Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I have been playing with the Genache Grape this past month, but I found a nice Pinot Noir to share....

In truth, I was offered the 2008 tonight. A nice drinking wine... a true Pinot Noir! if you try the 2009, tell me what you think of it.


Ecco Domani 2009 Pinot Noir
Growing Region
Pinot Noir in Sicily has found the perfect home, thanks to the Sicilian sun and the fresh night breezes that sweep across the island. These factors create soft and mature tannins that enhance the structure of our Pinot Noir. Grapes for our Pinot Noir come from two different areas. On the southeast part of the island near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, sandy soil and climate create grapes with great maturation and vibrant aromas and flavors. On the southwest part of the island close to the Valley of the Temples is a mountainous growing environment with heavy clay soil. Grapes mature slower here, resulting in deep color, extremely rich mouthfeel, and soft tannins.

Viticultural Notes
2009 was a fairly typical year for Sicily, with regular spring rainfall and warm, dry weather through the summer, culminating in a hot August. Crisp nights contributed to large grape bunches with deep colour. Shortly before harvest, the warm days were accompanied with a slight shortage of rain. However, our grower cooperatives use modern cultivation techniques that include water storage and estate water wells, which overcame the challenge of low rainfall.

Thanks to the ideal harvest conditions and modern technology, 2009 promises to be a strong vintage for Pinot Noir.

Winemaker Notes
The 2009 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, which were harvested at full maturity near the end of August. They were then macerated for ten days in small stainless steel tanks to increase the surface contact between the juice and the skins, at a temperature of 25°C. After separation from the must and alcoholic fermentation, the wine remained on the lees until the end of malolactic fermentation. Finally, the wine was refined in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fruit flavors that are characteristic of this varietal.

Tasting Notes
Ecco Domani 2009 Pinot Noir displays a deep red color tinged with ruby-red reflections. It expresses ripe cherry aromas and a soft, plush blackberry palate with supporting structure.

Pinot Noir is a perfect match for a wide range of foods, particularly tomato-based pasta dishes, poultry and grilled meats.

Varietal Content: 100% Pinot Noir
Appellation: IGT Sicilia
Alcohol Level: 12.7%
Residual Sugar: 0.59g/100ml
Total Acidity: 0.61g/100ml
pH: 3.53

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tasted two reds this week. One was so dark you could not see light through it... The other one is a new light, cheap Pinot Noir from the Gallo Group.

The Naked Grape and the The Naked Grape logo are registered trademarks of E. & J. Gallo Winery. California Table Wine, © 2010 Grape Valley Wine Company, Modesto, CA. All Rights Reserved.


As one Naked Grape ad put it:
Naked Grape wines boldly reveal themselves as they really are. Our winemaker’s choice against oak aging ensures freshness and allows our crisp fruit flavours to shine through without being masked by the flavour of oak barrels. It takes confidence to go unoaked.

Like the Bare Foot Wines that preceded it, Gallo has started another NO GALLO NAME wine selection for lower cost wines.

I will keep it simple:
Try them. I liked their unoaked, light Pinot Noir.
And I was not paying for it... or being paid to say it.

A smooth, easy drinking, and full bodied wine; a perfect match for BEEF.
Looking back over my postings, this one shows up TWICE: Trapiche, Oak Cask, Malbec, Mendoza 2008... interesting wine. The color of blood in the glass.

Tasting Notes:
The wine has a rich, red color with violet highlights, with plum and cherry aromas. In the mouth, the fruit is round and supple, with a note of truffle and vanilla.

Producer Background:
Established in 1883, Trapiche is the most widely recognized Argentinean wine producer in the world. Located in Mendoza at the foothills of the Andes mountains, Trapiche has some of the most extensive landholdings in the area, with over 2,500 acres of its own vineyards.

Under the guidance of Chief Winemaker, Daniel Pi, Trapiche has consolidated all of its winemaking and viticulture, creating a synergy between winemaking and agriculture. Along with his team of winemakers and Marcelo Belmonte, Director of Viticulture, Daniel Pi’s vision for Trapiche is to express the richness of diversity of the terroir in Argentina.

