Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Susana Balbo Crios Rosé of Malbec

It is amazing how some days seem to be unending, but when you look back how quickly time has gone by. We've now had Beatrice with us for a full month! It seems like just yesterday when she arrived. I remember the first few weeks of Ben's life seemed to go by so much slower. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas had never gone by so quickly before! Maybe having a four-year old around just makes time fly faster! Or maybe it was just the business of the holiday season. Having all of our families over to our house for the holidays was a nice way to spend Beatrice's first Christmas. Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles all enjoyed spending time with the little girl! And as nice as seeing everyone was, a quieter house in 2016 will be a welcome change.

Crios 2014 Rosé of Malbec
This week we twisted opened a fun bottle of Susana Balbo 2014 Crios Rosé of Malbec (14.5% abv. Sample $13). Crios is Susana Balbo's fruit-forward value line brand and this rosé definitely delivers both. The grapes for this wine come from the Uco Valley in the southwest part of the Mendoza wine region in Argentina. The clear bottle shows off the deep vermilion color - almost more like a very light red than a lightly tinted rosé. It is extremely quaffable. Bright red fruit dominates the nose with aromas of raspberries, cherries and strawberries. It comes across slightly more serious on the palate with a backbone of spice and a medium body rounding out the generous red fruit flavors that keep the wine playful. At $13, this wine is a good value that should please many palates.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: J Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay and Parker Station Pinot Noir

Holidays are usually filled with family, food and wine and this past week was no exception. A few bottles of whiskey also saw their demise (though I didn't even have even a dram). It was fun having my family in town, even for only just a few days. We drank well and ate well; Bison prime rib roast, roasted pheasant and applewood-smoked ham all found their way on to the dinner table.

Interestingly, it just so happened that all of the wine we opened came from California. We opened a few hard-to-find small production wines: we finished off the remaining bottles of Cameron Hughes Private Selection (notes coming) and had a selection of Zinfandels from Scherrer. However, some widely available Chardonnay and Pinot noir found their way in to our glasses, too.

J Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay
J Vineyards & Winery 2013 Chardonnay (14.3% abv. Sample $28)

This Chardonnay was opened while we waited for the bison rib roast to cook. 2013 was a year of abundance in northern California. The growing conditions were ideal and a lot of high-quality fruit was grown. This Chardonnay hails from the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. Harvest started in August (yes, that is early) for the grapes in this bottle. This entry-level J Chardonnay is medium yellow in color. Aromas of ripe pears and peaches waft up from the glass. The barrel ageing and malolactic fermentation so common in California Chardonnays became more pronounced on the palate as toasted marshmallows, spiced pears and dried pineapple flavors were complemented by a silky creaminess. This is a very nice Chardonnay that is not overdone and that lovers of the richer California-style Chardonnay will enjoy.

Parker Station 2014 Pinot Noir
Parker Station 2014 Pinot Noir (13.8% abv. Sample $15)

I was quite surprised with this Pinot noir from Fess Parker Winery that is a blend of grapes from California's Central Coast (Monterey County, Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County). Finding a high quality Pinot noir below $25 is not an easy task, yet this is textbook Pinot noir. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't Pulitzer Prize worthy, but it has a beginning, middle and end along with genuine Pinot noir varietal character that is often lost in less expensive Pinots. Some really good aromas of cherry, strawberry, earth, forest floor, cinnamon and vanilla can be detected. Cranberry and fruit punch flavors come across in the mouth. It went down easy and would surely be a crowd-pleasing wine at parties or with dinner. For the price, this is hard to beat in the California Pinot noir realm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Donnafugata Sedàra

The wine bug bit me when I started drinking Spanish wine back in college. As I got in deeper I found myself reading books on France and its various wine regions. With the fundamentals down, I felt more comfortable exploring the more adventurous and irregular American wine regions. Sadly, I've only really dipped my toes in the sea that is Italian wine. I love the intricacies and nuances of Italian wine, but it really can be a confusing minefield. One of my goals this coming year is to dive deeper into the Italian wine world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Reichsrat von Buhl Spätburgunder Rosé Trocken

Anyone who has had children knows the first few weeks of the child's life is pretty monotonous. Sleeping, feeding and diaper changing. Repeat, but not necessarily in that order. That has pretty much been our lives for the past few weeks. One thing that we haven't had a lot of is fussing. Beatrice has been easygoing and really only fusses when I change her diapers with my cold hands. Now that her stomach is growing and she is eating more, she is starting to have a bit more gas and discomfort. However, that is usually quickly and easily resolved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Ruby Trust Cellars Gunslinger

The red-wine blend category has been quite popular with consumers of late. According to market research firm IRI, the red blend category has increased sales by value 14% over the past year. I don't know why it has taken Americans so long to realize that most wine in traditional wine regions (i.e., those in Europe) were created from blending grapes. A broad palette of grapes allows winemakers to create a beautiful piece of art every year when certain varieties may make varietal wine difficult, if not impossible. However, this tiny shift in the U.S. away from the focus on varietal wines to blends is probably mostly due to clever marketing and American's sweet-tooth palate. Varietal wines aren't going anywhere, but it is nice to see more creativity in the wine industry to reach a broader audience. Many of the most popular red blends are produced from lesser-known (and less expensive) grapes and with a hint (or sometimes more) of residual sugar, but there are plenty made without any sweetness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Old Westminster Winery Alius

These first two weeks with Beatrice have been quite different from life as we knew it. She has been exceptionally easygoing, but taking care of two children is a whole new ballgame. Ben adores his sister more than anything, but he also now has competition for our attention. He gets his lack of patience from me, and I think having  to wait for attention has been difficult for him. For the most part he has done very well with this major change, but there have been a few issues at school. Interestingly, one of his classmates that he got in trouble with also has a brand new baby sister. Those two should have a fun-filled year ahead of them with watching their little sisters grow up!

