Thursday, October 30, 2008


The hands of a Syrah winemaker! Up close they don't look that nice. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alice in lala land.

My friends (well, Jill and Bob anyway) knows that I have been particularly upset by the choice of Alice Feiring as the new wine writer for the LA Times and I just feel like its time for me to write my opinions about it. 

After her celebrity appearance at the Wine Bloggers Conference (which I missed, but was informed about by a friend) I want to comment not only on her personal beliefs, but more specifically on her recent blog post for the NY Times, which you can read here.  

As the wife of a winemaker I find her presumptions to be overly romantic and misleading with little insight into what it really takes to make a good stable wine, and for that matter a wine under $10, which 90% of wine consumers in the WORLD see as their price point of choice. I also feel like she's continually spewing the notion of California bad, France good and its so misleading to the consumer. Yes, we all would like lower alcohol wines, so drink lower alcohol wines. But allow room for all types and styles of wine to exist. Her closed mindedness is baffling. 

The first quote which left me SPEECHLESS - literally - was as follows:

When I was in France, I picked alongside a seasonal mix of students, housewives and retirees, each assigned to his or her own row, and the others were all very eager to show me how to best pick out the rot and how to pick perfect bunches. We were all in it together. But the California picking crew was a team hired by the vineyard manager... I picked grapes, and when I was done I felt practically nothing in my muscles, and no sense of the effort in my back. My picking experience, instead of being meaningful, had been laughable.

(and from her blog the day prior comes this quote) It was difficult not to reflect on the difference between working on a small vineyard in the Loire and a small one in Dry Creek. No snacks of coffee, cookies and wine would appear. Instead of a man with a conical pack on his back collecting grapes, the vineyard manager followed us in his tractor. The vines, higher off the ground, made the whole task less of a physical workout. The pickers used hooked knives and worked rapidly, while I worked slowly with a small shear, a secateur, as I had at Clos Roche Blanche in the Loire.

I don’t mean to romanticize the picking on a small estate in Europe, but I did quickly see that the work here wasn’t an emotional experience; it was business. The workers picked everything. I preferred to select each bunch to make sure the grapes were perfect. Sure, it was slower, but I liked the idea of preselecting in the vineyard.

A "picking crew" is not an evil entity, it's not a sterile random choice of people that just enter the vineyard and work and leave. These are men and women who frequently work the same vineyard year in and year out and are PROFESSIONALS at what they do. They prune during the winter, replant what needs to be replanted in the spring, help with canopy management in the summer and may even help sort grapes during the day after picking. They get up at the crack of dawn or before and work long hard hours. Desiring aching muscles is a romantic notion that quite frankly insults the workers. Many of them are family or extended families and this is their life and their livelihood and its a hard life. They pick according to the philosophy and budget of the wine program and both of those things are very very important. It's the job of the vineyard manager to pick the people who are capable of doing what's required. 

Why should they embrace a woman whose only claim to the wine world is that she wrote a book about Robert Parker with NOTIONS that threaten their jobs??? 

As for the luxury of being slow and eating cookies in the vineyard, it seems that Alice has no concept of BUDGET and time. Picking slowly and languidly means losing money and it means that the day is getting hotter. No quality conscious producer wants hot grapes coming into their winery. AND wine production IS a business. One that Alice has no stake in. She makes her money from writing, not from production, it would be nice for once to see her understand that this is a way of life and indeed it is  a business. Winemakers, vineyard managers, vineyard workers and cellar rats need to make money, pay their mortgages, put food on the table, send their kids to college, not just loiter in the vineyard all day staring at the sunrise. 

And, one last comment about this, the vines are higher off the ground, because its DRY CREEK not the LOIRE VALLEY!! In the Loire it's colder and they need the vines close to the ground in order to reflect heat back onto the grapes. It's a bonus for the workers that they don't go home with sore backs every night. 

My great winemaking adventure was little better than working at one of those custom crush facilities...

Custom crush facilities are not an evil entity. Not everyone can be a wealthy Napa Valley winemaker who can build a multi-million dollar facility for making wine. There are young people who want to get involved in wine who cannot yet afford a winemaking space and custom crush facilities provide a way for people to get involved without a huge capitol outlay. Peter and I used one for elevage of our Oregon Pinot. It's 12% alcohol, was farmed organically, with only 20ppm of SO2 added before bottling and we only made 220 cases. Just the sort of wine that Alice advocates, BUT we do not own the vineyards where the grapes were sourced and cannot afford our own space at the moment. So should we not produce the wine because we don't have a home or a wine making facility on a sweeping vineyard landscape? Keeping the wine at West Gate allows us to sell the wine at a reasonable price, which is becoming increasing rare for domestic Pinot Noir. We can't all sell $45 wholesale Pinot Noir. Not everyone has the resources or the desire to consume at that price point.

