Wine Words Demystified: Aromas

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word/phrase is Aromas

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A term broadly used to describe a wine’s smell.  Technically however, the smell of any wine is divided into the aroma, the smell that derives from the grapes, and the BOUQUET a more complex smell that a wine acquires after AGING.

The above definition differentiates between aromas, and bouquet (with bouquet being the smells that result from both fermentation process and aging).  This is one of those areas where wine lovers can be perceived to be snobby if they get persnickety when it comes to the difference between the two.  My advice?  Unless you’re a professional taster, fuhgeddaboudit!  Just refer to what you smell as aromas.

On the other hand, if you do happen to be a professional taster, then you might want to further break down aromas into one of three categories – 1.) Primary (from the grapes), 2.) Secondary (from the fermentation process and oak aging), and 3.) Tertiary (from bottle aging).

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bou...

A demonstration of smelling the aromas and bouquet of wine in the glass as part of wine tasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what I find fascinating about aromas – it’s through the aromas we actually taste wine (and everything else) Here’s why.  The human tongue is limited to distinguishing between one of the five primary tastes (vs. flavors):

  1. Acidity
  2. Sweetness
  3. Bitterness
  4. Saltiness
  5. Unami

Flavor though, according to Wikipedia:

The wide array of fruit, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woodsy flavor perceived in wine are derived from aroma notes interpreted by the olfactory bulb

In other words, what we perceive to be as flavors are the senses of taste and smell combined!  So after we sniff a wine to smell its aromas, the process of perceiving tastes and flavors continues when we taste a wine because we also absorb its aromas through the retro-nasal passage that connects our mouth to our nose.

T.M.I.? Probably, but that’s why aromas are an important component of tasting and enjoying wine.  There’s such a strong link between a wine’s aromas and its flavors and taste!

Value Alert! – Crazy Good Spanish Gem For $11!

I picked up this wine, the 2010 Celler Piñol Terra Alta Ludovicos, from the Wine Mine in Oakland.  It’s a great wine shop with a knowledgeable proprietor and staff, a diverse collection of wines from around the world, and good prices.  Their tag line is “The Wine Mine – Wine Gems, Rock Bottom Prices”.  So far, I’ve found that to be the case as I’ve gotten a few good recommendations including a crazy good Nero D’Avola, and an excellent Sparkling Rosé from Sicily (click here for my blog post) The owner, David Sharp was recently voted “Best Wine Guru” in the East Bay Express – Best of the East Bay 2011.  They do weekly wine tastings for $1! And that’s how I discovered this wine…

2010 Cellar Pinol Ludovicus

Here’s the wine geek stuff:

Where it’s from: SpainCatalunyaTarragonaTerra Alta

The grapes: 40% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignan, 15% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot

Aging: Four months in French and American oak barrels

Cost: $11

Alcohol: 14%

Here’s my tasting notes:

Deep dark garnet color with very aromatic dark fruit, earth and faint tobacco aromas. On the palate, it’s satiny, and medium-bodied with well-integrated tannins, and blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, and a hint of tobacco flavors. Medium-long finish. Great QPR for $11!

As noted above, the wine is produced from grapes sourced in the Terra Alta region, which is the most southerly of Catalonia’s wine regions.  It’s a region with which I wasn’t familiar.  It achieved D.O. status relatively recently, in 1985. It is a part of the Catalunya (Catalonia) wine region, which is best known for its diversity of wine styles.  The two most well-known styles being Cava, and its still reds produced from a wine range of grapes including Grenache, Tempranillo, Syrah, Carignan, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

This is going to be a repeat purchase for me!  I highly recommend! Click here to find the wine

Wine Blogging Wednesday #76 – 2010 Schild Estate Grenache-Mourvedre-Shiraz

This edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday – Return of the Barossa Boomerang, provides me with a bit of an opportunity for a reunion.  The very first Australian wine I tried when started to seriously explore the world of wine outside of California was the 2007 Schild Shiraz Barossa. I remember it well.  At the time, I purchased it because it was #43 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list for 2009.  I was a bit surprised to see it there because it was $20.  It was an excellent introduction to Aussie Shiraz.  Since then, I’ve had precious little Australian wine.  It wasn’t that I was influenced by my fellow American consumers, who exited the Aussie wine market en masse.  Rather, it’s because I generally prefer to “try before I buy”, and living in Northern California, within striking distance of Napa, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains,  Livermore, Lodi, and quite a few urban wineries even closer than the aforementioned renowned wine regions, there is a plethora of wines I can “try before I buy”.

