine bloggers was each sent a tasting kit containing the wines and their tech sheets, background information on Chile, and some neat recipes to pair with each wine. The wines included in the tasting kit were:

1. 2009 Valdivieso Reserve Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley
2. 2009 Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley
3. 2009 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley
4. 2008 Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley
5. 2009 Tamaya Reserva Syrah Limari Valley
6. 2006 Loma Larga Syrah Casablanca Valley
7. 2009 Undurraga "Terroir Hunter" Syrah Leyda Valley
8. 2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah Lolol Valley

The "leader" of the tasting will be Fred Dexheimer, a Master Sommelier and founder of Juiceman Consulting, also based in New York. His involvement tonight stems from his work as an educator/consultant for the Wines of Chile program. Also joining in will be Matias Rios Langevin from Cono Sur.

Along with the Chilean wines, I've gone ahead and cooked up a few dishes (with the assistance of my Mom, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef) including an Orzo & French Lentil salad with fresh herbs, pork chops with myrtleberry chutney, and my friend Beth is bringing over some mushrooms to sautee in butter and herbs.

While I have no idea how many bloggers are taking part, last time I did a Chilean wine online tasting, a lot of people "showed up" and we had a lively discussion. Tonight will be no different, I suspect. The tasting starts in about an hour and I know that I can't wait to get started. While opening each wine, I may or may not have taken the opportunity to sniff each bottle repeatedly, as a result I'm very excited. The aromas ran the gamut from barnyard, gamey notes in one of the syrahs to fresh crushed summer berries in a pinot noir.

 My experience with Chilean wines has been at either the very low end of the price spectrum with wines like Casillero del Diablo or at the top end with amazing wine like the Concha y Toro Don Melchor. Being able to taste through this mid to upper tier group of wines will help me learn a lot more about what Chile is capable of and more so, what Chile is bringing to market right now. All the wines are pretty widely available, evidence of a good job by the Wines of Chile group. After the tasting, I'll be assembling my tasting notes and more pictures to present a comprehensive overview of what I tasted and what I recommend you go out and buy. Stay tuned!!

Beau Carufel

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Soave Sipping Soliloquy

Yea, how about that title! It's one that certainly feels apt, from time to time.

But enough about me. This past February I was contacted about some samples of Soave and a new campaign designed to increase awareness of the wine here in the United States. For those of you who don't know Soave, fear not, because it's easily explained and easy to remember. Soave, like Chianti or Barolo, refers to a place versus a grape type. High up in the northeast of Italy, close to the cities of Verona and Venice, lies the province of Soave.

For a long time, if you bought a Soave in a supermarket or even a wine shop, you'd get a fairly neutral, slightly acidic white wine. I have tasted some examples over my career yet none have ever stood out and perhaps more importantly, the wines of Soave are not at the top of my wine consciousness. Given that my experience and feelings towards Soave wines are typical of most wine drinkers, it's no surprise the Soave Consortium seeks to educate and arouse interest in the American market.

As we've established, there is no grape called Soave, rather, the grape is garganega. Should you happen to be intent on joining the Wine Century Club, tasting a Soave will definitely get you one varietal closer to the magic number. Not all Soave must be 100% garganega though, and winemakers are increasingly using chardonnay and trebbiano in their wines to add body, texture and additional flavors.

Now that I have covered the basics, and believe me the stuff I just wrote was a very topical view on Soave, let's get to tasting the two wines the Soave Consortium were kind enough to send my way. One last quick note, I tasted both wines at about 55 degrees, warmer than your refrigerator. When you have wines like Soave, I'd recommend chilling them more than this when just enjoying them instead of evaluating them. The near-room-temperature tasting allows me to get a truer sense of acidity and flavor composition than if the wines were straight from my fridge.

2009 Re Midas Soave

100% garganega and coming in at 12% alcohol, the Re Midas Soave pours as a pale yellow color with nice clarity. I was reminded of some New Zealand sauvignon blancs, color-wise. With that observation complete, I gave the wine a bit of a swirl and put my nose to the glass to see what Re Midas was saying. Immediately, sweet flowers and lemongrass notes along with a nice vegetal component told me a lot about the wine. The Re Midas is one of those food-friendly white wines that will pair well with light pasta salads, seafood and citrus-themed chicken dishes. The mouthfeel was soft and lush on the front palate, smoothly transitioning through lemon zest, fuji apples, and toasted almond. Just when I thought the wine was going to stop too quickly, the acidity eased the finish into a gradual, drawn out embrace with my palate. I was impressed considering the Re Midas is available for about $10 and even less in some places. Click here to check out  to see if it's available in your area. Gary Vaynerchuck said this about the Re Midas. Me, I give it a B and a STRONG BUY recommendation. This is a superb way to explore white varietals a bit more as well as pick up a great springtime sipper.