On the other hand, there was no doubt that I was having an impact. I had been joking that I was going to have influence on the winemaking world, one winemaker at a time. Maybe I was starting here. 

Having an impact? On what I don't know. On my belief that the LA Times can produce a reputable wine writer for sure. The lower alcohol, organic, low SO2 movement started long before Alice Feiring and her rant against Parker came on the scene. Like Chardonnay with tons of new oak, the high alcohol trend has been swinging in the opposite direction for all sizes and styles of wines. Everyone is doing their best to compete in this terrible economic time in an overly saturated wine market. There are many different types of consumers and there is room for all types of wine. Homogeny is what most of us lash out against, so let's allow room for high alcohol and lower alcohol wines, fruity wines and earthy wines. 

And, one last thing, if I can please say something about SO2, another evil entity in Alice's eyes. It's an incredibly important component in winemaking. The discovery of SO2 and its uses caused a revolution in the wine world. Stability is important!!!!! Using less SO2 means knowing the alternatives inside out. You must be vigilant in managing oxygen exposure, topping up barrels, keeping wine under 60F and free from microbial contamination. I don't mean SO2 should be dumped in without thought, I mean that this is a really important decision to make and not using it requires a lot of care. 

So that's my rant. I took an hour and a half from my MW studies this morning to write this. It was that important for me to finally say SOMETHING PUBLICLY. I was actually was going to have a stroke, as my friend Bob put it, if I didn't get this out there.  

For my friends who worship Alice, well... I welcome your comments. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Something old, something new.

2005, Ojai Vineyards, Sta. Rita Hills, Clos Pepe, Pinot Noir. 

Sold by golden boy, Teddy Bin Bin (aka Ted Vance), who can resist his new grizzly bear look?

We drank this next to the D'Auvenay, which was an interesting juxtaposition. Old World vs. the New World. The wine was cherrylicious, had great texture with moderate tannins and was even a little minty and herbaceous. 

You can get this at Wallys for $54.99. Yahoo peeps!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

If only I had a sombrero.

Burgans, Albarino, Rias Biaxes, 2007.

ALBARRINNOOOO! I just like to put a little Spanish accent on that. Burgans is the name of an Irish Pub on Fairfax, right? Or is that Bergen's? 

Anyhoo, Albarino is perfect for the girly girls or the metrosexual males (Bill Fernandez). It's floral, light, kiwi-esque and just full of fresh citrus fruit. A nice white wine with loads of character, nothing trite or dull about this one. 

This one is a cheapy, $16.99 at Mr. Marcel at the Grove or $13.99 at Rosso Wine Shop in Montrose. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Old world in the new world.

Kalin Cellars, Livermore Valley, Semillon, 1997. 

This wine is so interesting, a dead ringer for white Bordeaux, albeit with slightly higher alcohol. From the website, "The grape source is the Wente Estate Vineyard located near Livermore. The vines were planted in the 1880s from the original Chateau d'Yquem cuttings brought to this region by Charles Wetmore. The soil is thin, iron-rich clay, underlain by 20-30 feet of gravel subsoil. The grapes (75% Semillon and 25% Sauvignon Blanc) were hand-picked and sorted, crushed and pressed. The juice was fermented in French oak barrels for ten months."

And it's diesel-like and oily and marmaladey and all sorts of good semillon stuff. 

You can get this at Grace on Beverly for $52. 

Hocus Pocus at Rosso!

Our friend Jeff at Rosso WIne Shop in Glendale is pouring Hocus Pocus, 2006 at the tasting bar this weekend. This may be your last chance to drink the regular bottling of 2006 - so go go go!!!!!!

Click here for information!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Too rich for my blood.

I'm sorry my pictures have been so bad - I have been procrastinating on charging my camera battery. which seems like a weird thing to procrastinate on, but for some reason I do things like that. With laundry and the grocery store too. I will go 2 days eating only canned beans in olive oil in order to avoid the grocery store. 

SOOOOO.... on to the wine. I feel serious today so here goes...

Yes, I know, those of you who know the label see that this is a wine none of us can afford, but I think this is an interesting discussion to have. 

