What an empirical sensation! French and Italian are about the same size, meaning you give attention to both. The word “Time” is prominent on your’s, and indeed, that is one of the most important ingredients in wine right?http://scvtalk.com/2009/06/04/one-more-word-cloud/#comments
Lets look at a few examples of alcohol levels. French and Italian wines. Most French and Italian wines (old world) are in the 12% range. Italian Wines are noted for being served with foods. Present wines from the New World (US, Australia, etc), it is hard trying to find wines that are less than 14%.
What is the affect on the cellar life of wines (low verses high acidity). This is another topic that could be reviewed.
Here is a list that I found that summarizes the effects that PH levels have on wine quality. When looking at this table, remember that a PH of 1 is the most acidic, 7 is neutral and 14 is the most basic.
Oxidation: Less in Low, More in High.
Amount of color: More in Low, Less in High.
Kind of color: Ruby on Low, Browner in High.
Bacterial Fermentation: Less in low, More in High.
According to this, wines that have more acid are preserved and protected better over time. The length of time is not defined, so I would interpret the time element to mean from bottling to consumption. Whether that is 2 weeks or 30 years. In Chablis France, during low sugar years, they are allowed to add sugar to the grape juice (chaptalization). The addition of sugar in winemaking is not allowed in California. However, the addition of tartaric acid (and others acids) is allowed to increase the acidity of the wine.
In summary, we need acids for a couple of reasons. And as a note, we are talking about tartaric and malic acids (good acids) and not acetic acid (bad acids). As we have seen, acids are needed to preserve and provide a wine with good color, no oxidation, etc. Acids are also required to provide crisp fresh taste when we taste a wine. Probably most noticeable in certain whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis and some Chardonnays. It is also important when eating fatty foods to cut thoroughly the fat and cleanse the palate before the next bite. Doesn’t Spaghetti and meatballs with a fine Italian Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino (one of my favorites) sound good?
Aren’t they lovely? Not looking “three sheets to the wind” at all. (a phrase my Minnesota-raised spouse uses for drunks – that I would appreciate a comment on this blog as to where in the heck that comes from…?)
For me, attending the SCV Wine Classic was a wonderful experience. Starting with the library wine tables – where at any other wine event you either 1. didn’t get or 2. you paid per taste for. I still don’t know how wine chair, Jeff Jacobson, gets his countless friends, with the best cellars, to pour.
Steve Elzer, Rober Schwartz, Priscilla and Warren Faubel, Roman Weiser, Chris and Jeannie Carpenter and Les Hershberger must have to keep their addresses a secret. How else would they be able to keep their Spotswood, William Selym, Sea Smoke, Martinelli, 86 and 87 Joseph Phelps Cabs, 2001 Bryant (only 200 cases made), and too many to count and list Bordeaux to themselves for long?
Too busy tasting to write down everything, Chris Carpenter was going to save me empty bottles from the library tables for reference.
In between the library wines I sampled some of the food, but to be honest, never ate enough as there was too much to see/drink.
I met lots of readers and was hugged to death! Ones I didn’t already list on the post below this one include John Kelley, formerly with Raven Oaks, and his friend Dawn Colebank, Laura from Yelp, Victor Abascal from Vines on the Marycrest, Nate Hasper from Pulchella (gave me the best hug encompassing my neck, waist, head and all parts in-between), John Whitman from Old Creek Ranch Winery, Craig Butler from B & P Winery, Michael Cobb from Sorth This Out Cellars and Nick Morello now pouring for new Terravant Wine Company.
My husband bought me the wine necklace that Cathy Craig was selling at the Silkwood table when my friend Diane waved it at me. I missed the entire auction and most of the food…
Next year? I will do it all the same way! But next year I will find Michael P. and YOU!
New! From Correspondent Michael
When I go to an event like this, I go with no expectations other than to have fun. For me at least, this is not really the time and place to evaluate the attributes of what I am drinking. If I happen to come across something earth-shattering, that is just a bonus.
