Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Riesling Scales New Heights

Riesling is living up to predictions to be "the next big thing." Of course, along with it's new found fame comes new responsibilities. And demands that a uniform sweetness scale be adopted to help consumer make choices that match their palate.
From Decanter Magazine
Howard G. Goldberg in New York

Every bottle of Riesling should carry a taste scale so consumers can see exactly what style of wine they are getting, the International Riesling Foundation has proposed.

In its first major initiative, the newly formed New York State-based foundation has created guidelines to help consumers predict the taste of any Riesling.
The foundation disclosed its so-called Riesling taste scale as the second annual Riesling Rendezvous, sponsored by Chateau Ste Michelle and the German producer Dr Loosen, began yesterday at the Washington producer's headquarters near Seattle.

The foundation has proposed descriptors it hopes to see on every bottle: dry, off-dry, medium dry, medium sweet and sweet, perhaps to be accompanied by a graphic.
Although Riesling is the fastest-growing white wine in America, the absence of dependable common label information about gradations of dryness and sweetness makes most purchases a gamble, Riesling experts agree.

'Market research has shown that many consumers think of Riesling only as "a sweet white wine" despite the wide range of tastes it can represent,' the foundation said.
To help winemakers choose the most suitable characterisations, it created a chart of technical parameters involving the interplay of sugar, acid, and pH, which determines taste.

Producers' use of the system would be voluntary.
The foundation, created last November, has an international board consisting of more than 30 top Riesling producers. Its president is James Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, a trade association.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Central Coast Classic

Show airing Saturday, June 28, 2008 (Episode #88)

A great show. We were thrilled to have wine industry legend and Chairman/Founder of the
Central Coast Wine Classic, Archie McLaren.

Then we welcome
Dee Dee Brown of We Olive and hear about their plans to conquer the world of olive oil.

The finale is a phone call from wine web superstar,
Gary Vaynerchuk of

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Drinking Inside the Box

Jessica Yadegaran, writing for the Contra Costa Times, was illustrating the advantages of the new wave of "wine-in-a-box." What caught my attention was that out of five examples of good wines available in this format, two of them were "casks" from the Central Coast.

Our pal, the Wine Whisperer, has distilled the advantages of box wine into his own Top 10.

10. Stacks in fridge easily
9. Doesn't break when there's an "ooops."
8. You get three litres of premium wine for as little $15.
7. Avoids the whole screwcap vs. cork issue.
6. 55% less carbon footprint (replaces the material and shipping weight of four bottles).
5. On your next trip to Australia, you'll already be in sync (over 50% of sales in the Land Down Under).
4. Inner pouch collapses as wine is consumed helping to preserve freshness.
3. The inner pouch comes out making it handy for backpacking or relaxing in the park with your homies.
2. Lots more branding and identity space for graphics, website url's, crossword puzzles, etc.
1. Gives a whole new meaning to "half in the bag."

So here's what Jessica had to say:
On a recent camping trip to Stinson Beach, I realized how cumbersome the wine life can be. I'd traveled light, but my bottles were weighing me down. There's just something about thick glass that doesn't do well in dirt or sand, let alone on five-mile hikes.

Alas, it was the perfect opportunity to enjoy the onslaught of premium boxed wines currently on the market. I prefer the Australian term, casks, for these square offerings, even though they don't resemble casks in the slightest. But the Aussies know what they're doing: 50 percent of all wine sold in Oz comes out of a box.

And why not? Boxed wines are shatter-free and perfect for picnics and poolsides. And they are guaranteed value, especially in these economic tough times. For $15 to $25, you get three liters at a carbon footprint that is 55 percent smaller than the four bottles it replaces, and the wine lasts for at least one month, as opposed to one day, because it is sealed inside an oxygen-tight pouch. So it makes sense that sales of premium boxed wines have increased by 75 percent in recent years.

But how do they taste? Pretty darn good. When choosing one, make sure you go with a recent vintage (these wines are not meant for aging) and reliable producer that sources grapes from a reputable region. Non-vintage blends work, too, as long as you know you're getting a Central Coast Chardonnay or a Shiraz from southeastern Australia.favorite boxed wines, just in time for your August barbecues, picnics and beach trips. It's too late for me, but if you hit the camping trail, remember: You can take the wine pouch out of the box and carry it in your backpack. Puncture. Squirt. Savor.

  • Boho Vineyards Chardonnay: This Central Coast Chardonnay is medium in body with tropical aromas of pineapple and coconut and a toasty vanilla flavor. Around $20. Try it with herb roasted chicken salad.

  • Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon: This Paso Robles Cab hides its size with a smooth and easy finish. It begins with aromas of blackberry and ripe olives and ends on chocolate-covered cherries. Tannins are chewy, so slap this against a flank steak sandwich. About $20.

    Reach Jessica Yadegaran at 925-943-8155 or
    Read her wine blog at

  • Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Muffaletta With The Midas Touch

    Ever wanted to learn how to make the Muffaletta sandwich made famous by the Central Grocery in New Orleans?
    Now's your chance... at no charge!

    Mark ”The Singing Chef,” of Hospitality Catering is
    presenting a Muffaletta Cooking Show hosted by Idlers in Paso Robles on Wednesday July 23rd from 5:30-6:30. You can check out Chef Mark's Muffaletta recipe at

    Chef Mark will be preparing the Muffaletta Sandwich and a Cajun Shrimp Salad. The event also features Cold Stone Creamery & Vista del Rey Vineyards.

