Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm a Shirazbyterian. You can be, too.

The commandments are easy to follow:
  1. Heed the unbiased word of Robert Parker.
  2. Watch ye the Wine Library TV, for it is informative and fun.
  3. Drink not the White Zinfandel, for it is swill.
  4. If a friend offers you a glass of White Zinfandel, get a new friend.
  5. Get to know your local wine merchant.
  6. Learn to pronounce "Gewurztraminer".
  7. Share your wine with good friends.
  8. Swirl, you'll thank me later.
  9. Do not be ashamed of your purple tongue.
  10. Do not be afraid of screwcaps.
Everyone is welcome to be a Shirazbyterian. Cheers!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Joseph Drouhin Chardonnay La Foret 2004

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Another White Burgundy, but less complex than the Henri Boillot. A lot less expensive as well. This Chardonnay was light straw in color and had faint aromas of pears, and a floral scent that I couldn't quite identify. Juicy pear and melon on the palate with a soft acidity and smooth finish. This is a very quaffable wine!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Petite Sirah Mini-Flight

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Tonight we got together with a friend for dinner and we both brought a bottle of Petite Sirah. We thought it might be interesting to compare the two. Both are from the Lodi region of California.

Keesha Petite Sirah 2004: 15.8% alcohol, inky black with violet hues. Licorice and eucalyptus aromas. Very concentrated, full bodied, with smooth tannins. Vanilla and berries on the palate. Long finish.

JT Cellars Petite Sirah 2005: 13.9% alcohol. Inky with red-violet hues. Berry aromas. Lots of raspberries and plums on the palate. Medium-to-full bodied. Smooth tannins.

Of the two, I think I preferred the Keesha. It just seemed to have more...oomph to it. A bit more backbone. But that doesn't mean that I didn't like the JT Cellars. It was very good too :-D

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sarah's Vineyard Old Vines Zinfandel Besson Vineyard 2004

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Inky black with red-violet hues. A little "hot" on the nose, probably due to the 16% alcohol. Aromas of licorice, a little tar and dark fruit (plums, cherries). Very vibrant palate. Juicy, with good acidity and fruit. Well-balanced.

I give this wine two thumbs up ;-)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Brassfield Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Sereno Vineyard 2003

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Let me first start off by just saying...WOW! This gorgeous Cabernet from the Clear Lake district really has it going on. Beautiful ruby red in color with aromas of dark fruit with a bit of spice box. The palate just explodes with flavor, big and juicy! I get, among other things, tobacco, vanilla, black cherries and gripping tannins. By gripping, I mean these tannins take hold of your tongue and won't let go. The finish is long and invites you to keep drinking.

We have three more bottles of this wine in our cellar and it could easily develop for another 2 - 3 years, but if it's this good now, I can't see how we'll be able to wait that long ;-)

Loaves of Happiness

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

This is probably my favorite bread that Tom makes: Bular Bread. It makes me swoon when it's baking, it fills the house with such fantastic aromas!


3 cups milk
1 T salt
3 T instant yeast
2 t ground cardamom
2 T vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
7 - 8 cups flour

Mix together 5 cups of the flour with the salt, sugar, cardamom and yeast. Set aside. Warm the milk to 110F in microwave and add the oil and beaten egg. Mix in flour mixture one cup at a time until it can be kneaded. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a smooth dough. Let rise covered in a warm place until doubled in size. Punch down dough. Form into loaves, buns or (my favorite) you can divide dough in half, roll halves out flat, cover with cinnamon sugar and roll up jellyroll style and slice into 1/4" slices.

Preheat oven to 350F. After loaves, buns or dessert rolls have risen (about 30 - 45 minutes) bake until light brown.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tasting notes from a wine dinner

Last night I attended a wonderful wine dinner at my favorite restaurant, Blue Bamboo. The executive chef, Dennis Chan and his sous chefs, Michael Kimpland, Alexander Finley and Jimmy Leung showed off their culinary skills.

We started off with Blue Cheese-Parmesan Puffs paired with Paringa Sparkling Shiraz. The puffs were light as a feather with flaky, tender pastry. They paired very well with the sparkling shiraz. I was expecting to not enjoy the shiraz, having tasted a few before that were severely lacking in flavor. Not the case with this one. It had a beautiful deep plum color with pretty pink fizz. Full-bodied with a slightly sweet finish.

