Wine & Design

Musings, not so long-winded reviews and other good stuff about wine and design

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thank your lucky stars

You're lucky to be a Californian

You've heard this all before, but please indulge me. During the spring, I attended a conference in Maryland for design and became quickly appreciative for some things that we have in California. Specifically, in regards to the restaurant service industry and wine. Perhaps I had a unique experience, but I visited five restaurants in Maryland and their customer service was terrible; it definitely was as if they were doing us a favor by taking our money. I have friends in the service industry and I've seen the movie Waiting, so I'm always respectful. This attitude was also experienced in other service establishments. Has anyone had this experience in Maryland? While this experience bummed me out, I was more disturbed about how limited the wine selections were. At one liquor store, the California brand that dominated was RH Phillips/Toasted Head. Moreover, the prices were outrageous. Okay, maybe I can overcome that. What if, say, I wanted to grab a Cab at midnight for a party? Nope, sorry, they can't sell alcohol late at night.

So, yes, if you read a little bit in industry magazines, you know of the myriad of restrictions that other states face. They suck. Check out how ridiculous Utah's restrictions are! For more information on these and other industry issues, pay a visit to this site.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Since you've been gone

Long time, no blog! Well, after the frustratingly long process of trying to negoticiate my payscale for a wine broker job, I've decided to move on. I'll see you later Bay Area! Coming out of university, employers expect you to be organized, professional, and on top of your game but I've quickly realized that these efforts are not always reciprocated in kind. Oh well, I suppose that's one month and a half wasted. In any case, I've been applying for other broker and design positions in Southern California and that has been going well. I already have gotten responses and an invitation for an interview at a urban planning and design firm. I'm definitely surprised at the fast turnaround. Now I've got to start grooming again and get a haircut. Also in the good news category, I will be guest lecturing at my alma mater! Another opportunity to pretend that I'm still not in reality. As for wine, I'll finish up the Southern Hemisphere visit with six more wines, do a wine tasting for a soon-to-be married couple's wedding lineup, and put together some more reviews. Some wine that I have enjoyed lately are: Quady Electra Red 2004, Bonny Doon Big House Pink 2005 and Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza 2001...inadvertantly clinging onto summer by drinking light and tasty wine? Coincidence? Perhaps, but anyhow, I'll write those up soon as well. As for my job hunt... please keep me in your prayers :)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Southern Hemisphere Wines part one

Lo Tengo Torrontes 2004: 5/10. According to Welcome Argentina, "Torrontés has become the white vine emblematic of Argentina, representing us in the international market. With a very particular aromatic intensity, where fruit such as peach and flowers such as rose or jasmine the combination of voluptuous and shrouding notes with a pleasant freshness and a frank and lengthy finish. The balance between its acidity and the fruit makes it taste as a sweet wine, but it is not. Even if good results are being obtained when it is made as a sweet wine...It is not for indecisive minds… Either you like it or not. It does not admit a happy medium. It is to be tasted!" I'll agree that you'll either be black or white about this varietal. Although, hate is a strong word in this case. The wine was crisp but lacking the fragrant aroma described. Strong tannins dominated throughout but did not contribute to a long length for this light bodied sipper.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Its a small world after all...

Today, while I was touring a new branch of Bristol Farms market, I saw something very familiar in the wine department. One of my old neighbors is a very talented painter by the name of Ann Rea and specialized in still life back in the day. Now, I believe she's very prolific with painting vineyards. In the wine department, I saw a label that was very Rea-esque. The wine is Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc 2004. I turn the label and yes, it was by Ann. Moreover, in the past, I gave her some pomelos from my parents' garden. It would be so cool if those were my mom's pomelos...haha, I'm such a dork. Thanks for reading

Technorati Profile

An interesting wine web log

A couple of weeks ago, I found a link to an interesting, if not questionable blog from the Twisted Oak Winery. Its called Women with Wine. Truly, anything and everything can be found on the 'net. Tickled by this, I submitted a photo and it was posted! So, if you've got a women with wine fetish, check it out!

A Crash Course in Livermore wines

Last week, after a mildly numbing day of work, I was greeted by a dining room table adorned with some wine from the Livermore Valley. Besides Temecula, Livermore is the only other California wine region that I have left on my "must see and taste list". A buddy of old roommate works at Wente lab in the Livermore Vly and was tasting a few wines to hone his wine geek skills and invited me to join in. Not bad! The bottles had been opened since the previous evening, but in my estimation were tasting decently. In addition to tasting, I got to pick his brain on a few things...which was pretty cool (Brettanomyces, custom crushing for other wineries, and other small talk).

