Monthly Archives: January 2008

Back To Piemonte

Unfortunately this time our trip to Piemonte, Italy was just via the wine bottle and not a plane.  Paolo Scavino Winery is named for it’s founder and original winemaker who started the winery in 1921.  Located in the heart of Piemonte in the town of Castiglione Falletto, the winery is middle of the famous Barolo region.  The wines are now crafted by Paolo’s son Enrico and have won accolades left and right, most notably their Barolos.  The 2005 Dolcetto d’ Alba comes from vines grown in the lower strips of the Fiasco and Vignolo vineyards in Castiglione.

The Dolcetto (meaning little sweet one) grape is the earliest ripening grape from the Piemonte region and accordingly is the first picked, and are usually the lightest and easiest drinking wines from the region. The Docletto d’ Alba is a separate DOC and thus is defined by its own boundaries and regulations.  The zone that encompasses this DOC includes the Langhe hills East of the Tanaro river extending Southwest, Northeast and East of the city of Alba.  The grapes must be 100% Dolcetto and if the wine is classified Dolcetto Superiore, they must be aged for a minimum of 1 year before release.  This Dolcetto d’ Alba was not Superiore and was only aged in stainless for a few months prior to bottling.

My Tasting Notes

Color – Nice deep purple, I couldn’t see my fingers

Nose – Raspberry, chocolate cake batter, vanilla, asparagus and after about an hour of being open I got ripe strawberry.

Taste – Cherry and more cherry, clove rhubarb

Mouthfeel – Medium body, soft and smooth

Finish – Actually a little spicy (a cayenne like tingle), dry and tight, and long enough to remember between sips

 We had the 2005 Paolo Scavino Dolcetto d’ Alba with Gnocchi topped with a simple marinara sauce and sautéed mushrooms, and a side of sautéed garlic spinach.  It was a perfect pairing, one that I had a couple of times for lunch while we were in Piemonte this past summer.  As I have said before, I really enjoy Dolcetto’s for their value and for lack of a better term, “simple goodness”.  This one was no exception to the rule, and one that I would definitely recommend you buying.


Categories: dolcetto, paolo scavino, wine review | Leave a comment

Champagne Chairs

Design Within Reach (DWR) is a great website that my wife is in love with. The site is full of fun, modern, designer furniture that is priced fairly reasonable.  By fairly reasonable I mean not outrageously expensive, but it is still pretty darn expensive. Regardless though the furniture is fun to look at and in the spirit fun they are having a cool contest. 

To enter the DWR Champagne Chair Contest™ you must create an original miniature chair using only the foil, label, cage and cork from no more than two Champagne bottles.  Unfortunately the entry deadline for the contest has passed, but the fun part of judging the entries started yesterday.  The contestants will be judged on craftsmanship, creativity, character, and innovative use of materials in designing their chairs.

Although the judging was supposed to start yesterday, I just went to the website and the entry pictures are not up yet.  Follow the link HERE to check in and cast your vote for your favorite Champagne Chair. 

Enjoy the pictures

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Atari and Wine

I would never have thought that the Atari video games that I grew up with would have a connection to good Napa Valley wines. Before Dennis and Judy Groth started their vineyard and winery, Dennis was one of the key architects for the firm that built Atari, a consumer electronic company, into a 2 billion dollar company. In 1984 Atari was sold, and that was enough incentive (and I am sure cash) for Dennis and Judy to expand on their obsession for wine, in a big way.

Groth Vineyard and Winery was established in 1982 and is located in the Oakville AVA of Napa Valley. In addition to their 121 acre Oakcross estate, they also own and operate the 44 acre Hillview Vineyard South of the winery. Check out the cool layout below of the vineyard plantings. If you go to the actual website and click on the different lots, it gives you a actual picture of the vines in that lot, very cool.

