Monthly Archives: November 2007

Wine Tasting – 2006 Andrea Oberto, Dolcetto d’ Alba


We picked this up at the Wine Cellar a few weeks ago just to add to our wine cellar, as we always like to have at least one Dolcetto in “stock”.

A bit of background –

The wine is from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy and Dolcetto is the name of the grape as well as the wine. This particular Dolcetto is from two vineyards one in La Morra that is South East facing and one in Barolo that is South West facing. The wine is aged primarily in stainless steel tanks for 8 months with about 15% of the wine seeing oak for approximately six months.

My Tasting Notes

Nose – Raspberry, bright red fruit

Taste – Blueberry, raspberry, mushroom, cranberry

Mouthfeel – pretty acidic, medium weight in the mouth, fairly big tannins – more than I expected

Finish – pretty nice, medium in length

Even though this is a Dolcetto and they are meant to be drank young compared to their Piemonte counterparts (Barolo, Barberesco, Barbera etc..) it was as still a bit tight on the nose and on the palate. Overall a good wine for $16.00, could have just benefited from another year on the shelf. I actually had the 2005 not too long ago at a restaurant and enjoyed it quite a bit as well as their Barbera d’ Alba that I think if I remember correctly was also a 2005. Check ‘em out if you see them on the wine list or at your local wine shop.



Categories: andrea oberto, dolcetto, wine cellar, wine review | Leave a comment

Friday Night Tasting at The Wine Cellar – 11.30.07

Tomorrow Jeff will be serving up sparkling wines from Italy, Spain and France. Looks like some pretty good values and bubbles are always fun.






FREE as always from 5:00pm – 8:00pm.

Other tastings going on around town:

River City Cellars – Friday – 5:00-7:00

Corks and Kegs – Friday – 5:30 – 7:30

Private Stock Cigar and Wine – Every Friday and SaturdayBella Vino (Midlothian) – Friday – 6:00-8:00 

And also make sure to check out Can Can Mondays from 6-7 

Categories: wine cellar, wine tasting | Leave a comment

My November Wine Shipment – And Yes I’m a Dork

There is just something fun about receiving packages in the mail. Today I received our November wine shipments from Seghesio and Imagery Estates. When our wine shipments arrive I am like a kid (or just me at 30) at Christmas, ripping off the tape holding my wine safe in that flimsy cardboard box. A box so flimsy that I am in total disbelief as to how it ever makes its way from California in one piece. (That is the magic of the egg carton or Styrofoam wine bottle shipper.)

I eagerly take a look at the information sheet shipped with the wine first to find out what goodies I have received. Then I remove the outer shell of the egg carton shipper to unveil the glory of my new cellar treasures. Corny I know, but after a day of work – it is pretty exciting.


Take a look.


Categories: Imagery Estate, seghesio, wine | 3 Comments

Education Series – Gather ‘round the Oak Barrel – Part 2

In part 2 of this oak barrel trilogy I will be discussing the cooperage process, which is the process of making the barrels themselves.You may recall from part 1 that this whole process starts in the forest. Coopers (those individuals who make barrels) have historically utilized wood from the region that they are familiar with, meaning that American Coopers made barrels from American oak and French from French oak, and so on. This is not the case anymore; both French and American oak is being shipped across the pond to Coopers in either country.

The first step of barrel creation is the creation of the staves, which are the slats or boards that form the sides of the barrel. Although the staves can be sawed, the preferred method is to split the wood by hand or by machine to help preserve as much of the natural wood grain as possible. Keeping the grain of the wood intact is crucial to making water-tight barrels. After the staves are shaped, they are stacked together and typically set outside to age in the elements, as wood normally would. Sometimes to quicken the process, the staves are dried in a kiln prior to being set out to age. This entire process can take up to several years. Once the staves are properly aged, they are shaped, notched, and beveled and then finally ready for inspection.


image credit:

After the coopers have okayed the staves for barrel assembly, they start piecing them together to form the shape of a barrel. The staves are placed one by one inside of metal hoops (the chime hoop is first, then the quarter hoop, and then the bulge hoop; see picture) a process which the French call “mise en rose”, or “raising the barrel.” The phrase literally means “setting the rose,” most likely because unbent staves in the first hoop look like an open flower. The next step is to shape the barrel and set the 3 final hoops. This process is done by bending the wood staves via fire, water or steam. These methods soften the wood enough so that it can be bent and molded into the perfect shape, as well as allow for the three remaining rings to be riveted into place.

