Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year-End B.S.

I'm just gonna go ahead and jump on the whole bandwagon of year-end wrap-up blog-posts and use the dawn of a new year as an excuse for me to start writing again. My absence comes amidst a whirlwind of experiences, much of which was spent in the humble suburbs of Minneapolis teaching my lovely clientele about QUALITY value-driven wine. I was, however, blessed with an opportunity of a lifetime which saw me spend two and a half months in a wine-geek's dream-of-a-location: Burgundy. My 'stage' as the French would call it, or internship for those of us who speak English was, for lack of a better description, LIFE-CHANGING.
The home of Pinot Noir (my inanimate love if I ever had one) and Chardonnay welcomed me with open arms as I worked my fat butt off lending a hand in the production of some of the better wines from the region. (Ever seen Mondovino? Hubert De Montille, the bald-headed gem of a man on the cover was the patron of the winery I worked at and we spent many nights together discussing the finer points, like why Grand-Cru Corton Charlemagne is the ONLY choice to pair with the regional cheese Epoisses).

I met amazing people from around the world, ate like an emperor, and obviously drank quite well. I was spoiled, to say the least, drinking some pretty...searching for words, heady wine with each and every meal. As a wine-geek, some of these wines literally changed my life and the way I view the fermented product of grapes. My palate has had a hard time recovering now stateside as my wallet can't match my desires, compounded with the fact that much of what I loved in France is not even available in my home market. Even so, I've found some wines since being back that have excited me beyond belief and I'd like to share those with you.
What follows is my, @feelthewine's top ten wines I drank in 2011. Some are back vintages and not available at all, some are current and affordable. I'm not a big fan at all of 'ratings' from the big wine writers or magazines. They are helpful, in a sense, to direct oneself towards good buys, but when it all comes down, the setting in which you sip a wine and the people you are with have just as much bearing as anything else on how the wine will taste to you. For this reason, I'll also sum up where I was or what I was doing when the bottle was uncorked.

10. Mirth Chardonnay: From Washington state, this wine wins my pick for domestic Chardonnay, as well as 'sexiest wine label of the year'. I fell in love with the banana and pineapple aromas upon first examination. I brought this wine to a number of blind tastings and recommended it to my Chard-loving mother and upon each and every examination, the wine received heavy praise. It's a WHITE WINE BEST BUY!

9. Boomtown Syrah: Two guys from Wisconsin moved to Washington to make's the start of a joke I suppose, but their finished product is the stuff domestic wine dreams are made of. I had the chance to meet the winemaker on a number of occasions this year, and besides the fact that I was immediately comforted by his calm demeanor and ambition, his wine was a bitchin' example of Washington Syrah. It's a RED WINE BEST BUY! P.S. Syrah doesn't suck.

8. Opolo Sangiovese 2009: Chianti is the home of the distinctive grape Sangiovese and oftentimes produces an overly acidic wine meant only for food (see: tomato-based dishes). In California, many producers have tried to reproduce the 'old world' wine in a climate that doesn't suit it and end up bastardizing Sangiovese with waaaaaaay too much oak. Opolo has done it right! All the lovely fruit characteristics come out in this bottling with just a touch of oak that tells you, 'this wine is meant for food, but if you want to sip it by the glass, your mind will be blown'.

7. Stephen Ross Central Coast Pinot Noir 2008: When I got back from Burgundy, to be perfectly honest, I was really only drinking new craft beers because nothing I could afford came close to the wines I drank abroad. A refreshing tide of energy soon hit me when I tasted the said wine. Steve Dooley, originally of Mankato, MN (Midwest represent) crafts his Pinot Noir in a style unlike many others in the state of California. Lower alcohol levels and extraction lead to a gorgeous Pinot Noir that stands alone in its category. Given the fact that 2008 was a tough vintage for Pinot producers in California, this wine is sexy as hell on its own, but begs for a nice roast or vegetable stew. It's only a matter of time before I meet Mr. Dooley and probe him for the secrets to his success.

6. Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2009: I had never heard of the wines of Graillot until I set foot in France (apparently I was out of the loop). I tasted a 2005 Crozes-Hermitage from the winery one night at dinner with some roasted beef and was absolutely blown away. After harvest was over, some friends and I took a road trip south from Burgundy to explore the Rhone region of wine. On our last day there we got lost in the vineyard backroads of Tain L'Hermitage and much to our luck found the Domaine Graillot thanks to the direction of a vineyard worker we consulted for direction. Second generation winemaker and son, Maxime, graciously tasted us through past, present, and future releases with astounding insight and passion. He praised, and praised, and praised the 2009 vintage in the Rhone, and I must agree, the wine shows oh so well now, but will definitely develop over 10 to 15 years. If you have the cash to buy and cellar a wine, THIS IS IT!

5. Louis Claude Desvignes Morgon Cote-du-py 1999: Beaujolais. Most of us only know the name thanks to the obnoxiously acidic and tacky 'Nouveau' wine that comes out every year on the third Thursday of November. There is actually WAY more to this region than I previously thought. Beaujolais 'cru's' are the wines that come from each of the single towns within the region. For the price, one can't go wrong. I've never been able to put my mind around why these wines are so much cheaper than their counterparts to the north in Burgundy. This single vineyard wine, from 12 years prior, was absolutely mind blowing, and just coming into its own. The abundance of ripe red fruits and tongue pleasing acidity was astounding. Beaujolais is my BEST PICK for region of the year.

4. Comte Georges de Vogue Chambolle Musigny 1999: While I became deeply enamored with all the wines of Burgundy during my stay, the wines of the village Chambolle Musigny particularly stuck out in my mind. The northern half of Burgundy, the Cote de Nuits, tends to produce Pinot Noir of a much heavier body and masculine characteristic, as many will say. The wines of Chambolle, however, tend to shy away from this stereotype and those of Comte de Vogue shine on. 1999 was a 'classic' vintage in the region and I was blessed to find this wine for cheap. I took a weekend getaway to Chablis with some winery colleagues and we snatched this bottle off the list during a four hour lunch at a local hole in the wall restaurant. Soft and supple, elegant, beautiful. This wine was Liquid Velvet.

3. J.M. Roulot Meursault Les Tillets 1999: 'I came to Burgundy for Pinot Noir, but I stayed for Chardonnay'. It's a quote I heard uttered time and time again from foreigners who had settled in the Cote d'Or as winemakers. This bottle sums it all up for me. 1999: Sexy Vintage. Jean Marc Roulot, an actor turned winemaker to carry on the family name, got it right and keeps on getting it right. I'd say this is the white Burgundy that changed my mind and might never let me go back to sipping California Chardonnay without a chip on my shoulder. The bottle was a magnum at our 'Paulee' or end of harvest party. The food cooked by our Israeli chef Nir (mad props to Nir) and the extremely diverse group of friends and colleagues, from a SF based venture capitalist, to the rough and tumble French seasonal pickers, my fellow winery interns to Mr. Hubert De Montille himself all made the experience one in a trillion!

2. Domaine De Montille Pommard Rugiens 1985: It's pretty rare that a French winemaker tells you to go down into his cellar of back vintages and pick any bottle you please. I was blessed with the opportunity during our second 'Paulee' and I chose a bottle from my birth year from what had become one of my favorite Burgundy vineyards. Amongst the 30 plus bottles that were opened that night, dating back to 1969 in Burgundy and further from around the world, it became apparent that my 1985 was something special (a group consensus). The integration of fruit, acid, body and tannins that were living and breathing as if never before was astonishing. The wine tasted young! But oh so sexy and smooth, like a new-ish world Pinot bottled in the past few years. It gets me thinking that maybe all the lab-work and analysis of today might not be all too necessary. Letting the vineyards do the work (with minor manipulation) is one of the tenets of my learning in France.

1. J.L. Chave Hermitage White 2002: Old(er) white wine. It's something I'd never really experienced before and white wine from the Rhone was also foreign. It's fair to say that this staple of a wine from a staple of a producer LITERALLY changed my life and left me speechless. The ripe concentrated honey and Asian spice notes were synthesized from a heavy, voluptuous mouthfeel to a needle-point accuracy on the tongue, that once again unfolded into minutes and minutes of pure bliss on the finish. I've never tasted anything like it and quite honestly hope it will be a while before I do again.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Day of Sensations

So I think this post is wine related simply in the fact that I'm in Burgundy right now. I'd like to summarize one of my finest days yet here in a list of sensory happenings that struck me particularly strong.

