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22 November 2007

Not Good with Turkey

This time of year the wine lover is inundated with T-day wine recommendations..."German Riesling is perfect with turkey"...."A Beaujolais is a sure bet on Thanksgiving"...."Burgundy, both red and white are ideal on your Thanksgiving".....etc. etc.

I for one am tired of staid poultry & stuffing wine pairing suggestions. 

How about something different to eat and drink on Friday - the day after turkey day?  May I suggest a Vermentino, not from the sardinian coast, but from Lodi, California.  Who knew the California version of this hefty-spicy-herby-citrusy grape could be so true to its Italian roots?  After racking up mo' mo' credit card debt on Friday, take the edge of with a plate of turkey enchiladas paired to Uvaggio Vermentino 2006 ($10).   It will be the best wine-food match you will sample all week.

20 November 2007

Juice Crew Red Label: The Finalists

The judges have narrowed the field down to three finalists.  To the Juice Crew members: Please vote for your favorite label by sending a message to me by 5 December.  I will tally up the votes and announce the winning design shortly thereafter.  Thanks to all the contestants!

Design 1


Design 2 (font + label concept)



Design 3


14 October 2007

A Case for Creativity (AKA Free Wine!)

Chateaubeau Are you the Mac-daddy/-mommie when it comes to creativity? 

Have you ever looked at all the blasé wine labels out there and thought, "I could do so much better."? 

Well, here's a chance to explore your creative side and score a case of a soon-to-be classic red wine - Juice Crew Red.

So far, the J.Crew has nicknamed our maturing vino, "The Mighty Brick."  I think we'd like the label to reflect her personality (perhaps listening to a little Rick James could inspire potential label designers out there):

"So all and all, the blend has resulted in what we wanted - a rich rhone style wine with some backbone. The different varietals playing nicely in the sandbox. Great dark color, long sexy legs and built to party"

Here's the deal - submit a label design, which reflects our sexy Rhone brickhouse and you could win...1 case of JC Red.  Now that's what I call a case for creativity!

Details: Submit* your design entry by November 15, 2007.  The editor will select 3 designs to be voted on by Juice Crew members and Basic Juice readers.  The winning designer will receive the case of Juice Crew Red when it's released (we award no wine before its time).

*by submitting a design, designer retains no rights to design, but will be credited by name

Gentlepeople, start your creative engines..

01 May 2007

Pink 'n Meaty

Strawbacon As with most varietals, the difference between new world expression and old world character is enormous.  Take one of my favorite Rhone grapes, Mourvedre (aka Monastrell in Spain).  The old world character of this red grape is often the recipient of such non-fruit descriptions like, "butcher shop," meaty, gamey and wild.  Produced in Aussie, Cali, South Africa or even in some of the modern-styled wines of Spain, Mourvedre morphs into a mighty fruity wine with scents of blackberry jam, black cherry and stewed raspberry.  Yet, even in its tamest, fruitiest form, Mourvedre always slides in something unexpected.  Occasionally, you'll get a whiff of eucalyptus, clove, tobacco or dark chocolate...or even meat.

So how would Mourvedre perform as a Rosé?  Will it be all yummy strawberry followed by bacon?

Fortunately, Cline's 2006 Mourvedre Rosé ($15) doesn't finish off with any flavors that could be construed as meaty.  It does however offer a nifty flavor combo of fresh strawberry, red plum and a touch of clove.  While This pinkie is a bit big on the -OH side (13%), it rights itself with a spritz of acidity and a touch of textured tannin.  As with most rosé wines, Cline's pink Mourvedre will do its duty with nearly any unpretentious food.  Try it with a  turkey burger, cheese pizza or pasta.

Think of it as your very own bottle of buckie [itunes] [emusic, trk 6]

25 April 2007

Of Jawas, Merlot and the Hands of Winemakers

Jawa Of Jawas
In my neck of the woods, it seems as if Greece is attempting to become the new Spain.  There are now a bevvy of inexpensive Greek whites and reds available in the local wine shop.  Some are great finds like - Robola, Xinomavro and Santorini (named for the island of origin.  Santorini is made from Asyrtio).  My favorite Greek grape name to date is Roditis.  I was drawn to it as the name reminded me of the sounds of Jawas celebrating the short-circuiting of R2D2 (admit it, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Listen here).  Sadly, my first taste of Roditis wasn't fantastic.  I will however, try it again, if only so I can say, "Roditis!"

It's sad that Merlot's reputation as a varietal has been sullied by waves of under-whelming wine.  How often do you hear someone (who fancies themselves a wine lover) order a bottle of Merlot?  Last week at a lovely little restaurant in Santa Barbara, I ordered a glass of Westerly Merlot '03 to try with lamb.  The wine was not at all soft and fruity.  Rather, it was a little herby and a little edgy - perfect with roasted meat.  My new mantra: "Don't hate the grape, hate the winemaker's hand."

