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.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crazy Wine Requests!

Twice in one day last week I received requests to special order some wine. We normally welcome special orders. We're happy our customers think of us for their special requests. We obviously can't carry every wine that's made in our inventory. For both requests, the exchange between me and the customers went almost exactly like this:
Customer: Do you carry this wine?
Me: Sorry, no. But I can probably get it. Would you like me to try?
Customer: Yes.
Me: I will confirm the price for you, but, it will probably be about $10 per bottle. How much did you want?
Customer: 1 bottle.
Is it just me, or would this frustrate anyone else?
We all have frustrations in our jobs, I guess. This is just one that comes with the retail wine business.
Thanks for listening. I feel better now.


Friday, June 15, 2012

How About Some Wine For Dad?

Father's Day gift buying has started, and that's a good thing for all the dads out there as well as your friendly neighborhood Wine Market.
Although we're seeing some accessories and some Single Malt Scotch purchases, the most popular gift item - by far and away - is Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends from California and Washington State. Quite a few people have wandered into "The Cellar" and picked up some high end wines that are $70 and up.
It's nice to see that our dads are so appreciated and loved.
I love being a dad. I've been one for 29 years now, and I consider it an honor and a blessing.
So, here's a toast to all our dads on their special day.
Here's a special toast to my dad who I miss very much. He was not a wine drinker - never touched the stuff. Strictly a beer guy and usually Budweiser - unless he was sick - then he would sip on a brandy.
This Bud's for you, Dad!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

2012 Favorite Wines - So Far

As a kid, I always loved to make lists and rate and rank things. Friends, cars, bikes, plants - you name it, It got rated and ranked by little Tommy.
Well, here I am, an old geezer, and I still like to do it.
So, since it's about mid-year, it seems appropriate to rank the favorite wines that I've tasted this year. I did not include any wines over $60. All wines are still available at The Market - but some will be gone soon. In no particular order, here they are:
2007 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Sheridan L'Orage (Cabernet/Cabernet Franc)
2008 Big Basin Odeon (Syrah/Cabernet)
2010 Maison Bleue JaJa (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre)
2007 Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval (Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Cabernet)
2008 Paitin Langhe (Nebbiolo/Barbera)
2008 Ramey Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay
2010 Brewer Clifton Mt. Carmel Chardonnay
2010 Neyers Carneros Chardonnay
2010 Val de Mer Chablis
2007 JJ Prum Graacher Spatlese Riesling
Value (Under $20)
2009 Falesco Merlot
2010 Proyecto Garnacha
2010 La Vendimia (Tempranillo/Garnacha)
2009 Chevalier Aligote'
2010 Felino Cabernet
2011 Puech-Haut Prestige
2011 Maison Bleue La Famille
2005 Aubry Ivoire & Ebene Brut
2004 Chartogne-Taillet Brut
Beer (Snuck this in)
Weihenstephaner Original Lager
Bell's Oberon
Odell Myrcenary Double IPA


Friday, June 8, 2012

Schramsberg - A Great Winery To Visit!

Next time you're in Napa, make sure you pay a visit to our country's greatest sparkling wine producer:
Schramsberg Vineyards.
You will have to make an appointment, but it's well worth the extra effort. You will get an informative tour of the cool Schramsberg caves, and an interesting overview of the winemaking process. They make their wine the same way as Champagne which is known as methode champenoise. They even still turn the bottles by hand, which is known as riddling. You'll hear all about it on the tour.
At the end of the tour you end up in a candle lit open area of the cave, where you taste all of the Schramsberg wines - or at least most of them.
You might also get to taste the still wines that are made under the J. Davies label - a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I can't wait to go back!


A section of the Schramsberg caves.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hey! I thought I liked that wine.

Drinking wine is not just drinking, it's an "experience".  And the psychology behind our wine experiences can be pretty interesting.
Here's an example: take a drive out to one of Missouri's or Illinois' wine regions. It's a beautiful day, you're sitting outside, maybe a band is playing, you're with good friends and/or loved ones, and you're eating good food and drinking wine from the winery. Life is good. So, it's time to leave and you buy some wine to take home - maybe mix up a case. Later that week you select a bottle of a red wine from your recent winery purchase to go with a pot roast.
You pop open the bottle with great anticipations and ... THUD!  Is this the same wine?  Of course it is.  But there are a few elements missing, like the setting, music, company and food. All these "other elements" are a big part of our wine tasting experiences and add to the enjoyment of the wine.
Here I go picking on the poor local wineries again.
But the same holds true when you're experiencing wine on vacation, at a romantic dinner, or even at a special event or party. And the wines can be from California, France, Italy, Spain, etc.
So is there a moral to this story?
Heck, I don't know.
Try this: Just as there are no guarantees in life, there are also no guarantees in wine.
I'm gonna go with that one.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Should I Decant My Wine?

A customer came in the other day and bought a couple of wines I recommended. I love when that happens. As I was checking him out, I suggested that he decant one of the wines. He asked what I meant, and I told him to pour the wine into a decanter for an hour or so. Then he asked "what's a decanter"? I was speechless for a moment. Have I become a "wine snob"? Why should I expect everyone to know what decanting is? So I explained it to him and he merrily went on his way - another happy customer!
Which brings us back to the topic of decanting.
There are two reasons to decant your wine. For older reds (10 years or more), you decant to strain off the sediment that may have developed over the years. If you've ever had the experience of chewing these solids that form in red wine, you know that they need to be removed. "Purists" will scoff at this, but the easiest way to decant these wines is to pour them from the bottle through a strainer into your decanter.
The second reason to decant is to aerate young wines. This usually applies to young reds, but I've seen whites also benefit greatly from a little air. The extra air opens up the nose and softens the tannins. Once again, purists will hate this idea, but, what I like to do is pour the wine from the bottle through a Vinturi aerator into the decanter. This provides extra aeration and will benefit any young wine.
Decanters come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and prices range from $5 to $1000+.  Seriously.
The good news is they all pretty much accomplish the same thing, so expensive will likely get you a prettier decanter, but not necessarily a better one.