The 2006 of Sauvignon Blanc had a delayed bud break which actually saved the grapes from any damage during a record heat wave in July. A great “Indian Summer” during the month of October allowed the grapes to reach optimum brix, and TA levels without hitting monster sugar levels. The wine was made of 96% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Semillon both of which were whole cluster pressed prior to fermentation. After fermentation 70% of the Sauv Blanc went in to retired Chardonnay barrels for aging (sur lies) while the other 30% went into stainless steel tanks. The older oak barrels were used to age the wine perfectly without imparting any oak flavor into the delicate fruity varietal.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Grapefruit, papaya, honey

Taste – Lemon, lime, mineral/rocks, pineapple

Mouthfeel – smooth and round, fuller bodied (due to the barrel aging) than most Sauv Blancs initially, turning crisp and refreshing towards the finish

Finish – nice length, smooth with a hint of almond

This was definitely a different Sauvignon Blanc from most I have had. I would say that if you want a Sauvignon Blanc that exemplifies Sauvignon Blanc’s this isn’t it. But if you want a great white wine from California than I would definitely recommend this wine. We had this wine with mushroom barely soup which I am not sure was the best pairing. I think I would have preferred a Red Burgundy or a Barbera instead, but that will be for next time.


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Categories: california, Groth, sauvignon blanc, wine review | Leave a comment

Petite Verdot From Monticello

Sugarleaf Vineyards is located in the Monticello region of Virginia, twelve miles South of Charlottesville. The vineyard was originally planted to be a hobby for friends and wine enthusiasts Jerry Bias and Mike Taylor. The original vines were ordered before Mike was tragically killed in the events of 9/11 in New York City. After all of the time, effort and research that went into planning the vineyard, Jerry thought it only fitting that he continue the dream of his friend and started planting the 2,075 vines himself. Realizing the work that was required to handle a 4 acre vineyard on his own, he decided to bring in professionals for some additional help and went on to produce some great harvests in 2003, 2004, and 2005. These vintages were sold to local wineries that produced award winning wines from the Sugarleaf Vineyard grapes.

In 2004 construction began on Sugarleaf’s very own winery which produced it first vintage in 2006. In October last year (2007) we got a chance to visit Sugarleaf while they are in the midst of their 2007 crush. Winemaker and vineyard manager Daniel Neumeister can be seen in the picture below pressing their Vidal Blanc. I got a chance to speak with Daniel that day, and got a true appreciation for his respect for the grapes. He believes that the vineyard and the winery should be a continuous experience for the wine, not a separate one. I couldn’t agree more!

So recently Megan and I sat down with a bottle of the Sugarleaf Vineyard’s 2006 Petite Verdot (PV) of which only which 78 cases were produced. This estate red was made from 100% PV grapes that spent 8 months in a combination of American (90%) and European (10%) oak before being bottled.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Raspberry, cranberry, saddle, canned corn, small hint of skunk (the animal), and tree (not typical oakiness but instead if you were to head into the woods and stick your nose on a tree)

Taste – French style green beans, blueberry and black raspberry Popsicle

Mouthfeel – Medium body, firm tannins and fairly high acidity

Finish – Long, still feeling the tannins in my cheeks, although I would not say they (the tannins) were overpowering

This was good wine, a great effort for the first vintage of Sugarleaf Vineyards. On the PV scale, it was not as rich and powerful as I like PV’s to be. It was still slightly green, and the tannins were still a little tight which would should smooth out after a couple more years of aging as they did calm down after being in the decanter for a couple hours. At $28 it has the problem that a lot of the better wines in Virginia have, and that is their quality, price ratio. For 30 bucks you can get a pretty rockin’ wine, or 2 pretty rockin’ wines. I understand where the price comes from though don’t get me wrong, only 78 cases produced, single vineyard, hand harvested and a brand new winery. Hopefully as Sugarleaf gains some economies of scale over the next few vintages their prices will reflect that and/or the wines will continue to get better (don’t forget I did like this wine) and warrant the higher price tag.

Sugarleaf as a beautiful estate, a lovely little tasting room and a state of the art facility you can take a tour of. So if you are in the Charlottesville area doing some wine tasting, definitely put Sugarleaf on your list.