The SOUND of my alarm blaring at 6:30 this morning as I regret the amount of wine I had last night, looking out the window and SEEING the rain, regrettably pouring down.

The SMELL of Espresso brewing from our quaint machine as I prepare for a long day of work.

The FEEL of my feet sinking into the mud as I walk the vineyards in Puligny Montrachet taking vineyard samples after a long night of rain.

The TASTE of a fresh and proper French croissant, flaky and buttery, at morning coffee while I work on processing juice samples from the vineyards sampled.

The SMELL of wine emanating from Hospice du Beaune barrels as I prepare to rack them into a tank upstairs. The SMELL of Sulfur Dioxide as I pour it into a graduated cylinder, it burns my eyes and my lungs, so that I can mix it with the said wine.

The TASTE of the gourmet sandwiches our lovely chef Nir prepared for lunch and the TASTE of the Merusault Chardonnay we drink with them.

The FEELING of seeing a truck pull up loaded with the first Pinot Noir of the season.

The SIGHT of grape clusters rolling across the sorting table and the FEELING of Botrytis and Ripeness as I pick amongst them.

The SOUND of my colleagues singing out the word 'Rose' as we pay homage to a fine wine we all love.

The PAIN in my back as I lift barrel after barrel in the cellar alone, prepping for tomorrow when we will fill them with a new vintage of Meursault Chardonnay.

The TASTE of my cellarmaster Justin's homebrew as the day finishes and we relax on the crushpad for some celebratory beers.

The SENSATION of seeing Mr. Hubert De Montille pulling up to our apartment and knowing what's in store for the evening.

The SCENTS, SOUNDS, TASTES, and FEELINGS of our grand dinner with everyone involved, including guests. The wines that tickled my tongue and the chocolate mousse that made me beg for seconds.

The CONTENTMENT that I gained from Alix De Montille telling me that my French comprehension is incredible, my speaking is great, and while sharing a cigarette with her, that I roll a mighty fine 'clope.'

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have arrived...

I just wanted to shoot off a quick blog to kick off a series of postings on my current whereabouts.

I arrived last Friday in France after a long two days of travel and made my way from Paris by train to Beaune, the center of the 'Cote d'Or' as they call it here. My boss picked me up from the train station and took me to my current home for the next two months. I'm living at the 'cuverie' or winery for Domaine de Montille, who I will be working for. I live upstairs in an apartment with the other interns or 'stagaires' as they're called here in France. There are two winemakers from Australia, one from California, and another from New Zealand arriving Friday. We have a live in chef from Tel Aviv Israel who arrived today. He works at a top restaurant back home and we are all excited to have him cooking all of our meals for us. The food here is amazing, quite hearty. Lots of cheese (epoisses is the stinkiest of stinky cheese but phenomenal when done right), breads, mustard, cassis, ham, mushrooms, escargots, beef bourgignon, and coq au vin. Did anyone say wine? I haven't tried anything too phenomenal yet but today we got to taste through 5 different chardonnays from the 2008 vintage that our winemaker made. Amazing to taste the same grape from the same vintage made by the same person at the same facility from completely different vineyards within the SAME relative region and they all taste COMPLETELY different. This is the true essence of what the French call Terrioir.

Work started on Tuesday and so far I've spent all of my time in the vineyards trimming weeds (my boss sent me out with the vineyard crew because none of them speak english and I'm the only one who can communicate in French from our crew). It's been tough work but quite amazing walking though vineyards steeped in so much history. As the way vineyards are classified here you have in ascending order of quality the 1)regional wines of Bourgogne, 2) the Villages wines (i.e. Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Beaune) 3) The 1er cru wines 4) The Grand Cru wines (being the most prestigious). Ask bill to explain if you have any questions; it's rather confusing. I've spent the better part of the past two days in 1er and Grand Cru vineyards, pinot and chard vines with average ages of 30 to 40 years, each being worth well more than the money in my wallet. It's a wine geek's paradise. This morning we started at 6am to beat the heat and on the way out to the vineyard I could see the sun rising over Beuane and the Alps in the distance (A three hour drive away)!

