T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – 2008 Korbel Riesling Champagne

California sparkling wine traces its roots back to Sonoma in the 1880s with the founding of Korbel Champagne Cellars.  Today, Korbel sells the largest volume of  sparkling wine made in the méthode champenoise in the U.S.  There is always of bit of controversy around Korbel because it continues to refer to it’s product as “California Champagne”, whereas most U.S. producers of sparkling wine refer to their products as such.   Purists insist that Champagne, only comes form the Champagne region of France.  Korbel’s wines while not great, generally provide good value in my opinion.

2008 Korbel Riesling Champagne

2008 Korbel Riesling Champagne


100% Riesling

$11-22, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Stainless steel fermentation/aging; Disgorged 2008

My tasting notes follow:

Very light color, almost clear.  It offers aromas of lychee, spice, a touch of dry bread dough, and as I sat with it a bit, a hint of petrol (not unusual for a Riesling).  Abundant, but not particularly fine bead give the wine a bit of a harsh texture.  I picked up pear, lychee, and spice flavors.   A tad bit sweeter than off-dry, but not cloying with a refreshing average finish.  This one would be nice, fun change of pace, especially if you’re looking for something a bit sweeter that will plays well with spicy foods. At $22, I think it’s overpriced, but it can be found for less.

In terms of food pairing; you get a double dose of versatility on this one.  Sparking wines are naturally versatile food wine because of their effervescence, and acidity.  With this one, you also get food pairing versatility inherent to Riesling.  Try this one with Spicy Thai, Chinese, or Jerk Chicken or Pork.  A  Spicy Pork Tenderloins with Uniq Fruit Salsa also comes to mind.  Click to buy.

Other stuff you might find interesting

It’s Not Champagne (Chow)

“California Champagne” is now illegal, right?

Paso’s Robles’ Zinfandel Man

Here’s a parody on the Old Spice commercial for Paso Robles’ Zinfandel festival.   A little background on Zinfandel from Wikipedia may help give some color to the clip:

“Zinfandel is a variety of red grape planted in over 10 percent of California vineyards. DNA fingerprinting revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski, and also the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in the “heel” of Italy, where it was introduced in the 18th century. The grape found its way to the United States in the mid-19th century”

It is now widely known as “America’s”  vine and wine.

p.s. Paso Robles is a wonderful wine tasting region….worth the drive!

Petite Sirah Paradise…Dark and Delicious!

Last Friday, the 5th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) Food and Wine Tasting was held at the Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. D&D, a showcase for Petite Sirah, is put on by P.S. I Love You. There were 47 wineries (click here for list) pouring at Dark and Delicious 2011, along with 30 food vendors (click here for list). It’s an event that first came to my attention in 2010, but I’d just missed it, so I’ve been waiting about a year of so for it to come back around.  I’m so glad I did.  The sell-out event delivered on both the wine, and food fronts.

On the wine front, it was my intent that this would be first event where I would attempt to taste like a pro.  That is taste “x” number of wines (and “x” was definitely an unknown for me), and write detailed tasting notes on each wine tasted.  Well, as Colin Powell once said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”.   Such was my experience “D&D” in terms of memorializing my tastings with tasting notes.  My plan?  I decided it would be best to prioritize the wineries because there would be no way for me to taste at them all.  I did so by cross-referencing the list of D&D wineries to the P.S. winners in 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (“SFCWC”), which was bifurcated into P.S. up to $19.99, and P.S. $20 and above.  There were 15 winners from the SFCWC at D&D, and probably 20 or so wines to taste.  Plus I figured, I’d throw in a few more since that wasn’t even half of the wineries representing at the event.  Alas, the crowd, and my lack of preparation (My hands weren’t free to easily take notes, but I think mostly I underestimated the challenge in tasting so many wines and keeping detailed notes – my hat goes off to the professionals that do this, it’s very challenging – I’m not there yet) conspired against me.  I was forced to abandon my plan, take the night off and simply enjoy the bounty of wine, and food. I ended up tasting at 27 of the 47 wineries (liberal use was made of dump buckets).  My favorites were as follows (there’s not in order of preference):

Robert Biale 2008 Thomman Station P.S.(Napa Valley/St. Helena) -$36, and 2008 Royal Punisher P.S.(Napa Valley) – $36

Tercero2007 “The Climb” , 50/50 blend of Syrah and P.S. (Central Coast/Santa Barbara)-$28,  and 2007 P.S.(Central Coast/Santa Ynez Valley) – $28

Miro Cellars, 2008 P.S. – (Sonoma/Dry Creek Valley) – $23

Harney Lane –  2007 P.S. (Central Valley/Lodi)- $24

Stage Left Cellars2007 P.S.(Central Coast/Paso Robles) – $36, and 2008 Ex-Pat a blend of 51% Mourvedre blend/49% P.S. (Central Coast/Paso Robles) – $24

For value(<$20), my favorites were:

Turkovich Family Winery 2008 “The Boss” P.S.