My friend Bob Asher and Eduardo P-C (the latter is the somm at Grace) were giving me s**t last night for not buying wine under $15 because I automatically assume it's bad. All of you guys give me s**t actually. BUT my point to them was that I would rather pay $5 and increase my chances of getting a very good bottle of wine than to have to experiment and waste my money anyway. 

That said, out of all my wine friends, especially those up in Lompoc, and all the BIG somms in the LA proximity, I probably drink the cheapest. Frightening really. 

I have friends who regularly drink wines like the one pictured above. This wine is from Domaine D'Auvenay, Lalou' Bize-Leroy's declassification project. Apparently, in 2004 Lalou decalssified everything. There are no 1er or Grand Crus. So here we are then with a village level Gevrey-Chambertin that purports to be Mazis-Chambertin. 

It was good, very very good, had rich sweet bing cherry fruit and fresh green spice. But the price is steep, $375. Fun to taste, great to drink, but I simply could never justify spending $375 on a bottle of village level wine even if I knew it was in reality Grand Cru. What I am saying is that even I have my spending limits, and this is it!!!

Our friend, Jim Knight, from the Wine House shared this beautiful wine with us at the Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara, and I thank him because it's an education that I cannot afford to give myself.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Terroni wine.

Fattoria Zerbina, Torre di Ceparano, Sangiovese di Romana Superiore, 2004.

This was a great find at Terroni, on Beverly. Peter and I went in after I had missed my flight to Germany and spent 7 hours in the airport, only having to return the next morning way too early. So I consoled myself with my husband and this bottle (good consolation!)

For being as inexpensive as it was, $58, it was really spectacular. What I liked most was that had this rich, intense texture and stuck to the roof on my mouth, but it also had a lot of fruit - full of cherries and spice.  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Calabria wine?

Jeff at Rosso Wine Shop sells this little Calabrian wine for $20.99. And its being poured at the wine bar THIS weekend. As in RIGHT NOW!!

Terre di Balbia, Balbium, The Emperor's Wine, Calabria, Italy, 2006. (Wow, that's a mouthful)

It's made from 100% Magliocco, don't ask me about that one, it's a first for me. It's all done in oak, but the oak doesn't contribute any of those vanilla "oaky" flavors, instead it just provides roundness to the wine. It's grapey and "delicious to the last drop" (says Jeff) Like all wines worth drinking, this wine is somehow linked to the Roman Empire. 

Aaron is pictured!!! He's wearing the Emperor's new clothes. 

Egidio just wrote to me that it's available at Terroni on Beverly as well, and you should definitely go there to see my beautiful friend, Christina, who works as a hostess there!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If you're in the windy city...

Kloster Eberbach, Steinberger, Riesling, Spatlese, 2005. 

This is a HUGE winery, like a million cases and it's state owned, which is also weird. But it's an amzing place to visit and as I was looking over my German photos I realized I didn't write about Kloster-Eberbach. Kloster means Monastery, Eber means streana nd bach mean bora. So it's a monk pig stream. Interesting!

The wines are really nice, especially because the winery is so big, and they make a terrific pinot that is like 13% alcohol. 

I drank this wine in the Steinberger vineyard, aren't I special!? It's $30 by mail at Sam's in Chicago. (Couldn't find it local!!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bovio. Not Bovine.

Bovio, Langhe, Nebbiolo, 2004. 

There's nothing Bovine about this wine. It doesn't taste like a cow. But it did make me MOOOO!!!!

I blind tasted this as Barbaresco, maybe not quite elegant enough for Barbaresco, but still totally yummy and delish. And you can quote me on that. I like Nebbiolo because it reminds me of really tannic Pinot Noir. High acid, high tannin, you know, all the usual stuff, roses, tar, etc. Goes great with lima beans and jasmine rice!

Peter bought this for $31 at Los Olivos Grocery. So next time you are in the Valley.... check it out!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hocus Pocus Reset!

I've missed 3 days of blogging because I have been at the winery taking care of my husband by cooking him three meals a day. He gets hungry this time of year and doesn't have the time or energy to cook for himself. So Suzy Homemaker to the rescue!

Every now and then I step in and do something around the winery - a punch down here and there and taking sugars - which I love to do actually. I think I would love to be a lab technician, but I have no background in chemistry, so that makes it hard to get hired. Plus, I hate cold. And labs are always cold. 

Anyway! We are celebrating the release of Hocus Pocus, "Reset", 2006. It's the same wine as the original Hocus Pocus, only we left it in barrel a little longer. You can get it at K&L for the moment and also at El Vino in Venice for around $18. Fun times!! The wine is really good, and we are super proud of it. Only 225 cases made, so get it while you can!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another icy one!