I also rarely go to the library tables. I prefer younger wines, and Zins, Syrahs and the like that rarely show up with the rare Cabs and Bordeaux. Besides, the library tables tend to be the most crowded.
Instead, I usually just meander around, stopping by various tables as the action there lulls.
I had nice visits with the people from Vines On The Marycrest as wells as Midlife Crisis, two Paso wineries I’ve enjoyed for some time.
And I shared the enthusiasm of the owners of Laraneta Vineyards, also of Paso, pouring their very first release at the Classic.
I tried Silkwood Wines of Modesto for the first time and really enjoyed their wines, especially their Petite Sirah.
And it was great to visit with Jay and David of All Corked Up and taste the terrific wines they brought to the event.
There were other wonderful wines as well, but it starts to get a little blurry, except…
Pulchella — I’ve been wanting to try their wines for some time. And they did not disappoint. Both Zins they were pouring were outstanding, although the winemaker and I disagreed on which was “better”. But, now I have to decide — the last thing I need is to be in another wine club. But, they are local and supporting a local business is a good thing, right? Decisions, decisions….
And now I must thank Jay of All Corked Up for encouraging me to go over to the library tables. As I walked up to where Steven Elzer was pouring, I saw a bottle of Scholium Project on his table. I’ve been wanting to try something from this producer for a long time. Abe Schoener is somewhat controversial and is known for making challenging wines. Steven was pouring the 2004 Scholium Project Syrah. Wow! Outstanding! The word that came to mind for me was “muscular”.
Steven and I talked some more [what a great guy!] and the subject of my fondness for Zinfandel came up, so he poured for me the 1996 [I think that was the year] Turley Moore “Earthquake” Vineyard. Excellent! I thanked him for that. I told Steven that I have been a fan of Turley for several years but regretted that I got on their allocation list too late to ever get one of their releases from the Aida Vineyard. Well, what do you know? He popped open a bottle of that! Another goal achieved. Thank you Steven Elzer!
The food at the Classic was excellent as well, although I am a little hazy on specifics as my wife kept me supplied with food as I endeavored to keep our wine glasses full. The ones that stand out in my mind are: Persia Restaurant, Stonefire Grill, Macaroni Grill, Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, RSVP Catering Company, and COC’s Culinary Arts Program.
All in all, we had a blast.
Now, back to making that wine club decision…
So, back to reality. Nothing to wear of course. Hair will not cooperate and I haven’t even tried yet. Manicure? Pedicure? Why-a-cure? I yam what I yam. In the immortal words of Sponge Bob to that snail that professes to take over the world, “Well…good luck with that.”
So, tonight we have the Classic wine shindig of the year, where I’m bound to run into dozens of fellow wine aficionados and 101ers…and I’m freaking out a little.
Will I knock over my wine-filled glass like I did at Vine 2 Wine a couple of years ago? Not because I was snockered but because I’m a klutz? (And bringing my klutzy second-time-he-broke-the-same-shoulder husband?)
Will I forget someone’s name, misquote a wine rep, pour/spit out too much in comparison to non-wine-writing guests? Yep times three.
This is the deal. In sprinting to the library table I may miss the wines from…China. In my quest to find my fave Lima Limon food I may miss…some ice cream. While I try and flag down Marlee with my paper cocktail napkin I may miss…or splatter…you.
So please, flag me down. Tell me your name slowly and clearly, wait for me to retrieve my pad and pen, and hold my friggin’ wine glass for just a minute while I work my craft. Save your really good quotes until you find me.
And the full story? You know, the one that lists all of the volunteers, wines, food and what I might get at the auction? In the West Ranch Beacon blog next Friday! In the meantime I’m at least now hoping for a reserve Sterling Cab to go with the outstanding photos on your left that Chris C. just sent in! Just the thing to calm my un-wined-frayed nerves.
