Archive for ◊ November, 2008 ◊

26 Nov 2008 Happy Thanksgiving!
 |  Category: Varietal  |  Tags: , , , ,  | 2 Comments

I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!  This year is particularly important to celebrate Thanksgving considering the economic meltdown the US is currently facing; please take time to reflect on your life to think about all the things(e.g. friends, family, employment, safety, opportunities, etc) that you are truely thankful for.  Please take the effort to thank each person in your life you are thankful for.  The upcoming months are going to be trying and hard for some people in your life…maybe yourself, so it is best to let people know you are thankful for them and why you are thankful.

I am lucky enough to have my family over to my house for a traditional Thanksgiving feast.  Thanksgiving has always been a time to celebrate the past year, get caught up with family members and reconnect with distant relatives and friends you have not been able to visit recently.  I do love the tasty food and good wine – stuffing is a whole food group as far as I am concerned.  But, my memories are of the conversations between family members especially between generations in the family.  My Grandfather, Skip (Leon), gave me some of my best memories at the many Thanksgivings that I was lucky enough to have him around.  He made it clear how important family is and how a family treats other members of the family.  It is just one of the many life lessons he passed on to me before he passed away. 

At the Glover family Thanksgiving, we are having a very traditional Thanksgiving meal.  The menu is online if you are curious.  We are going to be having some New Zealand Pinot, my 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and two Cabernet Francs from the Loire (2006 Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon AOC; 2006 Philippe Alliet, Chinon AOC).  I make it a point of trying to get people to try good Cabernet Franc to get them past the generally vegetal Cabernet Franc that gets produced in California.  Honestly, Cabernet Franc can be really fantastic!  If you have an adventuresome group over for Thanksgiving, do a blind tasting of several Cabernet Francs from the Loire.  I think you will be surprised at the response.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

P.S.  I will try to put up tasting notes on the wines we have at Thanksgiving.

21 Nov 2008 2001 Leone Rosso, IGT Toscana, Fattoria iL Colle, Donatella Cinell Colombini

The review is done following the WSET evaluation criteria.  The wine was purchased in Montalcino, Italy, on-site at the winery in 2003 – Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Appearance: clear, brickish red core changing to a pale garnet rim; long numerous long legs

Aroma: clean; medium – intensity; aromas: red cherry, baking spices (sweet), sour cherry, dried herbs, Italian “greenness tannins”, hint of oxidation

Taste: Sweetness: dry; Acidity: high; tannin: low-medium –> hint of greenness; Body: light-medium; Flavors: dried oregano (herbs), dried cherries, sour cherry and slight earth;Intensity: medium; Alcohol: medium (13.5% ABV); Length: medium+

Summary: Quality: good to excellent; Maturity: ready to drink; Value: mid-priced.

The wine might be a bit past its prime but it is drinking quite well right now.   The wine goes very well with tomato based sauces and pizza.  It is clearly an Italian wine with the typical “Italian greenness” combination of flavors and tannins.  The greenness is slight and compliments the dried fruit characteristics.  The whole berry fermentation used is evident in the fruit intensity even though the fruit is drying out. 

I can easily recommend this wine.  It was purchased in Italy directly from the winery for 5 euros.  The wine is easily on par with a $15 to $20 2006/2007 bottle.  It would be excellent with most any Italian tomato-based food dish.

Other Reviews:
“85 points — Attractive aromas of dried plums and violets. Medium-bodied, with light tannins and a bright fruit aftertaste. Drink now. 3,000 cases made. –JS; Wine Spectator, Oct. 2002

21 Nov 2008 2004 Georis Estate Bottled Merlot, Carmel Valley
 |  Category: Wine Review  |  Tags: , , ,  | 2 Comments

Disclosure: The wine was a gift from Dr. Xeno.  Many thanks to Dr. Xeno for sharing a new wine with me. :)

Review: Today, I am reviewing the

2004 Georis Estate Bottled Merlot, Carmel Valley.  

I will be using the WSET method of wine appraisal:

Clear, dark ruby core with ruby + slightly brickish rim.  The change in color at the rim indicates some age/oxidation on the wine.

Initial take after opening –> Clean, medium intensity aromas of: green bell pepper, dry cherry, plum, earth, old leather, forest floor, black licorice/anise. 

After 24 hours of being opened –> Clean, medium+ intensity aromas of: black currant, black licorice/anise, slight dried herbs, tobacco, slight green bell pepper, dried plum.  Note: The aroma is much more pleasant after 24 hours.