2009 Fattori Motto Piane Soave

This is the next bottle of Soave that I tasted, a more expensive, by a few dollars, example. Pouring it into my glass revealed a much more intense straw color, reminiscent of some Oregon chardonnays I've tasted. The 2009 Fattori Motto Piane also brings the heat, clocking in at 14% alcohol. This was disappointing because as frequent readers know, I am firmly in favor of lower alcohol levels in wine. Heck, you rarely see even California chardonnays come in at 14% abv! Sweet flavors dominated the nose, I was reminded of pineapple and peach juice mixed together, with a bit of citrus from a ruby grapefruit. In fact, the Motto Piave felt heavier even as I smelled it. There were hints of herbs dancing around the edges too, the kind you would expect to find in an Italian kitchen. When I tasted the Fattori, the balance between the typical oily character of Soave and this example's fine acidity was great. Each half of the flavor spectrum contributed, with the oily part giving lots of ripe summer fruit and unfortunately some alcohol burn too. The acidity did keep the mouthfeel fresh and lively, tempering the flavors and allowing for a gradually tapering finish like in the Re Midas. There was a neat yeasty flavor along with the toasted almond butter right at the end, something not often found in domestic wines. My only knock is the alcohol, there was a noticeable burn at the back of my throat. I gave this a B- and still do recommend it, just be sure to pair it with food. I'd recommend a marinated, seared piece of tuna or swordfish.

So, to wrap up my first foray into Soave, I was sent two good wines at great prices. If this is an indicator of the quality coming out of Soave these days, I think we as consumers would be wise to start asking out local wine merchants for them. Both wines ended up pairing very well with the fish tacos, but the Re Midas had a bit more acidity, cutting through the richness of the fish and sauce. With more acidic dishes I can see the Motto Piane pairing beautifully. I was told both wines are available in the United States, which is a good start. Ideally of course, we'd see nationwide distribution, but is a good place to start. Also, check out the Soave Consortium's facebook page and their blog. Both are great ways to get in touch and see if there are any upcoming events in your area, as well as where to buy these wines.

These wines were sent as media samples by the Soave Consortium

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

(Wine) Writer's Block and A Possible Cure

Lately I seem to have developed a case of writer's block. Why, I do not know. My wine consumption has stopped for the past few weeks due to a gastrointestinal illness, so that means nothing gets tasted and shared with you. Of course there are other topics to write about, especially in the wine world. The catch is whether I want to write about them.

Some might think that I should want to write about these subjects, to an extent you are correct. However, I strive to be original in my writing, whether it's my take on a wine or my opinions on wine marketing. Therefore, and I feel this is or should be true of all writers, I ask myself what can I add to the the discussion on a particular topic. If I think all the voices have already summed up what needs to be said, why rehash what someone else posted? I don't see that as adding value for my readers or quality content to my blog.

Writing about wine, be it a blog or real life publication takes a certain amount of passion and devotion. Adhering to a regular posting schedule is a wonderful way to get noticed and (hopefully) gain loyal followers/readers. Unfortunately, over the past few weeks I've felt a distinct cooling of the passion I have for wine and wine writing. Mostly attributable to the illness and diet I've been on, forbidding alcohol, spicy foods, coffee, etc. In other words, forbidding all the fun stuff. My point is that I've felt a distinct lack of joie de vire because I cannot enjoy wine right now.

As I thought about what I wanted to write tonight, I also asked myself if I truly enjoy wine these days or if I have started to analytically examine every glass I have. It's important to remind ourselves to put the pen and paper or iPad away for a moment and just sip the juice in the glass. Yes, most or all of the good wine writers are able to do this, of that I have no doubt. Yet for a relative novice like myself, getting caught up in exploring a wine sometimes becomes too much of an obsession. Sure I derive immense enjoyment from excitedly teasing out a subtle nuance, assigning it context, and explaining it to my readers. What I forget to do is sniff, take a sip, close my eyes and just enjoy the contact between wine and palate. I've gotten away from letting the wine wash over me, sharing with me whatever it wants. Yes, I am humanizing my wine and for good reason, I feel as if my life is intertwined with wine. From literally growing up in the business as the son of a wholesaler/broker/distributor here in San Diego to discovering (still discovering) my passion, wine is a part of who I am.

There's more to life than tasting notes and assigning grades. Maybe that is a simplistic realization for you, nothing wrong with that sentiment. For me, it's a reminder of something I already know yet still forget from time to time. Putting it here helps me center myself, so to speak. In the next month or so I have some exciting articles planned. There's an awesome Chilean wine tasting next week that I'll be hosting at my place, a review of some superb wines from Ceja Vineyards, a book review, and right around Easter, a dessert wine tasting. It's my hope those will fan the flames of my passion for writing once more. Maybe this blog was more for me than anything, a way to sort out my thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Beau Carufel

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Long Awaited San Diego Wine Mafia Rosé Rumble Recap!