Michael David  – 2008 Petite Petit (Central Valley/Lodi)  85%  P.S./15% Petit Verdot – $18.

On the food front, what I really appreciated about this event,(besides the fact I came very hungry, and left very full) was that adjacent to most of the wineries were food vendors with foods that paired beautifully with the various styles of P.S. It was great to see that P.S. pairs well with so many foods other the oft recommended grilled steak, sausages, and chocolate.  My favorite food samples that demonstrated the versatility of P.S. as a pairing partner were Spicy Bacon Almond Caramel Corn (an interesting combination of savory, slightly sweet, and slightly spicy was a ), Pork Tartlet (Slow cooked pork with Pecorino cheese and pears), Paella, and Grilled Pork with Chayote, and Plantain with a smoky tomato sauce.  The most unusual pairing for me was Berry Tiramisu with a jammy P.S. from Ehrenberg.

Yes, indeed this one goes on my calendar as a recurring event!

Let me know what some of your favorite P.S. is from either D&D, or a recent tasting, by posting a comment.

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – Gruet Brut Sparkling Wine

This week’s T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like tasting turned in to a T.G.I. Saturday tasting since we went to the Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah wine event Friday night.

As Gomer Pyle would say “SUprise, SUprise – a sparkler from New Mexico!  Gruet makes both Vintage, and Non-Vintage sparkling wine, and still wines. It was established by a family who previously made Champagne in France.  While traveling through the Southwest in 1983, they fell in love with New Mexico and decided to produce sparkling wine here in the US.  Their first harvest was 1987, and they released their first sparkling wines in 1989.  In 2008 Gruet sold 100,000 cases of wine, that was distributed in 48 states.

NV Gruet Brut

NV Gruet Brut

USA, New Mexico

75% Chardonnay; 25% Pinot Noir

$11-16, 12% abv

Production method: Methodé Champenoise; Stainless steel fermentation/aging; Disgorged 2008

Very light yellow, almost clear with plenty of pinpoint bubbles. Nose offers bread dough, with faint citrus and green apple notes.  On the palate, mousse had somewhat creamy mouth feel. It was tart with green apple, citrus flavors, very acidic with a somewhat bitter grapefruit taste on the back palate for me. Enjoyable, but one-dimensional. Good QPR (Quality-Price ratio).   Would I buy more?-maybe. There’s enough goodness here to make me keep this one in my back pocket while I look for something I might enjoy more at this price level.   I’m looking forward to trying their Blanc-de-Noir, and Rosé.  Enjoy this one with sushi? – you bet.  But don’t stop there.  Brut sparklers, which are the most food friendly sparkling wines, would also pair well with steamed crab with butter,  or clam linguine in a light white sauce.  I’ve enjoyed with popcorn with truffle butter!  Cheers!

Sensational #Syrah Day Tasting

I went to my first “Meetup” for #Syrah Day yesterday. I’d done another cyber-event prior to this one (#Zinfandel Day – We had friends come by the house for a glass or three of Zinfandel), but I’ve been looking forward experiencing a meet up at a winery. As it so happens,  JC Cellars, an urban winery in Oakland, CA, fresh off a boatload of 90+ scores from the Wine Advocate, hosted a meetup for #Syrah Day.  According to Joe Czerwinski of Wine Enthusiast:

The idea behind these sorts of events is to get a large number of people cyberbuzzing about a topic and hopefully increase knowledge and engagement levels on a larger scale than if there were no particular focus.

It seems as if Syrah has got a bit of an image issue. It could use some love. Some predicted years ago that it would be the next “big thing” in wine, but reality has fallen short of expectations. Personally, I’m not sure why. Sure, a great glass of Cab is a treat, but I happen to find Syrah to be a much more versatile food wine, that generally cost less at comparable quality levels.

Besides bringing particular wine into focus, following such a cyber-event can be a great way to get recommendations about that type of wine!

