Another Favorite You Should Buy!

It seems as a lot of my favorite wines begin with the letter “J.”  Well here is another.  JUSTIN Vineyards was founded in 1981 by Justin Baldwin.  Even though this might not seem very long ago there were less than ten vineyards in the Paso Robles area.  Like most fine wine they concentrate on reflecting the unique soils and climate of the appellation.  They mainly make Bordeaux style wines, and single varietals.  JUSTIN Vineyards combine Old World tradition with New World technique. fw-best-winery

Justine Baldwin is a pioneer at making this type of wine and often earns 90+ points for his creations.  Before he was making wine though, he was an investment and international banker.  Two very different professions but Justin knew a good investment when he saw one.  This is why he bought 160 acres west of Paso Robles and began his estate vineyards.

Justin has earned much recognition for his wines.  Wine Spectators has named JUSTIN one of the Top 10 Wines of the World. Vintages have received numerous accolades by capturing Decanter Magazine’s “4 Stars”, and Restaurant Wine’s “3 Forks” to name a few of the other prestigious honors.  Robert M. Parker Jr. has even gone further naming Justin Baldwin one of his “Wine Heroes of the Year” and the “Star of Paso Robles”.

Food and JUSTIN wines obviously go together quite well.  JUSTIN is the only winery on California’s Central Coast with full time chef.  The chef continuously is pairing JUSTIN wines with fresh seasonal grown offering straight from the vineyard.  Justin is a frequent panelist at prominent food and wine events worldwide, is a board member of several organizations such as; Wine Institute, Family Winemakers of California, and The Wellness Community Central Coast.

JUSTIN Vineyards is family owned and operated winery.  There is a very smart team of people working within JUSTIN to make it successful and efficient.  It takes a team of wonderful people working together towards a common goal to produce such great wines.  Their mission statement is: to belong in the company of the finest wines in the world.

JUSTIN wines are available across the United States.  The wine I am most familiar with is ISOSCELES.  You can pick this 2011ISOSCELES Vintage up from your liquor store for about $70, or you can always buy it online.  Go out and try one today!  What’s your favorite?  I know you will enjoy it.  Cheers!

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Hot Off the Press: Top Ten Wines In The US News

I recently came across a list when I was reading another wine blog.  The list titled “Top Ten Wines in the US Press” screamed to be shared.  So I will be highlighting some specifics of this article that was featured on “The Drinks Business.”   Some of these wines I have tried, but some others I have not.  I am curious what ones you have tried.

1)      The first wine is Kermit Lynch’s 2011 Côtes du Rhône.  Strawberries and blackberry flavors with whiffs of black pepper make this wine great with grilled meat or pizza.  This wine averages in price between $17-$20 dollars.

2)      Linden Vineyards Hardscrabble Chardonnay 2011 out of Virginia is “flesh and citrusy” Chardonnay.  Dave McIntyre, writing in the Washington Post, says it is one of his favorite Chardonnays every year.  It averages $35.

3)      One more Linden Vineyards that was a favorite was 2010 Petit Verdot.  Usually this grape is used in a Bordeaux blend but this one can stand on its own.  Pair it with meat, but make sure to let it sit in a decanter for an hour or two before enjoying.  The price is $28.

4)      If you like Sangiovese you’ll love Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2012 out of Italy.  Wines like this come from Banfi out of New York’s Little Italy.  It is full bodied and has blackberry, cherry, dark plum, and vanilla.  You can buy this wine for $25

5)      Another wine from Banfi is Tuscan red made from a blend of Sangiovese and French varietal grapes.  It is Castello Banfi “Belnero” IGT Toscana 2011.  You can pick this wine up for $28.  It is mostly Sangiovese but the French varietals in addition to aging the wine in French oak for 14 months makes this a big, rich wine that everyone can enjoy.

6)      2012 Kendall Jackson’s Avant Red Blend is a great wine for the price.  Wine critics may not embrace Kendall Jackson, but for $17 it’s hard to go wrong.  It has flavors of raspberry, black cherry, chocolate and spices.  It should also be enjoyed right away.  This is not the kind of wine you want to age.

7)      Italian wines seem to be popular and in the press lately.  The next one, Piccini Meoro Bianco NV is another blend, but this one is 40% Viognier, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Vermentino and 10% Pecorino.  For the price around $10-$12 you have to try it.

8)      Another Chardonnay on the list is a 2011 Bouchard Aîné & Fils Pouilly Fuissé from Maconnais, France.  Because this is mainly aged in stainless steel and only briefly aged in oak there are flavors of pear, papaya, and minerals.  This is not a buttery Chardonnay, but very delicious at $17.

