Category Archives: Wine 101

The Calling – Wine Spectator Grand Tour

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The CallingThis last week I had the pleasure of working the Wine Spectator Grand Tour during its Miami Florida stop. One of three nationwide events including the cities of Las Vegas and Chicago.

From Wine Spectator

An evening of exceptional wines from the world’s best wine-growing regions in three exciting locations. All wines are rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator’s editors. Meet the winemakers, enjoy a delicious selection of food and take home a souvenir Riedel wine glass. 

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This years Wine Spectator Grand Tour was held at the world-famous and historically significant Fontainbleau Hotel located on Miami Beach. The lobby and its bar alone are worthy of a visit, not to mention the beautiful grounds, pools, spa, restaurants and of course its beautiful beach.

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With over 200 wines to sample and explore (wine-list), many with wine-makers and/or winery owners present, this event was a wine-lovers paradise. My assignment for the evening was to represent the California winery The Calling and serve their highly rated, Wine Spectator 91 point, 2015 Russian River Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.

The story of The Calling

It was serendipity that brought Emmy Award winning sports commentator Jim Nantz and wine industry entrepreneur Peter Deutsch together at a restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut where they were each having dinner with friends. Peter had recently read Jim’s book about his father, Always By My Side, and it resonated with him, reminding him of his own relationship with his father. Peter introduced himself that evening.

Jim was at the restaurant having dinner with a friend who had contacts in the wine industry and was working on an idea that had been in development for years. Jim had long held a passion for wine and was exploring how to take the next step in becoming involved in the wine business when Peter stopped by the table. As fate would have it, that chance meeting would spawn a friendship and partnership, the Deutsch Nantz Alliance (DNA).

Theirs has been a hands-on collaboration. Jim and Peter traveled together to California and worked closely with renowned winemakers Dan Goldfield, Wayne Donaldson, and James MacPhail on every step of the wine-making process, from vineyard to bottle. They also poured themselves into the packaging process, working to capture the essence of the brand in the label design. For Jim and Peter, The Calling is about pursuing a passion, inspiring others, and making a great wine.

JamesMacPhailHaving the opportunity to work with affable wine-maker James MacPhail throughout the night and being able to ask questions about the process, vintage, etc was like icing on the cake for this wine geek.  His shared knowledge along with the quality of The Calling Chardonnay made our evening very successful and fun for all. Throughout the night we were surrounded by nothing but praise from the attendees. With many asking where to buy and return visits to our table to let us know The Calling was a favorite of the night.

Aged 11 months sur-lie in french oak, using approximately 35% new oak, with frequent batonage and malolactic fermentation done in the barrel. I found this beautifully rich and balanced Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Chardonnay to be perfectly made to satisfy the gamut of Chardonnay drinkers. Tropical fruit notes, crisp acidity and its round richness on the palate were attributes and accolades we heard from guests throughout this special tasting event. And I have to admit I agree. With accolades from Wine Spectator; a 91 point score and a spot on their TOP 100 wine list for 2017, this wine deserves all the attention it gets.

To getting The Calling!   ¡SALUD!

The Calling Chardonnay is presently available on-line and at your local Total Wine and More store through their Winery Direct program. Price range: $32-$36.00.

I need to be drinking more Merlot!

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Broadside

 

Such was the impression made by this wine that I actually noted I need to be drinking more Merlot if it tastes like this! in my tasting notes. This Paso Robles 2016 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Merlot left quite the mark.

I’ve known about the Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon for quite some time having featured it at our local Whole Foods. Every time we highlighted it with sale pricing, event tastings or big displays, its following would grow. Many a new customer returned for more.

Winery info provided:

Broadside produces wines focused on purity and true varietal expression. We favor balance and simplicity, giving consumers a window to the promise of the central coast and varietal character.. Our wine-making employs a natural approach in that our wines are minimally handled to best express the grape, site and vintage. We harvest at lower sugars and use little to no new oak to create wines of balance and finesse that make sense on the dinner table. 

As a big fan of California’s Paso Robles wine region I have always been drawn to anything Paso Robles [click for more info]. I hate to generalize but I have never had a bad wine from this Appellation/AVA (American Viticultural Area) , and I can only say that about three to four sites around the world.

Paso Robles info:

Paso Robles Wine Country is an American Viticultural Area located in the San Luis Obispo County, California. It has approximately 40,000 vineyard acres planted with wine grapes, and is well known for its heritage varietal Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhône-style wines. 

Although its been a while since I poured Merlot, they have tended to be from Washington State wineries. Big, bold and expensive comes to mind. So I was blown away at the on-line pricing of under $20,  if available. This wine easily tastes twice as expensive if not even more.

