Thursday, December 8, 2016

Phylloxera identified in Colorado

I don't normally do this, but as I helped craft the press release and have inside knowledge of this situation because of my position with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, I am just going to repost the original press release here:

On November 29, 2016, an insect capable of damaging Colorado’s wine grape crop was confirmed in Mesa County.  US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service entomologists positively identified grapevine phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) on Vitis vinifera grapevines in the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which is a federally designated grape production area in western Colorado. Phylloxera is an aphid-like insect that feeds aggressively on grape roots.

“Nearly 75 percent of our grape acreage is in the Grand Valley AVA, which stretches along the Colorado River between Palisade and Grand Junction, and is known for its unique environment and high elevation allowing for production of world-class quality winegrapes,” said Doug Caskey, Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Executive Director for the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

In its full life cycle, phylloxera can take multiple forms. The most serious and damaging form, which was recently discovered in Mesa county, feeds on roots of grape plants. It can damage the plant by disrupting water and nutrient flow. Initially, infested plants appear weakened, stunted, and with leaves lighter in color which may look like they are suffering from a nutrient deficiency. In addition, phylloxera can live out another stage of its life on grapevine leaves. This less serious form feeds on leaves that causes leaf galls to develop, but generally not on V. vinifera.

“The Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado State University are actively investigating the source and working with the vineyard owner to contain and eradicate the pest. Extensive surveying is also continuing to determine the scope of the infestation,” said Laura Pottorff, CDA’s Nursery and Phytosanitary program manager. “Hopefully we caught this quickly enough to protect Colorado’s grape crop.”

Recommendations for Grape Growers

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is urging vineyard operators to contact their supplying nurseries to find out what, if any, procedures they have in place for identifying and stopping the spread of phylloxera. Colorado grape growers should also take the following precautions:

1. Watch plants for symptoms of chlorotic leaves, stunting and other symptoms that mimic nutritional deficiencies.  If detected sample the roots of plants for presence of phylloxera.
2. All harvesting and cultivation equipment should be power washed or sanitized between fields.
3. When purchasing grape nursery stock, request that the plants be hot water dipped prior to shipment.
4. Examine and inspect all new nursery stock prior to planting, or schedule an inspection by CDA staff.
5. Consider use of root-grafted grape nursery stock.


Colorado has approximately 150 grape growers tending 1,000 acres of vineyards and more than 140 licensed commercial wineries.  These vintners produced 166,000 cases of wine during the 2016 fiscal year, which equaled more than $33 million in sales.

Phylloxera is native to the eastern and southeastern United States, where native American grape species (such as Vitis riparia and Vitis labrusca) co-evolved with the insect. Though it has spread around the world since the mid-19th Century to many other wine regions, prior surveys found no evidence of phylloxera in Colorado’s commercial vineyards. Grape species native to the U.S. are generally resistant to phylloxera, but V. vinifera vines have no natural resistance whatsoever.  This is why phylloxera nearly wiped out all the vineyards in Europe once it survived the trans-Atlantic trip in the mid-19th Century. On V. vinifera grape cultivars, phylloxera normally infests only the underground parts of the plant and eventually kills the vine. The leaf-feeding, gall-producing form is not present. In susceptible American Vitis species and hybrids, the full life cycle occurs, including the leaf-galling form. Colorado had been one of the few wine regions worldwide to not have been affected by phylloxera and as such many grapevines are self-rooted on V. vinifera rootstocks.

Additional Resources

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Frontier Airlines sheds light on how to operate a winery

Let me start off by saying Frontier Airlines is a terrible company. From its ownership by Republic Airways and dismantling of Midwest Airlines to current owner Indigo Partners, Frontier Airlines has been run by arrogant, greedy and apathetic people. Even its own pilots think so. Yesterday, the Air Line Pilots Association released a statement blaming Frontier's abysmal operations on "the same executive mismanagement and misplaced focus on cost-cutting that has placed Frontier at the very bottom of the industry in operational performance and customer satisfaction. " No winery should aim to operate like Frontier.

I'll get to what wineries can learn from Frontier, but it will take a bit of ranting to get there.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Judgment of Denver

At last week's 2016 Colorado Governor's Cup wine competition I, in my capacity with the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, organized a wine tasting I'm calling "The Judgment of Denver." For those that do not know, in 1976 British wine merchant Steve Spurrier organized a blind tasting with French wine judges (wine journalists, critics, sommeliers, merchants or winemakers). The wines were broken into two flights; in the first flight, the judges rated 10 Chardonnay, 6 from California and 4 from Burgundy and in the second flight, they rated 10 Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines, 6 from California and 4 from Bordeaux, France. In each of these flights a California wine, a then relatively little known wine region, was declared the winner. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was the top red and Chateau Montelena's 1973 Chardonnay bested some of France's best – and most expensive – wines. The results were published to the world in TIME magazine and forever changed the American – and global – wine industry.

Each year at the Governor's Cup we do a calibration tasting to have the judges calibrate their palate/scores to benchmark wine (that benchmark isn't always high). This year, I decided to model the calibration portion of the competition after the 1976 "Judgment of Paris" because it was the 40th anniversary of that original blind tasting and Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, was once again one of the judges. These two facts seemed like good enough reason to reenact the tasting once more – multiple retastings of the original wines and a New Jersey vs. French wine tasting have been reported on many times.

At the Denver tasting, 16 wine judges1 (wine journalists, critics, sommeliers, merchants or winemakers) from around the U.S. tasted Colorado wines against French and California wines in a blind setting. The French and California wines selected were from the same producers as in 1976 including the winning producers: Chateau Montelena and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Unlike the Judgment of Princeton, no First Growth Bordeaux were in the mix. Hundred dollar French and California wines are worthy enough competition! Prices of the French and California wines were $30–$110/bottle. I selected Colorado wines that would not appear in the Governor's Cup competition later that day. Prices of the Colorado wines were $15–$50/bottle The results were as similarly surprising as the original tasting. Although, the winner in each category was a California wine (Chalone Vineyard for the whites and Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds) CO wines are at the same level qualitatively.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Shafer Vineyards and Stone Cottage Cellars

Preface: The Napa Valley and the entire world lost two pillars of the wine community this week. Donn Chappellet and Molly Shafer both passed away recently. Both were instrumental in establishing the Napa Valley as the United States' preeminent wine region over the past half decade. Their family names are now firmly entrenched with American wine history. Their families and the greater wine community will no doubt miss them dearly.

Chardonnay often gets a bad rap. Sure, white Burgundy is said to be some of the finest wine in the world, but some of the Californian examples of the grape has also been labeled Cougar Juice. The cultivar has also given rise to the ABC – Anything But Chardonnay – crowd.