9)      Another Sangiovese blend on you should check out is the 2011 Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC out of Tuscany, Italy.  This Sangiovese blend is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Flavors of blackberries, currants, and tobacco come forward in this very reasonably priced wine.  You can find this lovely Tuscan blend for only $12.

10)   The last wine on the list is a great one!  It is the only Champagne on the list and it is a rosé Champagne at that.  The NVChampagne pic Champagne Philipponnat Brut  Réserve Rosé has aroma of toast and roses with a flavor of plums.  This is a great option for a special occasion at $50 a bottle.

Go out and try these top ten wines that others felt the need to write about.  Let me know which ones you love.  Cheers!

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To Sulfur or Not To Sulfur

There has been a movement in the wine industry like the food industry.  Some consumers are leaning more towards organic and natural wines.  Like the food sector, natural is not regulated like organic.  Some argue that wine cannot be natural because it takes human intervention to make.

According to one natural wine advocate, Alice Feiring, her definition is nothing is added, and nothing taken out.  If sulfur is needed then a touch can be added.  This is where some debate comes in.  Why does sulfur get a pass?  Alice responds by saying wine has been made this way for centuries.  They would prefer it not contain sulfur, but if it does the minimum amount would be preferred.

The sulfur by which we are speaking of is actually SO2.  It is a preservative that has been added in wine for centuries. 140px-Sulfur-dioxide-3D-vdW160px-Sulfur-dioxide-2D.svg It is noted in history, but so are other practices.  Some other practices documented are actually unsafe.  Some accounts of seawater and honey being added do not cause concern like the addition of lead.  Apparently lead sweetens the wine, but I’ll take their word for it.  Lead was used to sell bad, spoiled wine up until the 18th century, well after the harmful effects of it known to the public.

Back to sulfur, it is naturally occurring in wine.  Yeast makes some SO2 in fermentation, although not in the amounts currently used.  So why do winemakers use sulfur?  It is because of all the great benefits by adding this one little thing.  It protects the wine from bacterial growth, browning, and it preserves the aroma.  It blocks much of the oxidation, and it is cheap and easy to use.  For us as consumers it is a benefit as well because it increases the shelf life of wine that would otherwise have a very short shelf life.

This is when other winemakers begin to question if they can add sulfur because it helps the wine and it’s naturally occurring, why can’t they add acid or sugar.  It would improve the wine and both of these are naturally occurring as well.  The addition of sugar or acid helps balance a wine.  So the addition of sugar and acid does not make a natural wine.  It is technically manipulating what nature had given us.  It is altering the taste and flavor.  Sulfur on the other hand does not alter anything.  It only preserves what the wine already is.  This is why natural wine advocates accept the addition of sulfur, not acid or sugar.

I would have to agree with the above logic.  Although I do have to admit I will drink all great tasting wine, natural or not.  After a couple glasses, I’ll even drink wine that might not taste great.  I’m just being honest here.  Next time you are in the wine aisle look for a natural wine.  Buy it, drink it, and tell me about it.  I want to know your thoughts.  As always, cheers my friends!

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Road to Rombauer

I haven’t written about a winery or vineyard in a while, so I figure it’s about time.  Since the weather lately has been heating things up I tend to lean towards the white wines.  White wine is refreshing during a hot evening and having something cool in myRombauer pic hand while enjoying the weather outside is heaven to me.  I enjoy Chardonnays, and one of my favorite Chardonnays is produced by Rombauer Vineyards. 

Rombauer Vineyards were founded by Koerner and Joan Rombauer in 1982.  When they very first moved to Napa Valley from Dallas, Texas they had no intention of starting a winery.  They did however enjoy the small agriculture town feel Napa had.  The family had bought 40 acres on the Silverado Trail near St. Helena.

The Rombauer family was no stranger to good food, and how wine can complement that.  Koerner’s great aunt Irma is a famous author.  Her most famous book, “The Joy of Cooking” was a staple in the Rombauer household.  It didn’t take long for Koerner and Joan to begin thinking about the wine industry.  In 1976 they became partners in Conn Creek Winery.  This is where Koerner learned all about the winemaking business.  He spent most of his time in the cellar learning the best practices, and perfecting his craft.  So in 1980 The Rombauer’s began to have their neighbor produce wine under their private label.  Shortly thereafter they sold their interest in Conn Creek and in 1982 began focusing on making Rombauer wines a successful business.

