Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Champagne Wars!

It was a quiet Christmas holiday. My son Michael and his wife Dani came over with their two mini bulldogs, Brooklyn and Bronx. Bronx is the new baby. Only one accident occurred on the hardwood floor. It could have been much worse.
We all love our bubblies, so, we thought it would be fun to compare some domestic sparklers against Champagne.
Christmas Eve we did Brut. Christmas day was Brut Rose'.
The Bruts: 2007 Argyle vs. NV Aubry Premier Cru
The Rose': Mumm Napa Brut Rose' vs. Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose'.
The domestic wines were tasted first both days. The impressions were similar in both cases.
All the wines were excellent. The domestic wines presented more up front fruit than the French. The Champagnes displayed more "yeastiness" and minerality. Also, the Champagne bubbles were slightly smaller and more elegant and the finish on the Champagnes was longer and more satisfying. But I'm really "splitting" hairs here. Would I notice these differences if I had the wines, say, a week apart vs. "side by side"? Maybe. Maybe not.
Here's another thing: Argyle Brut - $24/Aubry - $45.  Mumm - $20/Chandon - $39.
My daughter Becky and her husband, Paul come in with the two babies for New Year, so the whole family will be together New Year's Day. I'm thinking this tasting scenario will be replayed, maybe with some different selections.
My take: I preferred the Champagnes over the domestic wines in both cases. Everyone didn't feel as strongly as I did about that. But are they worth the extra price? That's always the question.

Happy New Year everyone!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Best Wine Events of 2012!

Tonight we will be celebrating our final event of 2012.
It's really hard to believe that we are about to embark on our third year of business.
Tonight is "Customer Appreciation Night", where we want to express our gratitude to all of our amazing customers who supported us throughout the year.
We will be serving pizza and tasting over 10 wines
Hope you all can make it!
Now, lets reflect back on the best events of 2012. What a year!
How many of these did you attend?

January: Big party the week of 1/16 to celebrate our one year anniversary
February: Patrick Piuze visits The Market and pours his new Chablis
                  Sterkel's food and wine class is a huge success
March: Mark Ryan and Chris Gorman visit The Market and pour their excellent Washington State wines
April:  We celebrate "April Fest" the week of 4/23. Events every day
            Glenmorangie Scotch tasting is a huge hit
May:  Jeff Cohen visits The Market and pours his fantastic JC Cellars wine
          Shane Finley visits The Market and pours the new releases of Shane wines
June:  Incredible lineup of Italian wines from Empson is poured
          Peter Franus visits the Market and pours his white and red Napa wines
          Gary Lipp visits The Market and pours his new releases from Coho
July:  Huge tasting and fund raising event for Alzheimers Foundation
August:  Jerry Reiner visits The Market and pours his Guardian Cellars wines
               A Market first: The Market hosts the wedding reception of our friends Lisa and Stace
Sept:  Our first ever "Tent Tasting" to benefit Coat A Kid is a tremendous success
Oct:   The Charles Smith tasting makes everybody happy.
Nov:  Frank Family tasting to benefit Muscular Dystrophy
          Francesca Vajra visits The Market and pours some pretty incredible Vajra Italian wines
          Dick Vermeil visits The Market. Over 30 cases of his Napa wines are sold, and "The Coach" signs every single bottle
           Dave Eatwell pours his Spoonbill wines. Erin Bode provides the music and Annie Gunn's provides the food.
Dec:  Annual Champagne Tasting is tons of fun. 28 sparkling wines are poured and Annie Gunn's provides the food.
          Our first ever Irish Whiskey Tasting is very popular
          Customer Appreciation Day

Thank you to the best customers in the world!
On to 2013.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tom's Favorite Wine of 2012!

Here we go. My favorite from a slew of great wines tasted this year:
2007 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon
For me, this wine had that special something that hit all the right buttons. Great quality, super mouthfeel, really complex, long finish and it made me smile. That's the key. When a wine makes me smile, well, that's pretty cool.
Like Rich's and Jeff's picks, we are sold out of this vintage, however, we do have the 2006 and 2009 vintages available.
The wine is not cheap, selling at $110.00 per bottle for the 2007. But sometimes, you just have to live a little
Robert Parker rated the wine 94+. It was much better than that for me, though.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sterkel's Wine of The Year!

And now for Rich Sterkel's pick:
2004 La Spinetta Barbaresco Starderi, $120 
This wine got a 95 point rating from The Wine Advocate, and like Jeff's pick, is sold out.
La Spinetta is one of our favorite Italian producers, however, so we always have several of their wines in stock, including their awesome Barolos and Barbarescos.
I got to taste this wine with Rich. It was spectacular - a very worthy selection. 
Here's The Wine Advocate's review:
The 2004 Barbaresco Starderi is a knock-out effort. A dark, brooding wine it reveals an array of dark cherries, spices, tar and smoke in a powerful, sinewy style. With each passing moment, it seemingly turns more and more classic in the glass, with only the super-ripe fruit serving as a reminder that this is a more contemporary wine. The balance and use of oak are both masterful. It is easily the finest wine Giorgio Rivetti has ever made, and is also the first wine in the estate's history that can truly challenge for a spot in the top echelon of the zone. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2019. 

Next: My pick.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jeff's Favorite Wine of 2012!

The next 3 blogs will be about the three musketeers (that would be me, Jeff and Sterkel) favorite wines of 2012.
The rules are pretty simple. Each of us will pick a wine that was sold at The Market this year. And we need to have had more than just a quick taste. Maybe we bought a bottle to share with a friend. You get the idea.
So, I turned to Jeff today and asked "can you name one wine that was your favorite this year"?
And without the slightest hesitation he says "the Maison Bleue Grenache - best Grenache I've ever had".
Was I ever impressed. Just like that he names his favorite wine. I'm still fretting over which of my top two I'm going to have to eliminate.
Specifically, Jeff's pick is the 2010 Maison Bleue La Montagnette Grenache. Unfortunately, we are sold out of this wine, but have lots of other Maison Bleue at the shop to try. All the wines are first rate.
Next up - Sterkel's pick.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Favorite Value Red Wine - 2012!

Same rules apply to red as to white: Under $20, high quality, top seller, customers keep returning to buy it, and it must still be available now.
We've sold cases and cases of this wine. In fact, it was a big hit this year at my family's Thanksgiving meal.
2009 Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvingon is our value red pick of 2012!
A beautiful bright garnet, this Cabernet delights the nose with fresh black cherries, currant and coriander. Medium bodied, but rich on the palate. The fruit is prominent, but totally in balance with the soft sweet tannins which provide just the right amount of structure.
Enjoy this wine with any beef dish, pasta, pizza and rich cheeses like sharp cheddar.
The price: $19


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Favorite Value White Wine - 2012!