Share 2013 Red Shoulder Ranch
I'm not the world's biggest fan of Chardonnay because I find more pleasure in exploring other varieties – and Chardonnay is too often uninteresting. However, when produced with purpose and care. A few weeks ago, in celebration of Mothers' Day, we celebrated with a prime example of such a Chardonnay. Shafer Vineyards 2013 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay (14.9% abv, Sample $52) is often cited as one of the top Napa Valley Chardonnays. It straddles the line of litheness and voluptuousness like few Chardonnay can. There is no doubt this is a rich wine from the nose. The aromas of baked apples, mango, and shortbread are complemented with flavors of pineapples, vanilla and smoke. The high alcohol comes through, but is not a distraction. Ample acidity balances the richness. This is a great wine for those that like big, rich California Chardonnays, but also enjoy a steely version of the grape.

Stone Cottage 2013 Chardonnay
Still in somewhat of a Chardonnay mood, the following night I decided to open a Colorado rendition of the grape. Stone Cottage Cellars' 2013 Chardonnay (14% abv, Purchased $22) is grown at 6300 feet about sea level in the West Elks AVA overlooking the quaint hamlet of Paonia. When I first opened it, the nose struck me as non-Chardonnay-like. It starts coy with steely aromas of lemon and limes. After being open for a while, the wine just blossoms and I like it more with each sniff and sip. The Chardonnay characteristics start to come to the forefront as the aromas and flavors build with baked apples, pears, brioche and a touch of cinnamon. The flavors and finish kept building all night until the bottle was gone and the wine could evolve no more. The acidity is so lovely and amazingly at about a pH of 3.1! I actually prefer this to the Shafer. At only $22 for a 25 case production, this is a screaming value and I'd suggest this would favorably out-compete with Grand Cru Chablis that cost more than 10 times what this humble little Colorado Chardonnay costs. Simply put: this is an amazing wine.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Canyon Wind Cellars "Anemoi Eos"

Anemoi 2015 Eos
Canyon Wind Cellars' 2015 "Anemoi Eos" Syrah Rosé (13% abv, Sample $28) is the first – and last – rosé of Syrah Jay and Jennifer Christianson will produce. Sadly, in March, the second-generation owners  unexpectedly announced they will be closing Canyon Wind Cellars by the end of 2016. I guess it wasn't necessarily unexpected for them, but for everyone in the Colorado wine industry it was a shock. Jay said a variety of reasons contributed to the decision, but he made sure to emphasize that they did not need to close because the winery was in financial trouble. About a decade ago, the younger Christiansons purchased the winery from Jay's parents who founded the winery in 1991. Jay said they decided it was time to begin a new chapter in their lives; which involves traveling around with an Airstream and consulting for wineries around the country.

Canyon Wind Cellars had to have been one of the most successful Colorado wineries. The portfolio had grown since Jay and Jennifer took over and the quality of the wines was always very high. In fact, Canyon Wind took home Best of Show in the state's Governor's Cup competition each of the last two years. The prime location of the vineyard at the mouth of DeBeque Canyon most likely has a lot to do with high level of success achieved by the Christianson family. Now it is time for a different producer to step up and claim the crown.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Friends Fun Wine

While the wine and the beer industries appear quite similar on the surface, they have lots of differences. One major difference is the discrepancy with creative products. Brewers can be some of the most creative beverage producers on Earth. There are almost an infinite number of beer flavors/styles. If you can dream something to put in a beer, a brewer has probably used it as an ingredient. Fruit and coffee seem to be common additions.

Winemakers tend to not be as creative. A long list of approved additives exist, but grapes are the primary ingredient in wine. Sure, oak is often used as a flavoring agent but you don't see other flavors added to the wine. Occasionally producers use different types of barrels to impart different tastes and textures. Recently, I've seen a few producers that use old bourbon barrels to add a bourbon-esque flavors.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bonny Doon Il Ciliegiolo Rosato

Beatrice is now five months old. As I type this, she is playing with her feet and talking up a storm in her crib. I guess a nap is out of the question! She is actually a very good sleeper. She usually sleeps for 10-12 hours at night, with a snack or two thrown in. She'd actually sleep longer if we didn't wake her up to go to school. It can be difficult to disturb her from her slumber with that angelic look on her face, but she usually quite full of smiles when we do. And so are we!

Il Ciliegiolo Rosato
I had a bit more of a perplexing look on my face when I tasted this week's rosé. Randall Grahm has been known to push the envelope once or twice. The Bonny Doon Vineyard 2015 Il Ciliegiolo Rosato (12.4% abv, Sample $24) is another example of that trait. I think I've seen red wines that are lighter than this. It isn't bad, but is just a totally different type of wine than comes to mind when I think of pink wine.

Sourced from the Tracy Hills AVA, a small region in Central Valley due west of Modesto with only 5 vineyards, and made from Ciliegiolo. Ciliegiolo is from Italy, named after the Italian for 'cherry'. It is often a minor component of traditional blends, like Chianti. In Umbria it is made into a light quaffing wine. This rosato is what I could call a light quaffing red instead of a rosé. The grape is related to Sangiovese, but it is not really known if it is the parent or offspring.

This wine follows through on the cherry descriptor. It tastes like a cherry/blackberry pie. It has an odd buttery component that reminds me of a really butter pie crust. There is a touch of spice to it and it is rich and heavy. I don't dislike it, but I would definitely prefer a more traditional rosé – especially for the price.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Carlisle, Matthiasson and Sandlands

California is the United States' wine country and rightly so. So many good wines come from The Golden State. But in the past few decades many California wine regions are turning into something of a monoculture where one or two cultivars dominate. These "noble" varieties are now what could also be called the international varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir. The varieties and styles of yesteryear have been mostly forgotten.

However, there are a few producers looking to break the mold of the big, bold, fruit-forward style of California wine. Last week I wrote about love trying interesting cultivars and they can definitely be found in The Golden State. This past week, I opened three such wines from producers of the so-called "New California" wave. It just so happened that all three were made from unusual (for CA) white grape cultivars.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bedrock Wine Co.

We're approaching a time in our life when we will have two mobile children. Recently, Ms. B has been rolling and scooting around like it is her job. It definitely is fun and exciting to see how she changes each day, but diaper changes have officially entered the octopus-wrestling-match realm. If you're not a parent, you won't really be able to fully appreciate that visualization. Another new trick is yoga. She's been practicing her best downward facing dog by getting her bottom up in the air pretty well. It won't be long now until she trades yoga for track and field and we will be chasing her around. Good thing her older brother doesn't evade us like an escaped convict anymore – we'll actually have to utilize him to help corral our cute little octopus!