Next up was Herbed Shrimp Summer Roll with Peanut Lime Sauce paired with Vina Godeval Godello. Another good pairing! Light straw in color with delicate lime and honeydew aromas. The palate was tart citrus, grapefruit or tangerine, with good acidity and a medium finish.

The main entree was a Duo of Red Roast Ham Shank and Soy Glazed Lamb paired with Le Coq Rouge. The ham was succulent and falling off the bone, and the lamb was tender and juicy! The Le Coq Rouge had an earthiness to the aroma with hints of currant and a little bit of mushroom. It had a big mouthfeel and was very dry, with flavors of truffles. Nice finish.

The dessert was a real treat. Lemon-Basil Cream "Puck" paired with Valckenberg Madonna Kabinett Riesling. Perfect pairing! The riesling was off dry with a flinty nose and a sweet/tart, fruity palate.

All in all, it was a delicious dinner that brought out the very best in each of the wines. It's no wonder Blue Bamboo is my favorite restaurant :-D

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Oh boy oh boy ohboyohboyohboy!

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Two years ago, Tom and I acquired a bottle of this premium Hungarian dessert wine: Demeter Zoltan Tokaji Esszencia. It was originally the dessert wine of the Hungarian Royalty, then only available to members of the high communist party. Now it's rare, but available to those lucky enough to find one. A limited number of bottles are made since it takes around 10 years to make. Yes, I said 10 years! Esszencia is the most precious liquid obtained from Aszú grapes. Prior to making the Aszú wine, harvested berries picked individually from the bunch are stored in wooden casks, with a false bottom made up of loose-fitting slats. 'Essence' or juice, pressed out by the weight of the grapes, is collected and then matured in Gönci casks or demi-johns. With such a high sugar content, Tokaji Esszencia ferments very slowly to about 3-4% alcohol and is a great rarity - a phenomenal nectar rather than a true wine. Due to its intensity it will mature for decades in cask and bottle before it reaches its peak.

Now, you'll notice the title of this post. We have been keeping this bottle in the cellar for two years, waiting until the perfect occasion to open it. That occasion will happen the weekend after next. We're having a Christmas party and inviting a few close friends. Everyone will bring a dish and a good bottle of wine. This is what we'll be opening.

Like I said...Oh boy oh boy ohboyohboyohboy! I'll post my tasting notes after the party ;-)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

M. Cosentino The Poet 2002

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

This is the third bottle in about a year that Tom and I have tried. The first bottle was pretty dreadful, to be quite honest. We drank it after we first purchased it. The second bottle was drunk about 6 months later, and it was marginal at best. This time it's better. It has softened with time in the bottle and has developed more flavor.

The Poet is a Napa blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I get hints of anise on the nose, followed by stewed dark fruits (cherries, plums). At first sip it's a bit on the astringent side, but after a minute or two in the glass it gets much more palatable. It's full and round in the mouth, with flavors of fruit and vanilla. Nice lengthy finish here, too.

This is a wine that truly benefited with bottle aging.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sad, so sad

Her geography teacher should be horsewhipped. Or sent to Budapest, France.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A wonderful dinner tonight

So Tom and I picked up some gorgeous looking pork tenderloins at BJ's for an awesome price: only $12.00 for 4. They're usually around $9 or $10 for just two!

I was surfing the interwebs today looking for a recipe and found one that I used, but modified. I didn't even measure, I just eyeballed it and guesstimated. All measurements below are approximate.

2 healthy sized pork tenderloins
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix all dry ingredients together well. Slather tenderloins with olive oil and place on a rack on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Coat oiled tenderloins with dry mixture, using all of the mixture and pressing it into the tenderloins. Roast at 325 until pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Cool for about 10 - 15 minutes and slice into 1/2" thick slices.

We had this with a spicy rice and paired it with Montes Purple Angel Carmenere. WOW. It was pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself :-D

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Henri Boillot Meursault Les Genevrieres 2004

If we're going to drink a Chardonnay it's going to be a White Burgundy, and this wine is the reason why. It has none of the characteristics of a California Chardonnay with oak so predominant that you need to pull the splinters from your teeth afterwards. In my humble opinion, oak masks the wonderful fruitiness of a good Chardonnay.

