Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Repris Wines, My New Wine Adventure Has Begun…

Exactly five weeks ago, I wrote this about not knowing what my next adventure in the wine industry would be. Less than a week later I had two job offers and one that I just couldn’t refuse. An opportunity that has consumed my last four weeks so much that I haven’t even had time to share with you where I’m working. I connected with a newer wine company in Sonoma that took over Moon Mountain Vineyard in 2011.

A while back I tasted a 2004 Moon Mountain Cabernet as the previous owners were closing the estate and had this to say about the property:

Even though there won’t be any more Moon Mountain made, the vines are still there and some of these flavors and aromas will likely still be showing up in future offerings from this estate. I’ll have to grab some of their first releases to share here.

Those words couldn’t have been more true! You see, my new home just released the inaugural wines this past week. Yes, I’ve tasted them. Yes, I love them. Much more so than the 2004 I tasted before. Some of that could be my personal attachment to the vineyard and wines now, but I believe what is happening on the mountain now will outshine anything we’ve seen from prior owners. I have every faith that the wines, the vineyard and the experience rivals the best in the world. That’s a big statement, I know. But likely you haven’t experienced what we have to offer and once you do, you’ll understand.

Here is a preview of what the property and wines offer up. Stunning, right? And let me tell you these photos do a great job of showing off the vineyard, caves and harvest, but until you’ve seen it with your own eyes you won’t fully understand.

My career has taken a swing in my day-to-day tasks and I’m happy for that. I have loved working in tasting rooms for the past five years, but really needed and wanted to contribute in a different way. I’m working with the members of Repris, interacting with them via phone and email. It’s amazing how much crossover there is from in-person conversation to the phone. Either way, I’m telling the story of the vines, the wine making process and my favorite part: the finished product. I’m enjoying it immensely.

Let me know if you are in the neighborhood, I’d love to show you around this spectacular estate.

Cheers!

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A new wine adventure awaits!

Tonight I lie in bed awake waiting for tomorrow to come. Tomorrow brings with it opportunity, new experiences and more time with the family. You see, last Friday was my last day at the place I spent 5 days a week at for the last year plus. Through no fault of my own, the business closed. I was working hard to make it a success; however there were too many factors stacked against us. But that is the past and the past can not be changed. What can be changed is tomorrow (and now – but tomorrow and now are pretty close to the same thing).

I’m already interviewing for my next adventure in this ever-changing industry. And I really mean an adventure. Each place I’ve worked for in the past 5 years has had its own character, history and customers. It has been a lifetime of experiences in a short period of time full of awesome co-workers with unlimited knowledge of wine. All of whom were willing to share with me and impart a real understanding of this complicated business. I’ve also had the pleasure of taking some great classes through leading organizations in the wine industry leading to even more knowledge.

It all sounds so easy: grow some grapes, crush them, bottle the product and sell it to consumers. So simple, I forgot the part about fermentation! But this is an intricate business that has countless steps to ensure the quality of the finished wine matches up with what the winery’s customers have come to expect. As one of the funny ecards floating around Facebook said recently: “you mean I can get paid to help people drink wine? Where do I sign up” It’s true. When all is said and done, that is what we do – although each of us plays a unique role in the process.

So while I don’t know yet what the next adventure for me will be, I do know that it will be exciting. I do know that it will bring with it new challenges and experiences. I also know that I will meet new people with unique perspectives hearing about some of the same processes in new ways. I’m excited for what the future holds and I look forward to where this career path will take me next.

So while I type this and think about all the experiences I’ve had, I know only one thing for sure; this is the only thing I want to do with my life. There are no other jobs or career paths that fit with my lifestyle. In addition, the beverage I have come to not only enjoy daily has provided for my family for nearly half of my post-college years. Good stuff. You’ve heard people say it, but do what you love and the money (and happiness) will come. I’m trying. And if the money doesn’t come at least there’s wine!

More soon on my next steps….

Cheers!

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#CabernetDay – bringing back good memories

For those who didn’t know, Thursday was officially #CabernetDay on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets that I’m sure I haven’t discovered, but will waste plenty of my time in the future. So, what is #CabernetDay? And why does it have that number sign (#) in front of it? Cabernet Day is hosted each year by Rick Bakas, a local Sommelier. He also hosts several other ‘days’ throughout the year. That number sign is what they call a hashtag and in Twitter speak it is used to group tweets together. So, everyone who was tweeting about #CabernetDay could do a search for other people participating. Thus, creating a special place for all the #CabernetDay tweets.

So now that you’re fully aware of what a special day it was for Cabernet yesterday, I’ll share what I was drinking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If only I could actually share it with you! This is one of my all time favorite wines. It also carries some special meanings to me. For starters, it is the Cabernet vintage we were pouring when I first was working at Arrowood. It was also my first job in the wine industry – pouring wine and conducting tours at the Arrowood estate. But for me, Cabernet goes much deeper than that.