It's been a while since we, the SDWM (San Diego Wine Mafia), tasted through a fun lineup of rosé's. Unfortunately I got a bit sidetracked with other projects and this recap-post was put off for too long. I'll be highlighting some delicious rosé's that we tasted, and since spring is approaching quickly, that means the weather is becoming far more conducive to drinking this type of wine. For us rosé lovers though, any time is a good time to drink it.

The 12 bottles were put into brown paper bags and numbered before most of the San Diego Wine Mafia arrived at the Secret Lair. Obviously, we wanted to keep the tasting "blind". I knew only that we were tasting some rosé's and that some were going to have bubbles. Data pertaining to location, varietal composition, pricing and other factors weren't made known until the bottles were unveiled. My tasting notes are below and I noted the name of each only after the came out of the bag. Looking back I think a better idea would have been to avoid the sparkling rosé's entirely this time around. Perhaps next time we'll do only still wines or only sparkling wines. I'd like to taste more examples as the seasons continue to change, so stay tuned for the next rosé installment, hopefully this June.

*Note* This is the order randomly put together at the tasting, of which I had no say in the matter...

#1. Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava - Ripe strawberries, nice bubbly texture, some kind of ashy note though? Maybe it's just me but I cant get into it too much. C+. $7 SRP.

#2. Valdo Nerello Mascalese Brut Rosé - Sweet, almost Brachetto-like? Some acidity comes through, and I like how my palate is cleansed on the finish. Not too bad at all, after that first hit of sweetness. C+ $13 SRP. 12% abv.

#3. Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé by Cornerstone Cellars - Good color, nice balance of sweet and tart on the nose..hints of residual sugar on the finish but also a nice balance with acidity creating a refreshing sensation. Everyone kept saying they could detect melon, for me this wine was all sliced sour cherries and strawberries. B- $16. 13.1% abv.

#4. Pink Girl Rose - Dry cheese, like a sour or bitter Swiss or something? Weird and unexpected nose. Doesn't grab me and I question whether or not it's actually got some bottle shock going on or some bottle instability? **Upon reviewing the notes, I think there might have been acetic acid present, hence the bitter cheese smell**  Not rated. $18 SRP, 14.1% ABV

#5. Garrineau Rosé Bordeaux - Raspberry sorbet on the nose, beautiful. I love the acidity that washes across my palate, cleansing it off and getting me ready for that next bite of food. If I had to guess, this would be from France, Provence even. (Note that I was pleased to find out it was from Bordeaux) Maybe northern California but someplace cooler up in that area? B $10 SRP

#6. Charity Case Rosé - Higher residual sugar than any of the previous rosé's? Tastes like a rosé of a noble varietal, like merlot or syrah. Fairly beefy/meaty, sweet cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Tasting and smelling very light, this might be better if it was colder. B-. $12 SRP. 13.5% ABV

#7. Banfi Brachetto Rosa Regale - Or any Brachetto? Not for me. But if you like Brachetto you will love this. Too sweet, desperately needs to be paired with a dessert, hard to sip on it's own. I guess I just prefer my wines drier. Loaded with raspberry and sweet strawberry. Soft, round bubbles and some delicate acidity. B- $25 SRP. 7% abv.

#8. Penman Springs Paso Robles - So far I really like this, nicely acidic, what I want from a rosé. Balanced lightness with fruit flavors and flower petals. Very crisp and clean. Up to this point, the best of the bunch for my palate. I hope it's from France. B+ $15 SRP.

#9. Mushal Rose of Merlot - Sweet but tart, good contrasts! Dried flower petals, hints of fresh sliced fruit (melons). I want to say domestic OR Spanish. A bit heavy on the residual sugar but still, if it's cheap enough, good juice and a lot of fun to drink. B. $20. 14.1% abv.

#10. Not rated, horrible stuff. I suspect volatile acidity caused the wine to go bad.

#11. Blenheim Vineyards Rose Virginia - Good, bracing acidity. Dried flower petals, smells like France. Romantic, classy juice. Beautiful tart berry makes your lips pucker with pleasure. B+ $19.

My notes are rough and mostly unedited because I tend to type very quickly as I taste wines in order to capture as accurately as possible what my brain is telling me right that instant. Later, I go back and fill in the blanks, so to speak. Out of all the rosé examples, only two thoroughly impressed me and both were domestic. Even more surprising was the Blenheim Vineyards rosé because it's from a state not yet very well known for wine. While Virginia has a small, passionate group of people making and promoting their wines, the West Coast doesn't see much exposure. Hopefully this will change over the next few years though, I know that as a blogger I would love to taste through some more Virginia wine.

In the near future for me, a book review, a wine-preserver review and we explore Soave! Also some delicious wines from Ceja Vineyards will be gracing my palate. Further along, a wonderful dessert wine tasting is coming up on the 23rd of this month.

My contribution, the Mushal rosé was a media sample kindly provided by the winery.

Beau Carufel