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VinoWeek - Episode 69 - Wildfire Hangover
10.7.2022Bill and I get together for a new podcast after an extended absence. On this podcast you can find out where we’ve been, what’s new in wine country and what we’ve been drinking and eating.It’s summertime so we find ourselves drinking less red wine and more rosé and white wines. Our wine recommendation for this week is the Mönchhof Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett. The Mönchhof is said to be one of the oldest wine estates in the West German Mosel Valley dating back to 1177. This fruity off dry version of a 100% Riesling is grown on vertiginous, brick colored, cliff-like hills that tower over the village of Urzig which sits on the left bank of the Mosel river.A light yellow color with a tinge of green this Riesling has a lovely green apple, lime, lees and jasmine blossom nose. Lovely baking spice, honeyed peaches complexity on the palate, with fresh bright acidity balancing out the light sweetness. A lovely way to welcome in the summer this sublime Riesling would pair well with a variety of fried foods, charcuterie boards, vegetables and sushi. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers! World Beer Cup 2022
VinoWeek - Episode 68 - Wine Tasting Hospitality Has Changed
4.8.2021Consolidation in the U. S. wine industry continues at an unabated pace. Most of the mergers and acquisitions are followed weeks later by layoffs and closures of production facilities. Sebastiani, Coppola and Chateau Ste. Michelle are some of the most recent buyouts. Right now is one of the best times to be looking for a job in the California wine industry. A quick look on winejobs.com will yield hundred of job offers. Terri and I finally ventured out and went wine tasting for the first time since the start of the Covid pandemic. Bill and I discuss our visit to Ledson Winery in Sonoma Valley and lament the loss of the casual drive up tasting we were able to enjoy before Covid changed our world.Climate change is wreaking havoc everywhere. Recent flooding in Belgium and Germany and in particular the Ahr Valley wine region has cost hundreds of lives and many businesses and livelihoods have been lost. James Lawrence shares the story of how Weingut Paul Schumacher was destroyed by floods.Bill and I discuss these items and more in this week's addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!
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VinoWeek - Episode 66
29.3.2021Imported wine prices could be headed lower? Ursula Von der Leyen President of the European Commission and President Biden have agreed to suspend all tariffs with regard to the Airbus-Boeing dispute for four months. President Von der Leyen, the first woman elected to head the European Commission is responsible for setting the Commission’s policy agenda and is just 15 months into a five year term that started in December of 2019. She’s quickly gaining allies in the food and agriculture sectors of Europe by working with President Biden who himself has been in office less than ten weeks to pause the tariffs as officials work to negotiate a longer lasting agreement that can benefit all parties. European wine imports have dropped substantially since the wine tariffs were put into affect in October of 2019. This brief respite will give importers and retailers welcomed relief from the punishing penalties of the increased taxes amidst a pandemic. We’ll have to wait and see if consumers benefit from the unexpected windfall too.John Fox notorious for running a wine Ponzi Scheme out of his Berkeley, California retail store has been released from federal custody two years earlier than scheduled. One of the conditions of his release is that he make $45 million in restitution to those he swindled. I’d hate to be an unwilling creditor on that list. One of the unlikely consequences of the pandemic and the wine glut is that the price of wine is going down and the quality of the wine at lower price points is going up. We sight several examples in this podcast. Bill and I discuss these items and more in this week's addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!Our wine recommendation this week is the 2018 Cantina Kurtatsch Vernatsch Alte Reben. Cantina Kurtatsch is a co-operative that is located in north-eastern Italy, in the region of Alto Adige that borders Austria to the north. The area is more known for its white wines, where 62% of the wine produced is white vs 38% red. The ubiquitous Schiava, Vernatsch in German is the most cultivated red grape in the area followed closely by Pinot Noir and Lagrein. The Kurtatsch co-operative like most co-ops in northern Italy is not well known in the U.S. We are starting to see more whites wines from Alto Adige but I suspect most of the good Schiava from the area never leaves Europe. One can hardly blame importers from looking askance at Schiava based red wines with their low alcohol and light bodied profiles; not unlike a lean unoaked Pinot Noir, Schiava is not what the American consumer is buying in todays markets.So why am I recommending the Sonntaler (sunny valley) Schiava? Often when I’m looking at a bottle of wine I’m unfamiliar with I spin it around and look for the name of the importer on the back label. In this case the importer was North Berkeley Imports, a favorite of mine, so I felt comfortable in making the purchase. Being familiar with Vernatsch/ Schiava wines I wasn’t disappointed. With spring weather coming on I was looking for a less heavy red wine and the Sonntaler (12.5 % abv) fitted the bill. The 100% old vine Schiava grapes are hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine then spends six months in 2,376 gallon neutral Slavonian oak casks. The Sonntaler has a light ruby color that is translucent on the edges. On appearance alone it could easily be mistaken for a Cerasuolo, a deeply hued rosé wine from central Italy. The Sonntaler is fragrant and approachable. Cranberry and strawberry on the nose are in concert with its lean lightly spiced red fruit profile. Light bodied yet flavorful I enjoyed the tongue tingling minerality on the finish. If you’re in the mood for an change and you want to expand your wine palate I highly recommend you pick up a bottle of Sonntaler. For now this may be the best way for us to take a trip to the Alpine meadows of Northern Italy.