Continuing with our favorites for 2012 ....
Value wines.
A really good value at The Market means the wine needs to be under $20. It also needs to be high quality, a top seller and a wine customers keep returning to buy. And it must still be available now, so that if you haven't tried the wine, you can stop by The Market and give it a whirl.
That's a big problem I have with Wine Spectator's Top 100 List. So many wines are either not available  or are already sold out.
It's been a great year for value whites, especially Chardonnay.  The number of great value Chardonnays may actually have cancelled each other out, because our wine of the year is NOT a Chardonnay.
2010 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio is our value white wine of 2012.
This was a great summer wine - very refreshing, with bright lemon lime fruit. It develops structure from the perfectly balanced acidity and subtle mineral notes. A great food and "all by itself" wine that should not be ignored during the winter when you're dining on shellfish or delicate white fish.
The price: $17.
Next up - Value red of 2012.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Wines 2012

My son, Michael and his wife, Dani had Thanksgiving dinner this year. My daughter, Becky and her husband, Paul drove in from Kansas City with their two girls: Grace - 3 years old and Kathryn - 8 months old.
Dani's mom, Rosanne and her husband Marcelle drove in from South Carolina with their dog, Maggie.
And then there's my son's miniature bulldog, Brooklyn - always ready to cause some mischief.
Trust me when I say that all the ingredients for disaster were present and accounted for.
But wait. It all worked out beautifully. Everyone got along. There were no meltdowns, arguments or "food accidents". It was a great day.
The stars were aligned, as they say.
And we had lots of wine to drink!
Since there were 8 wine drinkers present (some very serious wine drinkers, too), I brought a mixed case of some of my favorite value wines from The Market, along with 1 "nice" bottle from home.
Here they are: 2010 Sebastiani Chardonnay - $12, 2010 Wine By Joe Pinot Noir - $18, 2009 Vina Robles Cabernet - $19, 2009 The Table Cabernet - $20, NV Mumm Brut Rose' - $20, 2007 Argyle Brut - $24, 2010 Stolpman Syrah - $27.
From home I brought the 2005 La Roquette Chateauneuf du Pape.
All the wines were fantastic. The CdP was outstanding. One Chardonnay was corked.
Onward to the next holiday!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vermeil Wine and an Amazing Tasting

I'm not what you would call a "star struck" kind of guy. I don't care about meeting "celebrities" or pro athletes or getting autographs.
So you can imagine how I feel about all the celebrity wines that have hit the market recently. Over priced, often poor quality wine, and all because there is a celebrity's name on the bottle.
But this Saturday, I have to admit, I was very impressed by Coach Dick Vermeil - and his wine.
We poured 6 of his wines, 1 white and 5 reds. I liked every one of them.
For a solid 4 hours, from noon to 4pm, the Coach graciously signed around 350 bottles of wine. He also agreed to about 100 photo shots with customers.
What impressed me most, however, is that whenever one of our female customers approached the table, Coach stood up and shook her hand - always with that great smile on his face.
What a gentleman. What a class act.
Dick Vermeil is 76 years old and doesn't need to prove anything to anyone, or to "put on" for any reason.
I guess Coach is a pretty well known celebrity - at least here in St. Louis, where he coached our one and only Super Bowl Team.
I do know one thing for sure. He sure is one great human being!


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Wine Market's "Winery Of The Year"

Wine Spectator just announced their top 10 wines of 2012, and soon, the issue with the top 100 wines will be hitting the newsstands.
So far, once again, I am underwhelmed.
But all this top 100 talk does provoke some thought: What are some of my top wine picks for the year?
I'll write a few blogs on some of our favorites over the next few weeks.
Today, let's start with "winery of the year".
There is no argument here. All year this winery gave us Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of uncompromising quality at all price levels from California, Oregon and even France. We loved the wines, the critics showered them with high scores, and, most important, we introduced a whole bunch of our customers to this amazing winery.
This winery is Evening Land.
If you haven't tried any of the Evening Land wines yet, stop by The Market. We have several selections available, and I know you will become a fan.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Five Great Cabernets Under $25!

Finding high quality, value priced Cabernet Sauvignon is the biggest challenge we have here at The Wine Market.
Cabernet is still king! We sell more Cab than any other varietal, so we spend the most amount of time tasting through value priced Cabernet to find wine worthy of recommending to our customers.
Of course the concept of "value" is a moving target too - moving upward.
I believe that if you can find high quality California or Washington State Cabernet for under $25, you're doing pretty good. I'm very pleased with Cabernets that we've recently brought into the shop. These taste like $30 - $40 wines in my opinion. Check them out next time you're in and need some everyday Cabs.
2009 Evening Land "The Table", Napa - $20
2010 Justin, Paso Robles - $23
2009 Forth, Sonoma - $23
2010 Smith & Hook, Central Coast - $23
2010 Crossfork Creek, Washington State - $23


Friday, November 9, 2012

Amazon - dot - WINE?

Here comes another challenge for the independent wine retailer: Amazon.Com is now selling wine.
Isn't it enough to have Sam's, Costco, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, grocery stores and just about every gas station with a convenience store selling wine?
Apparently, not.
But, you know what? We're not going away. Unlike the demise of most independent food markets and drug stores, the independent wine retailer will never be eliminated. I don't care who enters the wine marketplace.
Bring it on Amazon!
Why do I say this?  Because wine is too important.
There is a place for mail order and the big box stores, but they aren't passionate about wine. They don't taste up to 50 wines on a given day to discover a high quality Cabernet we can sell under $20.
They don't talk to their customers.
Remember talking?
We talk to our customers about everything wine related: food pairing, gift giving, wine parties and tastings, and especially, wines we are excited about.
We write about the wines we love. We don't just copy a critic's rating (although we will do that as well). But we've recommended many wines that never got a rating, simply because we believed in the wine.
If you want to read more about Amazon's entry into the wine business, I copied a link below.
We're not afraid.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of our great, great customers who support The St. Louis Wine Market. And thank you to all wine lovers who haven't found us yet, but support other independent wine retailers across the country.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Wines!

