Saturday, May 21, 2005

"Thin to Win"

This is a golfing term that is supposed to mean that usually when you thin a shot, at least from about 150 yards out, there is a good chance your ball may actually end up on or near the green. (However, a thin shot from around the green or from a sand trap will usually have disasterous results as the ball is long gone.) A "fat" shot has just the opposite results and, beside ruining your pride in front of your playing partners, will require you to trudge back to the cart, grab another club and try to hit the green again from about 20 yards closer. It is bad luck to even talk about a shanked shot, so we will leave that one alone!

I once played a round of golf fifteen years ago with Tommy Armour III who, beside cruising around the course in a smooth, effortless par 70, showed me how the pros are in a different league than us mortals. Having drilled a long perfect drive in the middle of the fairway on #13, he proceeded to lay a huge chunk of sod over on his approach shot. The ball went 20 yards. If I had done that I would be toast for 3 holes thinking about the fat shot. He calmly walked up to the ball, took a few practice swings and then stiffed it to 4 feet. He made the put and as we walked off the green he looked at me and said, "You need to do that on the Tour." Oh? Lesson learned, wisdom exchanged.

Now how does this have anything to do with wine? Well, in golf, thin is good, fat is bad. In wine, thin is bad, fat is good. Remember that. You're welcome!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Georges Duboeuf Moulin-A-Vent

Georges Duboeuf, Moulin-A-Vent Red Burgundy 2003 ($15) - France. Aged in Oak for six months. Can't tell you more as the site is pending (come on, I have a little wine shop for six months and I have a live website) and there are no production notes on the bottle. Burgundy means Pinot Noir if my memory serves me right, but maybe it's Beaujolais.

Anyway, there's not much nose, not much fruit. Thin and a short finish. Other than that, a fine example of French wine. I am sure it would be great with food but I am out of truffles.

I heard that the 2003 vintage was the "Vintage of the Sun". We'll see.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Erie Avenue Near Blind Tasting - $20 Rose

I will be making a full report shortly but am currently buried in golf games and making deliveries. The short version is that the JK Carriere "Glass" White Pinot Noir came in first and the Vinum Rose (It's Okay!) of Cabernet Sauvignon came in second. One bottle was corked and fun was had by all. The appetizers from Pho Paris were spectacular and the Pizza at the Oakley Bar and Grill was fine, although the wine list at the latter was suspect. Best to order Guinness on tap or move onto the harder stuff! On a final note, the 1994 Robert Sinsky Vin de Gris Pinot Noir was a treat after the Blind Tasting. Who knew that a Rose could hold for 10 years!

There was much discussion about the next event as to what wines and where but that will be announced shortly. There will be a summer break for July and August (very civilized!), but people are free to gather if they so desire. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Summer breaks, I know the French have taken a lot of flack recently for some of their geo-political decisions in the Middle East, which stupidly caused some American wine lovers to dump First Growth Bordeaux down the drain, but I think the French have a great custom of shutting everything down in the month of August and taking a holiday. I think the French are clueless when it comes to wine labelling (see above), but on vacation planning, they have it nailed. If we all took the month of August off we would all be in a better mood until at least December, and could take a real vacation without worrying about what was happening back at the shop. (Usually not much that couldn't wait until we got back.) Just an idea. And then we could also practice sipping Rose at lunch, and liking it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Response from the Ohio Liquor Control Commission

"See you in court!" According to the Associated Press, officials in charge of Ohio Liquor think that the rules regulating shipping wine into Ohio are not discriminatory (neither did New York, Michigan or Virginia) and therefore the recent Supreme Court decision does not apply to Ohio Liquor regulations. Therefore they will be arguing their case in US District Court shortly.

Currently, residents can have wine shipped into Ohio, if it is not already registered (posted) in the State, and after filling out some paperwork and paying sales and excise taxes. Few wineries list Ohio as an approved state to ship to and so will not ship into the state. In-state wineries can ship without the paperwork and their wines are registered in the state. Sounds like two sets of rules to me!

Also, strangely residents and retail stores can't ship out of the state. UPS and FedEx will not take shipments if you tell them there is wine in the box. So forget about sending a Christmas gift to your brother in Denver, or a birthday gift to your sister in Florida! I am not sure of the rationale here.

Two Indiana wineries and some Ohio wine lovers are working on the US District Court case to open up the doors to outside wineries. They predict victory, but if you want to help, write your legislators and go to Free The Grapes. I would guess that Ohio is a year or two away from having open shipping rules. The US District Court must decide that the rules are discriminatory, then the State will have to issue new regulations. Better make that three to four years!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Breaking News

Court Strikes Down Ban on Wine Shipments

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wine lovers may buy directly from out-of-state vineyards, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, striking down laws banning a practice that has flourished because of the Internet and growing popularity of winery tours.

The 5-4 decision overturns laws in New York and Michigan that make it a crime to buy wine directly from vineyards in another state. In all, 24 states have laws that bar interstate shipments.

