Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sipavola Rosso di Sicilia IGT

This medium-bodied red wine from Sicily is made from 65% Nero d'Avola and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and that makes for a hearty blend with good acidity and even tannins.

Dark red colors to start followed by aromas of dark fruits, blackberries, cherries, spices and dried flowers. Next are flavors of black cherry, blackberry, saddle and spice, with a bit of oak. A good food wine that's balanced and fruit forward.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hugel et Fils Gewurztraminer 2006

Minerals are prevalent on the nose, along with tones of lilac, springtime blossoms, roses and jasmine, under flavors of summer fruit, lychees and hints of pineapple. All combine to make this a seriously delicious Gewurztraminer. Made from 100% Gewurztraminer in the Alsace region of France.

Winemaker's notes:
Producer Background:

Hugel owns a 65-acre estate planted largely to Riesling and Gewürztraminer, with small plots of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. These vines are placed on the grand cru slopes of Sporen and Schoenenbourg.

The golden rule at Hugel is "The wine is already in the grape". As soon as they arrive at the Hugel premises in the heart of Riquewihr, the grapes are classified according to precise and strict criteria of quality. The presses are filled by gravity, not by pumping. After slow crushing, only the first part of the juice is conserved to merit the famous yellow label. The individuality of each grape variety and of each level of quality is respected.


The harvest began on Sept. 27 in bright sunshine, but after many climatic ups and downs. A heat wave in July was followed by an August that seemed like November, until excellent weather in early September saved the crop. Two days of warm rain just one week before the vintage put everyone in their starting blocks and so set the tone for the harvest. This was a true vintners’ vintage, where rigorous and skillful vinification has been rewarded with success. 2006 has produced some very fine Gewurztraminers.

Generic “Hugel” wines are made exclusively from grapes purchased from growers under long-term contract located in a dozen of the best vineyard sites around Riquewihr. The grapes are transported in small tubs to the presses, which are filled by gravity, without any pumping or other mechanical intervention. After crushing, the must is decanted for a few hours, then fermented in temperature-controlled barrels or vats at 18 to 24°C. The wine is racked just once, before natural clarification that occurs slowly over the winter. The following spring, the wine is lightly filtered before bottling, whereupon the wines are aged in Hugel’s cellars until release.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Santi Pinot Grigio "Sortesele" IGT 2007

From the Veneto Region of Italy and made from 100% Pinot Grigio, with pale colors and exotic flavors. On the nose are apples, pears, with a floral bouquet. On the palate, melons and mild spices provide a good base for copious, fresh flavors with fine acidity and long finish.

Winemaker notes

In the Trentino dialect “sortesele” is the diminutive form of “sorti” which means “small parts of vineyard.” These were 4000 square-meter parcels of vineyard for which, according to ancient custom, the heirs of an agricultural property drew lots. The best parts went to the luckiest; in this manner, arguments between relatives were avoided. Pinot Grigio thrives in the Sortesele vineyard, situated along the Adige valley, north of Mezzacorona in Trentino, and it covers about 84 acres. This noble variety of Burgundian origin was derived from a mutation of Pinot Noir and brought to Italy during the first half of the 9th Century. The grape is characterized by a coppery gray color. A manual harvest is conducted in a manner appropriate for the selection of Pinot Grigio, a grape which ripens irregularly.

The grapes come mainly from vines trained in the “pergola trentina” system, in rows on alluvial soil, very well-drained due to the rocky subsoil. Grapes coming from the choicest zones of Friuli complete the blend. The yield is about 6.5 tons per hectare, or a low three tons per acre.

In late September, all healthy and ripe grapes harvested are immediately delivered to the cellars to ensure they are intact. After crushing, some of the grapes are left in the press to macerate for a few hours. After cold settling of the must, the vinification is by the white wine method with fermentation at a controlled temperature; selected yeasts are used to enhance the aromas of the wine. The new wine matures mainly in steel, chilled and on fine lees and protected from oxidation. A cold sterile bottling is performed in the spring.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recipe for Success

What's on David Burke's fine-dining menu? A lot of in-your-face discounts.