Old Westminster Winery 2014 'Alius'
This week's Beatrice's Blushes is also something different from the usual. A skin-fermented Pinot Gris from Maryland that Old Westminster Winery calls Alius (11.3% abv, Sample). I first tasted Old Westminster's wine two years ago at the Drink Local Wine conference in Baltimore. The Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc I tasted were top notch. I was really impressed with a number of other Maryland wineries, but Old Westminster is near the head of the class.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday's Wines: Loscano Torrontés and Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

One thing that a wine blog should be about more than anything is else wine. In the past, I've gotten away from that. So, today I'm starting Wednesday's Wines. These posts will short, sweet and to the point. I'll write a little bit about the wine and my thoughts on how it smelled and tasted. I want to explicitly mention the aroma because to me, much of the pleasure from wine comes from just smelling it. A wine can have little aroma and still taste good, but I find that a wine's true character and complexity shines through in the nose.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé

Welcoming a new child into a family is an awesome experience. For over four years, we've been a family of just three, but now we get to share the world with Beatrice. Big brother Ben is just completely enamored with his new little sister. He loves holding her and comforting her when she cries - which is not very often. He talks about things he wants to do with her when she is old enough. It brings a smile to my face to just think about the adventures that the future holds.

Just as my family is welcoming Beatrice into existence, the Colorado wine family is saying goodbye to one of its brightest stars. Sadly, Boulder Creek Winery is shutting down operations at the end of the year. Grape supplies and building lease issues convinced Mike and Jackie Thompson it was time to retire from their retirement project. They've been great people to get to know over the years and I've always enjoyed their wines. I'm glad that I have a small collection of Boulder Creek in my wine cellar to enjoy after they're gone. As my family starts off on this new journey, we decided to start the Beatrice's Blushes series with the only bottle of Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé that we had.

This 2011 Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé is everything I like in a pink wine. It is bone dry with tart red fruit flavors - admittedly starting to fade. There is a savory component that makes you pause for a moment to consider what types of herbs come to mind and what cured meat would be the perfect accompaniment. Thinking about how Mike and Jackie always wanted to promote dry rosés brought a smile to my face as the last drop passed from the glass, to my mouth and then down my throat to its final resting place. Thank you for all the memories and wonderful wines, Mike and Jackie (and of course Will, too). I wish you all the best of times with whatever you decide to do after you walk out of the winery building one last time.
2011 Boulder Creek Winery Dry Rosé

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Curious Case of the Private Reserve

As many wine lovers know, Cameron Hughes is both a man and a brand synonymous with deals in wine sold at a discount and cloaked in anonymity. Hughes buys wine from producers that can't (or don't want to) sell all the wine they produce (in high-yielding vintages or to keep supply low). He's also known for getting wine that doesn't quite make the cut for high-end releases which the producer wants to quietly remove from the books and away from their reputation. Non-disclosure agreements ensure producers' reputations aren't harmed by Hughes selling $100 wine for $20. Hughes labels the wines with a generic Lot number with little identifying info as to the wines' origins. He does offer hints (maybe a few embellishments) in his Cam's Confidential.
Cameron Hughes Private Reserve Collection Wooden Case
Well, not too long ago Hughes announced his greatest score ever as a négociant; "a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-seen-again opportunity to own a six-bottle, six-vintage vertical of Cabernet from one of the most iconoclastic cult producers in the history of Napa Valley." That does sound like quite the score. Super bloggers Steve Heimoff and W. Blake Gray both tasted (separately) the wines with Hughes and published their opinions here and here. Speculation also abounds on the Wineberserkers online forum (I have participated in the discussion) as to the true identity of the shrouded wine collection.
Cameron Hughes Lot 2006

Last week, Hughes sent me the six-bottle vertical to try for myself. I'm honored to be considered a peer to Messieurs Heimoff and Gray, though I do wish I could have tasted them with Mr. Hughes himself. I've been a bit busy with the arrival of baby number two last week, but curiosity got the better of me and I popped open the 2006 the other night. I hope to open the rest and conduct a proper vertical in the near future (Christmas dinner??).

Monday, November 30, 2015

Beatrice's Blushes: A lost summer...

Well, it has been over four months since I've posted anything to this website. About nine months ago, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with baby number two! Ben was going to get a little sister. Wine took a back seat to completely rearranging our home and getting ready for the newest member of our family. Not drinking wine led me to posting less frequently and finally at some point I simply just stopped.