An innovative and forward thinking winery, Trapiche is always looking for new ways to for their wines to express their passion for the land and its people. Realizing that Argentina is the best place in the world to grow Malbec, Trapiche embarked on a project to showcase what they consider to be the three best malbecs of any given year. The project pays homage to the grape growers and features their names prominently on the label. With the first vintage, 2003, the three single vineyard Malbecs have already won worldwide acclaim.

All Trapiche wines are hand-harvested, hand-sorted and vinified at their winery. The wines have a new international style, fruit-driven and consumer friendly, and representing the best of what Argentina has to offer. Trapiche’s goal is to exceed expectations at every level.

Lettie Teague on Wine by the Glass - WSJ.com

Lettie Teague on Wine by the Glass - WSJ.com: "And yet no one seems to be protesting. In fact, there are more and more places that focus on wines by the glass. Take the number of wine bars that have opened in this country in recent years. (Wine bars are all about selling wine by the glass.) In New York alone, 69 new wine bars opened in 2010 as of late summer, making a total of 237 in the city. Many restaurants feature very large by-the-glass offerings, like Fleming's Steakhouse, which famously touts its '100 wines by the glass' program at all 64 locations in 28 states. Fleming's has even trademarked the amount, calling it 'The New Fleming's 100' (which sounds to me like a Nascar event).
My sister in Dallas loves this sort of program. She loves to order wine by the glass because 'you can try a bunch of different ones and if you don't like one you can throw it out—or finish it off—and try another.' When I informed her that every glass she consumed—fully or otherwise—was actually funding the entire cost of the bottle, she affected a level of indifference that could best be described as Texas-sized. 'I don't care. I would never bother to add it up,' she said.
This is no doubt an attitude that restaurateurs hope all their customers will adopt. I suspect that the same people who aren't considering the cost of a glass aren't thinking much about the condition of the bottle either. They're unlikely to ask the waiter or bartender how long it was open, or for that matter, how it was stored. Yet both of these facts are tremendously important. An open bottle of wine on a warm bar deteriorates more rapidly than a bottle stored on a refrigerator shelf, while a wine open for five days or a week will taste very different than one just opened that day."

Since I live in Texas and have sisters here, I thought this was a very good argument for not buying wine by the glass in bars... but if you buy the bottle you are paying a 100% mark-up over the RETAIL PRICE of the wine...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rating Airlines' Wines in First-Class and Business-Class | Lettie Teague on Wine - WSJ.com

Rating Airlines' Wines in First-Class and Business-Class Lettie Teague on Wine - WSJ.com: "But of all the wines that I tasted, those chosen by Air Zealand were the most remarkable in terms of selection, both in business and coach (the airline has no first class). The panelists encourage all New Zealand wineries to submit wines (they choose only domestic wines), and remarkably, they ask the wineries to self-designate whether their wines belong in business or coach. Further, the panelists aren't told the prices of the wines, which Mr. Barrie said was also unusual: 'I have friends who are involved with other airlines and they all have a price tag per bottle,' he noted.
Indeed, I couldn't distinguish the Pinot Noirs or Sauvignon Blancs by class. The two coach-class Sauvignons, the 2009 Mudhouse and 2009 Spy Valley, were vibrant and lively (both about $15), while the 2008 Deep Cove Pinot Noir (coach) was every bit as delicious as the deeply flavored 2008 Framingham Pinot from business—both are around $20 a bottle. In fact, the only critical difference between the two classes was that business received a much wider selection and some more serious reds, such as the 2008 Craggy Range Te Kahu ($20), a Bordeaux-style blend.
By the end of my tastings, I'd acquired valuable insight into the selection (and storage) of airline wines—to say nothing of all their rules and regulations. I'd also reached a few class-specific conclusions: I'd fly Singapore for first class, United for business and I'd be happy on Air New Zealand drinking in coach. What of those coach wines anyway? As Doug Frost had said, 'Coach is the big question for every airline.' Perhaps it's a question I'll pose soon. I can even conduct some in-flight research"

KERA | Public Television, Radio and Online Media for North Texas | Think

KERA Public Television, Radio and Online Media for North Texas Think: "Wednesday, 02.24.10
An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine
Max Watman
What does your choice of beverage say about you? We'll explore the arcane world of personal distilling, legal and otherwise with journalist and Guggenheim recipient Max Watman. His new book is 'Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine' (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

'Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine' (Simon & Schuster, 2010)"

NPR has featured reviews (good ones) of Max Watman's new book "Chasing the White Dog", I showed up at Big Daddy's and tried Buffalo Trace's White Dog.