From The Wall Street Journal by Katy McLaughlin
"On one menu, he crossed out prices of wine and listed new prices with the term "sale" -- a rarely seen word in fancy restaurants."

Chef and restaurateur David Burke's business sounds like a financial-crisis perfect storm. Consider:

His restaurants are mainly in hard-hit areas including Manhattan's Upper East Side and Las Vegas. Mr. Burke has no experience owning restaurants in a down economy; he launched his empire during restaurant boom times, starting in 2003. And the $7 billion fine-dining industry will see a 12% to 15% drop in sales this year, according to Technomic, a Chicago restaurant industry consultant.

And yet...Mr. Burke reports overall growth, some of his restaurants are booked to capacity on some evenings, and restaurant-industry analysts say he is one of the few high-end players with the right idea for the times.

How could this be? Mr. Burke, it seems, has figured out a way to navigate the downturn. His strategy is to throw out the high-end-dining playbook that says discounting should be subtle. Instead, he is offering dramatic, attention-getting and significant discounts. By engineering the menu carefully and keeping labor costs in check, he is able to slash prices without losing money, he says.

His promotions have included $20.09 three-course meals with items such as oysters and lobster at many of his upscale restaurants, including two in Manhattan (where, without discounts, entrees run $29 to $44), and $5 burgers and milkshakes at his Chicago steakhouse (where a 14-ounce sirloin is $48 on the regular menu). On one menu, he crossed out prices of wine and listed new prices with the term "sale" -- a rarely seen word in fancy restaurants.

TRY IT! David Burke's promotions include a wine auction and $20.09 three-course meals

One of his most unusual promotions is the Wine Auction at the tony David Burke Townhouse in Manhattan. Diners are handed a list of high-end wines with prices ranging from $200 to $600 struck out with red ink. The sommelier approaches the table, suggests that diners make him an offer and begins a negotiation. Wine director Bruce Yung says he sells an average of five bottles a night, meeting his reserve price or better.

"It's worth a shot," says Mr. Burke of his unorthodox approach to selling fine wine. "I'm sitting on close to $200,000 worth of wine anyway, already paid for."

The D Word

Discounting is a strategy high-end restaurateurs have traditionally avoided or carried out in subtle ways, out of fear of eroding the cache of their brands. But this winter and spring, an unprecedented number of fine-dining restaurants slashed their prices.

Mr. Burke tries to set his restaurants apart from other bargains being offered mainly by making his discounts as drastic, easy-to-grasp and catchy as those of one of the few restaurants doing well these days: McDonald's.

"I have teenage kids who go to McDonald's for a dollar meal," Mr. Burke says. The snappy ring to that promotion inspired him to come up with a high-end equivalent. "I see that it's working for them at a buck, so it might work for me at $20," Mr. Burke says.

Starting in January, he rolled out $20.09 meals on Sunday nights at David Burke Townhouse and Fishtail in Manhattan, and at David Burke Fromagerie in Rumson, N.J. At Primehouse, in Chicago, he offers the $20.09 deal for lunch six days a week, excluding Sunday. At David Burke at Bloomingdale's, in Manhattan, he serves a $20.09 dinner every night of the week. For a $5 supplement, diners can have a one-pound lobster or filet mignon entrée.

Last year, DB Global, Mr. Burke's New York-based company, had $35 million in revenue, and for this year he predicts $45 million. Like many multi-unit operators, he reports that his less-expensive restaurants are doing well this year. For instance, David Burke at Bloomingdale's, which has both a sit-down restaurant and a Burke in the Box take-out area, is up 2% over last year. Sales at all three Burke in the Box restaurants -- the others are at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut -- are up from last year.

