Friday, August 27, 2010

The PHANTOM has made an appearance again!

The PHANTOM has made an appearance again!

I’m so pumped about the early release of the Phantom from Bogle! The last three years in a row this has been my holiday wine. I buy two cases, (one for personal consumption, and one to give) and for every holiday event/party/get-together that I attend it's my host gift. I like doing this because so many people have never tried Phantom and it's my way of spreading some Phantom love around...

Once you try it - you're hooked. You'll join the ranks of those on Phantom waiting lists around the country!  This is a small production, limited release wine that is eagerly awaited by a savvy group of people who have had the pleasure of trying it.

Each year the blend is slightly different, this year a 53-44% split on the Old Vine Petite Sirah & Zinfandel, with just a touch of the Old Vine Mourvedre. This is the only blended wine that Bogle produces, with the best of their fruit going into this cult classic.

 My cellar contains remnants of previous releases of ’03, ’04, ’05 and the ’06 – Can’t wait to call friends and let them know we’re having an early PHANTOM party!  This wine just gets better, and better, and better with time in the bottle. I see a vertical tasting looming on the horizon! How awesome is that?

$19.99 @ World Market
Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

Click on the link below to go to the tasting notes for this year’s release!

Monday, August 23, 2010

You say it's your birthday... Gonna have a good time...

My daughter and my wine just turned 21!
 Time to celebrate - where's the corkscrew?

In 1989 I knew very little about wine ( I think I was a California "Chablis" drinker at the time), but I was a new mother and the founding member of the Baby Bunch, a group of about 15 new moms who met in the hospital where we gave birth. After being discharged, we continued to meet at a new mother exercise program sponsored by the hospital. When that ended, the Baby Bunch was born and we met weekly at different homes each Wednesday for a Baby Bunch Lunch, (Imagine that - I must have an affinity for that day of the week!) 

One of my tasks as founding member was to write the Baby Bunch News for the group, a monthly newsletter with tips and interesting new-mom type information.  As we approached the babies first birthdays I wrote an article about birthday wine, advising the moms to seek out wines made in the year of the babies birth. The purpose being to open the wines when the "babies" turned 21 and everyone would share the special bottle. I'm not certain how many of the other moms did the Birthday Wine thing, but I thought it was fun and there began my quest for birthday wine.

Of course, I was completely unaware that in 1989 I would be unable to find a wine made in 1989. I remember thinking they had all sold out! So, I kept searching the racks each time I ventured into a store that sold wine. One day (I think my daughter was about 2 - so perhaps 1991), I came across a 1989, it was a Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I probably paid $7-8 for the bottle. The salesman told me that the wine should be kept in a cool environment if it was to be enjoyed at a later date. I'm certain he never imagined that I was buying it to store for 19 more years!

I carried the bottle home carefully and put it into the refrigerator (standing up). Every time I opened the fridge door, I would see that bottle proudly standing there and think to myself, "What a clever person I am! We'll open that bottle and it will be wonderful and special, since old wine is always better than new wine!" 

We moved six times between 1991 and 2010 and we carted that wine with us from place to place, carrying it as if it was the baby. I remember we moved from Atlanta to Minneapolis in 1991 and we drove across the country with the bottle swaddled in layer after layer of men's tube sox to protect it, always keeping in mind that day in the future when we'd open the bottle and everyone would exclaim how fantastic it was and, of course, what a great mom I was to have had the forethought to save the wine, thereby adding some grandeur to the occasion!

One day a friend, who was very much into wine, had us over for dinner and served a bottle from a case they had just purchased.  It was a Cabernet from Smother's - Remick Ridge in Sonoma. The vintage? You guessed it - 1989! I almost fell out of my seat while explaining my two-year quest for the Birthday Wine.   They graciously gave us a bottle to be saved for our special occasion. I placed it next to the Kendall Jackson, secure in the knowledge that, surely, I must be the greatest mom of all time - after all, I now had TWO birthday bottles!