CHASING THE WHITE DOG: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine by Max Watman (Simon & Schuster, 9781416571780).

“This book is a good ol’ time! A heady mix of history, personal narrative, how-to, road tripping, taste-testing, legend-meeting and more. It’s a fun taste of moonshine and the people around it, from the backwoods of Appalachia to the gritty nip joints of Philadelphia. Even for those with no interest in NASCAR. Fun, informative, and—dare I say—inspiring?”

Max Watman is a celebrated journalist and an unrepentant lover of moonshine. In this perfect moonshine primer, he chronicles his hilarious attempts to distill his own moonshine—the essential ingredients and the many ways it can all go wrong—from his initial ill-fated batch to his first successful jar of ‘shine.

i suggest you taste it from a Mason/Ball jar... read on!

Buffalo Trace White Dog (New Make Whiskey)


Chasing the New Make: Buffalo Trace White Dog

There has been a lot of interest lately in unaged whiskey, alternately referred to as moonshine, white dog, white whiskey and new make.

To clarify the terminology, moonshine is the name used for illegally distilled liquor, but to capitalize on the rebellious and romantic associations that the term conjures, several new distilleries are calling their unaged (legal) whiskeys moonshine. (Most illegal moonshines are actually made from sugar according to Max Watman, author of the recently released moonshine chronicle, Chasing the White Dog. SEE POSTING BELOW).

White dog is the name used by distillers for unaged American whiskey, and new make is a term meaning the same thing but used by Scotch and Irish distillers.

Legally, most unaged spirits cannot be called whiskey. In Scotland, a spirit must be aged for three years to be called whisky, and it is unclear whether unaged spirits can even include the name of the distillery on their label, hence Glenglassaugh's release of its new make under the label, The Spirit Drink that Dare not Speak its Name. In American whiskey, only corn whiskey can be bottled straight off the still without being stored in wood. All other whiskeys must be stored, for some time, in wooden containers.

Why the sudden interest in this type of spirit?

There are likely several reasons. First is the proliferation of new microdistilleries. New distilleries that want to make Bourbon or rye have to age it, which deprives them of any immediate return on their investment. As a result, to get some immediate cash flow, many new micros release unaged spirits such as corn whiskey or white whiskey. The result has been a corn whiskey boom. For years, there were only one or two distilleries that produced unaged, American corn whiskey. Now, in the midst of a microdistilling boom, there are more than a dozen.

Second, the growth of whiskey connoisseurship has produced an interest in new make among whiskey aficionados.

Tasting your favorite Scotch or Bourbon fresh off the still is an educational exercise which can give you new insight into how the whiskey matures and the dramatic effect of oak. Maker's Mark, in its whiskey tastings and master classes, has long offered samples of its white dog along side other samples of various ages of whiskey to shed light on the aging process. The logical next step was for distilleries to start bottling the stuff. Along with the previously mentioned Glenglassaugh, several Scotch distilleries are releasing new make as is the Buffalo Trace Bourbon distillery

Third, the cocktail/bar chef/mixology renaissance has led to the (re)introduction of all sorts of old and obscure spirits and cocktails.

The release of these new make spirits fits right into that movement as recently chronicled by Watman in the Huffington Post.

Tasting: Let's get to the point!

As I noted, Buffalo Trace is now marketing their new make, White Dog spirit. When first released, it was only available in Kentucky and at Binny's, but it seems to be slowly spreading (I have yet to see it on the shelf in LA); it goes for around $17 for a 375 ml bottle. The Buffalo Trace white dog is made from their Mash #1, a low rye Bourbon mash which is the same grain combination used in Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and the legendary George T. Stagg Bourbon. It comes off the still and into the bottle at 62.5% alcohol.