Cabernet was the first wine I remember drinking. My parents didn’t drink much when my sister and I were growing up (at least not to our knowledge) except when we were at parties and family gatherings. If the Manhattans weren’t flowing, then I remember my dad drinking Cabernet. Now, I have a terrible memory so this could all be wrong, but makes for a good story. So, of course when I’m first offered the opportunity to drink I choose Cabernet. Can’t recall whether I was old enough to consume legally, but let’s just say I was. I liked Cabernet for its boldness. Although not right away. Like most alcoholic drinks wine is an acquired taste.

The first bottle I remember sharing with a group of friends (a big milestone in a wine lover’s life!) was a 1995 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour. For me it was a bottle I’ll remember forever. But it wasn’t until I started working at Arrowood that I fell in love with Cabernet. And until recently it has been my favorite varietal. While I still love it, Zinfandel is quickly catching up and may have even surpassed. Although my wine cellar tells a different story with Cabernet being the most common varietal and consuming almost 25% of the space. Of course, much of that has to do with my time at Arrowood.

I only have a few bottles left of the wine above and I look forward to enjoying them in the near future. Likely those will be enjoyed with company. And there really isn’t any reason to hang on to them much longer as it tasted great now. I would be very disappointed if I let them go much longer and then didn’t enjoy the flavors. Hope you do the same with your favorite wines. #CabernetDay was fun, but I’m also looking forward to the other #days coming up. Maybe Rick Bakas will do a #ZinfandelDay – that would be great!

Cheers!

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YardWine – are you in on the trend?

Most of you are probably aware that during the late Spring and Summer I spend many Tuesday evenings on the Sonoma Plaza enjoying a couple glasses of wine and picnic food (most of the time – of course, last night was burritos) while the kids run around. The event is really the Tuesday Night Sonoma Farmer’s Market, but it is way more than a regular farmer’s market. Most of it, for me anyway, is about socialization and a feeling of community. Sure the fresh flowers, veggies and goods offered by the vendors are great, but so many people flock to the plaza to meet friends and family that evening.

Much like these folks are doing on Friday nights in Rossmoor (Southern California). Dan and Nancy Roddy started the concept of “YardWine” more than 25 years ago. The idea is really simple. Sit in your yard, your front yard people!, open some wine and invite a few neighbors over. Sounds easy, right? I can hear the excuses already: “We’re just so busy right now”, “Maybe next week, we have plans tonight”

Neighborhoods just aren’t what they used to be. And why do you think that is? Because we don’t do the things we used to do. It used to be on Friday nights there weren’t any TV shows worth watching – though I’ll argue there likely still aren’t. We weren’t captivated by our electronic devices. Now we have to come home and feed our fake fish, check facebook 10,000 times before bed, run through all the Pinterest posts, etc. We are so ‘busy’ these days we don’t have time to talk with our neighbors. That is why neighborhoods aren’t the same. And nothing is going to change unless we get out there and change it.

This year my wife bought some Adirondack chairs for our front porch…

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hope was that we would sit out there more this year maybe meet some of our neighbors and enjoy this great area we decided to live in – like we do on Tuesday nights. The reality is that by the time we eat dinner, the kids go to bed (they are almost to the age we can just let them play in front of the house) and we are ready to sit out there it is too windy or chilly to fully enjoy. Likely I should have added that to the excuses above. The wi-fi reaches out there so our electronic leashes are not an excuse for us to stay inside. Although that defeats the purpose of the YardWine concept.

Sonoma has great weather, but one of the reasons it is such a perfect climate for grapes is that it’s warm during the day and cool overnight. It can sometimes get in the way of evening outdoor plans. We still have some ‘summer’ left in us and I plan on sitting out there more this year. Maybe even some of the neighbors will stop by to enjoy a glass of vino with us. Maybe.

Cheers!

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Napa Valley Cabernet, too high in alcohol?

Thanks to my father-in-law for emailing me this article in the Chronicle about Napa Valley Cabernet and it’s ascend to very high alcohol levels in recent years.

It’s no secret (as this article also states) that higher alcohol wines generally bring higher score from the critics. But if you’ve been following this blog, I’m pretty blasé about wine ratings and critics. Why should anyone tell me what to drink based on their own evaluation? And why should I put effort into following what they have to say when their ‘high scores’ just lead to me and you paying a higher price for that now coveted bottle of fermented juice?

I’ve long said the only place ratings should come into play is when you have a specific wine in mind and specific price point and you are standing on the wine aisle. Ratings can help you decide between one wine and another. If the price point is the same, go with the higher rating, right? But I live in one of California’s areas for great wine and generally drink wine from these regions and can decide for myself what I like and don’t like.

Anyway, let me step down from my soap box for a moment (because I could go on for a long time about the above topic and that’s not what I specifically set out to write about, although I’m having fun!).

This article brings up so many topics, it’s almost impossible to cover with just one post. For starters, I love that Randy Dunn has stuck to his core values of making a certain style of wine. So many wineries change what they are doing based on consumer polls and data and swings in purchasing. How can we ever know what to expect in the bottle if the winery changes style and direction with every new trend? We can’t. There are many wineries I have grown to love because I know what to expect from them. Some of them have specific wines that I really like and others that I don’t. I just buy the ones I like. But when I get a wine from a trusted source and it has changed to suit what some marketing person decided was better for their customers that’s where I draw the line.

