26 November, 2010

What To Do With All the Leftover (Wine, that is!)

While most are looking into their fridges pondering what the next variation on turkey and stuffing they can muster the strength to push down their gullets, I'm guessing that, if you're like me, you tried several different bottles last nite (or the nite before that, or the nite before that....) and perhaps you just didn't finish the last half of a bottle...for whatever reason...

No worries! It's OK to have leftovers of wine!

There are a few things we can do with leftover wine, so before you pour it down the drain, take a minute to think about doing one of the following:

1) Save it for later.
If it's a bottle you enjoyed and you just didn't get around to finishing because your head was already spinning, or Aunt Bessie made you spend the last 2 hours customizing a doggie-platter for her, don't think you have to toss the bottle.

Oxygen is the enemy of wine, at least in the short-term here, so we don't want to just re-cork the wine and let it sit. I like a couple of options. A vacuum pump is a perfect idea and there are a number of models available. I happen to prefer the vacu-vin, but most are very inexpensive and remove all the oxygen from the bottle. Another idea is a spray bottle of nitrogen. Just shoot a bit into the bottle and quickly replace the cork. The inert gas will remove the oxygen and will prevent oxidization.Also, I prefer to keep my leftover bottles in my wine fridge rather than leaving out on the counter.

2) Sangria
(c) colonnade
I LOVE sangria and it's a perfect place to use an extra 1/2 bottle or several. When adding sugar, fruit and brandy to your sangria, the subtleties of the wine will obviously be hidden, so don't stress on the details here. Save up a few leftover bottles and when the time is right, try this recipe for an excellent truly Spanish styled example. Mmmm. Leftovers and Brandy!

3) I said "Mull It, not Mullet"
Several friends just got back from Prague where one of their favorite things was the street cart selling warm mulled wine. Mulling spices are great and go super with red wine, so try a mulling recipe or two on a cold fall or winter evening with your leftovers.

4) Vinegar!
(c) markyboy81
Not much is easier to do than to make vinegar out of wine....just ask a budding winemaker of two...you just have to let it be (well, pretty much). Making red wine vinegar to use in salad dressings is ridiculously easy and it tastes super! Start your own solera today..we Spaniards have been doing it for centuries...beware of the slimy bits, however :-)

So, save the drain, especially if you're on a septic system and use your leftovers..it's a great, green and artisinal way to enjoy what was yesterday's bottle, today or tomorrow!

20 November, 2010

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars

Craig Camp is the General Manager and Managing Parter of Cornerstone Cellars. He is also my brother. Well, not literally, but, like my recent post about my other brother, Mick Unti, I KNOW Craig gets it. What's IT?

Before we can talk about IT, we need to talk a bit about Cornerstone Cellars and their label Stepping Stone.  Cornerstone is a label that's been around for around 10 years in the Napa Valley as well as now having a presence in the Willamette Valley. They built their name on solid Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, but also do a nice job with several other varietals including a Sauvignon Blanc on the white side. Craig Camp joined Cornerstone around 18 months ago and has done a great job.

So, while Cornerstone was focused on their premium brand, Craig now uses the Stepping Stone label to reach a wider audience and share the love of some great fruit. Stepping Stone also affords them the opportunity of making wines from a wider choice of grape varietals. We like that....ALOT!

Recently, Craig invited me and Thea Dwelle of the wine blog Luscious Lushes to the Cornerstone tasting room in Yountville, CA for lunch and a tasting session of their full line.

While we tasted thru several wines, the following were Stepping Stone selections I found to be most interesting and on target for the price point of our readers.

First, the 2009 Stepping Stone Cuveé Musqué. This is 100% Musqué clone of Sauvignon Blanc with 95% of the fruit from Napa and 5% from Red Hills Lake County. While I'm not the biggest fan of most Sauv Blanc, the selection of the Musqué clone really removes most of my typical SB objections. Gone are the big grassy, green, grapefruit driven aromas. They're replaced with wonderful fuji apple, green herbs and of course, the wonderful Valencia orange flavors that are the keynote of Musqué. It's a lean wine, no doubt, but don't over chill or the delicate notes will disappear. I'd serve this no cooler than 48F.

2009 Stepping Stone Cuveé Musqué
Retail: $16
Grade: B

Next, the 2009 Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé is a good example of how well rosé can pair well with food or is happy to stand on its own. While Stepping Sone likes to call this a Provençal style rose, I find it much more California in style. It's brilliant flavors of fresh strawberry and cranberry are very evident and of course, pleasant!  Its name, corallina, for coral in Italian is a reference to its color and it's nice to note that this wine is not saigneé, but purpose built rose. Thumbs up for that. It is, in my opinion, the only way to make rose!