Bedrock 2015 Ode to Lulu Rosé
Though not as exciting as watching children change, tasting the year-to-year changes in wine is one of the things I love about it. Seeing how weather affects the final product or how winemaker choices regarding a blend causes the synapses in my brain to fire. I especially enjoy observing these changes in rosé – I think the color lends itself to visualizing changes more than with red or white wines. One year a wine is a deep fuchsia and the next it could be a pale salmon. One of my favorite pink wines is the Bedrock Wine Co. Ode to Lulu Old Vine Rosé (12.3% abv, Purchased $19) from California. The 2015 incarnation is almost 2/3 Mourvèdre (Mataro) and the rest Grenache and Carignan. This is such a festive wine, but this vintage comes across as a touch more serious and feral – but just a bit. It is slightly lighter than the 2014 but darker in color than the 2012 and 2011 vintages. The 2015 is mostly about bright red fruit and citrus. Both the aromas and flavors revolve around strawberries, watermelon and limes. Its almost like Morgan (the winemaker) put all those fruit into a blender with a tequila that was meant for sipping as he was making a margarita and then salted the rim of the glass with some pink Punjabi rock salt that he obtained on a backpacking trip through the Himalayas. It is ready to party, but holds back a bit of mystery...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: California, Maryland and Uruguay

At a recent wine dinner one of the guests asked me what my favorite style of wine is. My response: new and different wines. Yes, I purchase more California wines than I probably should, but I really love tasting wine from new places and interesting cultivars. I did a pretty good job of that goal this past week.
Sterling Vineyards 2013 Heritage

California is America's wine country. That is just a fact. Most of the wine produced in the U.S. hails from sunny California. There is some terrific wine, and some not so terrific wine. The most recent wine I had from California, unfortunately, trends toward the latter end of that spectrum. The Sterling Vineyards Vintner's Collection 2013 Meritage (13.5% abv, Sample $14) left a bad taste in my mouth. No, really, it tasted a bit chemically, fishy and altogether unpleasant. It tasted like a $6 bottle of plonk - it actually shows up on wine-searcher for $6.99-$7.99. There is the requisite mocha and dark fruit flavors that come with a blend of  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, but not a whole lot of other redeeming qualities.

Bodega Garson 2013 Tannat
On the other hand, the Bodega Garzón 2013 Tannat (14.5% abv, Sample $20) from Uruguay is a delicious wine. Garzón is owned by Argentine billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni, whom I pegged as responsible for the Cameron Hughes Private Reserve wines made at Harlan Estate in the Napa Valley. I wasn't overly impressed by those wines, but this Tannat from Uruguay is truly tasty and perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers. Tannat is perhaps Uruguay's signature grape despite its southwestern French heritage as the main grape in the Madiran region. This wine is powerful yet elegant. The deeply colored Tannat reveals the red and black fruit aromas you would expect in a Cabernet and accompanied by scents chocolate and tobacco. It is smooth on the palate with silky tannins – firm but not overwhelming – adding structure to the cherry, raspberry and mocha flavors. It paired well with our strip steak – which interestingly enough was also from Uruguay. I would expect this wine to hold up for a several years and impress those interested in Napa Cabernet and off-the-beaten path varieties alike.

Old Westminster 2014 Albariño
Finally, the Old Westminster Winery 2014 Two Vineyards Albariño (12% abv, Sample $28) is a lovely wine that other Maryland producers might want to consider looking at. Three years ago at the Drink Local Wine conference in Baltimore an Albariño from Black Ankle Vineyards opened my eyes to what this Iberian grape can do on the east coast of the U.S. Black Ankle and Old Westminster are about 10 miles apart just south of Westminster, MD not too far from Baltimore. You're not going to confuse it with a Spanish Albariño, but this wine comes across more like a blend between Rhône and Rías Baixas. It is crips yet rich. There is a good amount of citrus and tropical fruit flavors present along with a bit of spice. This is a tasty and unique wine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Prisoner Wine Company

Last week, Constellation Brands spent a lot of money – $285 million a lot – to acquire The Prisoner Wine Company. Most people probably aren't familiar with Constellation, but they are one of the world's largest wine producers. Constellation owns Robert Mondavi Winery, Clos du Bois, Ravenswood, Manischewitz, Vendange and recently acquired (they spent $315 million for this brand) Meiomi in addition to dozens of other wine brands. They also own the Corona, Pacifico and Modelo beer brands along with Svedka vodka. Chances are if you've bought a bottle of booze you've given Constellation some of your money.

There has been a lot written about this acquisition by the wine media. Most of the discussion revolves around the lack of vineyards or production facilities with the purchase. Just as with the Meiomi purchase, only the brand was acquired by Constellation. Some writers have been flabbergasted that so much money could be spent on a wine brand when the source of the grapes seems to be up in the air. Other companies, like E & J Gallo Winery and Jackson Family Wines have been buying vineyard land up and down the Pacific Coast. That certainly is a strong approach to building a wine empire, but I would argue that the Meiomi and Prisoner brands are stronger and more highly regarded than any owned by Gallo or JFW. In today's economy, brand is king. All of the most popular wines are built on brand and not on vineyard sources. From what vineyard does Two Buck Chuck or KJ's Vintner's Reserve come?? Prisoner is more about a certain style than it is about expressing a particular terroir. That style of wine can be produced in much larger volume than a wine based on a defined place. To most American wine consumers, consistent style and availability is much more important than the expression of time and place. As much as this disturbs me personally, it is the way the wine industry has been trending for quite some time.

As aggressive as this approach seems to be, it is actually quite conservative. Providing the same style of wine year in and year out in as many markets as possible is a tried and true path to building a strong brand. Just look at how popular America's fast food chains have become. I can buy a Big Mac in Denver, Seattle and Miami and they all will taste the exact same. However, this doesn't mean all wine is going this way as my friend the Wine Curmudgeon often rants about. The number of wine brands that are privately owned, small wineries is much larger than the number owned by "Big Wine" overlords – and actually continues to grow. Yes, volume-wise they are much smaller, but we obviously still have the progressive end of the wine where the expression of place and vintage characteristics is important. Instead of converging to the same common point, wine seems to be as rapidly diverging as American politics.

