Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wine Trends For Spring!

Spring is in the air. Someplace.
Spring is my favorite time of year - no question! Our world explodes with new life as the grass greens, trees bud and flowers bloom.
Love is in the air!  Aahhhh ......
..... Wine!
As warmer weather approaches, wine sales experience a slight, but very definite shift. I've copied a link below from Time Magazine regarding their take on how the advent of Spring affects wine trends. I don't know where they get their information. It's interesting, but doesn't necessarily track with my observations here at The Market.
Here they are:
White Wines: While Chardonnay is a year round staple, it's the other whites that pick up the pace come Spring. Sauvignon Blanc, especially the crisp, refreshing styles from New Zealand really start to gain traction. Other crisp styles like Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris also emerge. We are very fond of the relatively unknown whites from Italy, for example, Gavi (Cortese grape), Soave (Garganega grape), Verdicchio (Verdicchio grape) and Vermentino (Vermentino grape). These Italian varietals, with their higher acidity levels, are terrifically refreshing, and excellent with mild white cheeses, lunch meats, and salads - ideal warm weather foods.
Rose' Wines: We may carry one Rose' wine in the shop during winter, but, as the weather warms, we expand to 6 or 7 Rose's wines - depending on the quality in a given year. These are such versatile wines, perfect to sip by themselves, but also great with all kinds of "grill" foods. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, chicken and barbecue all pair well with Rose'.
Producers have gotten more creative with Rose', too. They are now made from almost every red varietal,  for example: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. That's quite a list, and it doesn't take into account all the interesting blending that gets done with the grapes.
If you haven't done so yet, it's time to open your mind, and palate, to Rose' this season.
Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon always has a place as long as you're grilling steaks. But lighter reds also start to make their presence known. Zinfandel, Grenache and lighter Syrahs are ideal barbecue wines.
Red blends also become very popular. These wines can be blends of almost any red grapes - oftentimes they're just that, with 8 or more varietals in the mix. They are fruit forward, low in tannins, high in value and way up on the "enjoyability" chart.
Cheers to Spring!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Important Women In The World of Wine!

My wife, Judy, sends me lots of ideas and articles to use in my blogs.
Although I really appreciate her efforts, I probably use only about 10% of what she sends.
I'm not really sure if I'm offending her with that low acceptance rate, because she never comments or complains.
She's a good wife.
But, help me here, guys! How can I possibly ignore an article titled: "Women Winemakers Who Changed the World"?
One word:  "I can't".
I'm copying the link to the article below. It's an interesting read that references some of the great women in the industry. For example: Zelma Long: Mondavi, Cathy Corison: Corison (Cabernet), Chiara Boschis: Pira & Figli (Barolo) and Veronique Drouhin: Drouhin (Burgundy and Oregon).
But let's focus on The Wine Market.
I am very proud of the women that have visited The Market and poured their wines for our customers. My apologies to those I will miss, because I am just going from memory,  but man, (or should I say "woman"!) this is a pretty impressive list.
Katharina Prum: JJ Prum, Francesca Vaira: Vajra, Gaia Gaja: Gaja.
Just this past week we had Kelly Kehoe Foley from Robert Foley Wines and Jann Forth from Forth Winery visit The Market. Next week we have Nasim Momtazi from Maysara Winery. 
Looking forward to more great "wine women" visiting The Market in the months ahead!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More on the wine ratings game ....

During my high school and college years, I received my share of "A" and "C" grades.
How did I react to each?  A = Satisfaction. This is what I worked for and "deserved" to receive!
C = DEVASTATION! Woe is me - I'm no better than "average".
All the major critics use the 100 point scale to grade wine these days. Let's take the Wine Spectator scale and translate the score range into school grades (A through F):

  • 95-100: Classic: a great wine = A to A+
  • 90-94: Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style = B+ to A-
  • 85-89: Very good: a wine with special qualities = C+ to B+
  • 80-84: Good: a solid, well-made wine = C to C+
  • 75-79: Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws = D- to D+
  • 50-74: Not recommended = D- to F 
So, how many 80-84 point wines have you bought lately?  Huh??
These are "good, solid, well made wines".
Are you on the hunt for any 85-89 point wines? These are "very good: wines with special qualities".
Probably not.
I think I've made my point. Like our grades in school, standards for wine ratings are sometimes unrealistically high. Everyone wants the highest scoring wines at the best possible prices.
Retailers won't even post a score of 80-84 points, because they know it will be the death of the wine.
I've had many really good wines with scores of 87-89 points that are also excellent values. But, the sad thing is, I usually don't advertise the scores. I just promote the taste and value of the wines. And you know what? Many of these 87-89 pointers have developed quite a following.
Nothing is going to change any time soon. Certainly not because I wrote a little blog about this.
But, I think if we would all lighten up a little about wine scores, we would actually enjoy a greater variety of wines, and we would enjoy them NOW - without waiting for some "grade A" wine to evolve over the next 10-15 years.
Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal that gave me the inspiration for today's blog. It's interesting to read their "take" on the topic.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Comfort Wines For A Snowy Day!