    Chef Mark hosts a free cooking demonstration once a month at Idler’s in Paso Robles located at 2361 Theater Drive. For more information on upcoming cooking events call Idler’s at 238-6020 or contact Brigitte Faulkner at Hospitality Catering 238-7979.

    Epicurious Dictionary
    [muhf-fuh-LEHT-tuh] A specialty of New Orleans, this HERO-style sandwich originated in 1906 at the Central Grocery, which many think still makes the best muffuletta in Louisiana.
    The sandwich consists of a round loaf of crusty Italian bread, split and filled with layers of sliced PROVOLONE, Genoa SALAMI and ham topped with "olive salad," a chopped mixture of green, unstuffed olives, PIMIENTOS, celery, garlic, cocktail onions, CAPERS, oregano, parsley, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The olive salad is what sets the muffuletta apart from any other sandwich of its ilk.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    The Lucas & Clark Expedition

    This post links to the podcast of Grapevine Radio, Episode 87 (June 21, '08) on which we are introduced to the legendary Louis Lucas of Lucas-Lewellen Winery and learn about exotic wine grapes and their brand devoted to Italian varietals; Mandolina. Next up it's Clark Staub, owner of American Flatbread in Los Olivos along with his new chef, Brian Collins (formerly of Che Panisse).

    How to Wine in Hawaiian

    People ask me all the time about how I learned so much about wine (practice practice practice) and it's tough to boil it down into straightforward advice. Then I came across this article by Andre Lopez, owner of a wine shop in Honolulu, Hawaii.
    I recently tried to recall the steps I took in my early wine-drinking days to help me better understand wine. The following basics are what I remember. Feel free to use them as a guide in your journey to develop and trust your own palate:

    # Talk to people — simple, but powerful. I'm always amazed, initially embarrassed of course, at how much I've learned myself from speaking with customers.

    # Experiment with price points, especially the cheap stuff. Buying various wines at different price points, however low and however high (I understand the high is not always possible) allows you to get an idea of quality to price. Eventually, you start to see where your perception of "value" lies, no matter the price point.

    # E-mail wineries directly with questions. What better way to learn than getting it straight from the source?

    # Spend some time in wine bars. This is a great way to learn. With multiple by-the-glass options at many of these hip new spots, you can hedge your investment in 1- to 2-ounce servings, rather than a full glass or entire bottle.

    # Read books. I'm finally admitting that my first book on wine was "Wine for Dummies." It's a great primer for general wine knowledge and if you're familiar with the "For Dummies" publications, you already know they're entertaining reads that take you seamlessly from beginning to end.

    # Pay attention a little more on a daily basis to what we eat and smell. A lot of wines' aromas and flavors are very familiar ones that come from things we encounter every day. Many times it's not necessarily things we always put in our mouths. Ever smelled your 13-year-old son's closet? How about Play-Doh? Raw cake batter, Pixi Stix, gas stations, you name it. The literal smells and flavors as well as the mere suggestion of smells and flavors are all around us.

    I realize in this hectic day and age, all of this effort can be a little more involved than most people want to be. I often catch myself having this irrational expectation of consumers to have the same desire to employ the same process as I. Could it be that I have my own inner wine Nazi, not yet obvious to the casual observer? In the end I think we all just want to feel good about our purchases, no matter what the reasoning behind the selection process was.
    Andre Lopez is owner and operator of The People's Wine Shop, 1136 S. King St. Reach him at 593-7887 or

    Andre goes on to recommend several wines, including one of my favorites, Vignalta Sirio Dry Muscat from Italy. I discovered this gem when the wine maker himself was serving his wines at Monterey Street Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo.

    # Vignalta Sirio Dry Muscat, Italy ($15.95). This is a bone-dry version of a wine normally experienced as a sweet dessert wine. Enchanting, floral aromas and a snappy mouth-feel. Cool stuff.

    Thursday, July 3, 2008

    A Sparkling Wine Comes Out of the Cave

    TendreBulle - the only gay wine in the village?
    June 19, 2008
    The first French gay wine Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

    France's first gay wine – TendreBulle Gay Vin by Domaine de Boyer – launches on 1 July.

    The wine, a sparkling rosé from Languedoc-Roussillon, will show two stylised heads, almost kissing, on the bottle. Underneath are the words 'Gay Vin'.

    The letters G and L, for gay and lesbian, will appear on the capsule.

    'I added the letters after some women at a wine fair told me the wine is only for boys,' said the wine's creator, Jacques-Edouard Pailles, a winemaker whose property is in Saint Martin de Villereglan, in the department of Aude.

    Pailles said he started out wanting to make a rosé wine that would be called the gay wine of Malpierre, one of the local place names, but could not, because of AOC regulations.

    'So then I thought it would be fun to make a happy wine, something festive, as in happy which is what gay used to mean in the middle ages,' he said.

    Related stories:
  • Ribera 'opens minds' with wine aimed at gay community
  • Californian wines come out
  • About 13,000 bottles have already been made of the non-vintage, méthode champenoise Gay Vin. The wine will cost €6 per bottle and is available by order from Domaine de Boyer.