With 100% of the fruit from nearly 3000' elevation in the Red Hills Lake County AVA, winemaker Jeff Keene blends equal parts of Grenache & Syrah to provide supple tasting fruit that's been whole cluster pressed and cool fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in puncheons. Normal Burgundy style barrels are much smaller (60 gallons vs. 132 gallons) so by using a larger barrel, the amount of wood contact is reduced, providing for some richness from the barrel. It's love to pair this with escabeche, oil poached tuna Niçoise salad, or even a rich pulled pork sandwich with spicy sauce!

2009 Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé
Retail: $16
Grade: B+

Finally, if you like a metered, less powerful example of Syrah, the 2008 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Syrah should be something you enjoy. While it's not as lean as I prefer such as a Côte Rôtie Northern Rhone blend, it's most certainly not the typical California Syrah we've seen in the past 10 years. While Syrah's popularity is now seemingly on the decline, this is one that's different and could buck the trend. With Syrah fruit from the Carneros AVA in Napa Valley but then rather than the typical Viognier co-ferment, a bit of Grenache from Red Hills Lake County is blended for mouthfeel and suppleness. It's quite a different idea and I'd like to try more blends using Grenache.

It's very even front to back with a wide and soft mouthfeel and finish. Not overpowering to food, the muted notes of blackberries, cedar and mint are playful and are anything but sloppy or slow. I'd pair this with lamb shank with mint or a braised pork shoulder with savory French herbs.

2008 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Syrah
Retail: $20
Grade: B

...so, getting back to Craig and IT, I think the easiest example I can offer is directly from the Stepping Stone website, that reads: "Our mission with Stepping Stone wines is to make memorable, exciting wines that are affordable enough to drink at home with a simple Wednesday night supper, yet exciting enough to pair with your best dishes...........We craft out Stepping Stone wines to be both exceptional wines and exceptional values."

It's one thing to say that, and quite another to deliver on the promise. Craig Camp is focused on ensuring that while Cornerstone makes excellent super premium wines, Stepping Stone makes excellent wines that are good examples of their varietals and styles, pair well with food, are restrained and are not following any fad or trend and they're delivering on that at affordable prices. It's not just something he says, but truly something he believes.

14 August, 2010

3 for Summer...and under $20 - Foppiano Rosé, Au Bon Climat Pinot Blanc/Gris & Cline Viognier

My good friend Deb Kravitz - @WhatDebPours recently came by for dinner and brought a blind bottle (in a brown paper bag) that turned out to be a rosé from Foppiano Vineyards. We then went on to try a couple of other whites that evening, so I figured we'd wrap them all up in a single post since they were all quality selections and each was right in our price point!

Seeing that summer may escape many of us in Northern California, we may not exactly NEED the refreshment but these 3 will certainly be great for the rest of the country, and Northern Hemisphere for that matter, who are baking with triple digit heat indexes (at least triple digits on the F scale). Get out and grab these for your picnic, barbeque or summer lunch or dinner.

First, the 2009 Foppiano Rosé is made with a very unique blend of grape varietals -- 55% Petite Sirah and 45% Pinot Noir. While rosé from Pinot Noir is quite common, I can't recall ever seeing a rosé made from Petite Sirah. For those of you who read the blog regularly, you'll recall that I quite enjoy Petite Sirah and I was pleased to try something new, but made from a favorite. It's very fruit forward with a
great deal of strawberry, red raspberry and bubble-gum on the nose. With a very satisfying amount of acid, the front end sets the tone for this DRY rose and leads to a round and long mid to back palate and finish.

Retail: $18
Grade: B

Next, the 2008 Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris from Au Bon Climat is a great alternative to the oft-called upon Chard or Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Blanc is a great, delicate, warm, enticing varietal that's a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. With white skins, many of the same intricate notes of Pinot Noir come thru in the white juice. Winemaker and owner Jim Clendenen adds 10% Pinot Gris (interestingly, also a mutation of Pinot Noir) to create some balance. The P. Blanc is quite round and can get flabby and boring if not watched carefully. The P. Gris helps by introducing many green notes and crisp acidity...but not in a Sauvignon Blanc manner. Balance is the key. Any more than 10% and it would likely be overbearing. It's definitely complementary in this example.

