Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Is A Good Wine?

At a recent meeting of my book club, the hostess served an inexpensive wine that had won an award during a blind tasting at the California State Fair.

There are so many awards that are given in judging wines, that if every producer was to enter every contest, most would win an award. It is a subjective subject.

So what is a good wine? It is the one that is in your glass!

Anal Wine Retention

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, might have included a burgeoning anal compulsion for cataloging/tracking your wine stash, in his famous stages of development.

Now that our wine cellar/refrigerator is near it's 100 bottle capacity, I have researched a couple of sites:

They each have their own unique characteristics. But, if your stash is growing, you need help tracking what you have, what you need to buy and what you have drank or gifted, without having to re-invent the wheel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is It Just John's Imagination?

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of men,
imagine all the people
sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
and the world will live as one..

Monday, September 24, 2007

Turn, Turn, Turn

Due to the drought, the maple trees in our area are turning yellow and then just falling off in the recent high winds.

I miss the brilliant orange and reds that we used to see years ago. Scary stuff, this climate change and I will probably live long enough to see lots more.

Is it too late to turn back the changes? Just take a few common habits and turn them green. Replace a bulb, use less paper products, drive smarter and grow more native plants to conserve water.

Green has always been my favorite color, now I know why.

To Every Thing, There Is A Season

Fall is my favorite season. The colorful leaves, bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds, sunny days and crisp nights make my soul sing.

Even though the riotious color signals the end of growth and death to some plants, what a glorious way to go!

When I leave this world, I want to go out in a similar blaze of glory. I hope to leave people I have known and loved, touched.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Glorious and Festive Fall Wines

The leaves are changing color and soon the weather will become cooler. Hearty meals of soups, stews, pastas and casseroles require substantial wines. Consider some of these choices.

Merlot possesses luscious and succulent ripe cherry, plum and chocolate qualities that are a silky complement to chicken or turkey or "red meat" fish like salmon and tuna.

Tempranillo is a delicious, all-purpose red that is peppery and earthy. It is packed with dark berry flavors with ripe tannins that can be enjoyed alone or with anything you put on the table.

"Food-friendly" and "crowd-pleasing" are also descriptors for the next red wine. Sangiovese is the grape known predominantly in many Chiantis. It is a medium-bodied wine with dusty violet aromas and bright cherry or raspberry flavors. These wines are best matched with pastas, red meats, wild game and vegetables that are roasted or grilled with olive oil, herbs and garlic.

Cabernet Sauvignon has hints of bell pepper, currant, plum and black cherry flavors. It pairs well with marbeled red meats, lamb, duck or sausage as the fats in the protein will cut through the more agressive tannins.

Cabernet Franc is a grape variety first grown in France's Loire Valley. It has an intense floral aroma that is seductive. Rich, dense and velvety with currant and berry notes, it has polished tannins. Serve with pork tenderloin, herbed poultry, rich pastas and ham.

Malbec is the signature grape of Argentina and is planted high in the Andes at elevations that would give other varieties nosebleeds. In the sun-drenched days and cool nights these grapes develop dark color and flavor while maintaining acidity. Try it with grilled meats.

Syrah will typically have hints of licorice and anise when grown in warmer climates and be more peppery in cooler regions. It goes well with hearty red meat dishes and venison.

Zinfandel has a heady bouquet of new leather, violets and licorice, intense boysenberry and blueberry. It's a hit with BBQ ribs, meat loaf, roast turkey or chili.

When the weather changes, be ready. Have a sweater, a pot of chili and a hearty red wine on hand.


Yesterday's rain brought TWO much needed inches of rain. You could hear the growing things and woodland animals sigh with relief.

What are some words used to describe taking a drink? How about gulp, sip, slurp, swallow, swig, glug or imbibe.

Just remember to be responsible.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty 'Hi-yo Silver!'

This reference from the radio and TV show, The Lone Ranger, came to mind after enjoying our first Rhone wine. I now understand why West Coast vintners, calling themselves the Rhone Rangers, organized in 1988 and are committed to the types of grapes borne out of France’s Rhone Valley.

From Washington State down to Santa Barbara, there is an endless array of climates and geography for adventureous viticulturists. They insist their wines pair better with food, and many are making more affordable vintages. The Rhone tradition dictates far less use of new oak barrels, so the woodiness in much of the American cabernets doesn’t extend to these Rhone-style efforts. Tannins are mellow, so the wines feel more inviting in your mouth. It is, perhaps, the beginning of a new style.

With 40 or more varietals, Syrah and Grenache lead the reds, but Mourvedre and Carignane hold their own and add spice and depth to blends. Viognier is the most popular of the whites while Marsanne and Rousanne also shine.

Last night we paired a non-vintage bottle of Louis Bernard Cotes du Ventoux with a hearty paprika chicken stew with pieroges. Delish! It was a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and the peppery qualities of the Syrah were evident but the blend was earthy and "smooth as butta".

In France, the Rhone is actually two regions. The 4,000-acre northern Rhone relies primarily on Syrah for its reds and Viognier for its whites, encompassing famed appellations like Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. The 120,000-acre southern Rhone blends Grenache with other reds, and Roussanne with other whites; and is home to the ever-famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The appellation of Cotes du Ventoux is situated in the southeastern fringes of the southern Rhone Valley between Coteaux du Tricastin and the Cotes du Luberon. Perched on the southwestern side of Mount Ventoux, the vines grow in a typical Mediterranean climate. The vineyards have been cultivated for more than two millennia, making them among France's oldest.

So,who are these masked men? To find out more about the Rhone Rangers, visit their site at

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Do You Need Glasses?