This beautiful Burgundy had rich, ripe tropical fruit notes of pineapple and a touch of mango. Hints of pear were also apparent. Good acidity and well-balanced, it has another few years to mature. We have another few bottles, so I can revisit these notes to see how well it holds up :-D

Tom's Ditto Bread

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

3 packages yeast
1/2 t sugar
3 cups water
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 T cornmeal
3 cups whole wheat flour
7 - 8 cups flour
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup molasses
6 T butter
3 T sesame seeds
2 eggs
1 T salt

Mix yeast with 3/4 cup warm water and sugar. Set aside. Boil 3 cups water and pour in a bowl. Add molasses, butter, brown sugar, cornmeal, salt and sesame seeds. When cooled, add yeast mix. Beat eggs stiffly and add to mixture. Mix in whole wheat flour one cup at a time. Begin adding rest of flour one cup at a time, decreasing amount added as dough stiffens. Knead in remaining flour. Lightly grease large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and turn it over to grease both sides. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down, divide into thirds and place in greased loaf pans. Allow to rise 30 - 45 minutes covered. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake loaves uncovered for 35 - 45 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fall Wine Fair this Friday!

I'll be assisting Gonzalo Oliva and Sam Cockrel of GOS Imports this Friday (Nov 16) from 3pm - 8pm at Simon's, A Wine Bar located at 1004 Hendricks Ave. You'll get 10% off anything you order (no minimum necessary!) plus you'll get an additional 10% off if you order $200 or more. How cool is that?

If you are planning to go, let me know!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wine Dinner with Allan Green of Greenwood Ridge Winery

Last night Tom and I attended a "Meet the Winemaker" Wine Dinner at Restaurant Medure in Ponte Vedra Beach. Allan Green of Greenwood Ridge Winery was there to present his wonderful wines.

We started off with the 2006 Greenwood Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, paired with a variety of hors d'oeuvres: Tuna Tartare and a variety of imported cheeses. The Sauvignon Blanc paired well with the hors d'oeuvres with its crisp and refreshing palate. It was tart, with good acidity and a well-balanced finish.

Next was the first course: Tempura Colossal Crab with Coconut Curry Broth paired with the 2006 Greenwood Ridge Riesling, Mendocino Ridge. The spiciness of the Curry Broth was a perfect match for the off-dry and fruity Riesling. Delicious!

The second course was just as good: Portobello Mushroom Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Pistachio and Cranberry Vinaigrette paired with the 2006 Greenwood Ridge Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge. Can I just say...WOW! The berry flavor of the Vinaigrette brought out the strawberry-ness of the Pinot Noir, and the pungent goat cheese brought out the smokiness.

Our entree was next: Dry Rubbed Long Island Duck Breast with Foie Gras, Carmelized Onion and Truffle Spaghetti Squash paired with the 2002 Greenwood Ridge Merlot, Mendocino Ridge. Absolutely fantastic! The duck was tender and smoky which was perfect with the Merlot's woodsy balsam notes.

Last, but certainly not least, was the dessert. Ahhhh, the dessert: Open-Faced Apple Tart with Mascarpone Pastry Cream and Lavender Honey paired with the 2004 Greenwood Ridge Late Harvest White Riesling. Again, it was a great pairing. The wine was not too sweet or acidic and had wonderful melon and pear notes.

All in all it was a terrific meal. You could tell that the chef took some time to come up with the best courses to pair with these wines. Tom and I both gave this wine dinner two enthusiastic thumbs up ;-)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Clarendon Hills Syrah Astralis 2003

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Last night Tom and I and a good friend went out for dinner. We brought along with us a bottle of Clarendon Hills Syrah Astralis 2003, one of the high-priced wines we were unable to sell when our store closed. This wine received a 99 point rating by Robert Parker, stating "It’s hard to believe the 2003 Syrah Astralis Vineyard could be better, but it offers riveting richness, intensity, purity, and equilibrium. Structurally, it is similar to the Piggott Range, revealing abundant amounts of sweet, ripe tannin, and huge extract, richness, and depth. Meant for true connoisseurs who are willing to forget it for 5-8 years, it represents what Roman Bratasiuk and Clarendon Hills do so well ... show respect for the great traditions of France, but recognize the extraordinary raw materials that emerge from old vines planted in McLaren Vale. This fabulous wine offers both power and elegance, and showcases the extraordinary talent of Roman Bratasiuk." This was wonderfully balanced and quite delicious! Worth the 99 points? You bet! Worth the triple digits it retails for? Well, let's just say we would never have spent that much for a bottle of wine. We're not ones to cellar wines for many years. We like to drink them now. Why wait?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A video I made...

