Tag Archives: Wine Collecting

What a Waste of Wine & Money?

Exploring Wine can be Expensive and Overwhelming!

The number of different wines out there is daunting! Just walk into any wine shop (heaven forbid a Total Wine) and your first thought is: there are hundreds (if not thousands) of wines to choose from. How do I make a decision and who knows if I will enjoy it? When I first decided to explore wine, it killed me to think of wasting good money on lousy wine… just to find a few I liked. It became very clear to me that price had no correlation to matching my taste. I would guess many of you feel the same way. So… to lessen the pain, you limit yourself to trying wines by the glass at wine bars, or attend tastings at wine shops and/or even travel to wine country to hit the tasting rooms.

How Can I Choose Wines That I Will Enjoy?

Learn Your Palate

The first step is to learn your palate… Do you enjoy red fruit, or black fruit flavors? Do silky, or velvety textures appeal to you? Do you enjoy some astringency in the wine? Do you drink wine by itself, or with meals? Do you prefer slightly sweet, or dry wines? Taking the time to review and decide what you like, will go a long way towards helping you select wines to try.

Strategies for Finding Wines You Will Like

This can get very involved depending on your level of wine knowledge, but lets pare it down to the easiest, simplest strategies:

Follow the Winemakers

Many winemakers will allow each vintage of fruit to drive the wine. Some prefer to add wood, spice and vanilla flavors by selecting certain species of oak for aging. While still others will try to make the wine fruitier with whole cluster fermentation, or extended maceration. The processes really don’t matter though. Find what you like, identify the winemaker and track their labels. You will be more likely to find wines you enjoy this way.

Follow the Regions

Classic examples are:

Sauv Blanc from New Zealand typically has tropical fruit flavors, while the NorCal Sauvs are more citrusy.

Syrah dominated wines from the Northern Rhone typically have lower alcohol, are inky, with tar, floral and  olive tapenade flavors added to the black fruit, while Southern Rhones are very fruity, with high alcohol, highly textured and likely to have more red, or blue fruit flavors.

Red wines from Rutherford in Napa have an interesting dusty characteristic many find enjoyable.

Again, the specifics do not matter. If you enjoy wines from a specific region, selecting others from the same region will enhance your chances of hitting on wines you can appreciate.

Follow the Vineyards

This is my favorite! The fruit from different vineyards makes wines taste VERY different. Examples of this are:

Cool, coastal vineyards tend to add acidity and structure. Early morning fog at inland vineyards can have the same affect.

Chalky soils can add a mineral aspect to wine – like the Chalk Hill area in Sonoma. Slate can add a flinty component like Riesling from the Mosel.

I regularly seek out wines made from vineyards whose flavors/characteristics I enjoy. It is a sound strategy for finding wines you have a better chance to appreciate.

Follow the Varietal

This is the most obvious. I am sure all of you have settled on grape varieties you prefer, but this is also the least reliable strategy. There can be so much variation within wines from even the same varietal, it does not provide a dependable method for choosing wines to enjoy.

These Strategies can Save $$Money$$

As you find success, you will notice it becomes easier to select wines to try. I have been using these strategies (and more) for many years. I am now comfortably buying wines I have not tasted via the internet and taking advantage of overstock and clearance pricing. I am hoping these ideas will help to end your waste of good money for lousy wine. Good luck and may you find many enjoyable, reasonably priced wines in your future!

1 Comment

Filed under Wine Collecting, Wine Education, Wine Tasting

1969 Chateau Potensac

6807

Chateau Potensac

France, Bordeaux, Medoc

Wine Tasting Note:

This was just a bit of fun… bought this at auction a while back. Wasn’t expecting much, but it was an opportunity to see what 45 years would do to a decent wine. Opened this at a party last night. As expected, the cork was a challenge. The first pour had a nose of barnyard and must and the initial taste was thin, a bit oxidized and closed… but, if you can believe it, this ol’ gal still had enough structure to require time to open up. After an hour, a nose of sour red cherry began peeking out. The tannins were still very present and it had good acidity. Several of our guests tasted the wine and were not particularly impressed, but some had a background with French wine and understood it well enough to appreciate what it was. We added a cheese plate to the tasting and it handled the cheese well. So, now it’s the next day. I let the bottle sit on the kitchen counter and amazingly – it is still holding up! It is too watery, the fruit is almost gone and it is a touch oxidized, but all-in-all… a surprisingly decent wine after 45 years.