It's been over two weeks since I've had anything to drink, and I have another month to go.
So, do I miss my wine?
$#@&!!, YEAH!!
Oh, I'm not in any pain or anything. There's no withdrawal to speak of. But, let me tell ya ... last week, when we had a fantastic surf and turf dinner of fillet Mignon and giant prawns .... I really, really wanted a nice Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with the food.
So, I have to find material other than my personal wine experiences to write about here.
Let's look to Kansas City, where my daughter, Becky and her husband, Paul live with their two daughters, Grace (3 1/2) and Kathryn (almost 1).
You may have heard that KC got hit with quite a bit of snow lately. Within a week, my kids got dumped with 10" and about 8" of the stuff. What to drink - what to drink?
The snow happened during the week, so you're not gonna crack open any expensive stuff.
Now Becky's not much of a drinker, although she does appreciate a good wine. How could she be my daughter otherwise.
But Paul. Paul is a another story. Let's just say, I may have been a bad (good?) influence on Paul.
Let's get to the wine. Paul selected two  reds - big on comfort and great on value.
2009 Forth Syrah - $15
2010 Barrel 27 Rock & Hard Place Grenache - $18
These are really amazing wines, especially for the money. There is nothing more satisfying than finding truly great wines at these price levels.
And now, this proud grandpa is going to shamelessly post a picture of granddaughter Grace playing in the snow.
My blog.


PS: I'm betting Paul had a few sips of Single Malt Scotch, too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Turmoil in the world of wine critics?

Upheaval in the wine world!
Wine critics running amok!
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little. But not really by that much.
Robert Parker recently sold a majority of The Wine Advocate to a Chinese conglomerate. This occurred shortly after Robert started reducing his work load by handing off the prestigious California wine beat to long time Italian critic, Antonio Galloni.
So what does Antonio go and do? He leaves The Wine Advocate to start up his own website to critique wine under his own name.
It's not just The Wine Advocate either. Last year, James Suckling left The Wine Spectator to start his own site.
So The Wine Advocate is a mess. The Wine Spectator seems to be re-inventing itself with lower ratings across the board for EVERYTHING! And new critics seem to keep coming out of the woodworks every day.
In addition to the "big boys" Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, you can get ratings from Stephen Tanzer (probably our favorite), Wine Enthusiast, Burghound, Decanter, Rhone Report, Wine & Spirits, and, new guys: James Suckling and Antonio Galloni. That's off the top of my head. I know I  missed several critics that are out there.
The retailer has a love/hate relationship with the critics. We can't knock any of them, because, let's face it, we rely on ratings to sell wine. The Wine Market may be a little different from some retailers in that WE NORMALLY NEED TO AGREE WITH A RATING BEFORE WE BACK IT. I say "normally", because it's not always possible for us to try every highly rated wine. Sometimes, demand is so high, and allocations so restricted, that we have to trust the critic's rating.
But what's the consumer to do? Here's a few things that I think make sense:
First, if you're so inclined, read as many reviews as possible. It's interesting to see how the critics align, and where they differ.
Second, find "wine people" you can trust. These resources can come from retailers, restaurant sommeliers, or from individual wineries. If these "wine people" really love wine, they will be happy to talk wine with you, and make suggestions on some of their favorites.
Finally, taste wine. Taste as much as you can. Here in St. Louis, there are always wine tastings - most of them at no charge. Restaurants also offer wine pairing dinners, and winemakers are constantly traveling the country to "work the markets".
Once you develop your palate and have a circle of "wine people" you can trust, the critics scores become just what they should be: one tool among many, to evaluate a wine.


Robert Parker evaluating a wine.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winery Focus: Brewer Clifton!

I was very pleased to read that The Los Angeles Times selected a Brewer Clifton Chardonnay as their "wine of the week".
Brewer Clifton has long been one of our favorite producers here at The Market. We will typically carry 3 or 4 Chardonnays, and a similar number of Pinot Noirs in our stock throughout the year.
Winemakers are ex-French professor Greg Brewer and ex-surfer and rock singer Steve Clifton. As diverse as those backgrounds are, they are very focused when it comes to their wine.
They produce only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area). They make several different vineyard specific wines, but never stray from the main model.
Here is what the winemakers have to say:  "We believe that the geographic, geologic and climatic uniqueness of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation provide an ideal place to grow chardonnay and pinot noir of intensity, complexity and specificity. Within the appellation, each vineyard carries its own imprint".
I find the Brewer Clifton style to be somewhere between the domestic and French styles of winemaking. The Chardonnays are excellent food wines, having good acidity and minerality, and the Pinot Noirs, like red Burgundies, are better with a few years of bottle age.
If you've never had a Brewer Clifton wine, stop by The Market sometime and give one a try. Or, even better, be sure to attend one of our Brewer Clifton tastings. We have at least two per year.
The LA Times link is below if you are interested in reading more.,0,5932500.story


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How is wine complex?