Retail: $18
Grade: B+

The third bottle was the Cline Cellars 2009 Sonoma Coast Viognier. While I'm not always a fan of Viognier in summer, and prefer it in fall and winter as a great alternative white wine, I find this particular example an exception to my rule. Served quite chilled, it's a lush and rich, but refreshing option to those who might like California Chardonnay, but may prefer something more restrained owing to a particular food selection. This Viognier bring quite a bit of stone fruit, apples, dried apricots and has a great mouthfeel and weight. Would be super with some herbed chicken with grilled white nectarines and corn-on-the-cobb right off the grill.

Retail: $16
Grade: B+

So, there you go. 3 for summer and all are readily available in many larger stores including groceries where permitted by law.

Enjoy your summer and stay refreshed!

30 June, 2010

The 7 Habits of Slightly Effective Wine Bloggers

I'm just back from the 3rd Annual Wine Bloggers Conference held this year in what locals call W2, that is, Walla Walla, Washington (hell, shouldn't that be W3?) Accordingly, I thought I'd scribe a few of the best kept secrets that I gleaned/overheard/learned/stole from some of the best wine bloggers in the world!

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Start the day out right with a glass of wine at breakfast. If there's not mimosas being served, steal some OJ and bring a bottle of bubbly or 3 down.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Look, there's lots to be done here. We've got parties, tastings, parties, breakout sessions, tastings, parties, and some fine Hors D'Overs marauding as dinner. If you don't pace yourself, you're going be grumpy just like the photog from MutineerMagazine.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

When It's time for lunch, it's time for lunch, not time for monkeying around with your laptop, camera or other iDevice. C'Mon, man! Find a TacoTruck and do a WallaWalla Taco or Burrito from La Monarca or Los Taquitos.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Actually, I just try to win. Period. I almost made it during speed dating. Close but no cigar. My buddy Steve Paolo of Notes From the Cellar did win. Go ask him how and stop bugging me.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

It appears our School Bus doesn't understand where we need to go and I don't understand why. Wait! Why the hell are we going to Touchet when Dry Creek  is to the left...and wait..where are we? Walla Walla?

Habit 6: Synergize

Again, too many bloggers taking too many pics at the same time equals a great deal of dis-synergy. Will you people just relax and drink some wine. Again, what's the deal with all of the Skool Busses? 

Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

    I have no idea what this means nor do I have a witty analogy or euphemism, but here's a panoramic view from atop the Seven Hills Vineyard. It was truly beautiful, regardless of the 12 pounds of Aphids that took a ride in my camera bag on the way home.

    ..and a bonus tip:
    Most importantly, enjoy your time with the friends you get to see but once a year.

    Photos (c) 2010
    Ward Kadel
    Arianna Armstrong
    chow | studios

    26 June, 2010

    Live Speed Dating (tasting) - Red Wine at #wbc10

    Table TWENTY-SIX is the ShizIT! and we're off to the races.

    12 Red Wines. Hawt!
     (Reverse Chronological Order)..and on twitter -- @20dollarwine

    12th and last but not least is Stepping Stone 1008 Napa Cab Franc.

    Balance. Balance. Like it quite a bit. Most balanced wine of the evening. Nice job, Craig!

    Retail: $30
    Grade: B+

    11th is ANOTHER PINOT -- YES!!!!
    2007 Stoller Dundee Hills Pinot
    Interesting nose of barnyard and bret. (go French!)
    Even, but a bit sweet. Would love a bit more acid, but still a nice example of Oregon Pinot....bordering on RRV, though.

    REtail: $25
    Grade: B

    10th is Ponzi 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot.
    Yumm. Finally some Pinot. Pleasant Pinot with pervasive plums and persimmons.
    Like. That. Is. All.

    Retail: $35
    Grade: B+ (would be higher with better price)

    9th Red is Trio Cellars "Riot" Red blend.
    Sangio, Syrah, Mouvedre
    Delicious. Balanced with good acid. Great with Pizza.
    REtail: $18
    Grade: A-

    8th red is Molly Dooker Velvet Glove 2009 Shiraz
    HEAVYWEIGHT Shiraz with plenty of everything and then some.
    Evident red fruit and strawberry but far to big too drink with any food.
    Retail: $180
    Grade: Are you kidding me?

    OK...halfway home now
    7th wine is @duckpondcellars 2008 Red Blend
    Merlot, Syrah, Cab.

    Not remarkable, but decent. A bit of nice blue on the nose, even finish. good balance.