Still, even his high-end restaurants, while taking a hit, are doing better than many of their high-end competitors: Primehouse had a 2% decline in sales in the last quarter of 2008 and beginning of this year, compared with the prior year; Fromagerie is down 5%, and David Burke Townhouse in New York City saw an 8% sales drop. Across Manhattan, meanwhile, fine-dining operators are reporting sales declines of around 15%, and some celebrated restaurants, including Fiamma, a highly praised Italian eatery in the same price range as Mr. Burke's fanciest restaurants, recently closed.

Some of the impact of Mr. Burke's discounting is measurable: The Sunday discount dinner at Townhouse in Manhattan turned a night that typically grossed $5,250 into a $12,750 night, Mr. Burke says. There are softer benefits, too, such as increased goodwill, publicity, and customers who discover the restaurants and return on full-price nights, Mr. Burke says.

Internal Breeding

Mr. Burke is somewhat insulated from the risk of besmirching his high-end image with discounts because of his unique public persona, says Ed Levine, founder of the food blog "David Burke is the master of the culinary grand gesture, so this is perfectly in keeping with his brand," Mr. Levine says. Mr. Burke now has "pricing gimmicks" that link up with other gimmicks he's used over the years, Mr. Levine says. Mr. Burke, for example, bought his own breeding bull to sire the beef cattle used at Primehouse. He also lines his beef-aging cave with Himalayan rock salt, which he sells for $29.99 for a two-pound box.

Discounting, if done too often for too long by too many players, can erode pricing power in the long term, says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of WD Partners, a restaurant and retail consultant in Dublin, Ohio. Citing one example, "customers have been trained to expect to buy pizza at a discount," because of all the coupons and deals, Mr. Lombardi says.

Mr. Burke says that by limiting most of his discounts to Sunday and varying the deals, he avoids such expectations.

Less Bass

With careful planning, Mr. Burke says he is able to keep food costs on his discounted menus at about 45% of the menu price, which is higher than the traditional 35% most fine-dining restaurants aim for but still enables him to earn a profit, because people tend to order more drinks when they are paying less for food. He sprinkles in luxurious ingredients, though some, such as dry-aged beef or black bass, are served in smaller portions than on the a la carte menu. He caught a break this winter when the wholesale prices he was paying for lobster fell to about $5 a pound, from a norm of $7.50, enabling him to include on the discounted menu items such as lobster carbonara and half an "angry lobster," a spicy signature dish.

Stephen Hanson, a New York-based restaurateur who manages operations for the Chicago hotel where Primehouse is located and who helped devise the concept for the restaurant, disagrees with the discounting approach. Mr. Hanson says he fears that the customer will think, "Were you gouging me beforehand?" But Mr. Hanson, whose company, New York-based B.R. Guest Restaurants, owns 14 other restaurants in New York and Las Vegas, says he is content to let Mr. Burke, whom he calls "a marketing genius," decide the menu pricing.

During a weeklong promotion in October at Primehouse in which Mr. Burke sold normally $12 burgers for $5, the restaurant made money, Mr. Burke says. Serving lunch to 30 to 40 people on an ordinary day yields about $8,000 per week. During the promotion, the restaurant served 300 lunches a day, Mr. Burke says, for a weekly lunch take of $30,000. While food costs were higher, because more was served, labor costs stayed almost the same, because waiters at the restaurant make most of their wages through tips and the kitchen required only two extra line cooks, who make $15 an hour, he says.

In addition to discounting, DB Global is reducing labor costs. Every week the company analyzes how many bookings have been made at each restaurant and looks at past history to determine how busy it will be. Then it pares or increases hourly staff -- about 70% of all employees -- accordingly. In winter, about a dozen cooks usually return to their home countries, including Mexico, India and France, for six weeks of unpaid vacation; this year, Mr. Burke encouraged them to take two or three months off. Because his three Manhattan restaurants are in close proximity, he also moves staff from less-busy to fuller restaurants and asks them to multitask. For example, the company butcher now also makes ravioli and crab cakes.