In 1998 my husband and I visited Napa with friends. By now I was also into wine  - having two bottles cellared down for the long-term, I was considered somewhat of an expert :o) - and had begun to expand my knowledge base by reading such technical volumes as, Wine for Dummies.   During our visit to wine country we sat in the tasting room at Beringer and were poured samples of  the 1989 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, it was delicious and I convinced my husband to purchase a bottle ($125!) since it was for our "special occasion". (Visions of sainthood in the gallery of Best Mothers danced in my head, for I now had THREE bottles of birthday wine!)

Here are a couple of nicely aged Smother's Brothers!
Over the next couple of years I had started to haunt wine shops, trolling the aisles, reading labels and tasting notes. On one such visit I stopped dead in my tracks, staring at the bottle before me in the clearance bin - it was Oakford Vineyards, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon... 1989. Be still my heart! With a $45 price tag I grabbed that one, lone bottle (ever so gently, of course) and carried it, cradled in my arms, to the cashier who wrapped it carefully in white tissue paper and bagged it for me. All the way home I was silent, my mind racing... Surely, I am the best mother in the ENTIRE universe, for I, and only I, have found not one, not two - NO, not even three, but FOUR, count them FOUR bottles of BIRTHDAY WINE!

Fast forward to yesterday and the opening of the birthday wine... Last week (in anticipation of the big moment) I moved the bottles from their position in the lay-down rack of the temperature and humidity controlled storage area to a stand-up shelf to allow any sediment that had formed to fall to the bottom of the bottles. At the last hour, I decided to open just one of the bottles and selected the Smother's - Remick Ridge.  (In 1994 Wine Spectator awarded this wine a whopping 82 points and recommended drinking it "now"... "Light and simple with herb, currant and spice notes. Drink now. 681 cases made. –")

I used a foil cutter to remove the capsule on the top of the bottle and then examined the cork - it looked in good condition, so I gently inserted the corkscrew. Right away I could feel the cork giving way, I tugged on the corkscrew and tried to remove the cork. It came up in a jagged piece and began to turn into dust. I reinserted the corkscrew and pulled up another chunk of cork; I repeated this process several more times until the entire cork was removed.

The big moment had arrived! I carefully poured the wine through a filter (to catch any remaining pieces of cork or sediment) into the waiting glasses.
Sediment in the bottle - not a lot considering the wine was unfiltered and unfined...

I took a tentative Gary Vee sniffy-sniff.  Hmmm... I could still smell the fruit, so that was promising. (When a wine is getting tired, or old, it will most often lose its fruit first.) I didn't want to swirl the wine for fear of losing whatever aromatics it still had. (Older wines can be very delicate and should be handled gently and with care.) We distributed the glasses, made a very quick toast to the birthday girl, and then dove into the wine.

Looks of surprise were on everyone's face - the wine was still good! YAY! The rich, heavy California Cabernet Sauvignon had mellowed. It's hard tannins had softened into silky liquid strands of fruit and structure. In fact, my mother, who NEVER drinks red wine, commented that it had none of the "dry, bitterness" that she detests in red wines, and didn't smell "alcoholic or strong like most red wines" did.

As we sipped our wine, I explained about tannins and how, with oak and age, they can change from big, harsh and astringent, to smooth and supple - helping the wine to feel balanced in your mouth. We paired the wine with a peppercorn and olive, Parmesan spread and crackers; it went well and didn't overpower the, now more delicate, Smother's Brothers Remick Ridge Cabernet. 

All in all, a satisfying experience that I would recommend to every parent of a newborn...

Find it ~ Buy it ~ CELLAR it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

PS ~ Did I win the coveted "Mother of the Year" award? Nah, but I wouldn't have changed a thing, the hunt for the infamous Birthday Bottles was fun, and the anticipation of opening these wines over the last 19 years was exciting!

