Wines I have Loved

Here’s to all the wines I’ve loved….

Do we have any Willie Nelson fans?  I can’t say I’m a fan; I may know two, perhaps three of his songs. One song I do know is “To all the girls I’ve loved.”  What’s this got to do with wine?  Nothing.  Give me a minute, for I’m developing my story.

I do most of my wine drinking in one of three places:  my back yard on either the patio near the house or by the fire pit; the dining room table; or in my cellar.  My  wine cellar boasts two racks: one for keepers, the other for drinkers.  I also save memorable bottles and display them in the cellar. I do answer to a higher authority, Josephine.

Tonight I am enjoying a great bottle of Planeta La Segreta 2010; it’s from my adopted homeland, Sicily. This wine is a wonderful blend of 50% Nero D’Avola, 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  This wine has a rich, full nose that is just right for sniffing and pondering the mysteries of life.  The flavor is full fruit, spices, and herbs that leave me feeling mellow and relaxed.

I’m sitting in the backyard watching the sun set and the aircraft vapor trails transport people to who-knows-where.  I’m feeling very content, relaxed, and thinking about  —  are you ready for this:

To all the wines I’ve loved before

Who traveled in and out my door

I’m glad they came along I dedicate this song

To all the wines I’ve loved before.

To all the wines I once caressed

And may I say I’ve drunk some of the best

For helping me to grow I owe a lot I know

To all the wines I’ve loved before.

The winds of change are always blowing

And every time I try to stay

The winds of change continue blowing

And they just carry me away.

I know you must think I’m flakier than a Mrs. Fields cookie, and you wouldn’t be that far off. In truth I’ve enjoyed some really interesting wines, recently, and I thought I’d share them with you because each has a story and a memory and all of it is good.

Charles Krug Merlot 2009.  This one was a mistake.  I was shooting for Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon; well, as Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by that much.”  The wine was good; still, I prefer the Toad Hollow that we discussed in the last blog.

Charles Krug has a long history, beginning in 1861.  It’s one of the old names in Napa Valley viticulture.  The vineyard is now owned by Peter Mondavi.  I was interested in the Cabernet because in the book “Judgment of Paris” Charles Krug played a part in the development of Stags Leap, the famous Cabernet in the 1976 Paris tasting.

Mas Josephine is a nice French wine, a blend of Syrah and Grenache from Cote Du Rhone, and not to be confused with ”Goats do Roam.” The wine was actually named in honor of Napoleon’s Josephine, but I purchase it in honor of my Josephine

A recent favorite is Les Vignes De Bila-Haut Cotes Du Roussillon.  This was one of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2009. A strong red wine, full of the taste of ripe berries, with a nice long finish and a nose that invites you to take it all in.   You should try this one, for sure.

Yangarra 2008 McLaren Vale Shiraz from Australia. I enjoyed this with family on my vacation on the Carnival Liberty.  Again this is an adult wine with full body, and oh-what-a-taste, and again, with a fantastic nose.

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, from the dining room on the Carnival Liberty. This wine was voted best restaurant wine in 2009.  Eighty-four % Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petite Sirah, 4% Merlot, 2% Syrah, 1% Malbec.  I voted  this wine the most drinkable.  Just a great bottle of wine.

So, the light is fading, I can’t see the vapor trails anymore, on the red and green lights on the plains.  I’m feeling the effects of the wine.  I’m thinking about my dad who had a poem that goes “Life is real and life is earnest and the grave is not the goal.  Therefore, we should be up and doing ‘cause we can make our life sublime.  And in so doing be like the great men who have gone before us and leave our footprints in the sands of time.”

At Stags Leap Vineyard there are no footprints, but handprints of 30 individuals who revolutionized the wine business.  They created the New World of wine, proved to the world that great wine can be made anywhere, that good land, hard work and commitment to quality can be combined with water and sun.