image from Winebusiness.comThe next step in the process is toasting the inside of the barrel. This process is sometimes done simultaneously with the heating of the staves for shaping, and sometimes may not be done at all. Barrels can be toasted using a variety of different heat sources. Whether it be gas fire, burning oak chips, convection, etc. the end result is that interior of the barrel staves are toasted to a specified level. Winemakers can specify ahead of time how “toasty” they want there barrel to be, from light to heavy toast. To achieve the varying toast levels, coopers use different time and temperature equations, developed through years of personal experience. Technology has helped in this process, as sensors can be placed inside of the barrels to know when the desired level of char has been achieved. In Part 3 of this series I will talk about how the varying toast levels affect wine flavor.

The final step is the shaping and fitting of the barrel head. Larger staves are cut and bound together and then shaped to fit snuggly into the end of each barrel in grooves called crozes. Barrel heads are usually left un-toasted.

Actually the final final step is the branding of each barrel with the Cooperage house’s logo on the head of each barrel. Sometimes wineries pay to have their name burned into the head as well.

Again, I will give my disclaimer that this is a primer into the barrel making process. The process for making an oak barrel for wine or other spirit is a great skill and coopers apprentice for years before they are allowed to shape and toast the barrels themselves. Although this process is being done more and more by machine in order to make barrels cheaper (though not by much), there are still a lot of cooperages that do most of the work by hand.

Here are some links to cooperages that can give you more information into this really fascinating process.

World Cooperage


Categories: cooper, education series, wine education | Leave a comment

Wine Tasting – 2003 Ferrari-Carano Sangiovese

Megan and I picked this up just over a year ago, on our first day of our 2006 Napa/Sonoma Trip. This was from the limited release tasting that we participated in, that I highly suggest you do if you give Ferrari-Carano a visit.

A bit of background on the wine –

The 2003 Sangiovese was made up of 96% Sangiovese and 4% Syrah all from the Alexander Valley. After a 10 day maceration period, the wine was aged in 20% New French Oak and 80% 2 year old French Oak for 16 months before it was put into the bottle and allowed to age for another 6 months prior to release.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Prune, fig, cedar, vanilla and blueberry

Taste – Leather, raspberry reduction, smelled “portish”

Mouthfeel – Big and bold, firm dusty tannins

Finish – long in length, cedar lingered until the end

This was a fantastic wine, just was we had remembered. Even though it was a 2003 and it drank great, I feel it was still a bit tight and could still go another year or two. We decanted it, and after about an hour and a half was when the more fruit driven aromas and flavors started to shine through. At around $32, it isn’t any every day drinker, but it is a really well made wine for the price.




Categories: ferrari-carano, sonoma, wine tasting | 4 Comments

Grape Radio Interview with Jancis Robinson

I have mentioned Jancis Robinson several times over the past year or so, in reference to articles she has written, or to her one of her many books that I own, the Oxford Companion to Wine.

Well, recently Grape Radio did an interview with Jancis to give us a “behind the scenes look” at the famous wine writer.

Check it out here. Jancis on Grape Radio.


Categories: grape radio, jancis robinson | Leave a comment

Wine Shipping and the Holiday Season

With the “official” start to the holiday season upon us, I thought I would throw in a quick mention of state wine direct shipping laws.

So say you and your husband or wife went to some wineries out in California this year and had a great, special time and picked up a few bottles along the way to prolong the memories once you were home. Well those bottles are gone now (most likely) and you want to get your significant other some wine from one of those wineries for the holidays, to help bring back those memories. So you take off to the local wine shop, only to find out that your wine shop doesn’t carry any of that wine from the winery. No worries you think, I will just call the winery or go on their website and order a bottle or two directly from the source. This is where anyone in Virginia would be okay, because California can ship to Virginia, but there are still a lot of states California wineries cannot ship to. So how do you know if your great holiday idea will be thwarted? There is a great website out there to help you figure it out.

The site is from the Wine Institue – The Voice for California Wine. The site is directed mainly to winery owners but the link I am going to paste below will let you select your state and see if California wineries can ship to you. And although this list is directed to wines coming from California, it is a good indication of how your state handles wine being shipped from most states.