Thanks to Animoto

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Time to Vent

So this young woman comes into the store and tells me that she doesn't know much about wines and that her friend told her we were having a going-out-of-business sale (Strike 1, she's pegged as a vulture). Then she tells me she heard we were having a party next Saturday and what is going to be on sale then? (Strike 2, she's pegged as a cheapskate). I told her that depending on how much inventory we have left will decide what kind of sale we have as it gets closer to closing. She said that she also heard that we had a 50% off everything sale (Strike 2A, see Strike 2). I told her that was 50% off 50 wines and they're all gone. Then she proceeded to ask me about this that and the other wine asking how sweet each one was. Then she stopped to call her friend to ask about a wine he had. She tells me that he buys this one wine from PRP and do we have it? I told her that they hold the rights to every wine they sell and we can't get them.

So she looks around some more and asks me why we're going out of business and what will I do next. I told her that Total Wine came to town and took away our business and that I haven't decided what I'll do now. She looks around some more and asks more questions. She asks me about a "Doctor-something wine" (figuring that it's Doctor Loosen). She then tells me that she usually gets it at Total Wine (Strike 3, you're out!) I looked her right in the eye and told her "You know, it's incredibly tacky to tell someone who is going out of business that you shop at the very place that is putting them out of business". She told me that there are other places in town who sell wine, and I told her that we were doing fine until TW came to town. She said "OK, I won't buy anything then" and she left.

I can't deal with insensitivity and ignorance. GOOD RIDDANCE!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tenuta del Ornellaia "Ornellaia" 2003

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Robert Parker rated this wonderful wine 93 points, stating "The opulent 2003 Ornellaia (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot) presents a dramatic contrast to the 2004 in its super-ripe, open nose and jammy dark fruit. Ample and warm on the palate, it is clearly the product of a very hot vintage, yet it shows notable freshness along with much persistence, great overall balance and a lingering note of sweetness on the finish. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2018.

Wine Spectator rated it 92 points. This is what they had to say: "Subtle aromas of currant, coffee and blackberry, yet rather coarse on the palate just now. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long, long finish. Needs some time to mellow. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Best after 2009."

I thought this was an absolutely luscious wine. I had it with a perfectly cooked steak (rare!) with Lyonaise potatoes and it couldn't have been a better pairing! Tom was not as impressed, but he thinks his palate has been off lately due to taking medication for a sinus infection. I believe I enjoyed it enough for the both of us ;-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It takes all kinds...

OK, so I was in the store this afternoon packaging up a shipment for eBay and this young woman walks in. I ask her if I can help her. She asks me what kind of perfume I wear. I told her I don't wear perfume because hubby is allergic. Then I ask her why she wants to know. She says that she's selling discounted perfumes. I pointed out the two very distinct "NO SOLICITORS!!" signs on either side of the door. She said, and I quote...

"But I'm not selling my body"

And she was serious.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Montes Carmenere Purple Angel 2004

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Rated 90 points by Wine Spectator: "A bit pumped up with flashy toast, but shows solid raspberry and blackberry fruit, with mocha, tobacco and mineral notes on the long, nicely integrated finish. Drink now through 2008."

An incredibly delicious wine, for sure, but I have to disagree with the aromas they found. I got fresh-roasted coffee beans with a touch of grilled green peppers. The body was dense and lush with silky tannins and a long finish.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The End

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

This week Tom wrote this in our weekly email newsletter:

"After four years, Southside Cellars is closing its doors. Our last day of business will be June 30, which is a Saturday. We'll have an all-day event on that day, to say good-bye to our loyal customers and good friends. We've had a lot of good times here with many of you, and we'll miss those good times (and you.) We sincerely hope that some of you will stay in touch.

We know that many of you will miss our twice-weekly parties (that we called "wine tastings"), the wine and food events, the wine clubs, Divas, Tom's bread and maybe even this newsletter. We are happy to have had the opportunity to share them all with you. We wish we could do it some more.