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Categories: petite verdot, sugarleaf vineyards, wine tasting | 1 Comment

Friday Night Tasting at The Wine Cellar – 1.25.08


Tomorrow nights wines at The Wine Cellar are all from Spain. It looks like Jeff and crew will have some good values and a good mix of some different wines that Spain has offer.

Here is the list:






Hope to see you all there, 5:00 – 8:00 and FREE as always.


Categories: wine cellar, wine tasting | 4 Comments

Wine In The Jet Stream


Wine Podcasting hits the mainstream or the jet stream I should say this February on American Airlines. I saw this news post from one of my feeds today and couldn’t believe it. Not that a wine podcast was put into the media selection of in flight entertainment but the fact that a PODCAST was put in the entertainment selection of American Airlines flights. I might just not know, but the last time I flew in business class (work paid for it, don’t worry I won’t pay that price on my own) there were no podcast’s available on my entertainment screen much less a WINE podcast. How cool is that, I mean how awesome is it how far wine Podcasting/blogging has come. Maybe I am exaggerating and not everyone thinks in flight entertainment is the mainstream, but I sure do.

I just realized that I had typed a whole paragraph and not mentioned the blog that has reached this strata of the blogosphere, GRAPE RADIO.

Cheers to GRAPE RADIO for this step in bringing wine information to the masses. Maybe next we will see Wine Library TV on Jetblue flights.

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Categories: podcasts, wine industry issues, wine websites | 2 Comments

Wine Blogging Wednesday #42 Announced

Hello wine blogosphere, the next Wine Blogging Wednesday has been announced. This months WBW is brought to us by Andrew Barrow over at Spitoon. Now this will only be the 3rd WBW I have participated in but I think I have read about all 42, and this has to be the most unique one yet. Andrew asks us to pick an Italian red wine and describe it in just SEVEN words. Now those SEVEN words have to be in a sentence that makes sense and as grammatically correct as possible. Check out the rest of the details on his site here. I am excited but already trying to figure out how I will write a tasting note in only SEVEN words with our wine tonight.


Categories: Wine Blogging Wednesday | 4 Comments

Ah So What the Heck is That?

The picture to the left is a picture of a non traditional wine opener, yes a wine opener. The term Ah So, is a translation from the German saying “Ach So” loosely meaning “Ah, I see”. Aptly named, because from looking at this object you would not think that it would be capable of pulling a cork out of a bottle, and after you figure out how to use it you exclaim “Ah, so that’s what it is for!”

Another name for the Ah So is the “Butlers Friend”, because butlers who were dishonest could remove the cork without puncturing or damaging it. They would do this in order to take a swig of wine, place the cork back in the bottle and their boss be none the wiser.

So other than being able to sneak wine if you are a butler, does the Ah So provide any benefits over other cork removal devices? What the Ah So specializes in is the removal of corks that are brittle and old that may break apart when the auger of a traditional corkscrew penetrates it. The Ah So works by the two prongs sliding down in between the cork and the bottle, and then by pulling straight up and twisting at the same time, the cork slides right out. Another useful trick this wine opener can help out with is if a cork does break in half, the Ah So can help get that last little piece out versus pushing it down into the wine.

I have only used my Ah So a couple of times and it is very tricky. I could never see using it on a regular basis but for corks that are impossible to penetrate or too brittle to work with I think this is your tool. Plus a wine geek’s bottle opener collection is not complete without one.


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Categories: ah so, wine education, wine openers | 3 Comments

A place for relaxation and enjoyment – Pavilion

Winemakers Brian Mox and Larry Levin from Pavilion Winery have a long history of winemaking in the Napa Valley. They bring a combined experience from wineries such as Stags Leap and Quintessa and their knowledge from UC Davis in order to provide quality Napa Valley wines at a great price. Unfortunately information for the 2005 Pavilion Cabernet Sauvignon was not available on the Pavilion website so I cannot not offer a lot of detailed information on the wine, except to say that it is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Due to the great relationships the winemakers have formed in the valley over their years there, Brian and Larry have great access to some of the best vineyards in Napa.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Plum, boysenberry, blackberry, milk chocolate, bok choy

Taste – Thyme, blueberry, clove, cedar

Mouthfeel – Full body, very silky and ultra smooth on the tongue

Finish – very dry, the tannins definitely show up at the end of the party

At $14.50 this wine stands and delivers its new world prowess. This is truly a new world wine that pulls it off without feeling or tasting fake. We had this wine with mustard crusted tofu and braised kale. The dark fruit went well with the spicy richness of the whole seed brown mustard and the slight vegetal notes were elevated by the kale.