Needless to say, I'm in for a great harvest. It's expected that our first fruit will start being picked next week already, which is early considering that last year it was mid-September. It will be a short but sweet harvest but I know I will learn heaps. My boss Brian, who is from California originally, told me today that he would like to put me in charge of 'les caves' which is actually quite a large responsibility. If this happens, I will oversee all of the barrel work: filling, washing, cleaning, transferring, stacking, etc. Assuming I don't spend the rest of the time in the vineyards I will be spending a lot of time underground in a moldy dark space steeped in history. It's crazy here because you see these houses in the middle of town where winemakers live but underneath are caves where they make and store their wines that you never could imagine existed.

Please ask questions and offer suggestions for topics you'd like to see me write about in the next two months. Email me at I want this to be as much of a learning experience for my readers as it is for me. Until the next time,

Happy #WineWednesday!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Directions

Ciao all.
Sorry I've been a bit lax in my posts lately. I've been busy, been in a funk, been trying to try my hand at other things, and been writing for tktwincities about food and wine in Minneapolis. I'm back. I've decided that I need to have a new focus with my wine writing. There are soooooooo many wine blogs out there, but I won't say too many because I'm so glad to see that so many people have taken their passion for wine, put it up on the web, and shared it for everyone else to experience and soak up.

I feel that my most common passion stems from experiencing wine from a number of aspects, hence 'feelthewine.' I've thought long and hard about how much of a problem I have with the 100 point scale, and the fact of the matter is, if the setting is right, more times than not, I'll rate a wine in the high 90's, unless of course it's a total dog. I'd like to focus on what kind of wine goes best with certain situations. I'd like to tell stories about what I am doing and why I choose certain wines to go with it. Have you ever had a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc after mowing the lawn? The crisp freshness relaxes your sweaty being after a few hours slaving away, while the grassy-ness comes out even more as the fresh-cut-grass aroma emits from the terroir surrounding. Wine pairing is not just for food in my eyes. I'd like to highlight the back stories about the producers, which helps immensly in knowing and appreciating a wine. Knowing that the vines are over 100 years old or that the winemaker has no formal training in wine-making and used to be a skateboarder are HUGE in my eyes when appreciating a wine. With an upcoming trip to Burgundy to work the harvest I'd also like to capture stories and experiences that most of you won't likely ever encounter in your daily life. I'm working on adding a video element to the works. Until then, please keep your eyes peeled for things to come. Most importantly, I really really want all of my readers to bring forth suggestions as to what they would like to see from my content. Most of you know me, my strengths and weaknesses. What do you think I should focus on regarding wine? Please be honest, open, and don't hold back. Be with me on the journey and I can't wait for things to come.


email me:
or comment below.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Tonight I attended a nice primer at North Loop Wine and Spirits in the warehouse district of Minneapolis on organic, sustainable, and biodynamic wines. The teacher, @jasonkallsen knows his shit, has been around the cities biz for some time now, and his classes are really worth seeking out. Enough plugs! I learned some fun facts and had a great time:

-There are more sulfites in a glass of apple juice than a glass of wine. If you think it's the sulfites that are giving you a headache, you are probably wrong. There are also more sulfites in a glass of white wine than red.
-The time you were in Europe on vacation and were able to drink multiple bottles of wine at dinner, only to wake up with no 'sulfite' allergy or hangover was a fluke. Their wines have just as many sulfites as ours, only they are not declared on the labels. You were probably just living in the moment.
-Organic, Organically Grown, Biodynamic, Fair Trade, Green, and Sustainable are all murky code words on wine labels. Even I can't give you a lowdown on how they are (in)directly related. Do a little research if you're interested, but most likely, BIODYNAMIC is the word to be most interested by (in my opinion).

If you're in Minneapolis and love wine, check out Jason's course offerings (and let me know... I want to go with). But if you're not in Minneapolis and can't attend any of the classes, I recommend you search out another wine-school type setting in your area that'll satisfy your desire to learn; that is if you're not into the whole Sommelier or WSET certification thing.

After the class was over, I was gunning to head home and crack a cheap(er) bottle of wine. I realized all the wine I had at home was not necessarily cheap. Hence, I decided to take a quick peek at the wine cooler at said wine shop and grab an interesting bottle rather quickly (because I had decided a white wine was in order). I took little time to explore the options, but after seeing a white Rhone blend to which I was unfamiliar, I grabbed, and went. (I'm just getting deeper into wines of France but the last white Rhone wine I had was a Chateau L'Ermitage Costieres de Nimes blanc from 2007 and it was STUNNING. Color, Aromatics, Palate, it was a wholly exceptional wine for the price: ~$10 on closeout. It could've been the vintage, or a little bit of age, but DAMN! Buy that wine if you can find it).