DB Global also focuses on retaining every potential customer. On a recent Tuesday, Fishtail was too full to accommodate more patrons. Mr. Burke instructed the Fishtail hostess to send patrons to nearby David Burke Townhouse, promising a free drink would be waiting. Out of 20 potential guests, 18 took the offer, Mr. Burke says.

—Ms. McLaughlin is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wine May Guard Against Lymphoma Recurrence

Patients who drank before diagnosis had reduced risk of relapse or death, study finds

From U.S. News & World Report
April 21, 20

TUESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who drank wine before their diagnosis appeared to have a reduced risk of relapse or death, according to a study that's the first to identify this connection.

The researchers looked at more than 500 women with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and found that, overall, those who drank wine before their diagnosis had a 76 percent five-year survival rate, compared with 68 percent for those who didn't drink wine. The five-year, disease-free survival rate was 70 percent for wine drinkers and 65 percent for non-wine drinkers.

Further analysis by the Yale School of Public Health team revealed that patients who drank wine for at least 25 years before their diagnosis had a 25 percent to 35 percent reduced risk of relapse, secondary cancer or death.

The strongest link between wine consumption and improved outcomes was among patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Overall, they had a 40 percent to 50 percent reduced risk of relapse, secondary cancer or death, while those who drank wine for 25 years or more had about a 60 percent reduced risk.

Drinking beer or liquor had no beneficial effect, according to the researchers, who were to present the findings Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, in Denver.

The findings need to be replicated before any public health recommendations are made, but the study offers further evidence that moderate consumption of wine has health benefits, wrote first author and doctoral candidate Xuesong Han.

"This conclusion is controversial, because excessive drinking has a negative social and health impact, and it is difficult to define what is moderate and what is excessive. However, we are continually seeing a link between wine and positive outcomes in many cancers," Han said in an AACR news release.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Arnaldo Caprai Poggio Belvedere 2005 IGT

This Umbrian red is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% *Ciliegiolo, fermented and macerated on the skins for 10-15 days, then aged in stainless steel tanks for 4 months and in bottle for 2.

Showing deep ruby violet colors, with matching violets expressed again in the flavor profile, Belvedere displays a full bodied texture, where aromas reflect vibrant spices and red berries. What follows is a fresh, fruity wine with hints of herbs and incense.

*Ciliegiolo, named for the Italian "cherry", is used in Chianti blending, and may well be a parent grape of Sangiovese. Being a grape that's not so easy to grow, it's production has been on the decline. It's not clear whether it originated in Italy or Spain.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Liberty School Syrah 2004, Paso Robles California

This syrah is like a left jab to the face, the aromas of ripe fruit assaulting your nose before you know what hit you... then another quick jab follows with plums. Next, a right cross to the mouth with smoky flavors, and just before you fall to the canvas you're thinking fresh flowers and lingering black pepper.

We had this bottle at Il Poeta with an appetizer of Buratta. It was a knockout.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Domain de Mourchon Seguret Loubie (Rose) 2007

Cycling though Brooklyn and Queens last weekend on a 25 mile loop, a wine shop in Long Island City caught my eye. So yesterday I decided to visit during one of their tasting nights (most Thursdays and Fridays from 6-8pm). Because of it's proximity to NYC, the area is experiencing an influx of young professionals while offering a more relaxed pace. The place is called Hunters Point Wines & Spirits and behind the counter was one of the founding partners, Paul Huston, who's lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. The shop, designed by Paul, is a smart combination of wine shop, wine museum, tasting room and wine storage cellar. They carry a huge assortment of wines and spirits with rare wines, from small estates, but most of his sales are bottles under $15.

Tasted the Domain de Mourchon Seguret Loubie (Rose) 2007:

Domain de Mourchon is located in the southern Rhone Valley Village of Seguret, near Gigongas. Having a Cote du Rhone designation, this Loubie Rose blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah comes from 40 year old estate grown vines.

Tasting notes:
First up is a bouquet of summer fruits; peaches and nectarines with a tangy grapefruit accent. Next, the bright, crisp flavors of strawberries mingled with a floral undertone and long, fresh fruit finish.