The state bans are discriminatory and anti-competitive, the court said.

It Can't Be That Complicated!

"French swallow pride and simplify wine labels" By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor (Filed: 14/05/2005)

For 70 years France has stubbornly clung to the most complicated and arcane wine labelling system in the world. But in a desperate attempt to stem the threat from the New World, French producers are starting to tell consumers what is in their bottles.

Following controversial changes to the appellation system, more and more quality Bordeaux wines are being labelled with the grape variety rather than simply its geographic region. The change is an attempt by producers to reverse falling sales and attract customers who seem to prefer the simplicity and clarity of labels on Australian, Chilean or South African wines.

If the new descriptions are adopted across France, they would reveal that a St Emilion is mostly made from merlot, that a red Burgundy is made from pinot noir and that a Chablis is made with chardonnay

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Vacation Wine

Springfield Estate, "Whole Berry" Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($20) - Robertson, South Africa; Estate Bottled. Many times customers rave about some wine they discovered on vacation and I try to find it here in Cincinnati. I usually don't burst their bubble by suggesting that perhaps the wine tasted so good because they were on vacation (no work, no deadlines, great food, good company and beautiful scenery). In the same vein, I have heard that wine in Italy doesn't give you a headache, but probably that is more due to not having to get up at 7am to go to work.

A customer found this wine in South Africa on their honeymoon and loved it. I tried to find it in Ohio, but West Virginia was the closest retailer as it is not distributed in Ohio. After a six hour drive on Saturday, the customer had got his case and another case for me as I had, on blind faith, ordered this wine. (I am not mentioning names here as this wine is technically contraband and I don't want to get anyone in trouble. Such are the liquor laws in 2005!)

This wine has a bouquet of fruit aromas with warm tasty fruit flavors and a medium finish. There were tannins present but, unlike a typical California Cab, there was a good underlying acidity that would make this a good food wine. Overall a good wine and worth the drive to West Virginia for a wine adventure and some great memories.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Vinum Cellars Rose - Wine Blog Wednesday

Vinum Cellars, Rose 2004 ($12) - Napa Valley Pink Table Wine. Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon. From this irreverent winemaker we are told that "it's okay!" I assume that means that it is OK to drink Pink. A portion of the profits go to a national Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The irreverence of the winery must come from one of the winemaker's stint at Bonny Doon. Here is the official version:

Vinum Cellars is a collaboration of winemakers Richard Bruno and Chris Condos, who first became friends while they were students at UC Davis. They share a long standing passion for Chenin Blanc and fondness for the more obscure grape varieties. After graduation, Chris went to work for Pine Ridge as Enologist, and Richard went to Bonny Doon as their distiller. Shortly after, their friendship was solidified over Chenin Blanc with the creation of their first wine "Pointe Blanc". Currently the Vinum Cellars team is working with over 14 grape varieties from El Dorado and San Benito Counties to Napa Valley.

I couldn't find a lot on production notes, but there is a short blurb on the vineyard:

Jim Frediani is a 3rd generation Italian grower and has probably forgotten more about growing grapes then most people know. Our cabernet comes from dry-farmed, old vines which express flavorful red fruit and powerful tannins. To make the red wine super concentrated, we remove some of the pink juice in the early stages after crushing. We then ferment this portion cold (like white wine) to make our groovy Rosé - It’s Okay!

I am always excited to try new varietals of Rose, so I opened a chilled bottle and then let it warm in the glass. I got very dry fruit flavors with a hint of watermelon and strawberry. Tannins are present and it has a good mouth feel. Lots of flavor here with a smooth medium finish. Thirst quenching and substantial. Very good. I would order more and will try the other Vinum wines very soon.

By sheer happenstance, I will be conducting a blind tasting of eight Rose's next Tuesday. The intent is to find eight different varietals. I will report on the findings later. I guess May is a perfect month to cover Rose's!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

John Duval Wines

John Duval Wines, Plexus 2003 ($39) - Barossa Valley; Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre (46%, 32%, 22%) I grabbed a six pack during a walk about in Cutting Edge's warehouse after sampling five Madeira's (more later about that expedition). They got twenty six-packs from the former winemaker of Penfold's Grange. The packaging is modern and clean.

Here is a blurb from another retailer:

The 2003 Plexus Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre is the most eagerly anticipated new wine release of the year. It's already a runaway winner before it even reaches the wine stores on March 1. Demand has been so keen that the Australian allocation has already been snapped up by wine distributors.
Wine stores report that buyers have been enquiring for some time to buy the first wine from the maestro. Mr Duval was Penfolds chief winemaker and maker of Penfolds Grange from 1986 until he resigned in mid-2002 after 28 years with the company. He was only the third winemaker of Penfolds Grange, regarded internationally as Australia's greatest wine.
His shock resignation came after the merger between Southcorp and Rosemount Wines in 2001. "I'm very pleased with the wine because there has been a lot of expectation," Mr Duval said. "The main one has been meeting my own expectations. I've been very nervous because I'm doing it for myself for the first time.