A few weeks ago – and prior to the acquisition announcement – I sat down with Prisoner's winemaker Jen Beloz to taste through the lineup. Jen started in 2011 after Huneeus Vintners purchased Prisoner from Orin Swift founder Dave Phinney for $40 million. While doubling production from ~85,000 cases to ~170,000 cases Huneeus made quite a profit on that ~6 year investment! And just think, The Prisoner originally started as a single 385 case label. Now, the portfolio of wines produced by PWC includes the namesake Prisoner blend, a newer white blend called Blindfold, the Thorn Merlot, a Zinfandel called Saldo, and a Cabernet Sauvignon known as Cuttings. The wines are perhaps known best for their clever, catchy, creative and most importantly memorable labels. The Prisoner label is an image Francisco de Goya's The Little Prisoner etching. While the labels are cool and all that, I wanted to get to know what was inside the bottles.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris Tuilé

Once again it has been too long since I posted about our weekly rosé. In that time, Beatrice has started full-time at daycare as mom has gone back to school. She seems to enjoy her time there, but she is by far the youngest of the group. Three of the four other children are walking and the fourth is almost a year old and crawling all over the place. Perhaps Bea will be an early walker like her brother because of how she observes her older classmates, but for now she is the odd man out.

Bonny Doon 2013 Vin Gris Tuilé

Similarly, Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris Tuilé (13% abv, Sample $26) is a bit of an oddball in the realm of pink wines. A blend of 55% grenache, 23% mourvèdre, 10% roussanne, 7% cinsaut, 3% carginane, and 2% grenache blanc, but don't think of this wine so much as a rosé but as an imitation Manzanilla. This wine was placed outside where it sat, in the elements for nine months in glass carboys to be "solarized" and tastes every bit oxidized as you might expect. It is quite complex with a tiny bit of dried citrus fruit, but most characteristics are of scorched cream, toasted nuts, gasoline and cumin seed. If you're looking for a crisp, refreshing rosé you'll be sadly disappointed. However, if you have fino sherry on your mind it might work for you as this is an interesting approach to selling an oxidized wine. Let's just say I'm not a fan of it, but I don't totally hate it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Bedrock North Coast Syrah

This week we celebrated our son's fifth birthday; it's amazing how fast the time flies. One of the advantages of having been afflicted with a wine collection disorder means that I have decided that birth-year wines are a purposeful component of our sizable wine stash. Now, unfortunately I do not have any from my wife's or my birthdays, but having young children makes buying their birth-year wines easy. It is looking like our second child's birth year – 2015 – will be a decent year for agreeable wines that may see her 21st birthday. However, Benjamin was born in 2011 – not the greatest vintage across the globe, with a few exceptions such as German whites and vintage Port. I do have a few wines set aside that I think will make it to his 21st birthday, but I'm guessing most 2011 wines will be best long before he is even able to operate a motor vehicle let alone legally consume a glass of wine with his parents. So, on his fifth birthday we decided to open a five-year old bottle of California Syrah from one of best value producers out their.

Bedrock 2011 North Coast Syrah
The Bedrock 2011 North Coast Syrah (14% abc, Purchased $20) is the entry-level Syrah offered by Morgan Twain-Peterson. His single-vineyard wines tend to be in the $30-$50 range, but this blend of barrels that didn't make the cut for those pricier wines is a steal at $20. Entry-level wines are a great way to get a glimpse of what a winery's more expensive wines taste like. As with most of the Bedrock wines, this wine is full of lovely and powerful aromas. Scents of flowers, bacon, white pepper and cherries radiate from the glass. The dark purple wine shows its pedigree of richness and complexity with flavors of black olives, spicy pepper, tobacco, cedar, and dark cherries. It doesn't have the density and concentration of the more expensive wines, but it still punches above its price class. Still going strong after five years with a few more likely at its peak. Good thing I have a few more of these waiting downstairs.

Friday, April 1, 2016

WineBerserkers dot com kicks off Battles of Taste series

Global Series of Exclusive Wine Experiences to Feature the World's Top Wine Personalities

NEW YORK, NY--(Spittooned - April 01, 2016) - Todd French's Wine Berserkers (Wineberserkers.com), the world's most recognized online authority on wine discussion boards (over 0.000001% of all wine consumers worldwide are members), is debuting its inaugural Battles of Taste tour on U.S. shores in 2016 as part of a global series of exclusive events for Wineberserkers.com members and guests.

The tour is a continuation of a global series of no-holds-barred fine wine tastings and critical attacks for Wineberserkers.com members and their guests. Battles of Taste will feature hundreds of wines rated 90 points and above by The Wine Berserkers, handpicked by its world-renowned team of expert forum contributors. The inherit quality and ability of guests' palates will be mercilessly questioned at each event. Each city will celebrate a distinct theme, focusing on various major wine regions and styles with each stop.

Taking a connoisseur's look at 'Anti-Flavor Wine Elite Wines Suck', the American leg of the tour kicks off in New York this Saturday,  with wines handpicked and presented by Wine Berserker commenter and Jets fan, Jay Hack (who once famously bought a bought a bottle Château d'Yquem in a parking lot for $200). The very special evening will provide members, their guests and new wineberserkers.com subscribers with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the faceless contributors behind some of the world's most extraordinary wine related Internet posts, by bringing their own favorite wines to be criticized. Four master classes preceding an expertly paired, four-course dinner serving only Flannery steaks and Veleta olive oil will be the highlight of the evening as Hack will don a horned Viking helmet the entire event.

"Battles of Taste is our way of saying a heartfelt thank you to our members who we know are the most knowledgeable wine lovers on the planet," said Moderaror-in-Chief, Todd French. "It's a tasting for consumers to experience world-class Internet bullying in an entirely new way while meeting blowhards who craft the attacks It's also a fantastic opportunity to welcome new members into the world of Wine Berserkers opinions. Online, the forum owner CANNOT read private messages - nobody but the recipients can. This event will allow everyone's true feelings to be aired in public. Consumers will have an amazing time learning what it means to be a Wine Berserker!"

Additionally, Battles of Taste is proud to debut a semi-blind component for the first portion of each walkabout tasting, wherein members will have the opportunity to experience an entirely new levels of mockery and judgement hosted by Bill Klapp, who is coming out of retirement because, "When the time comes to call bullshit, in person or electronically, I am always equal to the task."

The Battles of Taste series commenced in 2008 with walkabout tastings in members' backyards. Following the New York debut of Battle of Taste in the U.S., walkabout Grand Tastings will be held in backyards in Tampa and Los Angeles at later dates.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Bailiwick Cabernet Franc

For those that aren't familiar with my Dr. Harry Oldman posts, they are satirical posts usually inspired by some curmudgeonly statement I saw elsewhere. I try to write blatantly tongue-in-cheek, but with a little bit of truth thrown in for good measure. Yesterday's post was inspired by a representative of a major winery criticizing wines without "classic" heritage. He started his article about differentiating character from flaws. I fully agree that a wine, regardless of its heritage, that has noticeable flaws can be less pleasant to drink or even be undrinkable. The writer then somehow got onto discussing eccentricity in wine and "being different just for the sake of being different." He suggested that such wines are bizarre and people only like them because they're told to like them by somms and "young tastemakers."