Broadside Sustainability info:

all of our fruit is sourced from sustainable sources. These vineyards are either SIPGLOBALG.A.P. certified, or both. With our long-term commitments and direct involvement in these vineyards, we steer farming towards a simple, hands-off approach keeping both chemical (organic or otherwise) and water use to an absolute minimum. We are the first solar-powered winery in Paso Robles’ Tin City, and have taken several steps beyond that to limit impact on our immediate environment.

My notes:

On the nose; red fruit, tropical fruit (fig pulp), slight dry wood notes (vanilla, tobacco, leather), most likely from the fact that they use used oak barrels versus new wood.

On the palate; balanced! (yes with the exclamation point), red fruit at the front, not a fruit bomb, more so dark fruit notes on the finish, luscious legs on the glass, and the previously quoted: I need to be drinking more Merlot if it tastes like this! Yes, with the exclamation point again.

Winery Tasting Notes:

Vivid ruby. Cherry, cassis and succulent herbs on the fragrant nose, joined
by a slowly building tobacco nuance. Plush and supple in texture, showing good depth to
the lively bitter cherry and black currant flavors. A smoky note appears on the finish,
which features velvety tannins and lingering dark berry character.

Brian and Stephy Terrizzi are the winemaker-viticulturist power couple behind  Broadside wines. Their dedication to this wine and the wine-making process shines through with their message making it to the wine buyer, the glass and the wine drinker.

If you get the opportunity to try this wine, do not hesitate. You may even come to regret, as I now do, having only bought one bottle….. ¡SALUD!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been taken Prisoner yet again! The Prisoner Wine Co.

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The excitement was in the air recently with the new 2017 vintage release by The Prisoner Wine Company. Weeks before,  the previous vintage had sold out and I had prepared my team for the barrage of daily questions as to why it wasn’t available or when new product would arrive.

The past couple of Prisoner releases I had noticed that the wines improved with age versus being good upon release. Those days are behind us now and I am happy to report that not only do we have stocked shelves but the 2017 is drinking beautifully now.

A lot has changed in the wine world since I wrote about The Prisoner a few years ago. See original post below.  The one constant or I should say “constants” are; excellent quality and the popularity of the brand continues to draw excited customers.

My notes:

On the nose detected syrah and zinfandel notes along with a light oak woodiness. On the palate, although fruit forward at the front palate,  I was very surprised at its restraint compared to what I expected.  I found the finish earthy and with a bit of alcohol detected. While decanted it started to open up nicely and quickly. As mentioned above; surprised that the wine was drinking so well now.

While thinking about writing this review I decided to take a peak in the wine cellar. Okay, one of my wine cellars. I was very excited to find  2007 (!) and 2013 vintages awaiting my trial!

I think I may enjoy this “being taken Prisoner” part of my job…. ¡SALUD!

 

Orin Swift 2008 The Prisoner Napa Valley Red Wine

After many years of hearing about this wine and its fabulousness I finally had the chance to partake thanks to having received the 2008 vintage, a 92 pointer per Wine Spectator,  as a birthday gift this past year.   I now know what all the hoopla is about and can see why The Prisoner has and continues to develop a following selling out year after year. To think I was able to cellar mine for 6 months before finally letting myself be imprisoned. Unbeknownst to me the 2008 has been sold out for a while now, along with the 2009. For the most part only the 2010 is now available, running approximately $28-38.00.

This Orin Swift Proprietary Blend contains mostly Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller amounts of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache also, coming across as very well-integrated.

Opaque and ruby garnet in color I detected; leather, black pepper, cedar, raw green pepper and dark ripe fruits in the nose. Peppery on the tongue I detected flavors of; blackberry, vanilla, spice, cherry, the acidity of plum. Fig, raisin & prune as it opened and even more so in the long finish.

Related articles

Picture It! 1924

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1924

Gnarly Head’s 1924 Double Black Red Wine Blend is an ode to the days of Prohibition. As per the label: “wine’s darkest hour when it was deemed illegal”. Luckily for us, the year 1924 was also when this winery set down their wine roots.

I recently discovered this Limited Edition Gnarly Head production in our wine department at Whole Foods. My beverage buyer had decided to bring it in and create a small display. After sampling this wine, we may want to go bigger.

Having enjoyed Gnarly Head wines, mostly Zinfandel, this Lodi California blend caught my eye. The frosted bottle didn’t hurt either. The fact that it is presently priced under $10 pretty much decided it for me right then and there. Tonight’s wine was chosen.

Slightly chilled to room temperature, remember I live in the tropics, this wine poured a dark rich garnet purple color. The nose boomed with power and excitement of dark fruit such as; blackberry, fig, blueberry, raisin with a bit of cocoa thrown in. The palate was pretty much the same with a bit more chocolate and the addition of caramel.