The 2009 Cuvee des 3 Messes Basses, what I chose, was BLAH for me. An interesting blend of 40% Clairette, 40% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Bourboulenc, I didn't quite know what to expect. With some seafood, it might shine through. It had a funk on the nose at first that I didn't expect, though given my relative inexperience with white Rhone wines I could be full of BS. Later on after being in the glass for a bit, there were pretty floral perfumed notes that came and went. The minerality grabbed at my tongue throughout, making me wish I would've had some shellfish or cheese to eat with the wine. I have yet to really frown on a wine on this blog (as the frequency with which I write is limited enough so that I can highlight the winners), but I would probably not buy this wine again unless it came on a recommendation from a respected associate. Needless to say, every bottle consumed is another lesson learned. While this wine didn't make me jump for joy, it did satisfy my desire for a unique white wine that would teach me a thing or two.

Have you had a unique wine that has shaken your senses recently? What parameters do you stick to when buying a new wine? What are your favorite wines that dance on the $15 priceline? What was the last wine you bought on a whim without much research or even reading of the label? Any favorite white Rhone wines in the LESS THAN $20 Price Range? Please share your feedback below or submit questions/comments to

Cheers to Spring!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Though I've had quite a few experiences lately that are blogworthy and I intend to write on them here in the next few days (2009 Drouhin Tasting and Washington State Winemakers Tasting) I really want to get the ball rolling on writing about things that have been requested by dedicated readers. So, the shoutout this time goes to my friend B who has transplanted from the idyllic mid-west (excuse my partiality) to San Francisco, and is wondering about hot value wines. B, I hope you are taking advantage of the close proximity to wine-country, to say the least. Here goes nothing:

To be perfectly honest, lately I have been spending a significant part of my budget on wine. I've probably been spending out of my price range to try things that I've heard about or deem as 'must try's' for a wine geek up and coming. That being said, I do have my favorites that have tried and tempted (thank you Wood Brothers) and tried again. The following wines you should be able to find under $15, even under $10 and you will go to sleep happy and definitely will re-buy the next time you're in the wine shop: (Side note: I've read a few blogs lately about Costco and pricing. Basic market principle makes for a scenario where Costco has the absolute lowest pricing. However, their availability is not the same and their customer service is not either. If you know what you want and you can get it at the big box, I get it. However, as a small retailer I tend to side more with the local business mentality and the idea that a dollar more is worth it in the long run).

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling (Washington): $10-$14 Rieslings are choice, especially for those of you converting to wine and needing some sugar to make it happen. This one comes from a former rock concert promoter and industry visionary producing some cutting edge juice out of Washington. The acidity pops on your tongue while the sweetness is medium. Notes of melon and ginger dominate and demand that you have this wine with some spicy Thai food (that is if you can't get enough of it on its own).

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay (Livermore, California): $10-$15 An absolute over-performer for its price. Have anyone who loves Chardonnay from any price range and they will give a fair nod. Tropical fruit aromas of banana and pineapple tickle your nose as the wine leads you to a full, rounded palate with subtle oak and a nutty, buttered popcorn finish. MUST BUY!

Garnacha de Fuego (Spain): $6-$9 This one is my HOT BARGAIN. I hand-sell caseloads of this every week at my store. A juice bomb packed with everything from black cherry, plum and licorice to vanilla and spice box. Super smooth, super good, on its own or with much anything you please (can you say tacos, burgers, MSNBC or MTV)?. Old vine grenache (the vines for this wine are on average 60 to 80 years old) from the Catalayud Region of Spain. I adore this wine for the price.

Villa Pozzi Nero D'Avola (Sicily): $9-$12 Excuse my (English) but I have winemaker friends who call the grape Nero D'Avola a 'slut'. Dark and inky, literally meaning 'black from Avola', a town on the southeastern coast of Sicily. This wine has it all. Fruit, body, acid, and a decently lasting finish. Dark raisinated fruit and juicy vanilla dominate. I've been geeking on Sicilian wines lately because of their uniqueness and progression in the last 10 years. If you're at all interested you should read the book 'Palmento' by Robert Camuto. It got me hooked.

