Fruity with a hint of…Palmolive?

It’s been a while since my last post and I was inspired to post this because I noticed a soapy residue flavor during a recent tasting I attended at a local wine retailer.  The experience reminded me of the all too common mistake many people make by washing their wine glasses with detergents.

I prefer really hot H2O and a special crystal stemware cleaning device I got from Wine Enthusiast.  For really stubborn stains like lipstick you can use the steam off the spout of a tea-pot, just be careful not to burn yourself!



Risky Business…

What is more risky, buying an expensive wine from a well know, high-end label or buying a few inexpensive wines ($7-$15 range) from lesser known or larger quantity producers?

I recently found myself wondering this after a disappointment while tasting a $35 bottle of California red from a very well know and usually very good producer.  Sure this could have been an off bottle, but I did not detect any of the common characteristics of a corked or poorly stored/transported wine.  I think my experience was simply an example of a so-so wine being marketed at a high price because of name recognition.

Sure this is risky for the producer because their very name and reputation is at stake with each bottle.  Perhaps they are still willing to chance it in hopes consumers will convince themselves that the wine is good?

What about less expensive wines?  I love to scan the shelves for unfamiliar label or varietals in hopes of finding my next “house wine“.  For me this is exciting.  Almost like traveling to distant wine regions without leaving crummy NJ!

Of course, most of the time these wines will not transport your taste buds to that magical place that a Petrus or Quintessa will take you.  However, most of us can’t buy those wines anyway!

More times than not I am pleasantly surprised with what I find.  Years ago this was not the case.  Cheap wine usually meant bad wine.  In today’s market we are blessed with a highly competitive market with wines from many regions around the globe.  We also have new technologies like packaging (boxed wine & lighter bottles) that shave the costs even more.

So, what is more risky?  Do you personally go with one big named, high-priced “trophy” wine in hopes of experiencing flavorful bliss?  Perhaps you like to spread the risk across a broad selection of less expensive wines?  Tell me, I want to know!

What’s your house wine?

Whether you realize it or not, you too have a house wine…maybe 2 or 3.

A house wine is your own go-to label that you serve often.  They are usually rather inexpensive and offer enough quality and distinction to encourage sipping and savoring.

It is kind of fun to have your own mini wine list to cover all of your usual home evens.  What is your house wine?


A hot topic here in the NJ viticultural business

See this link to learn about Hot Topics. in the NJ wine producing world.  Sounds to me like the BIG distributors are seeking refuge from competition by hiding behind a piece of the constitution.  It is my hope that NJ governmental officials will find a way to allow NJ viticulture the chance to grow and compete with the BIG BOYS.  This state needs the local wine making business to thrive.  What a great way to preserve land for agricultural use and give NJ a better appearance.


Rubber Stopper? There are better ways…

OK, I realize synthetic corks are not actually rubber, but they may as well be.  Last night I was so bummed to peel the foil off a $10 bottle of Syrah to find a synthetic cork.  Recently I have had some frustrating times getting these little suckers out of the bottle.

In fact, the closure I encountered last night felt like it was crazy-glued in place.  It was as if Bacchus himself was playing a mean trick on me.  The family was at the table, burgers were ready (and getting cold), and there I was struggling like an amateur.  Finally, after placing said bottle between my knees, saying a few choice words, and pulling like hell…POP it went!

So last night got me thinking about closures again.  More specifically, I was left wondering why wineries use these little plugs when they have so many other options.  If they do not trust natural cork they can certainly go with a screw top.  After all, some of the top wineries in the world are using them on wines far more important than the juice we were drinking last night.  Plus, there is nothing romantic about a plastic looking and feeling synthetic cork anyway.  If they want to be unique they could try one of those newer glass stoppers I have been hearing more about.  At least that would be a novel experience.  If they still want to use the plastic corks they should put it on the label so the consumer is forewarned.  “This bottle contains a crummy plastic closure.”

Has anyone else had similar struggles???


Does bottle price dictate quality?

My answer is…sometimes.  It is a much more complex question than meets the eye. There are many high quality, balanced, correctly produced wines selling for $10 or less. However, there are also some real disasters sitting on wine store shelves. They lay there waiting for some poor, unsuspecting value hunter to pick them up, read the “story” on the back label, and decide to “give it a try”.
Interestingly, I have found the same story applies to the other end of the wine price spectrum.  I have bad memories of being disappointed after spending $30, $40, $50, or even more on a bottle.  Some of these wines were total bombs and others suffered because I compared their quality and character to wines in the same price category.  A few even disappointed vs. the $10 “house wines” I stock in my own cellar.

In my opinion, wines at the higher price points are a chance to taste the heart & soul of the farmers who grew the grapes and the vintners who crafted the wine.  These wines often have layers of complexity that can take you far beyond the mass-produced wines found in the sub $10 category.  So, when you go out and purchase that expensive bottle, just hope their hearts were in the right place when they were working.

In conclusion, start a list of all your go-to value wines.  It pays to stock up on these.  Plus, they often vary little from vintage to vintage because the producers are seeking a uniform flavor profile.  Just be sure to keep your palate entertained with more complex wines at high price points.  No need to break the bank.  Try some dry creek zins or some Washington State Syrah in the $20-$30 range.  Most of all have fun and drink responsibly.


A Quick Break From Winter

The whole country is in the grips of a rough winter. When I am feeling down and dreary from winter I like to set up a fun wine and food pairing in my home.
Example, pair a nice Dry Creek Zinfandel with a bold flavored pulled pork dish. Imagine a hot August afternoon in the Dry Creek Valley with the pork slowly smoking over a low heat.
Of course, your pork is in the slow cooker, but use your imagination.
I find it helps to open a nice wine country photo book to really get the imagery going.
Try it and let me know your thoughts…