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.