The nose on this stuff has lots of sugar cane with a bit of a raw alcohol note.

It smells much more like a white rum than any sort of Bourbon. The first thing that hits me is the syrupy mouthfeel and a surprisingly sweet flavor. Only at the end of the palate and on into the finish is there anything resembling whiskey. On that finish, I can feel the Bourbon and even a hint of rye spice.

The presence of rye is what separates the Buffalo Trace white dog from corn whiskey, which must be a whopping 80% corn and generally, doesn't include rye.

In addition, the Buffalo Trace White Dog is cask strength, while most corn whiskey on the market hovers around 40% alcohol. Compared to corn whiskeys I've had, I definitely prefer the Buffalo Trace. The rye gives it a more complex flavor and the higher strength accentuates the flavor. Regular strength corn whiskey tastes pretty watered down and one dimensional in comparison.

I have to say, I quite enjoy this stuff, though it's more interesting as an academic exercise. It's hard to picture grabbing it off the shelf for a relaxing drink, more of a, "hey, you gotta' taste this" experience for Bourbon fans

Chasing the White Dog... Moon Shine.

Chasing the White Dog with Max Watman
Max Watman is author of Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine. He spoke with the Booze Blog about the history of American moonshine, the culture of modern distilling, and his own short career as a moonshiner.

What is “the white dog” in your title, and how does it compare to the whiskeys our readers are more familiar with?

White dog is what legit American distillers call whiskey when it comes off the still, at its raw state, before the barrel has turned it brown and given it all that caramel and vanilla we get from the oak. I used the phrase in the title for a few reasons (including a self-indulgent desire to link my American search, my quest, to Moby Dick) but, most importantly, I think that the line between legal and illegal whiskey is somewhat arbitrary, and I wanted to begin by blurring the separation.

White Dog, which is available from micro-distillers like Koval, House Spirits, and Death’s Door as well as (major distiller) Buffalo Trace, is more complicated than vodka. It is the framework upon which those oak flavors hang. The grain profile of the spirit is very present, the taste is undeniably the taste of whiskey, but it is young and raw, like beaujolais nouveau is to burgundy.

In your book you describe moonshines from the poisonously bad to the transcendent. In your opinion, how do the best illegal whiskeys stack up against their legitimate counterparts?

The best illegal spirits are fantastic. They are different than the best whiskey available, if for no other reason than no illicit distiller that I know of keeps a barrel of the stuff around for a dozen years. Of course, the best illegal spirits aren’t necessarily whiskeys. If you’re working on your own, you can do anything you want. You can make a distillate that is half apricot brandy and half rum, and the result is amazing. I’ve had moonshine made out of tomatoes, which had a nose that reminded me of brushing up against a tomato plant in the garden in August — find me a product on the shelf at the store that smells like August.
You describe your first taste of moonshine simply as “searing.” From that less than auspicious start, how did you get hooked on the topic?

Searing isn’t a bad thing, of course. I like the sear of high-proof liquor. That said: my initial motivation was romantic and nostalgic. I wanted to explore this bit of Americana and I assumed that I would spend a lot of pleasant time in the hillbilly hills. Once I started researching, I was surprised at every turn. Every door I opened had something behind it, and rarely was it what I had expected. My creekside pastoral became a federal courtroom, my imagined hillbillies became black marketeers selling their hooch in rough cities.

The issue of authenticity – specifically authentic moonshine culture – runs throughout the book. Who are today’s modern moonshiners and what traditions would you say they’ve preserved?

I’d say there are two answers to this question. Two answers and a pre-amble, perhaps. Authenticity in America is weird, slippery stuff. We celebrate the idea to no end: we want artisanal cheeses and farm fresh eggs. I think the food truck phenomenon has to do with our search for authentic food. Documentary film is popular, it seems to me, because it gives us something unscripted, something authentic.

At the same time, all of that is packaged for us. I find myself buying packaged authenticity all the time. I was just on Block Island, digging clams, and I’m writing about it now, so I was researching the clams there. I found a newspaper article from 1912 that detailed how they’d run out of clams and had to seed them. There aren’t actually any clams there anymore, we ate them all a hundred years ago. So they plant clams, and I gather them. Am I doing something authentic or not? I can’t even answer that question. I can say that the clams I dug were delicious.