My wine  of choice is the 2010 Schild Estate “GMS” (a little help here from my wino friends in the know – is the proper pronunciation of “Schild” rhyme with “child”, or sound like “shield”?).  And since I’m asking questions, it didn’t escape me my attention that Schild refers to this wine as a “GMS”, rather than the traditional “GSM”.  Can it be that the logic of labeling the wine in descending order of the grapes in the blend has trumped tradition? Inquiring minds want to know!

The Winery

Schild Estate (which has the tag-line “Pure Barossa” on their websitewas founded in 1952 by Ben and Alma Schild.  Sadly Ben died in 1956, and thereafter the winery was run by Ed, the only son, who was only 16 years old.  The winery has grown steadily over the years, and today they have about 400 acres under vine, including  a small patch of 160 year old Shiraz vines which produces the their limited production Moorooroo Shiraz.  They produce about 50,000 cases of wine annually.

2010 Schild GMS Barossa

The Wine

A classic blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz harvested from vines with an average age of 70 years.  The wine sees no oak.   My tasting notes follow:

Dark ruby color with aromatic cherry, spice and slight meaty aromas. On the palate full-bodied, supple, and smooth with nicely balanced fruit and acidity, with cherry, black raspberry, and plum flavors and a lengthy finish. Blend of 55% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 20% Shiraz.  14.1% a.b.v.  Drink now to 2016. Very nice value at $15!

It was a very good reunion!  I will certainly keep Schild on my, right now, short list of Aussie wines I’d buy again (along with Taltarni Brut Taché – an excellent value sparkling Rosé-style wine from Victoria).  Besides being very good, most Aussie wines offer crazy good value!

Wine Of The Week – 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Estate Blanc

My wine of the week for April 14-April 20 is the 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Estate Blanc.

The Winery

Edward Sellers is an eponymous artisan winery producing small lots of  Rhone varietal wines, from their 30-acre vineyard in Paso Robles. Ed, who is an entrepreneur, sailor, and pilot, and his wife “discovered” Paso Robles in 2003, and instantly fell in love with the place.

I was introduced to Edward Sellers in 2010 when I attended the annual California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara.  Ed was pouring his wines at the Friday night “Sunset Rare And Reserve Wine Tasting”. I distinctly remember his wines standing head and shoulders above the rest that evening.  We made it a point to drop in his tasting room, which at the time was in downtown Paso, on our way back to the Bay Area.  That’s when I purchased a couple of bottles of this wine (and a few others).   Last year, after attending the same wine festival, again we made it a point to drop in at his new tasting room off  West Highway 46.

I most recently saw Ed again when he was pouring his wines the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting in San Francisco (click here for my recap of the event).  I was only tasting red Rhone blends that day, so I missed the opportunity to taste 2009 version of this wine, Le Passage Estate.

Paso Robles has made a name for itself, especially for Rhône varietals.   According to

It is Paso Robles’s climate, soils and vineyard diversity that makes Paso Robles ideally suited for growing the Rhône varieties of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.

It’s no wonder the annual Hospice du Rhone is held in Paso Robles annually.

The Wine

This wine is classic white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne.  What stand out for me about this wine is its outstanding balance.

2008 Edward Sellers Estate Blanc

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow color with pungent stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, and well-balanced with white peach, melon, and spice flavors. Medium long finish. Blend of Grenache Blanc(56%), Roussanne(28%), and Marsanne (16%). 14.1% Alcohol. 146 cases produced.

Pairing with food

White Rhône blends such as this wine are pretty versatile food wines.  They make fine sippers in the summertime, and but a wine such as this is hearty enough to be a great match with picnic fair, spicy Indian, and North African dishes.  Hmmm…I just recalled the Lobster Pot Pie, I had a Michael Mina a couple of years ago.  This would have been fabulous with it!