PPS ~ I decided to save the other bottles for other momentous occasions that will come up: Graduation from college or grad school; Engagement; Wedding; Birth of a grandchild; or maybe when everything else in the cellar is gone and times are desperate!

Here are some links to reviews on the other birthday wines:

BERINGER Private Reserve 1989: In 1993 Robert Parker said it would stand up through 2007, so I think we have a good chance of another decade!

OAKFORD Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1989: Wine Spectator: Score: 88  Release Price: $25
Issue: Nov 15, 1994: "Offers spice, mint and currant flavors and finishes with firm tannins. Ready now but it should drink well over the next few years. 1,000 cases made."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I went to TexSom 2010 and all I brought back was a lousy spit cup...


Q:     So, 165 wines in one sitting? Just exactly how is that done? I mean, who props you up and rolls you from tasting station to tasting station?

A:     Well, it's not like that. I mean, yes, you DO go from station to station, and each station might have 6-12 wines represented and open for tasting. But, you DON'T drink them, you TASTE them. Therein lies the difference, my friend... AND, even when you TASTE, you don't swallow. I know, I know - Gore didn't inhale - yada, yada, yada.  It's all about asking yourself some questions: Why am I here - business, or pleasure? What do I hope to gain from this tasting event - expansion of my palate, or free wine? What sort of impression do I want to make - industry professional, or wine-tourist? (I was taught this last one by my friend and former boss, Tabitha Crocker, and I try to remember it whenever I step into a room to sample or evaluate wine.)

I have attended some two hour wine tastings where, literally, 300 wines were open for you to sample. Of course you can't event attempt to sample all of them. Swallowing a one-ounce pour from each would be the equivalent of drinking 13 and a half bottles of wine. You'd be dead of alcohol poisoning! Seriously, it's just not done. Here are some suggestions if you're fortunate enough to attend a large tasting event:

When you enter an open table tasting like that, you are given a program listing the wines to be poured. In a perfect world you would scan the list, look for wines that meet your needs that day, and head to those tables. Again, asking yourself some questions:

Work: If I am looking to supplement something in my set at work, am I looking for value wines or premium wines? Red, or white? Pinot Noir, or Cabernet? Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc? Imported or domestic?

Personal: Yes, it's okay to admit you're there for personal reasons! If I am trying to expand my palate, I look at the list and head toward tables representing regions and wines that I want to become more familiar with - Loire Valley Chenin Blanc and Chinon, Spain for some Priorat, New Zealand Pinot Noir...

 If I want to practice food and wine pairings, I grab a plate of food and head for the tables with wines I think will pair well - most of the time I find I'm happy with my choices, but sometimes I have a big miss, and that's good, too, because I have learned something. And that's always awesome!

So, you've checked out the list of wine being poured, you've marked or noted what is of interest to you, narrowing it down from 300 to maybe 25, or 30 - Good for you!! Head to those tables and the tasting begins:

Wait Your Turn: There is always a line, hold your glass by the stem and wait until you're facing the pourer.

Be Nice: Tell them you'd like to sample the _________. (Be nice, they are giving you free wine, so smile, say please, and thank you.) Then hold your glass out and they'll pour a one-ounce sample.

Don't just drink it, you should evaluate it using the three S's:

See, Sniff, Sample

See: Hold the glass (by the stem), look at the wine and its color; swirl it a bit (Be careful! you don't want to spill it on your nice white shirt! And that's another thing Tabby taught me - Never wear white to a wine tasting!), so swirl it and check out how it hangs on the sides of the glass.

Sniff: Now do the little "sniffy-sniff" (ala Gary Vaynerchuk) and see if anything smells familiar, if not - well, then do you LIKE the aroma, or not?

Sip: Okay, now we're to the sample part (finally!) - take a small sip, hold it in your mouth and splash it around a bit, then spit it out. Yes, you heard me - SPIT IT OUT.

Every table will have a dump/spit bucket there, and yes - people DO use them. Don't get so disturbed... You'll get another sip, after all - an ounce is pretty big!  If you try the first sip and don't like the sample poured, DUMP IT OUT.