    Retail: $15
    Grade: B+

    6th is Desert Wind 2008 Ruah Bordeaux Style Blend
    Rich, structured with good solid Cab taste. Nice round finish. Good.

    Retail: $28
    Grade: B-

    5th is "The Crusher" 2008 Petite Sirah from Don Sebastiani
    Clarksburg AVA North of Sacramento, CA
    Rich P. Sirah with great red fruit, round, jammy fruit. Great P. Sirah color - Deep purples
    Mass market - 10K cases

    Retail: 12
    Grade: B

    4th Red is Isenhower Bachelors Button 2007 Columbia Valley Cab
    Vines planted in 1972. Rich, hot Cab. Good example of local Cab.

    Retail $28
    Grade B

    3rd is Louis Martini 2006 Napa Lot1 Cab
    Edged down to drink now. Low in tannin for Cab. Should be uber nice in a few year. A Cab I would drink.

    Retail: $120
    Grade: Not graded - Pricing out of line. (should be 50-60)

    2nd is @ortmanwines 2008 Sangiovese
    Jammy up front with decent structure, spicy with white pepper.
    Very young.

    Retail: $20
    Grade: B-

    1st Up - Magnificent Wine Co - "House Wine"
    Follow them @magnifficentwine
    Cab, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Zin, Petit Verdot, cab franc
    Mellow, nice blend, good QPR. Everyday drinking wine..good with BBQ.

    Retail: $13
    Grade: B

    25 June, 2010

    WBC 2010 - Live Wine Blogging - WHITE

    Let's go..

    Table #13 is rocking! (reverse chronological order - newest wine first)

    12th and final wine is DuckPond 2008 Pinot Gris
    100% P. Gris. Needs more time to open. Like it quite a bit. Even, balanced, nice great P. Gris flavors of green apple (yes, really) soft meyer lemon, peach. Great price point
    Grade A

    11th Wine DeLille Cellars 2008 Chaleur Estate Blanc
    62%Sauvignon Blanc 38% Semillion
    Quite nice..nose has some smoky ham, but mouthfeel is even, balanced. Really like this, but pricing is ??
    Retail: $34
    Grade: B- (would be higher with more aggressive price - suggest $24)

    10th Wine is Dusted Valley Rose
    Retail: $18
    Grade: B

    9th Wine is 2008 Buty Semillon, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc.
    Nice, Semillon based cuvee', but a bit too cool. Rich, a bit sweet.
    Retail: $25
    Grade: B-
    (would be higher grade with lower price..suggest $18)

    8th wine is 2008 Hogue Columbia Valley Chardonnay
    Interesting. No oak, no ML chard. Even, nice relaxed but nose is tight. Otherwise pretty nice.

    Retail: $16
    Grade: B+

    7th wine is 2009 Maryhill Viognier
    A bit too sweet and rich for me. Nicely made, but I prefer a Viogner that's a bit less sweet and less viscous. Great vanilla on the nose. Nice, but not for me.

    Retail: 12
    Grade: B-

    6th is Big House White.
    3L ...mass market - not recommended.

    5th - Next up is Poet's Walk 2009 Columbia Riesling
    1.3% RS, sweet, event, all hand harvested.
    Nice off dry Riesling. A bit too much for me, but quality made wine.
    Retail: $20
    Grade B

    4th is Desert Wind 2009 Wahluke Slope, Washington Viognier

    100% Viognier - Great fresh nose on a bit cool wine. ..but I like the acid on the front, the front to back balance and the wide finish.

    8.5% in new French Oak, balance in stainless.

    Retail $15
    Grade: B+

    3rd wine is Big Green Box from Pepperwood Grove NV Chard

    Sweet, just not enough acid on the front to balance. 
    Mass market wine

    Retail: $20 (3L)
    Grade: Not Reccomended

    Next up:
    2007 Ortman Edna Valley Chardonnay

    Ortman is a favorite producer of mine from the Paso Robles area. Always a nice time at their tasting room in Paso.

    This Chard (and full disclosure, I'm not a Chard fan) is a nice example with very restrained oak and in balanced quality. The oak is nice that it's not on the front, but strictly in the mid palate.

    10 months on French Oak..definitely would like this with halibut or salmon and beurre blanc.

    Retail: $24
    Grade: B+

    1st one is up
    Pithy Little Wine Company

    2009 Sangiovese Rose
    Paso Robles, CA
    98% Sangio
    2%  Syrah

    Unfortunately, a bit too warm, but this rich rose is colorful on the nose with heavy white cherries and a good balance of acid on the front. Even front to back. Let's have this with some grilled chicken on the patio.