The problem as I see it is that we all dream of this. The lush vines sagging under the weight of their fruit, the intimate backyard tastings, the rocky earth, the turquoise sky above a mountain, wind chimes barely making their music, the coolness of the winery, the large-bowled stemware filled to just over 1/3, the smell of the burnt French oak barrels and dusty under-ground caves. And some of us, of stalwart farmer stock, may actually do it. I know many locally and beyond that are living the dream. But for the rest of us mere mortals, there is this.
As part of our annual campaign, our “tribe” is holding a fundraiser in the form of a wine tasting event. Money raised from this event will be donated to our local YMCA, 100% of the money donated stays in our valley. Space is limited; if you want to attend, please act fast. To ensure we have an accurate head count; you will have to register and prepay for the event. You can do this by sending me a check (made payable to cash or YMCA) or you can pay via credit card. Just let me know and I will help you get registered.
The event will be a good time, and make for a nice evening out. Along with the wine, we will be serving light appetizers. If you know nothing about wine, this will be a great opportunity to learn. I will be acting as our sommelier for the event, and will be there to pour and answer questions anyone has. We are planning on pouring some awesome wines from all over the world. It will be a fun night to relax!
Let me know if you have any questions, hope you can attend!
So, to digress for those of you that thought you hit a porn or drug site. I met Lori F. on Facebook the day I joined. A wino living in Ventura County but raised in Santa Clarita, she sent a bazillion people invites to join my wine 101 club.
That was a few months ago. Then she sent me a message, again via Facebook, regarding her husband helping a restaurant friend liquidate some of his wine. (Look a couple of posts down on this blog to see his offerings.)
I got right on that. (Surprise? No!) I wanted the Opus One (And still will accept as a gift) but was only able to convince the hubby that we could accommodate, at the very least, the 6 bottles of 1999 Mondavi Reserve Cab.
Okay, back to the parking lot. Mike picked me up from the street, while juggling my wooden wine crate on his lap, and then drove me to my car parked in the sheltered/covered mall garage.
Transporting the Mondavi stenciled crate from Mike’s car to mine, he then counted his twenties. Mike then pulled up a couple of nails, and displayed my drugs/wine. Nestled in tissue they sat…for a minute…until I tore through one to confirm my prize.
Quick good bye to Mike (feeling guilty as he had an Open The Bottle Night story to tell—see photo further down and on the left of this page) I simply couldn’t concentrate.
Raced home. Put torn tissue on counter. Put one bottle in fridge for 20 minutes. Now…finally…and exhale. I can’t believe that I bought wine in a parking garage that tastes like friggin’ heaven.
The wine: 14.1% alcohol has definitely developed into a big Cab. Balanced, complex flavors, long finish. Paired with my computer and husband. Perfect. And 5 more for the cellar until 2014 max.
So…what have you bought in a parking lot lately?
Once again we had a great showing of some great wines. We overlooked Miles comments in “Sideways” and found that their is a lot to be offered. It is quite obvious that when one looks at the success of the French Bordeaux’s. I don’t know of anyone that would turn up there noses if offered a glass of Chateau Petrus. Chateau Petrus located in Pomerol is one of the smallest production area of the major Bordeaux appellations, meaning extremely limited supply of these wines, leading to high prices for the most sought-after wines. It owes its fame due to its particular perfumes of truffle, its aspect of black ink which has given Petrus the nickname of Merlot blood.
The bottom line is that there are some phenomenal Merlot wines available. Our group chose not to venture outside of California for our tasting this week. There was however, some great wines with very unique characteristics poured.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, lets talk about the history and characteristics of the Merlot Grape.
We can trace Merlot back to the 1st Century in France, but Merlot as a noble Bordeaux varietal standing on it’s own doesn’t appear till the 1800s. Merlot, Malbec and a few others owe their existence to the ‘biturica’ variety from which it has evolved.