Ahh, the holidays. Family, friends, food, wine, football  .....  travel delays, bad weather, arguments, kitchen mishaps, naughty kids, frustration, confusion.
How do we get through the holidays every year?
My family drinks!
Which brings me logically to the point of this blog: Thanksgiving wines. Selecting the right wines is not so much about the turkey, but all the sides that go with it. If your family is anything like mine, you're going to have all kinds of diverse flavors bouncing around your Thanksgiving table.
So the key is to have several "food friendly" wines that you know your family and friends will enjoy. Here's a good list to choose from: White: Chardonnay, Riesling (dry and slightly sweet), Chenin Blanc (dry and slightly sweet), Alsatian Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.
Red: Pinot Noir, Cru Beaujolais (Morgon or Moulin a Vent are two of my favorites), Barbera, and Grenache.
And of course dry sparklers - especially Champagne. These are a must.
I know our wines will consist of a Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Chateauneuf du Pape. Probably more. I know CdP was not in my recommended list above, but, our family likes it, and it's become a tradition. It's also usually Grenache based, which is listed above.
My only other Thanksgiving wine rule: Make sure you have plenty of whatever you're serving! 


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wine And Leftover Halloween Candy!

So, Halloween is over, and either your kids brought in a haul of candy that you can pilfer without them knowing, or, you bought way more candy than you gave out and are stuck with eating it yourself.
What to do.....
Why not match the candy with some adult beverages?
I read an article about matching popular Halloween candy with beer. Why not wine? I copied the beer article's link below if you want to check it out yourself. Here are the candies, the beer pairing from the article and my wine recommendations.
Snickers: beer: milk stout; wine: Brachetto. There is a lot going on in a Snickers bar, with all those sweet and salty flavors attacking your palate. Brachetto is a sweet rose' sparkler from Italy. The sweet strawberry flavors will complement the milk chocolate, while the bubbles and slight acidity will do well with the salt.
Milky Way: beer: milk stout again or an English barleywine. Wine: Tawny Port - no doubt about it.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup: beer: sweet or imperial stout or a sweetened fruit lambic; wine: The Brachetto would work here too, but I think a Merlot would also be very interesting.
Sour Patch Kids: beer: Flemish red ale or American IPA; wine: tough one. When in doubt - Champagne!
Candy Corn: beer: English ESB or American or English IPA; wine: gotta be sweet. Icewine or Sauternes.
Dark Chocolate: This wasn't part of the beer article, but a big Syrah/Shiraz or Cabernet would both do nicely here.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Champagne: Real vs. The Imposters!

If you've been reading these blogs, you know how much I love Champagne. It's the wine of celebration, it's very food versatile and it makes me happy when I drink it.
But, alas. as hard as I try, I still sometimes mis-use the name "Champagne".
Champagne should only refer to sparkling wines produced in the French wine region of Champagne.
Even within France, if the wine is not produced in Champagne, but is made in the Champagne method, it is called a Cremant.
That Champagne method that I mentioned is known as methode champenoise, which is a "process" that is used to make the world's finest sparkling wines.
If you want to learn more about the methode champenoise process, I've included a link below. It's actually pretty interesting.
In general though, when someone asks for Champagne they are thinking of a dry white or rose sparkling wine.
Here are some price ranges for dry sparklers available at The Market. Only the domestics and Champagnes use the methode champenoise, which is reflected in the price:
Spanish Cava:  $15 - $25
Italian Prosecco:  $18 - $30
Domestic Sparkling: $20 - $100+
Champagne: $40 - "the sky's the limit"!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Those Wacky Wine Customers!

I'm not complaining. I appreciate anyone who walks through our door here at The Market. You never know where your next great customer will come from.
But. Some interactions are just ... well ... funny.
A guy comes in the other day and interrupts me helping another customer to ask "do you have any dessert wine"? I say "I'll be right with you". And then the exchange goes something like this:
Me: I have a couple of great Sauternes here. This is a classic dessert wine.
He: Are they sweet?
Me: Yes. But they are balanced.
He: Anything not so sweet?
Me: These Muscats are more like port, but sweeter. Not as sweet as Sauternes, though.
He: Do you have anything white that's sweet but not as sweet as Sauternes?
Me: German Rieslings fit that bill nicely. (I proceed to show him several options at various price levels)
He: Do you have any I can taste?
Me: (Beginning to think this is going nowhere) No. Sorry, I don't have any Rieslings open right now.
He: Do you have any Moscato? (a slightly sweet sparkling wine, usually from Italy)
Me: Sure. (I show him several selections)
He: Do you have any I can taste?
Me: No. Sorry, we don't keep sparkling wines open because they "lose their sparkle" quickly.
He just kind of looks at me like I'm evil and proceeds to look at accessories.
He did actually buy one of our accessories, which I appreciate.
I think to myself: How could I have handled this differently to help the guy with the wine without opening up multiple bottles at my expense?
If anyone has any advice for me, I will gladly consider it.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cardinals Lose - We Still Have Wine!

We moved from Chicago to St. Louis 18 years ago. It didn't take me long to embrace the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. What a great franchise!
And they rewarded me with hundreds of thrills over the years, and, of course, two World Series championships - 2006 and 2011.
This year though.  Geez!  It was just emotionally draining.
They're hitting - they're not; they're scoring - they're not; they're pitching - they're not.
Oh, and what was that move our new rookie manager just made?
I wasn't going to drink last night, but I opened a Chardonnay in the second inning.
In the fourth inning it was time to change channels. But to what? The debate?  Ugh.
In the fifth inning I opened an Italian red blend.
My old football team, Da Bears, was on Monday Night Football, but, I just couldn't get into any more sports while my Cards were getting thrashed.
Eighth inning: Bourbon.
This one will hurt for a little longer, and then I'll just spend the next few months wandering aimlessly through the other professional sports on TV.
And then ...... Spring training!
The beverages of choice last night were:
2009 Dierberg Chardonnay
2008 Caburnio
Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lunch With A Napa Winemaker!

