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06 January 2008

I can't believe it's not Stelvin!

There are those who cling to the 'romance' and 'tradition' of popping the cork prior to imbibing.  Then there are those who think such 'romance' and 'tradition' are ridiculous if these totems potentially mean stinking, spoiled wine.  Both camps have valid points.  I'm a sentimental, shmoopy sucker for the romance involved in popping the cork.  But then, If I've dropped 40 or 50 clams, and my just-popped bottle of wine smells like a box-full of soggy, old Boys Life magazines, I set up camp amongst the pro screw-cap crowd.

Merlot Must the wine lover chose between faulty corks and sterile Stelvins when it comes to bottle closure?  Would that there were a closure, which could preserve in an aesthetically appealing manner.  Thank the cosmos for Vino-Lock.  This glass stopper is much prettier than a Stelvin and, of course, more reliable than cork oak bark cylinders.

Just a few weeks ago I took home the first glass-stopped wine to appear in the wine shop.  I loved it.  And the wine wasn't too bad either.

Cusumano IGT Sicily Merlot 2006 ($12) - A simple, exuberant Merlot made more appealing by its aesthetically cool glass stopper.  This inky-purple wine offers scents of cherry jelly and baked strawberry.  Its flavors a simply tangy fruit.  Cusumano Merlot is nothing if not pleasant and eager to accompany pizza.

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18 December 2007

Gutenberg Would be Proud: The Juice in Print

If you happen to dwell in the land of hard copy, check out the current issue of Salt Lake Magazine.  Whilst neglecting Basic Juice in cyberspace, I have been nurturing it in the world of print.  Alas, I am still struggling to multitask.

For those who eschew paper, have a look at the extended, 'Author's Cut' of the article below the fold.

Continue reading "Gutenberg Would be Proud: The Juice in Print" »

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.

11 November 2007

It's Not Big It's Large

The adjective 'big' as it relates to wine often carries a slightly negative connotation.  Well, if not a overtly negative, then at least, fairly rough.  A big red wine is more often lauded for its power than its beauty.  Perhaps those big wines that also maintain an air of nuance should be referred to as 'large' or 'grand'.

Petalesdosayoosred04 When it comes to large, grand wines, one of the world's up and coming regions is Canada's Okanagan Valley in BC.  In fact, one of Canada's biggest wine-glomerates, VinCor, has partnered with a band in Bordeaux (Groupe Taillan) to develop grand Bordeaux-style winery.  Osoyoos Larose produces complex, character-full grand/large wine.  The 2004 Petales d'Osoyoos (~$27)  may be a 2nd label wine, but it's also lovely and grand.  Petales is largely blackberry, earthy spice and plum preserves.  If you happen to live near the 49th Parallel, matriculate over the border and grab this wine for turkey day.  At a minimum, try it before the Loonie laps the Greenback on the exchange front and the wine costs you as much as a 'first label' vino.

If you're still having difficulty wrapping your brain around the whole Big v. Large concept, let Lyle teach you.  His band is most definitely large rather than big.  Listen here. 


Read a Canuck Wino perspective on big wine here.

19 October 2007

Hey, NZ! Hold Everything.

New_zealand_map I've often wondered why New Zealand was anointed/anointed itself as the land of Sauvignon Blanc.  To be sure, NZ SB has been quite successful as an import to the US wine market (and certainly names like 'Monkey Bay' don't hurt its mass appeal to the garanimal-wine-loving crowd).  However, I think this success has come at a price.  Kiwi Blanc has overshadowed every other grape variety.  And this is a very sad thing.

Think about it.  When was the last time you sampled a New Zealand Riesling or Gewurztraminer?  These grapes have found a very cozy home on the Islands way down under.  In fact, while I find most New Zealand Sauvi Blanc, easy-to-enjoy, I also find it a tad bit uni-dimensional (see here for a great descriptor of NZ SB).  I have discovered extraordinarily sublime Riesling and intoxicating (in the figurative sense of the word) Gewurz.  Think I'm nuts.  Take this little NZ non-SB challenge:

Huia Gewurztraminer 2006 - A chewy, thick wine, which echos the Alsatian style but with a bit less earth

Villa Maria Riesling 2005 - A remarkable feat of a wine.  This Riesling stews together new world heft with teutonic crispness.

