Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cheap Wine Can Be Scary

Everyone likes a bargain, me especially. However, when it comes to inexpensive wine, there seems to be a lot more misses than hits.

Within the vineyard, the vine leaves should be thinned to allow more sun onto the fruit. Yields are reduced by "green harvesting", that is, removing surplus grape clusters to allow the energy of the vine to concentrate on the remaining bunches. The aim is to achieve low yields to intensify the flavor. (It has got to be hard to see tons of your profits left to rot on the ground!)

Rather than gather the grapes at the "official" start of the harvest, they are left to hang and are tasted regularly to ensure that they are physiologically ripe when picked. This ensures the fruit has no harsh tannins or bitter elements, but has plenty of natural sugar.

Not all producers follow these practices and the result is overcropping. It is often associated with irrigation, when vineyards have large yields of under-ripe grapes, and produce generic table wine.

Life is too short to drink boring wine. An enjoyable wine should be balanced, interesting and most of all, food-friendly.

An E-book called "Fool-Proof Wine Values" incorporates the results of extensive tastings into a useful consumer guide, featuring reports on 147 inexpensive wines from 44 producers that meet a tough criteria:

• Taste like wines priced in the $20 to $50 range
• Cost $10 or less
• Deliver consistent quality year after year
• Are readily available at wine shops in the U.S.

It sells for $19, with a 100 percent, 60-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. Itr can be downloaded at:

Enjoy some BOO-TI-FUL and inexpensive wine tonight!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Never Put A Price On A Good Time

These were the wise words of Kim Hahn, a co-worker of Glenn's who passed away many years ago at far too young of an age.

This last weekend, we took a trip to South Dakota to pheasant hunt with Glenn's brother and nephew. The weather stayed dry but was very windy, the birds were more plentiful than in Minnesota, but, best of all, the memories will stay with us a long time.

Each time is different because of where we stay, what we eat and drink and what we do with our non-hunting time. As much as we want to re-create a specific hunt, each is unique.

That is also why I have decided not to post a fee schedule for my private wine tastings on the website. After talking with the prospective client and determining their expectations, I will try to do my best to fulfill them and still make a little money.

So, if you think that adding a private wine tasting to your next gathering will be costly, you may be surprised. Let's talk, share ideas and make some memories. The experience of good food and wine are enhanced by sharing with others.

Monday, October 29, 2007

That' s Entertainment!

What do you do for fun? And, is it better if you share it with others?

Most of my hobbies can be enjoyed alone but I much prefer sharing the experience. A good book that needs a lively discussion, the movie that everyone liked for different reasons, the soup or sauce pot that needs more spice and some stirring, the walk where you all spot the young buck or bird at the same time, and the opening of a bottle of wine where each person smells or tastes something different.

The Chinese have an ancient philosophy of guanxi which has to do with relationships and caring for one another. They believe that shared experiences enhance lives.

Give it a try. Make a meal together, watch a movie, take a walk and remember to savor life.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Willkommen, Bienvenue, Fáilte, to those of you who share the same ethnic background as myself. (Mainly German, French and Irish)

Bienvenidos, Velkomen, Benvenuti, Aloha mai, Selamat datang (the last is a greeting in Malay for Wendy, whom I can hardly wait to be my nephew's wife!) Welcome to all!

I hope that some of you have ended up on this wine blog by way of my new website. As I am not a professional wine writer, nor a website design master, I hope you will overlook the simplicity of my sites and instead focus on their contents.

Since last February, I have been writing random thoughts on this blog from my own wine tastings, wine making information basics, grape varietal highlights and other musings. Before dismissing the blog entries outright, please review any older posts that might interest you.

My hope is that you will find a new fun fact, a wine to look for next time you are shopping or just a glimpse into what has been my grape stained journey.

Evolution Redux

John Updike has nothing on this wine from the Sokol Blosser Winery in Dundee, OR.

Last night we opened the 11th edition of Evolution. It is a blend of 9 different grape varietals that has an enticing tropical aroma. We expected the flavors to mirror this bouquet but found a medium bodied, semi-dry wine with a crisp finish. The alcohol listed was 12% and we knew that the 10-12% range made the wine more food friendly.

Having heard and read about this wine, I was excited to finally find and try it for myself. We paired it with a chicken, vegetable and cheese pie that used brown rice for the crust. What a winning combination!