I know wine lovers and wine professionals who think wine should come from unexpected locations unless it is as good as "the classics." Why grow Cabernet Franc in California or - heaven forbid - Colorado when there is classic Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley? Why plant Nebbiolo anywhere but Piedmont in Italy? Why make sparkling wine from anything other than Chardonnay or Pinot noir? Such arguments come from ignorance. Now, I'm not saying that someone thinks Bruno Giacosa produces the finest Nebbiolo on the planet that any other Nebbiolo will change their mind. But, at the same time the preference to one wine region/style should not exclude the production elsewhere regardless if the "bizarre" interpretation bares no similarity to the "classic." I do not expect California wine to taste like French wine, and I also do not expect all California wine to taste alike. Now, what fun would wine be if it all tasted the same way?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dr. Harry Oldman on Andy Warhol Wines

Dr. Harry Oldman recently got back into town after spending the past few weeks in Florida to help knock on doors before the March 15 primary. He tells me he had a successful time and drank some fantastic wine, but something has been bothering him. He just had to get this off his chest.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Lightning Rosé

16" of snow...
I'm sure if you turned on your television in the past two days you saw that the Denver metro area was inundated by snow on Wednesday. You got to love Colorado weather; Monday and Tuesday both saw high temperatures of 70 °F and then we were graced with 16" of snow on Wednesday between 4 am and 4 pm. At the peak of the storm, with visibility down to a maybe 100 m and winds pushing 40 mph my whole family ventured to a nearby park to play in the snow. Bea was strapped to mom and took a nap in the blizzard while Ben and I had a good wrestling match in the snow. Yesterday, it was almost 50 °F and most of the snow on the roads melted away! Such is life in Colorado.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Derenoncourt Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery mailing lists are an unusual thing. Most people buy their wine at retail stores near their homes. Depending on the state one lives in, the retail venue may be a grocery store, a liquor store where all types of beverage alcohol are sold, or a wine specialty shop. Those wines find their way on to the retailers' shelves by means of wholesale middlemen who distribute their products only to retailers. This is known as the three-tier system and is the typical model the wine world has operated since the repeal of Prohibition. The direct-to-consumer model of the allocated mailing list is something of a holy grail in the wine world as it cuts out the middleman. Most wineries have a sales option on their website where consumers may purchase products directly from them. The winery then ships the wine directly to the consumer via a common carrier (FedEx or UPS are generally the two main carriers). This process allows the winery to collect the full retail price of the wine instead of selling it at wholesale cost to their distributor. It also allows consumers (depending on where they live) to have access to most of the wines they demand. I still cannot understand, in this day and age, how and why some winery websites still do not have this functionality and why some states restrict this type of commerce. But I digress as this post is not about the disfunctionality of the three-tier system and current alcohol laws.

Some wineries have taken this approach to a different level. Consumers may sign up to receive notification when they are allowed to purchase a set amount of a winery's wine (usually in increments of 3 bottles). Most wineries suggest this as a way to allow more customers access to the wine. In some cases, which continue to become rarer and rarer, there is a waiting list just to be added to the mailing list. For the most part, you can sign up and receive an offer right away for wineries that use allocation lists. Sometimes the amount of wine a winery will allow you to purchase is dependent on previous purchases; as you buy wine, more is offered to you in subsequent years.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bonny Doon Vineyard A Proper Pink

It has been a busy few weeks since the last rosé post, but I really don't have an excuse for missing two weeks. However, during that time I felt quite adventurous; I took Bea on a quick solo overnight trip to Florida to visit her great grandparents for the first time. The plane rides went well (though I don't understand why I didn't buy her a seat when the fare was $38 round trip!) and her Gigi and Big Papa were so excited to meet her. As luck would have it Bea got to meet her great aunt and cousin, once removed, who were also visiting. They even got to witness (maybe teach) her first roll. Apparently she's not an underachiever because she rolled both front-to-back and back-to-front! I think we are going to be in trouble with another early mover; big brother was walking at ten months!

The last rosé we open was a very unique one. The Bonny Doon Vineyard 2015 'A Proper Pink' (13% abv, Sample $16) is an interesting blend of 69% Tannat and 31% Cabernet Franc. I can't say I've ever had a wine quite like this. The dark translucent red color isn't something you see every day, but it's not uncommon. Yet, this wine's DNA is closer to red than pink. It is rich and complex, but it's also weird. It is full of contrasting aromas and flavors. There's cherry tart, pie spices and black raspberries. But bay leaf, radish, beetroot and unripe guava characteristics are present, too. It's lush and savory. Taking my biases and preferences in account, this is anything but a proper pink; but I kind like it at the same time I dislike it. It's a contradiction in a glass. Maybe A Defiant Pink would be a better name.
Bonny Doon 2015 A Proper Pink

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Two From Donnafugata

2014 'Sur Sur' Grillo
By pure coincidence we opened two wines by the same Italian producer this week. The first, the Donnafugata Sur Sur 2014 Grillo (12.73% abv, Sample $23), was my choice to pair with a pasta dish I had made for dinner. I don't believe I had ever had a wine made from the Grillo grape before. Grillo is a Sicilian  cultivar that withstands really high temperatures and drought. However, this wine didn't taste like a wine that was produced from a hot region. I suppose this was because 2014 in Sicily was marked by a relatively mild winter, a cool spring and the summer passed without excess heat. The nose was subtle, and revealed some timid aromas of peaches and citrus. There was a distinct grapefruit flavor on the palate that, when combined with slight herbal tone made me think this would be a good substitute for a Sauvignon blanc. The wine showed very bright acidity in the mouth, but also had hint of creaminess that fooled me in thinking this saw a bit of oak when it in fact did not. Overall, this is a lovely wine and I look forward to trying more Grillo in the future.

2014 'Lighea' Zibibbo
The second wine, the Donnafugata Lighea 2014 Zibibbo (12.34% abv, Sample $23), was chosen by my wife and served to me blind in a decanter. My first guess based on the nose was Riesling because it was so aromatic with notes of flowers, peaches, honey, and limes. However, it didn't taste like Riesling, but more like Viognier. There were more flavors of apricot and pineapple and it didn't have acidity I would expect in Riesling. It seemed as if it were some kind of blend of Riesling, Viognier and Portuguese Vinho Verde. I looked at my wife puzzled and I told her I had given up guessing what it might be. Well, turns out what's on the label - Zibibbo - is a synonym for Muscat of Alexandria. All those aromas and flavors make sense for Muscat! Interestingly enough, Muscat of Alexandria is believed to be one of the oldest genetically unmodified grape cultivars.  Jeremy Parzen posted an interesting article on the origins of the name Zibibbo on his site Do Bianchi. It is often made into fortified wines - Rutherglen in Australia, Málaga in Spain, and off the coast of Marsala on the island of Pantelleria. It is also distilled into Pisco in Chile and Peru. It also happens to make a lovely dry, still wine from Sicily.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Blind Motley Crew

Two weeks ago I added a new twist to our wine consumption: blind tasting. Now, I wish I had the means to taste wines in blind flights regularly, but I don't really have the time or supply of wine to do so. My tasting regiment is like that of most people; I'll open a bottle of for dinner and have a glass or two with food and maybe another after dinner. I enjoy experiencing how wines can change over the course a few hours and how they may complement food.