These people were not gods, they were like you and me; there was an immigrant fleeing Communism in Russia, poverty in Corasia, a dancer, a dentist, a burnt out lawyer, a philosophy professor who wanted to live closer to nature, x-military people, and a real estate agent … just ordinary people who had a passion for wine.

In some small way, I feel as if I’ve been talking to them, while thinking about the wines above.  So I lift my glass to them, and to you, Salute and good night.

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The Merlot Malay

The Merlot Malay

This story begins on a Tuesday morning after a terrible weekend with me thinking about ending my writing about wine, I was thinking who cares what I think, the answer no one!

Well, if you ever get the feeling no one cares miss, a car payment.

I get an e-mail from a professional friend who tells me he just met with a wine rep who has a hot new inexpensive wine called Rotation and would I take a bottle and write a review?  Wow, someone does listen to me, who knew!

So I went and purchased a bottle of Merlot, they also make a Chardonnay but I just don’t get along with white wines.

My research into Rotation has not revealed much of anything.  I found no website, which is really odd for a wine company.  The label on the bottle is very tame by wine standards.  I couldn’t find any information on the wine maker either Sam Jennings.

The name Rotation refers to the company using old, excuse me (Matured) wine, and blending with new fresh wine and I started to get a picture of what is going on.

So, I was thinking if this wine was great what would it be great in comparison to?  And if I was the only one who tried it how good would that be vs several people’s experience.

AH, wine tasting party, Merlot night at Griffy’s.  I started calling around and struck out.  No one was going to be around.

Well, there was me, and there was Josephine so undaunted we pushed forward. We were joined late in the evening by Josephine’s brother and girl friend.

Another wine in the tasting was Toad Hollow Merlot 2007.  If you have not heard of Toad Hollow please visit their website.  Toad Hollow was a joint venture of two friends “Dr. Toad “Todd Williams and “The Dancing Badger” Rodney Strong.  Rodney Strong, who was a professional Dancer, couldn’t see himself as an aging dancer but could see himself as an aging wine maker.  He is one of icons of the late 60’s early 70’s wine makers who made the American wine industry what it is today.   Please read his story it’s a great story, it’s an American story, and the antithesis of the Obama and OWS crowd.  They didn’t just build a company, they built an industry, and yes Mr. President they did it by themselves!

While I’m close to the subject may a suggest anyone interested in wine, read the book “Judgment of Paris” by George Taber.  This is a great book about the development of California Wine from the late 50’s to the mid 70’s.  The movie “Bottle Shock” which is a real wine term is loosely based on this book.  For me it’s been a great read, but remember I read a 349 page book on corks too!

The third entry was a Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Indian Wells Columbia Valley.  I’ve had this wine for about a month waiting for a good reason to open it.  Usually my good reason for opening a bottle of wine is because it’s here and I want to drink it.

I’ve written about Chateau Ste. Michelle wines before and I’m a fan.  This one is rated a 90 by Wine Spectator and a 92 by Wine Enthusiast.

Table is set LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!

Color, all three wines had  good color. The Rotation was the thinnest of the three but still respectable.  Both the Toad Hollow and Ste. Michelle were dark blue/ purple. Rotation was redder than merlot should be.

Nose, the Rotation and the Ste. Michelle had only a faint nose, rather disappointing.  The Toad Hollow had wonderful nose rich dark berries.  I enjoy sniffing the Toad Hollow as much at tasting. The nose of the Ste Michelle got better with time, the best way to enjoy this wine would be to open the day before and then drink.

Taste, here’s where the rubber meets the road; all three were good, the Rotation was the weakest, due to its youth, taste improved with chilling.  I was expecting a better showing from Ste. Michelle.  The wine differently improved after opening and the wine absolutely should be decantered for several hours before drinking. The Toad Hollow was great right out of the box and only got better, until it was gone.  It was the clear hands down favorite of the three.  Favor of red berries spice and vanilla.

Now the rule is for a tasting a wine is you should not want to know the price until after you decide if you like it or not.  But for information sakes here are the cost of the wines were; Rotation 9.99, Toad Hollow 12.99 and Chateau Ste. Michelle $17.99.