Here is last night’s tasting menu:

#Syrah Day Tasting Menue @ JC Cellars

Overall impression: This one exceeded my expectations!  It was a wonderful showcase of Syrahs with fruit from diverse appellations, including a couple that had a combination of both French and California fruit.  It was a treat to taste through Syrahs (2001, 2003, and 2005)with some age on them to experience first-hand how well these Syrahs have aged.  If the 2001-2005 wines are any indication, all 2006-2008 vintages will age quite well.  I wish I could tell you the best part was that it was all at  no-cost, but the best part were the sensational wines!

My tasting notes follow:

2005 Ventana Syrah; Appellation-Arroyo Seco; Deep garnet color.  Nose offers dark fruits, spice and oak. A tad warm on the nose. On the palate blackberries, significant minerality, refined tannins.  Medium bodied with nice balance of fruit, acids, and tannins.  Short finish

2006 Stagecoach Syrah; Appellation-California/Napa Valley; Deep garnet color.  Nose offers dark fruit, spice and minerals.  On the palate, ripe blackberry, coffee, and a bit of earth.  Full bodied with very good balance, and medium finish.

2007 Caldwell Syrah; Appellation-California/Napa Valley; Deep garnet color. Nose offers dark fruit, spice, anise, mocha. On the palate, medium full bodied. Complex, balanced blend of blackberry, spice and dark chocolate.  Leathery tannins at this point.  Long finish.

Pour Quoi Pas; Appellation-California/Sonoma/Rockpile and France Cote-Rotie; Dark ruby color.  Intriguing nose offers dark fruit, spice box, and a distinct floral note (lavender?). On the palate approaching medium bodied, round with berries, spice, dusty tannins, and a long finish. My #3 wine of the evening.

2008 So Rerine Rockpile Syrah; Appellation-California/Sonoma/Rockpile; Inky purple color; Reluctant nose offers dark fruit, spice, a touch of smoked bacon, and floral notes.  On the palate blackberry/dark cherry cobbler, and spice. Some youthful tannins I expect with resolve with time.  Medium finish.  I’d love to get me taste this on 3-5 year down the line.  This one was interesting because the budwood is from Cote Rotie.

2008 Buffalo Hill Syrah; Appellation-California/Sonoma/Rockpile; Inky purple color; Nose offers blackberry, dark cherries, spice and a faint floral note.  On the palate blackberry, cassis, minerals, and bacon fat. Bold, yet showing wonderful balance. Long finish.  My #1 wine of the evening.

“Jeff Surprise”  was wine from Jeff Cohn, the winemaker’s cellar – 2001 Cuvee Gaillard; Appellation-California/Monterey & France/Rhone/St. Joseph; Dark ruby color.  Nose offers floral, and spice notes along with dark cherry fruit. On the palate black cherries, white pepper, minerals, and vanilla. Balanced, elegant wine with a long finish. Great example of how well Syrah can age! This wine had offered the best aromas for me. Many inquired if the wine was available for purchase.  Unfortunately, it’s not.  Jeff said he only has 6 bottles left in his cellar.  My #2 wine of the evening.

Have you participated in a wine-related cyber-event?  What did you think?

Other reading your might find interesting :

Happy #Syrah Day! And other Hashtags

What’s the problem with Syrah? (Steve Heimoff)

Syrah is Awesome! Now how Do We Sell It? (Drink the Good Stuff)

Que Syrah Syrah (ENOFYLZ wine blog)

Valentine’s Day Weekend Starter – A Taste of Schramsberg Sparkling Wines!

Bubbles of rose sparkling wine.

Image via Wikipedia

My wife and I decided to have bubbly each Friday night last week.  As fate and a bit of planning would have it my favorite wine store K&L Wine Merchants was hosting Schramsberg Vineyards for a Friday Night tasting (the fate) to start the V-Day weekend, and we’d planned to take do a tour of the Schramsberg caves and tasting on Valentine’s Day.

Schramsberg is Napa’s second oldest winery (Charles Krug, established in 1861 was the first winery in Napa) according to Keith Hock, the winemaker.  It was established in 1862 (click here for a complete historical time line).

Overall impression

What struck me about all the wines was the creamy lingering mouth feel of the mousse (the bubbly foam). All the wines had medium to long finishes, and we dryish, if not dry with low Residual Sugar (“RS”), yet all were  fruity on the palate. The lasting impressions were the elegance of all the wines, and the diverse aromas of the wines which seem to be dominated by wonderful yeast, bread dough notes. With the exception of the NV (non-vintage) “Mirabelle” all are vintage sparklers.  I’m a fan!