Do not drink it... Life's too short, the tasting is too long, and there are too many good wines to actually swallow something you don't like. Just take your glass and pour the sample into the dump bucket on the table, say thank you to the pourer and walk away, or ask for a sample from the next bottle. You won't hurt their feelings - that's what the dump buckets are there for.

Now you can decide whether to sip and swallow, or sip and spit, the second taste.  If you have a long list of wines to get through, you just might want to spit all samples, or at least 90% of them. Save the swallowing for the ones that make your mouth do the happy dance when you try them, believe me - you'll know which ones they are!

So, now you're tasting like a pro, aren't you proud of yourself?

Tune in for our next lesson on how to balance a tiny plate piled high with wonderful food, a fork, a napkin in one hand and your wine glass in the other hand... Awww, that's not too hard - until you want to take a bite!

Wine tasting, it's not just an event - it's an ADVENTURE!

Salud! KathyD

What do you get when you put hundreds of professional wineaux in a room with 5,000 glasses, 175 different wines, 28 Master Sommeliers, one Master of Wine, three chemists, and one PhD of Geology?

The 2010 TexSom Conference,
of course!

TexSom is an annual event held by the Texas Sommelier Association, a group of Texas wine professionals. This is the fifth year for the TexSom conference and it is unique in that it gathers together so many Master Sommeliers and Certified Wine Educators in one place for the purpose of sharing their knowledge and experience with others who are not as far along on their journey into the world of wine.

As a CSW I enjoyed the priviledge of attending this year's conference and was thrilled to be in the same room with these expert wineaux, who normally charge about a thousand dollars for courses and tastings like we experienced at TexSom 2010.  Attendees paid less than $300 for the entire two-day conference and Grand Tasting!

Even though it was TEX-Som, writers, industry professionals and lecturers from around the country were in attendance. After all, this event is unprecedented. According to Drew Hendricks, co-founder of the event and director of beverage education for Pappas Restaurants in Houston, “It is unheard of anywhere else in the world to have so many Master Sommeliers and other wine experts in one place at one time, offering up their knowledge. And to think it's right here in our own backyard!"

The classes ranged from Chardonnay Around the World, to Wine Flaws, and Geographical Influences on Northwest Wines (hence, the PhD of Geology!).

It was a terrific learning experience, and galvanizing in that it solidified in me the desire to continue my personal journey into the world of wine. I can't really say what I'm searching for, but I’m certain there will be joy (and a LOT of wine) in the journey!

The next few posts will go over my tasting notes, session notes, and provide some photos of the experience.

SESSIONS: Chardonnay Around the World; Emerging Regions: Southern Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia; Classic German Regions and Styles; Emerging Region: Southern France from Gascony to Provence; Emerging Region: South America; and Classic Region: Portugal; Terroir Focus: Geographical Influences on Northwest Wines; Classic Region: Greece; Management of a Beverage Program; and lastly, Technical Seminar: ETS Labs Wine Flaws.

I hope you enjoy this peek into TexSom 2010!
Salud! KathyD

Tasting and Conference Room @ the Four Seasons Resort and Club

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Let's visit the Chicken Ranch...

You've never heard of 
Chicken Ranch Cabernet?
You, my friend, deserve to treat yourself right and find a bottle of this terrific Napa Valley single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Produced by Trinchero Family Estates, the people that have brought you everything from Newman's Own, Little Boomie, Menage a Trois, Folie a Deux and Joel Gott, to Sutter Home. (Yep, that Sutter Home, responsible for the development of White Zinfandel and the cultivation of wine as a daily beverage for the average American back in the 70's.) Wine Spectator said that Bob Trinchero had “introduced more Americans to wine on the table than anyone else in history.” Now that's quite an accomplishment!