Well, I am happy to report that Ben's sister made her Thanksgiving Day debut. Mom and Baby Beatrice are home and doing well, and I'm eager to reclaim my status as a lowly wine blogger. I am going to post more regularly and give more attention to what's in the bottle and less writing about wine writing (though Dr. Oldman might make his way to the keyboard every once in a while). As I did with Ben's Bubbly and attempted to do with Ben's Blush, I want to post weekly on a specific style of wine and reflect on the first year of a child's life. So, I've decided to rebrand the weekly rosé series as Beatrice's Blushes. To restart things, I want to quickly post on a few pink wines (actually the only three) I had during the summer months when I was overlooking the blog.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Harry Oldman on Killing the Geezers that lay the Golden Eggs

Hello, friends, Dr. Harry W. Oldman here! It has been a while since I've come here to put pen to paper - or do these young whippersnappers call it fingering the computer - partly because I wanted to see what the reaction would be when I said to myself I might cease writing. About a year ago, I took a position with a big-name wine producer, but recently left. My non-disclosure agreement only allows me to say good things about them, but I can't identify them by name. Anyway, I'm back because the wine world needs more old white guys to keep it from destroying itself. Without us, I'd be surprised if the wine industry would survive more than a few weeks. Millennials and bloggers - scum of the earth - are intent on destroying what we worked so hard to achieve: delicious wine.

There used to be hedonism in the wine business. I know, because I know some wonderful women winemakers who... well, let's just leave it at me knowing them. I don't want to get in trouble because the FCC won't let me be, or let me be me. So, let me see... well, we don't have hedonism anymore. No, now, because of all those slack-line-walking bloggers, we have another form of prejudice that’s just as pernicious: asceticism.

Read, for example, this piece, from The New York Times Magazine, that refers to "a band of upstart winemakers ... trying to redefine what California wine should taste like." This group of self-proclaimed arbiters of taste wants wine to be minerally and flavorless. They think wine should have no perceivable alcohol! We are basically living a second-coming of the temperance movement.

Okay, let's break this down.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Quest for Certainty Blocks the Search for Meaning...

"The quest for certainty blocks the quest for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers." - Erich Fromm, 1947

That quote from Fromm's Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics is a peak into his into his views on human nature, but as I read it the other day the first thing that popped into my mind was the 100-pt wine rating system. I know, I know, this horse has long been dead. Perhaps this was my first thought because I actually found myself defending the system over the weekend. My friend, Jeff Siegel, made the statement that the 100-pt system is useless. I countered that it is quite useful as a means to convey information about one person's perception of a wine to another. However, I acknowledged that the system is quite flawed. Jeff, in all his wisdom, correctly pointed out that 'flawed' implies it can be corrected.

There is no way that this system of using numbers to portray an authoritative characterization of a wine's quality can be fixed to correct the false sense of certainty it has created. The true meaning of a wine cannot be replaced by a number, yet the wine world in which we live has been corrupted by the quest for perfection. Yes, information is conveyed but at what price?

There are those consumers and critics alike who understand that a wine's true worth is not found in the pedigree of the cultivar, or the reputation of the region, or the celebrity of the winemaker, but in the collection of traits that leads to an experience. A number draws a sand in the line; Whoever is not with me is against me (Matthew 12:30). Wow, I never thought I'd quote the Bible on this blog! Only by erasing the number from the equation can we erase this false dichotomy of good and evil, or right and wrong. Wine is neither good nor evil. Wine is communal. You have the right to love a bottle I can't stand.

Wine is meant to be enjoyed, shared, and celebrated. Arguments are part of the fun, but the quest for certainty and the quest for high scores has replaced the true meaning of wine for too many consumers, critics, and winemakers. Only naked from certainty that numbers imply, can we then drive forward to experience wine in its true beauty.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Day After Tomorrow (or, The Next Big Thing)

Coloradan Syrah is the next big thing. Spanish Txakolina is the next big thing. Arizonan Malvasia is the next big thing. Greek Assyrtiko is the next big thing. Californian Chardonnay is the next big thing. French Sauvignon blanc is the next big thing. Mexican Nebbiolo is the next big thing. Oregonian Pinot noir is the next big thing. There is no next big variety when it comes to wine. People who claim grape X is the next big thing are wrong. People who claim that the traditional big grape varieties are the only important grapes and "there's really no good reason for consumers to seek out esoteric wines" are also wrong. The closest thing to the next big thing in wine is variety itself: diversity.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

101 Punctuations

In an exclusive interview, Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon, confided in me a stunning reversal to his wine reviewing policy. "As of today, I will be review wine on the 101-point scale," Siegel giddily revealed. "I know I've bellyached about the quantitative rating of wine for many years now, but I've finally realized the beauty of the system." Siegel has obtained both a patent and a trademark on the revolutionary system. Siegel made clear that any attempt to co-opt the use of the additional point will be met with swift action by Siegel's legal team, the famous Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe.

The 100-pt system for rating wine has been widely ridiculed, but yet remains popular. "I've seen how Cruella de Monkton has kidnapped the wine world with his 100 points. I have no plans to skinning wines for financial gain," explained Siegel. "I've rolled myself in the soot of bloggerdom long enough and will finally give Bogle and Cristalino the points they deserve. I will start a Dynasty of Dearly Deserving Wines," Siegel said with a sardonic grin. "I'm even thinking of taking the idea further than wine with a magazine called 101 Points by Jeff Siegel," admitted Siegel. "My crackpot legal team is working out the details as we speak!"

After finishing a bottle of cheap Gascon wine, Siegel let another secret slip. Not only will he attempt to change the world of wine critiquing, Siegel claims to have plans to take cheap wine mainstream via broadcast television. "Not enough wine consumers pay attention to cheap wine. If I can put it on TV maybe consumers will start buying the stuff! I've got a green-light to start filming a remake of a famous sitcom," whispered a clearly intoxicated Siegel. "I can't give you any details right now, but will say that Jon Bonné, W. Blake Gray, and I will start filming next month. Just as the original series was all about hedonism, jingle writing, and drinking, I couldn't think of a better way to put cheap wine on center stage than on CBS' Monday night programming."

