Thursday, October 13, 2016

Machine vs. Man

Harvest is winding up here in the Dry Creek Valley AVA.  It's been a good year! 

You may wonder how all those grapes are harvested.  There are two choices: by hand or by machine.  The choice often comes down to what kind of wine you are making.

Most premium wines are hand harvested, giving much more control over just which grapes end up in the fermentation tank.  Often a grape vine will have grapes in various states of ripeness, some berries can still be un-ripened while others may have "raisined" and be shriveled.  A skilled harvester can pick the best and leave the rest behind.

Not so with a machine harvester which shakes the grapes off the vine taking whatever falls off.  The winery could have staff that sorts through it all, but that is costly and time consuming. 

Given all this, you can expect that you get a better quality harvest from hand-picking vs. machine.  And better grapes mean better wine.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

France for Spring 2017

Many of our local Dry Creek Valley wines have their origin in France, and specifically, the Rhone.  There, the Syrah grape rules in the Northern area and the Grenache shines in the South Rhone.

I am offering to guide a group of wine enthusiasts that are interested in exploring the Rhone wine region of France.  This will be the second visit to the area, the first being a visual experience as we spend along in the TGV (the speed train) and a day in Chateauneuf du Pape.  I am anxious to return for a detailed look at the area.

The dates are open.  Ideally the week long visit would be in the Spring of 2017.  Contact me thru my website for more details.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tiny Bubbles

Wine can truly be called "phenomenal"!  While most of us know this simply by enjoying a nice glass of wine, the fact is that we are made aware of just how delicious that wine is by the phenolic experience it provides.

Well, that's a mouth full (pun intended).  In a word, the grape contains many flavor compounds that our noses can sense.  It is these chemical compounds known as phenols that create the magic in wine.

As most of these chemicals exist in the skin (up to 300 different compounds) it follows that red wine contains more "flavor" than white wines that are not fermented with the skins. 

These "tiny bubbles" are what we smell when we swirl and sniff our wine, and why the use of our nose is paramount in the enjoyment of wine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Update from the Vineyard

Take a good look at this photo.  Notice the leaves on the ground?  Have you ever wondered why they do this?

This activity in the vineyard is called "canopy management" and serves many purposes as explained in this quote: "The purpose of leaf removal is to open up the interior of the canopy to light and air to help promote fruit ripening, reduce disease pressure and increase spray coverage. If conducted correctly, the benefits to grape quality can be dramatic as exposure can enhance fruit and wine flavor, color and wine texture."

The point of all this is to produce the tastiest grapes from that vine.  When water is plentiful the vines make more leaves, but we don't want that.  If the vines are happily making leaves they are neglecting their fruit.  By pruning the extra canopy growth the vineyard manager is forcing the vines to get serious about the grapes which is all about improving the taste!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why Wine Makes Us Happy

While a bit of alcohol can make us "happy",  the real mystery of wine is that it is in the aromas that wine gives off that the true experience of wine comes thru. 

Grape skins contain hundreds of compounds (phenols) that mimic many aromas found in Nature.  Wine then becomes a complex memory recall beverage.

For instance, many of us have a sensory memory of walking along a country road and eating black berries off the bush.  Yum!  So when I "get" black berries aromas in wine, I get a smile on my face.  I have made a connection between my own experiences in Nature and the wine I am tasting today.  Now if you add in some good friends and a beautiful setting (Say, on one of my wine tours!) you are making another great memory.

Finally, when you have a chance to taste that wine you just had at a latter date, you create a circle of happy memories.  Moral of the story is to listen to your past while in the present with your wine so you can find better times in the future.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Relax, it's only Wine

Really!  Lighten up!  Wine can just be fun.  The day you trust your own taste buds and not worry what the "experts" tell you what to drink, is the day Wine becomes a playful thing.

Thankfully wine tasting is a subjective activity.  You "get" blackberries in your taste and your friend "gets" cherries.  Guess what, you're both right!  Isn't that a relief?!

Many wineries these days advertise the various "scores" they get for their wines.  "95 points Pinot Noir."  I would warn against putting too much stock in these numbers.  First of all, these numbers are meant as advertising in that they want you to buy the wines with great numbers.  The problem is that these reviews are one person's take on that wine and not meant as gospel.  They have their opition and you have're both right.

I'd rather not know if a wine is a "95" and let me discover its worth to my own taste buds without the "suggestion" that this has to be a great wine.  Always start with an even playing field.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Eight S's of Wine Tasting

 The best advice I can give about wine tasting is to SLOW DOWN.  Savor the experience.  This is a time to really explore your wines.

Let's start with "S" #1: Setting.  Whether your at home or out at a winery, the setting helps set the mood of your tastings.  Remember your mood and mind are very important to your tasting experience.

Start your tasting by looking at the color and texture of the wine.  That's "S" #2: Sight.  Admire the color by looking thru the wine with a white background.

Next you want to give some air to the wine. ( Assuming we're tasting a younger wine) This is "S" #3: Swirl.  The idea is a thin layer of wine up the side of the glass.  Swirl not Shake!

Now let's get our noses inside the bowl of the wine glass and enjoy the aromas that our swirling created.  Slow down.  Just relax and enjoy.  This is "S" #4: Smell

Time to take a Sip; "S" #5.   Don't drink the wine...let it sit on your tongue.  You can even Slosh it around; "S" #6.

Finally, you can opt to Swallow; "S" #7.  But don't rush on to the next taste.  Apply "S" #8 and Savor your taste.  You may get more "information" after you have swallowed the wine.