Am I alone in thinking the OenoKiwis might want to diversify their white wine portfolio?

16 September 2007

Paging Dr. Frank. Rkatsiteli, Stat!

2006_rkatsiteli Dr. Frank, Can I call you Konstantin?  How about, "Big K?"  I want to congratulate you on producing such a fine, compelling white wine from an unheard-of Georgian (as in Eastern Europe) grape variety.  Your Rkatsiteli is zesty, in the Jungwein/Vino Joven style.  It's a mouthful of spritz, fresh peach & pear and a hint of greenness (in the running-across-an-alpine-meadow sense).  Huzzah to you, sir.
Get it: Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli, 2006 ($25).

Champagne_ad However, Doc, you've got some splainin' to do.  When I hit your 'Wine Facts' page to have a gander of all the oeno-goodies you produce, I see something that is a mite bit disturbing.  I see something called, "Chateau Frank Champagnes."  Unless I've missed something (i.e. did you recently purchase a patch of vines in the Aube of Seine-et-Marne?), your "champagne" is produced in upstate NY from grapes grown near the Finger Lakes, no?  Well then, please Kahuna Konstantin, drop the champagne moniker and use the less confusing label of, "New York Sparkling Wine."  Hell, follow the Spanish (see: Cava) example and come up with a name for your bubbly.  How about, "Frank's Fizz" or "Dom Konstantin"? Anything, just do away with bogarting the Champagne title.  Merci!

07 September 2007

A Wide Stance Wine

The words, "wide" and "stance" are innocent enough by themselves.  However, taken together, "wide stance" can conjure up less-than-innocent imagery. 

I wish to cleanse this phrase and implement it as a wine descriptor.  To whit, what does the phrase, "this wine takes a wide stance," mean to you?

Perhaps it implies a brawny, lumberjack of a wine. 

Maybe it describes wine with impressive length.


Baltosmencia2005 Actually, in this case, "wide stance" refers to wine that is balanced (it's difficult to knock over) from every perspective.  Wide stance wine runs the gambit of flavor, tannin, acidity and restraint. A perfect wide stance wine is represented by Dominio de Tares' Baltos Mencia (2005, $12-$15, imported by Classical Wines).  While the frolicking nudes on the Baltos label (at right) appear as if they are capable of striking numerous stances, it owes much of its stability to the hilly growing region of Bierzo.  Of course the over-used sentiment of 'warm days and cool nights' being good for wine production is an apt descriptor of El Bierzo.  This relatively balanced climate, coupled to the mountain-loving Mencia grape , one of Spain's secret wine weapons, produce one of the most food-friendly wines I've sampled in ages.

The Skinny
Dominio de Tares "Baltos" Mencia 2005

  • A deep ruby red wine with dusty, leathery highlights 'round the rim
  • Scents of rasp- and straw-berry, violets, a little earth and dash of mushroom
  • Perfect balance in the mouth - the relatively simple flavor is accented and gussied-up with lively acidity and solid, structured tannins.  The wine says 'adios' with a long finish powered by a solid 13.5% ABV.
  • Try Baltos with pan-fried pork chops with white beans & radicchio, roasted chicken or classic spaghetti.

03 September 2007

I do/I don't

Onnotice I do -
go for a funky, compelling glass of Rose from the Lebanese countryside with my Baba Ganooj.

I don't -
understand paying any amount of money, even 7-bucks, for wine that tastes as if it were produced by a mega-glomerate named, "ACME Wine Inc."

I do -
love to wind down the week by sipping a 9-buck bottle of Cava, eating two slices too many and watching Colbert Report reruns.

I don't -
pay $50 for a bottle of Cab/Bordeaux blend sporting 15+ percent ABV.  After 1.5 glasses, I'm too clouded to appreciate what it is I'm sipping.

I do -
appreciate alternative closures - Stelvins, Vino-Locs, etc. 