Koerner has some interesting hobbies that keep him busy when he isn’t making wine.  He enjoys flying, collecting and restoring rare automobiles.  He has quite a collection.  Unfortunately Joan passed away in 2002 and she is deeply missed by all the Rombauers.  Joan worked tirelessly for the winery and she can be happy knowing that the Rombauer brand is successful and many people love their wines.

The Rombauer Winery is very much a family business.  Sheana Rombauer the daughter of Koerner and Joan is the go to for Sales and Marketing.  She currently manages the Tasting Room, and oversees special events, design projects, and public relations.  KR Rombauer III is Koerner and Joan’s son.  He is currently the General Manager and often consults with the staff in the areas of viticulture and winemaking.

I mentioned before that Rombauer Chardonnay is one of my favorites.  They have other varietals as well.  They have Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, and Joy, which is a late harvest Chardonnay.  They vary in prices $90 all the way down to $15 a bottle.  I suggest you go out and buy a bottle tonight!  Think about your dinner and which wine would complement the meal.  Irma Rombauer would be proud.  I hope you enjoy.  Cheers!

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Labels that Educate

Today we are going to learn about wine labels.   Wine labels have a lot of information on them.  There are two main types; the New World method that we often see in the US and the Old World method that we see often with wines coming from Europe.

The first wine label I will talk about it is a French wine label and the different information you can find on it.  Anatomy-of-a-Wine-LabelSo there are five main things to look for on a wine label, and they can be found on both the New World label and the Old World label.  They just look a little different, so once you know, you’ll be able to pick out your wines and have a better working knowledge of wine labels.

I already told you, but just to recap there are two main styles of the wine label.  The first is the brand name or type of grape style.  This is also called the New World style.  The bottle I have in the video is Jacuzzi and Cabernet Sauvignon.  I know right away the types of grapes used in the wine were Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  The second is the Appellation style, or the Old World style.  This type of label you have to rely on your knowledge of that appellation’s rules, regulations, and policies to know what’s in the bottle.  So the other French wine I have is Appellation Cotes de Rhone Controlee.  I cannot pronounce that name, so I apologize.

Most wine labels have five basic parts.  The first part is the producer or the name of the wine.  Either it is really obvious in big letters at the top of the label, or it isn’t as obvious and in small letters at the bottom of the label.  The name or producer is the first basic part of a label.

The second part is the region where the grapes came from.  Where they pulled or harvested the grapes that made the wine is important.  This is the second basic part of the label is the region.  There is a common trend or theme within the wine industry and that is the narrower and more specific the region the quality tends to increase.  When the quality increases the price tends to increase as well.

The third basic part of the label is the variety or the appellation.  So we have already somewhat discussed this.  This particular bottle has the variety printed right on the front.  It is Cabernet Sauvignon.  The appellation style gives you clues, but you have to know what the rules are in that particular appellation.  It’s nothing too difficult to figure out.

The fourth piece of information is a vintage or a non-vintage.  Vintage means they pulled the grapes all within the same year.  They harvested the grapes all in the same time period.  A non-vintage means they could have pulled the grapes form different years, or they mixed wine from different years.  Again if a wine has a vintage it tends to have a higher quality than a wine that doesn’t have a vintage.  So whether or not the wine has a vintage can tell you a little about the quality.

The fifth and final piece of information you should be able to find on a wine label is the alcohol by volume, or the ABV.  US wines tend to have higher alcohol content.  Most of the wines I have are 14.5% but they can get up to 17% even, which is considered a high alcohol content.  European wines sometimes limit the percentage of alcohol of their higher quality wines.  Some rules state the wine cannot be over 13.5%.  The alcohol content can give you clues to the quality of wine as well.

Those are the five pieces of information you should be able to find on a wine label; the producer or name, the region, the variety or appellation, the vintage or non-vintage, and the alcohol by volume.  I hope you learned something today.  Go into the wine store now with more confidence on what wines you are choosing.  Thank you for reading, and cheers!

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Not the Typical Ending

I know you have heard of pairing wine with chocolate as a dessert.  It’s a great end to any meal, but have you ever heard of pairing a wine with a biscuit?  Probably not.  Today I am going to tell how to make a Tuscan biscuit and pair it with an Orange Muscat.