This velvety fruit forward bold field blend managed to satisfy all my wine needs. This says a lot of a wine at this price point. Luckily I am not alone. Wine Enthusiast rated a recent vintage 90 points and classified it under their BEST BUY distinction. VIVINO app customers also rate it highly. This easy drinker is a secret no more.

I am predicting that with in-store wine tastings our small display will need refilling on a regular basis. A great example of QPR [quality to price ratio] if I ever did see one. Here’s to spreading the wine gospel!

¡SALUD!

 

Mexican Wine! Pavo Real 2012 Red Blend

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IMG_3288Yes it’s true: Mexican wine has finally made it to Whole Foods Market North Miami.

Many of our guests are surprised to hear “our new Mexican wine” once they enter our Specialty department. Some already in the know, are beyond excited to get their hands on a bottle or bottles as the case may be.  I am happy to report that we have sold multiple cases since its arrival only three weeks ago.  A testament to the customers who buy one bottle for its newness factor and return happy to buy more.

During my time in the wine biz [spoiler alert career anniversary quickly approaching]  I probably averaged about two or three requests a year from customers about wines from Mexico. Most of them having discovered them while on vacation there and raving about them upon returning home.

Although wine making is not new to Mexico, history tells us wine was introduced to the area by Spanish missionaries, it was not exported due to limited production levels. As the popularity of wine growing increased in the Valle de Guadalupe so did its production and exporting beyond the west coast became possible. The more I learn about this area and its now 100+ wineries the higher the Baja Peninsula gets on my to-do list!

As regular readers may already know I love discovering new wine trivia, varietals etc. Well the Pavo Real falls into this category in a big way!  Wine from Mexico, check. Wine made by a famous sommelier, who knew? Turns out that for those of us who are fans of the movie SOMM [if you haven’t seen it add it to your queue STAT], from their web-site: A prestigious blender: The wines are blended by prestigious and internationally recognized sommelier, Ian Cauble. Ian Cauble has been a Master Sommelier since 2012 and gained worldwide recognition when featured in the critically acclaimed documentary Somm, which documented Ian’s journey to pass the infamously difficult Master Sommelier exam.  And lastly for me, a new varietal to add to my list!

The blend listed on the Pavo Real includes; 50% Grenache; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Ruby Cabernet; 10% Barbera.  Ruby Cabernet? I had never heard of such a varietal. Turns out, thank you Wikipedia;

Ruby Cabernet is a red Olmo grape variety that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, it can produce wines with good colour and a pleasant cherry flavour, but is mostly blended into bulk wines.  And for those wondering what an Olmo grape variety is;  Olmo grapes are wine and table grape varieties produced by University of California, Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. Over the course of his nearly 50-year career, Dr. Olmo bred a wide variety of both grapes by means of both crossing varieties from the same species or creating hybrid grapes from cultivars of different Vitis species.

My notes:

On the nose, earthy aromas bringing mushrooms and fallen leaves to mind with red fruits in the background including strawberries and raspberries. Light bodied seeming when poured.  On the palate; medium/light body but flavorful, nicely balanced fruit, not overly fruity, restrained with peppery spices on the finish.

The Pavo Real, which translates into Peacock by the way, seemed to evaporate before my very eyes, well actually once poured into my wine glass is more like it.  This is an easy-drinker which I think would please crowds when entertaining [someone say Cinco de Mayo?] and also when having a quiet romantic evening for one such as I did. The price point of under $15 makes it a no-brainer with some deals out there showing Pavo Real available in the $10-$13 range plus shipping.  I hear they have a white wine out there too. I can dream can’t I?

VIVA MEXICO! and ¡SALUD!

 

BLENDER’S NOTES
“Pavo Real Red Wine exhibits intense and fruit forward aromas of dried strawberry, black cherry liqueur, black currants, crushed pomegranates, violets, wet leaves, wild herbs, black pepper, cacao nibs, wet leather and dried clay. The palate is full, layered, rich and spicy with flavors of preserved raspberries, strawberries, bitter chocolate, dried herbs and baking spices.”

A DELICIOUS PAIRING:  This intense and flavorful wine demands a rich meal. Beef fajitas with grilled onions and spicy chorizo dishes will stand up to Pavo Real Red Wine. Pair with sweet sopapillas for a decadent Pavo Real experience.

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #6 Machete from Orin Swift

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img_1953The Wine Spectator Top 100 list is a BIG deal every year. Making the Top 10 and being named #6 on that list, well it doesn’t get much better for everyone from the wine makers to the consumer.