Unfortunately, it's harder and harder for small retailers to compete in a market that is increasingly dominated by big-box stores. We find that we no longer can. Maybe it's the way of the future, but we'll miss the personal touch, interacting with our customers, sharing the good times and becoming friends. Linda and I will always look for small, locally owned stores and restaurants and give them our business and support.

All of that said, we've got a lot of wine we need to sell. We are open for business our usual hours until the end of June, so don't be strangers. And this isn't the last newsletter, either, although there won't be too many more.

Our wine tastings will stop at the end of May, mostly because it's hard to get support from our suppliers when they know we won't be buying anything from them, but we'll have three more: two this week (Thursday and Saturday, as usual) and one next Thursday. Each of them will be hosted by the reps who have given us the most support, and stuck by us through the lean times this past year."

I can't tell you how angry I am. Not only at the big store that's putting us out of business, but also at those customers who left us to shop there. You know who you are. Go ahead, shop there. You won't get the personal service you got here. You won't get the passion for the product that you got here either. What you will get is some uninformed flunky who has no vested interest in the company trying to tell you how good their private-label shit is that the company makes a huge profit on. And you know what? You deserve it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hahn Syrah 2004

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Just about everything Hahn makes is good, IMO. The Central Coast Syrah is no exception. Full of juicy, ripe fruit (raspberries, blackberries) with soft tannins. This wine would be too easy to guzzle, so a bit of restraint is called for. But I'm a professional, so I'll take my chances ;-)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ever had a "bad palate" day?

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

We've all heard of "bad hair days", but have you ever had a "bad palate" day? I think I experienced that last night. Tom and I took the leftover wines from the store's wine tasting over to our favorite restaurant to have with dinner. We were both somewhat underwhelmed with the wines.

The Lyeth Meritage, which we both have really enjoyed in the past, was thin and lifeless.

The John Duval Shiraz Entity left us shrugging. This was a wine produced by the previous winemaker for the infamous Penfold's Grange. Don't get me wrong, it was good. Very good. But I think it had some big shoes to fill. Had we just tasted it not knowing that it was made by Duval, we might have enjoyed it for the wine it was. Also, the wine was from the Barossa region, which usually indicates a dense, concentrated fruit bomb. The Entity was more subtle and elegant, which I think was more like a McLaren Vale or Clare Valley Shiraz.

The Jim Barry McRae Wood was the best of the three, but it was still not as great as what it had been in the past.

All in all, we think we were just having an "off" night. The store is floundering, customers are losing interest and we are feeling the effects personally. We'll try the wines again in the near future under more happy circumstances. Heaven forbid we are just losing our taste for wine. I shudder to think.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2003

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Displays round, attractive aromas of concentrated black fruit and hefty oak. The palate is bold, chewy and rich, while fine tannins and lively acidity keep any potential holes well plugged. Tastes sweet, dark, fruity and ripe, with vanilla and coffee on the finish. Tremendously satisfying!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thorn-Clarke Pinot Gris Terra Barossa 2006

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

This Australian Pinot Gris is delicious! It has aromas of perfumed pear drops, orange blossoms and dried herbs. The palate is medium bodied with nice rich nectarine fruit and freshly cut apples. The wine is very creamy and mouth filling, providing a perfect match to any food type, especially Asian foods. The rich sweet pear and nectarine flavors integrate with the clean acid to give the wine great length. Tom and I both enjoyed it very much, and we are extremely partial to red wines. Tom said "this is a red drinker's white", and I agree :-D

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Carpineto Dogajolo 2005

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon from Tuscany. The color is deep garnet with violet reflections. On the nose you get very fruity and intense aromas, with hints of cherry, coffee, vanilla and spice. The palate is full, soft, complex and well balanced. A delicious Italian wine!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Elyse Zinfanel Morisoli Vineyard 2003

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Tom and I drank this luscious Zinfandel last night with our dinner and it was awesome! Aromatically teasing and lush all the way across the palate. Aromas of sweet briary fruit lead to flavors of kirsch, cherries, raspberries and hints of white chocolate and toffee with an underlying mineral component. The wine was seamless on the palate with a lovely creamy texture and long pleasing finish. And I do mean long! It lingered for a good 30 - 45 seconds.