The ingredients you will need are 1 cup of flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 egg, and ½ cup of sliced almonds.  To begin, I am going to take all of my dry ingredients and mix them together thoroughly.  For this process I suggest removing all jewelry on your hands because it can be a very sticky process.  Once your ingredients are mixed together create a well in the middle of your flour mixture.  Crack the egg right into the middle of this.  (This is the sticky part)  Then energetically knead the mixture than 1 teaspoon.  Keep working the dough until it becomes the constancy you want.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place some wax or parchment paper on a baking sheet.  I then rolled out the dough into two chords, or you can keep it as one chord.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  In the meantime I had already made a biscuit to show everyone on the video what a finished product would look like.  Also so I could move along in the process.  So I tore of a piece of the biscuit I made earlier.  I actually warmed it up a little, so I can pretend it just came out of the oven.

I am going to pair this Tuscan biscuit with an Orange Muscat.  The one I have selected is a California Orange Muscat Vintage 2008. Image It is labeled Essensia by Andrew Quady in Madera, California.  If you are not familiar with Muscat it is a sweet dessert wine.  The wine is derived from the Orange Muscat grape.  The grape can be found in France, Spain, and Italy as well, where it is called “Moscato fior d’ Arancio”.  The wine definitely has some orange characteristics.  I did not have a dessert wine glass, so I served it in your average wine glass.  The pairing of the orange Muscat and the biscuit is great.  I suggest this pairing for a dessert to any meal, as long as you are not on a low carb diet.  The Orange Muscat with the Tuscan biscuit is a great idea and definitely not your typical dessert, but it will impress your friends because of the creative pairing.

I hope you enjoyed this wine blog.  I really hope you decide to try this combination out.  Happy baking and cheers!

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What’s Your Glass?

Enjoying and appreciating wine has a lot to do with the aroma.  Aroma is released as the alcohol volatizes from the surface of the wine.  Many wine glasses are created and designed to capture this aroma.  For a champagne flute, or a sparkling wine flute, the surface area is not that big.  It is very compact for the purpose of keeping the liquid cool and to help maintain the cooler temperature.  This is the type of glass used for champagne, or any type of sparkling wine.  Mimosas are often served in this glass as well.

The second glass I will talk about is the white wine glass.  The surface area has increased from the previous glass.  wine-glass-a0The bowl and aroma collector is getting bigger and increasing in size as well.  It is still fairly small and compact again to help keep the cooler temperature of white wine maintained.  This is the glass you would use to serve your white wines such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

The next wine glass is your standard wine glass.  I would serve Rose, Zinfandel, Grenache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and other wines similar to these.  The further along I go the bigger the surface area is getting.  The bowl is increasing, and the aroma collectors are increasing in size as well.  Then moving onto a light red wine glass you could serve Roses and Gamays in them.  The bowl is increasing and the surface area is getting larger.

The final glass is a bold red wine glass.  I would serve Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Petit Sirah.  This is the largest of the five glasses I have talked about.  The surface area is quite large, and the aroma collector and bowl is large as well.  Another thing to consider is if you pour a standard 6 ounces into each glass the sparkling wine flute will be almost full.  The white wine glass will be 3/4th full.  The other glasses as you go along the 6 ounces sits lower in the glass and the surface area increases.

The other wine glass I have not included in this collection is a dessert wine glass.  I typically don’t enjoy dessert wines that often, so I don’t have one of those in my house.  A dessert wine glass would be used for enjoying Sherry, Port, Marsala, and Muscat.  It is a smaller wine glass with a signature shape to it.  The shape is specifically designed to capture the aroma.  It will help you enjoy the wine and really elevate the experience.

Another thing that I prefer in a wine glass, and I know a lot of other people agree with me is thin lips.  This is when your glass is very thin up around the mouth of the glass.  It makes enjoying your wine a little easier.  I don’t like a lot of glass between me and my wine.  So, thin lips is another preference one must consider.

If you don’t want five sets of wine glasses in your home, and are looking for just one set, I would recommend what I called the light red wine glass.  I actually purchased this glass from World Market for $3.99 a glass and it is there all-purpose wine glass.  It wasn’t there white or red wine glass, but their all-purpose wine glass.  I love this wine glass.  It is cheap, so if I break one I’m not heart broken and I know where to get more.  It is a good size and versatile because I can serve red or white wine in them.  So if you are going to buy a full set I recommend the all-purpose wine glass from World Market.

Next time you are going to enjoy a glass of wine, pour it in an appropriate wine glass.  Swirl it and increase that surface area.  This will really help release that aroma.  Take in that aroma and breath it in before you have your first drink, and I guarantee it will make the wine taste better.  As always my friends I hope you have enjoyed this wine blog and cheers!

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