Wine connoisseurs are the first to tell you that having the right type of wine glass with a specific type of wine will make it taste better. As a rule of thumb, different wine should be served in specific wine glasses to achieve the best effect of the wine and all its flavors and aromas. If you have space, I recommend having three distinct shapes in your collection.

Most red varietals usually taste better in a fairly large, elongated and somewhat narrower bowls that will focus their characteristics. Narrower wine glasses are used for lighter white wines as a way to concentrate the "delicate aromas".

You want to make sure that you fill your wine glass about 1/3 to 1/2 full. This allows the "bouquet" to be captured in the upper bowl as it rises when the wine is swirled. Red wine glasses can be held under the bowl since red wine is served at room temperature and this shouldn't affect the taste of the wine but with white wines that are served chilled, always hold them from the stem so that your body heat doesn't warm them.

You also want to look for wine glasses that have a "cut" rim rather than a "rolled or bumped" rim. A "cut" rim lets the wine pour evenly onto your tongue so you get the full effect of the wine. The best wine glass brands are Riedel, Spiegelau, Libbey, Mikasa, Lenox, and Bodum.

Marie Antoinette decided to combine her love of herself and her love of a good party and came up with the idea of casting a wax mold of her breasts. This she had made into a glass, and “Viola!” – the champagne glass was formed. This "D"cup shape disperses bubbles quickly so for Champagnes and sparkling wines, a simple, tall, narrow flute is preferred.

If space is an issue, a tuliped shaped glass is the most versatile. Or if you prefer a more casual trattoria type glass, Riedel has a new line called the Tyrol which takes their popular "O" series and places them on a pedestal.

Most experts suggest washing your glasses in warm water with a neutral soap. Then rinse the heck out of the glass. Soap residue left on your wine glass will interfere with the flavor and aroma of wine. Either air dry or use a scent and lint free drying cloth.

So, Do You Need New Glasses?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Open To Negotiation?

The French term "negoçiant," poorly translates into English as "shipper". They are a middleman company that purchases grapes or grape juice from individual producers, then finishes the wine in its own cellars, then bottles and distributes it usually under their label.

In general, these wines tend to earn less respect than wines grown, produced and bottled by the wine maker whose labels will say "estate-bottled" or, in France, "mise en bouteilles au chateau".

But in Burgundy in particular, where most vineyards are subdivided into a fiendishly complicated jigsaw puzzle of tiny plots - the heritage of Napoleonic land redistribution and inheritance issues - the negoçiant system became a logical way to handle the output of vineyards too tiny to support individual wine producers.

Some of the best, and best-known, Burgundy producers are primarily négociants—including Jadot, Drouhin, and Bouchard Père & Fils. However, many New World wineries also employ a middleman.

Feel free to negotiate.

Hungary? How about turkey chile?

No, it is not that I can’t spell correctly or that the weather is getting cooler. These are three distinct wine regions unfamiliar to most people.

The land of Hungary has a climate and a wide variety of soil types that have made it a wine making region going back to the Celts in the 3rd century A.D. The Romans brought the first vine-shoots to the fertile land of the Carpathian Basin and they established vineyards. In the 16th century, the Tokaj region planted aszu grapes that were prone to botrytis. They were harvested later, producing the sweet white wines for which the region is still renowned. We tried a 2006 Donausonne from the Blaufrankisch grape, which is known for its peppery character. It was a sweet, extremely aromatic pale red wine with 11% alcohol. Although not my choice for sipping, it may pair well with authentic dishes that are flavorful, spicy with lots of paprika and garlic and often rather heavy.

Turkey was the center of ancient wine tradition. In its hilly landscape, a multitude of vines flourish. The best whites are from the vines of Hasandede, Narince and Emir. Some of the wine regions are the Aegean Sea Costal Region, East Anatolia, South Anatolia and Ankara. The best wines come from the Yakut, the Dikmen and most notably, a red wine from Kavaklidere.

The wine lands of Chile are located in the center of the country, stretching 250 miles north and 350 miles south of the capital city of Santiago. Chile’s fine wine production lies in the heart of this lengthy expanse in the Aconcagua and Central Valleys.

Chile was explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century and was introduced to wine culture by the importation of the Mission grape, a vinifera vine that followed the church during the early days of colonization. In Chile, this grape is called the País. There is not an indigenous grape but two varieties are widely grown, Sauvignon Vert, a less-aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc, and much of what was thought to be Merlot is actually Carmenere, a grape variety that once played a significant role in the red Bordeaux blend. The nose has aromas of musk, berry jam with a hint of vanilla. The palate is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with lovely sweet oak. Some of the top Chilean wine producers are: Concha y Toro, Veremonte, Montes, Santa Rita, Los Vascos and Carmen.

So, what wine would you drink with your turkey chili?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Would you drink a glass of Fat Bastard? Cook with a little Marilyn Merlot? How about drinking some Screw Kappa Nappa at your next college reunion? Wine labels, once dominated by fancy verbiage, have gone from frumpy to funky. But, playing the name game can be tricky. To see more unique labels, visit this site:

Although it is fun to buy a wine with an interesting label, learning some label lingo can arm you with the tools to make you a savvy consumer.

Labels all provide the same general information, with only minor differences in format and content. You will find the wine maker or winery, the appellation (which is the country or region where the grapes for this wine were grown), the vintage, the grape variety, and for foreign wines, the national regulations. German wines, for example, carry an "Amptliche Prüfungs Nummer (AP Number)," the serial number it received during official testing. French wines may carry their ranking from traditional classifications (such as "Cru Bourgeois" on a Bordeaux). Wine labels also carry small print disclosing the wine's approximate alcoholic content and the size of the bottle, as highlighted on the Spanish and U.S. wine labels.

Learn a new language today, read a wine label.