There you have it friends. I'm sure there are plenty of wines at or below this price range in your market that deserve attention; These are just a few of my favorites. I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of the crucial things in your wine consumption is building a relationship with a local retailer. PLEASE find a local store with a decent wine selection and get to know the wine specialist on a first name basis. They will be glad to learn your palate and budget and be overjoyed at providing you wines to fit your needs. Please share any comments or suggestions freely. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas for future posts.

Spring is on its way.

What is your favorite budget wine for any given evening (or sunday afternoon)? How much are you willing to spend on a bottle for daily consumption? What do you want to see covered here in my ramblings? Please comment below!

I can also be reached with any questions, suggestions, comments or complaints at

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nothing in Particular

Usually when I write in this space I have a wine in mind, or a wine-related topic that has saturated my mind to the point of inspired writing. At the moment the things I'm amped on are: Portuguese bargains, Burgundy, current releases of wines I had a hand in making, and as previously stated, Syrah. I'm not going to write about these though.

Currently I have a glass of 2007 J Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon perched on the end-table beside me (it was a sample from a salesperson today at work; typically I don't shell out $40 for just any wine, but I can assure you that if you do enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon from California or know someone who does, this wine is worthy of a special occasion, especially if you have an aerator or nice decanter on hand). 89 points from my un-sophisticated palate.

I'm not typically a Cab drinker, not because I don't enjoy me a good one (the last NICE Cab I opened was a Caymus 2007, also a sample, that I had saved for a grass-fed steak dinner and a special Port reduction sauce I concocted), but because being the wine-geek I am, I'd much rather spend some extra cash on a bottle of Sancerre or single vineyard Rioja (whenever I open a bottle I first look it up on, then tend to hit up the winery website for some info, then consult THE WORLD ATLAS OF WINE to research the region if I'm not familiar, and then possibly more online digging if I'm not satisfied). Needless to say, it doesn't sound like much enjoyment goes into drinking wine for me, but I can assure you, I savor every last drop, and for me, knowing the most I can about where, how, and by who a wine was produced, makes the experience all the more worth while.

Back to the non-theme of tonight. I was outside smoking an unhealthy, yet appreciated, cigarette enjoying the tranquility of the night and the 14 plus inches of snow that has recently befallen our city. Amidst the city streetlights, the sirens, snow-stuck cars, and dogs barking, I noticed that a neighbor in the building across the street had their window open (it is no warmer than 20 degrees Fahrenheit this evening) with a speaker pointing outside. How refreshing to be a part of a summer scene on a winter's eve? Even more-so, it was some of the folk music that has become so mainstream, enjoyable to my elitist musician's ear, but not acoustic as most that I've been digging on lately. 'Twas electric. I thank the neighbor for making that moment just a little bit sweeter for me. I nearly walked across the street and shouted into their apartment to ask who was the artist, but stopped and merely savored the moment. I thought and thought about a wine that would suit the moment well, stylistically what would match a heavy snowfall or in my experiences what goes best with folk music. I'm excited for future posts where I might pair wine with songs, but tonight my friends, it's all about seizing the day.

Crack open whatever bottle is near, or finish the one you started whether it was $5 or $50. Wine is such a critical part of my daily existence and I hope that in the coming year I can show you how the same can work for you. Thanks to all who have offered suggestions on future posts. I'm excited for what's to come, including videos if plans fall into place. Until then,

*And on a more serious note, please take a moment to think about, pray for, meditate on, or simply acknowledge our fellow human beings across the world, especially in the Middle East (where wine originated), and be thankful for all of our blessings.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


After reading my last post, just a few minutes ago, I realize I am pandering MAINLY to the readers who have quite a bit of knowledge of wine, and a rather sophisticated palate. I really hate that in a way. My goal is to reach out to friends and family, and share my knowledge in a way they can access, to break it on down in a way. Simply put, the Triton 2005 is a beast of a wine.

It will make your tongue scratchy and wish you had a toothbrush, but before you actually want to spit it out, it will soften in your mouth. The wine will teach you what 'new oak' means when aging a wine. With some food, a steak perhaps or some roasted pork, this wine will dance the night away. Decant or aerate it and it's ready to drink in a second. If you are into Spanish wines and want to spend a few more dollars and have the patience to age a wine, this is one to consider.
Sorry to confuse or down-talk, I'm at a crux in my wine-blogging-learning life.
I hope you enjoy.