Researchers at the University of Davis believe that Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a sibling of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. The earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area’s best. The name comes from the Occitan word “merlot”, which means “young blackbird” (“merle” is the French word for several kinds of thrushes, including blackbirds); the naming came either because of the grape’s beautiful dark-blue color, or due to blackbirds’ fondness for grapes. By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Medoc on the “Left Bank” of the Gironde in France.
Other names for Merlot around the world include: Petit Merle, Vitraille, Crabutet Noir and Bigney. In a further twist of mistaken identity, DNA profiles reveal that some wines from Chile labelled as Merlot come from a vine called Carmenère or Grand Vidure.
Carmenere is the subject of both debate and curiosity. Carmenere was widely planted in Bordeaux in the early 1700s, but disappeared from French vineyards in the late 1800s due to a one-two punch of declining popularity (growers began pulling it because of problems with ripening) and phylloxera. When replanting began, the French turned to more promising varietals and Carmenere was eventually forgotten. If you have never tried a wine made with the Carmenere grape, I highly recommend Montes Purple Angel from Chile. Tracy and I love this wine, but it can be difficult to find.
Merlot is an early ripening variety. This is wonderful as it will ripen before the winter rains set in. Also this is terrible as it is vulnerable to spring frosts. It tolerates and even thrives in soils too poor or too moist or too cold for top class Cabernet Sauvignon. The colder climates produce wonderfully complex Merlots with lots of soft fruit flavors not found in the warmer climate fruit. Unfortunately, we did not have a French representative at our tasting, but for those that have tasted a Merlot based Bordeaux compared to the Napa examples that we tasted, this statement is true. My personal love for French Bordeaux’s lie in the complex nature and the multiple layers of flavors that they exhibit. They are also very soft which is the nature for the Merlot grape. Quite different than the fruit forward examples that California produces.
The Merlot berries are thin skinned and physically large. They don’t tolerate bird damage or sunburn or splitting, as they’ll rot as soon as any moisture finds the damaged berries.
As discussed earlier, Merlots most famous home is in Bordeaux, France. Even the Medoc region, famous for its Cabernets has about 40% area under Merlot. Merlot comes in third behind Carignan and Grenache as the most planted red grape variety in France. It thrives in northeast Italy, and is spreading through Eastern Europe and into the new world regions where they cannot produce enough.
Merlot is a doubly versatile grape. It is widely blended with many other grapes providing a soft, luscious, velvety fruit characteristic softening the harsher varieties. This makes for extremely drinkable young wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is our best-known blend with tannins and structure from the Cabernet Sauvignon and a fruity rich middle palate from the Merlot.
The most famous producer of French Merlot wines is Chateau Petrus, whose 1990 bottling earned a perfect 100 score from Wine Spectator (it sells for about $1,700 a bottle). Ouch!
Merlot on its own is not great for long bottle aging. It’s become ridiculously popular in the last few years as a stand-alone varietal. More so among people wanting a ‘drink now’ wine rather than a long term cellaring wine. Ripe Merlot gives you lots of fruit flavours; plums, cherry, raspberry, mint and subtle spice. However unripe Merlot, goes towards herbaceous green flavors.
During the tasting, we saw that the Gainey had a floral nose and the Hill Family Estate had Eucalyptus and Menthol on the nose. Is this the result of the grapes being harvested too young? Open for comments on this one folks.
“Madame Merlot, you’re a big gal, soft and smoky; how we love your full, curvaceous figure. But you are so much more than simply a voluptuous pinup girl from Bordeaux. You carry yourself with a demeanor of maturity always ahead of your age. Perhaps it is your ever amiable and generous nature that makes you the perfect companion for the acid-tongued Cabernet Sauvignon. You smooth the rough edges he’s so prone to in his youth, making him more presentable to polite society. Your relocation to the New World was a little belated, but how pleased we are to see you now comfortably in residence, everywhere from Long Island to the Napa Valley.”