I would say that the line between “moonshiner” and “distiller” is fraught. Micro distillers are reclaiming an authentic American tradition. The colonists distilled because it was good farming. It was a way to store, preserve, and transport their grain. It was a part of their culture. Spirits were a vital part of our early economy.

In 1800, there were 14,000 distilleries in America. Over the course of the Nineteenth Century, that industry experienced a natural consolidation — with better transportation, bigger cities, bigger commerce, it was only natural that distilling would commercialize. Still, in 1900, there were about 1,000 distilleries. After prohibition, and for the next 60 years or so, there were about a dozen. Small distilleries are a part of the American landscape that vanished. They are coming back. We’ve got about 200 now, and to me they speak to a historical authenticity. They make something with care, they use local products, and they sell to people with whom they have a connection. That’s authentic.

Among the moonshiners, the illegal distillers, there is a group of people who work very hard to carry on the mountain traditions and to make whiskey in what I’ve come to think of as the “bluegrass” way. They are few, but they are up there in the hills, making liquor the way that it’s always been made. Hats off to them.

Of course, there’s nothing inauthentic about the new, foodie, explorations of the crazy folks haunting the farmer’s market for overripe fruit. That’s new, but new can be authentic, too.

Some of the funniest scenes in the book involve your own adventures (and misadventures) as an illegal still operator. When in the writing process did you decide that you were going to break the law and create your own still? And how do you rate yourself as a distiller?

I like to put my hands on what I’m writing about. I like to get mud on my boots. I realized early on that if I was going to write it, I was going to do it. I learned a lot about distilling, and I think if I was dropped into an actual distillery, with real equipment, I could do pretty well. I worked at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey for a spell while writing this book, and I don’t think I ruined any of their whiskey. (It’s great whiskey, it’d break my heart to screw it up.) My experiments… well, I don’t know. I got close.

I found your discussion of the historical role of moonshine to be politically resonant with our own times. I could hear an echo of the conflict between moonshiners and the government in the rhetoric of contemporary right. What does the history of whiskey tell us about our modern political landscape?

History resonates. Things are as they always were. The conflict between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson is at our core. Are we, when it comes right down to it, a nation of individuals or a nation of corporations? The regulation of liquor, and therefore the role of moonshine in history, has a lot to do with to whom the benefits will fall. Hamilton envisioned America as a machine designed to enrich the few — the cost of throwing advantages to the few has certainly come up again recently. Jefferson’s vision was focused on individuals, on small scale economies loosely connected. Hamilton wanted to tax whiskey, Jefferson repealed that tax. Left/right: divisions like that don’t actually work all that well, I think.

Another striking feature of modern moonshine culture is the symmetry between the legitimate distilling business and it’s illegitimate shadow. Just as the legal market features small-scale producers and large volume distillers, the black market features micro-distillers and large-scale producers.

There is a real symmetry there. While researching the book, I got so close to the details of the business that the parallels where sometimes obscured, but both sides have big producers and little guys. On both sides, your smaller producers are more experimental, less consistent, and more interested in the art and craft of it. The bigger producers want to quickly produce a consistent product that they can sell easily. One of the key differences is that the large legitimate producers actually produce quality stuff. The big illegal producers tend to make poor stuff. Not all the time. Some of the large production moonshine is very good quality. In North Carolina I saw a large-scale illegal operation with stainless steel stills, dairy-grade equipment, and the mash was high quality. I’d have drank it.

How big do these illegal producers get?

There are no business records from these producers, of course. But you can get a good sense of the size of these organizations from Operation Lightning Strike, the crack down on the Helms Farmers’ Exchange. The Helms Farmers’ Exchange was the worst kept secret in moonshine. It was allegedly selling fertilizer. Between 1992 and 1999, the Exchange sold more than 12 million pounds of sugar. That turns into about 2 million gallons of liquor. At the time, that was nearly equal to the production of Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is one of the smallest big producers, but still, there’s a bottle of Maker’s Mark in nearly every bar I walk into.