Last week I decided to change it up a bit by having my wife go grab a bottle and pour it into a decanter without me knowing what it was. I still have to try to get over the bias of guessing based on knowing what wines are in the cellar, but it has been a fun modification to having wine with dinner. Since I missed last week's post, there is a variety of notes today.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Premiere Napa Valley 2016

Today is the 2016 edition of the exceptional Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and auction.  I say exceptional for two reasons. First, Napa Valley's top wineries get together while producing unique wines as a way preview of the upcoming 2014 vintage releases. These wines tend to be the best that comes out of each of these estates. Tasting these wines is truly a unique experience and I am thankful to have been in attendance each of the last four years.  This year, however, I've taken a break from attending because of the birth of Beatrice three months ago.  Something about a jaunting off to Napa to taste very expensive wines for the weekend while leaving my wife at home with two young children didn't seem quite fair.  I am hopeful that I'll be back next year.

The second reason this event is exceptional is the mere fact that 225 wineries in one of the worlds most premier wine-producing regions get together in cooperating in the name of raising awareness for their region. Now this may not seem like a difficult task, but anyone that works with wineries will understand that getting more than a handful of wineries to cooperate on something is harder than corralling a drunken knife-wielding monkey.  Licensed wine retailers and wholesalers from around the world converge in Napa Valley this week call to bid on average $200 a bottle wine.  Media and high-profile consumers also fill the valley. I can't think of a better marketing technique to build the reputation of one region with the industry. I think all other wine regions should attempt to mimic this event as best they could. I know I've pushed for Colorado to try something similar, but alas I've been unsuccessful.

Without having the opportunity to have tasted the wines all day yesterday and this morning, I don't have as much to say about the auction as I have the past few years. I'd be willing to bet there are some exceptional wines being offer and some not so great wines. I will make one prediction. I am willing to bet your subscription fee to this blog that the top lot will be one of six producers: BRAND, Continuum Estate, Fairchild Napa Valley, Ovid Napa Valley, Shafer Vineyards, or Yao Family Wines.  I also predict that the winning bid on one of these five case lots will exceed $125,000. I know that may seem crazy, but this prediction is based on past results.

This year's auction looks like it will be full of surprises given how many first-time entries there seems to be (oh, how I could taste the Matthiasson lot). I will follow along via Twitter (#PNV16) to see how my favorite producers (and the new kids on the block) fair. As fun and informative as it would have been to taste the wines and talk with the producers, sitting on my couch, dictating this on my iPhone while holding a smiling baby was a pretty good way to spend the morning.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Lorenza Rosé Vertical

For the past few years my wife and I have hosted a Valentine's Day party for our friends and neighbors as a way to avoid the hassle of getting a restaurant reservation but still enjoying adult company (almost all guests have children). We usually open a few bottles of wine and play a variety of board games. Cards Against Humanity always makes an appearance and is usually the highlight (or most awkward depending on your disposition) of the evening. This year we also played Pie Face, Five Second Rule and Quelf. The only child invited was Beatrice, and she actually invited herself when she refused to be left alone in her room. As long as she was being held, she was a perfect little angel. I thank her for being my good luck charm when it was my turn on Pie Face.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Trio of Vall Llach

My love affair with wine started with Spanish wine - specifically Rioja. For this reason, Spanish wine  will always have a special place in my heart - especially Rioja. Rioja is a large, expansive region in north-central Spain home to over 600 wineries and is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify for the highest qualification level for a Spanish wine region, DOCa, along with the Priorat DOCa in Catalonia near Barcelona. Rioja is known primarily for Tempranillo, but Garnacha is a key component of many red Rioja wines. Despite its relative small size, Priorat has garnered a reputation for producing big, bold red wines primarily from Garnacha and Cariñena (Grenache and Carignan), along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Priorat, which usually appears on the labels, is the Catalan spelling, while the Castillian spell it as Priorato.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Bodegas Ameztoi Rubentis

Being uncomfortable is an unavoidable part of life, but it still sucks. Watching someone be in the most discomfort they've ever encountered isn't fun. You and I know that getting shots at the doctor's office isn't the worse thing in the world, but to a 10-week old it is. Going from having no real knowledge of pain to getting stuck with a large needle three times was quite a big deal to my little girl. I knew she'd be fine, but in that instance she was feeling discomfort like she'd never known.

For some reason, some people feel the same way about wine. Put anything other than mass-produced Chardonnay or Merlot in front of them and they just don't know what to think. It's just wine and it's supposed to be fun, but it can stress people out. I find it interesting that this phenomenon doesn't exist to the same extent in the beer world. Yes, Budweiser is exceptionally uncomfortable with the growth of craft beer, but that's why they've been buying craft breweries like their lives depend on it (just a few weeks ago Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased Breckenridge Brewery - just a 2.1 mile bike ride from my front door). Yet, I don't see the same sort of discomfort when beer drinkers are confronted with the choice of a brown ale, IPA, stout or a pilsner. I think beer drinkers are even more willing to try a lambic, gose, or just about any type of flavored beer than your common wine drinker would be willing to knowingly put Teroldego, Mencía, Blaufränkisch or Chambourcin into their wine glass. I can only imagine the resistance is related to language barriers and excellent marketing by the big wine producers.

Bodegas Ameztoi 2014 Rubentis
If accents and umlauts are enough to get people's panties in a bunch just imagine what kind of discomfort a completely unique language could cause. While the Bodegas Ameztoi Rubentis (11% abv, Purchased $23) is Spanish by law, it is Basque at heart. This lovely rosé hails from the Getariako Txakolina - gesundheit - region in northern Spain from the grapes Hondarrabi Zuri (50%) and Hondarrabi Beltza (50%). With all that information on the label the average wine consumer is sure to be 100% confused. If you focus on only what's in the glass, this wine is a pretty pastel pink color and slightly effervescent - just a touch more than you might find in your average Portuguese Vinho Verde. Prominent aromas of citrus and a hint of mint entice the nose. The palate is awakened by the bubbles to greet bright flavors of lemons, grapefruit, strawberries and sea salt. The Rubentis is an exceptionally refreshing wine that pairs well with anything from seafood to barbeque, or just as lovely on its own. This wine is the perfect example of why unfamiliar grapes should cause you discomfort, but may actually bring pleasure.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Creekside Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

This past weekend a new Colorado wine event was born: Winter Wine Fest. The event was brought about by the Two Parts (formerly Imbibe) event planners and Grand Junction Visitors and Convention Bureau to provide Denver with a Colorado-themed wine event. The slow winter months just happen to be the best time for wineries to attend such an event in Denver. For a first-year event it was very successful - over 400 guests attended to taste wine from 17 different wineries. Through my position with the CO Wine Board, I attended to pour a selection of wines from the 2015 Governor's Cup Case for VIP guests. The feedback from both consumers and wineries was positive. I will be interested to see how it grows in the future.

Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the wines we poured was the Creekside Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (13.9% abv, Sample $35). There was bit more than half a bottle remaining, so instead of dumping it I brought it home to have during the Super Bowl. This Cabernet is rather light for Cabernet - in both color and body. More than one person at the Winter Wine Fest asked if it was Pinot noir when I poured it for them. It's not anything like Pinot, but I can understand their confusion with what comes in some of the more popular Cabernet bottles from California. In fact, we pour this one before the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot we also poured. It is a lovely translucent red color and is quite aromatic. On the nose there are aromas of flowers, spices and dark fruit. This wine is all about finesse and not power, but still shows a lot of complexity. The smooth tannins complement the clove, leather, herbs, cherry and blackberry flavors that caress the palate. The combination of flavors and brightness of the acidity harken to an old-school style of Cabernet Sauvignon not afraid of embracing the grape's savoriness. It is a lovely wine that will probably disappoint those looking for the upfront fruit and concentration that hijack so many Cabernet Sauvignon.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Garbó Rosat

We had a mini-milestone this week on the baby front. Beatrice laughed for the first time! She has been smiling for awhile now, but she combined that with a chuckle the other day. A few funny faces and odd noises from mom and dad were just to much for her to contain herself anymore. She really is starting to show her personality and before we know it, she will demand her independence from her parents.

Garbó 2014 Rosat

This week's rosé comes from a region that has been trying gain its independence for quite some time. Montsant is a Catalan wine region in northeast Spain - near the esteemed Priorat region. Just a few months ago, the Catalan parliament voted to begin secession from Spain. Spain of course isn't on board, but this movement will definitely be interesting to follow in the future. The independent streak is apparent in the label with the Catalan word for rosé, rosat, instead of the Spanish rosado. The  Garbó 2014 Rosat (13.66% abv, Sample $19) is part of the Ferrer Family of wines - think Freixenet or Gloria Ferrer Winery in California. This beautiful bright pink wine is a blend of Garnacha (Grenache for you francophones) and Syrah. Delicate floral and fruit aromas can be found on the rather subdued nose. Flavors of raspberry and tart cherry combine with a lot of spice and some hints of herbs on the palate. It is not especially complex or exceptionally interesting, but it pairs nicely with homemade paella. It is a decent wine, but there is a lot other rosé that might be a better value for close to $20.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Scherrer Winery

One of my favorite things about the French wine industry is the use of controlled designations of origin. Not only does the AOP/AOC system guarantee the source of the grapes, but also the grape cultivars themselves. When you buy a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin you know it is made from Pinot noir. When you buy a bottle of Sancerre you know it is Sauvignon blanc. This system is great for providing a plethora of information to a savvy customer by only using a geographic on a label. This system is also great for stifling producer creativity. You will never find a bottle of Bordeaux made with Syrah. Ah, Château Palmer's Historical XIX Century Wine is an exception to that rule, you say! Yes, but this blend of Bordeaux and Syrah from the northern Rhône Valley is labeled as Vin de Table Français, or lowly French Table Wine. Though it occasionally happens, French wine producers produce wine from restricted cultivars, or by restricted methods, and then label the wine with the less prestigious Vin de Table Français designation. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Josef Weger Lagrein Rosato

Well, Beatrice reached the two month milestone last week! She's been smiling for a few weeks now and seeing her toothless grins is still one of the best things in the world. I was FaceTiming with my father other day while taking a walk with (a fussy) Beatrice and he mentioned that that might have been the first time he actually heard her cry. She'll occasionally fuss when she's tired, but mostly she's all about that cute happy face. I don't think seeing babies smile ever gets old.

Josef Weger 2011 Lagrein Rosato
Unfortunately, wine does get old. I probably keep rosé longer than most people and sometimes there's a downside to it. The Josef Weger 2011 Lagrein Rosato (13% abv. Purchased $12) was definitely past its prime. Lagrein produces tannic red wines in the Südtirol, but that trait didn't help keep this rosé going strong five years in. Now it wasn't bad, but it was on its last legs. It had some dried fruit - raspberries maybe? - and dried herb characteristics, but not much else. I had a second glass the following evening to see if it changed at all, but there definitely wasn't any improvement.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Rutini Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc is a grape cultivar that seems to be a somewhat forgotten behind Chardonnay and Riesling. Both of those cultivars have faithful followers, as well as vocal detractors. Sauvignon blanc doesn't really reach either end of that spectrum. When it does get mentioned, two of the characteristics that get most often thrown around are "grapefruit" and "cat pee." The sea of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc might bear some repsonsiblitiy for its poor reputation. Yet, Sauvignon blanc is responsible for some of the world's great wines. Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Bordeaux blanc, and Fruili are home to some of the world's great dry white wines - and they're all made with Sauvignon blanc. And then throw in Sauternes - home to perhaps the greatest dessert wines on the planet - and you can see why Sauvignon blanc should get a bit more respect.

Here is a fun little bit of trivia you can use at your next dinner party. Few people also know that it's one of Cabernet Sauvignon's parental units! Some time in the 18th Century after a late night out with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon was born. Its name is hence Cabernet franc Sauvignon blanc. Interesting how a crisp white wine and a perfumed, somewhat lighter red can come together to create a cultivar that makes big, rich, tannic wines. Genetics are sometimes curious!

Rutini 2014 Sauvignon blanc
Argentina is one region that doesn't come to mind when I think of Sauvignon blanc. There shouldn't be any reason the cultivar wouldn't succeed in the vineyards of Mendoza, so I decided to give the Rutini 2014 Sauvignon blanc (12.5% abv, Sample $25) a try. It has an nose filled with aromas of green apple and limes. Those tart fruit flavors are complemented on the palate with the addition of grapefruits and cut grass. The green notes are in the background, but present nonetheless. Tasted blind it would be difficult to guess anything other than Sauvignon blanc. The mouthfeel is quite nice; there is a subtle creaminess balanced with loads of acidity. Overall, this is a very nice wine, but probably slightly overpriced.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Greatest Wine Sale Almost No One Knows About...