Siegel went on to mention that the project kicked off when Bonné approached him about starting show about two ex-newspaper wine writers living together and working in a local wine shop while attempting to raise funds to start a winery. The show was going to be called 2 Broke Guys. Getting word of the project, Gray wrote a draft of a scandalous blog post uncovering the plans and demanded to be included or else he would expose the project to the world, taking away the thunder of Bonné's first story for Punch.

Siegel sighed and explained that to make the best of a bad situation he called his friend Chuck Lorre. "I've already said too much, but damn isn't this colombard tasty. I think it might be the first 101-pt wine," Siegel slurred. I figured out the details of the project when Siegel doffed his trademark fedora, winked repeatedly, and not-so-subtly mouthed the name of the show. Apparently, Chuck Lorre thought it would be great to remake Two and a Half Men. Sadly, Siegel refused to tell me which character each writer would play.

Look for the revamped Two and a Half Men on your local CBS affiliate this coming September.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ben's Blush: Rochioli Rosé

Three-year olds can be full of energy. Directing that energy towards a single purpose can sometimes be difficult. They bounce around from place to place or activity to activity. So last year, we enrolled Ben in gymnastics and soccer. While he enjoyed both, he really took to gymnastics. There, he could run and play without the specific structure and rules that soccer entailed. When we asked him if he wanted to sign up for gymnastics again, he literally jumped at the opportunity. Last week was the beginning of round two for gymnastics. With a year of maturity under his belt, he is able to sit still during circle time and listen to the instructor explain the skill of the day. He still likes the free-play time and bounces between the trampoline, beam, and bars with no method to his madness. Despite the chaotic nature of his activity, it is fun to watch him enjoy himself.

2012 Rochioli Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley AVA

This is another 3-yr old that seems to be bouncing around without a clear purpose. Rochioli has quite a good reputation for producing pinot noir, but unfortunately this bottle was just disappointing. It seemed to be all over the place. It had good acidity and decent light, red-fruit flavors, but taken all together the wine was just sort of bland and disjointed. Maybe it was just this bottle or maybe it was me? I have one other bottle that I'll try at a later date. 14% abv. Purchased $24. Average

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ben's Blush: Boulder Creek Dry Rosé

Four years ago, I decided to start a weekly series on sparkling wine in honor of the impending birth of our first child: Benjamin. It was a fun way to celebrate our new bundle of joy and reflect on his milestones, all while exploring a specific style of wine each week. This year, I decided to resuscitate the concept, but with rosé. I didn't time it with Ben's birthday in mind, but his fourth birthday is rapidly approaching.

It also happens to be the 125th birthday of the City of Littleton, where we have lived for the past six years. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Littleton, it is a quiet suburb of Denver located about 10 miles to the south. The historic downtown area is home to a few shops and restaurants, but an influx of more youth and energy would be highly welcome (though many residents want to keep things as they've always been), as downtown is often too quiet. The addition of Breckenridge Brewery this summer should push things along in that direction.

We happen to live between two parks just a few blocks to the east of the downtown district. Littleton uses one of these parks for its fireworks shows several times a year and we get a front row seat. For the birthday celebration this year, the City decided to use the other park for a fireworks show because the Littleton Museum, next door, was hosting a reception featuring Breckenridge beer and food from the Breckenridge's Farm House Restaurant. A few of our neighbors and our trio of kids all trekked the two blocks to the park to watch the show. I admit, it was odd seeing fireworks going off with snow on the ground, but the show was entertaining nonetheless. Ben ooh'd and aah'd on his own without any prompting. On the way back home, the little ones had a spontaneous dance party, complete with bubbles, on the sidewalk in front of our neighbors' house.

The next morning, Ben and I walked down to the rec center for the birthday carnival and pancake breakfast. I was quite surprised how long the line for pancakes was, but I guess free food will do that. After filling up on pancakes and orange juice, Ben spent a good hour running back and forth between the two inflatable entertainment centers (bounce castles). It was fun seeing all the kids having so much fun (and burning all that excess energy at the same time!). I guess you don't have a 125th birthday every year, but it sure would be a great way to kick off Spring and the coming warm weather every year if the City were to throw a party each March!

2013 Boulder Creek Winery, Dry Rosé, Grand Valley AVA

Sadly, Boulder Creek will not be making any more rosé - any wine for that matter. The owners decided to wind down operations because they couldn't find a new location at a reasonable price. This merlot-based rosé is their swan song for the category of wine they thought could be a signature style for Colorado, even though they had trouble selling it because of the lack of sweetness. The color is almost a neon pink. This was an odd, but interesting, wine. Not because of the wild strawberry, or basil, or thyme aromas and flavors, but because of the smoked pepper - almost cayenne - undertones. The finish was notably spicy and with a bit of heat. It went down easily and was surely unique. 13.2% abv Purchased $16. Good

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brand ownership of social media

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Constitution of the United States (© Tetra Images / Corbis)
The doctrine outlined in 1st Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the U.S. Congress and state legislatures from enacting laws that diminish the freedom of speech. Most Americans take that to mean that they can say almost anything they wish. Sadly, that is far from the truth. There are many restrictions placed on speech based on factuality, employment, and legal contracts. We may not make a false statement that harms the reputation of another person or brand. Such speech is known as defamation. Non-disclosure agreements (plentiful in the wine industry) also limit what one can say.