OLD ass Vines

I just uncorked a bottle of Vinas del Cenit Triton 2005, a 100% old vine Tempranillo bottling from the Spanish D.O. Tierra del Vino de Zamora. Now I have heard or knew next to none of this wine or D.O. before this purchase, but I must admit that ever since I stepped foot in the wine store where I work, the bottle drew my attention.

From 100 year old vines of the local Tempranillo clone, Tinto del Toro (I'd assume) this wine Leaps out of the 'Old World', the Zamora region just to the Southeast and slaps me in the face. It's HUGE. Nearly opaque in color, a deep deep crimson, the 2005 vintage tastes young to me. It was aged for 17 months in NEW French Oak barrels, which becomes readily apparent on the nose, but the fruit characteristics, the raisiny character of marmalade and blackberry, port reduction, just barely crawl out of the overwhelming vanilla/cedar/coffee spice brought on by the oak. This wine will age incredibly well, and I got a hot price on it which entices me to grab a few more bottles to throw down for a few more years.

Toro, I've been told, is the historic region in Spain where all of the best bull-fighting animals were/are raised. Quite high in altitude (1970-2460ft, says The World Atlas of Wine) and arid, almost desert-like, the days are HOT, nights COOL, letting the grapes ripen to their ultimate potential during the day while preserving the flavors, sugars, and acidity while they 'sleep'. I'm one for using human terms to describe grapes because I find it much more easy to relate; when describing to me why a ferment smelled funny during the first harvest I worked in a cellar, the winemaker explained to me that the yeasts were 'unhappy', not getting the right nutrients, like as if I was to have bad gas after eating a McDonald's value meal.

Overall, I think for the price, this wine matches all the press it's gotten. 90 Points from WineSpectator, I'd give it a 4.5 out of 5 on my scale. Normal retail for about $30, I got it for $18.99. It's almost too big though. Typical new world beefiness, though this wine would suit some beef jerkey immaculately, a steak, or some chili after a day of breathing. A winter wine for sure. I'm excited to let it air out in the bottle for a day or two and re-visit it. Try it, I'd say. It's definitely one worth the buck, even though it doesn't fit my New Year's resolution of spending strictly on wines that will educate me on the quintessential aspects of traditional regions and terroir.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Year of Syrah

Happy New Year Everybody!

Every past year's end spurs new ideas and resolutions. I am quite content and inspired at how I've grown in the last year; It opened with a fit of madness in a square in Florence that was followed by a couple months exploring the Renaissance city and its environs, a stint on a farmstead in the Umbrian Countryside, and a brief respite at home in Cedarburg. Soon-after I moved to Minneapolis to commence a new chapter in the city and a new wine-buying job in the North Suburbs. My job is steady and life is good, and I look forward to the year to come.

We had a meeting today at work focusing on projections for the new year. It has been deemed, unofficially, as 'the year of wine'. I hope that as the economy takes an upturn, that wine will continue to grow in the daily lives of my friends, family and customers. It has led me, inadvertently to come up with my own new year's wine resolution (among others). Drink more SYRAH! While I've honed in on the popular tastes and trends of the wine-drinking public, I feel that this lovely, large grape has so much unexplored and forgotten potential as a whole. My goal is to drink more of it, learn more about where it comes from, how its made, its history, and pass that on to anyone I can. From Hawke's Bay in New Zealand, to blends in the Rhone region of France, the beefy Shiraz's of Australia, or the progressive juice in Washington, there's much to be said, and discovered.

I'm about to uncork a bottle of 2008 Zepaltas Rosella's Vineyard Syrah from the Santa Lucia Higlands in central California. Although I'm partial to this producer, one of my favorites not only because I worked there, but because the wines truly tell a story, the bounty that awaits is tickling my tongue. Such a versatile food and party wine with quite a bit of character, there's no reason that people should say, 'Syrah sucks'! It's complex enough to baffle in a blind tasting, yet in the New World, approachable enough to quench the palates of the more pedestrian palate. Therefore, I hereby declare 2011 as 'The Year of Syrah'. Bear, and drink with me friends. We are in for an interesting and enlightening next few months.