Bubbly Tasting Tip: There are two things I look for when tasting sparkling wines as opposed to still wines, the first is visual.  I look for a steady stream of tiny bubbles.  The second is how does the mousse feel in my mouth (i.e., how effervescent is it) – Does it feel course or fine?  Is it voluminous, or meager? How long does it take to dissipate?

My tasting notes are as follows:

2006 Schramsberg Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine – $29.99

90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Nose offers plenty of yeast, citrus, and bit of mustiness.  On the palate fantastic creamy mousse, with apple, and citrus flavors, very good acidity, a touch of minerality and a long finish. I’m a sucker for Blanc de Noir – My third favorite – but just barely! (1.17 g/100mL)

NV Schramsberg “Mirabelle” North Coast Rosé $19.99

53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir. On the nose red fruit, citrus, and yeast. On the palate strawberries, cherry, and zippy acidity. Medium finish.  I’ll definitely picking up a bottle or three of this one! (1.09 g/100mL)

2007 Schramsberg Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine $32.99

68% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay. On the nose, yeast, bread dough, citrus and faint rose notes.  On the palate, creamy delicate mousse with, citrus, strawberries, and peach flavors.  Well balanced with crisp acidity. My favorite! (1.06 g/100mL).

2007 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine $27.99

100% Chardonnay.  On the nose yeast with citrus, and apple notes.  On the palate citrus, and apple with touch of minerality, very good acidity.  Medium finish. (1.15 g/100mL)
2003 J Scram Brut Sparkling Wine $99.99

85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir.  Nose offers yeast,  honey, and citrus aromas.  On the palate citrus, and green apple. More full bodied than the previous 4 sparklers, with lengthy finish.  My second favorite! (1.2 g/100mL)
2006 Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine $29.99.

85% Flora, 15% Chardonnay.  Nose offers tropical fruit aromas, and banana bread dough.  On the palate orange, and peach flavors.  On the upper end of off-dry, with a pleasant clean sweetness. Rich, with a clean finish.  I really liked this one.  My mind immediately went to thoughts of what would I pair it with. The first thought that came to mind is spicy Asian food (Thai, or maybe Indian) But, it would work well on own after a meal if you want a touch of sweetness, or  paired with a not too sweet dessert like a panna cotta, it would be marvelous. (3.56 g/100mL)

Note: I wasn’t at all familiar with the Flora grape.  According to Schramsberg:

“Schramsberg made California’s first Crémant (French for “creamy”) in 1972. After rigorous study, our winemaking team chose the unique California grape named Flora (a cross of Sémillon and Gewürztraminer developed at UC Davis) to be the core component of this sparkling wine. Flora unites the fruit-forward character of Gewürztraminer with the strength and depth of Sémillon.”

The good news is that this is a great way to start our weekly bubbly pact! The bad news is that it’s going to be a challenge to top it;-)!

Look for more bubbly tasting notes in the coming weeks…Cheers, and Happy V-Day!

Paella fans rejoice…15 Minute Paella!

One of the true gifts that wine and food offers is the ability to transport you to the culture of another place.  Paella is one of my favorite foods, and whenever I have it, it isn’t hard to imagine myself savoring a warm, sunny day in Madrid, or Costa del Sol enjoying an evening repast of tapas, followed by paella, while enjoying a glass of wine, or sherry (or better yet, both!).  Traditional paella is a simmered rice dish that includes seafood or meat (chicken and rabbit traditionally) that typically takes an hour, or more to prepare.  I found this 15 minute version from Rachel Ray, in which couscous replaces rice.  It has the familiar flavors of a mixed (chicken, sausage, and seafood) paella.  All that is missing is the bottom crusty part of the rice, called the socarrat. That’s a trade-off I’ll take any time to enjoy the flavors of paella on a weeknight!

Besides being able to prepare this on a weeknight, the other thing I’ve come to appreciate about this recipe is its flexibility.  I usually prepare with boneless skinless thighs rather than breast meat because I prefer the tenderness, and flavor of thigh meat.  And more oft than not, I substitute, or augment the recipe depending on what’s on hand, or my mood.  For example, the last time I prepared it, I substituted a pound of Trader Joe’s seafood trio (shrimp, calamari, and scallops) for the shrimp.  Or, if I have canned clams on hand I might throw them in. You can not only substitute meats, you may also substitute clam juice, or seafood stock (1/2 to 1/3 cup) for the chicken stock if you prefer stronger seafood flavor.