I don't -
understand why I still receive press releases linking Merlot and/or Pinot Noir to the film Sideways.  It was three years ago.  Let it go.  Please.

I do -
enjoy seeking out a new wine (Txakoli!, Santorini!, German Pinot N.!) each week at the local wine shop.

I don't -
enjoy the proceeds of the above-mentioned wine safari going into the bursting coffers of a wine-hostile regime seated in the Beehive State rotunda.

I do -
wish I had more time to sample, evaluate and wax poetic on wine.

I don't -
have any idea how many people have read this and thought, "Is this person an idiot?"

I do -
recommend revisiting (or sampling for the first time) Schramsberg's Blanc de Noirs ($30).  It is truly one of the finest domestic bubblies I have ever slurped (think: slightly overripe strawberries dipped in honey and schmeared over an oven fresh biscotti). 

I don't -
know exactly when (and if I'll have enough patience to continue waiting) I should open this bottle:  Baumard Quarts de Chaume, 2002.

20 August 2007


For the wine-imbiber who travels, there often seems to be 'that one bottle', which surprises - not only for how tasty it is, but also for the grape varietal used.  During my recent trip to lovely Vancouver, BC, I discovered something new and very tasty from the Okanagan Valley.  I might add this discovery was pure luck - as it involves the Chenin Blanc grape, which only occupies ~20 hectares in Okanagan vineyardom.

Goldenmilechenin06 Golden Mile Cellars Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2006 ($15-$20) - This CB is textbook CB - a la Vouvray.  It possesses intense floral-fruity scents underscored by an aroma that can only be described as, "slightly earthy" and perhaps a little bit naughty (picture naked grapes frolicking in the mud after a rainstorm).  This wine's body is notably more stout than old world Chenin-based wines.  A big-boned structure, coupled with the high-volume scents translates to an initial impression of Golden Mile Chenin Blanc being sweet.  But wait!  This wine is in fact dry with enough zippy acidity to balance out its high-ish alcohol content and seemingly sugar-full nose. 

I fell in love with this wine for the fact that it's fairly rare (I doubt it's available in any US retail ship) and entirely unique.  That's the bad news - you won't be able to find it.  The good news is that this calls for an air/road-trip to BC!

Sip GM C.Blanc solo, or with, naa, sip it solo - no need for food to muck up this wonderfully tasty wine.

Read another review on this BC CB from App. America's John Schreiner.

Question:  What big wine surprise have you discovered on a recent trip?

11 August 2007

Ring Around the Prio

Random Trivia Question:  Without looking at a map, where is the youngish Spanish DO, Montsant, located?

tick tick tick tick tick ring

Montsant_2 Montsant forms a horseshoe/Pacman/macrophage (for the cell-bio/wine lovers amongst us) around the power wine producing place called Priorato in Catalonia.

If you're at all familar with the concentrated, chewy wines of Priorato, wine from Montsant tastes like a slightly less pumped up sibling.

Acustic Acustic* Cellar Vinyes Velles Nobles Garnatxa i Samso 2005 ($13-$16) - For those who don't speak Catalonian, Garnatxa is Grenache and Samso is Carignan.  This wine tastes nothing like many other Grenache-containing wine you may have sipped from Spain.  The style is decidedly modern - as are many wines from neighboring Priorato.  Acustic is big, brawny and chewy.  It obviously spent around a year in oak, which is a good thing as minus those months in wood, Acustic would have been flabby.  In fact, my tasting note of Acustic dealt in textures rather than flavors.  The interaction of brawn and spine is what makes this wine very appealing.  Try this wine with grilled lamb chops, sauteed portobellas or a takeout gyro.

While most of my recent Spanish sipping has been of the "cheerful chugger" variety, this representative of Montsant reminded me that for those who venture above the $10-level, many of Spain's wines are bound to surprise with style & complexity.

*There was some poetic malarky on the rear label describing the wine as 'acoustic' - unplugged, as it were.  However, I don't quite get it as the wine claims much of its character from being 'plugged in' to the barrel.

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