The label suggests that you chill, pour, sip and then chill (as in chill out). We took their advice.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vaynaic Cab Update

The daily progress reports on the harvest, inoculation and fermentation temperatures from the San Francisco Crushpad location have been detailed and informative.

This past week, Gary Vaynerchuck of WLTV, the original Vaynaic, spent time sorting fruit, learning about yeast and inoculating juice. The great thing is he had some "real-time" input via a computer monitor from those vaynaics unable to make the trip.

Check out this video showing the birth of the 2007 Vaynaic Napa Cabernet.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Today, I launched my website, I hope to book some local private tastings, lead "surfers' to this blog and pursue my passion through this medium.

As a newbie, it took me most of last night to figure out the design and how much "free" broadband capacity was available.

Ready to liven up your next gathering? Consider a private wine tasting.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Last night, our wine club met and discussed Greek wines. Since 1600 BC, the Greeks have been making wines from over 300 indigenous varieties. They have enjoyed wine with food and family and have used it for trade.

Wine's evolution is an interesting history lesson, but our wine club is proving to be "one for the books!" The most novice member was the most prepared for our discussion. He had thoroughly researched, found phonetic pronunciations for difficult varieties and regions and although his palate is still evolving, he gave me great hope for the future of this club.

Embracing new things and sharing a common interest is a good equation for growth.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This Will Get A Rise Out Of You!

Yeast is the catalyst for fermentation in wine production. A member of the fungi kingdom, this single-celled organism feeds off sugars, like glucose, that are present in grapes and produces alcohol and CO2 as by-products of this process. In addition to creating alcohol, yeast strains can influence the aroma and flavor of wine.

There are many strains of wild or “native” yeast present on the grapes as they come from the vineyard. Wild yeasts found on grape skins can produce unwelcome off odors when they ferment and can stop fermenting at 6-9% alcohol leaving lots of unfermented glucose in an unstable, easy to spoil wine. However, Pinot noir and Syrah grapes like to start fermenting with native yeasts and then the wine maker uses a large amount of cultured yeast near the end to ensure a complete fermentation.

Alternatively, the wine maker can choose to use commercial cultured yeast that has been proven to have specific results in the finished wine. Proponents of cultured yeast strains point to a stronger, steady and stable fermentation, control over the finished product and lower probability of stuck fermentations as advantages. There are different yeast strains for fermenting specific grape varieties.

The form of yeast typically used in winery production comes in a dried state, sold in vacuum packed containers, and must be hydrated and acclimatized to the juice. To do so, the yeast is mixed into warm water (104°F) then slowly added to a portion of the juice it will inoculate. This will provide it with sugar and begin to move the temperature of the yeast preparation towards that of the juice.

Glucose is heavier than ethyl alcohol so the wine maker will follow the progress of fermentation by measuring the drop in densitiy of the fermenting juice with a hydrometer,to estimate degrees Brix. At the beginning of fermentation (days 0-4) the degrees Brix will not drop because the yeast cells are metabolizing and increasing in numbers.

In the second stage, (days 5-11) the degrees Brix fall rapidly as the alcohol increases and the glucose drops. The density of the wine will eventually reach -1.0 to -2.0 degrees Brix and an increase in temperature of the juice, when fermentation is finished.

Yeast.... it's more than beer and bread.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Turning Over A New Leaf

It is hard to stay positive when doors keep slamming in your face. After awhile, you begin to think less of yourself. Today, I am changing my mantra, turning over a new leaf, deleting the spam/garbage in my mind and focusing on the positives.

Each day I will try to remember what gave me joy, what I want for my life and how I can help others. It won't always be easy but it will give me peace.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Big One

Last night, after enjoying a beautiful fall day and some disappointing news, Glenn and I went fishing.

Wednesday nights are our time to spend on the water, catch up on news, watch nature and fish.

This year, the prey of choice is the Musky. It is rare that we are fishing for anything else. But after 4 fish boated this year, quite a few "follows" and some near misses, we caught....

We think we have almost hooked this fish before due to the size of the swirl he makes at the lure. Still, nothing can compare to having him hit, fight, surface out of the water and actually net him.

The smile on Glenn's face in the photos we took after measuring the 55" fish says it all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Worth The Wait (Weight)

Veraison: (from French: Vêraison).. [ve-RAI-zon]

Technically, verasion is a term that applies to one of the periods of the ripening process when the fruit changes color. However, during this period the grower must be alert and sensitive to what is going on in the vineyard.