15 Minute Paella with Chorizo, Chicken, Shrimp, Calamari, and Scallops


From Rachel Ray’s website:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), about 4 turns of the pan
  • 1/2 pound fresh uncooked chorizo, casings removed and cut into bite-size dice
  • 3/4 pound chicken cutlets or tenderloins, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme (tip: tie them together to make it easy to retrieve later)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound medium size shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
  • 2 Piquillo peppers or 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (eyeball it in your palm)
  • 1 envelope saffron powder or a pinch of saffron threads
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A generous handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat EVOO over medium-high heat in a deep skillet – make sure to choose a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the chorizo, cook for one minute to render some of its fat, then add the chicken, bay leaf, thyme and onions.

Cook for two minutes to start softening the onions, then add shrimp, red pepper flakes, garlic, Piquillo or red peppers, turmeric and saffron, and cook until shrimp are just about cooked through, about three minutes.

Season with salt and pepper; then add chicken stock.

Bring stock to a boil, about one minute. Stir in couscous, peas and lemon zest. Cover and turn off heat. Let stand five minutes then fluff with fork. Remove bay and thyme stems, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Wine pairing for the evening


Of course, no meal is complete without wine.  I think a dry Rosé is a great pairing for this dish.  I’ve had it many times and always enjoy it. However, I’ve been wanting to try Sherry since I understand it’s so food friendly, and because it’s a wine made in Spain.  So, I decided to give both a try.  For the Rosé, I picked one of my favorites, the 2009 Dashe Vin Gris (click here for my review).  For the Sherry, I picked Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva

Both the Rosé, and the Sherry paired very well with the paella, although I didn’t enjoy the sherry quite as much as I enjoyed Rosé. It was my first experience with sherry, and I found it to be a bit chalky and briny on the nose and the palate, as opposed to the fruity nose and palate with which I’m accustomed to with other wines.  Consequently, I enjoyed the Rosé more on a stand-alone basis, while it seemed the sherry didn’t shine until it was paired with the paella.  I look forward to trying the sherry again, but my initial impression is that it’ll be an acquired taste for me.

If you preference is white wine, try a dry Riesling, a Rhone white from Languedoc, or a Rueda if you want to stick with the Spain theme. If you prefer a red, try an inexpensive  tempranillo from Rioja, or medium bodied Garnacha(Grenache), or Garnacha blend  from Priorat.  My only caution for a red would be to avoid a “fruit bomb”, or any highly alcohol, highly tannic red.  Experimenting with wine and food pairing is half the fun!


Decisions, decisions…Open That Bottle Night Anxiety

Last year was the first time we celebrated Open That Bottle Night (“OTBN”).  OTBN 2011 is February 26th.  If you’re not familiar with OTBN here’s the 411 according to the OTBN website (check it out for OTBN stories, party ideas )…

“Every year since 2000, on a special Saturday night in February, friends, couples and groups around the world get together to enjoy particular bottles of wine, champagne and spirits. The bottle that you enjoy, traditionally, is one that you have been saving for some special event that, so far, has never quite happened. Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) is the event you have been waiting for…the time when you are entitled to uncork that cherished bottle and enjoy the contents. It doesn’t matter if the wine is expensive or low cost, white or red, or even if it is still good. What matters are the memories.”

Last year we had friends by and opened a bottle of 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Reserve Kick Ranch Syrah (click here for my review), which we paired with Sunday Italian Gravy.  It was evening of wonderful communion and wine, with a very harmonious food pairing.  Just what OTBN is all about.


Image courtesy of wsj.online.com

Picking the wine last year was simple.  I just reviewed the wines in my CellarTracker database via Cor.kz on my iPhone and selected the wine with the combination of the highest average score, and a minimum of 10 ratings (How else would a CPA – my day job – decide? 😉 ) It took all of 5 minutes.

Since it worked last year, I figured I’d used the same methodology this year. The wine with the highest average score and at least 10 reviews is a 2007 Caymus Cab.  While I think it’s OTBN-worthy, I don’t think it has hit its sweet spot yet.  The next four that meet the “Choose your OTBN wine by the numbers” criteria include two whites (I don’t think so!), a 2004 Pio Cesare Barolo, and a 2008 Loring Clos Pepe Pinot that would likely benefit from a bit more cellar time. It’s seems my beloved “by the numbers” approach has let me down –  *in my best Jack Bauer voice* Damnit!