Wente Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2004: 6.5/10. This was an unlabeled one that I suspect was a final blend because it's about time for the new vintages to come out. Granted, my experience with Cab Franc is pretty limited, but I still thought that it was okay. Like my other Cab Franc experiences, this one tasted green or unripe. It didn't have rich, lingering aromas or taste, but rather indications of chocolate/coffee=mocha and blueberry that flitted around and then dissapated. Retails for $30ish

Wente Small Lot Petite Sirah 2004: 7.5/10...another unlabeled blend. Probably my second favorite of the assortment. Thin one was good one to let linger and taste. Compared with the Cab Franc's quick whiffs of berry, this petite was more like a freshly baked blueberry cobbler that just envelopes you...the disparity between the two was that wide. I came back to this one more than twice. That's a good sign. Retails for $30ish

2002 Souza (sp?) 5.5/10: I don't know which label they are selling this under, but it is an Italian or Spanish heritage grape (eg. Touriga Nacional, Aglianico, Freisa, Teroldego). Please leave your corrections for my phonetic spelling of it. Being my first time tasting of this varietal, I'm not sure if it was supposed to taste like this or was really oxidized and has a short counter life. The wine was really short, big on tannins and really lacking in fruit flavors. Retail price unknown.

Wente Livermore Vly SF Bay 2004: 7/10: This was a really lightweight Syrah. So much so, it reminded me of a Merlot profile. This is an offering from their flagship line so I suppose is meant to be really accessible for all. This wine is certainly easy to drink. If you have this at a party or potluck and leave it on a table while people mingle, it will disappear in no time. Enjoy it with your friends! $8-10?

Tamas Estates Barbera 2003: 8.5/10 This was by far, my favorite of them all. Not as adventurous as say, Easton or Seghesio Barbera, but extremely tasty. It was rich, smooth and easy drinking juice that was fairly well balanced and reminded me of jam. For your convenience, it has a screwtop closure. Thought to be between $8-12 pricepoint. Whatever it may retail for, I'd think it would be a great value.

Photo: Point Loma, CA

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Have a fireside chat with this one

While people in my age group may be more inclined drink "yak" (def. 1. Cognac. As in the brandy. Used by hip-hop / rap artists eg. "...Sippin yak". courtesy of from Courvosier and Hennessey, I think that they aren't getting the most for their money. Many wine and spirit geeks will agree with me when I say, Germain-Robin brandies top any cognacs at the same quality level. For those that don't have access to a better wine and spirits shop in their area, they are distributed by the Chambers & Chambers group. In the greater Sacramento area, I have been able to find it at Nugget Market and Davis Wine. So far, I have tried their G-R Fine Alambic ($30-40ish), Shareholder's Reserve ($55) and XO ($100). My very informal price survey found that you can save about $80 on the G-R XO versus the Hennessey counterpart at most shops. Check out the G-R website if you want to read on about their interesting story (if you're in California and love PBS, "California Heartland" is where I first learned about G-R). But anyway, today, I am tasting the G-R Fine Alambic again. I bought this bottle as a birthday gift, but those plans were nixed.... so on with the show. Be sure to taste with a snifter. I on the other hand, will be tasting out of a Dixie brand cup. Yes, go ahead and laugh at me... I'm not that far removed from college so I have an ample supply. The aroma: Instantly we're getting a strong scent of vanilla with our noses hovering two inches above our cups. Sniffing again, I get closer in and smell caramel and maybe a little cinnamon....yum. Okay, lets taste it. Not too viscous, but very nice mouthfeel; very smooth and then evolves. Maybe a little honey and apricot (sort of like a warm Viognier for the wine folks) along the mid-taste portion and then it gets astringent after about four seconds of letting it linger and gives you a nice chest buzz...and it lingers, breathe in and out.... go ahead and smoke a cigar or something. Not for me, but I can imagine this will go very nicely with a cigar. Very nice. The holidays are coming fast, it'll get a little chilly and you'll appreciate a smidge of this by the fireplace. Okay, I guess that's a good enough description for now. If I have totally missed something, add on some comments. Thanks for reading