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Categories: california, pavilion winery, wine review | 1 Comment

Slightly Jaded!

I didn’t write down and I can’t remember when we bought this 2005 Jade Mountain Mourvedre but I do remember we had it at a Wine Cellar tasting before we purchased it. Jade Mountain Vineyard and Winery is located in Contra Costa County California. The Evangelho vineyard which was planted in 1890, is named for the last name of the family that has managed it since 1938 and is where this wine originates from. Winemaker Alison Green Doran has a long history of California wine making tutelage, from her father who bought Simi Winery in 1969 to her mentor Andre Tchelistcheff. Doran believes that the only way a wine can truly get better is to start from the vineyard. That statement speaks directly to my philosophy on making wine if I was to actually make it, and as a wine drinker it gives me a greater appreciation of the juice as it fills my glass.

A Bit of Background on the Wine –The wine is composed of 94% Mourvedre and 6% Carignane both from the North facing slopes of the Evanghelho vineyard. The 2005 vintage in Contra Costa started out cool and wet with a warm August and a cool fall, which led to one of the longest harvests on record. Prior to fermentation the grapes were cold soaked before they were allowed to ferment for 2 weeks, after which it was pressed and placed in French Oak barrels for 10 months.

My Tasting Notes

Nose – Birthday Candle, blueberry, chocolate cake batter

Taste – Dark berry fruit (slightly “sugary”), slight raisin and Zin quality, cinnamon and allspice

Mouthfeel – Medium body, smooth, good weight in the mouth, alcohol was a bit unbalanced

Finish – felt a bit on the short end compared to the rest of the tasting experience

This is a fun wine, we had it with take-out Stromboli from our favorite little spot up the street, Candellas Italian Ristorante. The wine was very fruity, with a nice mouthfeel that was ultra smooth and rich. My only complaint was that the alcohol seemed to be kicking me a little bit, but overall for $14 I recommend it as a good wine to have with pizza or other casual fare.


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Categories: california, jade mountatin, wine review | Leave a comment

Tonights Tasting at The Wine Cellar

Tonight’s tasting at the Wine Cellar features a good mix of value driven California reds. I am excited about all the wines, as it is always nice to find some good red values for everyday drinking, but I got a chance to check out the Hayman and Hill website so I am extra excited about their wines. 

Hayman and Hill is owned by Cellar Door a wine conglomerate that owns several wineries throughout the world such as Red Guitar and Diseno. Hayman and Hill is the creation of two passionate winemakers, working to create value driven single varietal, specific appellation wines from California.  Hayman, who has worked in Australia most recently for the wineries of Hardys but has a total of 17 years of winemaking experience. Hill who has been and is still currently the winemaker for Blackstone Winery brings a background of consumer driven wines, which would lead to the value driven piece of the Hayman and Hill portfolio. 

Hope to see you all out tonight at the wine cellar FREE as usual from 5:00 – 8:00 







Categories: california, hayman and hill, wine cellar, wine tasting | Leave a comment

2005 Mouton Rothschild Label

I was clicking around the Wine Spectator website in the Unfiltered section and came across the new Chateau Mouton Rothschild label for 2005. I had no idea that each label since 1946 has been designed by a contemporary artist. In doing a quick Google search I found the following website that shows all the labels from 1945 to 2004. The Artist Labels dot com shows all the labels in the Mouton Rothschild portfolio as well as having some brief information on the history of Mouton Rothschild for your perusing. In addition to the 2005 I really enjoy the 1963 and my birth year the 1977.