Click here to see your state!

Here is a map from Free The Grapes, another great site to learn about all the issues going on in the direct wine shipping world. You can click on their logo to the left to visit their site which is chock full of information.


Categories: wine industry issues, wine shipping | Leave a comment

Wine Tasting – 1998 Ridge Lytton Springs

This is one of the wines we had last night for Thanksgiving dinner. Melissa and Eric (my in laws) picked this up while they were out in Santa Cruz a few weeks ago visiting my sister in law. So we were quite excited to be trying this Zin, one because it is a Ridge wine and two, because it was a ’98 Zin. So even though I am jumping ahead about 20 wines in my tasting notebook, I figured I would go ahead and post it since it was for the holiday.

Here is the breakdown of the varietals that went into the wine: 77% Zin, 16% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignane, 4% Mataro, and 1% Alicante Boushcet.

Sorry I didn’t nab any pictures of the bottle but here are my tasting notes.

My tasting notes –

Nose – Blackberry, chocolate, copper and cut grass

Taste – Sherry, Raspberry, Herbs

Mouthfeel – Medium almost light body, silky smooth across the mid palate

Finish – very long and had quite a grip

This was like no other Zin that I or Megan have had. Not fruit forward and jammy, and in fact, of the fruit that was present, the aroma and flavors weren’t very powerful. It was also very light bodied for what I feel a Zin should be like. All that being said, I really enjoyed it and thought it was quite a good and well made wine.

I think they paid $50 for it at the winery and I am not sure if you can find it in stores anymore.

I hope everybody had a safe and fun holiday.

Categories: ridge, wine review, wine tasting | Leave a comment

Friday Night Tasting at The Wine Cellar – 11.22.07

Jeff will be doing the tasting this week at the Wine Cellar – pouring some of his favorites from the West Coast.


I hope everybody has a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

See you all at the tasting.

Categories: wine cellar, wine tasting | 1 Comment

New Wine Blogging Wednesday #40 Announced

The next Wine Blogging Wednesday topic has been announced by fellow Virginia blogger Sonadora for the site Wannabe Wino.

The topic for #40, titled Que Sirah Sirah, will be all about Petite Sirah.  So grab a bottle and post a write up on your blog or website on December 12th and send the link to Sonoadora at Have fun!

 And everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving!! Gobble Gobble!

Categories: Wine Blogging Wednesday | 1 Comment

Education Series – Gather ’round the Oak Barrel – Part 1


This Education Series is going consist of 3 parts. Today we will focus on the types of oak that are used in barrel making, where they come from, and what makes them different. Next Tuesday, in part 2 we will talk about cooperage, the process by which oak barrels are made. Then the following Tuesday, part 3 will consist of the role that oak plays in the wine making process.

So before we talk about where the oak for oak barrels comes from, let’s define what types of oak are used for wine barrels. Almost all wine barrels are made from white oak due to its non porous nature and ability to create a water (or wine) tight seal. Getting a little bit technical here, the white oak used for wine barrels are all from the Quercus species of oak, 2 are European and 1 is American.

When you walk into a tasting room, 9 times out of 10 the winemaker or person doing the tasting will tell you “this was aged in French Oak or American Oak” or sometimes both. At least this is true for most wineries here in the United States. Although these are the most common, oak for wine barrels can be harvested in many other regions in Europe. In fact, in Piedmont, Italy where Megan and I were this summer, the preferred choice for aging the Nebbiolo grape is Slovenian oak.

To date there has been no general consensus on which forests in the United States provide the best American Oak for barrel making. Currently, Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the lead, while small amounts of barrels, mostly on an experimental basis, are also coming out of Oregon. Generally oak from forests in the Southern US are considered too sappy and unsuitable for barrel use.

In France it is a bit more complicated – There are 6 main forests that French Oak is produced from, though these by no means comprise the complete list. These six are found mainly in Northern France: Western Loire and Sarthe, Limousin, Nievre and Allier, Vosges, Jura and Bourgogne, and Argonne. Each forest provides oak that has distinct characteristics, for instance the Nievre and Allier forests are known for wood that is consistently tight grained, and thus more prized with winemakers.