As the names and scores are released daily I immediately get questions from customers about their availability. Of course I usually beat them to the punch as I await every daily press release in the hopes that I not only know the wine but have it on my shelf at our Whole Foods Market North Miami. Wine geek much? I guess so..

fullsizerender-2As a big fan of Dave Phinney and his Orin Swift winemaking skills I knew of Machete; a Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache blend, but had not had the honor of trying it due to availability or distribution issues. Well that all changed when earlier this year Dave Phinney announced the sale of Orin Swift Cellars to E. & J. Gallo Wines. Since then I am happy to announce that most if not all of the Orin Swift wines have become available to me [thanks to great distributor relationships] and are flying off the shelf just by word of mouth and reputation. Well, until now of course.

With only 15,500 cases produced, a 94 point score, a TOP 100 and TOP 10 list placement by Wine Spectator the 2014 vintage may not be around for long . Fingers crossed that it is, but I am also excited by the fact that Dave Phinney will be staying on as head of Orin Swift Cellars while benefiting from the power and potential behind a partnership with E. & J. Gallo Wines¦SALUD!

My tasting notes: In all honesty this was a group tasting. Fate had me buying a bottle of Machete, to probably drink/taste alone, on the same night wine loving neighbors in need of brawny men to move a wine cellar fridge called. The stars and planets aligned. Wine cave installed, this wine was a glorious hit with all who imbibed and even garnered me a sale of multiple bottles! Our thoughts; opaque purple-black in color, big & robust on the nose with dark berries, currants, licorice, cloves and white pepper, full-bodied, drinkable now not in need of decanting, great Autumn wine, although big and bold on the nose much softer on the palate, smooth tannins, noticeable acidity.

Wine maker notes:
A nearly opaque color sets in the glass with a hard, red complexion that is almost black. Aromas of ripe blueberries and candied plum mingle with toasted oak and charred vanilla. The entry is soft and inviting which paves the way for a lush mid-palate replete with layers of ripe boysenberry and cassis. The finish showcases ripe tannins and pronounced fruit which frames the two for nearly a minute. **Bottled with 12 Different Labels, you may not receive the one pictured**
Wine Spectator notes:

Generous and expressive, big and brawny, this offers a mouthful of tannins but also brims with flavors and aromas, including Earl Grey tea, dark chocolate, dried violet and toasted gingerbread. Rich notes of plum and black cherry are balanced by forest floor and earth accents, which linger on the long finish. Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache. Drink now through 2030.

Machete 2014

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New Varietal Discovery: Bobal – Academia de los Nocturnos

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Academia de los NocturnosSpring is in the air and with it the luck of new wine discoveries. Some of which I hope to be writing about in the near future. First up is my latest Spanish find the grape varietal Bobal: thanks to Pago De Tharsys Academia de los Nocturnos, From the DO Utiel-Requena area of Valencia.

Interesting internet tidbits:

  • Utiel Requena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines located in the province of Valencia. It takes its name from the two neighboring towns of Utiel and Requena. It is renowned for the predominant use of the Bobal grape variety. Grape growing and wine production in the area dates from at least the 7th century BC.
  • Bobal is the third most planted variety in Spain coming behind Airén  and Tempranillo.
  • Founded in 1591 Academia de los Nocturnos was a meeting place for some of Valencia’s greatest literary and artistic figures.

Third most planted grape in Spain? Have I been living under a wine glass? Always so much to learn, discover and of course share. Not knowing any of this history I fell for the fruity embodiment of what could be a big hit for my customer base at Whole Foods.

 

My tasting notes:

Light bodied, good acidity, light to no discernible tannins, red fruits noted, nice flavor richness at the back-end of palate, not fruit forward yet somewhat complex as in no one flavor jumps out, herbal/floral/spices [violet, cedar] appear on the palate after breathing 30 minutes.

I would describe this wine to be comparable to old world affordable Pinot Noir, Ventoux, and Beaujolais. An easy drinker and excellent choice for everyday drinking, as a party wine when trying to satisfy a crowd, a light Summer red (specially in Miami!), and holiday meals like Thanksgiving when you have many different styles of foods you are pairing with.  We happened to pair it with a Whole Foods Cowboy Burger, potato salad, fresh sliced tomatoes and a cucumber dill salad. This Bobal paired well with them all.

I am happy to report that three weeks after stacking the Academia de los Nocturnes in our North Miami wine department it has been discovered. Could be the cool minimal label, the newness factor, or did I mention the price? A whopping $8.99! Not even on sale, regularly priced. Yes, many factors to consider but I think the repeat customer business is all the proof we will need. To new discoveries!  ¡SALUD!