As far as the new 2005 label for the vintage that may beat all vintages in Bordeaux I am really impressed. Spectator describes the label as the growth of the leaf over time in connection with the hand of the consumer. Thanks to my wonderful wife giving me an eye to evaluate art in my own terms I see it slightly different. I see the hand of the winemaker, a hand that is not separate from the vineyard but embracing it, realizing that truly fabulous wine is a continuous process, not mutually exclusive parts. Let me know what you think of the label.


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Wine Blogging Wednesday #41 -White Wine From Friuli – Venezia Giulia

This months Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) topic of a white wine from Friuli – Venezia Giulia (Friuli for short) came to us from Jack and Joanne over at Fork and Bottle. Friuli is typically known for its white wines such as Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and most notably the native grape of Tocai Friuliano. So after doing some reading (both in the Wine Blogging book clubs selection Vino Italiano as well as the Wine Bible and Oxford Companion to Wine) I figured that the best expression for the region to give my first taste of Friuli would be a Tocai Friuliano. The region of Friuli is located in the extreme Northeast part of the country. Friuli is bordered by neighboring countries of Austria and Slovenia and as natural has taken some its winemaking cues from these areas.

Jack and Joanne warned us to try and purchase a Friuli wine greater than or equal to $18 so that we would get a true representation of the area, which I quickly forgot when I was at our local wine shop, The Wine Cellar. What I decided on was actually the only Tocai Friuliano that the shop had and was 1 of only 2 that I saw in the shop, the 2006 Toh! from di Lenardo.

The di Lenardo property is located smack in the middle of the Friuli (Friuli Grave DOC) region in an area called Ontagnano totaling approximately 150 hectares, 40 of which are under vine. The winery produced 50,000 cases in 2007, around 70% of which come to the United States. The wines of di Lenardo under the care of winemaker Massimo di Lenardo are hand picked from the vines and experience the best technology the wine industry has to offer. Even though the top technology is used during the wine making process, a minimalists approach is used in order to yield the true expression of the wines they produce.

My Tasting Notes

Nose – The nose was a little faint but had some good aromas once I could pick them out – Pear, lychee, plantain, flour

Taste – Eucalyptus, honey, lemon, a bit herbal/grassy

Mouthfeel – fairly light to medium body, had a slightly viscous feel but it could have just been that the wine was pretty soft but I wouldn’t say flabby at all

Finish – Surprisingly long finish, longer than expected

The wine was pretty good although I wouldn’t say great, but definitely good enough to give Friuli and Tocai Friuliano another try. This wine tasted and smelled like a 50/50 blend of Viognier and Pinot Gris, which was nice, but there was just something that was a little off for me. We had the Toh! with homemade Indian Food and was a pretty nice pairing with the more tropical fruit aroma and the softer mouthfeel was nice with the slightly spicy meal.

Thanks Jack and Joanne for the introduction to this region and the wine it has to offer.


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Categories: Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine review | 3 Comments

Wine and Art – A Great Combination

Wine and art are a great combination for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, wine is one of my passions and my wife is by passion and schooling an artist (she got her Master of Fine Arts in sculpture and photography). Second, wine is a work of art in itself, a delicious liquid that walks a fine line between art, science, and Mother Nature.

Imagery Estates Winery, which is in the Sonoma Valley just outside of Glen Ellen, took wine and art to a new level. If you read this blog you know that Megan and I are members of the Imagery wine club and get their wine 4 times a year. After drinking their Malbec recently, which is one of the wines in their artist collection, I decided that I should post not only about the wine, but about how Imagery marries wine and art perfectly. Labels for the Imagery Artist Collection wines are produced from artwork commissioned from among the world’s most notable contemporary artists. The original one-of-a-kind works of art are the property of Imagery Estate Winery. The collection, currently numbering 190, is on permanent display at the winery’s on-site gallery.

Not all of the wines that come from Imagery are part of the artist series, but a good percentage of the wine club deliveries bear a one of a kind, artist designed label. Here are some of the ones that we have gotten in the past 2 years.