But see for the general wine drinking public (who by the way is only 14% of Americans on a regular basis) they often times don’t know that the winery changed direction or can’t tell for whatever reason. Or maybe they just don’t care. There are a lot of wine drinkers that just want a ‘glass of red’ and never really think about the wine. So this trend will continue. You can count on it.

I just love this quote from Randy Dunn:

“I’ve been in many conversations with people that have been selling their wines for $150 a bottle for 15 years, and I was at $65 or something. They go, ‘What are you doing? You’re making us look like fools,’….And I said, ‘You know, I’m quite profitable at this level.’ Here’s a concept called greed.”

Interesting, he’s making them look like fools. I’m all for capitalism though. If they can sell it at that price (and trust me $150 is starting price for many Cabernet wines in Napa Valley) good for them, but they are certainly past the price range I’m comfortable in. At that price I’ll buy a nice Irish Whiskey or Scotch and drink it over an entire year. I have heard people say, “What’s the difference between a $150 bottle of wine and a $50 bottle of wine? ….$100.”

There’s also this concept in here about how the higher alcohol levels have led to the wines all tasting the same. I think I’ll have to do some research to further discover the real answer on this, but it used to be that you could easily distinguish the different growing areas of Napa Valley – mountains vs. floor, east facing regions vs. west, Rutherford Dust comes to mind. I guess I could see how the higher alcohol could mask some of these unique characteristics by making it all about the alcohol and less about the sense of place. That terroir is so important to me. I want to taste, smell and hear (you mean you don’t listen to your wine?) and feel where the wine and grapes came from.

I’m very curious (and will keep following this story) what the research Mr. Dunn is doing will suggest about how to taste wines of lower and higher alcohol. It makes sense that if you taste a higher alcohol wine first, the lower one will taste watery, or at least lighter. If that is the case, if his wines are tasted alongside the higher alcohol versions from Napa Valley then he never will see those higher ratings. Either way, I look forward to tasting his commitment to a standard and ability to not conform with the ever-changing wants of the general public.

Cheers!

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Filed under Alcohol Content, Napa, Napa Valley, Wine, Wine Study, Wine Tasting, Winemaking

Paso Robles Wine Country

Thanks to my in-laws a couple of weeks ago my wife and I managed a weekend away and decided to make the trek to Pismo Beach. Thanks to a friend we stayed at Pismo Lighthouse Suites, a well-appointed hotel right on the beach. Great place to stay and an excellent view….

 

 

 

 

 

 

With only one full day down there, of course we went wine tasting! I had heard about good wines from Paso Robles, but I think most people would label the region as still ‘up and coming’. With the five wineries we visited, I would venture to say that the area is no longer up and coming, but rather has hit full stride! At each stop there wasn’t one wine that I would have labeled as ‘not good’. There were certainly a few that weren’t my style, but all the wines I tasted were of high quality.

Our first stop…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peachy Canyon was our first stop. We know the area is known for Zinfandel and we are huge Zin fans. This winery was listed as one that offered multiple Zinfandels. They had three on the list, but 6 more available just for wine club members. All were tasty. They also offer live music on Saturdays during the summer and have a huge picnic area and lawn. Cool stuff.

Second up was Turley Wine Cellars….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turley traces its roots back to St. Helena in the Napa Valley and I recognized the name. We tasted 4 wines and all were very good, so they were packed into the cooler. Turley offered a more upscale experience with a large bar, many staff members and a retail shop as well.

After that a short trip to Zin Alley where we tasted wine along with the owner and winemaker. A very cool experience tasting right in their cellar, right up my alley….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not much to look at, but the wines were very good. We actually ended up going home with a Syrah blend. Funny since Zin is in their name.

Right down the hill from Zin Alley, was our favorite stop on the trip, Cypher Winery. I was a little skeptical as some of their wines seemed gimmicky…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With names like Anarchy, Heretic and Zin Bitch I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was blown away with quality, elegance and power of these wines. We just drank the Heretic and I was equally impressed while drinking it at home. Which brings up another topic that I’ll have to write about. Many tourists get caught up in the romance of wine country and dream up that the wines are better than they really are. Then upon returning home they are disappointed in the wine they purchased. Sorry for the tangent, back to the wine. We also picked up the Chardonnay even though it was un-oaked. I’m usually a fan of some oak on my Chard, but this one really stood out.

Our last stop was Lone Madrone. We were drawn to it because of its Celtic logo…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are any number of things that attract tourists (and locals) to wineries. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a logo or bottle design. This one looked like a symbol we had seen while traveling through Ireland a few years back. The symbol dated back more than 5000 years. The wines were as good as any we had on the trip. The Chenin Blanc was a highlight as was the Hard Apple Cider they produce.

All in all it was a fantastic introduction to the wine country in and around Paso Robles. We can’t wait to return and discover some new favorites.

Cheers!

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Filed under Visiting Wineries, Wine Country, Wine Tasting