Bottom line is price is a poor barometer of a wine.  The taste of the inexpensive and most expensive was almost indistinguishable.  Nothing will replace research and experience in determining what the best wine is for you.

My search for the Great White wine continues, and white wine lovers are going to cringe,  I found a great Moscato  Linda Donna from Puglia, sweet as a coke, but on a warm Sunday, sitting in my back yard after doing my lawn, reading the paper, listening to Bocelli, this wine was a home run.  Yes, life is good.  I know at least 10 Chardonnay drinkers are weeping somewhere.

Remember when you drink wine, you taste a little of human history.

A bottle of good wine, like a good act, shines ever in the retrospect” — Robert Louis Stevenson

 “Always carr…

“Always carry a corkscrew and the wine shall provide itself”  I thought this was from Proverbs in the Bible, turns out it from Basil Bunting the English poet.  I bet Basil has experience, most likely some picnic where he had a great bottle of wine, and forgot the corkscrew. 

I must admit I love the romance of uncorking a bottle of wine but those days may be coming to an end.  The times they be a changing; natural corks popular for 300 years as a closure may be heading down the same road as 8 track tapes and carburetors.  When you think about it, why have a product that requires you to own a medieval looking device to open.  Twists off tops are easier and protect the wine better.

However, the wine industry has several packing issues that are now being address and investigated.  Bottles are cool looking, have tradition, but are expensive to transport, take a lot of energy to make, are a pain in the ass to store, and have a big carbon foot print.

90% of all wine is consumed within months of being produced, which means we really don’t need to store most wine in glass bottles. Glass is designed as a multi-use container, but within the wine world it’s a single use throwaway.  Most wine bottles end up in landfill within months of being made.

So to help us get a handle on some of the new popular alternative packaging we’ll take a look at each and touch on benefits and drawbacks;

Ever drink wine out of a box?  Yeah, me too, but I’m not proud of it.  However boxes with vacuum sealed bags inside are the most widely use alternative to glass. They are lighter, less expensive, and easier to store and take less space in shipping.

Now these containers are rotten for long-term storage of wine, but their main advantage is they are much better at keeping wine fresh once opened.  This is a huge advantage to restaurants selling wine by the glass.  Some upscale manufactures are using real oak barrels that hold the plastic bag so when empty you just add a new bag.  When you think about it, this is how wine was sold 300 years ago.  In small oak casks, and when you were ready to drink you emptied what you want to drink into a decanter and brought it to the table.

Tetra Pak Cartons and if you have shopped in French supermarket you’ll know about these. One truck load of wine in Tetra Pak cartons equals 26 truckloads of wine in bottles.  Shelf life is 12 to 18 months. Experts say this container is really the best of the best for wine.  But it’s about as romantic as opening a milk carton. 

Astra Pouch, if you have kids and you’ve given them Capri Sun juice you are familiar with the Astra Pouch, it’s a box wine without the box.  Same really cool nozzle that keeps out oxygen. This is great for backpacking or taking wine to the beach, durable and quick chilling.  But you’ll only be impressed with this package if you are Crocodile Dundee.

I think this is the worse package the PET Plastic bottle. It looks and feels cheap, and then what do you think about the wine.  I can hear it now “Honey would you grab the Joseph Phelps, I took the Oceanspray Cran-apple by mistake again”!  It is also made with petroleum-based so you’ll taste  cherries, chocolate and a hint of petroleum jelly with your wine.  This package also has the shortest shortage shelf of all the different types of packages.

The second worse the aluminum can, ah, no, somethings really shouldn’t be done.

Paper, that’s right paper, this is the newest of the package types and it is still experimental but this technology has promise.  For me the main advantage is the shape, it looks like a wine bottle, without the pesty cork.  Manufacturer is Green Bottle, check out www.greebottle.com.  It was invented by British inventor Martin Myerscough.  The energy cost of manufacturing these containers is a small percentage of glass.  Also the investment in equipment use to make these bottle would be within the reach of most large wineries that would cut cost further by eliminating the need to ship empty bottles to the vineyard.