I really enjoyed this wine. I’m sorry I waited damn near 2 years to drink it though. Fortunately I’ve got another bottle.  It’ll be lucky to see summer;-)

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

It’s Prosecco for my weekly bubbly tasting this week.  I picked this up on a whim from K&L Wine Merchants.  The price was certainly right at $8.99, and it had quite a few favorable staff reviews. And I’ve had good success with wines from K&L  that had at least 5 favorable staff reviews.  Here’s one of the reviews from the K&L Wine Blog:

“This is the perfect party Prosecco! I poured this at one of our local events. It was a hit! I kept the price to myself until they tried it. Every single person was shocked that something so good could be so affordable!! Bring some to your next party and watch it disappear.”

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

Where it’s from: Italy

The grape(s) Glera

Production method: Methodo Italiano (Charmat Bulk)

Alcohol: 11% Retail: $9 

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with a good amount of bubbles that persisted longer than most Proseccos with fruity stone fruit and flora aromas. On the palate it’s light bodied, with a surprisingly soft mousse. It’s crisp and dry while maintaining some nice fruit flavors of white peach, nuanced apricot, and apples. Short finish. Great QPR! – 86pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would make a very good aperitif, or to take along on a picnic!

I enjoyed this. It’s a nice value play.  I’d buy again if it was available.  When I checked at K&L it was wait listed!

In a Wine Rut? Try these wines!

Admit it. You know there is a whole wide world of wine out there, but you still cling to a handful of favorites. Right?! I know it’s comfy, but you can do better! It’s time get out of your Cab, Chardonnay, Pinot wine rut, and discover some new favorites! With that spirit of adventure in mind, here’s a list of rut-busting wines to try. I’ll profile the grape from which the wine is made, and offer a recommendation of a fine example of each. There’s something for everyone with six white wine, and six red wines!

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA...

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA studies to be a cross of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

White Wines

1. Marsanne

This is probably the finest grape variety you’ve never heard of. It makes a full-bodied, sometimes rustic wine with amazing complexity, and honey, peach, and sweet spice flavors. If you like Chardonnay, give this wine a try. It’s fabulous with cracked crab and other shellfish. Look for JC Cellars Stagecoach Vineyard Marsanne.

2. Viognier

I consider this grape to be a primary rival to Chardonnay. It produces a juicy, aromatic wine with exotic stone fruit , and spice flavors. If you like Gewürztraminer, give Viognier a try. I’ve enjoyed this wine with various Asian cuisines. Look for Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley.

3. Albariño

This grape, which is native to Spain, produces a juicy fragrant wine that reminds me of a cross between Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. It has that Viognier’s peachy flavors, along with fresh citrus flavors found in Sauvignon Blanc. It’s great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Pair with seafood, Asian fare, or tapas! I like the Martin Codax Albariño Rias Baixas Burgens.

4. Assyrtiko

This grape is native to Greece, where it is the specialty of the volcanic island of Santorini. Its lively acidity makes it a food friendly wine with citrus, pineapple, and mineral flavors. It would make a great alternative to dry French or Italian wine such as Pinot Grigio. It’s a natural match for a Feta Salad. Look for Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko.

5. Torrontés

This grape, which is Argentina’s only truly indigenous grape, produces a juicy fragrant wine with citrus pineapple and spice flavors. It is Argentina’s signature white variety. It’s a pretty food friendly wine that would be a great wine to bring along on a summer picnic. It pairs wonderfully with seafood, or try it with a pasta primavera or spicy Asian noodle, or curry dishes. Look for the Bodegas Colome Torrontés Estate.

6. Vermentino

This grape makes an increasingly popular juicy aromatic wine with citrus, stone fruit, and tropical fruit flavors. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, and/or Pinot Grigio this one may change your mind! It pairs wonderfully with pesto, a specialty in Liguria, Italy. It would also be a good match with seafood, or Tuscan cuisine.  I recommend the Tablas Creek Vermentino.

Red Wines

7. Pinotage

This grape, which is the signature red variety of South Africa, was created in 1925 at Stellenbosch University. It a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, two French grapes, that thrive in South Africa. It shows the soft fruitiness of Pinot Noir, and the rustic characteristics of Cinsault. It produces a fruity, lively wine with soft tannins, and black fruit, spicy and many tasters report, banana flavors. While it’s home is South Africa it is also making inroads in New Zealand, Canada, Israel, Zimbabwe, California, North Carolina, and Virginia. This would make a nice change of pace if you enjoy Pinot Noir. Pair with game, ratatouille or hearty soups. Look for the Tukulu Pinotage.