Hunters Point Wines & Spirits
47-07 Vernon Boulevard
Long Island City
(718) 472-9463

Quattro Mani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007 DOC

With the horrible earthquake in L'Aquila still fresh in my mind, I thought it would be a fitting tribute to try some of the wines from the region.

This one, Quattro Mani (four hands) which represents four celebrity Italian winemakers who produce wines from indigenous Italian varietals, such as Montepulciano, is a great value at a thrifty price point.

On the nose is an underbrush woven with blackberries laid over a palate of sour cherries, raisins and a vivid remembrance of the old Coca-cola (from the small 6 oz bottles). This wine is an unadulterated, plump, fruit forward red with vibrant ripe fleshy textures and a good integrated finish that is well worth the $10 price tag.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Scorpion King's Wines --Egypt's Oldest--Spiked With Meds

Five-thousand-year-old vessels rest in the tomb of Egypt's Pharaoh Scorpion I. An April 2009 study of residues in wine containers from the tomb uncovered traces of medicinal herbs.

Photograph courtesy University of Pennsylvania Museum

By Brian Handwerk for National Geographic News

April 13, 2009

Deep inside the tomb of Scorpion I (no relation to the Rock), scientists discovered Egypt's oldest wines.

And now it appears the 5,000-year-old wines were spiked with natural medicines—centuries before the practice was thought to exist in Egypt, researchers say.

Archaeochemist Patrick McGovern and colleagues found chemical residues of herbs, tree resins, and other natural substances inside wine jars from the tomb, the previously discovered resting place of one of Egypt's first pharaohs.

While the additives may have been flavorful, they were picked for their medical benefits, said McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The early Egyptians "were living in a world without modern synthetic medicines, and they were very aware of the benefits that natural additives can have—especially if dissolved into an alcoholic medium, like wine or beer," which breaks down plant alkaloids.

Papyrus records from as long ago as 1850 B.C. detail how such medicinal tipples were made to treat a range of ailments.

"Now this chemical evidence pushes that date back another 1,500 years," McGovern said.

Modern Potential?

Scorpion I's wines predate the advent of Egyptian vineyards and were imports from the Jordan River valley.

The wines suggest that imports from the southeastern Mediterranean contributed to the Egyptian pharmacopoeia, which laid the groundwork for Greek and Roman medical traditions.

The wine find is just one of several from ancient Egypt, China, and elsewhere that document ancient medicinal mixology.

"Over thousands of years, humans were searching their environment and trying to find natural medicinal materials," McGovern said. "They were tested empirically over generations, but then many were lost."

Now, collaborating with researchers at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, McGovern's team is using biomolecular analysis to uncover the ancient wine-medicine recipes and hopefully put them to the test.

"We're trying to rediscover why ancient people thought these particular herbs were medically useful," he said, "and seeing if they are effective for the treatment of cancer or other modern diseases."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ruggeri Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Gold Label DOC

From the Valdobbiadene area of the veneto region, this spunky Extra Dry Prosecco has fresh fruit aromas, with flavors on the sweet side of sour Granny Smith apples and a wonderful floral finish.

Winemaker's notes:

APPELLATION: Prosecco di Valdobbiadene D.O.C.
VARIETALS: Prosecco with small quantities of Verdiso and Perara.
VINEYARD: Vineyard located on the Dolomitic ridges, in the northern part of the Province of Treviso.
VINIFICATION: Grapes are vinified without the skins at a controlled temperature, then slowly fermented in large steel tanks
AGING: Best served young and fresh

The philosophy of the Ruggeri estate can be summed up quite simply: Care for the product from grape to bottle. They start with quality raw material of a historically acclaimed origin and follow each and every step of the winemaking process with passionate dedication and disciplined methodology. Valdobbiadene is indisputably one of the most interesting growing zones from a qualitative point of view. In fact, its vineyards have always produced the most prestigious Prosecco wines.