Matteo Cerregia, Roero, 2005. A deliciously fruity and tannic Nebbiolo from Piedmont, of course, that I also froze after one glass. This one was in the freezer for WEEKS, but still held its own after thawing in boiling water. These experiments are loads of fun. I get a lot of pleasure from not throwing out wine and then storing it next to Bubbles' Natural Balance Dog Food ay 28 degrees. 

Peter tells me that Matteo Cerregia died in a tractor accident a few years ago, but clearly someone is still making the wine. 

This bottle of fun was only $17.99 at Wine Exchange

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dedicated to Bob Betz, MW.

This picture was taken in the freezer (I wasn't in the frezer - the wine was) and I don't care what anyone says - you can freeze wine if you don't finish it and its still good! I put it in a pan of boiling water to thaw it and the only negative effect was tartrate crystals at the bottom of my glass that must have precipitated out when it got cold. 

I drank half this half bottle last week and loved it but had to go to bed early, so I stuck it in the freezer. And last night, I drank the other half and it was delicious! Cold for sure!! And uber-fresh. 

It was still richly textured and had great red berry fruit. Totally clean and fantabulous, and ZERO oxidation. 

You can get the Querceto di Castellina, Chianti Classico, 2005 for $13 in half bottles at Venokado

Also available for $47 at 750ml in Pasadena. The self professed best looking man in the wine business besides Eduardo at Grace is Bill Fernandez, 750ml's sommelier, who also recommends this wine. 

Like an alcoholic drink in the form of an Eggo waffle. Just reheat. Lego my Chianti!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

There's no debating.

Samsara, Santa Barbara County, Pinot Noir, 2007.

Our friend Chad Melville makes this sweet, easy drinking Pinot. Lots of ripe fruit and very pleasurable acidity. Just the thing for tonight's debate... as we will all be in Samsara, the web and circle of suffering. 

And while we're at it, how about that bailout?! Better get 2 bottles just in case.

It's $30 at Mission Wines in South Pasadena. (That's Dave in the background - we like him a lot... he will recommend some good stuff to you if you don;t feel like suffering.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Short bus me.

I love Artadi! If I've already written on it I'm sorry I can't remember and I'm too lazy to double check. 

The name is so funny because it makes me think of someone who has gone retardi by playing too much Atari. You know (rather KNEW) those people right? Now there's Wii and Guitar Hero and no more Frogger and Donkey Kong and Q-bert. But we still have Artadi - a mouthful of genius-peanut-butter-stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kinda wine. New oak, some berry fruit. 

Put me on the short bus coach - this is delish!!!!

Artadi, Vinas de Gain, Rioja at Wine Exchange for  $28.99 at 20/20 on Cotner. $26.99 at Woodland Hills. $29.99 at Mel and Rose on Melrose. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Another expensive one. I can't stop myself!

Bad blurry picture! The iPhone has been really pissing me off lately. 

Michel & Stephane Ogier, Cote-Rotie, 2005. 

The best wine that I've had in a long time period. So richly textured with flavors of smoked bacon and game, but even through all that old world savoriness it remains totally clean. What I really love is the sweetness of the fruit and the underlying minerality. Like having duck ala orange or something. (Ok, that's gross, but you know what I mean.) We had it at lunch at the winery last week too. Split between 10 people, its the perfect mid-afternoon pick me up. 

It is on sale now at K&L for $79.99 (down from $89.99). So much for fiscal responsibility. I think I need some regulation of my own. 

George Bush, where are you?? Come save me from myself lover!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Like a bull fight.

Prima, Toro is made from Tempranillo and represents a solid cross between the Old and New World. It's oaky modern style is underlain (I have never used that word before - EVER) with dried herbs, dark berry fruit and a really silky, minerally old world touch. Delish!

It's $20.99 at Larchmont Wine & Spirits.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cheery Chinon.

uDomaine Daniel Chauveau, Chinon, Loire Valley, 2005. 

We drank this at lunch at the winery last weekend and it was super delicious. Really fresh but had great density and there was nothing green peppery about it like I find in so many under ripe Cabernet Francs form the Loire Valley. The finish was long and with dark berries and solid tannins. It just made me happy. 

Now you can only order this at the San Francisco Wine Trading Co. for $21.99, I don't think its available anywhere retail here in LA. Sorry! But I still had to write about it because I thought the wine was really terrific for the price.