Comments Off on 1969 Chateau Potensac

Filed under Bordeaux, Bordeaux/Meritage Blend, French Wine, Wine by Varietal, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

Old AND New World Style Wines

Drinking Too Many Napa Cabs…

Our trip to Italy last year brought one aspect of my wine consumption to the forefront… I drink too much New World style wine. The beginning of our trip, I was missing the oak and vanilla that I am comfortable with in many of the Cali & Washington reds I drink. American oak is much more of a flavor component, compared to the French, Hungarian and Slovenian oak used in Europe. In fact, of the 30 some odd wineries we visited in Italy, most were aging on neutral used oak… So why should this bother me? It is the idea of being able to enjoy and appreciate the subtleties of less manipulated wine. When we returned, drinking a Napa cab was a challenge initially. This realization has caused me to rethink how I would like to enjoy wine. Since then, I have expanded Italy and France in my cellar and pushed myself to drink more variety. No, I am not a masochist. I do really enjoy well made, balanced, less manipulated wines. I just find, now that I understand my palate better, I can appreciate both styles more fully.

Diversifying Your Cellar

This caused an interesting realization for me. Is it possible to move back and forth between each style and enjoy both? Certainly, there are extremes on both ends of the scale. Would I want to drink a Silver Oak Cab versus a Cain, or Ladera – where my palate is today? NO, but the Silver Oak is an extreme. Do I enjoy young Bordeaux, or Barolo in a cold vintage year? Not so much. You get the idea. I am trying to develop the palate and (I think more importantly) the mindset to appreciate both. This has been a challenge, especially after the change in palate I experienced after the two weeks in Italy. I think it was a good thing, though. Now, I find myself moving towards embracing more different wines. I may not choose to drink certain styles regularly, but I can enjoy the well-made ones, based on the quality they represent. I had a superb 2007 Sassicaia in Italy and last week I popped a wonderful 2001 Pride Mountain Reserve Cab. They were radically different, but I enjoyed them equally for what they were. Maybe this sounds ridiculous to some? Maybe it isn’t worth the effort? Don’t know… we’ll see where my palate takes me, as I continue down this path.

Drink the Wine You Like

OK, I am not saying you should drink certain wines strictly because of their quality, rather than the appeal to your palate. In fact, I truly hate that kind of wine snobbery. I am just trying to share what two weeks in Italy did to change me… Once the U.S. bias to my palate was purged, I discovered that I found some of these very subtle wines to be truly spectacular. A view that I had not reached, prior to the trip. If you too are immersed in wine as a hobby, perhaps, consider exploring a few weeks of wine that is a departure from the Parker faves. It may open your eyes to a deeper understanding of how you can enjoy less as more… one night, and then be hit over the head the next night… and be bowled over by both.

2 Comments

Filed under Wine Collecting, Wine Critics, Wine Education, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

Coravin Product Review

The Wifey purchased a Coravin as a gift for Christmas. Wow… gadget and wine, all in one. For those of you who are not sure of what this is, here is a photo:

coravin

Here is the link to the manufacturer’s website: http://www.coravin.com/.

Why Use a Coravin?

Well frankly, I was initially struggling with this idea and did not open the box right away. After a few days, I popped the box open to assemble it and make sure it worked properly. All good… assembles easily, few moving parts. Reminded me a little of those argon gas pumps they came out with several years ago to preserve open wine.