Gold Label’s crystal clarity is laced with a persistent perlage of minute bubbles. The bouquet, although vibrant and intensely fruity, is extremely delicate bringing readily to mind mature golden apples and acacia flowers. It is gently sweet and fresh on the palate and pleasantly light in alcohol. This prosecco can be enjoyed equally well before dinner as an aperitif or as an enhancement to the end of a meal.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Filippo Gallino Barbera d’Alba DOC 2007

From the Canale area of Piedmont and made from 100% Barbera, this delicious red wine with deep ruby colors and juicy fragrances is aptly described below in the vintner notes, "... along with the fresh bouquet of black and red fruit with undertones of violet, herbs and tar. It is very fragrant and full-bodied on the palate. "
I couldn't agree more. The only thing I can add to this is the wonderfully long, silky finish. Can't pass this one up!

Vintner notes:

The Gallino family has been growing grapes and making wine in the Roero district for many generations. Filippo Gallino was the first to produce and bottle his own wine for the market, and he remains active in the winery operation still. His son Gianni, now the vineyard manager and winemaker, has successfully brought this small family operation to the highest level of the Piemontese wine scene.

The Barbera d’Alba immediately reveals its intense rub-red color in the glass, along with the fresh bouquet of black and red fruit with undertones of violet, herbs and tar. It is very fragrant and full-bodied on the palate.

“This is a superb wine, perhaps a little rustic, but you will be won over by its great personality” Vini d’Italia 2000.

Best accompanied with stuffed pastas, meat sauces and meat entrees.

APPELLATION: Barbera d’Alba D.O.C.
VARIETALS: 100 % Barbera
VINEYARD: Estate covers 20 hectares. Soil is clay-like with strands of sand. Cultivation system is Guyot; 7-8 fruit buds per plant.
HARVEST: October
VINIFICATION: Winter pruning and harvesting still done entirely by hand, while other maintenance operations are now mechanical.
PRODUCTION: 917 cases

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pecchenino Dogliani Siri d'Jermu (Dolcetto) 2006 DOCG

Thick and opaque with colors of ruby red, this Dolcetto has smoked bacon, cassis and red cherry licorice on the nose.

On the palate a cherry cream pie, with specks of vanilla and white pepper, then notes of root beer, dark fruits, near perfect acidity and healthy chalky tannins.

The 2006 Dogliani Siri d'Jermu (Dolcetto), which gets the full treatment of malolactic fermentation and 6 months of aging on its lees, is an especially structured wine loaded with layers of ripe dark fruit on a sumptuous, richly-textured frame. Beginning with the 2005 vintage, Siri d'Jermu qualifies for the newly-created Dogliani DOCG which producers can use for their high-end Dolcettos. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2012. Brothers Orlando and Attilio Pecchenino run this small property in Dogliani, where they make some of the most powerful, intense wines readers are likely to come across.
Antonio Galloni of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

An elegant Dolcetto from a selection of Pecchenino's oldest vines, this binds juicy blueberry and and cherry flavors with chalky tannins, a structure that brings focus and length to the wine. It gains depth with air, emphasizing refinement over richness. Impressively concentrated, it will benefit from 3-4 years' cellar time.
Wine & Spirits 93 Points

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Talmage Pija Blend 2006 Mendocino

Last night at Klee Brasserie on 9th avenue and 22nd street in Chelsea, NYC, the Wine Director Aet Soe (pronounced Aiy-yet) recommended this beautiful Zinfandel fruit-forward blend from Mendocino, California.

50% zinfandel, 45% petite syrah, 5% charbono... now that's an intesting blend. Beginning with hints of tar aromas, the flavors open quickly to thick plum syrup, violets, spices and notes of chocolate. Exhibits extremely smooth tannins and is a really luscious food wine.

Their extensive wine list makes it a worthwhile visit.