The Hands of Winemakers
Speaking of my new mantra (and I don't hate, the word 'hate' just fits better in the mantra.  Let's call it 'dislike'.), while in Cali, I had the opportunity to taste two wines from the very same vineyards, but made by different hands.  One a Sangiovese by Bruno, the other, a Sangiovese by [name redacted].  Bruno was as complicated and lovely a red wine as one could ever want.  On the other hand, the [redacted] Sangiovese was an over-opulent, droopy ball of fruit and alcohol.  It seems the major difference in the two was the winemakers.  Some get it.  some don't.

09 April 2007

The Brick in The Wood

Does your wine taste like this?


Apparently, the Basic Juice Crew Red does.  But not yet.  Our li'l brick house has been sent to its American Oak zebra barrel for mellowing & developing.  What will our Grenache | Syrah | Petit Sirah blend taste like?  Tune in next Fall...

04 April 2007

Better Still than Eva

While I was pleasantly surprised at Longoria's snappy Albariño, this is something that completely floored me: A character-full, age-worthy Tempranillo from the Santa Y.

Longoria Santa Ynez Valley Tempranillo Clover Creek Vineyard 2004 ($~35) - Winemaker Rick Longoria indicates that this wine is made in the 'Old World Spanish' style.  To admitted California  cynics like myself, this might seem to be so much marketing hoo-ha.  However, I doff my cap to the Longorians - they have created a wine that offers the essence of Spanish Tempranillo - a la Rioja or Ribera del Duero - whilst adding a very subtle New World twist.

Longoria's Tempranillo is deep ruby red in color with scents of fresh 'forest berries' (wild blue-, rasp- and strawberries), tobacco and a touch of cedar.  In the mouth, this wine is right chewy with hearty American Oak-derived tannins.  To get the most from this wine, let it breathe for an hour or more before serving, or, better yet, lay it down for 3 years or so.  It is extraordinarily age-worthy.  A fine wine at a very fair price.  Sip it with grilled sirloin or spicy sausage and you'll certainly agree this wine is better still than Eva!




24 February 2007

Better Than Eva

My experience with California-raised Spanish & Italian varietals has been an exercise in frustration.  For example, I find a Sangiovese from the Golden State, which made me say, "Yes, this is the perfect varietal for California."  Only later do I find out that the winery had yanked all the Sangio vines out because they weren't named Merlot, Cabernet or Zinfandel.

a few months ago I saw a bottle of, all things, Albariño from California's Santa Ynez Valley.  I picked it up but refrained from opening it.  I was convinced it would either be a sorry facsimile of this super-zesty, lime-packed grape; or I worried that I would fall in love with it, only to find out that these Galician immigrant vines had been yanked out in favor of Chardonnayaaawwwwnn.

Guess what?

This is one high-fidelity Albariño.  Seek it out.  Write the winery, plead with them not to yank it out.  Tell your friends.  Send smoke signals.  Host a Cali-Albariño party.

The Skinny
Longoria Albariño Clover Creek Vineyard 2005 ($20-ish) - For those of you who prefer your Longoria Eva-like, pass this one by.  In lieu of luscious, soft curves, this Longoria takes its style cues from the Spanish original.  Longoria's Albariño is a pale, yellow-gold wine with scents of fresh lime, just-ripe pear and alfalfa (O'tay!).  In the mouth, your palate will be mystified as this wine packs a zippy wallop accompanied by citrus-squirt flavor.  Give it a go with fresh seafood, or pair it with a butter/cream-packed recipe like Spicy Oven Fried Chicken.




You can have Eva, I'll take "Al Longoria."

06 February 2007

Now California

Grapesun First there were predictions about the European wine regions vis-a-vis global warming.  Now we have some predictions for California:

"According to the study, published in July in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 60 percent of the best terrain for premium grapes will be lost by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. And the picture is particularly grim for California, currently responsible for 90 percent of the country’s wine grape production.

Most of the remaining top-quality acreage will shift northward to the Pacific Northwest. California will retain and possibly gain a little bit of territory along the coast, but the inland vineyards, including those in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, will be lost.

"There’s a tremendous amount of culture and value that’s associated with the wine industry where it is," Field said. "It would be a heavy price to pay if we had to move out of there."

It strains the mind to imagine what California wine might look like in 2030.

08 January 2007

Dear Wine Bandit

Hamburglar Dear Wine Bandit,

I know, I know; normally I don't go ga-ga for California wine.  And yes, I didn't place the bottle in question on that 'special wine' shelf.  But didn't you happen to notice the wine's vintage before you made pasta sauce with it?  I mean, it clearly stated on the bottle: 1994.  Now, I know you'll defend yourself by saying, "It was a just a Chardonnay.  I thought someone brought it to a party."  Non, Mme.  That wine was Santa's Christmas gift to his jolly self.  Sigh.

The Skinny:


Kalin Cellars Cuvee LD Sonoma Chardonnay 1994 (~$40)

  • What was left of the wine (1/3 glass) certainly looked deep golden in color with a slightly rusted rim.
  • Perhaps I would have been able to smell the ripe tangerine, vanilla, floral and gamey scents of this wine had I sampled a full glass.
  • Oh, this wine would have been rich, decadent and hypnotic (had I been able to drink 1 or two glasses).
  • Verdict: Highly Recommended (I imagine).

Check out Kalin's Pinot or Semillon.

Has the wine bandit ever struck at your abode?

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