Aroma: High Alcohol , Peppery, Bell Pepper, Light strawberry with spice, raspberries.
Taste: Light in body, Bordeaux profile, Black Cherries, Black Berries, Long finish
Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: 89 points
A blend of 96% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.
Our 2005 Twomey Merlot is a voluptuous, robust and balanced expression of this noble variety. It has a deep garnet color and an intensely concentrated nose of black cherry, blackberry essence, wild game and freshly ground black pepper. On the palate, it is full-bodied and velvety, with fine-grained tannins and an extremely long finish.
This Merlot will continue to give drinking pleasure through 2018.
As a side note, Twomey is produced by the Silver Oak Winery which are well known for their Cabs.
Aroma: Coffee, Chocolate
Wine Spectator: 93 points
Robert Parker: 93 points
A blend of 96% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.
Robert Parker: “An excellent Merlot from proprietor Jim Richards, this 2006 reveals flamboyant, sexy, chocolaty, mocha, and coffee notes intermixed with oodles of black cherry and berry fruit. Full-bodied, silky textured, and mouthfilling, this hedonistic effort will provide enormous pleasure over the next 5-8 years. (Dec 2008)” Wine Spectator: “Plush, ripe and elegant, with fragrant currant, caramel and olive aromas and supple, beautifully layered plum, cedar and loamy, toasty oak flavors that are wrapped around a dense, complex core. Drink now through 2015. (2/28/09)”
2004 Gainey Santa Ynez
Aroma: Floral, Vanilla, Red Raspberries, Currant
Taste: Vanilla, Blackberry
The only ratings that I found were from group tastings. They ranged from 89-90 points
“The 2004 vintage for Merlot was outstanding, except for not providing us enough Home Ranch fruit. Fortunately, we were able to supplement our estate grapes with fruit from other Santa Ynez Valley ranches, resulting in a Gainey Merlot full of complexity.In the nose, cinnamon-spiced berries leap from the glass, followed by blackberry essence, subtle earth tones and sweet herb scents. The signature Gainey minerality is also present. Sweet creamy oak, with just a wisp of smoke, caresses the fruit, with beautiful cassis notes emerging on airing to round out the package. On the palate, exuberant flavors of ripe, juicy berries are balanced by ripe tannins, which contribute to the wine’s plush texture, and offer structure and depth to the memorable finish.
Aroma: Jammy, Cherry, Eucalyptus, Menthol
Taste: Cherries, Plums, lighter fruit flavors
John Schreiner : 88 points.
Hillside first added a reserve Merlot to its extensive portfolio in the 2002 vintage when the winery was able to buy grapes that showed “intense fruit concentration and fabulous ripeness levels”. That was a muscular wine with 15 percent alcohol and a concentration of flavours that marked Hillside’s emergence as a red wine producer worthy of notice. The 2004 reserve Merlot is also made from grapes purchased from several south Okanagan vineyards. Individual lots were kept separate until the final blend was put together. The wine was aged for nine months in a combination of newer French and American oak barrels. The finished wine has 13 percent alcohol, much more appropriate for a food wine than the huge 2002. The current release (950 cases) has all the power it needs. The wine has a rich, chewy texture, with aromas and flavours of black currants, blackberries and chocolate. The long, ripe tannins give the wine, while it is ready now, the structure to age for five to seven years.
I hope that everyone enjoyed the Merlots tonight. They were all great and offered differences even though they were all produced in California. I also hope that we all don’t fall into the group like Miles from Sideways and turn up our noses when offered a glass of Merlot. As a frequent traveler, Airlines, hotels, etc are always offering Merlot. This is probably based on the fact that inexpensive versions are not tannic and very smooth. This is what people generally look for. More so if you are not into wines where you are considering wines for long term investments. I feel this is why Australian wines have taken off. They are fruit forward drink now wines at a low price. How can you beat that?
Have a great day,