Trinchero Family Estates in Napa is laughingly referred to by their staff as the, "House that White Zin built..." largely because their White Zinfandel is the cash cow that provides the resources that have allowed them to develop other very successful brands. Bringing us back to their own eponymous label ~ Trinchero Napa Valley.  They produce 12 high-end, low-production wines; six of them are single- vineyard Cabs... And all luscious.

Their most readily available (3,330 cases produced), and entry-priced ($35.00), Cabernet is the Chicken Ranch. The grapes for the Chicken Ranch are sourced out of the famed Rutherford Bench growing area of Napa, along Highway 29.  This wine will be a bit difficult to locate because it has (mostly) a restaurant distribution; it's usually available through the winery, but the '07 vintage has been sold out for awhile and the '08 is not expected to be released until later this fall.

So, alot of information about the wine, but how does it taste? What's it drinking like right now?

In the glass the Chicken Ranch is very pretty, crimson to purple in color, with a tinge of magenta/pink on the rim. With a bit of air, it begins to unfold with aromas of sweet, dusty fruit. In the mouth it feels medium to full-bodied, with a hit of tart, red-fruit* up front ~ like sour cherries, or cranberries, wrapped in a deep, dark chocolate powder, it tastes dusty, with a chalky/mineral quality and soft dry tannins. The finish is fairly long, with spice-like, lightly licorice notes.  I opened this bottle two days ago and it was delicious, but it has continued to evolve and open up and is still fresh today. The winery suggests it is ready to drink now, but capable of being cellared for another 10 years.
Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

* In my review, I said that I tasted tart, red fruit ~ like cranberries or sour cherries... I wasn't content with that and I googled red currants, because I've only tasted red currant jam, and that is definitely sweet. Click on the link and you will find that red currants are "quite tart," so now I have expanded my palate to include red currants ~ Awesome! That's why I love studying wine, every day is a new discovery that will enhance your wine experience! kd

Trinchero Napa Valley, and their Chicken Ranch Vineyard Cabernet:

San Francisco Chronicle Top 15 out of 80 wines tasted...

San Francisco Chronicle, May 2010:  Trinchero Chicken Ranch Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($35) "With help from winemaker Mario Monticelli, the Trincheros are getting serious about their single-vineyard efforts. Produced from a parcel on the edge of St. Helena this shows off the subtlety of valley-floor fruit done right. Filled with a juicy plum notes, plus accents of dried leaves and graphite. Forty-five percent new French oak needs time to fold in, but it's a classic, seamless profile with solid herb-edged tannins."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Champagne Day!!

If there was EVER a day to drink Champagne (or any sparkling wine), today is the day! 

It is offically National Champagne Day, a day to recognize Dom Perignon and others who contributed to the development and perfection of this awesome libation! 

There are some who say that December 31 ~ New Year's Eve ~ is the official day of recognition for Champagne, but truly it is August 4.

Of course, bubbly can only be called Champagne if it is from the Champagne region in France, otherwise the proper term is 'sparkling wine', 'bubbly', or ~ the other French term for a sparkling wine made from an area outside of the Champagne region is 'cremant'. (Although 'cremant' has three distinctly different definitions, but for today's purposes it will mean "not from Champagne!")

Classic Champagne is made from a blend of three different varietals: Pinot Noir, (yes ~ your white bubbly is made from a red grape!), Pinot Meunier (another red grape pronounced: moo-nyay) and Chardonnay. The wine will be white/golden if no skins are used in the production of the wine. A rose` results when the juice remains in contact with the skins for a prolonged period of time.

In the US ~ particularly California,  most sparkling wine is made using only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Champagne undergoes two fermentations, one in the tank/barrel, etc. and the second one takes place in the bottle ~ this is the 'method champenoise' or traditional method.  Sparkling wine can also be made in the Charmat method (in tank for the second fermentation), and then bottled/corked afterward.

For a quick, fun look at the sparkling wine process here is a video from Schramsberg, in California.

Don't forget to celebrate this day with a bottle of Bubbly ~ you'll be glad you did!

