Monday, January 23, 2012

Zinfandel Grand Tasting (ZAP) How Do I Get The Most Out Of It ??

In the next couple of months wine lovers will have an opportunity to attend a few rather large public tastings.  These tastings offer the wine lover an opportunity to view and sample a huge range of wines which may be on their radar.  Attending one of these events requires a plan and discipline. One of the up and coming events is January 29th the  Zinfandel Advocates Producers annual tasting.  This event is centered on Zinfandel produced in California from producers both large and small. As is the case with Zinfandel it has a huge range of styles and flavor profiles. 

Cost: most tastings run from $65 prior to the tasting to $80 at the door if tickets are still for sale.
The cost is very fair if  you consider the range of wines and their market value.  You can expect to find some new wineries to catch your fancy.

Eat something prior to attending the function.  Nothing worse than drinking 12%+ on an empty stomach.  You will probably see a number of people who have not  done this during the length of the tasting. 

Arrive early and I mean perhaps a hour or so. The buildings fill up very quickly and you will soon find yourself elbow to elbow with people wanting to taste at the most popular producers.  Getting there early will give you anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to get to the people you want to see if you are lucky.  

Check out the presenters and pick ten producers you want to taste. If you like a certain winery or style mark them and when you walk by their table be prepared to taste. Look at the email of the event and who is presenting. Most catalogues attempt to be flowing but more often than not the booth is not easy to find. 

Sip, spit and pace yourself. There are always food items to compliment the wines. Do not get hung up in trying to taste every winery you see. That philosophy is a no win for you since there is more wine than you will ever consume. 

Overall enjoy the experience and keep good notes. Share this time with a friend and exchange notes so that you get input for the huge number of wineries who participate. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wine Publications and Information

There are many excellent wine publications which offer the reader extended reviews of wine.  Should you subscribe to wine related magazines and journals?  How do they influence your ability to choose and purchase wine? What are the benefits of wine publications now and in the future? These are just a few of the thoughts that come to mind when you get a card, email or letter asking for your business. There are so many publications.  How do you know which is right for you?

Newspaper wine columns are often a good source of information.  Major papers have a wine column and it can have a wealth of information.  Excellent writers are in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, SF Chronicle as well as Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles papers to name just a few.

If you are an avid consumer and love a variety of wines I would suggest that you purchase a trial issue or two to see if the format is what you are looking for. Many publications offer a free issue or two to interest you in buying their publication.  Think of what type of wines you drink and where you most often purchase them.  Do you want a domestic publication which lists a large number of available wines in your price range?  Are you interested in the people who are the movers and shakers in a specific area or varietal?  Do old and rare wines interest you?  Are you looking to find publications which give information about wine regions and travel?  

Another excellent source of information is importers. They often have on their website informational videos and interviews to help you find that wine you have always wanted to taste. Larger importers also list events in which they participate in your locale. Look on the back label and inquire at their website.

Find the wine publications in the library, book store or local wine association in your area.

Some magazines which come to mind are: The Wine Information Guild, Wine Spectator, Wines and Vines, Decanter Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Food and Wine, Wine News Magazine, Gourmet, AAA magazine.   Many others offer content for both consumer and professional.  View wine publications online.  The work is up to you to cull through and find that right magazine which will guide you to current releases that will expand your horizon in wine.

If you are very interested in wine or just starting out, reading quality literature will expand your horizons and provide you with a wealth of information.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wine Clubs are they for you?

Most wineries offer some form of Wine Club as a way to sell you their wines throughout the year. It is common for them to incorporate different forms of "perks" as a way of encourageing you to become a member. Some of these perks can be: barrel tastings, new vintage releases, parties of various types depending on the cycle production or holiday of the year.  Another perk is the price which you can buy the wine. Typically it is a discount of 20% or more for futures or pre-release wines.  As always it is in your best interest to try to taste what you will be getting in a few months or years.  This being said if  the winery meets all this criteria and you are fully committed to their wines and style you are in a perfect club for you.

What are the options to look for to protect you from ordering a wine or wines you my not want to own or drink?  Recently a friend of mine got a half case of wine which he paid for as part of his Club membership and opened two bottles to find that he was not happy with the quality of the wine. I suggested that he contact the winery and inform them of his problem.  They gave him a credit and encouraged him to visit the winery and taste.  The wine he bought is commercially available and being a member saved him some money. However he terminated his membership soon after because the wines no longer were made in the style he preferred and he did not want to incur the cost of more wine that was not to his taste.  Make sure you can opt out of a club if you are not happy with the wine you get. Also inquire if you can pick and choose or skip a shipment because this will meet your needs not the wineries.

I prefer to belong to a winery list that offers wines which are well thought of and very hard to find. This may be the only way you can aquire their wines.  Lists can take months to years before you are able to purchase their wine. An example are a number of Washington wineries: Andrew Will, Cayuse, Walla Walla Vinters and Reynvaan to name just a few who make a very small amount of high quality and well rated wines. Their mailing list offers the buyer their wines at their base price which is always higher in a retail store if you can ever find them. You will not be able to buy a large amount but something is better than nothing. Be prepared to spend some extra money but the quality is superior.  I have known of people who will get the wines and then turn around and sell them to a retail store and make a huge return on their money. This is provided that you are able to find a store that wants the wines.

The wine world is huge and Wine Clubs limit you to just one portion of the market. As stated earlier if the wines meet your needs then go for it.