Sweetness: dry; Acidity: medium+ to High; Alcohol: medium+, Tannins: medium with slight greenness; Body: light-medium to medium; Intensity: medium +; Flavors: dry cherry, plum, leather, cranberry, green bell pepper; Concentration: medium; Length: medium

After 24 hours –> Sweetness: dry, Acidity: medium+ to High; Alcohol: medium+, Tannins: medium with slight drying, green tannins; Body: light-medium; Intensity: medium+; Flavors: plum, dried cherry, leather, dried oregano; Concentration: medium-; Length: medium:  Note: the flavors are less complex and layered than when first opened.

Quality: good; Maturity: ready to drink, but could age another 1 year.  The presense of dried fruit / dried herb characteristics indicates the fruit will not be holding up for more than 1 year.  The tannins are starting to develop a drying characteristic.  Value category: mid-price.

The style is old world in nature; very similar to merlot from Bordeaux but not as concentrated as Merlot from Pomerol.  The greenness in the aroma and palate would lead me to believe it is from a cool climate site (Carmel Valley makes sense here).  If you enjoy cooler climate Merlot, I could recommend this Merlot to you.  It is clearly made in an old world style and done fairly well for that style using California fruit.

Winemaker’s notes:
2004 Georis Estate Merlot
The 2004 Georis Estate Merlot has a black licorice / rose petal nose followed by generous ripe blackberry and raspberry fruit. You will also find a touch of leather and mint. This well-balanced wine offers a dry finish with lingering flavors and great aging potential. This wine opened up with great complexities after being open for 30 minutes. 690 cases produced. $42 / retail

Winery Information: Georis Winery, 4 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley, CA, 93924

18 Nov 2008 Economy downturn slowing wine industry juggernaut…sort of

There is an interesting article in the November 17th, 2008 (Vol. 18, No. 39) of the Wine Business Insider — “Winery Direct Sales Shipments Down But Order Sizes Up”.   The article discusses research done by Stonebridge Research and New Vine Logistics and data from the Annual U.S. Wine Market report from Impact Databank.  Here is a summary of the information:

Topic 2006 to 2007 2007 to 2008
Bottles shipped change 13.8% 2.4%
Delta in order volume 13% -3.3%

The volume of wine being shipped is still increasing despite a lower number of orders.  So, fewer orders but larger wine volumes per order.  

Topic 2005 to 2006 2006 to 2007 2007 to 2008
Industry Growth Rate 6.9% 4% 1.5%

General Industry:
Last year’s overall increases in wine sales again were driven by table wine, which now accounts for 91.4 percent of the total U.S. wine market. Led by premium varietals, table wine grew 4.3 percent to reach 258 million 9-liter cases in 2007, this on the heels of a 3.7 percent increase in 2006. Much like it did in 2006, imported wines showed a larger percentage gain, at 7.6 percent, than the 3.1 percent gain registered by domestically produced table wine. Still, domestic table wine accounts for roughly two-thirds of the entire U.S. wine market.

Champagne and sparkling wine continued to bubble up last year, gaining 3.6 percent to end the year with more than 13.8 million cases, while the vermouth category and dessert and fortified wine sales volumes both declined slightly.

Wine Clubs:
Wine club shipments are up slightly for the same 3 quarter period this year vs. 2007.  Non-club shipments are down 11%.  The data indicates that wine club members are supporting their favorite wineries.   The people that do travel to a winery are more serious purchasers than in the past.  The cost of fuel is helping to seperate dedicated customers from moderately interested customers.

As Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Chicago-based Mintel, pointed out,  “Chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol again seem relatively recession-proof…People might be cutting back or switching to store brands, but they definitely aren’t giving up their small daily indulgences.”  The economic slowdown has been drastic yet the wine industry shows that people are still will to spend money on some non-staples. 

Alcohol is being consumed less at on-premise locations according to the Nielsen Company — see chart of alcohol purchases in bars and restaurants:

Alcohol purchases in Bars and Restaurants as of May 2008

Alcohol purchases in Bars and Restaurants as of May 2008


Operators also report the following minor price-related changes in consumer behavior:

  • 14% report that customers are ordering more well or house drinks.
  • 13% report greater sales of beer on draft rather than in bottles.
  • 9% say wine drinkers are increasingly opting for house varieties.

People are cutting back on costs — less dining out and less drinking in bars/clubs.  Yet, the amount of wine being sold directly is still increasing.  So, people must be enjoying more of their favorite wine at home which is a good overall trend for America — a small silver lining in the near perfect financial storm we are all trying to ride out.

12 Nov 2008 Clonal selection — how important is it?
 |  Category: Wine Production  |  Tags: ,  | Leave a Comment

I was asked a few days ago about clonal selection for a given varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, and what difference it really makes in a final wine.  My initial impression was that clonal selection of the cultivar(varietal) from a given site is not that important.  However, after thinking about this for a day or so, I have a different point of view.