    Retail: $22
    Grade: B

    29 May, 2010

    Jordan Vineyard and Winery

    hospitable [ˈhɒspɪtəbəl hɒˈspɪt-]
    1. welcoming to guests or strangers
    2. fond of entertaining

    Recently, Jordan hosted a luncheon and tour for wine bloggers and friends on their Alexander Valley property where they demonstrated this understanding flawlessly. From the tour of the property's herb and vegetable farm and lunch prepared by Chef Todd Knoll, to the vineyard tour presented by Viticulturist Brent Young, the Jordan team truly has mastered the relationship between the host and the guest. Without a doubt, Jordan Vineyard and Winery have done their homework and fully understand the true definition of hospitable.

    Jordan Winery CEO John Jordan  is at the helm, and since 2005 when he took control of the winery, his vision and belief in both showing guests a warm and genuine experience as well as welcoming them and showing them the honest, soulful life in the winery his father founded, demonstrates his commitment to hospitality. While wine is Jordan's commitment, it's evident that their passion is people!

    The property is wonderful and delivers west-looking views from the "Rock Wall" that are unsurpassed.

    With more than 130 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, they grow 3 of the 4 classic Bordeaux blend varietals for their red wine as well as Chardonnay.

    So if you're in the Healdsburg area and are set to check out the Jordan estate, you'll need to pause a second or so... in that Jordan does not accept walk in tastings. Reservations are accepted for a group tasting and only 16 people are given the opportunity to enjoy the experience at any one time. Jordan charges a $30 tasting fee and while that seems steep on its face, the quality of wine, the setting in their tasting salon and the wonderful experience delivered is well worth it. Please give them a ring and book a tasting.

    Many thanks to Jordan's Director of Communication, Lisa Mattson and our dear friend, Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes for their efforts in organizing this luncheon and tour. It's always great to get together with a good crowd of fellow bloggers and enjoy a day at a great winery.

    While we can't say that the Jordan wines fall within our price point, you should certainly make a reservation and avail yourself to a day of tasting and for certain, WONDERFUL hospitality.

    16 March, 2010

    Good Pinot for about $20 Bucks. No Way. -- WAY!

    As many of you know, I'm a fan of Pinot Noir. It's gentle, goes great with food and has many subtleties that I enjoy "thinking" on. Yes, sorry for the Sideways reference, but it's been that way for me since before the film.

    If it's good, it's also expensive. Usually.

    When the folks at Willamette Valley Vineyards  (or @willamettevv on twitter) asked to send me samples of their wines that fit in the $20dollarwine rules, I said yes, but questioned whether that was a wise idea. Typically,  good Pinot from Oregon is scarce under $30 a bottle, but I relented solely on their reputation and on what I heard from friends who judged in the SF Wine Competition about the quality of wines coming out of WVV who did quite well with their 2 Best in Class offerings.

    I'm also very happy to see they are producing wine with the L.I.V.E. philosophy and sealing using cork certified by the Rainforest to Stewardship Council. I'm a fan of cork and sustainability. More on that later.

    The first bottle is the 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It's a lovely little bottle that retails for about $25. I was aged in 20% new oak and get this...was picked at between 19 and 24 brix. Yes....that's correct, 19. 19.

    Say it again  - 19ºBrix. That's what I love to hear...not the silliness of folks in Santa Lucia Highlands picking Pinot at 28º. That's CRAZYTALK.

    I cellared this bottle for several weeks at 54ºF and then poured from the bottle.

    It's got a lovely and very subtle nose of delicate red fruit. The first from the bottle was fresh, light, lean and clean with sharp acid and I was craving a nice pork chop with herbs de provence. Mmm. The last bit of the bottle was elegant, soft, velvety....and I was craving a bit of chocolate. Mmm, again.

    This is a super food wine and is the best QPR Pinot Noir I've had the pleasure of enjoying in quite some time.

    Kudos to the team at WVV.

    2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
    Retail: $25
    Grade: A

    Next was the 2008 Whole Cluster Fermented Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

    Now THIS is a FUN, FUN wine. It's not full of itself and is ready to drink young. It's got super fresh strawberry, red raspberry and more red fruit on the nose with lots of great acid and is nicely balanced front to back. It's not a food wine, per se, but great to drink on its own with some young cheese or light passed hors d'oeuvers.