Rhone and Reggae 2006

Saturday, August 19th in Lodi, CA. Unbelievably, this was the first Michael-David event for me and certainly not the last. In fact, this is the first winery visit that I've made to the Lodi wine country. But, I have made visits to Wine & Roses and Lodi Brewery. Both of these spots are super places worth the stop in the Central Valley of California. Lodi has one of the best preserved and retrofitted main streets in Northern California (along with Santana Row in San Jose and Oakdale in the foothills for your design heads). From Sacramento, the city of Lodi is only about 35 minutes away. Coming off Interstate 5, Michael-David was instantly recognizable, beckoning travelers to pay the winery a visit with large, colorful signage. Once parked, we joined the quickly growing line for entrance and quizzed each other on the many beautiful plants thriving throughout the facility. M-D is a great place for both wine and design fiends! So yes, off the bat, this event was a winner with all of us. Along with our glasses, they gave us rasta wristbands....very cool. The tasting was extremely crowded with good vibes. There were three (four if you were a trade member) tastings stations and photo booths (see below) situated within M-D that served: 7 Deadly Zins, 6th Senses Syrah, Earthquake Petite Sirah, Incognito Red Blend, 7 Heavenly Chards and Windmill Viognier. In the trade tasting area, barrel tastings of Petite Sirah, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon were had. As for food, an assortment of Caribbean food was laid out, finishing off with soaking wet rum cake. In addition to the winery, M-D has orchards and farm animals like goats and roosters. Once everyone had their fill of food, entertainment included hawaiian fire dancers and a live band out of the Bay, Red Di. All of this stuff was great, but the highlight of my night was a tasting of some forthcoming wine. I'm not sure of the exact blend, but my tastbuds tell me they were Meritage based. Both of them were tasty and will be ready to drink upon purchase. So, folks, keep your eyes peeled for Rapture and Lust from Michael-David!

Photo booths provided by Red Cheese

Monday, September 04, 2006

Amador County Day Trip

Got some tasting in at Sobon and as always, their Zins did not disappoint. However, I am already not a big fan of white wines, so their Viognier was not as big of a hit with me and my party. After Sobon, we went down to Dobra Zemlja, a smaller operation run by a cool Croatian guy. We were eerily greeted by Milan from under a single overhead light in a very dark cellar and served some big reds (skewed on providing a huge punch...not too balanced). Of all of the hosts we had on this day, Milan was by far, the most hospitable and provided some great conversation. Next on our trip was Renwood. As advertised they had decent Zins but had a "big city" attitude that wasn't experienced anywhere else in the Valley. We got to taste Amador Ice though...cryogenically frozen at optimum Brix (sugar %...intense). While most of us thought it was tasting decently, Nick (Viticulture & Enology major), was detecting ethyl acetate from being oxidized for too long. So, if you make your way up to Renwood and pay to taste Amador Ice, make sure that they open a new bottle for you!! Story was the last place on our trip because with Zins at 17%, you're palate will be conked out afterwards... Oh, and damnit Montevina, Charles Spinetta and Karly were closed. Dinner at is a barbeque place that specializes in Santa Maria Style BBQ. Not exactly sure was distinguishes it as "Santa Maria", but it was damn good...thumbs up. I highly recommend calling in sick on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning and driving up to the Shenandoah Valley for the day. You'll have the whole valley to yourself.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Past wine adventure worth mentioning

Paso Robles Wine Festival; May 2006

From awhile back, but I remember it all very well. I went to a "Meet the Winemakers" event at Crushpad in the Mission SF for Paso Robles wines. I went to the Wine Warehouse tasting the same day but it was extremely packed... Paso is currently implementing a huge branding campaign and held a nationwide tour this year. Was a very nice event, met Doug Beckett, Robert Hall and Stephan Asseo. Consequently, I attended their Wine Festival in Paso. On the morning (8:30 am) of the festival, I attended a winemaker guided seminar presented by three winemakers (Vina Robles, Adelaida and Martin & Weyrich) and moderated by Cindy Newkirk (a wonderful and insightful grower). Basically the AVA was discussed (ie. the difference between West and Eastside Paso wines) and wines were presented and tasted. After the seminar, I made it out to their downtown park for the festival. Notable wineries for me included: Four Vines, EOS (their marketing director went Sac, L'Aventure, Tablas Creek, Justin and Tobin James (for sheer enthusiasm and passing out cowboy hats). On Sunday, we went to winery open houses and enjoyed a showing of horses at Casa de Caballos winery. Verdict: Paso Robles AVA rocks

BTW, this is an unsolicited commentary on Paso, check it out for yourself and I'm sure that you'll agree that Paso wines are yummy