Monthly Archives: January 2012

So, You Want to Work in the Wine Industry

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Question from Susan: What do I need to do if I want to work in the wine industry?

Reply: This is a broad question and the first thing is to figure out is what kind of work you want to do. If you want to work in production, these days, you really should get a degree in viticulture if you want to be a vineyard manager or enology if you want to be a winemaker. Many aspiring winemakers opt for a double major, or at least study in both areas, since it’s really hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. Here in the U.S. the best-known programs are offered at University of California at Davis, Fresno State University or Cornell. But there are lots of other options in and outside of the US. Just do a search on the appropriate degree.

If you’re interested in marketing or PR you should study those subjects at any good institution and build your wine knowledge simultaneously. For sales reps the opportunities are wide open even without any schooling in wine. But if you want a sales job that’s really wine oriented and not just an aside to selling beer and Jack Daniels, you’ll need some wine education. Continue reading

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What is Moscato?

Question from Richard: What is Moscato? Some friends served it to me and said it’s really popular but I thought it was awful!

Reply: Richard’s friends are right. According to Market Watch, moscato is the fastest-growing wine variety in the US right now.

Moscato is the Italian word for Muscat (but not Muscadine). With its beautiful perfume of apricot, orange blossom and tropical fruit the muscat grape lends itself to making sweet wine. But sweet wines don’t have to be bad. You can find delicious examples of Moscato or Muscat that absolutely seduce your nose and please your palate because the sweetness is balanced by refreshing acidity – and sometimes it bubbles.

The classic example, Italian Moscato d’Asti is fruity, floral and softly fizzy. It’s light as air at around five or six percent alcohol and can be lovely.

Muscat from southern France, the Beaumes de Venise, is heavier because it’s high in alcohol. The best are sweet and yummy after a nice meal.

A handful of wineries here in the Napa Valley produce delicious Muscat wines. Try the Moscato d’Oro next time you’re at Robert Mondavi winery. Or try ZD’s Muscat Canelli.

But these aren’t the ones flying off the shelf right now. New-world brands like Barefoot, Sutter Home, Woodbridge and Yellow Tail are the ones that really move. They’re sweet and evidently they don’t fizz. It sounds like you had a bad example or maybe you just don’t like Muscat. Continue reading

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Why is my wine Hazy?

Question from Stephen: I purchased a 2008 Pinot Noir from the bargain rack at a wine shop. They were selling the 2009 at full price for $66 got this for $45. Cork was in beautiful shape but wine is cloudy. What could the problem be?

Reply: I apologize for the delay in my reply. I figured the best source for the answer is the winery – but, after a few weeks, no reply from them. This is something I will never understand. A real, honest-to-goodness buyer of expensive wine wants an answer to his question and they can’t be bothered – in this market?! 

So, all I can do, since I didn’t see or taste the wine is give it my best guess. 

I hope it tasted good! Always remember that if it looks funky or tastes weird it can’t hurt you, so always give it a try. At this price, even though it was in the sale bin, I would have taken it back if it didn’t taste good. Of course, they won’t take it back if 3/4 of the wine is gone 😉
How hazy was it? If it was only slightly hazy and tasted good, it could be that the winemaker didn’t want to risk losing character by taking extra steps to clarify the wine. There are those who believe that fining and filtration take away from the wine and prefer bottling the wine hazy to further processing. Pinot Noir seems to be a variety that resists clarification – it’s not all that uncommon to come across a slightly cloudy bottle.

If it was big-time hazy it may have gotten too warm at some point. Protein can throw a haze when the wine warms up. It should still taste fine unless the heat was extreme or prolonged enough to damage it.  Continue reading

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Lovely Yellow Flowers in the Vineyard

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Photo courtesy of Creatures of the Earth, Flickr CC

Question from Susan: Hi! I was in Napa over the weekend and wondered where all the pretty yellow flowers come from. Are they there for a purpose?

Reply: Hi, Susan. Thanks for writing – aren’t they gorgeou? We’re so lucky because as soon as we get some rain after harvest, the wild mustard sprouts and before you know it we’ve got a lovely carpet of yellow flowers. So, they’re volunteers. There are romantic stories of Spanish missionaries marking their path by dropping mustard seed as they worked their way up the California coast. If that’s true, I guess they didn’t realize that it spreads like crazy and could throw them seriously off track!  

Mostly, we just enjoy the mustard but it does have some benefits. It has a thick, carrot-like root which helps with drainage. And, when you mow it down and turn it under it adds very nice organic matter which improves the soil structure. And there have actually been studies that show that mustard can help control soil pests – nemetodes in particular – which are a problem here in the valley. That’s a nice bonus! People like to say that mustard is a nitrogen fixer but plant scientists say otherwise. If we want nitrogen we’re better off planting legumes like vetch or crimson clover – another pretty flower!

This year the mustard bloomed really early, thanks to the October rains. It’s been so dry over the last several weeks that it’s kind of petering out, now, but I expect we’ll get another good bloom after we get some more rain – this week we hope! It’s beginning to look like a drought year.

So, that’s the story. The mustard season is fleeting – usually just from about late December to March, so enjoy the pretty yellow flowers while you can! Cheers! 

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Today’s Wine Word: Collective Tasting Room

Silenus

Have you ever heard of a collective tasting room? It’s a good word to remember next time you’re planning a trip to wine country.

By now, just about any wine region that you’d like to visit has at least one collective tasting room – and, often within walking distance of your hotel!

Collective tasting rooms serve and sell several different brands of wine from the region – it’s kind of like one stop shopping. They’re often located in town, rather than out in the country where the wineries are. So, instead of going to a winery and trying just their brand, you can try several brands in a very short period of time.

I know what you’re thinking: Kind of lacks romance, huh? No grapevines, no barrels. I agree – If you want to take a walk in the vineyard or go on a tour of the winery you need to head out of town and go for it!

But, to me, the most compelling reason to go to a collective is that these rooms tend to feature wines from tiny little wineries in out of the way places. You can taste and purchase wines you may never find at home.

Of course, the other reasons to go this way are if you’re short of time and you really want to buy some wine – or maybe you’re toured out – you’ve gone on a tour or two and visited other winery tasting rooms. And, these collective tasting rooms become an attractive alternative if you just feel like strolling around town and trying a few wines.

How to find them? Just do a search on “collective tasting rooms” in whatever region you plan to visit. I just did a search on Napa Valley and there are lots and lots of choices!

My favorites are actually surrounded by vineyards so you get the best of both worlds: Silenus Vintners, north of downtown Napa and the Napa Wine Company in Oakville. They serve wines you’ll probably never find at home.

So, you’ve got one more option to add to your wine-country plans. Incidentally, winter is a great time to go winery hopping. You’ll have the region all to yourself and get lots of personal attention at the wineries, restaurants, hotels, spas – and at a great price! Cheers! 

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How Many Calories in a Glass of Wine?

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Question from Sheila: How many calories in a glass of wine?

Reply: Hi, Sheila. Thanks for writing! Oh, we don’t really want to think about this, do we 😉

The short answer is about 100 calories per 5-oz glass. That’s not too bad, is it? You can easily eliminate that number of calories somewhere else during the day if you want to.

But, I’ve got to tell you that the short answer doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s the same old refrain we always hear with questions about wine – it depends.

The wild cards here in terms of variability are alcohol and sugar. The more of either the higher the calorie count. 

I ran across a nifty formula a few years ago, at least for dry wine. Check the alcohol on the label and multiply it by 1.6. Then, multiply that by the number of ounces.  Continue reading

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A Beautiful Beginning to 2012

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