Had a great lunch today at Cafe' Napoli with winemaker Michael Keenan. Michael is president of Napa Valley's Robert Keenan winery. He took over from dad, Robert, in 1998, and continues the tradition of making great Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay.
We've been a big supporter of the Keenan Cabernet since we opened The Market, but I was surprised by the quality of the other wines we tasted. I don't know why. I just assumed Keenan was more a Cabernet house than anything else.
The Chardonnay, Merlot, and, of all things, Cabernet Franc, were outstanding.
And what is Michael Keenan's favorite varietal? Hands down - Merlot! He says he drinks Merlot more than any other wine - probably 5 out of the 7 days in a week.
Incidentally,The Cafe Napoli in Clayton was excellent. I hadn't been in a while, and I almost forgot how good this place can be. House salad and chicken Marsala for lunch was a real treat!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Food, Wine and Mouthfeel

Here's another of those wine terms: Mouth feel or mouthfeel.
This describes the sensation of wine in the mouth. What is that mouth of yours "feeling"?
Typically, you will be describing a texture. Silky, smooth, rough, harsh and hot are a few of the sensations we experience as we taste various types of wines.
The beauty of a wine's mouthfeel is that when paired properly, it is in perfect harmony with a particular food's mouthfeel.
The classic example is matching the full bodied, tannic mouthfeel of Cabernet with the smooth, slippery  marbled fat found in quality cuts of steak.
Other classics include:
Champagne and potato chips (acid and bubbles vs. salt)
Chablis and oysters (crisp minerality vs. briny, salty and creamy)
Sauternes and Foie Gras (rich and sweet vs. rich and savory)
Is your mouth watering? If it is, like mine is, you totally get the concept of mouthfeel.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dang! Two Corked Wines In One Night!

An unusual thing happened this Saturday at The Wine Market. Of the 30 or so bottles we opened that day, two of them were "corked". I've talked about corked wines before, but, as a refresher, "corked wine" refers to cork taint. This is a wine flaw characterized by aromas of wet cardboard, wet dog, moldy newspaper and wet basement. This condition sucks the fruit out of the wine, making it not only stinky, but unpalatable too.
The chief cause of cork taint is the presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TSA) and/or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA). These are natural, albeit undesirable, compounds that are typically transferred to wine from the wine's cork. There is no health hazard from drinking corked wine - just general unpleasantness.
Several customers that day asked me what percentage of wines are corked. So, I pulled a few answers out of my ... uh ... memory that I wasn't really sure about. And there's a good reason for that.
The estimates are all over the place.
Of course all of the studies are unscientific, but the estimates range from less than 1% to over 8% of all bottles of wine being corked.
Any wine sealed with a cork has the potential for cork taint. Price does not matter in the least. The corked wines from Saturday were both reputable Napa Cabernets priced at $75 and $56 per bottle.
Probably the saddest cork taint I ever experienced was in a 1986 Chateau Margaux. This 98 point First Growth Bordeaux currently sells on line for $500 - $800, but this bottle was undrinkable. Very sad, indeed.
Watch for this wine flaw when you order wine in a restaurant, and be sure to refuse the wine if you think it's corked.
Unfortunately, the Margaux mentioned above was from a friend's personal collection.


Friday, October 5, 2012

"Weird" Wine Words

So, I pop open a bottle of Cabernet for a customer to try and say: "that wine is going to be a little closed since I just opened it". My partner looks at me and says: "do you know how totally ridiculous that sounds, except to a bunch of wine geeks"?
It's true. I suppose just like any other industry, the wine world has its words and phrases that can cause some head scratching.
Take, for example, the word "disgorgement".
No, this is not something that occurs in your bathroom after a night of raucous drinking and nasty eating.
Disgorgement is actually a process in making Champagne and other sparkling wines whereby sediment is removed from the bottle to make the wines crystal clear, and well, "sparkling".
If you want more information on "disgorgement" check out the link below.
I'll cover more weird wine stuff in future blogs.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Steak and Napa Cabernet - Golden!

Had dinner at my son's house last night. We hadn't seen Michael in about 4 weeks since he was intensely preparing for a competition in cold food preparation and presentation. (He's a sous chef at one of the local country clubs).
He won a gold medal!
So, we toasted his success with Champagne, of course.
Jean Milan Carte Blanche Brut is always a favorite. This "growers" Champagne is also moderately priced. I'll do another blog on growers Champagnes as we get closer to the holidays.
For dinner we had good old fashioned steak, potatoes and vegetables.
I write a lot about difficult wine and food pairings like Asian, Indian, Polish and other challenging cuisines.
But steak is very versatile. Most bigger reds will do. My fallback, though, is usually Napa Cabernet.
And the 2007 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon did not disappoint.
Currant, plum and other dark fruits were supported by notes of chocolate, mint and cedar. The mouthfeel is getting very lush on this wine as the bottle age increases.
All in all, great food - great wine - great company.
If only the guys won in pinochle .....


Friday, September 28, 2012

Wine And Fast Food? You Bet!

I wish this incredible idea was mine, but alas, I have to give credit to sommelier, Dini Rao (??), for pairing 9 classic fast food meals with wine. The link is provided below if you want to read the whole article, but here are a few examples:
Burger King Whopper:  Cru Beaujolais
McDonald's Filet-o-Fish and Fries:  A sweeter Riesling
KFC Fried Chicken:  Cotes du Rhone
Arby's Roast Beef: Cabernet Sauvignon
So this got me thinking. I don't really do fast food, except for White Castle maybe a couple of times a year. And I've never had wine with my WC sliders.
Let's analyze this; nondescript salty, greasy meat flavors with mushy consistency, dominated by what should be "supporting" flavors of grilled onion and dill pickle. Doesn't that sound good?
Although I've never had it, I bet dry sparkling wines or Champagnes, either white or pink, would go great with White Castle sliders - as long as you don't get them with cheese. You should NEVER get sliders, at least White Castles, with cheese. They shouldn't even offer cheese as an option. The fries are fine. I feel very strongly about this.
So, the dilemma is, do you really want to spend $20 or more for Sparkling wine with your $5 White Castle meal?
Tough call.
Beer works too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When Is Wine A Good Value?

It seems you can buy wine almost anywhere these days. That can make it tough sometimes on your friendly, local independent wine retailer.
Sam's, Costco, Trader Joe's, Walgreens, even Aldi's is hawking wine at dirt cheap prices. They all have  their gimmicks of sorts. Sam's and Costco sell their wines at razor thin margins so you can buy more of their other stuff. Trader Joe's draws you in with $3.00 "Two Buck Chuck" so that you will consider their other wine selections which trend higher than your average prices. And Aldi's. Well, I looked at the 5 or 6 selections at our local Aldi's and did not recognize a single label. They were all under $4 though.
We generally consider wine to be a good value if it is under $20 retail and of high quality. The high quality part is essential. We spend more time trying to find high quality value wines than anything else here at The Market. A quick physical count shows we have 105 different labels under $20, the lowest prices being a $9 Sauvignon Blanc and a $10 Cabernet. And I can guarantee you every one of those 105 wines is of high quality. Because somebody here tried them before we brought them in.
Cheers to value!