8. Petite Sirah

This grape, which is also known as Durif, is considered an American Heritage grape. It produces a rich dense wine with blackberry flavors. If you like Zinfandel, give this wine a try. It’s a very good food wine. I’ve enjoyed with a wide variety of foods, but it great with steak, roasts, and grilled meats. Look for Ridge Petite Sirah Lytton Estate.

9. Mourvèdre (More-VEHD-ruh)

This grape originated in Spain where it is referred to as Mataro,or Monastrell. It makes rich dense red wines that are powerful, and tannic with earthy, savory black fruit and sweet spice flavors. It’s a good match for stews, roasts, and grilled meats. Look for the Quivira Mourvèdre.

10. Tannat

This is a grape, which is native to France, but now a specialty of Uruguay that produces makes robust; yet elegant wines with high levels of tannins, great aging potential, and dark berry, plum, and spice flavors. If you’re a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, give Tannat a try. Owing to its high acidity it’s a bit more versatile than Cab. It would pair nicely with grilled meats. Look for the newly released Tablas Creek Tannat.

11. Teroldego (tah-RAWL-de-go)

This grape is native to Italy, but is also grown in California where does well in the Sierra Foothills region. It produces a ripe smooth wine that is dark and savory with dark berry, plum, and spice flavors. Its high acidity makes it food friendly. Try this with roast duck, Indian Cuisine, or your favorite red wine cheese. Look for the Urban Legend Teroldego.

12. Aglianico

This grape, which is native to Italy makes the great full-bodied, intense, tannic wine with berry, cherries, plums and spice flavors. Its high acidity makes it food friendly. Pair with hearty meats, tomato-based pasta dishes like lasagna, or lamb. Look for the Seghesio Family Aglianico.

With over 10,000 grape varieties, this list is by no means complete. There are a host of other possibilities from around the world from countries, like Hungary, Austria, and Croatia to name a few! Not sure where to start? Cozy up to your local wine shop clerk, ask your wino friends (yours truly included), or do a little research online at sites like, or Wine Your effort will not be in vain. You’ll be rewarded with new, and exciting wine that’ll get you out of your wine rut!

This article was previously featured on 12 Most and is republished, by the author. 

Wine Words Demystified: Esters

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word/phrase is Esters

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

Aromatic compounds produced by yeasts and bacteria primarily during FERMENTATION.  Esters may be complimentary or deleterious to the wine

Esters are chemical compounds found in all substances.  They are “smell” compounds.  They are formed by the reaction of acids and alcohol, which both present in wine.

In fruit, the same chemical compounds found in apples, or cherries may be found in certain grape varieties.  In a nutshell, this is why  an apple” is often used to describe the flavors of a Chardonnay, or “cherry” may be used to describe the flavor of a Pinot Noir.

Image courtesy of

Wine Of The Week – 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Syrah Reserve Kick Ranch

My wine of the week for April 7-April 13 is the 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Syrah Reserve Kick Ranch.

The Winery

Rosenblum Cellars is an urban winery in Alameda, CA.  It was founded by Kent Rosenblum, a veterinarian in 1978.  In 2008 it was sold to beverage giant Diageo.   Rosenblum made their reputation making premium Zinfandel, but they also make Rhone varietals.  Their 2003  Rockpile Road Zinfandel was the #3 wine in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2005.

The Wine

Syrah is on the rise.  I think that’s a good thing.  I actually prefer to Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon because it’s a more versatile food pairing partner.  I’m oversimplifying  a bit, but bear with me. Generally speaking Syrah comes in two styles “cool climate”, and “warm climate”.  Warm climate Syrah tends to be more lush, with higher alcohol, and blackberry, plum flavors.  That style tends to be more popular with the average consumer.  On the other hand cool climate Syrah tends tobe lower in alcohol with more red fruit, mineral, and spicy aromas and flavors.  They tend to be preferred by more serious wine aficionados.  Of course, it’s all about what you as a consumer like.  I point this out because it may help you decide which style you prefer.