Winemakers Notes:

process | sustainably farmed
grapes | 50% zinfandel, 45% petite syrah, 5% charbono
alcohol | 14.5%
pH | 3.65
T.A. | 5.2 grams/liter
production | 1200 cases

Pija, Spanish for "rascal," is indeed a most feisty blend of grape varietals well suited to inland Mendocino County's terroir. We've taken the historical practice of Italian field blendin —planting several varietals in one lot, harvesting the grapes together and making wine— and adapted the method to create our own well-balanced, modern day blend.

Unlike traditional field blending, we source grapes from different vineyards, particularly those characteristics of inland Mendocino's wine-growing history. Mattern Ranch, located on the Talmage Bench east of the Russian River, provides dry-farmed old vine Zinfandel and a younger planting of Petite Syrah. We source our Charbono from Venturi Vineyards' ninety-year old, late-to-ripen vines.

We ferment the lots separately and blend after fermentation to produce the winemaker inspired Pija Blend is sophisticated peasant wine and its source vineyards will change from year to year, but the zesty, innovative spirit will remain the same.

Plum, spice, and soft chocolate finish emphasize the 2006 vintage's wild berry and black cherry.

We age our Pija blend in older French oak. Some portions age in stainless steel to emphasize fruit and flavor purity.

Friday, April 3, 2009


This week I had a chance to attend a tasting of 12 Zinfandels hosted by Greg Dal Piaz at the Snooth offices. My tasting notes follow:

Flight 1: East of Napa

2007 7 Deadly Zins Lodi 14.5% $13
Medium to full bodied with aromas of smoked and raw meat, blood, vanilla and a grassy vegetal green-ness... contrasting on the palate with milk chocolate, juicy dark cherries, blackberries, red licorice, pepper and saddle.

2006 Terra d'Oro SHR field blend Amador County 14.5% $25
Pleasant aromas of lilac, violets, herbs and wood with flavors of blueberries, sour grape candy, red fruits with balanced tannins and a slowly fading finish.

2005 Berryessa Gap Yolo County 15.8% $16
Smoked meats again, dishwater, black and white pepper, ripe cherries jolly rancher, chemical aftertaste, harsh wood.

Flight 2: Old Vines

2006 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vines 15% $15
Still more smoked meats, rubber, white pepper, vanilla, sharp drying tannins, and wood.

2006 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Knotty Vines 14.8% $20
Immediately liked fresh floral aromas, fruit forward flavors with sweet ripe cherries, tongue numbing alcohol, red peppers and blueberries.

2006 Dry Creek Vineyard Sonoma County Old Vine 14.5% $25
Earthy aromas and full body are the foundation for the cool flavors of cherries, violet candy, and powdered perfumes.

Flight 3: Sonoma

2006 Valley of the Moon 14.5% $20
Smoked bacon and a thick, juiciness with an unfiltered look. Notes of blackberries and currants reveal nice acids and balanced tannins with a violet mildness.

2006 Simi Sonoma County 13.5% $20
Not too much happening here... mild chocolate with cherries, cassis, white pepper and hints of acetone.

2006 Four Vines The Sophisticate Sonoma County 14.8% $24
This one was a word association party: earthy aromas, mushrooms, spices, cinnamon, chocolate cherry candy, pepper, raspberry, dusty, red, minerality, refreshing, blueberries, blackberries.

Flight 4- Dry Creek

2006 Windsor Sonoma Dry Creek Valley 14.9% $24
A nose of tar with juicy chocolate berries, vanilla, black tea and smoke.

2004 Carol Shelton Maple Zin 14.9% $33
Wild mushrooms over mild aromas of red fruits and a palate of watermelon, perfume, chalk, candy and powder.

2007 Dashe Dry Creek Valley 14.7% $24
Muted floral aromas followed by an intensity on the palate. Rustic notes of blueberry pie a la mode, black pepper, cherries and grape jam.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


This is a vertical tasting for me, having tried the 2005 back in October of '08... it's a red from Rioja, Spain, 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha, light red color with intensely fruity aromas of plum and vanilla with remnants of a forest floor. Velvet acidity and smooth tannins make this a really tasty food wine. $12.