The World's Biggest Wine Company Expands
14.1.2021Constellation Brands executives must be elated to finally complete their sale of over 32 wine brands and five wineries to E. J. Gallo Winery. The $810 million deal was less than half of the $1.7 billion initially proposed in April of 2019, as the Federal Trade Commission insisted Constellations exclude their sparkling wine, brandy, dessert wine and concentrate business lines as a condition of approval. Constellation sheds all their $11 and under products in a bid to go upscale and Gallo picks up a bevy of bottom shelf labels and more production capacity. Who comes out on top in this deal? For now primarily the grape growers who no longer have to deal with the uncertainty of who will be buying their grapes. As the details of the mega-deal were being worked out many farmers have been in limbo. What will this deal mean for wine lovers? It’s certainly promising on this front as E. J. Gallo has a history of improving the wine operations they acquire. Look no further than the wonderful work they’ve done at Louis M. Martini, Pahlmeyer Winery, J Vineyards and Winery and MacMurray Estate Vineyards. Once Gallo integrates the newly acquired brands into their operations the consumer will likely benefit as Gallo is so much better at running a wine business than Constellation. Better quality wine at the $11 and under price point is a win for the consumer. Having not had any of the following brands for years as they have become so banal I’m looking forward to the prospect of Gallo reviving and improving the quality of the future offerings at Ravenswood, Blackstone and Clos du Bois. E. J. Gallo is a private company that now represents almost 30% of all bottles of wine produced in the U.S. Not bad for a couple of brothers that switched from growing grapes to squishing them to make wine in 1933. One could easily make the argument that Gallo is too big and controls too much of the U.S. market. After all it took almost two years for them to get approval from federal regulators. That a lot of sifting through the fine print to ensure consumers don’t get hosed on the deal. Based on current market conditions I’d speculate that we can expect more consolidation in the coming years in the wine industry. A post pandemic euphoria will undoubtedly lift revenues for travel, hospitality, retailers and restaurants, but the relief may not come quickly enough for some winemakers. Gallo will almost certainly be a player in future acquisitions. Kwame Onwuachi and Alice Waters pen a nice piece for The Washington Post theorizing that once president elect Joe Biden is sworn in he can take immediate steps to save mom and pop American restauranteurs by taking executive action. Oh if it were that easy. Bill and I discuss these items and more in this week's addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers! Our wine recommendations this week are Bellavista Alma Gran Cuvée Franciacorta. The region of Franciacorta is roughly 50 miles east of Milano in northern Italy.A blend of 77% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Nero and 1% Pinot Bianco. Bright and zesty apple and lemon flavors on a full bodied frame. A real crowd pleaser. You can wow your friends with this one as they remark “Hey this is great Champagne”. Then you can gently remind them, it’s not Champagne it’s Franciacorta. $23 Buy it here.Domaine Allimant-Laugner Crémant D’Alsace Brut Rosé - 100% Pinot Noir this sparkling wine has a beautiful light salmon color. Clean and crisp red fruits on the nose. Strawberries and cranberries with good depth of flavor on the palate. $16 Buy it here.Marcel Cabelier Cremant Du Jura - This wine hails from Jura France a region sandwiched between the Burgundy wine region and the Swiss border. It’s 90% Chardonnay, the remainder Pinot Noir and Poulsard. A light straw yellow color in the glass, the green apple and biscuit aromas and flavors could easily fool you into thinking it’s Champagne. This is our new house bubbly. Why spend all your money on a luxury Champagne brand when you can get this level of quality and complexity for a third of the cost? $20 Buy it here.2018 La Bastide Saint Dominique Cotes du Rhone Villages - 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre 15% Carignan. Fermented and aged in stainless steel the nose is quite shy on first impression. Decant it and leave it alone for an hour and you will be welcomed to a wonderful black and blue fruit nose. It’s full bodied with a good punch and spiciness on the palate. A nice mid length savory finish. La Bastide wines age extremely well so you can lose a few of these in storage and not have to worry. $17 Buy it here.2018 Crous St. Martin Les Espaliers Gigondas - 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. This relatively new label is a collaboration between wine agent Harry Bosmans and wine grower Eric Bonnet of Domaine Bastide Saint Dominique. A deep ruby color in the glass the nose shows deep red fruit and spice. On the palate it’s refreshing, savory and beautifully balanced. A wonderful new discovery. $25 Buy it here.2017 Juan Gil Monastrell Silver Label - Crafted from 100% Monastrell from the region of Jumilla in southeastern Spain. The 40 year old Monastrell vines are dry farmed on limestone soils. The wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. Deep black and purple in the glass, aromas of blackberries, blueberries, black cherries, licorice and sweet oak accompany a mineral rich and concentrated palate. It’s full bodied with just enough acidity to ward off a slightly sweet sensation on the finish. Ages ago I consumed a lot of this wine and it’s exactly as I remembered it. I’m glad I ‘ve rediscovered it again. $15 Buy it here.2015 Blue Gray Priorat - 50% Garnacha, 30% Mazuelo (Carignane), 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Another Label from the Gil Family Estates this wine is packed with juicy black fruit and savory spice. It’s rich and concentrated but not jammy. Very approachable, its balance and well integrated tannins have made it our house red. $18 Buy it here.