For a small group of wine lovers January 27 is a special holiday known as BerserkerDay. Each year, on this hallow day, wineries, retailers, and other peddlers of the wine industry are invited to offer berserk (adjective: out of control with excitement; wild or frenzied) deals on their products. This day of deals is a fantastic way for wineries to give back to consumers, and also the reverse, as many, many new and exciting wineries/producers/wines are discovered by the eager Wineberserkers community on BerserkerDay, with purchases made, and discussions from those who might have experience with them. Typically, you can expect discounts of at least 30% plus free shipping. Producers also tend you put together special packages - library releases, vertical sets, or special cuvées - just for this event. Fiscal restraint is difficult as the deals may make you spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on wine in a matter of hours. It is a great way to discover new wine, or stock up on wine you already know and love.

This year, be sure to tell your friends, just as I'm telling you, about this event. BerserkerDay is available anyone who wants to see it - you don't HAVE to be a registered member of the Wineberserkers community (unless you have an order that requires you to send a private message the winery, in that case, you better register!) to take advantage of the deals. If you're interested in following along on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #berserkerday. The deals will start showing up on the BerserkerDay VII forum around 8 am MST and run for approximately 12 hours.  There will be nearly 100 offers, with nearly 40 auction items, available! See you at Wineberserkers.com tomorrow...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Snowy Peaks Winery Cinsault Rosé

It is interesting how certain wines remind you of other totally unrelated wines previously consumed. The same can be said of people. Sometimes these similarities can be good things or not so good. I notice things about Beatrice that I remember happening with Ben, but I know they're completely different people. I sometimes find myself tasting a wine and think it is something else when I know it can't possibly be. I've been put off by wines that reminded me so much of something I didn't enjoy in the past, only to be surprised when the labels were revealed. But the best instances of these mistaken identities are when you taste a wine that is a dead ringer for something either rare or much more expensive. Well, this week's rosé fits into that category.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Forlorn Hope Nodosaur

There is a lot more to California wine than just Napa and Sonoma. Places like Lodi, Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara tend to take a back seat to their more prestigious North Coast brethren, but often proved a greater variety and value when it comes down to what's in the bottle. Somewhat amazingly, over half of the 230+ American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the country call California home. I'd be willing to be that most wine consumers would have trouble naming 10% of those California AVAs (even if they knew what an AVA is!).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Clos Cibonne Cuvée Tradition Rosé

Last month, a thread over on Wineberserkers.com about restaurant regulations people would like to see drifted into a somewhat contentious discussion revolving around banning children from restaurants. Yes, I understand crying children can be annoying to other diners, but the idea of excluding young diners from fine dining establishments is just silly. I've dined within earshot of more annoying fully grown adults than children. Our four-year-old son loves to eat seared scallop with a leek emulsion just as much as he enjoys McDonald's hamburgers. Beatrice isn't quite up to eating solid foods yet, but she has also tagged along with us to two of Denver's nicer restaurants (JaJa Bistro and Fruition) already in her first few weeks. Both times she remained quietly asleep in her carseat (and Ben was with grandparents). I don't know how the restaurant felt about Bea taking up a chair that could have seated a paying customer, but the staff at both restaurants was kind, courteous, and wanted to see the baby. If they were of a child-banishment mindset they certainly hid it well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Matthiasson Red Wine and Cabot Klamath Cuvee

A few weeks ago, I wrote about red blends as a growing wine category. I personally find blends often make more complete and complex wines than varietal wines. Aroma, flavor or texture characteristics that may be missing from a single variety can be filled by another grape. It is amazing to see that as little as 1% of a variety blended in truly can completely transform a wine. Blending is also a useful tool for a winemaker to create as good of a wine as he or she can each year. Weather conditions in back-to-back vintages can treat cultivars quite differently, so by playing with the cépage (percentage of each variety of grapes in the composition of a blended wine) can adjust the characteristics of the finished wine.

I find that many wineries take two different approaches to blends. The first is to make the blend their grand vin - top wine. The best lots are used to build the best wine possible. Often with this approach, the same cultivars are used to create the blend. The cépage may change - or it may stay exactly the same - but the building blocks generally are the same each year. Perhaps certain vineyards, or blocks, are selected for the vintage characteristics each provide. What is "leftover" after the blend is finalized can then be sold as varietal wine or different blend (or off in bulk anonymously).

The second approach is to create a blend after all the varietal, single-vineyard, and premium blends have been finalized. This approach can be perfect for creating great value wines - if the winemaker still takes care in making sure the blend works. All too often, simply throwing all the "leftover" wine together doesn't produce a high-quality wine. Today's wines are examples of both these approaches, and both are beautiful wines in their own right.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beatrice's Blushes: Frisk Prickly Grenache

Beatrice is six weeks old today! She now looks more like a baby than a newborn. In fact, she's starting to outgrow some of the newborn clothes and fit into her 0-3 month outfits. Before we know it she'll be mobile and getting into trouble. I hope big brother will help us baby-proof the house when it's time, though judging by the state of his room we have some work to do.

Frisk 2011 Prickly Grenache
While looking for a rosé for this week's wine, I noticed this bottle of Frisk 2011 Prickly Grenache (11.9% abv, Sample $12) that I had forgotten about. Now seemed like as good a time as any to drink. I've had the Frisk Prickly Riesling and Prickly Rosso in the past and thought they were fun, interesting wines. The Grenache for this wine was sourced from Lodi, CA. This slight spritzy (hence the prickly moniker) is amaranth (reddish-rose) in color. The nose is not exceptionally aromatic, but there are some notes of watermelon, strawberry and pomegranate. You can taste the 0.5% residual sugar, but it is not sweet. The red fruits found on the nose meet up a slightly bitter, herbal component on the palate. It didn't seem to be at its freshest - but that's probably my fault for forgetting about it in my cellar for about two years! It actually reminded me of gin and tonic made with splash of pomegranate or strawberry bitters and maybe a dash of Chambord. It would probably be a good wine to serve to a non-wine crowd at a picnic or to use in a cocktail.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday's Wines: Segura Viudas, Under the Wire, and Shafer Vineyards

New Year's Eve probably sees the most sparkling wine consumed when compared to any other day of the year. Sparkling wine is associated with celebration and luxury that originates from the parties of the royal courts and aristocracy of Europe beginning in the 18th century. The popping of the cork and the bubbly effervescent can be very symbolic of abundance, joy and a good time. Though the idea of going out and partying like we did years ago has been replaced with putting the kids to bed, curling up on the couch, and then going to sleep before the clock strikes midnight, the sparkling wine still found its way into our wine glasses this New Year's Eve and New Year's Day!