Friday, September 21, 2012

What's The Big Deal About "Cult" Wines?

The term "cult wine" has been around for several years. The wine industry uses the term "cult", whether it is legitimate or not,  to sell wine, because wine buyers want cult wines.
So what is a "legitimate" cult wine?
Let's see what Wikipedia says: "Cult wines are those for which dedicated groups of committed enthusiasts will pay large sums of money. Cult wines are often seen as trophy wines to be collected or as investment wine to be held rather than consumed."
In addition, cult wines are almost impossible to get. They are usually purchased through winery mailing lists, and those lists are closed to new buyers. Waiting lists can be as long as 10 years.
In other words, you have to wait for existing list members to either die, or drop off the list for some reason.
Pretty wild, huh?
Most of the major wine producing countries produce some cult wines, but, here are a few of the more famous ones from the good old USA:
Screaming Eagle: $1500-$2000 per bottle!
Harlan: $500-$800
Scarecrow: $300-$400
Bryant: $400-$500
You also have Sine Quo Non, Araujo, Colgin and Saxum.
Opus One, Dominus, Peter Michael, Dunn, Kistler and Caymus are also considered cult wines, but, their production is higher, and consequently, they are a little easier to find.
Buyer beware: If someone is trying to peddle you a "cult wine" - it probably isn't.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How People Buy Wine

A few years ago, before I was actually in the wine business, and had a little more disposable income, I would visit my favorite wine purveyor every other week or so, and stock up.
One visit would concentrate on "value" wines, usually under $20 per bottle. The next visit would be for "nicer" wines, usually $30-40 per bottle. Rarely would I spend over $50 per bottle. I would usually buy 2 or 3 bottles of the same wine at a time. If I really liked a wine and it was a good value, I might splurge for 6 bottles, or sometimes, even a full case of 12. I would always be sure to buy the latest and greatest Cabernet, and then fill in the rest of a case with Italian, French, Spanish and other wines. The white wines usually fell into the "value" category.
Now, being in the wine business, it's fun to watch other customers buying patterns.
You always get your case buyers, but I would say 3 bottle buyers are the most common. With 3 bottles you're not overly committed to a particular wine, but you can still try it over a period of time to see how it evolves.
Most common purchase quantities per my observation at The Market:
3 bottles
6 bottles
2 bottles
4 bottles
1 bottle
12 bottles
Does anyone really care about this?
Probably not.
My blog.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Wine You Must Try Before You Die!

So, it's a slow Saturday morning, and I'm perusing Neil Beckett's 1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die. 
Most of the wines you would expect were there: Cult Cabernets, First Growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundies and Chablis, great Champagne and important wines from nearly every major wine producing country.
So you can imagine my surprise when on page 89 I see Mateus Rose'.
What the hey - Mateus Rose'!
I haven't thought about that wine in a long long time.
Actually though, Mateus has some sentimental significance in my life.
This was the first wine I ever drank, and I thought it was pretty good. My friends and I would pour the wine into flasks and sneak it into late night movies when we had nothing better to do. Of course we were all over 21, and the movies were of the highest repute at the time.
Mateus Rose'. A wine to taste before you die. Available at most drug stores, grocery stores and gas stations for around $4 a bottle.


Mateus Rose. Label from mid-1970's

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's 9/11 - No Wine Blog Today!

I can't believe it's been 11 years since the World Trade Center attack. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I'm sure any American who was at least 12 years old, and had access to the news broadcasts feels about the same.
I was in Corporate America at the time. I had a 10:30 AM flight to Minneapolis, was dressed and ready to drive to the airport when I started watching the events unfold on the Today Show. All kinds of emotions, thoughts and feelings were occurring almost simultaneously inside of me. Fear, anger, sorrow, pain and much more. I felt violated like I never had before. It was the first, and to this date the only time, I cried over something that did not involve a personal tragedy.
So it seems a little superfluous to be writing about wine, beer or other alcohol today. I'll be back at it later in the week.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the fallen heroes and their families.
September 11, 2001.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

California's "Up and Coming" Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon is king. And Pinot Noir is close behind, still benefiting from the effects of the movie Sideways. 
But, there are new reds waiting in the wings.  The quality of domestic Syrah, Grenache and blends has been exceptional, and ratings have been off the charts.
Many of the best producers are from California's Central Coast, but, you're also seeing great wines from Washington State and activity in Northern California.
Some of the top producers have already attained cult status and are commanding prices of $100+ per bottle. Sine Qua Non, Saxum and Alban are a few of the cult wineries that come to mind. Oh yeah, they're almost impossible to get. That's when you know you've hit the "big time" - every one's clamoring for your wines, and there're only a few happy campers out there who are getting them.
Here are a few favorites, in stock at The Market:
2010 Maison Bleue Grenache, $38 - 93 Points
2009 Shane The Unknown Syrah,  $39 - 94 Points
2009 Gorman Pixie Syrah, $43 - 94 Points
2007 Big Basin Odeon Syrah, $43 - 94 Points (Syrah/Cabernet blend)
2009 Wind Gap Griffin's Lair Syrah, $52 - 95 Points


Big Basin Estate vineyard

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are there "good" reasons for collecting wine?

Why do people collect wine? There are probably dozens of reasons. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Because they have lots of money and they can
  • People like to collect "stuff", and wine is more "stuff" to collect
  • They think it's "cool" to collect wine
  • Because they built a wine cellar and now have to fill it with wine
Some wine collectors have literally thousands of bottles in their cellars. Some of those wines have been there so long that they've probably gone bad - or at least exceeded their prime drinking windows.
Seems a little silly sometimes - and I'm in the wine business!
There are, however, two very good reasons for collecting wine if you are a wine lover. First, wines vary in quality from vintage to vintage. It makes sense to stock up on your favorite wines from the best vintages. Second, it's a great learning experience, not to mention loads of fun, to experience how a great wine evolves over a period of, say, 10 years. The changes in wines over time can really be amazing. Of course, you have to have the discipline to hold the wine over time. Sometimes that's a challenge for me.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Wine Critics - What Are They Saying?

Zesty, racy, sensual, sexy, voluptuous,  extravagant, exotic, sky-scraper like. These are some adjectives critics use to describe wines they are tasting and writing about.
Then you have the the descriptors for the nose and palate. Along with the fruit, you also find crushed rock, forest floor, graphite, damp earth, pencil shavings, mint, wet steel, raw meat, bacon fat, and on and on.
I get it. These guys are trying to make the wines they review sound exciting. It's much better than reading: "this wine red - me like".  I'm sure there's some competitiveness going on between the critics too. Who is the best, most flamboyant and most followed writer. I have my favorites in terms of style, but I can't say there is one critic I agree with 100% of the time. That would probably be weird.
Some times I just have to shake my head and laugh.
Tonight though, I'm having myself a glass of some "sexy" red wine.