VinoWeek - Episode 64
1:08:23Delivery startup Go Puff has just announced its acquisition of alcohol beverage retailer BevMo. While Bevmo already has an online presence and delivery service Go Puff’s network, which delivers convenience store items will make it even more opportune for people to channel their inner couch potato. Convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan has finished serving his federal prison sentence and is now in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Where he will end up is anybody’s guess. I appears Rudy may be just as difficult to keep track of as the bogus collectible wines he forged in the past.Jeff Siegel who writes the wine blog the Wine Curmudgeon pens a nice piece on how we have grown to accept expensive wine. How much is too much to pay for a bottle of wine that you plan to consume? Alpana Singh, a master sommelier in the U.S. has resigned her title. Esther Mobley interviews Alpana who reveals her decades long experience as a woman of color within the Court of Master Sommeliers. Bill and I discuss these items and more in this week's addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!
Smoke Taint Concerns Grape Growers
20.9.2020Lately there hasn’t been much to celebrate about and as a result Champagne growers are facing challenges due to the pandemic and collapsing sales. So far the French government has not offered any actionable help. Can growers and winemakers work together to hold prices steady?Franzia is selling a backpack that holds an entire box of wine. As it turns out their apparel site has a bunch of other swag you can purchase as well. If wildfires and air quality indexes in the very unhealthy to hazardous zone for over three weeks weren’t enough, triple digit heat was recorded for several days in many grape growing regions of California. The specter of smoke taint is something that has most in the industry adopting a wait and see attitude. Mike Pomranz pens a piece for Food & Wine looking into the complexities of dealing with smoke taint as a grape grower or a winemaker. Bill and I discuss these items and more in this week's addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers! Our wine recommendation this week is the 2016 Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Chardonnay. Most of the grapes for this Chardonnay were sourced from the Carneros region of Napa, due southeast of the city of Napa bordering the San Pablo Bay. A small percentage of the grapes are sourced from up valley in the Rutherford area. Using indigenous yeast the Chardonnay is 100% barrel fermented. After fermentation the wine was transferred to French oak barrels 24% which were new. The wine was aged for one year and received bâtonnage as needed. After barrel ageing the wine was allowed to settle in tanks and then it was bottled unfiltered. This wine strikes a nice balance between the California oak bombs of yesteryear and no oak Chardonnays that are more in fashion today. This is Alberto Bianchi, who hails from Milan, first vintage at Newton and he has crafted a remarkably sophisticated, powerful and complex Chardonnay. The color is light straw. Green apples, pear and oak aromas are reconfirmed on the firm and juicy palate. The wine has good depth and roundness at this stage. This is a wine to drink now or you could cellar it for several years to allow it gain some bottle complexity. 14 % abv $35 - $40 Buy it here.
What Is Clean Wine?
14.8.2020We have a new wine bar in Sebastopol. Region wine bar will specialize in pouring small production wines using self-serve wine machines.Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power have entered the celebrity wine business. Their wine brand Avaline, is entering a crowded market place. Years of consolidation by alcohol producers and wholesalers, uncertainty due to an ongoing trade war and now a pandemic makes one consider their market timing. However the ladies may be filling a void by marketing their product as a “clean wine”. Danny Meyer has hit the play button and is rehiring staff and slowly reopening his restaurants. The challenges of the pandemic have caused him to re-examine his policies on tipping though. With over 20,000 restaurants currently out of business in the U.S. Danny has plans to survive the fallout and still bring about equity within the ranks of the restaurant business.Dan Berger pens a nice article on the drawbacks of vintage charts. When I first started learning about wine I always carried a vintage chart in my wallet. How about you? Do vintage charts help you make buying decisions on wine?Bill and I discuss these items and more in this week's addition of VinoWeek. Thanks to everyone for listening. Cheers!Our wine recommendation this week is the 2015 Domaine de Compostelle. Domaine de Compostelle is the second wine for Chateau La Cabanne. The estate in the past has had a reputation of under-performing considering its neighbors are Chateau Clinet and Chateau Trontanoy. In 2010 a big fire destroyed most of the vat room and all of the 2008 vintage. This allowed the owners the Estager family to outfit the Chateau with state of the art equipment, vats and cooperage. Things appear to be on the upswing as the 2015 Compostelle is a wonderful wine. The blend is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. After fermentation the wine is aged for fourteen months in 50% new french oak barrels while the balance is aged in second and third use barrels. Drinking extremely well right now Compostelle is medium to full bodied. The nose shows violets, red berries, currants and plums with a touch of earthiness. On the palate its fresh and crisp displaying an all too pleasing touch of cocoa covered cherries. It’s young but the tannins are already well integrated. Good Pomerol is never cheap, there’s just not enough of it to go around. Here you have a Pomerol from a good vintage, that’s still available at a fair price. $40 alc 14.5 Buy it here. Drinking Extremely Well Right Now