    Interestingly, it's whole cluster fermented AND fermented using carbonic maceration. Crazy. That's stuff those French do for the yumminess that is Beaujolais Nouveau. Essentially, rather than fermenting with a traditional aerobic environment and with fruit that is crushed, CO2 is introduced into the fermentation tank, and what's now, an anaerobic environment and fermentation occurs INSIDE the fruit itself.

    This leads to VERY low tannins, so wines are very drinkable when young, but don't have enough structure to lay down for much more than a year at the very most.

    Have some fun and drink this very, very reasonably priced, approachable

    2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
    Retail: $19
    Grade: B

    15 March, 2010

    Sunrise at St Supery

    I was in Napa, CA for a conference and had the opportunity to drop by St. Supery, the home of our friend @rickbakas to capture the start of a very special day.

    Saturday, March 13 was one of the first days where Spring was trying to show its face and we were out and about in the beauty of it with great friends, great wine and the beauty of Napa and Sonoma counties.

    Grateful. Very, very grateful. I hope you enjoy this just a bit as much as I enjoyed the day.

    Sunrise - St. Supery from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

    09 March, 2010

    #CaliCabs at St. Supery

    Rick Bakas, the director of social media for St. Supery winery in Rutherford (Napa Valley), hosted a live community tasting of California Cabernet Sauvingons at the St. Supery tasting room on Feb 11, 2010.

    Using the hashtag #calicabs , the event drew bloggers and other wine fans, winemakers and friends from the area where we had the opportunity to tweet live while we tasted around 15 wines from 10 different wineries across 3 regions of California.

    So, while I'm not a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon as a single varietal (I DO like it as a key ingredient in a Bordeaux blend) I thought it might be nice to get outside the box, do something different, you know...do all the things I always suggest we should do.


    Lots of great folks who you likely follow on twitter were in attendance. @ebetho @wineinkbytia @jamiebakas, @danicasattui ......
    ..and of course @rickbakas hosting the fun filled evening.
    So, while not many of the bottles we tasted were in the $20dollarwineblog price range, there were a few that were enjoyable and the one I brought, the 2007 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Cab - Paso Robles seemed to be enjoyed by many of the participants as did the Spann Vineyards 2005 Mayacamas Ranch Cabernet, which, not quite at around $20, it was a super bottle and retails for $35.

    So, our thanks go out to the St. Supery Crew, all the tweeps who attended, my dear friend and carpool enabler @ebetho and of course, @rickabakas for hosting a fun and exciting event.

    Does wine taste better if it's more expensive?

    I read an interesting piece a few weeks ago about a study that was done revealing that our perception of quality of a wine and the amount we like the wine is relative to its price.


    Actually, I'm not surprised at all. We've all been at a tasting room with the guy visiting from out of town who's just got to have the most expensive big "Cab" that's on the menu, or the young guy who's thinks he's deserving and insistently sez: "I SAID, I want a bottle of your best Burgundy!"

    Well, beyond the "I really don't care for your demanding attitude" nonsense, the study proves that a quality product can be had for a very reasonable price. In my experience, all $2 wine is just not the same quality as most reasonably priced bottles around $15, so I'm not claiming that a $2 bottle is as good as a $100 bottle, but rather, that just because a bottle retails for around $20 bucks, it doesn't mean it can't be great!

    So, get out, visit your LWS and ask your wine monger/specialist for a recommendation for a bottle around $20 bucks.


    14 February, 2010

    How About a Little Competition: "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!"

    Yep! We're excited and ready for a fight. OK..well, not so much of a fight, but more of a judgment in the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. While the official judging took place many weeks ago, the results were just published, and the public tasting, where you and I can taste many of the medal winners is just a week away - Saturday, Feb 20th from 2-5 PM.

    There's unlimited food tastings from the Savor California folks and their partners, and of course, the opportunity to taste some great wine from the best of 4800 entries from 1200 individual wineries.

    I like the idea of the competition in that it brings some value, that is, QPR, into the mix. Wines are judged against other wines in price ranges of each wine category. Sure, if one has unlimited money, some pretty fabulous wine is available to purchase, but for me, I'm (I guess obviously...) looking for something that's better than good and is about $20Bucks.

    You'll find some very interesting and diverse award winners this year from several wine growing regions including NewYork's Finger Lakes (see below), New Mexico and even Snipes Mountain, the newest AVA in Washington's Yakima Valley.

    I'm really interested in tasting a few things that promise to be extremely interesting not only that they were rated well, but also that their prices are extremely reasonable.

    First, the 2008 McDowell Viognier Rousanne. It won Best of Class for Viognier, and retails for $22. Viognier is an excellent choice for white in the Fall and Winter.