Happy Labor Day!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Wine Market welcomes a new Bride!

We've had lots of "firsts" here at The Market.
Last Saturday, we had a wedding party stop by before going to the wedding and reception. That wasn't really a "first", but the bride getting professional photographs taken on top of our bar in the tasting room, was - for sure.
There were quite a few customers in the store at the time since we were having a big summer sale, so you can imagine the vibe we had going here.
Very cool.
Check out the pic below.


Friday, August 24, 2012

More Health Benefits From Red Wine?

Quote from a recent Wine Spectator article: "Researchers believe that resveratrol, a chemical compound found in red wine, may help reduce the risk of falls among the elderly. The study, conducted at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, found that older lab mice grew more coordinated when resveratrol was included in their diet and that nerve tissue resisted the effects of age".

It seems like every day there is "new research" about the benefits or the dangers of drinking wine. I find these studies hilarious. I know I'm weird. But I really want to see a mouse fall. What about walkers? Can't mice use walkers like people do? 

More from the article: "In order to test if resveratrol may help against age-related imbalance, graduate student Erika Allen fed young and old laboratory mice a diet containing doses of resveratrol for eight weeks. She also tested the rodents' stability using a steel mesh balance beam, noting each misstep and stumble".

I hope there's a video!

Let's talk wine - the heck with the health benefits!  Some exciting new wines arrived at The Market in the past week. Robert Craig, J. Bookwalter, Frank Family, Ramian Estates, Philip Togni, Maison Bleue and JAQK Cellars are just a few recent arrivals. While the summer months can be hot and boring, Fall brings a bunch of fantastic new wine from great producers. 
Stay tuned - more excitement on the way.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is an "Oyster Wine"?

I know they're not for everyone, but, for me, there is nothing like fresh raw oysters.
I taste that fresh, clean, briny deliciousness, and I feel as though I become one with the ocean. And my wife, Judy, likes them even better than I do!
The right wine takes the experience to a whole new level.
For the past 18 years, Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton WA has been hosting The Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. Last year, the judges were asked what they wanted from their oyster wines.
Here are some of their responses:
"Refreshing", "Brisk and clean", "No vanilla or butter", "Light and fresh", "Steely", "Crisp and flinty", "Minerally".
I'll go along with all that.
My favorite oyster place here in landlocked St. Louis is Demun Oyster Bar. They fly in a variety of west coast oysters daily, and the experience, while not quite the same as being on the coast, is pretty darn good.
Last time we went, we sampled 5 different oysters with a bottle of 2010 Patrick Piuze Terroir de Fye Chablis. The pairing was divine.
Some other good oyster wines would be Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, unoaked Chardonnay, French Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Muscadet.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wine Ratings Continue To Infuriate!

The Wine Spectator's James Laube rated Napa's 2009 vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon 93 - 96 points.
In the 8/15 edition of "The Insider" Laube writes: "This is a tremendous vintage, and one of the best of the decade from the state's best Cabernet appellation". The appellation he's referring to here is Napa.
So, let's take a look at some ratings:
Bond, $285 - 93 Points
David Arthur, $95 - 92 Points
Etude, $100 - 92 Points
Opus One, $225 - 92 Points
Dunn, $90 - 91 Points
Phelps Insignia, $200 - 91 Points
These are some of the biggest names in winemaking. What ratings will the lesser known, more affordable producers receive?
What gives?
To be fair there were some higher rated wines like the 97 point Screaming Eagle for $750 and the 96 point Harlan for $750. But only a handful of people can even get these wines.
At least Wine Spectator is consistent - they've been frustrating us all year!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm Not Talking About Wine Today!

Wine is usually the topic of every blog I write. Heck, sometime I shamelessly try to sell wine through the blog.
But not today.
Today I want to reflect on a very special event that we had at The Market.
On Saturday, August 11th, our customers and friends, Lisa and Stace, had their wedding reception right here at The Market.
We've been open over a year and a half now, and this was a first.
Opening a new business brings loads of surprises both good and not so good, but I never expected this.
What an honor!
Everyone seemed to have a great time. Lisa and Stace looked totally happy and in love. And, although I never speak for my partners, Rich and Jeff, I will make an exception here, and say we were all very proud, and maybe a little bit humbled.

Thank you, Lisa and Stace, for sharing your special day with us here at The St. Louis Wine Market! All the best!


Lisa and Stace's Wedding Cake

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five Wines For The "Dog Days"

The "dog days" of summer are here.
Not the best of times for the wine business. Sometimes I think that the only ones thinking about wine right now are those of us in the industry.
It's all perfectly understandable.
It's HOT out there. People are squeezing in last minute vacations. Kids are getting ready for school.
College freshmen are preparing to move into their dorms.
And on and on.
But I'm going to try and get you all to think about wine - even if it's for just a little while.
My dog day wines are light, crisp, refreshing, "smile inducing" and reasonably priced.
And here are five of my favorites. All available at The Market:
2010 Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay - $16
2010 Spoonbill Sauvignon Blanc - $17
2010 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio - $17
2011 Puech Haut Prestige Rose' - $20
Anything sparkling, from Moscatto to Champagne. But bearing in mind my own rules, which include "reasonably priced", I have to pick the following:
NV Schramsburg Mirabelle Brut Rose' - $24


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A memorable Bordeaux wine visit

I may never buy another bottle of good Bordeaux again. Pricing has just gotten insane.
That's too bad. Some of the best red wines I've ever had have been Bordeaux.
I also have many fond memories from our visit to Bordeaux several years ago.
One of the wineries we visited was Smith Haut Lafitte. SHL is located in the Left Bank region of Pessac Leognan, the same region that is home to famous First Growth, Haut Brion.
Bordeaux wines are always blends, and left bank wines are typically dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, but not always.
SHL is no slouch to making great wine, themselves. Their 2009 red received a 100 point rating from Robert Parker, and they are also known for making excellent, highly rated White Bordeaux.
During our tour, I was fascinated to learn that the terrible soil that the grapes grow in is directly responsible for the high quality of the wines. The vines sure looked like they were planted in all rock and gravel. Yet, this leads to very low, but intensely flavored grape yields.
We lunched and tasted wine in the cellar pictured below.
It was so cool.
I just hope that someday I can buy their wines again.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lambrusco Wine - The Serious Stuff!

