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).