My initial thoughts were based on key assumption — the vineyard was planted with the exact perfect clonal selection and rootstocks for each block’s soil, weather, water and temperature conditions.  This is a very large assumption on my part.  It is nearly impossible to get the perfect match of clone, rootstock, capopy management, water regime, nutrient regime, etc the first time for a vineyard manager.  There is a reason why it takes decades to determine the best varietals for a given area/vineyard, let alone a specific set of clones.

From a winemaking perspective, clonal selection is very important when a vineyard is young as some clones match up better with the specific growing conditions than others.  Each clone is going to express different elements more boldly than other clones.  Clonal differences such as cluster density and cluster size make a large difference in areas that have rain during the ripening season, heavy fog, etc — a loose cluster will be able to dry out more easily and have a lesser tendency to develop fungal issues than a tightly packaged cluster would be able to dry off.  Each clone is going to bring different nuances to your finished wine.

For each wine, I have a particular style and flavor profile that I am looking for.  I will try to select a mixture of clones when possible to give me more flavors / aromas / tannin profiles to work with for the final blend of the wine.  It is the same concept as a painter wanting to have more shades of a autumn colors when painting an Autumn scene — more gradiations, great more depth and interest in the viewer.  A wine from a selection of clones should have a more layered and complex profile than a wine from a single clone.  If a specific clone gives you just what you are looking for, then fabulous — enjoy the great wine!  If not, you will need to either make up for the missing element by blending in wine from another location or use some additional clones of the same varietal.

From a growers perspective, clonal selection is very important but for slightly different reasons.  Clones are selected based on the easy of growing healthy grapes (cluster size, cluster density, flower period, degree of millerage, evenness of ripening), yield, heat tolerance, drought tolerance, etc.   The type of grower makes a large difference on what elements they focus on — a bulk grower is selecting clones for highest yield, highest disease and fungus resistance, larger berry size; while a quality grower is looking for small berry size, low yields of highly concentrated berries, particular tannin profiles, rarity of the clone (premium value for a desired clone), etc.

Cabernet Sauvignon Clones (note all of this is subjective to each person’s palate and desired style):
Clone 7 according to Winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus of Chappellet Winery: considered perfect match for our rocky, volcanic soils.  The fruit it produces is valued for the rich, forward blackberry and casis flavors and balanced tanninns.

Clone 337 is considered to be one of the best selections for Napa Valley high-end wines.  Yet, Clone 337 has shown some poor terroir results in Sonoma County hillsides if the cultivar was matched with the wrong rootstock and had low water availability.  Clone 337 is considered to be quite fruity and has a depth of flavors.

Clone 7 is considered to be rustic (aka rough tannins) compared to Clone 337.  Other say that Clone 7 is just fine when not grown on hillsides.

My conclusion is that clonal selection is very important for growing the best possible fruit for a given location with the realization that each person’s view of what is the best is subjective.  Some combinations of specific clones on a given site will produce more concentrated and healthier fruit that others.  If that combination produces grapes that suits your wine style, then you are a very happy grower/winemaker.  If not, you need to either try another combination or look at a different location to grow/source your grapes from.

05 Nov 2008 It is coming up rose…

Last night, I did an experiment of combining the still fermenting rose batches (White Hawk – Sangiovese and Syrah bleeds + Thompson Syrah bleed) to see what the result would be like and get some initial chemistry numbers. 

The results of the combination were quite good.  The White Hawk Rose is a deep lavender color (so rose is a bit of misnomer at this point), good fruit characteristics (currant, cherry, strawberry), good aromas (floral – violets, candied rose petal), nice crisp acidity but has a hint of a slight bitterness on the finish; the Brix level is currently at 0.2 Brix where -2.0 Brix should be roughly dry.  The Thompson Rose is not as far along fermenting (3.5 brix) and has sweet fruit especially strawberry but no bitterness on the finish.  When I combined the two in amounts equal to a straight combination of the current roses, I got a very lovely rose that is quite enjoyable, crisp acidity, nice sweetness (too high at the moment) and a complexity of aromas and flavors that I was not expecting.

The chemical analysis indicated the following: 17 grams / liter of Fructose/Glucose, TA = 6.3 g/l, pH = 3.53, alcohol % = 13.1, Malic acid = 1.16 grams/liter and VA = 0.53.  The sugar level will come down as the roses continue to ferment.  The acidity and pH are great.  The alcohol level is a bit high as I was trying for 12.5% but that can be adjust right before bottling.  The VA is just fine but needs to be watched.

I am going to let each of the roses finish fermenting individually, then rack them into a single tank and then make final adjustments prior to bottling.  The rose will probably be bottled in January due to the bottling schedule at Crushpad is already backed up into December even with harvest just wrapping up. 

I think everyone who gets to try to the rose will be pleasantly surprised.  Next harvest, I am  planning on making a rose for sale.  This year’s rose maybe just for wine club members as a thank you gift.