Is there an argument for deregulating alcohol in such a way as to make moonshine legal?

Certainly. At the same time, if you are introducing something into a marketplace, it should be held to certain standards. There’s a lot of really horrible hooch floating around out there. Studies at UVA found that 60% of the seized bootleg they studied had staggering lead content. That’s poison. It should be illegal to poison people.

Most importantly, however, the hobby distiller should be released from penalty. We can make 300 gallons of beer or wine at home per year, and to say that we can’t get the alcohol out of that beer or wine with another tool is just absurd. Regulating a marketplace is one thing, regulating a hobby is just silly. It’s an arbitrary line and it should be erased.

Any advice for would-be home distillers?

Write your congressman. Get it legalized.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Have you tasted a clone wine? I have tonight... very nice.

This wine is produced from three sought-after Pinot Noir clones, 667, 777 and 115. Each clone is harvested and fermented separately before it is blended and aged in French oak.

The wine displays a bouquet of dark cherries, plums and cinnamon.
It has rich and generous flavours, excellent balance and silky tannins.

Winemaker Neill Culley
Vintage 2008
Region Marlborough
Wine Style This Pinot Noir displays fragrant cherry and red berry aromas with traces of thyme, mushroom and other earthy characters. The palate is lively, but also generous, with a long, silky finish. The wine is crafted to be enjoyed while youthful, fresh and vibrant.
Vineyards A selection of Pinot Noir clones (667, 777, 115 and 5) are grown on the stony, infertile soils of the Rapaura sub-region in Marlborough. Each clone contributesa unique characteristic to the final blend. Despite a cool start, the 2007-2008 growing season experienced warmer than average temperatures which contributed to good flavour development in the grapes. Higher than average rainfall during October and December promoted good canopy growth, which allowed us to pick slightly early and retain the delicate aromas.
Winemaking When the grape flavours and maturity were considered to be optimal, each clone was harvested separately. In the winery, the fruit was destemmed and cold soaked for 4 days, prior to fermentation in open vats. Hand plunging was used for the gentle extraction of colour and tannin. The wine was then lightly pressed and matured in French oak.
Cellaring Best enjoyed upon release and over the next 3 years
Accolades 2007 Culley Marlborough Pinot Noir:
Bronze Medal - Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2008
Bronze Medal - Decanter World Wine Awards 2008
Commended - International Wine Challenge 2008

Cable Bay Vineyards
12 Nick Johnstone Dr,
(PO Box 320, Oneroa) Church Bay
Ph: 09-372 5889, fax: 09-372 5869
Email: info@cablebayvineyards.co.nz

Managing director/Winemaker: Neill Culley
Marketing manager: Anthony Mills
Wine sales: Mail order, retail, Internet
Price range: $22-$35
Winery tastings: At the Waiheke Island Wine Festival, Sat 5 Feb 2005; otherwise
by appointment
Vineyard accommodation: The Winemaker’s Loft; self-contained accommodation
overlooking the vineyards and out
to the Hauraki Gulf

When Neill Culley made the decision to resign after a distinguished career as the winemaker for Babich Wines, he could have gone just about anywhere. He chose Waiheke Island for several reasons: it had a proven track record as a wine region, it offered a point of difference in marketing terms and it appealed to him and his wife personally. He didn’t want to live in a “wine monoculture”, where the only company was other winemakers and the only subject of conversation was wine.

Neill and his partners have five vineyards, totalling about 20 hectares, dotted over the island. Site diversification not only provides more blending options, but also spreads the risk because, even on the relatively small (26km x 19km) island, both climate and soils can vary markedly. “We have pulled out some vineyards because they didn’t perform,” says Neill.
The plantings are split roughly equally between the Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

Neill says Waiheke’s clay soils and warm climate produce a Chardonnay that is not overly aromatic, but has good texture and depth, making it an ideal food wine. The same conditions imbue red wines with a warmth and sweetness that Neill believes is characteristic of Waiheke.

Cable Bay also has another vineyard in Marlborough that is producing Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, two wines that overseas distributors expect – and even demand – New Zealand producers to have in their portfolios.