Luckily, freedom of expression and opinion are protected under the 1st Amendment. I can say that I don't like a wine or that a restaurant offered poor service during my dining experience. I firmly believe that a bad product review via social media is a brand's opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. When a brand chooses to attack or complain about a criticism, it is just creating more damage to themselves.

One apartment complex in Florida took its stance on speech restrictions and social media criticism to an entirely new level. According to an article on Consumerist.com, the Windermere Cay apartments placed a "social media addendum" in its tenant lease agreements. This non-disparagement clause also assigned copyright to "any and all written or photographic works regarding" the apartment to the owner. In short, tenants were forbidden from publishing negative reviews online, and any comments or photos posted could be altered or removed because the apartment management owned them. On top of all this, a $10,000 fine was written into the contract for the first breach of the agreement and an additional $5,000 per subsequent breaches. Oh, and the apartment owner was the arbiter of what constitutes acceptable use. Windermere Cay basically said its tenants may use social media, but only in certain ways, and if they didn't like how a tenant talked about them they'd be fined.

That is akin to a winery saying that it owns all photos and reviews of its wine online by consumers, and if they didn't like a review you'd owe them money. Can you imagine a winery fining consumers (or critics) for posting negative comments about its wine? All those Delectable and Instagram images could be controlled by the wineries. Any sub-90-point score could be removed from the Interwebs!

Luckily, wine reviews are generally determined to be a safe form of expression. Non-defamatory opinions are fair game. Critics, journalists, and plebeian bloggers can write freely about wines they buy or are provided with free of charge by a winery. So all is good in the wine writing world, right?

Well, some wine critics demand similar constraints on their content. The Wine Advocate declares its reviews/scores as intellectual property that it owns. Not really that outrageous of a concept. However, if you are a commercial user that is involved in the sale or distribution of wine, Wine Advocate requires a commercial subscription agreement for you to use their content. If you use their content beyond what is specifically permitted in the agreement they may terminate your subscription and sue you.

I understand that no one likes to be criticized, but in this age of every single person on the planet being able to express their thoughts (however stupid they may be) and opinions to the rest of the world, is it really in a brand's best interest to bully and threaten others to make themselves appear better via social media? I guess we really are just living on a global playground...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ben's Blush: Bailiwick Pinorosa

This whole weekly rosé series hasn't exactly been going as easily as I anticipated after missing last week's wine. So, maybe this won't be a weekly series, but an almost-weekly series. At least it will happen more frequently than my roller skating activities. This past weekend we took Ben roller skating for the first time. I can't even remember the last time I put on roller skates. Ben has a pair of plastic skates go over his shoes, but those are nothing like the real thing. And by real thing I mean Skate City; complete with blaring music, colorful strobe lights, and an annoying DJ. He went around the rink a few times and only fell twice, but was more interested by the bigger kids playing shooter-based arcade games. We only stayed for about an hour, but everyone had fun - including Grandpa with his double guns going in the background (see video below). Ben is definitely looking forward to getting back to Skate City in the near future. I'm pretty sure roller skating won't be a weekly occurrence, but more than an every decade phenomenon.

2013 Bailiwick Pinorosa, Sonoma County

I've quite enjoyed Bailiwicks's vermentino and cabernet franc in the past, but this was my first experience with their rosé. This pink wine is 100% pinot noir from Sonoma County grapes bled off after soaking on the skins for three days. It is a pretty pale pink color and is not overly aromatic. There are lots of tart fruit flavors, but this is probably best as a porch-pounder on a warm summer afternoon. It was a great accompaniment to our wasabi-cilantro-butter yellowfin tuna. 14.1% abc. Purchased $15. Good

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A few more comments about Premiere Napa Valley 2015

1. Premiere Napa Valley is a great way to taste a lot of wine, but a terrible way to actually taste wine. Spending only 30 seconds with several hundred wines over the course of a few days is like trying to buy a house by only using Google Maps. You can get a broad understanding of the neighborhood and certain houses may catch your eye, but you don't get the real look and feel you would by spending time inside the houses to really explore them. You don't get to see how the wines taste with food or how they evolve over the course of an evening with friends and family. Pretty much you only get a general understanding, dehydrated, and terribly stained teeth.

2. Most of the wines I tasted during my three days in Napa were from the fabulous 2013 vintage, but some of the wines that stood out most to me were from the much less heralded 2011 vintage. Napa wine from 2011 ain't so bad, and may outshine the more critically acclaimed vintages down the road. Yes, 2011 was cool and wet, and many wines are defined by herbal, even moldy, greenness that most people will find off-putting. However, the wineries that were able to sort and use ripe (not overly ripe) grapes made some stunning wines. I heard one retailer joke that he was going to talk the 2011s up every chance he had just so others would be tricked into buying them so he wouldn't have to. I pity that fool. I look forward to tasting the few 2011 Napa cabs I have in my cellar more than any other vintage.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Gary Vaynerchuk gets back into the wine game...

The 2015 edition of Premiere Napa Valley saw a fundraising record for the Napa Valley Vintners. PNV15 also saw the return of Gary Vaynerchuk to Napa on the ninth anniversary of the first episode of WineLibraryTV. Gary helped his father successfully bid on 11 lots (840 bottles) to a tune of $377,000 ($449 per bottle). Gary energetically tasted with vintners during the barrel tasting prior to the auction and frequently posted selfies to Twitter (without the aid of a selfie-stick). I caught up with Gary briefly after the auction to discuss WineLibary's purchases and the possible return of WineLibraryTV.