"A whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts". That's how Webster defines "complex".
This applies to every woman I've ever known .... but wine?
I've used "complex" to describe many wines in these blogs.  
But, what do I really mean when I use the word complex in relation to wine?
Nothing like putting yourself on the spot.
I'm going to step away and think about this a while.
Okay. I'm back.
Layers.  When I say a wine is complex, I'm referring to the layers of expression on both the nose and the palate. The various layers of scent and taste evolve as the wine sits in the glass and breathes,  revealing new and ever-changing sensations over whatever amount of time you are tasting the wine.
I think that's pretty cool. It's also what makes good quality, 'complex" wine really special.
Here's a great example of an excellent "complex" wine that I've enjoyed recently:
2010 Ojai Fe Ciega Pinot Noir, 93 Points Stephen Tanzer - $46 at The Market
Vivid ruby-red.  Raspberry compote and Asian spices on the alluringly perfumed nose, with notes of Asian spices and sandalwood adding complexity.  Sweet, sappy and expansive, offering sappy red and dark berry flavors and a silky texture.  Gains tension with air but maintains its fruity appeal.  Finishes with sweet notes of candied red berries and rose pastille. (Stephen Tanzer description)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to deal with bad wines from friends and family

So, here's a question.
What do you do when you are invited to a friend's or a family member's home for dinner and they serve bad wine?
Bad can mean many things. If the wine is corked, being in the business, I personally would take the opportunity to to educate everyone about the flaw in the wine. Cork taint can occur in any wine that uses a cork to seal the bottle. It is not a reflection on the quality of the producer. It's just something that  happens with wine. Nobody is at fault.
But what if it's just inferior wine? There's still lots of it out there.
I have one friend, also in the business, who upon his first taste would exclaim, loud enough for everyone to hear:
That, of course, presumes this is at the beginning of the meal. After several drinks, the diatribe gets much worse - unprintable actually.
I just keep my mouth shut in these cases.
This is a no win situation.
If somebody is serving you a meal in their home, you don't insult any part of it.
Would you say: "these mashed potatoes are lumpy and need more butter?" I think not.
Same goes for when someone brings inferior wine to your home when you are hosting the dinner.
Zip it.
Call me a wuss, but, sometimes there are more important things than the wine.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fat Tuesday Feast - And Wine!

What a meal we had last night!
My son Michael and his wife Dani invited us over for dinner and pinochle - something we try and do at least once a month.
We started with Judy's gumbo - made with sausage, bits of chicken and crawfish tails. I love crawfish!
The main course was a mixed grill of buttered shrimp, blackened tilapia, some kind of sausage and a side of Jambalaya to slather everything in.
Oh yeah, I think there was some rice and green beans, too.
The wines: Sarapo Chardonnay, Evening Land Edna Valley Pinot Noir with the meal - perfect, and a Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with some bittersweet chocolate for dessert.
As usual, the guys won at pinochle, but the ladies actually made a game of it this night.
And now.
No alcohol for 40 days!  Wish me luck.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Wine Pairing "Clunker"!

Stir fry last night.
Judy makes a good stir fry - lot's of Asian spices with a dash of cayenne pepper for a little heat.
I was looking forward to it.
As I was getting ready to leave The Market, I had this overwhelming craving for Champagne, so I bought a bottle of Mumm Napa Brut Rose' (okay, technically not Champagne, but a very good sparkler for only $20).
A few bites and sips into the meal Judy asks: "do you think this wine goes with the meal"?
Not only does it not go, it downright clashes with the meal. The sweet/spicy sauce in the stir fry made the wine taste sour.
What would have gone better? Probably a wine with less acid, and a little spice of its own like a Viognier or Gewurztraminer. You could even go with a fruity California Pinot Noir.
Sometimes my love of Champagne gets the better of me and I do silly things like this. I really do know better.
Oh well - can't win them all. The wine tasted great all by itself later.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

An epidemic of corked wine!