Here is one opinion from Parker's chat forum:

2003 John Duval Wines Plexus (Barossa Valley Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre): An explosion of ripe black, red and purple fruits envelops the nostrils. Quite often after such a power packed punch you expect a wave of vanilla and coconut oak but not with this baby. There is a touch of "Northern Rhonesque" passionfruit skins and the well seasoned French oak injects a little cedar, spice and toast. The palate is dense and juicy but not jammy and fruit and oak is in perfect harmony. There is a creamy texture with enough savoury characters to ensure the wines value as a food partner. As for the length, those inclined to time the finish had better put some new batteries in their stopwatch.

I guess he liked it. I did also.

Was a little confused on first opening (the wine, not me), but showed a Grenache nose and lots of fruit. Two hours later, after I returned from dinner, it had smoothed out and taken on a refined elegance, but still very young. Needs to age but shows great promise. I think I will pick up a few more six packs before they are all gone.

Top 30 US Wine Producers

I am sure this has been posted by others previously, but it is always interesting to see the sales volumes of the "big boys".

WBM’s Top 30 US Wine Companies of 2004
(click on company name to view info)

Wine Company Annual US Case Sales
1 E&J Gallo Winery 75,000,000
2 Constellation Brands 56,000,000
3 The Wine Group 40,000,000
4 Bronco Wine Company 20,000,000
5 Beringer Blass Wine Estates 12,000,000
6 Trinchero Family Estates 9,000,000
7 Brown-Forman Wines 6,000,000
8 Kendall-Jackson 5,000,000
9 Ste. Michelle Wine Estates 3,700,000
10 Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines 3,250,000
11 Allied Domecq Wines USA 2,500,000
12 Heck Estates 2,000,000
13 Delicato Vineyards 1,600,000
14 Vincor USA 1,400,000
15 C. Mondavi & Sons 1,000,000
16 Don Sebastiani & Sons 1,000,000
17 Ironstone Vineyards 900,000
18 J. Lohr Winery 800,000
19 Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery 750,000
20 Peak Wines International 700,000
21 Bogle Vineyards 650,000
22 Barefoot Cellars 580,000
23 Rodney Strong Vineyards 550,000
24 San Antonio Winery 500,000
25 Smith & Hook/Hahn Estates Winery 500,000
26 Hess Collection 500,000
27 Wente Family Estates 375,000
28 Bonny Doon 365,000
29 Domaine Chandon 350,000
30 Rutherford Ranch Vineyards & Winery 350,000

Source: Company information and WBM estimates.The numbers do not include bulk wine-- wine processed by the company but sold under another company's brand. Two large bulk producers were omitted because they don't produce wine under their own brands: Giumaurra Vineyards (one of California's largest table grape growers) and Vie Del, the second largest player in the grape concentrate business.The rankings include annual U.S. case sales numbers for wine sourced from other countries but sold in the U.S. under a U.S. Wine Company. We estimate, for example, that E&J Gallo may annually produce 65 million cases in the U.S. but import somewhere in the vicinity of ten million cases from Italy and Australia.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Bogle Phantom

Bogle Vineyards, Phantom 2002 ($18) - California; Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, Old Vine Mourvedre (56%, 41%, 3%). This is a special cuvee from Bogle, a winery that produces about 650,000 cases a year, that comes out once a year and is quickly snapped up. I am not sure how many cases are produced, but I was happy to get three. For Mothers day I served this wine. Beautiful fruit aromas, with silky smooth full fruit flavors and a long finish. This is the most complex, tasty wine I can remember having for $18.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Vina Alarba Rose

Vina Alarba Rose 2004 ($8) - Calatayud, Spain from Jorge Ordonez. Couldn't find any notes on any websites, but I am guessing Grenache here. This is a great summer cooler for lunch for $8. Has fruit flavors and some tannins with a medium finish. Great fun!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Cantele Salento Primitivo

Cantele, Salento Primitivo 2003 ($11) -- Italy IGT. From the southernmost part of Puglia. It is also the easternmost point in Italy and can be described as "the heel of the boot". Mild nose with silky smooth flavors and a medium finish. Should be a very good food wine due to the acidity. Somewhat simple but a good choice for mid-week dinner.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Castle Rock Pinot Noir

Castle Rock, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2004 ($13) - California. The notes on the website are for the 2003 vintage, so I can't offer much as to production specifics, but I bought a few cases sight unseen and then just tasted. I got a big earthy nose on first opening (almost barnyard-like, Burgundian) then good fruit flavors and medium finish. This is very different from the typical sedate, cherry California Pinot, but this is a great Pinot for under $15. Also, good with food - today it was bacon pizza from Italianette Pizza on Plainville Road.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Quote of the Day

During a conversation with a Manager of a local restaurant and a wine rep and a Champagne importer about the pricing on the lunch menu versus the dinner menu, the Manager offered this advice:

"You make your friends at lunch. You make your money at dinner."