Another Great Addition to the search for the GREAT WHITE WINE.  I took this wine to a diner party, I felt like I was taking a knife to a gun fight, I knew the other guests at the party had similar taste that I did and white wines was not high on their list. I was happy to see the others enjoyed the wine as much as I did.  I had chilled the wine is although the evening was not warm the wine was very refreshing.  Torrontes is the signature white grape of Argentina.  The nose is peach, flavor is peach and apricot.  Wine had a nice smooth refreshing finish.

Some one asked me if I ever had Tokay?  Never heard of  it I said and the rest is history.Tokay is made from a table grape (also called Flame Tokay) with a thick red skin and blandtasting flesh with seeds.

Not a very good start to one of the world’s great sweet wines, but if you add some creative winemaking… No wine style as old and prized as Tokay can get by without a colourful legend. So here’s what happened, according to local lore. In the mid 17th century, a noblewoman called Zsuzsanna Lorantfly owned an estate encompassing the entire present-day Tokay region in Slovakia. Her priest, who doubled as her winemaker, postponed the fall harvest in 1650, fearing an attack from the Turks.

The priest’s precautions may have saved his grape pickers, but it left his grapes vulnerable to a humidity-loving fungus called botrytis. Some of them succumbed and shrivelled, but the thrifty cleric didn’t discard them. Rather, he had them picked, crushed, and added to the must made from unaffected grapes.

Meanwhile, the threat of a Turkish invasion remained quite real, leading to another innovation in Lorantfly’s vineyard. To hide the precious wine from potential attackers, the wine makers dug tunnels into the hillside, the entrances to which could be easily hidden. These distinctive caves, given the region’s humid climate and the fact that they contained traces of evaporated wine, were perfect hosts to the black mould that is supposed to be critical to Tokay’s ageing process.

Whether or not the above is precisely true, we do know this: The region pioneered the use of botrytis-infected grapes in desert wine. In fact, the fungus was exploited to such great effect in Tokay that within 100 years wine makers in Germany and France were using it to create their own celebrated dessert wines. In the process, the fungus gained a much loftier name: noble rot.

And – also as a matter of fact and not of legend – Tokay wine gained by the 18th century a fervent following among Europe’s royals. The French court adored it, and the Habsburgs were so enamoured of it that they introduced it to the Russian imperial court. In an era mad for sweet wines, Tokay became known as the “wine of kings, king of wines”. The Champagne area of France, at that point known mostly for its still wines, was as yet no rival.

Tokay’s prestige continued into the 20th century; even today, it ranks with Port, Madeira, and some Alsatian whites as among the world’s most prized after-dinner wines. Yet the 20th century nearly devastated the Tokay region, especially the Slovak part. When the Austro-Hungarian empire dissolved at the end of World War I, the Tokay area was split in two – with 90 percent remaining in Hungary, and the rest going to the new Czechoslovakia. World War II severely disrupted the entire European wine trade, and the post-war rise of Communism in both Tokay countries meant nationalisation of the vineyards, and a shift of focus from quality to quantity. In Communist Czechoslovakia, the indifference to the Tokay mystique was so great that the government traded away its right to the Tokay trademark in exchange for the right to export beer to Hungary. That deal has since been annulled, but Slovak wine makers still lack the right to sell their wine to European Union countries under the Tokay name. Hungary signed a 13-year trademark deal on the Tokay name in 1993; Slovakia, then in the throes of the Velvet Divorce, didn’t participate in those talks. Thus when Communism fell, the Hungarian Tokay region underwent a renaissance – foreign investment poured in, and the wine became fashionable again. But the Slovak part languished. Without the right to export into the lucrative EU market, foreign wine makers saw little reason to invest in Slovakia’s tiny bit of the Tokay region.

My Tokay was from Australia very tasty and well worth the time to find and research it.