Doesn't it seem that things often come in bunches - both good and bad things?
It's been months since I had a corked wine, but, in the last week I've opened 5 bottles that were corked. 5 CORKED WINES IN A WEEK!
Three of the bottles were at The Market, and 2 were from my collection. One of those 2 was particularly painful.
We were having a nice Filet Mignon dinner this Tuesday, and I thought, what the heck, let's pop something special.
So I grabbed my last bottle of the 96 point 2003 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon.
I suspected no good as soon as I popped the cork.
But, just to make sure, I poured some into the glass and sniffed.
I felt like I'd been slapped in the face. It was so bad. The smell of wet, moldy newspaper just reeked into my nostrils and throat.
Since the wine was so old, and the store I bought it from was no longer in business, I had no recourse but to spill it down the drain.
I popped a 2005 Don Melchor which was excellent. Dinner was wonderful. The evening was saved,
And we enjoyed the Don with Wednesday's dinner too.
Let's hope for bunches of "good things" for next week.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Are You Aging Your Wine Too Long?

It feels good to be validated.
I'll get back to that opening comment in a bit.
I've written in other blogs about how I seldom age my wine for over 5 years. I prefer my wines young, and I really don't think most wines evolve that much after 5 years - maximum 10. I am also, I would say, "hyper" sensitive to oxidation - a process that occurs in all wines as they age. I just don't like it.
Young wines were not always so drinkable. Only in the past 20 years or so did you find this phenomenon with young wine, especially reds.
One of the main reasons for this is a process called "green harvesting". This practice has been in place since the 1980's, but did not become common practice until the 90's.
Green harvesting is the removal of immature grape bunches from the vine, typically for the purpose of decreasing yield. What this seemingly simple process does for wine, however, is magical.
Removing the immature grapes while they are still green induces the vines to put all their energy into developing the remaining grapes. This results in wines that are more ripe and well rounded with softer, silkier tannins. Also, the "greenness" that can occur with underdeveloped grapes is significantly reduced.
The ultimate outcome is the production of wines that don't need to age as long as in the past.
Tannins are softer, and wines are multi-dimensional and complex, often right out of the bottle.
Wine countries all over the world have adopted this process, so you will even find young Bordeaux and  Barolos that are more approachable in their youth.
Wine Spectator editor, Matt Kramer, wrote an interesting article titled: "Is It Worth It to Age Wines Anymore?"
So that's why I feel validated. An "expert" agrees with me.
What I didn't realize, was that there are legitimate reasons for my preferences in wine drinking.
That's what I love about wine. I learn something new every day.
I've copied the link to the Kramer article if you want to read more.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Great Wine and Sloppy Joes?

My good buddy, Cory, celebrated a birthday this Sunday.
What did he want to do?
How about a sloppy joe cook off?
Cory judged about 7 different recipes, selected his top 3 favorites, passed out awards to the winners and we proceeded to drink and watch football ..... at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon. Just what I needed.
What do you drink with sloppy joes and football? My first guess would be beer.
Not this group. Check out some of these wines:
2010 Herman Story Tomboy
2009 Proyecto Grenache
2009 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barricia Vineyard
2001 Paul Hobbs Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (Seriously)
We also had an Amarone, Lohre Cabernet, Ridge Zinfandel and a Bordeaux. I forgot the vintages on these.
We had to leave early, before the "serious" drinking started - probably a good thing!
It's  been at least 30 years since I had a sloppy joe, and I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed trying the different recipes.
My favorite wines with the joes were the Grenache and the Zins.
Maybe the great wines elevated the humble sloppy joe to "fine dining" for a day.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Falling Sinks, Wine and a Restaurant

Happy New Year!
I took about 10 or so days off from blogging due to being brain dead from holiday craziness.
I'm still a little brain dead. This may actually be a permanent condition, but I'm going to start blogging again anyway.
On Monday this week at about 10:30 AM, my wife, Judy, texts me one word:  "catastrophe"!
Shortly thereafter, I get this text: "the kitchen sink fell"!
Do I have your attention yet?
I can assure you, she had mine.
We have a high gauge stainless steel undermount sink that's fastened to a granite countertop. Clearly, it wasn't fastened very well, because the epoxy holding the two pieces together weakened to the point where the sink separated from the granite and just fell down.
The house is 9 years old, and I guess stuff happens, but geez - falling sinks?!
So what does one do with a fallen kitchen sink that eliminates use of the garbage disposal, dishwasher and any running water in the kitchen?
Here's what we did. Judy scheduled the granite guys and the plumber guy to fix this mess, and I grabbed a bottle of wine and we went to one of our favorite restaurants: Paul Manno's. The food, as always, was fantastic. But the wine was the star.
2006 Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape got a 94 point rating from Wine Spectator, and it sure was a deserving score this night.
So, our first adventure of the New Year has happened. It's a pain, and it's going to cost us. But we rationalized having a great bottle of wine and going out to dinner. As they say, you can rationalize anything.