Wine Library's Gary and Sasha Vaynerchuk at Premiere Napa Valley 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Initial thoughts on Premiere Napa Valley 2015

Premiere Napa Valley 2015
Last week's Premiere Napa Valley (PNV), the fundraising auction for the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), brought in a record $6.05 million, just surpassing last year's previous record of $5.9 million. Napa Valley wineries donated five-, 10-, or 20-case lots that were then exclusively auctioned off to the trade. The barrel tasting and auction at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena capped off a bacchanalian week in the Napa Valley just as the vines were beginning to spring back to life for the 2015 vintage. The average wholesale price per bottle sold was an astounding $286. The top bidder was Total Wine & More, who purchased 25 lots of the futures for a total of $836,000.

The most expensive lot, which also happened to be one of my favorites, was the 2013 BRAND Napa Valley "Double Barrel Elevation 1588" Cabernet Sauvignon. Sixty bottles of this cabernet sauvignon from Pritchard Hill sold for $115,000 to a corporate finance firm based in Zurich, Switzerland. The frenzied bidding brought BRAND proprietor Ed Fitts to tears when it was all said and done. Two other lots earned $100,000 for a mere 5 cases of wine. Only six lots failed to sell for more than $100 per bottle, three of which were white wines, including a very interesting sweet Scuppernong from Spiriterra Vineyards. Even though I enjoyed it, the unusual wine made from Vitis rotundifolia grapes was a peculiar addition to the cabernet sauvignon-dominated field.

Thursday and Friday were filled with various preview parties around the valley. After missing it last year, I was able to make it to Vintage Perspective Tasting of 2010, 2011, and 2012 cabernets as well as the 2003-2009 library tasting. I also went to preview receptions for Chateau Boswell (a random group of "most celebrated winemakers"), Coombsville Vintners & GrowersPritchard Hill Wineries, Women WinemakersOakville Winegrowers Association, FlyWine (bottles premium wine in 100 mL TSA-friendly bottles), and Winemakers of Brokenrock Vineyard. I had planned on attending a few other receptions, but time and wine just got in the way.

The barrel tasting portion of the auction on Saturday morning showcased wines mostly from the 2013 vintage and the attendance was quite a big smaller than last year. Cate Conniff, the communications manager for NVV, told me that invitations to media, trade, and wineries were cut across the board because too many people were packed into the venue last year. It was refreshing not feeling like a canned sardine this year. Compared to the similar 2012 vintage offered at the previous auction, the 2013s were successful across the board. Ripeness and concentration were not a problem for Napa producers in 2013. To my palate, the wines were marked by good fruit flavors and strong tannins. The 2013 wines tended to be less opulent than those from 2012 and more restrained. As goes with saying for any barrel tasting, the wines were not finished products, so no final assessment can be made. That being said, the wines that really impressed me did so with their aromas, balance, and refinement as opposed to power and density.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ben's Blush: Matthiasson

2013 Matthiasson Rosé
The weather in Colorado this winter has been beautiful. 60° and sunny has happened more often than not. Finally, Last week we got our first good snow in about two months. We got almost a foot in Littleton where we live. My wife and Ben had a four-day weekend, so we were able to enjoy the snow at home. The hens have not been pleased eithr return to arctic conditions. It took some convincing to get Ben to go outside to play, but when he finally decided to enjoy the snow it was hard to get him to back inside. I built an igloo- well, a wall of snow with a cardboard box on top of it - for him to play in. He really liked it, but was the only person able to fit inside of it. I'm in California this weekend for premiere Napa Valley. I might be staying a bit longer than intended because the forecast for Sunday when I'm supposed to go home is for another 12 to 18 inches of snow to blanket the Denver area. I'm hoping my flight will be able to sneak in through that weather. I'll report back about the PNV tastings next week, but I'm looking forward to picking up a few bottles of the new release of this week's Ben's blush to replenish the rosé stock.

2013 Matthiasson Rosé, California

Steve Matthiasson has been nominated yet again for the James Beard award for his throwback wines he produces from Napa and elsewhere in Northern California. This blend of Rhône cultivars clocks in at eight paltry 11% alcohol. In fact, after we finish the bottle we were able to open a second bottle and drink some of that as well. I felt better after those two bottles of the many full throttle California wines. This is not a rosé to knock your socks off, but it is a lovely, delicate wine. What it lacks in depth, it makes up with zip and brightness. The underripe white peach, pomegranate, sea salt, chalk, and lime rind flavors make it go down way too quickly... 11.2% abv. Purchased $23. Good/Very Good

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2012 tasting and what will Premiere Napa Valley bring this weekend?

As I noted a few weeks ago, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) was in Denver showing off the 2012 vintage.  Though the organization represents 133 wineries, both classified and non-classified producers, only about 60 producers were in Denver at the fundraising event for the Denver Public Schools Foundation, with the rest of the group splitting off to Las Vegas. Just tasting the wine from these 60 was more than enough to gain some perspective on the 2012 vintage.

