Monthly Archives: November 2012

Bargain Bubblies for the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to pop those bubbles. But, Champagne can be so expensive. Let’s take a look at some delicious alternatives:

Do you have a favorite bargain bubbly? If so, please let us in on your secret! Cheers!

Send me your wine question – I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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Do I Need to Store the Bottle Sideways?

Storage

Question from Marla: If the bottle has a plastic cork or a screw cap do I still need to store it sideways?

Reply: Hi, Marla. Thanks for writing! If you’re not sure what kind of seal it is, it’s smart to store the bottle sideways. But, if you know it’s a screw cap or a plastic cork you can store it any old way you want.

Cork-finished bottles need to be stored sideways or upside down to keep the cork swollen with wine so the seal is tight. For any other seal, don’t worry about it. As long as the bottle’s in a cool, dark place it can stand up or whatever.

How do y’all feel about these newer closures? Are you OK with screw caps? I find my attitude has evolved to the point that when I buy a bottle from New Zealand, and it’s the rare one that actually has a cork, I’m annoyed at the extra work it takes to pull the darned thing out! I just want to crack that bottle open! Who’d a thunk me or anyone would feel this way 10 years ago?!

Let me know if you want to see a post on the advantages and disadvantages of the various closures.

I wrote a more detailed article on wine storage awhile back if you’d like more information. Happy cork popping, screw-cap cracking, whatever it takes to get the bottle open – go for it! Cheers!

Send me your wine question and I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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Grape of the Week: Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet_ucd

I hope you like this idea. I’ll do a post on a different variety every week, which means after awhile we’ll be looking at some varieties that aren’t so familiar – could be a lot of fun!

I want to start with the undisputed King of Grapes here in Napa Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon. Here goes:

Cabernet Sauvignon – AKA: Cabernet, Cab Sav, Cab, Petite Cabernet, Vidure, Petite-Vidure, Bouche, Petite-Bouche, Bouchet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Rouge, Burdeos Tintos (these last several arcane synonyms courtesy of the UC Davis website.)

Like all the other varieties, this grape appears in many guises, depending upon where it’s grown and the winemaking techniques employed. But, overall, you can expect this grape to produce a substantial, deeply colored red wine that’s noticeably tannic and very rich in black fruit flavors: blackberry, black cherry, black currant; plus it may show earth, cedar, bell pepper, green olive or any number of other descriptors, depending, again, on where it’s grown and how the wine is made. When the winemaker chooses new barrels for aging the wood may add vanilla, spice, smoke, grilled bread, mocha, nutty character or a sense of  toastiness (see more on this in “Notes from the Tasting,” below). And since tannin comes from the grape skins, and the Cabernet grape has thick skin, you’ll come to expect firm tannins from your Cab, which can help make it age worthy, in varying degrees. Continue reading

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How About a Glass of Late-Harvest Wine?

Well – I’m a little late getting this out, but surely you have some left-over pumpkin or apple pie to go with a delicious late-harvest wine!

Here’s what it’s all about:

Far Niente’s Dolce is one of my very favorite examples. They call it “liquid gold”, and with good reason! What are some of your favorites?

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How to Save Your Left-Over Wine

Beerbottle

Pardon? Left over? I don’t understand…  

All right, in all seriousness, as we go into the holiday season it’s bound to happen, and it’s certainly much better than running out of wine – heaven forbid!

Here’s the good news: Young reds might actually taste better the second day! And, any wine should be OK the next day, unless it was an older vintage. But, who has ever seen a nice old bottle that didn’t empty out rather quickly? And, any wine should be able to hold up for a day or two, so just leave the reds on the counter and stash the whites in the fridge.

Two days is usually fine, three days is iffy – the wine may seem kind of lack-luster. And, longer than three it can even start to get kind of wierd.FYI, if it spoils it doesn’t hurt you.

It seems like people always propose cooking with it. Taste it first! If you spent time and effort buying high-quality ingredients you don’t want to spoil the dish by adding wine that’s gone off. And, cooking concentrates the flavors so… 

So you can’t drink it in the next few days? There are a few things you can do to prolong its life. the goal is to get rid of the head space. The  oxygen is what does the damage to open wine. Continue reading

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What is a Meritage Wine?

Meritage_20_years

Question from Meredith: What is a meritage wine?

Reply: Hi, Meredith. Thanks for writing. A Meritage wine is an American-made (so far), Bordeaux-style blend. And, what’s a Bordeaux blend? It’s a blend made from grapes that come from Bordeaux and these are some very well-known varieties, indeed: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc. And also some varieties that aren’t so well known such as Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Semillon. And, some truly obscure varieties: St. Macaire, Gros Verdot (red) and Muscadelle du Bordolais(white). The producer can make a red Meritage or a white one.

So, those are the permitted varieties for the blend and the blend rule is that it must include at least two of these varieties and no single variety should make up more than 90% of the blend. 
Do we need this complication in our lives? Probably not, but here’s why the Meritage Alliance came about. After the repeal of Prohibition some truly yucky wines with European regional names like Rhine Wine and Chianti were made in the US and offered for sale. This was misleading and the producers of the real thing, in Europe, weren’t too happy. 

Varietal wine, which is wine based on a dominant variety, came into fashion and also became the benchmark for quality wine in the US. The Federal varietal requirement is a minimum of 75% of the grape named on the label.  Continue reading

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The Second Crop is for the Birds

2nd_crop_tablas_creek

Walking through the vineyard with a friend, she noticed lots of very small clusters left on the vine, mixed in with the leafy growth. She wondered why they left those clusters behind during the harvest.

Those little clusters are a special treat for the birds this time of year. The regular, main crop, is found very close to what looks like the old part of the vine in most vineyards. The crop forms on new growth, but near the old growth, if that makes sense. the way many vineyards are trained these days, as bi-lateral cordons with vertical shoot positioning, you see the main crop hanging kind of like a chorus line, along the lowest trellis wire. The second crop is further up those vertical shoots, hanging off of the lateral shoots rather than on the main shoot. 

In any case, what I told her is that the very small “second crop” ripens significantly later that the main crop, so if the pickers were to go after it, it would throw the wine out of balance. There would be unexpected tart flavors and, for reds, harsh tannins.

The second crop is so small that it’s not usually worth the bother. It could be that a home winemaker will ask for permission to harvest the second crop for his wine – if it ever actually ripens, that is. The grapes tasted nice and sweet, but not sweet enough. And the weather is cool, now, with daylight hours getting shorter by the day. So, we enjoyed a few grapes. Other than that, the second crop is for the birds!

And, speaking of birds, happy Turkey Day! Cheers!

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