Elyse also makes a fantastic Petite Sirah. I'll post that after we drink it :-)


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shirvington Shiraz 2004

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Tom and I shared this wine with some friends on Valentine's Day and let me tell was SENSATIONAL! It was an inky/purple color, followed by aromas of graphite, blueberries and creme de cassis. It offered wonderful purity, plenty of stuffing, toasty espresso notes from new oak barrels, admirable intensity and a tremendous finish. Normally a wine this young would be quite tannic, but this exquisite Shiraz was as smooth as silk! After tasting it, I almost didn't want to share it with our friends ;-)

Unfortunately, the 2004 vintage is no longer available. The 2005 is in stores now. I can't wait to try that one!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

K Cimicky Piping Shrike Shiraz 2005

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Anyone who knows me well knows that I loves me some Barossa Shiraz, and this one is nothing less than spectacular! Dense, concentrated and full of jammy fruit. Lots of body and a lengthy finish. Deeeeeee-licious!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Wine, wonderful wine!

Just a photo I wanted to share...

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A wine merchant's job is so difficult

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

One of my wine distributors was here one morning (10:45am) with several new French wines and a California blend for me to try. He forced me (really, he did!) to taste these wines (it was so tough!) so that I could decide which, if any, I would bring in. Out of nine, there were four that really grabbed me.

I hope all my customers appreciate the lengths I go to for them. It's not everyone who would be willing to subject themselves to this madness. </sarcasm>

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Waiter, my wine is corked...

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine, only to discover that the smell is really off? I'm not talking about what I refer to as "bottle funk", the slightly unpleasant aroma that you get after some wines are opened, but blows off after only a few minutes. I'm talking about the aroma of wet newspaper, a musty old book. That's what's known as cork taint, or "corked" wine. The cork gets tainted by trichloroanisole (TCA) and can ruin a good bottle of wine. Anywhere from 5% to 15% of all wine in bottles with cork closures is tainted with this nasty chemical. TCA smells like wet newspaper, old socks, or wet concrete, none of which are what you want in the bouquet of your favorite wine.

Natural and composite corks have been implicated in numerous cases of TCA cork taint in some of California's best known wineries. Cork's not the only source of TCA taint, but it is a major one. Wineries believe that eliminating cork would eliminate much of the problem, along with the huge cost.

So does 5-15% of the wine you buy have TCA taint? My personal experience, and I open a lot of wine, is much lower than that. I suspect that yours is, too. Unless there is a fair amount of TCA in the wine, most people won't be able to tell it's there at all (although some claim to be super-sensitive to TCA.) Often, you may just think the wine isn't as good as you had hoped, and move on to another brand.

It's most likely that you'll notice TCA under two circumstances: when it's in a wine that you drink regularly and one bottle seems "off", and when there's enough TCA to make it smell like an old gym bag. If either happens to you, return the bottle to whomever sold it to you. Most reputable wine sellers will replace bad bottles within a reasonable time after purchase. The bottle that's been in your cellar for a couple of years may be another story.

TCA is the reason so many wineries are switching to screw caps, or "Stelvin closures". Many oenophiles cringe at the thought of drinking wines that have a screw cap. There's a stigma that comes with it, but I believe that if a wine tastes good, it doesn't matter what kind of closure it has ;-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Open That Bottle!

Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaither and John Brecher have started a yearly event called "Open That Bottle Night" that happens on the last Saturday of February. This year it falls on February 24th.

The purpose of the event is to get people who have held onto a special bottle, for whatever reason, to open it and enjoy it with friends. Even if you aren't holding onto a special bottle, you can buy a wine that you've been craving for a while and share that. So call your friends, see that everyone will be bringing a wine to share, make reservations at your favorite restaurant (check first that you can bring your own wine!) and, by all means, open that bottle!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pretty maids all in a row

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Bitch is Back...

photo © Linda Blakely 2007

Last year our store brought in this delicious Australian Grenache. I didn't know how well it would sell, so at the time, I only brought in one case. Little did I know it would sell out in about a week's time. When I tried to order was all gone. This time I brought in several cases, anticipating more sales. Yesterday when it came in, an entire case sold within 2 hours.

Last year's vintage was really good. Tasting notes: "A playful mouthful of dark cherry fruit, a bit of candied plum, touch of cinnamon and oak." I can't wait to try this vintage ;-)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Cutting Out the Middleman

photo © Linda Blakely 2007