As you probably have read, Bordeaux had three less-than-stellar vintages in a row. 2011, 2012 and 2013 have been met with critical disdain and falling prices, especially since the esteemed 2009 and 2010 vintages caused prices to skyrocket. Of the producers I spoke with, they claimed that 2012 was the best of these three off years and certainly meant for early consumption while the venerated vintages rest in the cellar. 2014 was discussed as a favorable vintage and a welcome reprieve from the trio of disappointments, but still not up to the standard set by 2010 - the greatest ever vintage in Bordeaux, as claimed by one producer.

I left the tasting with three conclusions about the wines.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ben's Blush: 2012 Arnot-Roberts Rosé

Having a young child can make dining out an infrequent occurrence. Just getting out the door can be a battle in its own right. Though Ben is usually well behaved and a great eater at restaurants, there is always a chance of a tantrum and we have to bring something to keep him occupied while we wait for the food to arrive. A few days ago, we decided to go to The Wooden Table on the spur of the moment. We asked Ben if he wanted to put some "fancy" clothes on to go out. He eagerly replied that he wanted to wear his dress. Well, his dress is just a tie-died adult t-shirt that my wife made for him, but still probably not the most appropriate attire for fine dining. We gently redirected his fashion instincts towards wearing his Bruce Wayne bow tie. After the brief battle, we set out for a very nice evening at the restaurant with out dapper little gentleman.

However, we felt a little bad that he really wanted to wear his dress at a fancy dinner. So, the next night we brought the restaurant experience home. I printed up a menu with a variety of choices for Ben to choose. I acted as the waiter and took his order (I was also the chef and made a pretty tasty butternut squash and pumpkin sausage risotto). Dinner was served over three separate courses. And, best of all, Ben got to wear his fancy dress (and some impressive Frozen slippers). Mom and Dad shared a bottle of Arnot-Roberts Rosé.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ben's Blush: Kessler-Haak

Three-year olds don't miss much. The other day someone asked Ben how old he was, and he told them he was three and a half. I quietly interjected that it is a good thing he doesn't know fractions because he is really three and three-quarters. Well, since that moment Ben's new answer to a question about his age is of course, "I'm three and three-quarters!"

I guess the time when your child is right around his or her fourth birthday is when you start looking for pre-kindergarten. We were lucky to not have to think much about what Ben did for daycare, as my wife's school has excellent employee daycare on site. However, pre-k is a different story. The process for Ben to stay at this school is quite involved. We have to write a parent statement, get a teacher recommendation, have a parent interview, and Ben had to attend an assessed playdate. The school is great and the convenience of Ben going to school with his mom makes it that much more attractive of an option.

To do our due diligence, we also are looking at the neighbor elementary school just a few blocks from our home. Information about the program and registration process has been harder to come by. Last night, we attended the open house at the school. Rather than a structured program where administrators and teachers explain things, we just kind of walked around getting a feel for the school and the pre-k room. We did get a chance to speak with the lead pre-k teacher (but who will be retiring at year's end) about the program. It definitely is less structured and rigorous than the private school option, but both seemed relatively similar.

We haven't decided where he is going to go next year. We will have to wait to hear if Ben even gets admitted to mom's school. Maybe the decision will be made for us! Either way, it will be fun to watch Ben continue growing up and expanding his world.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is in Denver this week

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) is an organization formed in 1973 by a group of Bordeaux wineries that is something of a marketing program that puts on tasting and educational events in France and abroad. The organization now represents 133 wineries, both classified and non-classified producers. Every year, winery representatives tour the U.S. with their wines, but usually only visit New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Last year was the first time the tour found its way to Colorado.

This year, half of the group will be in Denver on Thursday, January 29 (the the other half is in Las Vegas that night). The Châteaux owners and winemakers from over 60 of the most prestigious Bordeaux producers (sadly, no First Growths...) will pour and discuss their wines. I can't think of another opportunity in Colorado to taste such a collection of historic and respected wines. As an added benefit (and because of Colorado liquor law) the event is a fundraiser for the Denver Public Schools Foundation, but hosted by Applejack Wine & Spirits. For a full list of the participating producers and to buy tickets, click here.

The 2012 vintage will be featured at the tasting, though I would hope some producers bring some examples properly aged Bordeaux wine. 2012 is the second in a trio of less-than-ideal vintages for Bordeaux. The vintage started cool and wet, and finished with heavy rains around harvest time. Though I haven't tasted much 2012 Bordeaux, I've read that merlot from the Right Bank produced more favorable wines when compared to the later-ripening cabernet sauvignon from the Left Bank. Many of the top sweet-wine producers even declared that they would not produce any wine in 2012, but instead sell-off their wine in bulk to less prominent producers.

I don't drink much Bordeaux, frankly because the price of admission is so steep. Many of the wines that will be poured at the UGCB tasting cost between $50 and $300 per bottle. The First Growth producers, who will not be in attendance, sell their wines for around $1000 per bottle. Prices have come down some since consumer demand (especially in China) of the heralded 2009 and 2010 vintages caused prices to skyrocket. Still, with three lower-quality vintages currently languishing in the market since the critically acclaimed 2010, supply and demand are still out of sync when it comes to general pricing for the region. Nevertheless, I will be quite interested to see what is in the glass on Thursday night to see if there is some value to be had. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ben's Blush: Epoch Estate Wines

After being gone for a whole week, it was nice to be home. Ben was very excited to see me, and his mom was very happy to not have 100% of his attention solely directed at her! It was a beautiful week in Colorado; we even had a happy hour/picnic in the park the other day. Ben spent most of the time chasing after the bigger kids that showed up. Unfortunately, they were not as interested in him, but he did expend a fair bit of energy constantly chasing them. Yesterday, we got about 6 inches of snow, but the forecast looks like we should be back in the 50s and 60s by the weekend!