Find it~ Buy it~ Try it~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD 

"Come quickly ~ I am tasting the stars!"
Dom Perignon 1693


Sunday, August 1, 2010

OMGosh ~ Turning into a GURL... I love this stuff!

It's expected to hit 106 in the Big D today...  Just the thought of a red wine (let alone a Cabernet) on a day like this makes my head hurt.  So, what's a real Texan to do for their 5 o'clock somewhere beverage in all this heat?

Sparkling Moscato! 

Yes, I said it ~ Sparkling Moscato. It is THE Gurly wine of all time and THE perfect little heat-wave beverage since it is much lower in alcohol than other wines (typically around 5-7% ABV) and can be consumed in generous amounts on the patio or in the pool without the heavy red wine, sinus-closing, head pounding efffects.

The Moscato grape is  is very versatile and can be made into many different types and styles of wine, but when made sparkling it is delightful! Most fans love it for the in-your-face aromas of peaches and apricots and its zesty acidity and bubbles.

Not complicated or serious, this is a fun, easy-drinking wine that cn be enjoyed before a meal to whet your appetite, afterward with a dessert course ~ OR it could BE the dessert!

               Sparkling Moscato Float

  • Chill a martini glass or old-school wide rimmed Champagne glass in the freezer
  • Chill a bottle of sparkling moscato to 38 degrees (fridge for 2-4 hours)
  • Add one small scoop of peach/apricot/nectarine sorbet to the martini/Champagne glass
  • SLOWLY pour chilled sparkling moscato over the sorbet scoop (Careful ~ it could bubble over!)
  • Garnish with a fresh raspberry, blueberry, or a sprig of mint
  • Enjoy with a spoon or a short straw!
Two of my favorite sparkling Moscato wines are pictured here, the Barefoot Bubbly Moscato ($8.99) and the Opera Prima Sparkling Moscato ($6.99), both are made via Charmat (made in the tank for the second fermentation, not in the bottle in the traditional Champagne method).

Find them ~ Buy them ~ Try them ~ Love them!
Salud! KathyD

Who’s your Daddy??

Who’s your Daddy??

PAPA Luna is!

Exciting times at work... We just got our hands on 20 cases of this fantastic 90 pt Spanish GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) at a great price and we’re sharing that awesome deal with you! Google this wine and you’ll see that it’s been sold elsewhere for $17 to $22 ~BUT...

World Market has it for $9.99!

You know that I love the southern Rhone wines, GSM's being one of my top favorites, so I was excited to try this wine yesterday. In the glass Papa is deep, dark and mysterious looking ~ you can't see your hand through the wine (how fast can you say, "BIG Syrah??").   It was open and inviting, with aromas of dark fruit, vanilla spice and a touch of licorice. Upon tasting, the wine was smooth and approachable with blackberry (that's the Syrah) - vanilla (that's the oak barrel), black pepper (that's the Grenache talking), and a tiny hint of earth (that's the Mourvedre).

I liked it very much ~ so did our customers... We poured it in the store and sold two cases in about 8 hours!

Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

*NOTE:  Papa got a little tired overnight and wasn't quite as fresh; I suggest you enjoy this wine with a group instead of re-corking and saving for the next day.

Color: Deep purple with crimson rim. Nose: Raspberry and cherry aromas punctuated by herbs and vanilla. Palate: Full bodied fruit with fine tannins and crisp acidity. Finish: Long, smoky vanilla.

Wine Advocate  90 pts. : "The 2006 Papa Luna is a blend of 70% old-vine Garnacha, 25% Syrah, and 5% Monastrell and Mazuelo aged for 5 months in French and American oak. Dark ruby/purple-colored, it offers up an attractive nose of cedar, spice, vanilla, earth, cherry, and blueberry. This leads to a smooth-textured, sweetly-fruited wine with light tannin and complex flavors. It will evolve for 2-3 years but can be enjoyed now and over the next 6-8 years."   —Jay Miller, February 2008.

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