How about sentimental value?- I’m drawing a blank there.  What about a special region? – Nope. So far, I prefer California, Rhône, Italian, Spanish, and South American wines. But, I don’t possess any wines I consider “special” from either Rhône, Spain, or South America (Note to self – work on that!) and the one Italian wine that clears the “special” hurdle isn’t yet ready. Well, at least I’ve narrowed it down to a California wine!

Hmmm…what about deciding on the entree, then letting that dictate the wine?  Whoa – that’s akin to blasphemy for a Wino! I’m a Wino first, and Foodie second.  Hell, I even prefer the term Wine and food pairing to food and Wine pairing!

So where does that leave me?  All kidding aside, I’ll probably go with a Pinot; now if I can only decide which one!  Well as problems go…this a good one to have!

If you’re interested in participating in OTBN in a  social way, of course there’s Facebook, where you can post comment, photos, or videos, and Twitter (use hashtag “#OTBN).

Remember “Life’s too short to drink bad wine”.  So stop saving it, and Open That Bottle!


Lodi Old Vines….

Recently, while on our way back to the Bay Area from Sacramento, we made a stop in Lodi, which is a small AVA northeast of the Bay Area, to do some wine tasting. Lodi is most acclaimed for its Old Vine Zinfandels. It was a beautiful winter day so, between wineries, we stopped to take some photos of the vineyards. One of the things I appreciate about the “wine lifestyle” is the opportunity to see the seasons manifest in the vineyards. And, unless we taste at urban wineries, the vineyards and the surrounding countryside always provide such a beautiful backdrop to wine tasting.

Certainly, the vineyards are beautiful in spring and summer when in full bloom, but I also find something hauntingly majestic about vineyards when they are at rest in the winter. There is a stark contrast between gnarly “Old Vines” as pictured below, and the neatly trellised vines so often seen in wine country.

Lodi, CA - Old Vines - Photography by Martin Redmond

While there, we bought a bottle of 2008 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel (Vines average 85 years old – I’d say that qualifies 😉

I think it’s important to note there is no objective definition of “Old Vines”. When I’ve posed the question at wineries that produce Old Vine Zinfandel, the most consistent answer has been vines more than 40 years old (at least here in California). That sounds about right to me. And that’s my personal standard for evaluating whether a wine with the “Old Vine” designation is a pretender or a contender.

So what’s the difference between Old Vines and young vines? According to Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator…

“The deep roots of old vines are their greatest asset. In a rainy harvest, a young vine’s shallow root system sucks up surface water, bloating the grapes and diluting the juice. Yet old vines are often surprisingly unaffected, as their deeper roots are untouched by the passing rainstorm. And in drought conditions those same deep roots can tap into water reserves in the subsoil unreachable by younger vines.

That deep root system also results in consistent production of evenly ripened grapes from vintage to vintage. And presumably Old Vines produce smaller yields which results in wines of greater structure, concentration, and complexity. Some would say Old Vines wines also age better, developing a more layered complexity over time. Unfortunately, I may never know. Whenever I purchase an Old Vines wine it never lasted longer than a couple of years in my cellar!

I believe Old Vines can make a positive difference provided the vines are in a good site, and the winemaker skillfully makes the wine. What do you think? Have you had wine sourced from “Old Vines”?


You might also be interested in:

If It Says “Old Vines,” Will You Buy? (Wine Spectator)

Old Vines, What’s the big deal? (Barossa Dirt…True Tales and Twisted Vines)

Sweet deal on a Bordeaux Rosé

Ah yes, the first day of Spring, and for me, the unofficial opening of Rosé season!  Wineries are starting, or will soon release their 2010 Rosés, and I’m looking forward to that.  In the meantime, the 2009’s should still be drinking well, and such is the case for this $7 beauty with off the chart QPR – the 2009 Rol Valentin Rosé!

It’s a shame, really, that Rosés are primary thought of as Spring/Summer wines because they play so well with a variety of foods.  I drink them year-round.  Hope springs eternal that that perception of Rosé will change for many others as it has for me.

C hâteau Rol Valentin is located in the St. Emilion region of Bordeaux, and is one of the new breed of  garagiste wines in the region.  The estate is planted to 85% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the vines averaging over 35 years old.  This one would be excellent with as an aperitif, and also with grilled chicken, or lamb salad.

Click here for my review.

Click here to buy.