“In water one see’s his own face;  But in Wine one beholds the heart of another”.

Small Fortune

It is said that if you want to make a small fortune in the wine business you first need to start with a large fortune.

Well we’ll find out.

Okay here’s the story Donald Trump has purchased (stolen) a vineyard.  I say stolen because the vineyard was worth $28 million he paid $6.2 million. Last year he purchased Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard.

Okay there is nothing new with a celebrities getting into the wine business.  We’ve already talked about Yao Ming and former Bond Girl turned wine maker in Italy, Carole Bogouet.  Add to the list Antonio Balderas, Drew Barrymore, Francis Ford Coppola, good wine, Wayne Getzky, Greg Norman, more good wine, and, ah, Nancy Pelosi, but with her wine you have the buy it before she tells you what grapes are in it. Yeah, Nancy is a 1 per center but you’d never know it from the news.

But now you also have to know the seller Patricia Kluge who was once married to the richest man in England John Kluge and even though she was getting $1.6 million a month in her divorce settlement still managed to go bankrupt.

She and current husband, former IBM executive William Moses, will stay on to run the operation. Or until Donald says “You’re fired”!

Now add the fact that this property is in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, America’s first wine geek! Folks I’m telling you have the makings of a great wine book here.

First we have Trump Water, then Trump Tea, what is it with Tea, Wine and Celebrities?  Now, we’ve got Trump Wine?  What’s next Rush Limbaugh wine?

How did the statuesque Brit, Patricia Kluge, with “great instincts for making wine”, but not a clue on how to make profit, blow through $15 million on a wine venture?

How did most of my research come from Huffington Post, good Lord what is going on?

The most important question is has anyone tasted this wine?  Is it any good?  According to Huffington Post this was the wine served at Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding, ah, first clue on how they lost money Democrats are involved.

I have to dig into this maybe I’ll write the book!

If anyone has tried these wines please let me know.  I now have a new investigation to do!

My search for the GREAT WHITE WINE continues, this week we’re in Sicily the wine is Corvo the grape is Insolia.  There is more to White wine than Chardonnay.  You all know I’m a Sicilian by association, so I love anything that is from the island.  This is a nice wine, not complicate, which is fine by me. Color is yellow green the nose is peaches and lemon.  The taste is peaches and citrus, the finish is dry but brief.  Corvo is Sicily’s largest vineyard with two hundred years of wine making experience.  All of their wine is from Sicily.  I’d like to try the Insolia from Cusumano who is my favorite wine producer in Sicily. Cusumano is located in Agrigento which is home to the Insolia grape. For $10 this is a solid number three in the search for the GREAT WHITE WINE.

Peter Lehmann’s Clancy’s 2009 is one of the best wines I’ve ever had.  If you remember I was disappointed with the 2008.  Color is dark center to a garnet rim.  The nose is raspberry, red plumbs, and chocolate.  The blend of 39% Shiraz 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot gives this wine a full fruit flavor.  This wine would be a joy on a cool fall or winter night.  The wine was matured in new and old French and American hogsheads for 12 months.  I went in for a half a case with a friend on this wine.  If you can find it buy it buy as much as you can afford and keep and enjoy it for as long s you can.  The wine is a product of Barossa Australia.

I’ll be leaving on vacation so they’ll be no blog for two weeks.

The Name Clancy’s is in honor of the poem Clancy of the Overflow by Banjo Paterson.  You may not be familiar with the Clancy of the Overflow but we all know Banjo’s other great poem “Waltzing Matilda”.  So to try and represent how Clancy’s describes the openness and hospitality of Australia, please lift a glass and read “Clancy of the Overflow”, which is what inspired this wine!

CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW – A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better

   Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,

He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,

   Just “on spec”, addressed as follows: “Clancy, of The Overflow”.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,

   (And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)

‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:

   “Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy

   Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the western drovers go;

As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,

   For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him

   In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

  And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

    Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

   Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle

   Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,

And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,

   Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me

  As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,

With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,

   For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.