This wine comes from a cool climate vineyard.  The Kick Ranch vineyard located in Santa Rosa is located at the western foot of Spring Mountain.  It’s considered “cool climate” because even though it receives plenty of sun, in the evenings the vineyard is cooled by fog and breezes that come in from the Pacific Ocean through the Petaluma Gap.  According to“We devote 16 acres to 4 special clones of Syrah brought in from vine cuttings from the Northern Rhone. In the Northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage and Côte-Rotie, syrah produces wines of phenomenal elegance and longevity”

Event though the wine comes from a cool climate vineyard, it straddles the line between a cool climate Syrah and a warm climate Syrah in that it’s significantly north of 15% alcohol. It had just enough lushness of a warm climate Syrah, along with the complexity associated with a cooler climate Syrah for me.

There were 494 cases of this wine produced.  My tasting notes follow:

Opaque purple-red color with dark fruits, including cassis and smoked meat aromas. On the palate full-bodied, balanced, intense, yet refined with black cherry, cassis, and a bit of plum and vanilla spice flavors. Long finish. Drinking quite well! 

Pairing with food

I very much enjoyed this with a marinated rack of lamb for Easter.  Syrah tends to be a versatile food pairing partner.  This would also be wonderful with prime rib, jambalaya, pork or even chili.

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like….Cazanove Brut Rose Champagne

This week’s bubbly is a Rosé Champagne produced by Champagne Charles de Cazanove.  It’s a brand with which I was not familiar until I did a post on their Brut Premier Cru Champagne a couple of weeks ago.  They have a rich history.  The house was founded in 1811 by Charles Gabriel de Cazanove.  However it was his son Charles Nicolas de Cazanove that contributed most to the growth of the brand.  They are the #2 selling brand in France behind Nicolas Feuillate.  They offer a full rangeof Champagne.  This bottling is one of five in their entry-level “Tradition Père & Fil” range. Sometimes a wine make a first impression then fades as you spend more time with it.  Sometimes, the last sip is the same as the first in terms of how you feel about it.  And sometime a wine grows on you with each sip.  This was one of those wines for me.  I enjoyed it more with each sip.

Charles de Cazanove Brut Rosé

NV Charles de Cazanove Champagne Brut Rosé

Where it’s from: FranceChampagne

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (75%); Pinot Meunier (15%); Chardonnay (10%)

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged about 3 years on lees

Alcohol: 12% Retail: $35 

My tasting notes follow:

Pink with an orange hue color with a steady bead of pin-prick bubbles and fruity candied cherry and subtle yeast aromas. Medium bodied with a soft mousse, good balance and cherry, mandarin orange, and a hint of baking spice  flavors. Medium finish. 75% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier and 10% Chardonnay – 90pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would make a very good aperitif, especially with mixed charcuterie.  Believe it or not, I had this with Jerk-Spiced Baby Back Ribs from B Side BBQ, and it was a very good match!  Since it’s medium-bodied it will fare well with a variety of dishes.

I really enjoyed this.  It was outstanding! You could easily spend a lot more on a Rosé Champagne.  This is a very good value at $35.  I highly recommend!  If you’re looking for an impressive bottle of Rosé Champagne that won’t break the bank for a hostess/host gift, or (dare I say it) an excellent V-Day Champagne, check this one out! (Click here to find this wine)

Wine Words Demystified: Autolysis

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word/phrase is Autolysis

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The decomposition of spent yeast cells by enzymes they contain. When a wine is SUR LIE, or on the LEES, it is left in contact with the spent yeast cells that performed FERMENTATION.  As the yeast cells break down, the impart, for reasons not fully understood, an extra dimension of flavor, VISCOSITY, and complexity to the wine
In other words, yeast cells which may be present on the grapes naturally or introduced by the winemaker, consumes the sugars in  fermenting crushed grapes and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2).  When the alcohol reaches a certain level it kills the yeast.  After the yeasts die they begin to decompose.   The dead yeast cells are referred to as lees.  If a wine is left in contact with lees as they decompose, and add aromas, flavors and complexity to the wine.  Depending on the wine, this may be desirable (in the case of Champagne, some Chardonnay, and other white wines) or undesirable.
A bottle of undisgorged Champagne resting on t...

A bottle of undisgorged Champagne resting on the lees. The yeast used in the second fermentation is still in the bottle, which is closed with a crown cap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)