In his July 30th column, New York Times wine critic, Eric Asimov, wrote: "I have been on a genuine Lambrusco kick for some years now, and I've been delighted to see delicious evidence of its rebirth here in New York".
So I guess in about 3-5 years, St. Louis should be getting on the Lambrusco bandwagon.
Sorry. That was mean.
Actually, we had a Lambrusco tasting here at The Wine Market several weeks ago and I think we surprised a lot of people.
The wines were not the cloyingly sweet bubblies that you may have experienced many years ago. These were serious, complex dry sparklers that were made to enjoy with food. Just as the Italians have been doing for decades, and New Yorkers for the last couple of years.
The producer selected as "the best" by Asimov also happens to be the one we featured for the tasting.
We still have a good selection in stock, and I think you might be surprised at the prices.
Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena - $16
Elegant and dry. Enjoy with salads, shellfish and spicy dishes.
Cleto Chiarli Enrico Cialdini - $17
Intense, full bodied and bursting with blackberry and and raspberry fruit. Pasta, roasted meat and barbecue all are great matches.
Cleto Chiarli Rose' - $18
Dry and delicate with distinct notes of fresh fruit. Perfect aperitif or with fresh fruit and ice cream.
Cleto Chiarli Amabile - $12
A touch of sweetness with intense red color, fresh fruit and natural acidity. This is your choice for pasta, pizza and barbecue.

Here's the link to the article if you want to read more:


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wine Ratings Games

Umpires. Referees. Olympic judges. Wine critics. These are just a few people who make their living making subjective decisions in sports or in evaluating wine. There are many more, of course, but today, we're going to hone in on wine critics.
Whether you agree with them or not, the one thing you expect from all of these "decision makers" is consistency.
Consistency, unfortunately, has been very... well... inconsistent this year. Let's look at the two major wine evaluating publications:
Wine Spectator
Without question, Wine Spectator ratings are low across the board this year. What happened? Did all the editors get together and decide to lower the ratings for some reason? For what purpose? Or are the wines really that inferior this year? I suppose that's possible, but the vintage reports haven't been terrible.
Yesterday, Wine Spectator's James Laube issued a tasting report titled "11 Outstanding 2009 Napa Cabernets". You can imagine my excitement. This is what the wine public craves: Napa Cab.
So look at some of these wines, prices and ratings:
Behrens Spring Mountain Crowley Vineyard - $85 - 91 Points
Ghost Block Yountville Single Vineyard - $100 - 91 Points
Maybach Amoenus Vineyard - $125 - 91 Points
Nickel & Nickel Martin Stelling Vineyard - $155 - 90 Points
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Robert Parker transitioned his California beat to Antonio Galloni this year. They've been together a long time. You'd think we would see some consistency, right?
Take a look:
2009 Beau Vigne Reserve Cabernet
Galloni: 92 points
Parker, previous 3 vintages: 94-96 points
2009 Conn Valley Eloge
Galloni: 92 points
Parker Barrel tasting: 96-98 points
2010 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay
Galloni: 87 points
Parker, previous 3 vintages: 92-94 points
Wine Spectator 2010 vintage: 92 points

I could go on and on, but this blog is long enough. You get the idea.

Like umpires and judges decisions, we have to live with a wine critics ratings. We don't have to agree though. And we have an advantage with wine critics that we don't have with the others - our own palates.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Favorite Summer Beers

Man does not live by wine alone - although this man easily could.
But, I do like a beer every now and then too. I'm usually good for just one beer, maybe two if I'm having a "wild and crazy" day.
For summer I'm looking for the light and refreshing stuff - nothing too hoppy or malty which I save for winter.
So, here's what I've been drinking this summer when I get into my beer mood:
North Coast's Scrimshaw Pilsner - Fort Bragg, CA
Weihenstephaner Original Lager - Germany
Bell's Oberon Wheat Ale - Comstock, MI
Odell's Easy Street Wheat - Fort Collins, CO
Urban Chestnut Zwickel Lager - St. Louis, MO


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tough Pairing - Wine and Fresh Tomatoes!

It's been a brutal summer here in St. Louis. Day after day of 100+ temps wears on even the biggest fans of summertime.
Only one thing is keeping me going.
Fresh, succulent, juicy, ripe home grown tomatoes. I love them - and really miss them when the season is over.
But pairing wine with fresh tomatoes can be a challenge. Here are some rules I follow:
No red wine
Even the lightest reds overpower the tomato's delicate flavors, and big tannic reds like Cabernet Sauvignon clash terribly with the tomato's acidity.
No oaky, buttery Chardonnays
Once again, the tomato's acid clashes with the oak.
No overly acidic whites
A little acid is okay, but, choose a highly acidic wine and you're left with one big "acid fest". This probably rules out most Chablis, Champagne and Italian whites.
I've had great success sticking to fruity, lightly acidic whites and rose' wines - both still and sparkling.
The rose's in particular go well with your classic caprese' salad.
Here are some wines I've enjoyed with my tomatoes - all available at The Market:
Still Wine
2011 Guardian Angel Sauvignon Blanc - $20
2011 Elk Cove Pinot Gris - $20
2011 Puech Haut Prestige Rose'
Sparkling Wine
Mumm Napa Brut - $20
Schramsberg Mirabelle Rose'


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wine and Women's Health

Two studies, one by the Framingham Heart Study and one from the journal Menopause, have  produced evidence showing that moderate alcohol consumption by women in their 50's and early 60's is likely to help prevent bone loss. Most of the women in these studies were wine drinkers.
I think that's excellent news.
Now here's the bad news.
This does not apply to us guys.
I say: NOT FAIR!
All these years of drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages to increase my bone strength, and what do I get? Nada.
I guess I just need to keep trying.
Here's the link if you want to read more:


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ten Napa Cabernets Under $50!

Napa Valley red wine is still king - especially Cabernet based reds. Sometimes, though, it seems like you have to be a king to afford them. So, I perused The Market's red wine racks and found 10 great Napa reds under $50. Some of the producers made my list last year, too - with only the vintage having changed.
So there. Napa Cabernet and Cabernet blends can be of high quality and reasonably priced.
Thank goodness!
Listed in order of ascending price:
2009 Sean Minor Red Blend - $18
2009 Evening Land "The Table" Cabernet - $20 
2008 Ladera Caberrnet - $28
2010 Chappellet Cervantes Red - $29 (formerly Mountain Cuvee)
2008 Jaqk Cabernet 22 Black - $30
2009 Honig Cabernet - $36
2009 Pine Ridge Cabernet - $40
2007 Peter Franus Cabernet - $40
2007 Robert Keenan Cabernet - $43
2009 Coho Headwaters Red - $43


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sorry I don't have those 10 wines you're looking for.