During the months of June and July the grape bunches and individual grapes gradually grow and develop. During this period the sugar level is about 6%. Along about the first week in August the grapes suddenly begin to accumulate sugar at a rapid rate. This period is called verasion. The individual grapes begin to turn purple for red wines or from opaque emerald green to translucent golden green for whites. And during all this the sugar level is steadily increasing moving in a matter of three to six weeks from 6% to 22 -24% sugar. This is the magic of photosynthesis. The grapes will generate about a ton of sugar per acre.

This is a critical and very stressful time for vintners. Weather wise, the grapes need warm days with temperatures between 85 and 95 degrees and no rain. Nighttime temperatures should be 65 - 75 degrees. And the irrigation regime has to be carefully controlled. Too much water can pump up the grape bunches with excess moisture and maybe even cause the vines to start growing new leaves and shots. Too little water can cause defoliation, wilting causing the vine to stop producing sugar. Sudden hot spells or cold foggy days can cause serious problems for the ripening bunches.

This is the current stage for the grapes that are making up the Napa Vayniac Cabernet Sauvignon. There has been a cool, wet spell that has increased the "hang time" which could result in great flavor concentration. It will also allow the grape seed to ripen from green to brown. For winemakers pursuing longer hang time has it pros and cons. The longer the grape is on the vine, the riper the tannins (astringent components in the skin, seeds and stems) become and the wines are softer and more lush and smooth. However, the grapes lose moisture (weight) as they become concentrated and this can mean a loss of profit as the growers are paid by tonnage. Also, overripe fruit loses the acidity it needs to bottle age and the wine will taste "flabby".

What constitutes full development/potential? For most of us, the results are worth the wait.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lock, Stock and Barrel

The art of barrel making, known as coopering, is an ancient skill.

The oak tree is examined both before and after being cut, and wood is selected based on many criteria, including tree shape and growing conditions. These factors determine the textural variety of wood fibers, the fineness of its grain and its tannin content. Tight grain and fine tannin content are found in the best wood.

The logs must be hand split to preserve wood grain without breaking wood veins, which is essential for creating impermeable barrels. The oak log is first split in two, then into quarters to obtain wood for the oak staves. After splitting and planning, the stave wood is stored outside. Exposed to air and water, the wood is naturally aged by the weather for several years. During the aging process, the development of sugars and acids are monitored.

After aging, the staves are formed by machines into the proper shape and form for barrel assembly. After they are cut to the proper length, they are tapered at each end and beveled. Then they are planed on the outside, slightly hollowed on the inside and jointed by high precision machining.

The sharp-eyed cooper selects his staves, setting aside those that do not suit him. Then he assembles the staves inside a metal hoop that serves as the assembly jig. The cooper seals the joints by passing a wet cloth inside and outside the staves, then heating the barrel over a wood fire for approximately 30 minutes. Rendered flexible by heat and humidity, the wood fiber can now be bent by the cooper, who uses a winch to gradually arch the staves and tighten them to obtain the shape of the barrel body. The body is held trussed in place like this until the metal hoops are definitely placed.

Toasting is a signature of the cooperage. The length of heating results in a "toast level" on which the flavors of the wine aged in the barrel will partially depend. During the heating of the staves, some substances of the wood are caramelized and develop a multitude of aromas, such as vanilla, fresh bread, buttered bread, or a touch of nut, that will be found in the final taste of the wine. Toast level will be adjusted according to the customers' requests: light, medium or heavy toast. Light toast gives more barrel tannins and aromatics of oak. Medium will integrate tannins and showcase varietal characteristics Medium plus will give aromas of spices like cloves and vanillin and will be more sweet. The heavier toast will impart a smoky grilled flavor or coffee to the wine.

What's the difference between French and American oak? French oak adds more subtle flavors to wine, while American oak is more aggressively flavored. Wooden barrels allow for a small amount of evaporation of the contents during the aging period. The wine in the barrel matures and becomes stable. Co2 is released during fermentation, alcohol is formed and extraction is produced.

Oak used in winemaking is typically produced from trees of different species. These are the American White Oak, Quercus alba, harvested primarily in Missouri from 90 years old trees. The European species, Quercus sessilis, is a tree found throughout central and eastern Europe. In France it is generally harvested from the north eastern forest of Vosges, and the central forests of Allier, Never and the most beautiful of all, Troncais. These trees are usually 100 to 120 years old.

Now you have the facts of coopering, lock stock and barrel.