    Next, the 2007 Yamhill-Carlton Elodian Pinot Noir from Tom Eddy - retails at $28. Those of you who know me know my love for Oregon Pinot, and a top rated Oregon Pinot for around $20Bucks is a MUST TRY for me.

    And last, but not least, the 2008 Finger Lakes Gewurtztraminer from Keuka Springs Vineyards, which retails at $16 and earned the "White Sweepstakes"award

    That's right! The top white wine in the competition:
    a) retails for $16
    b) is not Chardonnay
    c) is from Finger Lakes, NY, not California.

    Wow! DIVERSITY, in a big way!

    I hope you'll get a chance to have some fun on the water in San Francisco at the Fort Mason Center and taste the best of the best...and I hope to have the opportunity to enjoy a taste or two with you. Please give me YOUR tips or if you see me there, let's have a taste of what you think is great.



    (photos (c) Brenda Hawkes, Hawkes Photography)

    03 February, 2010

    TasteLive: Ridge Lytton Springs - Jan 9, 2010

    TasteLive (#TTL) is an ongoing event that pairs wineries and their selections with wine bloggers on a semi-regular basis. Right now, there seem to be about 4-6 events per month with several wineries and coordinated with different locales (East Coast/West Coast) for logistics purposes.  

    I was invited to participate in the recent #TTL event for Ridge Wines where nearly 40 folks participated at several locations including their SouthBay tasting room, their Lytton Springs tasting room, and many online. I joined friends Jack, Pedro and Marcy to taste thru the 4 wines that Ridge sent to me to participate. Following the description of each of the 4 wines are my tweets that were live from the event.  

    First was the 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay.  

    music goin' - wines open - all good here in H'Burg.#ridgewines 
    5:00 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    Chard is interesting. Have it cool in a bucket and enjoy the subtle notes. Not so much when it warmed up for 15 mins. #ridgewines
    5:04 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live  

    Lots of french oak lending honeydew...also baby asprin and green fruit #ridgewines 5:06 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    I really liked the baby asprin and green fruit notes: green apples, pears, green table grapes. RJ, what did you think of the nose when it was cool. #ridgewines 5:07 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live  

    (here referring to RJ Hilgers of rjswineblog.com, also tasting online at the time)

    Anyone getting the chinese bitter melon once it's warmed up for 10 mins or so? #ridgewines
    5:09 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    This was quite interesting...we started with it chilled in a bucket as it and interetingly, I preferred both the balance and aromas when it was cooler. I usually find most chilled wines too cold for their own good...this one seems to work better on the cooler side. First time for everything and great example of listening to your palate and the wine, not what's the norm.

    Next was the 2007 Buchigni Ranch Carignane.
    Carignane has lovely nose...bright red fruit, good acids #ridgewines
    5:14 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    Carignane - great boysenberry front....clean, not sloppy...structure's nice. #ridgewines
    5:14 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    The Carignane was a pleasant bottle. Really needs some rustic food to show itself off well. It's available on the Ridge website to their ATP members and is a decent value if you plan to have it with a meal. I'd not drink this alone. Retail: $28 Grade: B-  

    Next was the 2006 California Zinfandel - Caboose

    OK..caboose ready to go...let's see w'happens. #ridgewines
    5:25 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live  

    Yep...with 14.9%, we're gettin' candy...gummy bear in the nose. #ridgewines
    5:26 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    WOndering if any of this is not done in oak. #ridgewines 
    5:30 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    So, let's warm this up with hands and see if we can change things up a bit? #ridgewines
    5:31 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live  

    @enobytes Yep...I'm thinking we need to decant. Not sure if I'd do this with food.....what's the retail of the #caboose #ttl#ridgewines
    5:37 PM Jan 10th from TweetDeck in reply to enobytes

    Our final wine for the event was the 2007 Ridge 
    Lytton Springs, a blend of Zin, Petit Sirah and Carignane. I really enjoy a rich blend like this. It's a bit more than a Rhone blend with the high percentage of Zin, but if you do enjoy Rhone blends, perhaps give this a whirl.  

    The #cougar cheddar is also running great with the LS. Love it! #ridgewines 5:46 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live  

    Thanks to Ridge and @ridgels for a great time. #ridgewines 5:59 PM Jan 10th from Taste Live

    Again, thanks to Melissa Baker and the Ridge crew for providing the wine and to Craig Drolett and the #ttl gang for organizing.