Another day in the retail wine business....
So this lady comes in the other day, it's about 2:00pm - not much going on at the time.
Then she pulls out a list.  I immediately sense trouble.
"Are you ready to get to work?" she asks. "That's what I live for," I reply.
And then the exchange goes something like this:
She: Do you have wine A?
Me: No. Sorry.  (never heard of it)
She: Do you have wine B?
Me: No. Sorry.  (never heard of it)
She: Do you have wine C?
Me: No. Sorry.  (had it - sold out)
This goes on about 8 more times with the same result. Most of the wines I'd never heard of.
And we continue:
Me: We have lots of great wine in the store. Would you like some recommendations for something we actually have in stock?
She: No response.
She: Do you have anything we can taste? (implies "for free")
Me: No. Sorry. We have complimentary tastings this Friday and Saturday. You should try to make one of those.
She: Do you have anything "on sale"
Me: No. Sorry. We don't run sales very often, but our everyday prices are very competitive.
She leaves the store.
I think to myself: I'm either on Candid Camera or I have just entered the Twilight Zone.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

YIKES! $168,000.00 For One Bottle Of Wine!

Act fast! Only 2 bottles will be available for purchase if you live in North America!
No joke. The wine is the 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon - $168,000 per bottle.
A total of 12 bottles have been produced.
The bottle allocation is as follows:
2: North America
1: Russia
1: London
1: Dubai
3: The rest of Asia
2: Australia
1: Bottle to be donated to a charitable organization for auction
1: To be kept at Penfolds as a showpiece
This just blows my mind!!
If you are interested in reading more, here is the link from the USA Today article:


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Conn Valley Winery - RIP Mac Sawyer.

One of the best Napa Valley winery tours I've ever been on was at Anderson's Conn Valley. You have to make an appointment, but you end up with an owner or winemaker conducting your tour. Our tour guide was winemaker Mac Sawyer. He initially seemed quiet and introverted when we first met him in the rather sparse offices of Conn Valley. Once he got us into the caves, however, he transformed into this mad scientist kind of character. There was no doubt that this guy loved his work as he had us taste one wine after another from most of the  barrels throughout the caves. We tasted different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. We tasted the blending grapes of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc individually, before being blended into the final product. And we tasted the same grape from two different vineyards. "Can you taste any difference?" Mac asked excitedly. You couldn't help get caught up in the whole experience. After tasting from the barrels, we sat around the tasting table, still in the caves, and tasted through the Conn Valley portfolio of white and red wine.
This was at least 3 years ago, and I remember the tour vividly.
Because Mac Sawyer made it special.
So I was saddened to learn last week that Mac lost a battle to cancer, and died at the relatively young age of 61.
The wine world lost a great winemaker and a great guy. I'm sure there are many others out there with their own memories from Mac Sawyer's wine tours.
I bet they're good ones.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are All Wine Lovers Snobs?

If you google "snob definition" the first result reads: A person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people: "a wine snob".
Is there some implication being made here by Webster? 
I never thought of myself as a snob, but, I bet there are people out there who do- simply because I love wine.
I guess there's not much I can do about what other people think. 
Wine Spectator editor Tim Fish wrote about wine snobs in his blog and he made this insightful comment: "There's an easy way to tell when you're dealing with snobs: They spend more time telling you what not to drink than offering ideas on what you might like".
I'll go along with that.
So here's a great wine that I enjoyed last night with one of our customers - something you might like:
2009 Mark Ryan "Long Haul"
Black cherry, Italian plum clove and toasted oak. A lush palate filled with black fruits, vanilla and mocha. The texture is bold with impressive structure and great length.
Merlot Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Heat + Wine = BAD!

The temps are going over 100 degrees this week in St. Louis. That means it's time to be on the lookout for "cooked wine". If you get a wine that's missing the aromas and flavors of fresh fruit, and instead get a stewed prune profile, chances are the wine has been overheated somehow. It's easily done in extreme heat. The suppliers who deliver to us all have air conditioned vehicles, but air conditioning always seems to break down when you need it most - it's a law of nature. UPS and FedEx do not have air conditioned trucks. Beware if you get a wine delivered on some late summer afternoon from one of these major carriers.  Even if wine is transported properly, it may end up on an open air dock - to sit for an extended length of time. I've witnessed this personally at a "big box" store that will go unnamed.
A couple of times, I've had customers return cooked wine after they've obviously left the bottle in their car for hours. Of course we take the wine back and try to smile courteously.
So, be careful with your wine in extreme heat. In your car, make sure it's in the air conditioning with you and not in the trunk. And don't leave it in the car to go to an afternoon movie. That's worse than the trunk!
Now you're probably thinking: geez, Tom it sounds like I have to actually buy and taste a wine before I know if it's cooked or not. That stinks. 
Not always.
Beware of the following: Obviously, if a bottle is warm to the touch, stay away. Don't buy a wine that is leaking from the cork, and stay away from wines where the cork is raised from the mouth of the bottle - even a little. The cork should be flush with, or a little below the mouth of the bottle. 
Finally, although this is not as sure a sign as the others, check to see that the foil on the neck of the bottle turns. If you can't move it at all, it may mean the wine has leaked and dried to a glue like goo under the foil.
Stay cool!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don't Forget - Smell That Wine!

Wine is a fascinating business. Every day I learn something new, and everyday I probably forget something that I knew the day before. That's why the world of wine can be very intimidating to some people, especially if they are wine newbies.
The most important thing about wine, obviously, is tasting. Taste and enjoy as many different kinds of wines that you can, and discover the ones that work, and the ones that don't for your palate.
And what is the most critical thing about tasting wine?
Smelling it.
That's right. Put your sniffer to work before every sip. Swirl your wine several times to give it air and then stick your nose right in the glass, just like in the picture below.
What are you smelling? Fruit, oak, mineral, spice, coffee, chocolate, meat and flowers along with many other scents are all positives setting the stage for your tasting experience.
Prune, chemical, medicinal and wet cardboard, for example, are not nearly as appealing, and likely indicate a wine that is flawed - something you would not want to drink.
But you wouldn't know that unless you smelled it.