So besides the price tag, $650 for American oak barrels and $850 for French barrels on average, what is the difference between the two most popular oaks, French and American? The answer is the flavor. American oak is much stronger in its flavor or “oakiness” and thus the wines that are put into it need to be stronger (more full bodied) wines. American oak is typically used in Spain, Australia and North and South America. Wines from these regions, such as Rioja, Shiraz and warm climate “BIG” Cabernet Sauvignons are typically put into American oak.

French oak is by far the gold standard when it comes to barrels made for wine production. French oak is much softer, and usually tighter grained, imparting less tannins into the unknowing wine. Barrels from certain forests that are renowned for their superior French oak can command prices well over $1000 a piece.

This was just a primer into where oak for oak barrels comes from. If you would like any more info on oak, shoot me an email, I will be happy to oblige.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of …. Gather ‘round the Oak Barrel.

Reference: Oxford Companion to wine 3rd edition.

Categories: oak, wine education | 2 Comments

Wine Tasting – 2000 Big Horn Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve

Megan and I picked this wine up at the Wine Cellar (of course) after we tasted it in one of the Friday night tastings a month or so ago. It normally retails for $50 but was on special for $25 so after we tasted and enjoyed that Friday, we brought it home.

A bit of background on the wine –

The Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Big Horn Cellars is always made from grapes grown in their Coombesville Vineyard, which is in the Napa Valley. The wine consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged in 100% French Oak barrels for two years and clocks in at 15.2% alcohol.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Mushroom, blackberry, cocoa powder, leather

Taste – Raspberry, cranberry, bell pepper

Mouthfeel – Medium to full body, bit of spice, very smooth but strong tannins on the finish which was slightly surprising for a 2000.

Finish – Very long

This was a really great Cab, aged perfectly. The tannins were nice and soft through the beginning and mid palate of each sip but really took hold at the end with a nice firm grip. After being aged for 7 years the fruit was still very present, and it walked the new world, old world line very well, popping in hints of mushroom, leather and bell pepper.

The wine was quite a bit fruitier than we had remembered from the tasting a while ago (not that we minded). It was a great wine and although we only paid $25, which I will admit was a steal; I could definitely see paying $50 for it.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Categories: big horn cellars, napa, wine review, wine tasting | 5 Comments

Nothing to do with wine!

Okay so I am out of town this weekend so I don’t have my normal wine writing wits about me, but in the spirit of NaBloPoMo I wanted to post something.

My friend Dawn from Larkstudio told me I needed to take this nerd test. My score was “Kinda Dorky High Nerd“. Check out my demographic chart below and click on it to take the test yourself. says I'm a Kinda Dorky High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

Back to normal wine writing on Monday!

Categories: random | 2 Comments

2007 Sonoma Vintage Looking Good

So back in August I posted about the optimism for the 2007 Napa vintage. (Click here to read that one) A new article on Wine Business dot com gives the same great news for the Sonoma 2007 harvest. Check out the article.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Low winter rainfall

  • Smooth steady growing season

  • Cool weather towards the end of the harvest

  • Lower grape yields than previous years

Have a great weekend!

Categories: harvest, sonoma | Leave a comment

Wine Tasting – 2005 Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County

We received this bottle in one of our wine club shipments from Seghesio.  Seghesio has a great tasting room in the heart of the Sonoma Valley just outside of Healdsburg. We made a stop by there tasting room the last time we were in Sonoma, and decided to sign up for the wine club. Click here for my review of that visit!

A bit of background on the wine –

As the name would imply, the wine is made from old head pruned vines from vineyards in both the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys.  The 2005 growing season was relatively cool and provided a long period of time for grapes to develop slowly and maturely. The grapes were harvested from the end of September to the 1st week of October at a nice high Brix (sugar content) of 26.4.  The 2005 Old Vine Zin saw 12 months of barrel aging in a mix of 75% French and 25% American oak, after 10 days of maceration with a final alcohol level of 15.3%.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Fig, raisin, sun-dried tomato

Taste – Boysenberry jam, fresh baby spinach

Mouthfeel – Full body, nice balance, good acid and no real “heat” with the high alcohol

Finish – Long and peppery

Stay tuned in the future for more wine reviews from Seghesio. We feel bad when we drink the ones that they only distribute from the tasting room or to the wine club, so we hold to them as long as we can.

Categories: seghesio, sonoma, wine, wine review | 3 Comments