Gave it a try initially on an inexpensive bottle. Didn’t require instructions and very simple to use. The cork self-seals tight, right behind removing the needle. So, the question became: what situation would be right to break-out the device? You hard-core wine-o’s will appreciate my first official use…

New Year’s Eve party at our house. One of my wife’s friends was going on and on about how she hated merlot. Finally, I couldn’t handle it any longer and told her: she just hadn’t tried good merlot yet. Now, you have to understand, here in the USA, 75% of the merlot we produce is some of the worst plonk on the planet. It kills me to think of all the U.S. consumers that think this is what merlot should be (personal campaign of mine)… so, I pulled a 2001 Pride Mountain Merlot out of my cellar and dragged out my Coravin. I challenged her to try it. I served her up a 2 oz. pour of the Pride and rocked her world! Pow! Another merlot hater converted again! AND, I didn’t have to trash an entire $75 bottle of wine in the process!

Science Behind Coravin

Once you pierce the cork (can only be used on cork closures), the lever introduces argon gas under pressure. Then via a two-way valve of some sort, the pressure is maintained, while the wine is forced out of the hollow needle into the glass. Works pretty slick… So, only two potential drawbacks I can envision:

1. If the cork is too dry on an older bottle, either the seal may be lost due to loss of integrity of the cork, or the cork may not show enough resilience to self-seal upon removal. IMO, this possibility does not seem to be very worrisome.

2. My other concern is not serious, but rather more interesting. Once the device replaces the air in the capsule with argon gas, the wine is served and then the bottle is returned to the cellar. Without further oxygen to draw from, the typical wine aging process would have to be significantly slowed, if not stopped. Since argon is heavier than air, the wine may be sealed off from air for the balance of the life of the wine. How does wine age in such an environment? I don’t think there is any research on this??

Coravin Conclusion

A very cool device! If you would like to pour a glass while alone, knowing you will be unable to polish off a bottle… PERFECT! The balance of the bottle will be perfectly stored, for the next time you decide to draw a glass, or pop the bottle. I may start drinking more expensive wine, when alone – with no concern for wasting the bottle. If you have a $100 bottle of 20 year old Bordeaux and intend to pour a glass and put it back in the cellar, you may want to think twice. I have no idea how an argon environment will effect the continued natural aging process of high-quality wines in storage.

Science again solves a challenging problem facing our world, preventing the waste of good wine! Next up: reliable hangover relief!

Comments Off on Coravin Product Review

Filed under Restaurant, Sommelier, Wine Collecting, Wine Critics, Wine Education, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting

2009 d’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie

638

d’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie

Australia, McLaren Vale

Wine Tasting Note:

This is not a typical Aussie fruit bomb. 92% shiraz and 8% vognier. Northern Rhone in its way… grapey nose with creme brulee and cinammon. Definitely give this at least a 30 min decant. Directly out of the bottle, this is very smooth, but watery and the flavors are off-putting – like grape candy. As it opens, it becomes more complex. The palate hits you first with black table grapes and blackberry. The mid-palate has black-currant moving into a long bitter dark chocolate finish. I have tasted other syrah blends like this and the viognier (8% is too much?) had the same effect on the nose and palate. The acidity is medium-high, but the tannins are mostly hidden until decanted, then they reveal themselves in a fairly big way as chewy and medium-high. Has a little bit of that Northern Rhone oily, tar characteristic, but no olive tapenade and earthiness. The grapey fruit flavor begins to subside after an hour, but is still too much. At this stage of its life, this would not be much of a food wine, although it has the backbone for it. I enjoyed it as an aperitif (after decant) and for $20/btl, it was a good value. This may just be too young. I am thinking after 3-5 years, the fruit may subside a bit and allow other flavors to present. It certainly has the backbone to allow aging. Will tuck the others away for a few years and see if it has the potential to improve, as I hope.

Comments Off on 2009 d’Arenberg The Laughing Magpie

Filed under McLaren Vale, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine Tasting Notes

Can You Justify Spending on Premium Wines?

Okay, I know there aren’t many wine drinkers out there that maintain a diverse cellar of bottle-aged wines, but for those of you who do, and invest in the spendy, premium wines… how do YOU justify it?

Which Wines Are in Your Cellar?