This week was also a bit rough. As you might know, I grew up in Wisconsin and am thus a Green Bay Packers fan. Though I did not have high expectations for the outcome of the NFC Championship game, I was hopeful things would go their way. Ben and I watched the first half of the game, but the bored little guy abandoned me after halftime. I kept giving him updates and he high-fived me when with only a few minutes left in the game the Packers seemed to have an insurmountable lead. Yeah, well, we all know how that turned out. I guess that is kind of like wine in some ways; you get all excited about experiencing something great only to be let down.

At some point during the AFC Championship game (Cheaters vs. Colts), Ben shouted, "Dad, the Packers are winning!" I dejectedly responded to him, "No, bud the Packers already lost." He then apologetically looked at me and said quiet empathetically, "I know, but I was just trying to make you feel better." Things like that are why kids are so amazing. Notwithstanding my son's compassion, such an epic loss deserved an Epoch wine...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ben's Blush: Domaine de Nizas

Well, the weekly rosé review lasted all of one week. To be fair, we actually did drink a bottle of rosé two weeks ago, but I just was too lazy busy to write it up. Last week I was in Grand Junction, CO for the annual viticulture and enology conference: VinCO. It is great that the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology puts together a program that runs the gamut of marketing, winemaking, grape growing, and directed tasting seminars for the Colorado wine industry. I co-led a tasting of syrah from around the world that seemed to go over well. I also tasted some very nice wines from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, and of course Colorado.

Traveling and being away from home has both its advantages and disadvantages. Sleeping in a King-size bed by yourself can be quite relaxing, but it is more fun to be woken up by a little boy who dressed himself and says, "Look at my awesome outfit!" I didn't have to go the whole week without seeing Ben; the iPhone is a modern miracle! I can't imagine traveling before the days of Skype and Facetime. It is such a luxury to be able to see and talk to you children from afar. I know that Ben enjoys being able to talk with his grandparents and great grandparents via Facetime. I guess it kind of is like being Back to the Future (without the firing). I don't travel too often, but when I do it is nice to be close digitally.

2013 Domaine de Nizas
Domaine de Nizas 2013 Rosé

To catch up from the missing week, I will be posting two blush reviews this week (this week's tomorrow). The wine from the week before last hails from the Languedoc region of Southeast France. I don't know why, but for some reason every time I look at the label I think it is from Greece. Notwithstanding what my brain keeps insisting, this French wine is a blend of 40% syrah, 40% grenache noir, and 20% mourvèdre, which is quite typical for Languedoc rosés. It is a beautiful poppy pink color. Flowers and strawberries are the most noticeable aromas. It is a bit more structured than the delicate nose would suggest. Red fruit flavors are complemented by spicy hints of anise. Overall, the wine was pretty average and did nothing to excite me, but was still a nice wine. 14% abv. Sample $17. Average

Friday, January 9, 2015

Out of network writing

Yesterday I read an article in the Denver Post titled, "Cabernet franc goes with a wide range of foods." I was pleasantly surprised that the newspaper would write an article about what might be  Colorado's signature grape cultivar. I thought the story would at least include a passing mention of the local versions. It wasn't until I finished the article, and the usual recommendations, that I noticed it was written by Bill St. John all the way from Chicago.

St. John used to be the food and wine editor for the Denver Post, but that was years ago. He since moved on to the Chicago Tribune. Occasionally St. John's writing is published in the Post as a special report (aka syndicated). Just as with broadcast syndication, newspaper syndication can provide market penetration and revenue for the author. Pretty good work if you can get it.

But the problem with this type of publishing is that it can actually be a detriment to the reader. Publishing generic articles that don't have a pulse on the local conditions goes against the grain of what wine consumers want: authenticity. Local sections of local newspapers should be about local conditions. I'm not suggesting that the article should have been solely about local wines, but some awareness that cabernet franc is important to the local industry would be something a local writer would have.

Now, syndicated wine columns are not all that bad. David White, of Terroirist.com, writes a twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted over on Grape Collective. Generally syndicated columns are generic enough to be applicable anywhere. White usually does a good job with this. Most of the time articles about a specific grape variety are adequately universal, but yet the cab franc piece completely missed the mark when it could have been so much more salient.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ben's Blush: J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé

A little less than four years ago, I started a weekly review of a sparkling wine to celebrate the birth our son, Ben. I called the regular feature Ben's Bubbly. Both my wife and I enjoyed regularly drinking a bottle of bubbly; it is something that is too often restricted to only celebratory occasions a few times a year. Sparkling wine is something that should be enjoyed much more often. Plus, the weekly review provided easy material for this blog.

Well, it has been several years since I concluded the series (a tasty blanc de blancs from Doyard) and my wife and I miss the weekly exploration of a specific, and under-appreciated style of wine. So, today I announce Ben's Blush. Pink wine is the red-headed step child of the wine world. It is often dismissed as sweet and uninteresting, and relegated to being openly consumed for a only few short weeks in the spring and summer. Sadly, rosé is ignorantly considered by many to be an inferior wine compared to its red and wine siblings. Rosé can be so many things and pair so well with different foods. It more diverse than many people think. So, for the next 52 weeks, I will open a bottle of something blush and report on it (along with a little update on Ben, as was the custom in the first series).