    31 January, 2010

    Can You Ever Have Enough Pinot? (Or, how you too, can be a Pinot Judge!)

    Simple answer: No.
    More complex answer: No.

    Come to the 8th Annual Pinot Noir Summit on Feb 27 and you'll say "No" too!

    Let me explain a bit.

    I was very happy to judge at the Pinot Noir Shootout organized by the International Wine Review and Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine. The shootout is run as an 8x4 (8 wines in each of 4 flights for a total of 32 wines) blind tasting and is organized into several preliminary rounds leading up to a final judging. The best wines of the final are then sent on to the Pinot Noir Summit where the public can be a judge for a day and immerse themselves in the "Pinot Experience." If you are in or near the SF Bay area, you should absolutely plan to attend. I'd love to meet all of you in person at the "Discovering New Stars" workshop that I'm moderating

    The prelim round (just one of 8 prelims) I judged at in November was generously hosted by Russian River Vineyards in Forestville, CA. If you're in the Russian River Valley, plan on paying them a visit. Good stuff, wonderful people. Great location!

    The finals were held at Bistro Boudin on the San Francisco Bay where we had great views and great company. Rather than the 8 or so judges at each preliminary round, there were nearly 30 judges in the room. We still maintained the 8X4 format and through 4 hours of judging, each tasted 32 different Pinots. Yes, 32. Some was great, some, not so much, but the overall quality was quite good. My hat is off to all of the judges at the prelim rounds in sending on many very high quality selections to the finals.

    While I can't reveal the winner (or my choices) quite yet, I can say that some of the best submissions were from many different appellations/areas. Suffice it to say, if you prefer one or several styles of Pinot, you'll find something you like. I can guarantee it. (well, not so much of a guarantee, but more of me vouching for it, OK??  -  OK!!)

    ..so come and join us for some great fun, great education, a great experience and just a wonderful day at the Pinot Summit. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

    A Few Minutes at: Pizza Antica, Mill Valley, CA

    In the process of exploring the world for great wines for about $20 bucks, it's sometimes necessary to realize that sometimes, there are some great ideas right in your face.

    I stopped by Pizza Antica, Gordon Drysdale's (and others') pizza joint in Mill Valley, CA. There are three other locations (San Jose, Lafayette and Granite Bay/Sacramento) if you're close -- or not and are looking for some pretty reasonable fare prepared with care and craft. They've got a delicious menu, super pies if you like the cracker/thin crust as I do, and a reasonably sized wine list. It's not uber extensive, but I found the Dashe 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel there as you'll see in the piece below (More on the Dashe in an upcoming post.)

    Here's what you've been missin' if you've not been to Pizza Antica. Git yerselves theere!


    A Few Minutes at: Pizza Antica, Mill Valley, CA from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

    17 January, 2010

    Appeal for Haiti...Join Me & Some of the Finest Folks in the Wine World

    We live in a pretty great place.  We're fortunate enough to enjoy great food, wine, friends, especially those of us who are part of the wine world. When a tragedy so massive as the earthquake that struck Haiti earlier this week occurs, it's tough to  thinking of those whose lives were immediately changed forever and wonder how we, in our comfortable, secure, peaceful lives, can make a difference.

    While the need is large, we can each play a small part in the recovery that these wonderful people deserve. Please do as much as you can. I don't have a specific recommendation, but the Red Cross is a place to start.

    Also, if you're in the SF Bay Area, I'd like to invite you to join me on Monday, Jan 18 at a great event that's being organized by Vinos Unico. Several wineries, importers, sommaliers, winemakers and others are donating their time, wine and food. Come and raise a glass to those who are there helping while we cannot.

    Bring your checkbook and donate directly to one of several great charities including Sirona Cares, Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and the American Red Cross. Please bring checks made out directly to one or more of these worthy charities.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you at The Presidio Cafe from 5-8PM

    16 January, 2010

    ¡Feliz cumpleaños!

    One of our best supporters and friends, Jack, celbrated his birthday with the gang last month. We share it with you so you might enjoy the friends, wine and food as much as we did.

    Happy Birthday, buddy!

    The Cumpleanos from C. Jason Mancebo on Vimeo.

    07 January, 2010

    A Few Minutes With: Kevin Rogers, Nico Wines

    The $20dollarwineblog was fortunate to spend an afternoon with Kevin Rogers, the proprietor and winemaker of Nico Wines. Kevin presents his newly released 2008 Russian River Valley Dolcetto in this segment of "AFMW..."

    Hit his website and check out this wine. Highly recommended!