2/3 of my cellar is made up of moderately priced red and white wines of good value.  The other 1/3 is reserved for more expensive, special red wines.  So, just what constitutes a “special” wine worthy of a premium price? It has taken me 20 years of collecting wine and an evolving palate to finally arrive at a couple of answers.  My justifications for spending $75+ on a bottle of wine are:

1. Wines that have structure, balance, texture, be complex, BUT ALSO be accessible in no more than 5 years, and be able to age (AND improve) for 10 years or more from the vintage date (yes, even Barolo).

That doesn’t mean the wine will be in its prime drinking window then, just that I can enjoy it and then look forward to another beautiful experience down the road.  Enjoying wines this way, requires a purchase of several bottles of a wine, per vintage.  I will rarely do this until a producer has proven a good match for my palate and been consistent with quality vintages, year over year.  Although, sometimes you just know from drinking a wine… and I say “drink”, not taste.  This has happened too many times… Tasting Room Attendant hits you with attitude, goes on and on about the wine and presses you to purchase his/her amazing $100 (speaking of Napa here) bottle.  Then, you are hit with a 1 oz. pour!  Who needs a direct relationship with a winery, when you are treated like that!  With a good experience, enjoyable wine and the right value, I will become a year-over-year customer and they can start thinking of me as a revenue source for years to come…

2. Wines that my family and friends enjoy.

An example in this category for me is expensive champagne.  Not what I personally would spend big dollars on, but I really enjoy sharing good bubbly with friends who appreciate it!

Overview

IMHO, the holy grail of wine is the 1st category.  Examples for me would be vintages of Barolo, Southern & Northern Rhone (also CA “Rhone Style”) and mountain fruit Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (Veeder, Spring, Diamond & Howell).  Yeah, I know… no classified growth Bordeaux & cru Burgundy included.  I have not tasted Bordeaux meeting that criteria under $75/btl. AND other regions bring the same level of enjoyment for $50.  ENTRY LEVEL Burgundy STARTS at $50/btl and I just don’t enjoy pinot noir enough to explore that varietal for that kind of money.  My Oregon Pinot is just fine thank you.  I have Bordeaux and Burgundy in my cellar, but just to provide a representative collection, and it skews my average bottle price more than I would like.  I know many of you DO spend that $150+/btl for Bordeaux and Burgundy.  I wonder, how do you justify devoting the disproportionate percentage of your wine budget?

2 Comments

Filed under Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, Northern Rhone, Southern Rhone, Spring Mountain, Wine Cellar, Wine Collecting, Wine Tasting

Perfect Wine?

How can any wine critic score a wine at a perfect 100?  This is one critic’s explanation at Wine Spectator Magazine:  http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/49223.

Wine Critics Impartial?

There are aspects of this piece that I agree with, especially with regard to defining wine as a snapshot of a moment in time.  The wine experience is definitely more than a scientific examination of flavor components.  This is a major reason why I was taken by wine in the first place.  Yes, of course your situation and surroundings will affect your scoring of the wine, but aren’t the critic’s reviews as an authoritative resource supposed to be impartial… and therefore tasting should occur in a neutral environment?  The more I learn about wine critics and their approach to scoring wine, the more I have come to ignore them.

Wine Critics Consistently Over-Score Wines

This drives me crazy!  I have been moving towards placing more weight on collector’s reviews for several years now.  CellarTracker scores are consistently 3-4 points lower than Parker, Kramer, Robinson, Galloni. Although, Stephen Tanzer seems a bit more conservative, if you look at a cross-section. Take some time to compare and you will see for yourself.  At least their ratings are consistent in this regard, so the scores are not likely to be a bias towards a given producer.  It almost seems as if they all want to believe the wine is better than it actually is?  Is this some subtle coordinated promotional effort to advance the wine industry as a whole?

Perfect Wine, Ah… Really?