The only requirement is that the art contain the Imagery symbol of a Pantheon. Some labels are easier than others to see the Pantheon design but sometimes finding them is part of the fun. All the labels have full scale paintings for sale and are on display in the Imagery Tasting room, providing an excellent backdrop to their hand crafted wines.

The 2004 Malbec is from vines grown in Lake County. After harvest the grapes were fermented for 28 days using a pumpover method before the wine was put into French Oak barrels for 20 months. This wine was bottled in June of 06 and came in our September 2007 shipment.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Candied pecans, clove, blackberry, Nestle Quick, Ketchup and after about 45 minutes of being open I got espresso

Taste – Fig, molasses, thyme, blackberry, passion fruit

Mouthfeel – Nice dry, dusty mouthfeel with medium body and nice noticeable acidity

Finish – Long with lingering strawberry and black pepper

This was an excellent Malbec, very similar to ones that I have had from Argentina. This California version was slightly softer but with the same fruit levels and profiles, although it seems to me that I get more leather or suede notes on the nose of the Argentinean ones. I need to go back through some tasting notes to verify that, because I could be making it up. 🙂

If you are in the Sonoma Valley doing some wine tasting make sure that Imagery is one of your stops, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.


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Categories: art, Imagery Estate, labels, wine review, wine tourism | Leave a comment

New Years Eve Sip and Growers Champagne

Growers Champagnes (aka Farmer Fizz) are finally becoming, dare I say more popular and available, and this year Megan and I purchased one to enjoy on our quiet New Years Eve. With that said, what exactly are growers Champagnes? Growers Champagnes are Champagnes that are made by the grower themselves, pretty self explanatory huh. Are you asking yourself, but isn’t that how most Champagnes are made? Well to start with, the major Champagne makers (Moet& Chandon and Veuve Clicquot are a couple) which account for 80% of the Champagne produced, only own about 12% of the vineyards. These mass produced, highly marketed Champagnes are transformed into sparklers that barely resemble the terroir from which they once came. By extreme contrast, growers who produce their own Champagne (recolant-manipulants) have the ability to buy only 5% additional grapes to supplement their crop. This allows for the Champagne to be much more hand crafted and express the nuances of the land where they were grown as well as the style and finesse of the winemaker/grower. For more info click HERE!

For New Years Eve we decided to have the Pierre Peters “Cuvee de Reserve” Brut NV. We picked it up from our friends at the Barrel Thief who in addition to it, had a great selection of growers Champagnes.Pierre Peters is from the Cote de Blancs more specifically le Mensil Sur Oger in the Southern part of Champagne. This Champagne is a Blanc de Blanc meaning that it is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. The grapes are grown on approximately 43 acres (17.5 Hectares) of soil that is has mostly a chalky make up as does most of the Cote de Blancs which is where the name comes from meaning literally “white slopes.”

My Tasting Notes

Nose – Yeast, sourdough bread, if you have ever crushed grapes in a bladder press during harvest, there is a particular smell that the crushed grapes emanate when you are removing them from the press and this came through on the nose of this wine – very cool

Taste – very nutty, bright green apple, stone

Mouthfeel – Teeny tiny pin pricks on the tongue, after swishing it around in my mouth it turned into a frothy foam, with nice prickles down my throat after I swallowed

Finish – med to long in length, left me feeling very refreshed

At $44 dollars this is by far the best Champagne I have tasted, the best sparkler being the ‘96 Gloria Ferrer Cuvee. Since the Gloria Ferrer was truly the best sparkling wine that I have had before it was really all I had to compare it to because the Pierre Peters truly blew the other Champagnes I had had prior out of the water. Luscious yet tight, commanding the attention of my entire palate, I have never had that experience with another Champagne.

For more information on Growers Champagne check out the following link to Terry Theise Imports or head over the Barrel Thief and ask them about to tell you more about Growers Champagne.

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Categories: champagne, Pierre Peters, wine education, wine industry issues, wine tasting | Leave a comment