Here are a few recent Robert Parker, Jr. perfect 100’s that I have enjoyed:

2010 Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard

2007 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon CCS

I am sorry, but the Bryant Family IMHO did not belong on this list, but I digress.  Of course, anytime you discuss RP you have to take into account his penchant for big fruity wines.  Still, are these perfect scores based on his perception when tasted, or based on projecting their profile after bottle-aging?  I wouldn’t choose any of these, keeping the  divergent criteria in mind.  Don’t get me wrong , three of these were great wines and the fourth pretty damn good too, but perfect?  I have tasted perfectly balanced 5 year old cabernet in an approachable style from Ladera, or a huge fruity, tannic monster from O’Shaughnessy that would be superior (IMO) after 10-15 years.  Although, I wouldn’t score these at 100 either.

Can a 100 Point Perfect Wine Exist?

Everyone’s palate is different AND wine truly is enhanced by the environment in which it is being consumed AND obviously the wine critics make little effort to taste in a neutral environment…  Of the wines I have enjoyed most in my life and matched my palate best, I would give none of them a perfect 100.  In each case, there was something about them that could have been a little better.  Now, I WILL say… some have been drunk in perfect settings, and I will remember them clearly my entire life!

Comments Off on Perfect Wine?

Filed under Wine Collecting, Wine Critics, Wine Tasting

2009 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon

194530

2009 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon

California, Napa Valley

Wine Tasting Note:

Blackberry, plum and vanilla on the nose. Simple palate of black fruit and a touch of bitter chocolate and oak on a medium-short finish. Medium tannins and medium-high acidity. The texture is a bit watery. Nice backbone here, but the structure is missing a mid-palate entirely. Enjoyable every day drinker from Napa Valley that represents a reasonable value. Unfortunately, there is no complexity to this wine. Other vintages have been better.

Wine Tasting Note – UPDATE 2/20/2014:

2nd Bottle of half case:

Second bottle after four months in storage has changed enough to be worthy of note. It is rare to see wine in this price range improve with age. The evaluation is essentially the same as above, but the texture is becoming more silky and the tannins more refined. At least for now, this is continuing to improve.  The same comment holds regarding simplicity, although a short aging window seems to have continued to soften the wine, making it more enjoyable. I wish this wine could magically become more interesting, but for the price, this is a very nice daily drinker.

Comments Off on 2009 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon

Filed under Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2009 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Oregon Pinot Noir

264401

Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir

Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills

Wine Tasting Note:

The nose has red fruit and earth, with a floral influence. The palate begins with fresh red cherry under-pinned with a delicate floral note. The mid-palate transitions to black cherry and spice, then a medium short finish of earth and bitter chocolate. Medium-high acidity with slightly dusty tannins. The texture was initially silky, but became watery quickly on the mid-palate. You notice the alcohol on the finish. This wine needs more time in the cellar to reach its potential. There was a lot more going on here than a simple, fruity new-world pinot. This was very feminine in character, with a solid backbone. Another 5 years of bottle-aging and I would expect this will be very elegant and composed. I can envision this as a 10 year old pinot reaching its drinking window… add a little barnyard on the nose and Burgundy comes to mind!

Comments Off on 2009 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Oregon Pinot Noir

Filed under Dundee Hills, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2007 Geyser Peak Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Walking Tree Vineyard

122881

Geyser Peak Winery

California, Alexander Valley

Wine Tasting Note:

Powerful aromatic nose of black fruit, spice and vanilla. Fruit forward palate of blackberry, red plum and black currant. High acidity with medium tannins. Tasted this last year. Still the same big fruit, but the tannins are beginning to soften and it is developing some texture. Needed a little time for the alcohol to blow off. The complexity is improving with the addition of more bitter chocolate in the mid-palate and a short finish with some graphite coming through. The tannins are starting to moderate and I like a red wine with some backbone, so I am going to say this wine is in its optimum drinking window. Drink now and the next couple of years, at most. At $18/btl, this wine has my vote for the best value cab sauv in California. I would expect a wine of this caliber to be in the $30-35 range in Sonoma County. I prefer not to put a number to wines if I can, but in this case I will put that aside and give it an 89. It needs more minerality, the mid-palate and finish could be stronger and the texture wasn’t there to be rated higher, but for that kind of price… this is impressive!

Comments Off on 2007 Geyser Peak Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Walking Tree Vineyard

Filed under Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes